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Posts Tagged ‘State of Europe’

Eurosphere agenda: “Ukraine slides into full-blown dictatorship with brutal new law…”The European elections in May, 2014…

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2014 at 14:47

Media preview

 

Ukraine will draw on new law anti-protest law to use force against demonstrators in Kiev, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said yesterday (21 January). Special ‘Berkut’ forces began their crackdown on Kyiv’s EuroMaidan square at 8 a.m., according to reports, with the first victim confirmed.

“If provocateurs do not stop, then the authorities will have no other choice but to use force under the legislation and protect our people,” Azarov said, speaking to the Russian TV channel “Vesti 24″. Azarov added that he hoped that common sense would prevail.

 

After the street fighting on the weekend, there were new clashes between government opponents and security forces on Monday. President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko both warned against an escalation of the situation. Commentators call for the stricter anti-protest laws to be repealed, and urge the West to impose sanctions

Ukraine slides into full-blown dictatorship with brutal new law

(click for full)

Despite the valiant efforts of the motley opposition in Ukraine, the tame Ukrainian Parliament has passed a brutal law that slides the country into full-on dictatorship. Forbidden under the new law on penalty of high fines and imprisonment: driving cars in columns that are more than five vehicles long; setting up an unauthorized sound system; distribution of “extremist opinion”; “mass disruptions” (10-15 years imprisonment!); collecting information on police or judges; and more.

Germany’s FDP launches pragmatic Europe campaign

After being ousted from the parliament at the general elections last year, Germany’s liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) has selected Alexander Graf Lambsdorff as its top candidate for the European elections, adopting a sober and Europe-friendly position, EurActiv Germany reports.

A big name is meant to pull the FDP out of a crisis. At the FDP convention in Bonn on Monday (20 January), 86.2% of the party’s delegates voted for MEP Alexander Graf to be the FDP’s top candidate in the upcoming European Parliament elections.

European Citizens Call for the Protection of Media Pluralism

Website: MediaInitiative.eu. For updates follow @MediaECI on Twitter and ‘like’ the Facebook page European Initiative for Media Pluralism.

 

 

The European Commission decided yesterday (21 January) that it would be postponing negotiations on an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism in the context of the EU-US trade and investment partnership (TTIP), with a view to launching a public consultation.

 

“I know some people in Europe have genuine concerns about this part of the EU-US deal,” said EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht, adding that the decision reflected the EU executive’s determination to secure the right balance between protecting European investment interests and upholding governments’ right to regulate in the public interest

52% of Brits would vote to leave EU tomorrow

The latest Opinium/Observer poll published on Sunday (19 January) suggested 52% of the British public aged over 18 would vote to leave the EU tomorrow, a small increase since last November when 50% said they would vote to leave.

Sunday’s poll, carried out by Comres for the Independent on Sunday newspaper, also suggests the anti-EU and anti-immigration policies of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) remain popular even though Cameron has already deployed tougher rhetoric on both issues.

ECJ rules against the UK in landmark short-selling case

The ECJ this morning rejected all the UK’s claims against the EU’s short selling regulation. The result was surprising given that the Court’s Advocate General Niilo Jääskinen issued an opinion supporting the UK’s position last September – court rulings often, but not always, follow these opinions.

Commission says Bulgaria broke partners’ confidence

EXCLUSIVE / The European Commission monitoring report on Bulgaria, which it will publish tomorrow (22 January), will be heavily critical, with the EU executive going so far as to say that the Bulgarian authorities broke confidence with its European partners over the appointment of a controversial media mogul as chief of the national security agency, EurActiv has learned.

The report under the Cooperation and Verification mechanism (CVM), seen by EurActiv, highlights a major scandal which has triggered street protests asking for the resignation of the government.

 

Kosovo’s spectre looms over EU-Serbia talks

Serbia officially started its accession talks with the EU yesterday (21 January), but the path to membership is lined with obstacles as the country faces new procedural rules and its relations with Kosovo remain an outstanding issue.

“Serbia will be the next member state of the European Union,” Ivica Dačić, the prime minister of Serbia, confidently concluded his address to the press, after having officially launched accession negotiations for his country with the EU.

France’s European spleen

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As is now common in France, the biggest shock in the Euro elections will come from the far-right Front National, emboldened by a change in perception towards the party from many French voters. Euro elections landscape, 2014.

Election time: How to improve debates on Europe

It’s just five months until the next European Parliament elections. As with every European Election, both eurosceptics and europhiles face a key difficulty: getting people to vote. Both sides will stress how much, for better or for worse, Brussels matters in the life of European citizens. Over the coming months, we’re likely to hear politicians claim that “80% of our legislation is decided in Brussels”. Although numerous articles and think tank reports have thoroughly debunked this figure, the myth endures. It endures because it’s easy and simple to use. The widespread use of this figure matters as it frames the debate on European governance between national sovereignty and subsidiarity versus integrated European decision-making power. We argue that this frame is unhelpful, as it shapes the debate along whether the EU should or shouldn’t be instead of discussion what it should or shouldn’t do. We suggest that the 2014 European elections should be about debating different policy alternatives – and letting go of the wholesale 80% figure.

The EU is betraying its climate policy

The EU executive is staking every last bit of political capital on a 2030 energy policy gamble that could cost us the earth, argues Brook Riley.

Brook Riley is the campaigner for Friends of the Earth, an environmental pressure group.

You might not picture European Commission President José Manuel Barroso as a gambler, but on climate change he’s the most reckless of them all.

Bulgaria admits Schengen entry is now a long-term goal

Bulgaria admitted yesterday (20 January) that its accession to the EU’s borderless Schengen area was likely to take place in 2017, one year before the country is expected to take over the rotating EU Council presidency.

Foreign affairs minister Kristian Vigenin said he expected the decision concerning Bulgaria’s bid to be taken in the course of 2014.

