The Irish in Strasbourg

EU-ParliamentIts been a busy two days so far during this plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Following the re-election of Martin Schulz (DE, S&D) as President of the European Parliament the focus turned to the election of the 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament.

The Vice Presidents make up the Bureau of the Parliament, along with the President and Quaestors of the Parliament. They also chair sessions of the Parliament when the President is not present.

Of the 14 Elected Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG) was elected on the first count along with five of her colleagues from the European People’s Party. McGuinness actually had the 2nd highest number of votes with 441 votes only being beaten by her Italian EPP Colleague Antonia Tajani (452 votes).

Tomorrow the focus turns to the committees where much of the work of MEPs take place and much horse trading and bartering goes on. The size of the committees where set yesterday for the 20 committees and Irish MEPs will sit on 9 of those. The committee with the highest number of Irish MEPs is of course agriculture with three MEPs on it followed by Environment committee on which two Irish MEPs will sit.

  • Budgets (BUDG): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF)
  • Economic and Monetary Affairs (ECON): Brian Hayes (EPP, FG)
  • Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL): Marian Harkin (ALDE, IND)
  • Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI): Lynn Boylan (GUE/NGL, SF), Nessa Childers (S&D, IND)
  • Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE): Sean Kelly (EPP, FG)
  • Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO): Brian Crowley (ECR, IND/FF)
  • Transport and Tourism (TRAN): Deirdre Clune (EPP, FG)
  • Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI): Mairead McGuinness (EPP, FG), Matt Carthy (GUE/NGL, SF), Luke “Ming” Flanagan (GUE/NGL, IND)
  • Fisheries (PECH): Liadh Ni Riada (GUE/NGL, SF).

No Irish MEPs sit on Foreign Affairs, Development, International Trade, Budgetary Control, Regional Development, Culture and Education, Legal Affairs, Civil Liberties Justice and Home Affairs, Constitutional Affairs, Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, or Petitions. How ever they may be appointed as supplementary members of those committees at a later point.

For reference here is the list of which Committees Irish MEPs were members of in the last parliament.

The New European Parliament

eu flagsFollowing last month’s European Elections the European Parliament will meet on July 1st to constitute itself and elect its new President. Most commentators expect that the two largest groups, the European People’s Party and the Socialist and Democrats, will continue their alliance and split the presidency again between them.

So how did the groups fair? 

The European Parliament now consists of 751 MEPs down 15 from the 766 MEPs in the last parliament. There has been some changes of Group compositions with newly elected parties and independents joining groups and some parties changing groups. The Groups now stand as follows:

  • EPP: 221 (-53)
  • S&D: 191 (-4)
  • ECR: 63 (+7)
  • ALDE: 59 (-26)
  • Greens/EFA: 54 (-4)
  • GUE/NGL: 52 (+17)
  • EFD: 32 (-1)
  • NI: 79

In Ireland Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein have remained with their respective groups (EPP, S&D & GUE/NGL) and Independent Marian Harkin has also remained with ALDE.

Independent Nessa Childers has been readmitted to the S&D Group ensuring they are represented in every member state after Labour’s wipe-out at the elections. Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagen has joined Sinn Fein in the GUE/NGL group. The Socialist Party failed to retain it’s MEP.

That means the groups stand as follows in the Irish Delegation:

  • EPP: 4 (-)
  • S&D: 1 (-2)
  • ALDE: 2 (-2)
  • GUE/NGL: 4 (+4)

Commission President – Parliament v European Council

After electing the President and 14 Vice Presidents of the Parliament the next task will be voting for the European Commission President. While the EPP and S&D leadership are backing Jean Claude-Juncker they dont have complete control of their groups. With UK Labour opposing Junker’s candidacy, neither party can afford to lose support on this vote.

  • Needed for a Majority: 376
  • EPP + S&D: 412
  • EPP + S&D -UKLab: 392

16 votes would be quite close. But of course Junker will have to emerge as the European Council Nominee first, a battle in itself, before any such vote will take place in the European Parliament.

