Parliament Live on Blogs

One of our lurkers turns out to be from the Media section of the European Parliament. Today and tomorrow the EP is webcasting a conference on technology and democracy, with a prominent role for blogs.

Mystery in European Parliament…!
just like you, the European Parliament is well aware of the increasing power and importance of blogging, which hasn’t only started to blur the lines between the private and the public, between journalism and opinion, between citizen and politician, but has also opened up new questions in the field of democracy and democratic control. As part of the activities that will accompany the launch of its new website, the European Parliament has decided to hold several debates dealing with the fast-moving developments in digital society on the 12th and 13th of September, the first of which is entitled Web logs: competition, challenge or chance? Who’s afraid to open Pandora’s Blogs? Participants in the debate will include several well-known journalists, bloggers and experts in the field, who will no doubt ensure a lively debate that should be of special interest to bloggers, as well as anyone interested in the relationship between digital technology and democracy. We would therefore like to invite you to join us on the Europarl website (http://www.europarl.eu.int/eplive/public/default_en.htm), where the event will be broadcast live on the 12th of September starting at 3PM via web streaming.

Wishing you all the best in your blogging endeavours,
Yours Sincerely,
José Manuel Nunes LIBERATO
Directeur, DIRECTION A – MEDIA

If you go to the site, click on “Round Tables on the Information Society” and then scroll down to “watch”. As I read the schedule, there’s only half an hour left today, but several hours tomorrow.

EU Budget Reform Having Problems

Despite all the hard work that is being put in by EU President Jean-Claude Junker, progress on the forthcoming EU budget seems like it might be agonizingly slow. In the first place Blair is in fighting mood:

“The UK rebate will remain. We will not negotiate it away. Period,”

In london the treasury seems equally determined:

“We would use the veto to preserve the rebate whenever necessary,” a Treasury spokesman told AFP. “Our rebate remains fully justified and it is not up for negotiation.”

Meanwhile, over at the European parliament:

MEPs have taken a stand on the future of EU spending as national capitals war over Brussels spending ahead of a June 16 summit of European leaders. The European Parliament has set out budget plans from 2007 to 2013 that are lower than original projections from the EU executive but higher than cost-cutting governments. The parliament backed a blueprint blueprint drawn up by German MEP Reimer B?ge by 426 votes to 140 against, with 122 abstentions. Brussels chief Jos? Manuel Barroso has welcomed the move which is ?150 billion more generous than maximum spends sought by some penny pinching national treasuries. ?The European Parliament has shown leadership and good sense by putting the policy needs of the EU first,? he said.

Report from European Parliament

I promised to report back here on the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee meeting today on Croatia. It took place immediately after the EU Foreign Ministers had announced that because of Croatia’s failure to deliver fugitive general Ante Gotovina to the war crimes tribunal in the Hague, negotiations on Croatia’s EU membership will not begin tomorrow.

To my surprise, the main speaker from the Croatian side was not their Chief Negotiator, Vladimir Drobnjak, but the Prime Minister himself, Ivo Sanader. He made an extremely good impression on MEPs. I personally was much less impressed; he told three blatant untruths in his opening remarks, which disinclines me to take particularly seriously any of his statements about how hard his government is really looking for the fugitive general.
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Crunch for Croatia

Hi folks, I am your guest blogger for the next two weeks. I hope you’ll allow me to be a little coy about my identity; but I do work in Brussels, in the general field of international politics.

I usually forget to check the European Parliament’s calendar of next week’s events on Friday afternoon, though really I should do it as a matter of routine, to plan ahead for the coming week. (And really they should have a direct link from the front page of their website, rather than three clicks away; but there’s not much point in wasting blogspace on stating the obvious about the crap design of the EU institutions’ websites.)

Along with the usual tedium of schedules for a conference in Cairo that nobody I know will go to, and such marvels as the European Parliament’s desperate attempt to make itself relevant to the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, there is one potentially very interesting meeting on the agenda.
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An MEP writes

British MEP Nick Clegg has an article in today’s Guardian, putting forward the argument that MEPs and the European Parliament are a lot more powerful than people give them credit for.

But the parliament most certainly isn’t irrelevant or unimportant. In the four years I’ve been an MEP, we have adopted legislation stopping cosmetics being tested on animals, boosting recycling, forcing the French to open up their energy market, opening up travel for British pets, boosting the development of renewable energy and biofuels _ the list goes on.

It is no exaggeration to say that MEPs are now Europe’s most influential lawmakers. The European parliament is blissfully free of overweening government majorities. Individual MEPs, regardless of party affiliation, exercise a degree of direct leverage over legislation unheard of in national parliamentary systems.

However, the credibility of the Parliament is being threatened by the ‘democratic deficit’.

Yet the lack of interest in the European parliament among voters threatens its credibility. Reversing the lamentable voter turnout at next year’s Euro-elections will be a defining moment…

As with so much in the EU, the European parliament suffers from a poverty of political leadership. Europe’s leaders created it in the first place. Now they cannot simply disown their creation. Political leaders everywhere must make the case for Europe and its institutions where it counts, at home. Don’t blame Brussels for voter apathy. Blame ourselves.

However, while the European Parliament may be powerful, it does seem that Clegg finds it hard to resist the temptations of London – he’s standing down as an MEP next year to be a candidate for the next Westminster elections.