It may be getting into vacation season in the EU, but now that a new European Commission President has been agreed upon by the European Council (he’s Portugal’s José Manuel Barroso, of course) the horse-trading and dealing surrounding the question of just who will be on the new Commission (which takes office November 1) is starting in earnest. The leading Czech business newspaper, Hospodárské noviny covers the action (The Battle Begins Over the Composition of the European Commission), and notes that this time the issue is complicated by the fact that, with this transition, the Commission will go from a system where the five biggest lands get two commissioners and everyone else one (so that there have been thirty of these since the enlargement in May) to a system where every country gets one (thus there are twenty-five in total.) (more…)
You’ll be glad to know that the Dutch government approved last Friday an extension to the deployment of that country’s around 1300 troops in Iraq, who otherwise would have packed up and left next month. You may recall that there were increasing doubts about whether having troops there was really such a good thing, especially after the first Dutch soldier was killed last month (coverage of that was itself covered, of course, here in EuroSavant). But now in fact what’s been approved is not the usual six-month extension but one of eight months, until March of 2005 – designed to have Dutch troops in place to help provide security for those Iraqi elections scheduled for next January, plus a safety margin of a number of weeks beyond.
What has made all the difference has been that United Nations Security Council resolution on the transfer of sovereignty back to Iraq that was passed unanimously last week, as an analysis in the NRC Handelsblad by René Moerland and Floris van Straaten makes clear (From Dilemma to Necessity – free registration required). (more…)
The elections for EuroParliament delegates are now going on in the 25 member states, according to when each state prefers to have its citizens go to the polls during the required Thursday-to-Sunday time-frame. (But you already know that, as I recently covered the rise of the UKIP in Britain in this context.) Whoever wins one of the EP’s 786 seats gets – among other rights and obligations – a very decent, tax-free salary-plus-allowances for the next five years. Especially for MEPs from the new member-states of Central Europe, the pay and perks of representing your country in Strasbourg easily rival anything you might be able to earn at home, in either the private or public sector (often including even as president or prime minister). What’s more, the election rules are such that it is common that such legislators are elected off of party lists, rather than on the basis of geographical constituencies. How many of those on the list are elected – i.e. how far down the list the candidates are chosen for office – depends on how much voter support the party itself gets in the given election.
So why not put list-positions up for sale? (more…)
The every-five-years elections to the European Parliament will begin tomorrow (some countries vote on Thursday, others on the following Sunday), and polls in the UK are pointing toward a surprising result. The heretofore almost-unknown UK Independence Party (UKIP) stands to post impressive results, which could catapult it up into the company of that country’s main political parties (Labour and the Conservatives) and leave the Liberal Democrats back in a distant fourth place.
The reason why this is alarming to many is at the same time the reason why the UKIP seems to be gaining so much support, namely its call for a “friendly” but complete withdrawal of Britain from the European Union. Up until the UKIP, the most “extreme” position on this issue had been that of the Conservatives, who maintain a suspicious attitude about what goes on within EU institutions, and who don’t want any new European Constitution and certainly won’t give up the pound sterling for the euro, but who don’t go so far as to advocate withdrawal (upon which, in the UKIP’s imaginings, the UK would join the ranks of countries like Norway and Switzerland, who supposedly enjoy much of the trade benefits associated with the EU anyway without having to put up with all that quasi-governmental stuff).
Even if most or all of the new British Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) turn out to come from the UKIP, that would not mean Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. But the worrying thing about that party’s seeming rise in popularity is that the British people’s attitudes towards the EU were supposed to get steadily more warm and chummy with time, guided by constant persuasion (propaganda?) from the bully-pulpit manned by a Labour government that has been in power since 1997. After all, referenda are now in store, eventually, on both the questions of switching to the euro and adopting a new EU Constitution (when/if member-state governments finally succeed in adopting one), and the hope had been that attitudes would have softened enough by the time those happen to ensure “Yes” votes. The UK is not obliged ever to adopt the euro – unlike, say, all of the ten new member-states, whenever they meet certain economic and fiscal criteria – but it’s possible (although still unclear at this point) that a “No” vote on the Constitution could indeed mean insistence from the other EU members that the UK withdraw its membership.
A key factor in the UKIP’s new popularity is said to be its new leading spokesman and candidate, Robert Kilroy-Silk, who had an interview show on the BBC up until earlier this year, when he had to resign after saying nasty things on-air about Arabs. There’s an entertaining portrait from the Guardian available, but I’m more intrigued by this analysis as to whether he might be the “British Pim Fortuyn,” from a source best-placed to judge such things: the Dutch newspaper Trouw. (more…)
Look, I’ve already devoted more attention on EuroSavant this week to Silvio Berlusconi than I prefer to do to any one subject or person. I am also well aware that I have not been too terribly respectful of the current Italian prime minster. For example, in my post yesterday I used the word “jackal” (but only in reference to the way certain photos of his face that on-line newspapers have posted make him look), as well as variations on the word “insult.” Plus, in that post and in the preceding one I tried to give at least a strong impression of the sort of legal shenanigans he’s been involved in in his country ever since he was elected for the second time to be prime minister there about two years ago.
Nonetheless, I’ve now had more time to think about (and discuss) just what Berlusconi did and did not do at the European Parliament speaker’s podium. So that I am not trying to be ironic (unlike the Man himself when he addressed German MEP Martin Schulz) when I say that I can understand his bewilderment at what happened. Leave the guy alone! This is getting way out of proportion! (more…)
I was hoping to move on to other subjects than the fitness of Silvio Berlusconi for the European Union presidency, but his insulting outburst yesterday while in the EU Parliament to present his president’s agenda naturally keeps me on this subject. And I was hoping to move on from reporting on the German press, which I’ve covered a bit disproportionally in the past several weeks, but it only seems logical and fair to report on reactions from the country whose MEP (Member of the European Parliament) was the target of Berlusconi’s insult, a defamation that touched on Germany’s sensitive Nazi past.
The incident took place in the debate after Berlusconi had made his “inaugural” address to Parliament. (more…)