Eurovision Debate, 20:00 GMT. #TellEurope

ED_EBUMembers_logosThe Eurovision Debate takes place tonight at 8pm GMT, 9pm CET across Europe tonight. No this is not a debate on the Eurovision Song Contest but a debate organised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) between the candidates for the post of European Commission President.

Who’s taking part?

5 candidates are taking part in the debate. They are

  • Ska Keller, European Greens
  • Alexis Tsipras, European Left Party
  • Guy Verhofstadt, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe
  • Jean-Claude Junker, European Peoples Party
  • Martin Schulz, Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats

The debate will be for 90 minutes and will be moderated by RAI anchor Monica Maggioni. RTÉ’s Conor McNally will be presenting the Social Media aspect of the debate which will be broadcast across 25 countries.

So where can you watch this debate?

Well you wont find it on RTÉ 1 or BBC 1.

The following are showing the debate on TV in English speaking countries (Full list of broadcasters here (PDF))

  • Cable Public Affairs, Canada
  • RTÉ Now News, Ireland
  • BBC Parliament, UK
  • Euronews, International

It can also be viewed on the Eurovision Debate website and followed online with the hastag #TellEurope

Not exactly expecting rating winners are they? Well whatever the viewer-ship, I for one will be watching, will you?

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European Parliament Elections 2014 – Commission President

One of the big outcomes (supposedly!) from this years European Parliament Elections will be the nominated by the winning European Parliament Grouping in the Elections. While some believe this will lead to deadlock and confrontation, other believe it is the start of a truly democratic European Union.

So who are the European Parties nominating?

Party of European Socialists (PES)

The PES had a great idea of a Europe wide primary among its member parties, but in the end this didn’t happen as only one candidate was nominated, that being the current President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz of the Germany’s SPD. While this has annoyed a number of activists, it has prevented a possible long drawn out campaign.

European People’s Party (EPP)

The EPP will open its nominations for the Commission President Candidate on February 13th and they close on March 5th before being selected at their Congress in Dublin on March 6th and 7th (Full Details here). A number of names have been mentioned including former head of the European Group and former Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker. Though it is thought that Germany’s Angela Merkel is against his appointment and would prefer either Poland’s Donald Tusk or Ireland’s Enda Kenny to be the EPP’s nomination.

Another possible candidate is Viviane Reding the current Commissioner responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship.

The ALDE Party (formerly ELDR)

The newly renamed ALDE Party is set to name its Candidate at a special conference in Brussels on February 1st. This is set to be a showdown between current Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn of Finland and the leader of the ALDE Group Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium. It will be interesting to see who will be victorious.

European Green Party

The European Green Party has embraced the internet and is allowing anyone who agrees with their policies to vote for their Candidate in an online Primary. You can vote for two out of the four candidates. The Candidates include José Bové of France, Monica Frassoni of Italy, Rebecca Harms of Germany and Ska Keller also of Germany. If you want to vote head on over to GreenPrimary.eu

European Left Party

The European Left Party last month nominated Alexis Tsipras leader of the Greek SYRIZA party to be its candidate in the elections. This is interesting as SYRIZA is the only party of the European Left Party to be leading in the polls in its home country. Its highly unlikely that Tsipras will be European Commission President, the next Greek Prime Minister on the other hand…

The other possible candidates include Maire Le Pen leading a European Far Right grouping (or maybe Nigel Farage?) and a possible European Conservatives and Reformist candidate, no names have emerged from that grouping.

It will be an interesting one to watch.

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The next Commission President?

European Commissioner Viviane Reding
European Commissioner Viviane Reding (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to Euractiv jostling for the nomination for the next European Commission President has begun. As the next President will be picked based on the who is the largest party in the next European Parliament, elected in 2014, it will be a contest between European People’s Party, EPP, (currently the largest party) and the Party of European Socialists ,PES, the next largest party, who sit as the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the Parliament.

For the EPP, Viviane Reding of Luxembourg, who is the currnet Vice President of the European Commission and is the Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. According for Euractiv sources she has begun campaigning for the position ahead of the EPP choosing its candidate ahead of the next election.

