Monthly Archives: July 2010

Links on 27 July 2010

A return for my occasional series 🙂

Emergency Exit Fail: have you ever felt like this?

An article about Holyrood TV could apply to the EP, I reckon. There is something of a paradox, with lots of talk about openness and transparency, but little interest in such channels. Why should that be? Is it in the execution, or the principle?

Most likely, you will not feel culturally enriched or in any other way transfigured for having watched events from the Holyrood parliament on a live internet feed. Nor will you, in years to come, remember where you were when you heard the news, revealed last week, that these proceedings receive only 7,000 hits per month. Yet this is about 5,000 more than the entire number of people who watched Kirsty Wark’s $1m docudrama about the making of the Scottish parliament when it was first released.

And if you have ever, by chance, watched the Welsh parliament unfolding you may feel that Holyrood TV, in comparison, is being directed by Quentin Tarantino. Unsurprisingly, such a paltry number of viewers has led to loud calls for the service to be discontinued.

Yet this would be an unwise course of action and betrays an ignorance of what Holyrood TV is for. There are many countries where an unaccountable executive and corrupt judiciary daily subvert democracy. For these enslaved people the existence of a kingdom where politicians and their actions are scrutinised daily on the internet may feel like the land of milk and honey.

That is not to suggest though, that live coverage of Holyrood cannot be improved. Indeed, perhaps what is required is for coverage of parliamentary debates to be broken up with little programmes that show our elected representatives in a more human light and make the business of politics more accessible to the punter in the street and the chiel on the croft.

A Guardian editorial on the shift in British diplomacy makes some interesting points about the UK’s EU policy:

A fairer and more transparent way to promote UK business interests is by influencing and enforcing global trade rules through multilateral institutions. That means a closer relationship with the European Union. Britain’s EU partners are relieved that the more rampant strain of Tory hostility to Brussels is not reflected in government policy. Mr Hague, flanked by the usefully polyglot Nick Clegg, has charmed European audiences.

But civil neighbourliness is not the same as constructive engagement. For most of this year the eurozone has been in crisis. This is a problem of existential proportions for the UK’s most important trading alliance, and yet the government has said nothing of substance about it. Many Tories feel smug at having opposed UK membership of the single currency; some Lib Dems are abashed at having advocated it. That might make it an awkward topic within the coalition, but it doesn’t erase the fact that Britain lacks a coherent European policy.

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Science+Europe=accuracy fail

I went to a very interesting event about science journalism in the UK last year at the Royal Institution which I blogged about about the time. One of my conclusions was that many of the issues faced by science journalism reflect very closely issues faced on coverage of European issues. Science isn’t covered well by the general press. Neither is Europe, on the whole. So when you put the two together, as the Daily Mail did this morning, then you can imagine what comes out.

Needless to say, the Daily Mail over-simplified, if not to say ridiculed, the real situation. The project has found ways to improve fruit storage, reduce waste, cut pesticide use and  encourage children to eat fruit instead of sweets. These are important things. An interesting fact: The EU produced 7.7 million tonnes of eating apples in 2008.  So if research like this can cut costs so that apple prices fall by just one penny per kilo that will mean annual savings for consumers of ÂŁ64 million – or more than five times the cost of the project. Never mind the health benefits of reduced pesticide use, and the suffering caused by allergies (I know alot about that one!) This was the first project to quantify the cholesterol-reducing properties of apples, which can have a direct effect in reducing medicines taken – saving health services money.

Of course, we could have told the Mail all of this if they had bothered to ask us…

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A new era for the London rep

I’ve been away on holiday for a week, so this is old news, and you’ll probably have seen that we have a new head of rep, Jonathan Scheele, who will take office on 1 August. I have known Jonathan since I moved to Brussels in 1995, as we were in the same theatre group, and I’m really pleased he will be my new boss. It really will be a new era for this office, because his first main task will be overseeing the office move to its new premises in Smith Square. So by the end of 2010, we’ll be in new shinier premises with much better public facilities, and with a new man at the helm. Let’s see what happens!

Update 11.30: Have just found out that our new head of office is a blogger!

Links:

Announcement of new head of rep

Jonathan’s blog

PS: I did a course on writing for the web recently and there was a discussion on whether links should be embedded in the text, or listed at the end. Which do you prefer?

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Coming week to 18 July

A round-up of UK-relevant issues on the Commission’s calendar for next week. Usual caveats apply.

12 July: Commissioner Vassiliou in London, meets David Willetts and Nick Gibb, Department for Education

12 July: European Commission to propose package to boost consumer confidence in financial services

13 July: Commissioner Geoghan-Quinn meets Reg Empey of the Ulster Unionist Party

13 July: Commission to publish a report on free movement of workers

13 July: EPSO to launch recruitment competition for English language translators (other languages as well, see EU careers for details)

13 July: Commission makes a new proposal on GMO cultivation

14 July: Commissioner Hedegaard in London, meets Chris Huhne, SoS for Energy and Climate Change. Speech at the International Climate Leadership Network

14 July: Commissioners meet representatives of the oil and gas industry to discuss safety following the Gulf of Mexico leak

15 July: Commissioner Ashton visits Georgia

15 July: Theresa May, Home Secretary and Ken Clark, SoS for Justice, visit Commissioner Reding in Brussels. Ken Clark also visits Commissioner Fule

15 July: Commissioner Piebalgs in London,participates at the launch of the EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade report; meets with SG of the Commonwealth Kamalesh Sharma; meets Andrew Mitchell, SoS for International Development

15 July: Launch of new portal to help with cross-border civil justice procedures

16 July: Commissioner Ashton in Kazakhstan for OSCE Ministerial meeting

17-19 July: Commissioner Ashton visits the Middle East

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