Saturday 29 November 2014

Currently browsing 'EU Citizens and Media'

A section examining the question of media freedom, EU media coverage and citizens in the EU.

 

Participation mechanisms beyond European Citizens’ initiative

Posted by on 27/11/14

Despite a common misconception, the European Citizens’ Initiative is not the alpha and omega of EU citizens’ engagement in EU decision-making.  There is a variety of other mechanisms that allow EU citizens to influence EU agenda.

For example, an average civic society organisation would hardly ever opt in favour of a logistically as challenging high-cost way for influencing EU decision-making as collecting 1 million signatures  across the European Union – it is much more likely that this organisation would rather:

a)       contact a member of European Parliament who would then suggest to the European Parliament to come up with its own report asking the European Commission to propose a legislative initiative on some subject (the European Parliament has good track record in complying with such requests);

b)      Participate in public hearings, consultations organized with by the European Commission or by European Parliament on some specific type of a new legislative proposal;

c)       Contact its national government when it is pondering its national position on some new directive or regulation proposed by the European Commission and deliberating its most likely response in the framework of the Council of the EU.

It is the later method – taking part in EU decision-making via shaping the national positions on EU level  – that was subject of a research that was conducted in three EU member states: Czech Republic, Latvia and Poland.

The report uncovered an uncomfortable truth: that there are few civic society organisations that are capable of participating in shaping the national positions at a stage when the European Commission has already come up with a draft. This problem is particularly acute for smaller member states, such as Latvia, that do not provide enough financial support to  civil society organisations that would enable such organisations to not only share their expertise on the local and national level issues, but also to provide strong argumentation for the European Union’s policy.

Those few who do participate – tend to struggle. First of all, it is usually a challenge to find a list of EU issues where the national government is elaborating its national position. Second, some governments (or even some ministries within the same government!) tend to view the draft national positions as a confidential document, and does not allow a civic society organisation to look inside. Those civic society organisations that do manage to make their views known to their national government – they are hardly ever informed on whether their expertise has been taken onboard in the final edition of the national position and what happens later,  when the national position has left the country and landed in the preparatory bodies of the Council.

So to be brief: overall it doesn’t seem to be working that well. Nevertheless, the research has also uncovered some inspiring success stories of citizen engagement and also some fascinating experiments in making the process work better both for civic society organisations’ and the government officials involved.  There are also specific recommendations for each of the three member states to improve their systems of consulting the civic society organisations on EU matters.

Our organisation organized an opinion survey in Latvia about the preferred means of taking part in EU decision-making in September, 2014. In the context of citizen participation, Latvia is a particularly important country as it is in Latvia (along with Italy) where the citizens feel most sceptical about whether their voices are heard at the EU level.  Out of different engagement methods 9% chose public hearing, 9% – shaping their government’s national position, 14% – European Citizens’ initiative, 16% – contacting a member of European Parliament elected in Latvia.

There were two more popular choices. What were they?  22% – no answer; 33% – prefer not to engage in EU decision-making at all. That’s bad.

To me the results of the survey signify that the EU and national government should work on strengthening all methods of civil dialogue – not just the European Citizens’ initiative – important though it may be. And one of the most meaningful methods accessible to national civic society organisations:  a meaningful engagement on EU policy at the national level, as advisors of their governments on issues that need to be defended in the Council and in negotiations with the European Parliament.

 

The EU & ‘benefit tourists’: Quo vadis European citizenship?

Posted by on 26/11/14
By Annette Schrauwen for ACELG On 11 November, the Court ruled in Dano that Member States can deny social assistance to EU citizens who do not work and are not looking for a job in the receiving state. According to Cameron, the decision was “simple common sense". But was it really?

Coming Soon: Another Cameron Speech

Posted by on 26/11/14

The Prime Minister is to make another much anticipated Big Speech about Europe. This time, the theme is immigration – or, rather, how to stem the alleged tide of EU citizens exercising their lawful right in accordance with Article 21 TFEU to move to and reside freely within the United Kingdom. David Cameron has already told his party conference that he promises to go the Brussels to ‘sort it’, and that unless immigration is curbed, Brexit looms. Other party leaders and eurosceptic think-tanks have already made their bids on the matter, most recently my own party leader Nick Clegg in the Financial Times.

Making a reality of EU citizenship

Few British commentators are versed in EU law. It would be better if they were. Article 21, for example, says nothing about ‘workers’ but refers to ‘every citizen of the Union’ having the ‘right to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States, subject to the limitations and conditions laid down in the Treaties and by measures adopted to give them effect’. No secondary law is therefore required to permit an EU citizen to move to live in Britain. Of the Treaty-based conditions relevant to free movement, the most important is to be found in Article 18 TFEU which says that: ‘Within the scope of application of the Treaties, and without prejudice to any special provisions contained therein, any discrimination on grounds of nationality shall be prohibited’. Article 20 spells it out further: ‘Citizens of the Union shall enjoy the rights and be subject to the duties provided for in the Treaties. They shall have, inter alia, the right to move and reside freely’ across the EU. Other articles of EU primary law (such as Article 3(2) TEU and Article 31 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights) confirm and reinforce the centrality of the principle of free movement and its direct effect. In fact, freedom of movement is the most important element of the proud concept of EU citizenship. If one were looking for one of the EU’s ‘red lines’, look no further.