Reding is regarded as a bit of a shoe-in for the job, she has been a commissioner since 1999 and before that she was an MEP between 1989 and 1999. She has served in the following positions on the European Commission

  • Commissioner for Education and Culture (1999-2004)
  • Commissioner for Information Society and Media (2004-2010)
  • Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship (2010 -Present)

She could be a very good candidate for the EPP and could be the first female President of the Commission.

For the PES, Martin Schulz of Germany, is positioning himself for the position. Schulz is currently the President of the European Parliament so would have a strong support base among PES/S&D MEPs. He was elected President in January 2012. He is an MEP since 1994. He led the PES group between 2004 and 2012.

Reding v Schulz could be the theme of the 2014 European Elections.

The European Parliament elections 2014 will be huge – But not in Ireland

Logo of the Defunct Pirate Party Ireland.

Ronny has a good post on his blog why the next the European Parliament Elections will be different from past ones. This election will quiet important with both the Party of European Socialists (PES) and the European People’s Party (EPP) putting forward agreed candidates for the post of President of the European Commission.

There is also the possibility of the Pirate Party becoming a European political force as they will be running in most of the countries of the European Union. A conference on a European Pirate Party is taking place this weekend in Prague.

But this is not the case in Ireland. With the elections taking place on the same day as the Local Elections in 2014 much of the focus in Ireland will be on national parties and how they are doing with very little to do about how their European Parties are doing.

Another reason for this is that will be the current MEP’s running again. While we have already seen 3 changes in our MEP’s since 2009. Paul Murphy replaced Joe Higgins in Dublin and Phil Prendergast replaced Alan Kelly in April 2011 following the General Election. In February this year Emer Costello replaced Proinsias De Rossa as he retired from the Parliament. It is unlikely there will be a change in who is running.

While Dublin could see a seat up for grabs if Paul Murphy can’t get the votes that Joe Higgins got in 2009. But I doubt there will be major changes in any of the other Euro Constituencies.

Another reason why the European Elections won’t be as exciting in Ireland is that we have no Pirate Party. The Pirate Party Ireland/Páirtí Foghlaithe na hÉireann was founded in May 2009 and had over 300 members in 2010 meaning they could register as a party, but in 2011 the party winded down after not standing in any election.

There is a hope that an Irish Pirate Party may be started up again and therefore make the European Parliament Elections here more interesting, but they have 2 years to do it.

European Democrat Students launch ‘Knowledge is Power’ campaign

Logo of the European Democrat Students

The European Democrat Students (EDS) yesterday launched their “Knowledge is Power Campaign”. This campaign encourages EU political leaders to prioritize efforts on higher education and research funding. EDS urges leaders to introduce stimulus packages for the higher education sector, which is an important factor to help boost economic recovery in Europe.

The EDS emphasizes the importance of having a good education system for our future generations, and wish to encourage politicians to invest more resources in higher education and research. The EDS strongly believes that Europe 2020 is the fundamental guideline for all 27 Member States and thus, endorse the principle of a knowledge-based economy where higher education is a central pillar for sustainable economic growth.

EPP President Wilfried Martens strongly supports the EDS initiative: “the EPP believes that know-how in societies is central to economic growth and job creation, so we must create the best conditions for transforming them into knowledge-based societies. To reach this fundamental objective of the EPP, we strongly support investments in research and innovation. Ultimately, the economic success of Europe will be determined by the extent of the financial commitments allocated to these pivotal sectors of the economy. Europe must become a knowledge economy.”

This campaign is EDS’ first Internet based campaign and consists of several online films and an online petition available at eds-knowledge.eu. With the petition, the EDS wants to reach out to young Europeans and thereby send a bold signal to Europe’s policy makers that young people in today’s Europe believe that we have to invest more in Europe’s future.

So sign the petition, like on Facebook an follow on Twitter!

EDS is the official Student Organisation of the European People’s Party.