Asked by EurActiv to elaborate, Vigenin explained that under the scenario, air borders would be opened in 2015, with land borders opening in 2017, when Bulgaria becomes a full member of the Schengen area

The European elections in May, 2014

How to make European elections coverage less boring than usual? Here is openDemocracy’s Can Europe make it? take.

These elections may be more interesting than usual for our European and global readers alike, given polarizations more dramatic across the continent than there have been for decades. The EU, originally billed as offering a new model to replace the chaos of the Westphalian system, is itself in chaos. Instead of burdensharing or offering joint multilateral efforts to mitigate severe financial, economic and social pain, EU governments have introduced various methods of punishment under the auspices of ‘austerity measures

Efficiency and renewables make Europe competitive, EU study says

55 EurActiv.com 4h  //  keep unread  //  hide  //  preview

 

EXCLUSIVE / European industry has maintained its global market position thanks to relatively low energy intensity levels and high renewables penetration, according to a study into the continent’s competitiveness due to be released by the European Commission as part of its clean energy package today (22 January).

 

Renewable energies “help reduce fuel import costs and contribute to improving the energy trade balance,” says the report by the EU’s economic and financial affairs directorate (DG Ecfin), which EurActiv has seen.

Day 2 of the #EUReform conference: Powerful debate on all levels

Day two of the Open Europe / Fresh Start #EUReform conference saw a thriving exchange of reform ideas between panelists and conference delegates, viral Twitter action for #EUReform via the Twitter wall, as well as numerous media interviews

 

French MEPs acclaimed for EU parliamentary work

While political parties in France show little interest for European matters, French MEPs usually show a good level of parliamentary activity, according to the Robert Schuman Foundation, an EU think-tank.

French MEPs were surprisingly absent from the European Parliament’s plenary session in Strasbourg last Thursday (16 January).

A new agenda for a Smarter Europe

 

2014 is the year in which the EU must speed up its effort towards building a Smarter Europe and the Greek presidency work on the mid-term review of the “Digital Agenda for Europe” will offer a unique opportunity to set an ambitious vision for the future, writes Luigi Gambardella.

Luigi Gambardella is the executive chairman of ETNO, an association representing EU’s biggest telecoms operators.

IP traffic is booming at an unprecedented pace, and it is expected to grow even more over the coming years. In 2017, it will reach 1.4 zettabytes per year, according to Cisco’s figures.This means, for example, that the gigabyte equivalent of all movies ever made will cross Western Europe’s backbone IP networks every 21 minutes.

EU ministers to back sending forces to Central African Republic

European Union foreign ministers are expected to agree on Monday to send up to 1,000 soldiers to help stabilise Central African Republic, the EU’s first major army operation in six years, EU officials said on Friday (17 January).

The intervention by the 28-nation bloc comes after a senior UN official warned on Thursday of the risk of genocide in Central African Republic without a more robust international response to communal bloodshed.

 

In an EU election year, the current polutics of France is always an important factor in predicting the futre makeup of the European Parliament. Not only is France one of the largest countries, so with one of the largest delegations of MEPs (meaning its politicians quite often can dominate, or at least strongly influence, the two big political groups, the PES on the left and EPP on the right) but it also has always has a special place in the EU’s makeup

 

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“Clashes in Kiev after protest ban… Eurosphere agenda…

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2014 at 20:11

 

Violence breaks out as tens of thousands of people gather in the Ukrainian capital Kiev in defiance of new curbs on protests.

 

Enlargement and Neighbourhood Commissioner Štefan Füle said he was “shocked” and “deeply disappointed” by new legislation which the Ukrainian parliament hastily pushed though yesterday (16 January). 

 

Supporters of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich hustled a sweeping law through parliament on Thursday in an attempt to curb anti-government protests, sparking an outcry from the opposition and raising tensions on the streets.

Clashes Erupt in Kiev Over New Laws Curbing Street Protests

What started out as largely another Sunday of peaceful protests in Kiev, Ukraine, turned violent later in the day, as protesters clashed with riot police. Police vehicles were burned, and opposition leader and presidential candidate Vitali Klitschko was doused with fire-extinguisher foam.

The French leader is eager to put his romantic rides behind him and get on with the business of extending the mileage of his political life

 

Malta’s decision to sell passports, hence European citizenship, for €650,000 to non-EU residents, without any prerequisite whatsoever, not even residence in Malta, has angered MEPs, who debated the issue Wednesday (15 January).

 

The measure is meant to bridge the budget gap and attract rich investors to the island. The government hopes to get €30 million the first year of implementation.

Manfred Weber, a member of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, called for the legislation ‘not put in place’.

 

European donors have been accused of profiting from their aid budgets, as an increasing amount of their money for the world’s poorest countries is being given as loans – which have to be paid back with interest.

 

As budgets tighten, some EU states are using “ambiguous and outdated” international rules on what can count as official development assistance (ODA) to include high-interest loans to developing countries in their annual aid figures, said the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad).

The European Green primary experiment

Primary elections to elect the new leaders of the European Greens will take place tomorrow. What makes this hustings particularly special?

The Scottish referendum this year, whatever the result, will mark one significant change in British politics, with 16 and 17-year-olds being able to vote “yes” or “no” on the nation’s constitutional future. (Find out more here if that applies to you and you haven’t already registered.)

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Eurosphere agenda: Euro elections 2014… Horizon 2020 ….

In Uncategorized on January 17, 2014 at 17:30

 

What is Europe for you? What does it mean to be young and European in 2014? An exchange of views between bloggers across the continent. Can Europe make it? has the pleasure of introducing you to our guest columnists for the run-up to the European elections 2014.

Europe and me: imagining community

Where is Horizon 2020 leading us?

