Round One to Parliament

As various places are reporting, Barroso is now saying he needs more time to secure the European Parliament’s assent to his Commission. Faced with the prospect of a majority of MEPs voting to reject the entire Commission, he’s taken this unprecedented step, handing a significant victory to Parliament.

According to the German newspaper whose web site really could be better organized, negative votes were likely to come from the Socialist, United Left, Liberal and Green groupings, as well as a large number of independent deputies. The head of the Socialist group, Martin Schulz (Ger-SPD), is quoted estimating 362 no votes to 345 yes votes.
Continue reading

Whew

Earlier this month, we noted that the end of the Orthodox mourning period for the victims in Beslan might bring rapid reprisals for the attack. Hasn’t happened.

This is not to say that there won’t ever be reprisals, just that the worst fears have proved unfounded. And frankly, the North Caucasus can use all the good news it can get.

Well?

In Sunday’s Washington Post, the often-astute Timothy Garton Ash argues:

If President Bush is reelected, many Europeans will try to make the European Union a rival superpower to the United States.

Led by French President Jacques Chirac, they will find the main justification for further European integration in counterbalancing what they see as irresponsible, unchecked American power. In the great European argument between Euro-Gaullists and Euro-Atlanticists, these Euro-Gaullists will be strengthened. The temptation for Europe to define itself as Not America will be increased. All this at a formative moment when an enlarged European Union is hoping to give itself a new constitution and work out what it wants to be.

Is he right?

Ministry of Silly Walks.

I don’t think Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister, was entirely mistaken when he mentioned in a BBC radio interview (2:35 min real audio) on Wednesday that “[i]f you want to learn how the traditional Prussian goose-step works, you have to watch British TV, because in Germany, in the younger generation – even in my generation – nobody knows how to perform it.” Well, it’s certainly possible to learn it without the help of British tv, but Fawlty Tower re-runs help a lot.
Continue reading

Buttiglione on his way out?

While most observers still expect a compromise between incoming Commission president Barroso and those groups in the EP which threatened to block his entire team over the Buttiglione row – Mr Barroso will meet with leading MEPs tomorrow -, according to EUPolitix.com’s press review, the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reports that Rocco Buttiglione may “resign” today and be “replaced by Italy?s highly regarded foreign minister Franco Frattini.”

Update from EUPolitix:

Further pressure on Barroso to reshuffle his team came on Wednesday afternoon from parliament?s Greens who said Buttiglione was ?unacceptable? as a commissioner. One solution doing the rounds in parliament?s corridors late on Wednesday is for a three way swap of portfolios between the Italian, Dutch and French commissioners-designates. Buttiglione would take over the transport portfolio, Neelie Kroes would move to justice and Jacques Barrot would take on the competition dossier.

Update: After meeting with leading MEPs incoming commission president Barroso decided to take a chance with an unchanged commission line-up, including Mr Buttiglione. Without an apology, the latter once again regretted his comments that will now lead to a stand-off with the European Parliament on October 27. Even though Mr Barroso’s commission has backing from the center-right European People’s Party, Josep Borrell, the Parliament’s president said that with Socialist, Green and Liberal Parliamentary groups opposed it’s far from certain that Mr Barroso will win the vote. Given the institutional problems involved – as well as Mr Barroso’s offer to set up a cross-departmental working group on human rights – the latter Parliamentary parties haven’t ruled out voting for it yet – but remain highly critical. More here.
Continue reading

CERN reaches 50

We ought not let an anniversary like the 50th birthday of the Centre Europ?en pour la Recherche Nucl?aire go unmentionned. Like many non-EU European institutions, involvement often extends beyond the frontiers of the continent. Besides its 20 European members (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, the Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), it has a number of “Observer” delegations that are able to attend meetings and receive documents (the European Commission, India, Israel, Japan, the Russian Federation, Turkey, UNESCO and the USA) and a long list of other non-members, many non-European, who nonetheless participate substantially in its projects (Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Georgia, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Peru, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan and the Ukraine). Funding comes from both members and non-members.

Of course, CERN is also remembered for a minor spin-off of its early investment in computer networking: the Web.

Ever Closer Union.

Over on Crooked Timber, Henry Farrell comments on the istitutional implications of the Buttiglione affair. While we are shocked to learn that The Economist does not like the recent self-confident behavior of the European Parliament with respect to the Commission hearings, Kieran Healy – duly apologetic – makes a fair point in the comments thread – “sorry to lower the tone of the discussion, but if he doesn?t get the job he should move to the San Fernando Valley: ?Rocco Buttiglione? is a Porn-Star Name, par execellence.” The producers of “Oral Office” will probably read this with pleasure…
Continue reading

Inflection Point?

Earlier this month, when Edward wrote

The alarm shot was given by Dalls Federal Reserve President Robert McTeer when he declared in a speech in New York last week that whilst overseas investors now ?finance? the US current account gap, ?theoretically some day that process will come to an end, the flows will turn against us and there will be a crisis that will result in rapidly rising interest rates and a rapidly depreciating dollar.? This prospect, which currently seems remote, should not be taken lightly. It is real, and it is there.

I noted that this prospect had been around for a long time (close to ten years at least) and asked what would constitute a sign that this time might be different.
Continue reading

Special Relationships.

In every relationship, it is said, there’s one who does the running. And certainly in a special relationship. This is at least how many British Parlamentarians must have felt after being told that the US government has asked the British military to redeploy several hundred soldiers from the relatively safe British-led occupation zone in the South closer to Baghdad – to relieve US troops fighting terrorists. However, other reports stipulate the redeployment might be necessary to avoid utter chaos caused by American military staging mutinies right before the Presidential election (see here).
Continue reading