The leaders of Parliament’s political groups today reached consensus on the 2009 winner of the Sakharov prize for human rights and freedom of thought. The ‘Memorial’ organisation founded in the 1980s in Russia by Andrei Sakharov himself represents the courageous efforts of a number of individuals (Oleg Orlov, Sergei Kovalev and Lyudmila Alexeyeva) in the defence of human rights in the post-Soviet states. Originally conceived as a memorial to the victims of Stalinist repression, it has latterly become a civil rights defence organisation in the region.
from EUobserver.com – Headline News
by Hugo Brady
EU leaders are racking their brains to come up with candidates for the future presidency of the European Council. The job, to be created by the nearly-ratified Lisbon treaty, will replace a system whereby the EU is ‘led’ by a different national leader every six months. Instead, the Union will have a full-time consensus builder who will also represent the EU to foreign heads of state, for a maximum five-year term. The man or woman who gets the job is banned from holding national office, but the assumption is that potential incumbents need to have served as a president or prime minister in a past life.
?Is any Briton suitable for Europe?s top job??, asked Charlemagne?s notebook (21 October 2009). The blog post brought to my attention that two members of the European Parliament, Herbert Reul and Klaus-Heiner Lehne, have launched a petition with criteria concerning the country of origin, when electing the first President of the European Council.
Italy – Berlusconi: I don’t really like my job
The conservative, flamboyant Italian leader, 73, says he actually doesn’t like governing at all. But he stays in the job because he is considered the “only leader able to hold the center-right together.” Berlusconi says there’s nothing simple about the prime minister’s job.
For the member states of the European Union the last ratification instrument to be deposited with the Government of Italy is going to determine when the Treaty of Lisbon enters into force, but time is running short ahead of the next European Council.
The unclear situation in the Czech Republic casts a shadow over the preparations, but the time has come to inform and to involve the EU citizens.
For the first time Eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus has indicated he will soon sign the Treaty of Lisbon on EU reform. Klaus has demanded that the EU agree to a clause preventing Germans expelled from Czechoslovakia after World War II from seeking restitution of expropriated property under the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Meanwhile Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico announced on Czech television on Sunday that he will seek a similar exemption for his own country.
The latest legal verdict on Silvio Berlusconi is – it would seem – a cause for cheer among democrats in Europe, and indeed all those who believe in press freedom, the rule of law, transparency and accountability. For in its ruling of 7 October 2009, Italy’s constitutional court decided that that the law passed in 2008 by a simple parliamentary majority granting parliamentary immunity to the Italian prime minister is at odds with the country’s constitution.
Parties of the left are out of power in three of the Big Four now, and everyone expects Labour to lose the next General Election in Britain. Going down the list to the Next-Biggest Four, we have Spain (Zapatero?s center-left government hanging in there), Poland (center-right), Romania (grand coalition of the two largest parties; can?t exactly say left-right, because Romanian politics always don?t map well on that axis) and the Netherlands (bizarre Grand Coalition of Christian Democrats and Labour, with Labour far down in the polls and expected to be kicked out soon). It?s not unreasonable to expect that by next summer, Spain might be the only large country in Europe with a left-of-center government.
France’s founding republican myth and democratic self-image exist uneasily alongside an enduring popular fixation with the many powerful leaders that have ruled the country: among them Louis XIV, Napoleon I and III, Général Charles de Gaulle, and even the wartime Marshal Pétain (who “gave himself to France” – and France to Hitler).
Patrice de Beer is former London and Washington correspondent for Le Monde
It looks like worries about a future Tory government aren?t limited to Paris and Berlin. Reports are circulating today that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed concern last week during her visit to Europe over David Cameron?s increasingly combative stance toward the EU, saying the US is worried that the ?direction of travel? from what will most likely be the next governing party of the UK could lead to a rupture between Britain and the rest of Europe.
In preparation for the upcoming Climate Conference in Copenhagen the European environmental ministers have agreed on climate protection objectives for 2050. The US and Australia still have a long way to go, while China and India could refuse the objectives altogether. The European press fears that the move could come at a heavy cost for Europe and be of little use to the world.
The spectrum of the ‘Polish plumber’, which haunted the French referendum campaign on the European Constitution in 2005, is a hoax of political history, as the predicted flood of Eastern workers in France never happened. EurActiv France reports.