Hungary’s new censorship laws.

Trainride to Hokkaido 06 - Freedom of Speech
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On the 1st of January a new era will dawn on Hungary. It will take over the Presidency of European Council for the first time and a new law on media freedom will come into effect.

While the first thing is something for Hungarians to celebrate, the law on the other hand is not. It has been criticised by the OSCE Media freedom representative who wrote in a report that “Regulating print media can curb media freedom and free public debate, which are indispensable elements of democracies” and “Regulating online media is not only technologically impossible but it exerts a chilling, self-censoring effect on free expression.”

Freedom House set the law was “a major setback for press freedom in Hungary”.

Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn has said “The plans clearly violate the spirit and the letter of EU treaties” and “It raises the question whether such a country is worthy of leading the EU.”

A good reference of this is Article 11 of Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of the EU which states

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.

2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms also deals with this, which Hungary also party to

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

The law which was proposed by the Fidesz party who won the general election back in April, have used their power to appoint party supporters to the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH).

This is a clear breach of media freedoms. The Hungarian Government will stifle free speech with this law, as to actually appeal one must pay the fines.

The fines are roughly €720,000 for TV and Radio Stations, €90,000 for newspapers and €36,000 for news websites. This could easily bankrupt any media that may be opposed to the government.

I am supporting bloggingportal.eu’s campaign to raise awareness of this law and lodge my opposition to this law.

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Sign up for MEU 2011

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Are you interested in the European Union? Aged between 18-26? Want to go to Strasbourg to see how the European Union really works?

Well heres your chance! Between the 19th to 26th March 2011 a Model European Union will take place in Strasbourg.

It will debate two topics

  1. a Directive on the application of patient’s rights in cross-border healthcare and
  2. a Directive on working conditions of temporary workers.

You can apply to be a MEP, a Minister in the Council, a Lobbyist, Journalist or Interpreter.

You have until 3rd January 2011, 12 p.m. CET to apply!

Check out MEU2011.org for more information!

Also read The European Citizen’s account of MEU2010

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Euroblog round-up #2

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Heres another round up of issues making the rounds in the eurobloggerosphere at the moment, with thanks to BloggingPortal.eu

Swedish Presidency

The Swedish Presidency of the European Council is coming an end, and Spain gets ready to share the reins. A number of blogs look back at the 6 months of the Swedish Presidency.

Mats Engström calls the Presidency “Effective” but it wasn’t exciting. (then again name one that was!)

The Swedish Europe Minister (and Commissioner Designate), Cecilia Malmström, updates us on the last few weeks of work that are still ahead.

Grahnlaw thinks it was an effective and professional presidency.

EU Institutions

Grahnlaw highlights the issue of the 18 “ghost MEPs”

Brussels Sunshine highlights the issue of the preception of corruption in the EU.

Climate Change

Lots and lots of climate change blog posts appearing as the Copenhagen conference continues.

Graham Watson MEP (ALDE) is updating us on the goings on in Copenhagen.

Dr. Sean tells us of the (confusing) stance taken by the Czech ODS.

The German Marshall Fund Blog highlights why some countires like Kyoto and are clinging to it.

The Open Europe tells us a bit more about who is gaining from the EU’s ETS scheme.

The German Marshall Fund Blog tells us about the confusion at the talks.

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Euroblog Round up #1

So as an editor over on bloggingportal.eu I have great access to a huge number of blogs and can help choose what goes on the front page. Unfortunately not everything I would like can go on the front page (there are others there also) I will do a regularish posting like this one to publicise some of the other things going on in the euroblogosophere, whether on the front page or not! Dont expect this daily or weekly mind you! Its only when I have time!

New Commission

The Common Agriculture Blog thinks the new Agricultural Commissioner could get a hard ride through the Parliament

Public Affairs 2.0 have a great PDF of all the biographical details of the new Commission

Climate Change

Eberhard Rhein calls on the EU to cut emmissions by 30%

The CTA blog also tells us that the EU and ACP countries are working together at the Copenhagen Summit

3e Intelligence look at the pros and cons of a  EU Border Carbon Tax

European Council

Ralf Grahn highlights the not so transparent European Council, even though it is now an institution of the EU.

