Quick debate point

An EU debate point. Martin Schulz just pointed to the German government’s scrappage bonus as an example of “protecting the hard core of German industry, automotive production, by keeping the people there” that justified an increase in sovereign debt. The reference to “keeping the people there” also implies he was thinking of kurzarbeit.

A coalition for Schulz?

Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz are debating, live on France24. Glued, of course. As someone has already said on Twitter, Schulz speaks better French than Juncker. JCJ has also said that Gerhard Schröder “introduced budget discipline in Germany”. Schröder got let off for breaking the stability pact!

Anyway, we were blogging about the European Parliament getting more partisan and at the same time, more powerful. Under a deal between the political parties, they’ve agreed to veto any candidate put forward by the governments that they don’t like. This move means, paradoxically, that the side who wins the elections might be able to name the commission president.

Last week, the parliament passed a version of the latest lot of telecoms regulations that requires intra-European roaming charges to disappear by the end of 2015, makes various changes regarding how telecoms services can be marketed, and introduces quite strong net neutrality language. This included a definition of “specialised services” that basically rules out the idea of reclassifying, say, Netflix or YouTube as a specialised service carrying a fee for preferential delivery. (There’s also some dull technical stuff about spectrum management that only people like me care about.) ETNO, the European telco lobby, had been relying on the specialised services clause to kill the net neutrality element, so this bit is crucial to the whole thing.

My point, though, is that the amendments in question, numbers 234 to 236, were introduced jointly by the Socialists, the Liberals, the Greens, and the extreme-left group. It looks like the Right chose to fold when they realised they couldn’t get rid of the amendments, as the package passed by 534 votes to 25.

This starts to look like a transition from the permacoalition between the conservatives and the socialists to an alliance between the parties of the broadest possible Left. Something similar is going on in Germany, where Der Tagesspiegel has a good discussion of how a group of SPD, Green, and Left Party politicians are putting connections in place for a potential future coalition.

Il faut sauver le soldat Juncker. Pourquoi, on ne sait pas

What about some actual European politics? Jean Quatremer has an interesting story. He starts off with a joint profile of Martin Schulz and Jean-Claude Juncker – and I presume I’ve now lost 90 per cent of the readers – but then it gets interesting.

So, the political parties in the European Parliament decided back in 2011 to name top candidates at the elections, and then to treat the winner’s top candidate as the Parliament’s candidate for President of the European Commission. All parties did this except for the extreme right and the odd new group with the British Tories in, who decided not to name a top candidate. The Parliament doesn’t get to nominate the president, but it does have a veto. This now starts to look a lot like the Parliament getting to choose, as the parties have agreed to veto anyone, expect the top candidate who wins the election. You could even call it democracy, of a sort.

It seems that Angela Merkel, and the intergovernmental wing of the EU more widely, doesn’t like this much. It is, after all, an effort by the elected branch to take over more power. Although everyone claims to want a more democratic EU, nobody wants this to happen at the expense of their own power. So, there is a plan afoot.

Juncker, the continental chief conservative, would be appointed as president of the Council immediately, on polling day. Therefore, the Parliament wouldn’t have the chance to appoint him to the Commission, and the agreement between the parties would no longer be valid as there would no longer be a conservative chief candidate.

This might throw the whole issue open, and leave it to the freies Spiel der Kräfte as they say in German politics. Alternatively, it might leave the Commission to the Left. Merkel would keep some sense that the intergovernmental power controlled things, keep Juncker in yet another of his countless eurojobs, and get a German at the Commission, although she would have to tolerate a Social Democrat.

Schulz, for his part, is setting up a coalition of the very broadest Left to back him in the case that he either wins the elections, which is possible, or that Merkel has Juncker lifted out by helicopter. This means the end of the weird longstanding coalition between Socialists and Conservatives in Brussels. Told you there was something interesting in here.

That said, I can’t help thinking that the whole manoeuvre with Juncker is exactly the sort of thing that millions of Europeans hate about the EU. He has been something pompous in the EU for the whole of my life and I can’t think of anything he has achieved with it except for protecting the Luxembourg tax haven. Now the prospect of him losing an election is greeted with some scheme to give him yet another eurojob in pursuit of an institutional politics spat maybe 0.01% of Europeans could describe.

Over at the Open Europe Blog, a comment on a post about the AfD says:

The issue is that nowhere in Europe the combination between desillusioned voters and business oriented policies seem to be very appealing. It looks to be one or the other. There looks to be room for a more business oriented party in most countries.

The answer is, of course, that they’re disillusioned with the business-oriented policies and the Junckerist politics.

