Monthly Archives: March 2010

Coming week to 19 March

I thought I’d experiement with putting information here about which Commissioners are coming to town, events organised by us and so on. It’ll usually be updated on a Friday or a Monday, when the Calendar comes out. It will be unashamedly UK-centric, and bringing together publicly available information. Please let me know if you find it useful.

All week – European Ombusdman visits UK, speeches in various cities.

16 March – Conservative shadow justice and home affairs team visits Commissioner Reding in Brussels

18 March – David Lammy, UK Minister for higher education and intellectual property meet Commissioner Barnier in Brussels

19 March – Commissioner Ashton is in Moscow for the Quartet meeting. Commissioner Andor is in Brussels at a conference of the GINI (Growing Inequalites’ Impact) project. Conference at BFI Southbank on using European cinema as a learning aid

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Wonderful World

We had a briefing today in the office with members of the Foreign Press Association which brings together the non-UK media based in London. It goes quite well with today’s Charlemagne blog-post about journalists in Brussels (see also today’s links). The reason we organised the briefing was a feeling, borne out by discussions with the FPA, that more and more foreign (read mainly extra-EU) correspondents are covering EU issues from London and withdrawing full-time correspondents from Brussels, and they need someone to explain a bit how thigns work and who to talk to. We had several Japanese outlets, Canadian, Nigerian, Chinese, Indian, but also Greek and French It’s interesting for us here, because it means that we need to consider the international and non-UK angle of stories much more than colleagues in other EU capitals. It also means that Commissioners’ media teams should see a visit to London as an opportunity to reach out beyond the UK media scene. It’s not going to be easy, but I hope that we will be able to provide a service to that group as well as the traditional UK media that we work with.

Added 16.19 on 16 March: Just to be 100% clear. I worked as a Spokesperson in Brussels for years and know how important the press corps there is to getting quality coverage of the EU into the media here. I am certainly not advocating people moving their correspondents from Brussels. Having said that, such decisions once taken, for whatever reason, will have a consequence for my work here and I am happy to do what I can to make the connections with those in Brussels and elsewhere in the EU set-up that can help people working out of London understand the issues in their entirety.

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Links 16 March 2010

Neelie Kroes encourages you to contribute to two public consultations

Two important consultations are now live. First, we are asking citizens and businesses and other interested parties consultation on how can we guarantee access to communications services in the digital era. The key question is: are our rules appropriate for the digital age? Should they be expanded to cover broadband access, for example?  The consultation will run until 7 May 2010. Separately the Commission is asking for views on use of Radio Spectrum 2010-2015, between now and 9 April.

A comment is free post on the new ECR grouping in the European Parliament

It’s also obvious that a fair few of the Tories eastern allies are rather keener than they are, for instance, on the redistribution of money from richer to poorer countries, on the CAP, and even on the euro. As the leader of a parliamentary party that is shortly likely to become more rather than less Eurosceptic, that could prove awkward for Cameron.

Charlemagne on the issue of journalists leaving the Brussels press corps and why.

It is mostly economic pressures that are shrinking the Brussels press corps. But there is a political problem too, as Jean Quatremer and others admit. The malaise gripping Brussels has its echo in a growing sense that the EU project is just not where the action is.

Charlie Brooker says it right on the climate change debate:

Hey, I’m no scientist. I’m not an engineer either, but if I asked 100 engineers whether it was safe to cross a bridge, and 99 said no, I’d probably try to find another way over the ravine rather than loudly siding with the underdog and arguing about what constitutes a consensus while trundling across in my Hummer.

And to make you smile, a fabulous picture from CuteOverload

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Links 09-03-2010

Charlie Beckett on which media will matter in the 2010 General Election

But here’s the headline news for election 2010: Mainstream Media is Back.

As a political sciences graduate, with a terrorism studies postgrad student in the house, I found Dave Wearing’s article on political sciences quite interesting. Should it even have the word science in it – the debate re-ignites…

I have yet to be convinced by the idea that the study of politics can be apolitical and value-neutral. Our choice of research topics will inevitably reflect our own political and moral priorities, and the way in which that research is framed and conducted is bound to reflect assumptions which – whether held consciously, semi-consciously or unconsciously – remain of a moral and political nature.

Charlemagne  – one of the best blogs on European issues, even if I don’t always agree with him – gets to grip with Greece

EMPATHY is always in short supply in recessions, even within the European Union where we are all supposed to understand each other instinctively. But really, the cross-border debate on Greece is depressingly simplistic.

Will Hutton talks some sense on the position of the VP/HR.