EU-Africa

The CTA blog informs us that imports from the EAC countries will now be taxed due to a delay in signing an Economic Partnership Agreement

Human Rights

Jaanika Erne on Ideas on Europe tells us a bit about Human Rights day which was yesterday.

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The New Commission, What Happens Next?

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The European Parliament has created a new website to highlight the details of the confirmation of the new commission which will take place early in the new year. There is more information on the candidates as well as the procedure of how they will be confirmed.

Here is the step by step procdure as on the website:

  1. Parliament receives the Commissioner-designates’ curriculum vitae and their declarations of financial interests.
  2. Parliament puts to the Commissioners-designate a series of written questions dealing mainly with the candidates’ policy priorities in their respective fields of responsibility. The candidates’ written replies provide the basis for the oral stage – the hearings.
  3. Each Commissioner-designate is invited to a three-hour public hearing with the parliamentary committee(s) responsible for the portfolio concerned. These hearings enable the committees to get to know the personalities of the Commissioners-designate and have a detailed exchange of views with the various candidates on their priorities in their prospective areas of responsibility.
  4. The committees then evaluate each of the Commissioners-designate. They check that the Commissioners-designate have the skills required not only to be Members of the Commission in general, but also to be in charge of a particular portfolio.
  5. The results of the hearings are sent to the President of Parliament and considered by the Conference of Presidents, comprising the President and all political group leaders, and by the Conference of Committee Chairs.
  6. The Commission President presents the College of Commissioners-designate and their programme to a plenary sitting of Parliament which the Council of the EU is invited to attend. This presentation is followed by a debate.
  7. Lastly, Parliament votes on approval of the whole European Commission as a body. The new Commission can then be formally appointed by the European Council, acting by a qualified majority.

This is a great idea by the Parliament to creat the website and hopefully other events and procedures that the Parliament have powers over will be covered in this way. Maybe other EU Institutions can follow?

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Von Rompuy wants a Euro Tax

So the Telegraph have a story on the fact that the new European Council President, Herman Von Rompuy, wants to bring in a new Euro Tax. This is to “bring transparency” to how the EU operates.

This hasn’t gone very smoothly for the new European Council Preisdent, and this really is his own fault! He made the announcement at a meeting of the Bildenberg Group, conspriacy theorists would know of this group very well, which isnt the most transparent of organisations, considering it meets in private.

Also the Von Rompuy seems to be overstepping the mark here. The Council cannot propose new legislation (or taxes), only the Commission can do this. While it is known that Borroso has an appetite for an EU-wide tax, but that appetite is not mirrored by the Member States. For tax all Member States must agree, and Ireland, Poland and the United Kingdom have previously voiced opposition to any such tax. Also with the election of the FDP in Germany, I can’t see them being in favour of this as they were elected on tax cuts not more taxes.

It will be next year before any such idea comes to Council (possibly year after) and by then the UK Conservatives will be in power and they will definately be against the proposal!

So in essence this is the usual euro talk that could damage Von Rompuy and maybe lessen his influence as “chairman” of the European Council?

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Roche, ELDR Vice President

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As well as the appointments made by the European Council last night (more on that later), another recent appointment has come to my knowledge. Dick Roche, the current Minister for Europe, has been made a Vice-President of the European Liberal Democratic and Reform Party (ELDR) . From what I am hearing, a lot of people are not happy about this.

Pat Cox, the former President of the ELDR is not a happy man from what I hear, and the youth wing LYMEC (who I have blogged previously about here) are also not a happy bunch. LYMEC are actually threatening to vote en masse against anything Fianna Fail put forward at ELDR Congress (which is currently ongoing in Barcelona) meaning that nothing Fianna Fail want will happen.The Dutch Liberals, the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) I think (It could be D66) are not happy with the appointment either.

Fianna Fail don’t seem to making many friends in the ELDR or ALDE. This is the second time this month they have annoyed other members. I wonder how long they will last as Liberals?

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Fianna Fail and the Liberals

Things aren’t looking so good for the Fianna Fail Party in their new Grouping in the European Parliament. At the last plenary session they caused hassle by abstaining on a vote on a resolution by the ALDE, Green and Socialist groups on media freedoms, this caused the vote to be lost. This has causd huge anger in the ALDE grouping.