Lvov Offensive


Does Herman van Rompuy really need to be telling the people of western Ukraine that if it wasn’t for some pesky border-drawing issue, they would be 3 times better off than they are now? For a Brussels elite that likes to pitch every European Union achievement in terms of the aftermath of World War 2, it’s a remarkably tone-deaf boast.

ECB uses legal word games to dodge bailout accountability

The European Parliament sent a questionnaire to the Eurozone bailout “Troika” members (ECB, IMF, and European Commission) so as to better understand their specific roles in the 4 lending programme countries (Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and Cyprus). The ECB has published its response. One set of questions and answer is as follows –

Continue reading

Send the envoy

There could only be one song for this post*. I had “Iran follow-up post” on my to-do list, but I wasn’t expecting the follow-up to be basically “dealio!”. The US statement is here, which carefully emphasises that the sanctions infrastructure remains in place, and the document itself is here, via Fars News Agency.

As far as the nuclear content goes, it addresses the build-up of more centrifuges and requires the mixdown of the existing 20% enriched uranium or its conversion to reactor fuel. It freezes work on the Arak plutonium reactor, and importantly asserts that Iran will be able to enrich up to reactor levels in the future. It seems to be stronger than expected in terms of verification and monitoring, providing for a lot of new inspections and a joint commission on monitoring. I’ll wait for Arms Control Wonk, but Mark Hibbs seems to think it’s sound.

In the light of this now-classic post, it doesn’t get rid of the isotope program with the Tehran research reactor but it does provide guarantees that it’s not acting as a cover for work on a bomb. If the 20% HEU is converted into fuel for the reactor, and the IAEA inspectors verify that, it can’t also be further enriched for use in a bomb. That’s the key issue in their model and the deal addresses it.

It also provides for a year-long process towards winding up the whole issue and ending the UNSC involvement, as well as for future cooperation on getting Iran some proliferation-resistant nuclear power stations. The AFOE official view is nicely summed up by this tweet from Conor Friedersdorf:

and also this one from Chris Bryant MP:

As far back as 2009, we made the choice to stand out against the conventional wisdom on this particular point. Hey, the conventional wisdom was represented by a horrible bunch of kéké clowns, it wasn’t hard. Further, the main challenge then was getting the EEAS set up and functioning and she did actually come from setting up a substantial new institution in the UK. We came back on this one last year. Anyway, here’s the victory roll, in the Grauniad. Rod Liddle, your boys took a hell of a beating.

Catherine Ashton

*The Wikipedia page for Philip Habib is a strong case that whether Warren Zevon intended the song sincerely or satirically in 1982, he certainly meant it after 1987.

No questions asked?

As noted by FT Alphaville the other day, the ECB has released its guidance for the use of Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) by national central banks (NCBs) in the Eurosystem. Among the rules

As a rule, NCBs inform the ECB of the details of any ELA operation, at the latest, within two business days after the operation was carried out. The information needs to include, at least, the following elements: …

the prudential supervisor’s assessment, over the short and medium term, of the liquidity position and solvency of the institution receiving the ELA, including the criteria used to come to a positive conclusion with respect to solvency;

Since Irish and Cypriot taxpayers have ended up on the hook for ELA provided to busted banks by their central banks, aren’t they entitled to now see this information?

Is The Perfect Always And Everywhere The Enemy Of The Good?

Against a backdrop which offers an eerie parallel with events which took place somewhat to the North more than 30 years ago, Catalonia is now threatening to separate from Spain. In so doing the region seems to be putting at risk both the future of the host country and beyond that the outlook for the Euro currency and the process of European unification. Continue reading

Q&A: The Catalan Way explained

Why are Catalans taking part in a human chain this Wednesday? The Catalan newspaper Ara has produced a series of questions and answers in English which should explain everything you want to know about why the human chain is taking place today.

What is the ‘Via Catalana’?





The ‘Via Catalana’ (The Catalan Way) is a political demonstration which will take place this September the 11th. Inspired by the Baltic Way — a human chain formed by up to two million people on August 23 1989 across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — its aim is to create a 400 km long chain which will cross Catalonia from north to south. 400.000 people have signed up to take part in the human chain, although organizers hope that the actual turnout will be at least twice that figure. People will be asked to join hands at exactly 17:14 (15:14 GMT). The chain, which runs along highways, roads and city streets, will come to an end at 18:00 (16:00 GMT). If successful, it will be one of Europe’s largest ever demonstrations, following in the footsteps of last year’s march in Barcelona, when up to 1,5 million people walked through the streets of the capital asking for independence, the country’s most massive rally ever. Continue reading