Category Archives: European elections 2009

Lazy

It’s perhaps a little lazy on my part, but here are links to a few interesting articles from the weekend, as we head into election week:

The Independent on why next week’s elections should be about Europe and not MPs’ expenses

Peter Preston in the Guardian gets all futuristic about a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.

A reminder that history is not always how it’s painted (something I am reminded of when I see Churchill on UKIP election material – do they know who coined the phrase “United States of Europe“?)

And a general link to the consistently good (even if I don’t always agree with him) Charlemagne.

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Interesting piece this week  from Charlemagne in the Economist. Just shows how difficult it is to get a reasoned discussion on these issues, when basic facts (like, the British people have a direct stake in EU institutions) are ignored.

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Relight my fire

If you hear/read somewhere that the EU is contemplating a ban on barbecues, please don’t believe it. The Commission is not planning a ban on barbecues, we’re not going to propose bringing them within carbon emissions trading, and we’re not suggesting Member States instigate a barbecue tax. If an individual member state wanted to, that would be a national issue, but the EU doesn’t have that power.

The Commission is also not banning using the term watts for lightbulbs. Lightbulbs are already supposed to carry the lighting performance of the bulb, which is measures in lumens. This makes it easier to compare different types of bulbs, as of course the wattage only refers to the power needed to make the light shine, and doesn’t help comparison across the range of bulbs that now exist. From 2010 the lumens value will be displayed more prominently than the wattage value, but the watts will continue to be compulsory. This is to allow people to compare bulbs on the basis of performance, and is a measure that was approved by all the governments, and consumer organisations.

Interesting article by Will Hutton in the Observer at the weekend. The expenses issue has kicked all other political issues into the long grass, but I wonder how much of a campaign we’d have seen even if that issue hadn’t been around.

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Filed under Euromyths, European elections 2009

Just got round to reading the Mostra Opinion Corner on media coverage of the European parliament elections. It rings my bell on several levels.

Firstly, it’s about the European elections, something which obviously matters a lot to me. At a quite “macro” level, I believe that these are important elections and would hope that as many people as possible understand that and take part. At a “micro” level: the make-up of this Parliament will influence the choice of the next Commission President, which obviously has a very direct effect on me on a daily basis.

Secondly, it looks at what role the media can play, which clearly is of interest to me. I’ve found since I’ve come to London that I’ve got increasingly interested in discussion about the role of the media – the blogs I find most useful on a day-to-day basis are Charlie Beckett and Roy Greenslade, rather than the more obvious EU ones like Mark Mardell and Charlemagne.

But most interesting for me is the format – doesn’t it brilliantly showcase what the web can do? Reduced text, use of audio and video and the reassuring familiarity of “turning a page” rather than scrolling down.

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Bird song

RSPB Northern Ireland today published a piece urging people to vote in the EP elections. They’ve asked all local candidates their views on a number of environmental issues. An interesting piece of advocacy, I think, and one likely to resonate in the current climate – focussing on the “why” not the “who”.

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I want to break free

Libertas have launched their UK election campaign today. It’s an interesting one. There are various things about it that strike a chord with me – a pan-European political party, aiming to respond to (or create?) a European demos, rather than focussing on national issues; a call to ensure that European institutions work effectively – it may be a surprise to some, but that’s something that pretty much all of us would want. But I do wonder where Libertas are going to fit. They say they’re pro-reform not anti-EU, but that’s a pretty limited audience in the UK. The people who are going to vote for a party with an EU platform are more likely to be anti. That’s one of the things here – the people who really seem to care are the ones who don’t like it. I did have to laugh (hollowly) at one line in their press release:  “Almost 80% of laws that change the daily lives of Britons come from Brussels, and those laws are drafted by unelected, unaccountable civil servants. ” What, as opposed to the elected, accountable civil servants that draft laws everywhere else?! I have no issue with criticism, but at least let’s be fair about it!

Writing this made me think about what it is that stimulates European Commission proposals for legislation. I know from my time in policy DGs that often we are asked to propose something by the Council (national governments) or European parliament. So I just did a very quick and admittedly non-academic test. I looked at all proposals from the Commission in the last month (9 February to 9 March) which propose legislation (Decision, Directive or Regulation). Of the 27 proposed in that time:

5 amend or correct existing legislation, 2 repeal existing legislation, 4 implement international agreements and conventions (i.e UN level), 3 are administrative (members of committees etc), 1 applies to 1 member state only, 9 implement bilateral agreements with non-EU countries, 1 is part of the legislative proposal (taking into account the Parliament and Council amendments), 1 is at the request of the European Parliament (and inspired by the European Council) and 1 is at the Commission’s own initiative.

Now I accept that this is one month and is hardly scientific, but it does show that this idea of all legislation that comes out being a result of fonctionnaires sitting around in offices wondering what they can do now is a crude and inaccurate caricature.

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Think

A whole load of bloggers are in Brussels today for the launch of Think about It, a blogging competition linked to this year’s European elections. There are a few Brits at the launch, some of them well-known blogs on EU subjects, such as Jon Worth, others up-and-coming. They’ll all go live on the site on 1 February, apparently. It’s also been launch day of bloggingportal.eu, which is an aggregator for EU-related blogs (and given the overlap between its creators and the Think About It project, I suppose that’s somewhere to look for them befoe 1 Feb). I should be clear that this is a project by individuals, nothing official from the EU, but it’s a great idea, and a first stop for anyone interested in seeing what EU issues are being talked about. There’s also a twitter feed going on from the conference, if you’re keen for a blow-by-blow account.

I’ve just got into Twitter and it is pretty addictive, though I’m not as crazy about it as Stephen Fry, who seems to send a tweet every two minutes!

I, like many others, have been perturbed by the decision of Sky and the BBC not to broadcast the appeal for Gaza. Never mind the rights and wrongs of the situation, people need help and it threatens the neutrality of the humanitarian space to bring the political in, no matter how well intentioned. This is from the EU’s consensus on humanitarian aid, and while not the most wonderfully drafted piece of prose, I think it shows why so many people are concerned:

Humanitarian actors today face a number of major challenges. There has been an increasing tendency for International Law, including International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law and Refugee Law, to be ignored or blatantly violated. The ‘humanitarian space’ that is needed to ensure access to vulnerable populations and the safety and security of humanitarian workers must be preserved as essential preconditions for the delivery of humanitarian aid, and for the European Union (EU) and its partners in the humanitarian field to be able to get assistance including protection to crisis-hit people, based on respect for the principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence of humanitarian action, enshrined in International Law, in particular International Humanitarian Law.

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