Coveney, Creighton and Europe

European Union
Image via Wikipedia

A lot of people mentioned to me that were surprised that Simon Coveney was appointed Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food. To me it was no surprise, not only is Simon popular with farmers, in a Red C Poll for the Irish Farmers Journal Simon was the most popular candidate for Agriculture Minister, but he has European experience. The majroity of legislations, rules and payments relating to Agriculture comes from the European Union through the Common Agriculture Policy. This is where Simon will do an excellent job as Agriculture Minister. Why?
Easy, Its because he knows how the Europe Union works. Simon was an MEP from 2004 to 2007. He was a spokesperson for the European Peoples Party. He has experience with dealling with these issues in Europe. Also with CAP reform being a major issue, have a Minister with intimate knolwdege of how laws are passed by the EU and with contacts outside of the various Government, should mean that he may have a bit of sway in the EU.
Lucinda Creightons appointment as Minister for Europe was no surprise to anyone. Lucinda is a fromer board member of the Youth of European People’s Party, where she served as Vice President. Again this should work to her advantage. Lucinda will have a network of contacts within the EPP. This should help her to explain Ireland’s poistion to friendly ears and hopefullly get us a good deal. Its also more likely that she will turn up to more meetings than her preprocessor.
Here is hoping that these appointements will bear fruits for Ireland.

EU Border Guards?

Frontex
Image via Wikipedia

Here is an interesting Press Release I got today from Maltese MEP Simon Busuttil of the European People’s Party.

European Union Border Guard System proposed. Simon Busuttil MEP


“Europe can no longer look on powerless at emergency situations because it is unable to muster resources or pool assets.” Simon Busuttil MEP

Simon Busuttil MEP is proposing the establishment of a European Union Border Guard System that would bolster the EU’s external border agency, Frontex.

Busuttil presented his proposal in a draft Report on the review of the 2004 legislation that set up the Agency. The Report draws lessons from the first years of experience of the Agency and gives it a renewed mandate with more resources and tools to become more effective.

In his Report, presented last week in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, Busuttil tabled 68 amendments to the law.

“I welcome the Commission proposal to review Frontex and I hope to improve it through a series of amendments that are contained in my Report”, Mr Busuttil said.

“Frontex must be available at all times when needed, including in emergency situations. Europe can no longer look on powerless at emergency situations because it is unable to muster resources or pool assets. Frontex must therefore have the necessary means and equipment to deliver in a timely and efficient manner and its founding legislation must be changed to help us get there”, he said.

Busuttil’s most noteworthy political initiative is his proposal to establish a European Union Border Guard System. This would be composed of all national border guards who participate in Frontex missions, such as joint operations and rapid intervention teams. The EU Border Guard System would also include border guards who are seconded by individual Member States. On their part, EU countries will be obliged, by law, to participate in the system under the principle of ‘compulsory solidarity’.

In his Report, Busuttil also supports the European Commission’s proposal to grant Frontex the power to purchase or lease its own equipment in order to enable it to better respond to challenges at the Union’s external borders. Moreover, he proposes to grant the Agency the power to process personal data collected during its operations in order to help it play a stronger role in combating cross-border crime and illegal immigration.

He full proposals are available in this PDF.

Personally I don’t see this happening. I can’t see the UK agreeing to the ‘compulsory solidarity’. I would think other member states may have issues on that also.

Simon Busuttil MEP
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Okay, so we know all the Groupings?

With the anouncement today of the new conservative grouping in the European Parliament, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECRG), we now know all the Groupings in the Parliament.

They are (in order of size) (PS not sure im numbers are correct):

  • European People’s Party – 266
  • Party of European Socialists – 161
  • Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe – 80
  • European Conservatives and Reformists – 55
  • Greens-European Free Alliance – 53
  • Union for Europe of the Nations – 35
  • United Left-Nordic Greens – 32
  • Independence/Democracy – 18
  • Non-Inscrits – 38

So it looks like the Parliament will be dominated by the centre right. The BNP failed to get enough MEPs.

Its going to be an interesting five years in Brussels/Strasbourg.

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