Something Seems To Be Working

According to the Turkish news agency Hürriet Turkish Deputy prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul spoke last night to the NTV news channel regarding:

“the recent wave of legal battles being held against Turkish intellectuals and a senior member of the European Parliament. Gul criticized the actions that were being taken under the controversial article of the country’s new penal code and said, “There seems to be a chain of systematic complaints. There appears to be a mentality deliberately aiming to create chaos.”

The FT quotes Mr Gul as saying:

“There may need to be a new law. As a government we’re watching closely how the existing laws are being implemented.”

The law in question is the one which makes it an offence to insult “Turkishness”. This law has been highlighted recently by the Orhan Pamuk case and now by the strange threat to prosecute Joost Lagendijk, a Dutch member of the European parliament, for suggesting the Turkish army provoked Kurdish rebels in the hope of extending its influence. Interestingly enough Joost Lagendijk supports Turkish membership of the EU. State prosecutors are reportedly studying the complaint against Lagendjik.

Now I have to say that not of this surprises me. Turkey is a society in transition. Fortunately the transition is from a bad equilibrium to a batter one, and we in the EU are doing our bit. I feel that Gul’s statement confounds the fears of the sceptics. In this case EU pressure will be rigourous, and change will be far reaching, but the process will, obviously, have its ups and downs.

So I was really surprised to read in the FT:

“Turkey knows that gaining entry to the EU will become an increasingly arduous task in the coming years, because of widespread antipathy inside the 25-member club towards future enlargement. “

No! Turkey gaining entry to the EU will be an arduous task because it is good for Turkey and good for the EU that it be so. If some people are using their ‘enlargement fatigue’ as an excuse for trying to make things more difficult, then they are the ones who will end up even more fatigued (and frustrated) as time after time Turkey complies with their demands.

This could be another example of shooting-yourself-in the-footism as in complying with the demands Turkey will become an increasingly modern and economically competitive society, which means, of course, that when it does join in 2014 it will, as the largest member state, have even more influence :).

And speaking of Eurovision

Just a quick update on Croatia’s EU candidacy.

Eight countries have signed a letter to British PM Tony Blair supporting Croatia’s membership. The letter was presented to Blair — who currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, and will until January 1 — in the recent confence at Newport, in Wales.

The signing countries were Austria, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malta, Slovakia, and Slovenia.
Continue reading

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.

No Fire Without Smoke

First a bit of ‘breaking news’ for German readers: the main factor which has lead to the massive round of cost cutting and staff reductions in Germany has not been the activity of a small group of hedge funds, the main culprit, let’s get it out of the cupboard, has been the high euro.

Whilst the contents of G7 meetings are never formally disclosed, it has been a more or less open secret that for some time now that the focus of recent meetings has been on how to overcome perceived imbalances in the global economy, and in particular how to force through ‘structural reforms’ in countries like Germany and Japan where such reforms are enormously politically unpopular. So the structural reforms have been pushed via the indirect route: making them virually inevitable due to cost pressures in export dependent economies.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

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.
Continue reading

Welcome To The World Of Kofi Annan

While EU politicians over at Davos have been mulling over the possibilities of Turkey’s membership of the EU, Kofi Annan apparently has things much clearer. In a speech to the European parliament he bluntly told MPs that Europe needs migrants to ensure a prosperous future and that Europeans should stop using immigration as a scapegoat for their social problems.
Continue reading

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.