An old Moroccan legend has it that the people of Andalusia, in Southern Spain, once complained to king Alexander of Macedonia about the continuing pillaging at the hands of the north African Berbers. The king ordered his best engineers to dig a huge channel between Spain and Africa. The Strait of Gibraltar thus came to be and the Andalusians lived in security happily ever after.
Today saw a drop in the borrowing costs for Ireland, Spain, Portugal and even Greece, as markets apparently took heart in rumours that EU leaders will soon strengthen the main bail-out fund, the EFSF, to back up eurozone countries in trouble
“The Cultural Minefield for European Social Democracy: Questions looking for Answers!” by Rene Cuperus
from Social Europe Journal by Rene Cuperus
Who leads the European Union ? or even ?Europe?? A weighty question indeed ? and thankfully not one that preoccupies only the members of this particular panel. Indeed, as well-regarded and experienced a figure as former MEP Richard Corbett has recently asked it again (Corbett, ?Who Leads the European Union?? European Voice, January 6, 2011). Corbett?s hardly masked indignation, which arose over the same outlet?s reporting on Hungary?s beginning tenure of the rotating Council Presidency under the heading ?Hungarian Presidency of the EU?, illustrates two things: one, clear and present inter-institutional sensibilities over roles and perceptions; and, two, that the question of EU leadership is far from settled, even after the Lisbon Treaty.
As we reported last week following an interview with Hungary?s foreign minister, the government in Budapest appears to be willing to diffuse the dust-up over its controversial media law, which critics charge is intended to stifle press opposition.
The European Council has a rendezvous with energy and innovation 4 February 2011 in Brussels, but can we expect the institution to become energetic and innovative? The meeting web page only reiterates the information contained in the annotated draft agenda, dated 7 December 2010, without offering added wisdom (Council document 17163/10).
Much has changed in relation to the discussion of Britishness since my collection of essays, Not Easy Being British: Colour, Culture and Citizenship was published in 1992. For me the most important is that the suggestion made there – that the issue of racial equality led inevitably to the bigger questions and ?isms? of multiculturalism, national identity and rethinking secularism – is now commonplace.
The description of my blog says that ?I attempt to translate between political science and political practice in EU matters?.
Yesterday was a day full of opportunities for this. I could start talking about the combination of science and practice for the blog post and paper ?Transparency in the Financing of Europarties? that I wrote together with colleagues. I could also describe the interaction between scientists, consultants, civil society representatives, EU officials and Members of the European Parliament in the expert meeting on ?The misuse of EU funds by organised crime? I participated in yesterday afternoon in the EP.
Ireland will elect a new government on February 25th to replace a discredited administration loathed by most Irish voters. At first sight, it seems unlikely the election will re-open the fundamentals of a bail-out agreed with fellow eurozone members and the IMF last November. The last act of Fianna Fáil, the main party in government since 1997, was to translate the terms of that deal into an initial set of tax hikes and further public spending cuts before leaving office. Nonetheless, the poll ? Ireland?s most important for decades ? marks a shift in hostility towards the bail-out and the EU in general which its partners would be foolish to ignore.
from Ideas on Europe by European Geostrategy
By Simon McMahon
The Euro is going through its greatest challenge, a fight for survival. The financial crisis and subsequent economic downturn have put the single currency under pressure as Greece, Ireland, Portugal and possibly Spain or Italy struggle to keep markets happy, confidence up and debt off their backs. However, despite the ease with which political and media elites squarely place the blame on these countries? shoulders, the bad news goes beyond their situation. Large deficits and high levels of public debt, at an average of 6.3% and 78.7% in the Eurozone, respectively, have made the Stability and Growth Pact seem irrelevant and ineffective. Growth out of the recession has been slow and uneven across the Eurozone, whilst unemployment has remained stubbornly high. According to the economist Nouriel Roubini structural reform is needed or the aforementioned countries may have to leave the Euro.