As the year 2014 gets underway, the Europe of Knowledge also begins a new phase with the launch of Horizon 2020. Now that the budget wrangling is over and the calls for the first grant proposals have been published, we will finally begin to discover what Horizon 2020 does to reshape the research environment in Europe. While we do have clear statements (Commission 2011c) about its bringing together the instruments for research and innovation funding under a single umbrella which covers the complete innovation cycle; simplifying and unifying many of the administrative rules and procedures; and seeking to promote the competiveness of the EU with a strong linguistic flavoring from the Innovation Union discourse; still, there are far more questions than answers

 

EU election fault lines: The free movement of labour

Cutting across concerns about immigration, wages and social dumping, the issue of free movement of labour is a hot topic not only in the UK, but also in most of the old EU 15 countries, and that will have a serious impact in the upcoming European elections, writes Julian Priestley.

Julian Priestley is a former secretary general of the European Parliament and co-author of ‘Our Europe, Not Theirs‘.

Eurostat to revise EU’s annual GDP figures higher

The European Union’s statistics office will revise upwards the EU’s annual gross domestic product figures by 2.4 percentage points when it switches to a new accounting standard in September, the European Commission said on Thursday (16 January).

The change will affect all past GDP figures and future data series, the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat said.

The switch to the European System of Accounts 2010, replacing the old ESA 1995, is part of a worldwide move to a new accounting system called System of National Accounts 2008, already implemented in the United States last August.

 

MAIN FOCUS: Opinion divided on Hollande’s reform plans | 16/01/2014

 

French President François Hollande has received the support of the European Commission for his reform plans. Praise also came on Wednesday from the French employers’ associations, while the unions remained sceptical and some voiced harsh criticism. Commentators are also divided: while some hope Hollande will give the French new confidence, others fear he will bleed the country dry

Migration adds to UK-Polish gulf

 

Cameron comment on not repatriating child benefit stokes scepticism of many Poles who doubted the UK’s commitment either to Poland or the EU

 

Parliament seeks tougher controls on Troika

MEPs have opened an investigation into the role of the Troika in the debt crisis with a view to strengthening its democratic legitimacy and the involvement of the European Parliament in its work,EurActiv France reports.

Four years after the start of the debt crisis in Europe, the economic and financial committee of the European Parliament has started a series of hearings of the main actors of the Troika – the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – who will have to explain how they managed the crisis in the four countries where they were the primary lenders, Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Cyprus.

 

Greece and the European elections: a preview

 

What is to happen in Greece in the forthcoming European elections, which, not without a certain irony of history, will take place while this country holds the EU presidency? Euro elections landscape, 2014.

Euro elections 2014 bloggers introduce themselves: Part Two

 

What is Europe for you? What does it mean to be young and European in 2014? An exchange of views between bloggers across the continent. Can Europe make it? has the pleasure of introducing you to our guest columnists for the run-up to the European elections 2014.

 

Hollande brings Europe back to top of France’s priority list

European issues occupied a great deal of François Hollande’s long-awaited speech to the press yesterday (14 January), with the restart of the EU’s Franco-German engine and strengthened fiscal and social convergence in the eurozone at the centre of the French president’s reform agenda.

Although the press conference was mostly expected because of his alleged love affair with French actress Julie Gayet, Hollande’s speech nonetheless focused almost exclusively on the economic reforms awaiting the country.

Germany: sleepwalking into Europe?

The much needed debate on Europe is unlikely to happen in the German run-up to the European elections. But instead, a controversy pro or against the Euro might well take place, should the new right-wing Alternative for Germany prove effective. Euro elections landscape, 2014.

How European? France, ahead of the European elections

European elections have never really been about Europe. Case in point: France, where the electoral campaign reeks of popular resentment, personal ambitions and widespread misconceptions. Euro elections landscape, 2014

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Eurosphere agenda: “Hollande in double trouble…”France evicted record number of Roma migrants in 2013…

In Uncategorized on January 15, 2014 at 15:38

 

MAIN FOCUS: Hollande in double trouble | 14/01/2014

 

France’s President François Holland is under considerable pressure as he prepares for his third major press conference today, Tuesday. He plans to explain the country’s futurereform programme just as reports about an alleged affair are focusing attention on his private life. Commentators scoff that the rumours are tantamount to an accolade and are struck by the simultaneous changes in Hollande’s policies and private life.

MAIN FOCUS: Hollande embarks on reforms | 15/01/2014

 

French President François Hollande wants to revive the country’s flagging economy with a reform package. At his press conference on Tuesday, he announced business-friendly measures and cuts in public spending. The president has become a fighting social democrat, some commentators applaud. Others believe Hollande hasn’t got what it takes to be a true reformer.

 

Defiance against the EU reaches record levels in France: Poll

Trust in national and European institutions has hit a record-low in France, according to a recent poll, leading to a feeling of “gloom” among a growing number of citizens, and perhaps even a rise in support for the reinstatement of the death penalty, EurActiv France reports.

“It’s not a confidence but a defiance poll this time,” said Pascal Perrineau, director of SciencesPo University’s Centre of French Political Studies (CEVIPOF).

MEPs to slam Malta’s plan for EU passports

Starting in February, Malta is planning to sell EU passports to foreigners, but a European Parliament vote on Thursday (16 January) is unlikely to overturn the decision, as the country has a long track-record of handing out citizenship for a price, EurActiv Germany reports.

Malta will sell passports to foreigners allowing them to travel through all 28 EU member states and/or reside in any of these countries. In contrast to other EU member states, Malta does not require investment or the establishment of a company to receive the document. New citizens do not even have to reside on Maltese soil.

 

France evicted record number of Roma migrants in 2013: study

 

France forcibly evicted a record 19,380 Roma migrants in 2013, more than double the figure the previous year, two rights groups said in a joint report on Tuesday.

 

Greek socialists to form new leftist alliance for EU elections

Greece’s once-mighty socialist PASOK party will team up with a new centre-left group to contest European Parliament elections in May rather than run alone, after its support was decimated by the country’s debt crisis.

The party, a junior partner in the coalition government led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has been fighting to survive as a political force since backing austerity cuts and is hoping the new alliance will help revive its fortunes.

