The Catalan Statute

Well here in sunny Catalonia we don’t have a fooball team of our own right now, so maybe that’s why we chose this precise moment to hold a referendum about our future.

Now the first thing to get straight is that despite all the direst predictions, Spain is still here the morning after the big vote, and in one piece, I just touched the floor to prove it. Indeed 11 footballers (some of them Catalan) will also come to earth on German turf tonight just to graphically illustrate the point. So it does seem that some of the concerns raised in the coments to this post were well wide of the mark.

Some issues do, however, remain.
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Balkans moving forward…

The European Commission released its annual reports on enlargement yesterday, including a recommendation that Macedonia be recognised as an EU candidate. Eagerly anticipated (including by Doug Muir a few weeks back), but also pretty stunning given the difficulties the region has had, and given the general perception of enlargement fatigue.

However in my view this piece of good news is put in the shade by this morning’s Guardian story about likely Bosnian constitutional reform. Apparently a deal brokered by the Americans, but lubricated by the prospect of EU entry, “would give Bosnia the ‘normal’ trappings of an integrated, non-ethnic parliamentary democracy: a national parliament with full legislative powers, central government and cabinet enjoying full executive power, and a titular head of state”.
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Dutch referendum: some background

Having been asked by AFOE to write a couple of posts for them in the coming weeks I am both honoured and horrified and apologize in advance for occasionally butchering the English language. A very short introduction: I am a Dutch translator now living in France after 30 odd years of residence in Belgium. I am totally incapable of producing fine scholarly essays but I can do my part of the vox populi pretty well? I hope.

To warm up I offer you some background relevant to the Dutch referendum before the official results start rolling in. First some figures, taken from a Eurostat news report (pdf) that was released today.

Dutch unemployment, while remaining well below the European average of 8,9%, has risen from 4.6% to 5%. By comparison, Poland has 17% unemployment and Ireland 4.2%. Eurostat also mentions that The Netherlands registered the highest relative increase in unemployment rates among the member states together with Portugal (6.5% to 7.2%) and Luxemburg (4.2% to 4.6%). Unemployment among young people in The Netherlands, while fairly high at 9.2%, is still modest compared to the EU average rate of 19%.
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Venice Commission on Bosnia-Herzegovina

Teekay was looking forward to the Venice Commission’s report on Bosnia-Herzegovina last week. (The Venice Commission, for those of you who don’t lie awake at nights in excited anticipation of its next publication, is the constitutional reform advisory body of the Council of Europe, which in turn is not to be condused with the European Council.)

Well, the report’s out – not yet on their website but they’ve sent me a copy. It’s not as radical as some in Bosnia-Herzegovina might have liked, but given the Venice Commission’s normally relatively anodyne pronouncements it’s pretty strong stuff.
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Dealing in Kyiv.

It looks like the legal stalemate in Ukraine could be a little closer to a solution. Possibly related to reports about the opposition offering immunity to incumbent President Kuchma in exchange for him no longer trying to factually or legally obstruct the preparations for the repeated presidential run-off election on December 26, at least most of the constitutional and procedural problems which led to parliamentary tensions last Saturday seem to have been resolved in a six hour round table talk with European mediators, including the EU’s Javier Solana and Poland’s President Aleksander Kwasniewski.

While the parties seem to have finally agreed to the dismissal of the current Central Electoral Committee, the abolition of the problematic absentee ballots, extended checks of electoral registers to keep at least most of the dead from voting, and an end to the blockade of government buildings, it is unclear at this point to which extent the issue of pre-electoral constitutional change reducing the powers of the future UkrainianPresident in favor of the parliament has been settled.
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