Foreign Ministers of EU countries are meeting today in Brussels, while at the same time protests against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt enter their 7th day. On his way to the Brussels meeting Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted this:
The past month?s debates in the Commons over the EU Bill have once again revived the thorny issue of the Lisbon Treaty and its abandoned twin the EU Constitution. Many members of Parliament still talk bitterly of the referendum that never came. Let’s re-cap: the previous Labour government denied the British people a say on the Lisbon Treaty despite promising one in its election manifesto, it’s sole argument being that the Treaty differed from the EU Constitution (despite almost all other EU leaders arguing that it was the same and the similarities becoming patently obvious when reading both side by side).
Ahead of the European Council ?summit? on Friday, 4 February 2011, we looked at the preparatory General Affairs Council (GAC) in the blog post: An energetic and innovative European Council? (29 January 2011).
European Movement Ireland have launched a report on the campaign that they undertook in relation to the European Citizen?s Initiative. As part of this a poll was undertaken in Cork, Galway, Dublin North and Dublin South on May 7th 2010.
from Stephen Spillane by Stephen
Just found an interesting response to my UK-EU trade post from a couple of months back, from what is a new blog to me, Brittopic.
It?s worth reading in full to see a few objections and some issues raised ? notably about the British balance of trade and the nature of the UK?s service-driven economy.
In this morning?s paper, we have a scoop on the contents of the draft conclusions for today?s European summit, which were circulated to heads of government by Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, ahead of the meeting.
Germany and France will present their plans for closer economic policy cooperation in the Eurozone at the EU summit today. This is a clear change of course for Berlin but it’s really only looking out for itself, the press concludes.
As European leaders gather in Brussels for a summit meeting nominally dedicated ? for the first time ? to energy policy, one uninvited guest is looking on with some dismay: Russia.
High on the agenda is energy security. Which is a polite way of saying that European leaders are discussing how the bloc can break its dependency on Russian gas. In some parts of the EU ? notably among the new member states of central and eastern Europe ? that policy goal has become an obsession.
For those, like the Brussels Blog, who have been following every twist and turn of the saga over Hungary?s carpet in the European Union building that hosts major summits, here?s another twist: the carpet has been covered up.
Today the Labour Party leader, Eamon Gilmore, was having fun down in Limerick aping the Rubberbandits by telling potential voters: “Feck the bailout, we’ve a plan outside“. Labour’s position has hardened over the past few days, perhaps due to seeing the dregs of the plunging Fianna Fáil support trickle off to Sinn Féin, rather than give a boost to the traditional third party. Labour may be polling in the early 20s – a good place to be for it historically – but when Labour is pushing Gilmore as Taoiseach, they would want to make greater headway over the next few weeks.
Implicit in suggestions today from Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, that Hosni Mubarak should not be rushed out the door was this: A fear of what could come after the long-ruling Egyptian president. Chief among them is the possibility that Mr Mubarak would be replaced by an Islamist government hostile to the west.
With the General Affairs Council (GAC), the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) and the European Council, it was a busy week in Brussels politics. Here is a roundup of my main blog posts (often the second on the same theme, downstream) about the meetings and reflections on governance, including openness and transparency.
The Grahnlaw blog post Busy week in Brussels: EU politics and governance (5 February 2011) looked at the General Affairs Council (GAC) and the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC) preparing the ground for the European Council, as well as ?summit? preparations and materials.
Under pressure from Germany and France, the EU summit has proposed the goal of economic governance for the Eurozone. German Chancellor Angela Merkel sees the plan above all as a means for combating low competitiveness and high public debts. While some commentators see convergency and budget discipline as the only way forward, others fear a planned economy under German leadership.
Last week’s EU summit, saw the Franco-German “pact for competitiveness” – a raft of proposed rules on wages, pensions, spending and taxation to strenghten discipline in the eurozone – run into some serious opposition. Not surprising given that the plan effectively demanded that permanent, cast-iron rules, rather than votes in democratically elected national parliaments, determine key policies on spending, taxation and pensions across the eurozone.