 

Candidates for President of the European Commission – where we stand in January 2014

Back in the early summer of 2013 I wrote a detailed series of blog posts about the future President of the European Commission. There were posts about EPP, PES and othercandidates. Overall those posts have stood up well over the last 6 months. But with the EP elections just over 4 months away, and with the new Commission to be decided shortly after, and with more and more jostling for top positions being covered by the newspapers (see FT earlier in January and FAZ today for example), it’s time to update the state of play.

AUDIO: Are affairs accepted in France?

 

French society may be becoming less tolerant of affairs, a news correspondent has said

What the 2014 elections will mean for EU public affairs professionals

All eyes are on the EU institutions this year given the upcoming European Parliament elections and the subsequent change of top officials. But the stream of analyses and conferences fail to address a vital question: what will these changes mean for the business community, NGOs and the wider public affairs world, András Baneth writes.

András Baneth is the managing director of the Public Affairs Council’s (www.pac.org) European office.

 

German banks too slow to cap bonuses, says watchdog

Germany’s banks have made little progress on efforts to curb bonuses of top managers ahead of new European rules designed to control the type of risky behaviour that fuelled the financial crisis, the country’s financial watchdog said on Monday (13 January).

Only four of the 15 banks that Bafin examined last year capped bankers’ bonuses at the level of their base salaries, in line with the European Union-wide rule that came into force this year.

 

IMF adds four European countries to financial risk list

The International Monetary Fund on Monday (13 January) added Denmark, Finland, Norway and Poland to its list of countries that must have regular check-ups of their financial sectors, under an effort to prevent a repeat of the global financial crisis.

The International Monetary Fund in 2010 had identified 25 other countries where financial sector evaluations will be mandatory. These reviews had been voluntary prior to the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which showed how quickly financial problems in one country could spread to its neighbors and the rest of the world.

EU freedom of movement. This actually matters.

Here I sit writing this blog entry on a Sunday night in Berlin. The Kreuzberg streets outside my window are quiet now; earlier today they were thronged with people in the January sun. I do not know where those people were from who were passing outside my window – Berlin, Germany, who knows where else. But those were my people. This is my city.

EU aims to clarify migrant rules

New EU guidelines are aimed at minimising disputes between EU states about migrants’ rights to welfare benefits

Scotching the Eurozone

 

Conventional wisdom suggests that Scottish independence is possible, albeit not very likely, while any country’s departure from the eurozone is fanciful. But the monetary decisions that a newly sovereign Scotland would have to make are at least as likely to be faced by some eurozone countries over the next couple of years.

Migrants contribute more than they take, fears unfounded: EU

 

Migrants contribute more than they take in their new countries, the EU said Monday, adding there has been no massive influx from Romania or Bulgaria this year as feared in Britain

EU Offers Public a Chance to Fix Copyright Law

Year after year there are cries that copyright law is not only unfit for purpose in the digital age, but also heavily biased towards the entertainment industries and their corporate masters. Many feel that such laws are simply imposed but in reality the people can have their say, if only they can make their voices heard. That chance is here.

EU and Ukrainian business: Double standards?

 

The same European politicians who try to boost their image by appearing at the pro-European protests in Kyiv deliberately ignore the Ukrainian interest in economic relations, writes Boris Kushniruk.

Boris Kushniruk is a Ukrainian economist.

Social and political events in Ukraine which took place last year can become determinative for the policy of the future EU enlargement. In 2014 the EU-integration prospects of Ukraine as well as the Union’s image will depend on the readiness of official Brussels to reconsider the EU enlargement policy.

 

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Eurosphere agenda: “Buses, planes, Bulgarians, Romanians and The Daily Mail…”Athens says crisis is ending…

In Uncategorized on January 11, 2014 at 18:07
The Daily Mail: Buses and Planes – full or not?

On 31 December 2013 the UK’s Daily Mail published a story claiming that buses and planes to the UK from Bulgaria and Romania were sold-out, fully-booked, and single plane tickets were selling for up to £3,000 each. The story carried the bold headline:

 

One of the criticisms that still gets leveled at the EU is that the Common Market is a rich kids club, and that the Common Agrigultural Policy and free movement of goods and services within the EU puts non-EU (and especially poorer / developing countries) at a disadvantage.

The European Parliament’s LIBE Committee’s Inquiry into the Electronic Mass Surveillance of European Citizens is not due to be published in March, and the Committee has voted to question the whistle-blower Edward Snowden via video-link. However The Guardian hasseen a draft of the report in which the Inquiry says the actions of the NSA and the UK’s GCHQ “appear illegal”.

The Greek government launched its European Council presidency on Wednesday with a hopeful message. The country will leave the recession that has plagued it for six years behind in 2014, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said at the official ceremony in Athens. Commentators, however, remain concerned about Greece’s future in view of record unemployment and the rise of radical political forces

 

Not all EU heads of state and government mentioned the European Union in their yearend messages, but a lot of them did. The EurActiv network brings you an overview.

 

The tradition of Christmas or New Year messages varies in EU countries. In most, it is the head of state who delivers the message, most frequently on New Year’s eve.

 

As populists gather more and more support in several EU countries, the responsibility of politicians is to limit those trends and establish a truly European debate ahead of the European elections, writes Kristian Vigenin in an exclusive op-ed he contributed to EurActiv.

 

Kristian Vigenin is the foreign minister of Bulgaria. He was appointed in May 2013 and was before that a member of the European Parliament for the group of the Socialists and Democrats.

 

The German government established a new committee yesterday (8 January) to investigate the effects of immigration on the Federal Republic. The resolution came amid rising conflict within the ruling coalition over so-called  “poverty immigration” from Bulgaria and Romania and complaints from overburdened cities. EurActiv.de reports.

 

In its first meeting on Wednesday (8 January), Merkel’s new cabinet has established a committee to investigate immigration and the effects of freedom of movement in Germany. According to government spokesman Steffen Seibert, the group will root out possibilities for abuse in Germany’s social welfare system.