Reports are also surfacing that the Fianna Fail MEP’s tried to scupper a resolution on Gay Rights emerging from the Liberal Grouping. This just goes to show how “liberal” Fianna Fail really are.

Brian Cowen too is facing pressure from within the Liberal Grouping of the ELDR. The ELDR currently only have 4 heads of Government on the European Council, and Cowen’s support for Tony Blair and possible support for John Bruton, is not sitting well with the ELDR leadership.

Fianna Fail have found themselves between a rock and a hard place on this occasion. Will they toe the Liberal line, or will they continue to annoy their “allies” and do their own thing. I can’t see Guy Verhostadt keeping his cool with them for too long.

More in the EU Observer

The Presidency of the European Council

There has been a lot of talk lately about the collapse of the Tony Blair candidacy for President of the European Council (see Nosemonkey’s recent post for an explanation of all those councils!). I personally am thankful for that, but Blair is still holding out and hoping to get Angela Merkel’s backing for the post. I don’t see him getting the German Chancellors backing due to the whole Iraq War debacle.

So who will get it? Paddy Power have odds up for a few politicians and Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch Prime Minister, is currently favourite. While I think he would make a good Council President I think its time the EU stood up and appointed a woman to being the top post. With David Milliband looking likely as the Foreign Affairs portfolio, a female President would be excellent. (There is a twitter campaign for this by the way!) Paddy Power mention two women on their list, former Irish President, Mary Robinson and current Finnish President Tarja Halonen.

Mary Robinson has ruled herself out for the role, leaving Tarja Halonen the sole remaining mentioned female candidate. I am sure there are others. Julien Frisch has a post outlining why she could be a good President. She certainly has the experience!

So who will get it? If the Czech President Vaclav Klaus signs the Lisbon Treaty after the constitutional Court gives its verdict this week, there will be a special summit on the 11th and 12th of November to decide the names of those getting the new posts.

Who are you backing?

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Climate Change: A letter to EU Leaders

Taoiseach Brian COWEN, Fredrik REINFELDT, President of the European Council, and José Manuel BARROSO, European Commission President and others

I am writing to urge you to do all that you can to ensure the crucial EU Council meetings at the end of October deliver clear EU commitments to deal with climate change. These must put the needs of the world’s poorest people – who are being hit first and worst by climate change, but who are least responsible for causing it – at their core.

The Council meetings at the end of October provide the opportunity to finally agree an EU position: this may be your last chance to agree firm commitments ahead of the crucial UN climate summit in Copenhagen this December. The right EU offer in October can set the global talks ahead of Copenhagen alight, and give us all the best possible chance of tackling the climate crisis.

To do this the EU must commit in October to:

* providing an additional €35bn per year by 2020, to help poor countries to adapt to the effects of climate change and to develop in a low-carbon way. Not only does the EU have a historical obligation to do this, but it has the money to finance it.

* guaranteeing that the money generated from the laws you and your fellow European leaders agreed last year, requiring heavy industries in Europe to pay for their carbon pollution, will be directed straight to the people that need it most in tackling climate change. This money is a drop in the ocean compared to the billions raised to bail out banks since last year.

* crucially, this €35bn must be new public money, not taken away from existing aid commitments. The response to climate change should not come at the expense of investments in vitally needed services in poor countries, such as hospitals and schools.

* agreeing a target for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions strong enough to avoid catastrophic climate change. This too is vital to break the deadlock in negotiations in the lead up to Copenhagen. The EU should agree a reduction of 40%, from 1990 levels, to be achieved by 2020.

I urge you to do all you can to ensure the EU takes this month’s vital opportunity to make these firm commitments on climate change. Failure to help poor countries adapt to climate change and develop in a low-carbon way, and to prevent future catastrophic climate change, is simply unthinkable.

The above is a letter sent by me as part of an Oxfam International campaign on Climate Change. You can send you own letter by visiting Oxfam’s website and filling in the details

More about the Oxfam campagn:

Continue reading “Climate Change: A letter to EU Leaders”