Ashton’s problem is not her power, but her lack of it. Before the meeting in Córdoba, she badly needed the letter David Miliband and Swedish foreign secretary Carl Bildt co-wrote saying that EU foreign ministers should get behind her. The world, and EU member states, needed more of the European Union, not less.

Charlie Brooker takes on the leaders’ debates:

if Nick Clegg spends the first 50 minutes rousing the audience with his fiery, lyrical rhetoric – as per usual – only to sneeze unexpectedly five minutes before the end, leaving a giant pendulum of mucus dangling off the end of his conk, the unfortunate mishap would be looped and repeated ad nauseam on every rolling news bulletin for weeks to come. He’d be Mr Snot. And do you want to vote for Mr Snot? No way. What if he sneezed on the nuclear button?

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One Way Ticket?

There’s been a bit of grumbling about the putative ticketing policy for the 2010 [doh! that should of course be 2012] Olympics, with claims that tickets can’t be reserved for Londoners because of the EU’s competition policy. It’s kind of ironic, for several reasons.

1) The full ticketing policy hasn’t even been announced yet.

2) The EU policy being referred to is based on complaints from previous big sporting occasions around Europe, where fans, including from the UK, have complained that they were discriminated against buying tickets for events such as the European Championships, or the World Cup.

3) A number of tickets are reserved for “the Olympic family” whatever that means – a reservation that appears to have been 40% in Sydney. I think that and the issue of agencies buying up tickets will be a much bigger problem than Europe-wide rules on access – and in the case of the agencies, they’d get the tickets even if there were a UK-only allocation.

Reading the comments on the BBC article about this, some very good points are made about how exactly competition law would affect this. I’m checking out the validity of some of those points and will add something when I find that out.

I live in what will be an Olympic borough (Greenwich) and I look forward to going and watching archery and shooting and modern pentathlon and whatever else will be there, and I suspect that I won’t be fighting with hordes of people over from France or Portugal or wherever. Certainly my experience at the Rugby World Cup in France in 2007 was that the overwhelming majority of spectators were from France. But I really appreciated the fact that I could book my tickets from Belgium, with no problem.

I hope I’m wrong, but let’s remember this discussion if and when there are negative media stories about empty seats at Olympic events…

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Links 4 March 2010

Thought provoking article from Adrian Hamilton in the Independent on the whole Greece/Eurozone/UK  thing

Some useful information on saving energy from the Guardian

Some b-roll of Commissioner Ashton in Haiti. Council TV Newsroom is looking pretty good!

And as it was getting tweeted about earlier, here’s a link to our new(ish) site which is regularly updated with “Euromyths” and our letters to the editor – which don’t always get printed, so at least there’s a trace.

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Every Day I Write the Book

It’s World Book Day today. I’m sure you knew that. We’re having a book swap in our office – people have brought in books they are happy to give away, others can take what they want, and anything left over goes to a charity shop. At home we’re in the middle of having new book shelving up, and we have so many books as it is that I think I’d be in the spare room if I brought any more in! But it’s a great idea. There’s a nice article about World Book Day over on europe.org.uk which mentions the European Literature Night we’re involved with in May. So Happy World Book Day to everyone. Here’s a question – what’s the one book you would recommend everyone read before they die? I guess mine would be (gosh this is quite difficult, isn’t it…) erm… probably Northern Lights (and the other His Dark Materials books) by Philip Pullman.

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Links 03-03-2010

A not oft-heard argument that the European Commission is more democratic than the British Cabinet

Ilana Bet-El in the Guardian on why Member States only have themselves to blame if they don’t think Ashton is doing well.

Michael Crick reminds me why Michael Foot’s death is a big deal

And because we want the best possible proposals for events in answer to our call for proposals

Possibly my favourite blog, which engages in regular fisking of tabloid stories.

Edited at 16.10, 3 March 2010 to add:

MEP Mary Honeyball is impressed by Herman van Rompuy.

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Links 02-Mar-10

I’m going to blatantly filch an idea from the fabulous currybetdotnet and link to items I’ve found elsewhere on the net that I like, or think might be interesting for anyone that pops by. Needless to say, I don’t endorse any content, and my linking to them here certainly doesn’t imply that they reflect priorities, policies or views of the European Commission. Sometimes it’s just good to read…

Mary Kaldor in Comment is Free: Europe has spent too long besieged by regulation culture and market obsession, forgetting its original purpose: peace

Jonathan Holmes in Comment is Free on why arts should be subsidised.

Europe Minister Chris Bryant draws attention to the contribution of the EU Media programme to many of the films shortlisted for BAFTA.

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