 

Aware that some European countries do not view a common migration policy as an immediate priority, Greece is making a point to push for a single asylum system and a more coordinated management of illegal migration flows into Europe during its six-month EU presidency. EurActiv reports from Athens.

 

“Without safety and security we cannot have an economic recovery,” Nikolaos-Georgios Dendias, Greek minister of public order and citizen protection, told reporters in Athens.

Social issues divide France and Germany on agriculture

The German Minister of Agriculture paid a visit to his French counterpart in Paris yesterday (7 January) in a show of unity between the two sides. But divisions remain deep on social dumping, an issue that is expected to become hotter in France as the EU elections approach. EurActiv.fr reports.

Hans-Peter Friedrich, the new German minister of agriculture, met his French counterpart, Stéphane Le Foll, yesterday (7 January) in Paris to prepare the forthcoming Franco-German summit, scheduled for 19 February.

Greece bets on EU presidency to help regain credibility

Strained by a long-lasting economic crisis, Greece aims to use its presidency of the EU to regain European partners’ trust and credibility, as the country is slowly creeping along the path to recovery.

In a city blocked by police and security forces, the Greek government readied itself today (8 January) to launch its fifth presidency of the EU at an official ceremony in the Athens Concert Hall, in the presence of the college of EU commissioners.

Greece to formally assume EU rotating presidency

 

Authorities shut down roads and deployed riot police in central Athens Wednesday as Greece prepared to formally assume the European Union’s rotating six-month presidency

MAIN FOCUS: Migration debate: Tusk criticises Cameron | 08/01/2014

 

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has criticised the UK’s approach to dealing with Eastern European labour migrants. He announced that he would make a telephone call to his counterpart David Cameron to speak about the matter today, Wednesday. According to some commentators Cameron is using populist slogans to divert attention from domestic problems. Others stress that the British are genuinely concerned about the country’s economic difficulties

European Parliament Elections 2014 – Commission President

 

One of the big outcomes (supposedly!) from this years European Parliament Elections will be the nominated by the winning European Parliament Grouping in the Elections. While some believe this will lead to deadlock and confrontation, other believe it is the start of a truly democratic European Union.

So who are the European Parties nominating?

 

 

The European Commission has rejected a German plan to introduce road tolls that would provide discounts for German drivers, resulting in higher costs for foreigners. German conservatives insist that such a plan is “fair”.

 

Under the coalition agreement of the new cabinet of Angela Merkel, Germany is to introduce for the first time a road tax for cars through vignettes. But the form it will take is still unclear.

 

 

The European elections on 22 to 25 May 2014 are an event whose importance is in strict proportion to the multifaceted crisis currently affecting the construction of Europe. This great democratic rendezvous must prompt us to address three complementary political challenges, write Jacques Delors, António Vitorino and others.

 

This opinion is based on the final declaration of the Notre Europe-Jacques Delors Institute’s steering committee, from the end of November 2013. The full list of signatories can be found below.

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Eurosphere agenda: “Italian navy rescues over 1,000 migrants in one day… Merkel injured…

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2014 at 18:04

Italian navy rescues over 1,000 migrants in one day

The Italian navy said on Friday (3 January) it had rescued more than 1,000 migrants from boats trying to reach Europe, as an immigration crisis that killed hundreds in the last year showed no signs of easing.

Italian navy helicopters spotted four overcrowded boats struggling to stay afloat south of Sicily on Thursday and ships were sent to save them, authorities said in a statement.

The 823 men, women and children aboard the four vessels were from countries including Egypt, Pakistan, Iraq and Tunisia.

 

Morning Brief: Angela Merkel Injured in Skiiing Accident

Angela Merkel Injured in Skiiing Accident

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkelfractured her pelvis in a cross-country skiing accident, forcing her to cancel meetings for the next three weeks. The fall occurred over the Christmas holidays when Merkel was on vacation with her family in Switzerland.

Is there now a European Public Sphere?

 

The lack of a clear public sphere or demos across the EU has long been used as a stick to beat down any suggestion that there could one day be proper pan-European democracy, as well as to decry the EU’s supposed lack of legitimacy. (Here’s an article on the EU demos from 2005, and one on the public sphere from me from 2007.)

 

Black, male, care leaver, seeking asylum: access to higher education in Britain

 

Despite their determination and aspiration, many young asylum seekers are being barred from higher education by multiple discriminations. The current inquiry on Race and Higher Education must recognise this fact.

In November 2013, the story of Yonas and Abiy Admasu Kebede hit the front pages of national and local press in the North East of England. The two brothers had recently left care in Newcastle, having arrived in Britain nearly 10 years ago from Ethiopia seeking asylum.

Experts show cautious optimism for the eurozone in 2014

Last year was the least tumultuous for the eurozone since Greece revealed a vast hole in its books back in 2009. The consensus is that 2014 will be just as calm, a view held by some who were predicting the currency bloc’s demise little more than a year ago.

The political will to keep the show on the road has held firm, the European Central Bank’s pledge to underpin the euro continues to stave off bond market pressure and there is the prospect of economies growing at least a little.

Bulgaria’s first seven years in the EU

 

On 1 January Bulgaria has marked its first seven years of EU membership. There is a saying in Bulgarian about the first seven years of a human being: “either you have them or you don’t”. Either during your first seven years you have learned something that will make a man out of you, or you will be a burden to society.

Ten Reasons to Demonstrate: Criminalisation of Hungarian homeless

 

In 2010, a Hungarian Law was amended to allow municipalities to ban homeless people from public spaces. Although this law was ruled unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, the Consitution has been modified to allow prohibition of homelessness in 2013. I’ve collected 10 reasons why is it totally contrary to European laws and values.

Economies of Britain and France have more similarities than differences

 

Despite politicians’ rhetoric, the fight to survive in the global economy is a shared experience for the two historic rivals

As British crowing about last year’s return to growth increasingly irks the struggling administration of François Hollande, it is worth remembering that London and Paris have more in common than they care to admit.

Greek Presidency offers no perks for visiting civil servants

Crisis-ridden Greece took over the reins of the European Union on Wednesday (1 January) with a record low budget dedicated to its EU presidency of €50 million set as the “absolute maximum” the presidency is planning to spend in the forthcoming six months.

Aided by a shorter calendar due to the European Parliament elections in May this year, the Greeks are nonetheless making a few significant cuts, hoping to “set a trend” for future presidencies.

What 2014 holds for eurocrisis watchers

 

This is the year when the emphasis shifts from the policy choices of eurozone leaders to their consequences and what they mean for people

Italian coalition eyes speedy electoral reform

Italian centre-left leader Matteo Renzi called on Thursday (2 January) for swift reform of an electoral system blamed for the country’s bouts of political deadlock and said he expected an agreement could be completed within weeks.

Renzi is not in the government but as head of the Democratic Party, the biggest party in Prime Minister Enrico Letta’s left-right coalition, he will have a decisive role to play in shaping the agenda and has already called for quicker action on reforms.

Europe’s leaders divided on EC presidency

Idea is to use European parliamentary elections to select next president of European Commission and give more democratic legitimacy to executive arm

Interactive: The race to replace Barroso

Profiles of the leading contenders to be the new president of the European Commission

Lessons from writing about the Habsburgs for writing about the EU

A review of a book I’ve been meaning to pick up (Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe,  by Simon Winder)  has some useful passages:

European Parliament Elections 2014 – Ireland

 

This year will see the 28 member states of the European Union going to the polls between the 22nd and the 25th of May to elect a new European Parliament. In Ireland this years elections will see a big change on the 2009 elections due to boundary changes and the change in the Political landscape since that election.

 

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Eurosphere agenda: “Background reading for a European Parliament election year..””EU job market open for Romanians and Bulgarians…

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2014 at 13:38

Background reading for a European Parliament election year

One of the more useful pieces I found over the festive period,  thanks to Craig Willy – a rare outsider to the European system who actually understands how it works, and as such an excellent guide who comes with limited baggage (and some occasionally forceful and thought-provoking opinions):

EU tries to calm fears of Bulgarian, Romanian exodus

The European Union sought to calm fears in countries like Britain, France and Germany that they face a mass influx of Romanians and Bulgarians following the lifting of restrictions yesterday (1 January), a change that risks fuelling anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe.

From 1 January, seven years after their countries joined the EU, Bulgarians and Romanians are free to live and work anywhere in the 28-nation bloc without applying for work permits.

 

Former Greek minister returns bribes

A former Greek government official who admitted taking €13.7 in bribes more than ten years ago to wave through arms contracts, has returned €7 million of the money to the state, the finance ministry said on 31 December.

Antonis Kantas, deputy armaments chief at the defence ministry between 1997 and 2002, was arrested and charged this month after investigating judges found he had €13.7 million euros of unaccounted-for money in a Singapore bank.

Kantas is the first Greek official to openly admit to taking bribes relating to major arms deals with foreign companies from countries including Germany, France, Russia, Brazil and Sweden.

Latvia joins eurozone as euro turns 15

Latvia joined the euro zone yesterday (1 January), banking on its experience of austerity to bring it prosperity in a currency union where other economies have floundered. The 2-million Baltic country adopted the common EU currency on the 15th anniversary of the launch of the euro.

The Baltic country of just 2 million people became the bloc’s 18th member at midnight (2200 GMT), taking a step further out of the shadow of neighbouring Russia a decade after joining the European Union and NATO.

MAIN FOCUS: EU job market open for Romanians and Bulgarians | 02/01/2014

 

Brussels has spoken out in defence of the removal of the last labour market barriers for Romanians and Bulgarians on January 1. Obstacles for workers are not the answer to the crisis, EU employment commissioner László Andor pointed out on Wednesday. The fact that the UK is now cutting benefits for jobless immigrants is just populism, commentators say. They argue that the economy benefits from the free movement of workers.

Europe’s Ukrainian blunder

The EU didn’t realise for years that the only motivation of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in pretending to negotiate an association agreement with the EU was to raise the price that Russia would have to pay to keep Ukraine in its strategic orbit. This EU blunder demands explanation, writes Joschka Fischer.

Joschka Fischer was German Foreign Minister and Vice Chancellor from 1998-2005, a term marked by Germany’s strong support for NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999, followed by its opposition to the war in Iraq. This article was first published by Project Syndicate.

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Eurosphere agenda: “Ukraine’s point of no return…”2014: Europe’s year of decision

In Uncategorized on December 30, 2013 at 16:35

 

The Euromaidan activists continue to protest throughout Ukraine, despite considerable pressure from the authorities. A young journalist was recently beaten within an inch of her life, cars are set alight and there have been many other acts of provocation. But the protesters are resolved not to yield, reports Iryna Solomko

 

2014: Europe’s year of decision

European elections make 2014 a big year for the EU

 

PHOTOS: Humans of Portugal

 

Following the worldwide trend of sharing portrays and stories of humans from all corners of the world, inspired by the work started by Brandon Stanton in 2010 with Humans of New York (HONY), Portugal also has a share of its people from several cities around the country represented on different collections on Facebook.

 

Ireland’s Model Crisis

Ireland has now left the clutches of the bailout-for-austerity framework created by the Troika (the European Commission, the ECB, and the IMF) for indebted eurozone countries. But the the monetary union’s other distressed countries cannot replicate Ireland’s success – nor should they want to.

 

EuroMaidan: a Facebook revolution in the streets of Kiev

 

Editor’s note: Daniel Kovzhun is a Ukrainian Boing Boing reader who has been present through the turmoil in Kiev over the ruling party’s plan to sign a Customs Union agreement with Russia. In this piece, Daniel provides a first-hand account of the terminally corrupt political scene that put over a million people into the streets of Kiev, the brutal police violence that ensued, and the ineffective, fragmented opposition coalition that is meant to be at the head of the uprising.

 

MAIN FOCUS: New enthusiasm despite the crisis | 27/12/2013

 

The euro crisis continues, the Syria crisis remains unresolved, and the citizens of Eastern Europe are taking to the streets and discovering a new sense of self-assurance. Commentators look back on a turbulent year and see Vladimir Putin, Edward Snowden and Pope Francis as the people who left their mark on 2013.

 

Ukraine, and a Europe-Russia crack

The conflict in Ukraine is part of a wider tussle over eastern Europe’s political orientation. The European Union remains pivotal to progress, says Krzysztof Bobinski.

In the good old cold-war days when divisions in Europe were clearer, popular upheavals in Soviet-run eastern Europe were met with a measure of consternation in western capitals and some sympathy among western populations. At that time, everyone knew that freedom was at stake – and also that the demand for freedom couldn’t be fulfilled.

Voices: Bulgaria and Romania working rights in EU

 

Bulgarian and Romanian views on job-hunting in EU

 

Sizing up Ukraine’s Euromaidan

Mass protests against President Yanukovych and his government are continuing in Kyiv and throughout Ukraine. Ivan Katchanovski assesses their size and the likely outcome.

 

Who is the biggest supporter of Ukraine?

Oleh Kotsyuba (Krytyka, Ukraine) speaks with Sławomir Sierakowski (Krytyka Polityczna, Poland) about the events in the aftermath of Ukrainian President’s decision not to sign the Association and Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

 

How Poland Became an Eastern European Education Powerhouse

The OECD’s test score rankings of 15-year-olds around the globe came out Tuesday, and, as usual a familiar set of faces tops the charts. Shanghai (which, as many have pointed out, is not a country), Hong Kong, Taipei, Singapore, Korea, and Japan continue to dominate in math. Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to stagnate and declinists continue to fret.

 

A Eurozone Report Card 2013

John Weeks

Three and one-half years ago the infamous Troika (IMF, European Commission and the European Central Bank, with the German government in close attendance) began its unsuccessful attempt to contain the crisis of the Eurozone, with a draconian austerity program for Greece. Subsequently, the Troika would add Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain to its list for the austerity medicine. At the end of 2013, what has austerity achieved?

Globalizing European Security

 

Global security – a safe and peaceful environment free of conflict – is a public good: all of the world’s citizens and countries benefit from it, regardless of whether they contribute to supplying it. But, when it comes to global stability, the world simply cannot afford a free-riding Europe.

Europe’s Societal Challenges

 

This report analyses key societal challenges for the EU until 2030 by exploring the evidence base and uncertainties underpinning global trends — in areas such as migration, employment, inequality or empowerment — and their impact on the EU.

 

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Eurosphere agenda: Merkel’s new government…EU hit with S downgrade…

In Uncategorized on December 21, 2013 at 21:34

MAIN FOCUS: Next pillar of banking union standing | 19/12/2013

The EU finance ministers agreed on a system for dealing with failing banks on Wednesday. Europe‘s financial institutes are to start building up a joint fund so that in future the owners and investors are the first to pay for bank bailouts. Europe is gradually learning the lessons taught by the crisis, some commentators observe. Others warn that the fund offers no security as long as banks remain too big to fail.

MAIN FOCUS: Merkel’s new government takes office | 17/12/2013

Three months after Germany‘s federal elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s new cabinet starts work today. This marks the third time that Germany has been ruled by a grand coalition. Commentators discuss the government’s European policy and the women who will be in charge of defence and integration.

Commercialisation and nationalism in Polish football

Could there be a link between the increasing commercialisation of Polish football and the rise in far-right hooliganism?

Merkel: If you want more Europe, be prepared for EU treaty change

Angela Merkel this morning delivered her first Europe remarks at the helm of the new German Grand Coalition. It wasn’t a “Europe speech” per se but rather her usual pre-EU summit briefing in the Bundestag – although it undoubtedly had a bit more meaning since it is the first under the new coalition.

EU summit: Will anyone be signing contracts?

Merkel mentioned the “contractual arrangements” in maiden Bundestag speech of her third term

Although the two-day EU summit that begins today in Brussels is nominally about defence policy, the main event most delegations were watching was whether summiteers would sign up to a German-backed plan that would require all eurozone countries to sign annual contracts with Brussels obligating them to liberalise their economies.

German SPD backs ‘grand coalition’ government with Merkel

Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining a “grand coalition” with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and have announced the list of ministers, clearing the way for a new right-left government that will take office on Tuesday (17 December).

Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), won the September 22 election but fell short of a majority. They needed a partner and spent much of the last three months negotiating a coalition deal with the arch rival SPD, which came a distant second.

EU divided over Ukraine crisis

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans sharply criticized EU enlargement chief Stefan Füle

What does Croatia’s same-sex marriage referendum mean?

The results of a referendum on the definition of marriage in Croatia were disappointing for those who hoped EU accession indicated a shift towards tolerance in the country.  But a conservative-created wedge issue might be the spark for progressive Croatians to push for more long-term change.

What Germany’s new coalition government means for the EU

Almost three months after the general election in September, Germany finally has a new government. In a grassroots referendum, members of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted to accept a coalition agreement that party leaders had drawn up with Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and its smaller, more conservative sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU). The new government is unlikely to change EU policy a great deal.

Next Commission’s main concern will be inequality, analysts predict

Social inequalities will be the main challenge for future European leaders, according to an EU-commissioned report released on Wednesday (18 December). Europe’s economy is expected to continue its decline, and policymakers should focus on a ‘new growth paradigm’ centred on society – not growth – the report argues.

The report, conducted by the think tank RAND Europe, attempts to pinpoint issues that will most likely span the EU’s upcoming legislative term (2014-2020).

Commission warns Italy over degrading treatment of immigrants

The European Commission threatened Italy with legal action today (18 December) for possible breaches of the EU’s rules on granting asylum, over its treatment of migrants arriving from Africa on the island of Lampedusa.

A video showing migrants standing naked in the cold while being sprayed for scabies at a detention centre stirred outrage in Italy on Tuesday.

Bulgaria Marks Six Months of Continued Protests

December 14, 2013, marked six months of anti-government protests in Bulgaria, where protesters still gather daily in Sofia and other cities, demanding the resignation of the current government, led by the Socialist Party.

After the previous government stepped down after similar protests in February 2013, the new government, elected in May, soon met with similar citizen dissatisfaction and new protests began on June 14, 2013.

Victims no longer: Spain’s anti-eviction movement

For over four years, the Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH) have responded to a national housing crisis through grassroots organising and direct action. To this day the movement has prevented over 800 evictions across the country. Here Carlos Delclós interviews PAH activist Elvi Mármol.

Austerity policies in Europe are fuelling social injustice – and violating human rights

A new report by the Council of Europe provides detailed evidence that austerity measures have corroded civil and political rights, made economic, social and cultural rights less attainable, and entrenched social injustice and inequalities.  Will the governments of Europe recognise the social cost of austerity – and can ‘human rights’ work as a tool of resistance?

Twitter diplomacy: Füle vs EU ministers on Ukraine

EU’s Füle, right, with Ukrainian president Viktor Yanikovich in Kiev earlier this year

Is Twitter the right place to announce major foreign policy changes?

While the spate of EU downgrades has slowed to a relative drip feed this year, it turns out there was at least one left in the locker – the EU, which Standard and Poor’s (S&P) this morning cut from AAA to AA+.
EU and US both threatened by secret trade talks

This week’s talks, like the previous rounds, will happen behind closed doors. The negotiating texts will be kept secret from the public but not from the ca. 600 corporate representatives who have been named ‘cleared advisors’ for the United States.

song soon considered as the “anthem of a generation” in Portugal asked what was wrong with a world where, “even to become a slave you have to study”.

Before the Eurozone crisis, “flexicurity” was the model to follow for all European countries. For those confronted with sluggish growth and high unemployment, the agenda promoted by European institutions was a combination of flexible labour markets with few restrictions on the ability of employers to hire and fire, an encompassing safety net with generous income support in periods of unemployment, and active labour market policies designed to get jobseekers back into employment through training and upskilling.

Where are Europe’s leaders?

How do we assess performance, visibility and power in a European context? And why has the EU’s leadership failed to engage with Europe’s citizens? (Video, 18 mins)
Lampedusa deaths: identification and families’ right to know

It is a principle that those who perish or go missing in humanitarian disasters should be identified. This principle should also be applied to migration tragedies, though it is infrequently acted on by governments.
Slovakia: right-wing extremism on the rise

Marian Kotleba, a well-known figure of the Slovak neo-Nazi scene, was recently elected as governor of the central Slovak region of Banská Bystrica. Is this the mere consequence of a protest vote, or the indicator of a much more disturbing trend?

Our Director Mats Persson writes on his Telegraph blog:

A deal between the EU and Ukraine involving a “deep and comprehensive” free trade area, finally seems to have the hit the wall, after weeks trying to reach an agreement.

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Eurosphere agenda: Aydan Özoğuz, Germany’s first ever Turkish-origin Cabinet member

In Uncategorized on December 15, 2013 at 18:00
Aydan Özoğuz Aydan Özoğuz

Germany names first ever Turkish-origin Cabinet member

Deputy leader of Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD), Aydan Özoğuz, has been announced as the country’s new state minister for immigration, refugees and integration

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The Ukrainian revolution is European and national

Ukrainian civil society wants a truly independent Ukrainian and European nation. And Ukrainians understand that, in order to achieve this independence, they need to completely overhaul the political system. Anton Shekhovtsov on Euromaidan and the rebooting of Ukraine.

Who lost Ukraine?

Almost overnight, Ukraine ceased to be a “kingdom in the middle”. Now there are only three options left, writes Ivan Krastev: sign the agreement with the EU, as the majority of Ukrainians want; join Putin’s Eurasia, as the endangered political elite desire; or go bankrup

Germany’s SPD backs coalition deal

Members of Germany’s opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of entering a grand coalition government led by centre-right Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Euromaidan and beyond

Euromaidan is not just about failing to sign the Association Agreement, it is about Ukraine’s whole development as a country. For 22 years, it has been stuck in a grey zone between post-Soviet autocracies to the east and democratizing neighbours to the west, writes Mykola Riabchuk.

Snowden and state surveillance in Spain

Like most Europeans, Spaniards were shocked by revelations of extensive US spying on European citizens. Yet, there has been little or no public debate on state surveillance in Spain since then. Why not? (from our new Joining the dots series)

The new German surveillance state – Merkel, Snowden and the Euro Hawk drone

In principle, Germany is a state committed to democracy and international peace. This is why three recent political scandals, which exposed the vulnerability of German citizens to the surveillance institutions of their state as well as the development of drones, came as a surprise to many.

Bosnian census risks deepening ethnic rifts

Politicians rush to claim triumph for their own particular group, even though census data on ethnicity have not come out yet.

EU banking watchdog warns of risks from Bitcoin

Consumers using Bitcoins are on their own when it comes to losses, the European Union’s banking watchdog said on Friday (13 December) in a formal warning to consumers on the risks of using unregulated online currencies.

The European Banking Authority said there was no protection or compensation for people whose “digital wallets” are hacked, a transfer of virtual money goes wrong or a platform is shut.

 

In Salaries and Work Effort: An Analysis of the European Union Parliamentarians, a paper by professors Naci Mocan and Duha Altindag in the latest Economics Journal, the researchers take advantage of a recent change in the pay of Members of the European Parliament to examine the relationship between pay and work.

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