Maintaining the single market

Then there is the internal market, which is defined in Article 26 TFEU as ‘an area without internal frontiers in which the free movement of goods, persons, services and capital is ensured in accordance with the provisions of the Treaties’. So there is an economic reason why people should be enabled to be as mobile as the goods they produce, the services they provide and the money they make. For many years it was a bane of economists that European labour was too immobile, and that the single market would never become a reality unless and until it was exploited by people on the move. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, migration has been churning across Europe. Although immigrant labour is always disliked by the poorer, less-educated indigenous working class, the overall effect of immigration in terms of GDP is widely acknowledged to be beneficial. Business and the welfare state in Germany and the UK, in particular, have relied on immigrant labour for many decades, and this trend will not be reversed as their own communities age. Migration across the EU also serves as an automatic stabiliser, as a new study by Bruegel has explained: the valves of labour flow are just as reversible as the inter-connector gas pipelines that cross the continent. Many young Poles and Irish, for example, return home (plus savings and education) once the balance of economic advantage shifts.

Helpfully, the EU treaties lay down provisions so that ‘freedom of movement of workers shall be secured within the Union’ (Article 45 TFEU). Discrimination on the grounds of nationality over pay, recruitment, ‘and other conditions of work and employment’ is abolished. Recruitment is to be facilitated and job exchange is to be actively encouraged, especially for the young. Migrant workers who are sacked or retire have the right to stay. Administrative obstacles and qualifying periods which form ‘an obstacle to the liberalisation of the movement of workers’ are prohibited (Article 46). The same clause provides for EU laws to be enacted to regulate all these matters, including the management of supply and demand in the labour market ‘in such a way as to avoid serious threats to the standard of living and level of employment in the various regions and industries’. EU legislation is required to ensure the provision of social security for ‘employed and self-employed migrant workers and their dependants’ (Article 48).

Social welfare

The variety and complexity of contributory and non-contributory social welfare systems across Europe, both in-work and out-or-work, make the ensuing EU legislation mightily complicated. As Steve Peers reminds us, there is much litigation in the European Court of Justice. But the basic legal situation is clear: EU law on the equal treatment of migrant workers has direct effect. Member states retain discretion as to their own social security systems, but each and every EU citizen must be treated in an equal way under the provisions of national employment or welfare law. The definition of ‘worker’ embraces those seeking work and those who lose their jobs, students, service providers and the self-employed, as well as their dependents. EU citizen migrant workers must be catered for without discrimination under the appropriate laws of the host state. It follows that any tightening of social welfare qualifications applied by a host state to EU migrants must also apply to its own nationals. As the recent case in Leipzig confirmed (Dano), benefit tourists do not profit under EU law. But self-sufficient persons can live wherever they choose within the EU – as millions of Britons have decided to do in sunnier climes, without let or hindrance.

When making his speech, Cameron will surely advise his audience that, while changing EU secondary legislation on migrant workers is possible, it would still need to be consonant with EU primary law in respect both of EU citizenship and the internal market. He might usefully add that all EU legislation needs to obtain a qualified majority in the two chambers of the EU legislature, Council and Parliament, so it really has to be crafted (by the European Commission) in the general interest of all states and citizens. In the absence of a destabilisation of the British welfare state, chronic industrial collapse or a threat to public security, Cameron and his colleagues will find it hard to substantiate the anti-immigration case they have so glibly launched. Bending EU law to suit the narrow or partisan interests of one state will not wash.

Changing the Treaties is a good idea for other reasons, but not this one. Stopping immigration will damage the economy. Reducing the rights of migrant workers is illiberal. Blunting the force of EU citizenship is uncivilised.

andrewduff@andrewduff.eu

@AndrewDuffEU

Addressing the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) nightmare

Posted by on 25/11/14
By Sorin MOISA MEP The importance of ISDS is blown out of proportion by its supporters, some of whom may suffer from a degree of strategic blindness. It is simply not going to be the end of the world if these clauses are remodelled or even eliminated.

Volunteers’ Friday in Aalborg

Posted by on 23/11/14

At the end of September, to celebrate the arrival of the new season, a special event was organized in Aalborg (Denmark) celebrating its local volunteers and the huge work achieved by all the people, who daily and freely deliver joy and comfort to other people’s lives in their neighbourhoods.

MyNeighbourhood, well represented by its Aalborg team emphasised and illustrated the importance of voluntary work to enhance neighbourhoods lives.

Together with other local groups the Aalborg crew met up in Nørresundby to march across the river bridge – with a musical front figure provided by the Aalborg Garden.

frivilligfredag5

On the bridge a chain of volunteers walked across the Limfjord, on the way to the old town square for refreshments and networking.

 

 

25.000 EU experts in each EU country

Posted by on 20/11/14
The EU is a complex game in which Brussels has a key role in close connection with the 28 capitals of the EU Member States. In previous messages I identified the 100.000 EU actors in Brussels, and now the “local EU actors”, those working in the Member States, will be mapped out. On the executive [...]

European Manifesto: Area of freedom, security and justice.

Posted by on 19/11/14

Le traité de Lisbonne a révolutionné le rôle du Parlement Européenne dans l’Espace de Liberté, Sécurité et Justice. Comme le démontre l’étude ‘The “Lisbonisation” of the European Parliament’, publié en 2013, la procédure législative ordinaire, de facto, élève le Parlement au même niveau que le Conseil en tant qu’agenda-setter et policy-maker de l’ELSJ. Dans les dernières semaines, les académiques et les parlementaires se sont confrontés sur la question, à l’occasion d’une conférence spécialement destinée aux membres LIBE ‘The European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice after the Stockholm Program – what comes next ?’ et d’un forum politique à l’Institut of European Studies (12 novembre 2014) sur le même sujet.EU-Logos fait le point sur le débat.

 L’ère post-Stockholm : LIBE, stratège de l’ELSJ aujourd’hui plus que jamais : de l’autoritarisme du Conseil au pluralisme institutionnel

 Jusqu’à l’adoption du Traité de Lisbonne, la définition des programmes pluriannuels (Tampere 1999, La Haye 2004, Stockholm 2009) relevait de la compétence exclusive du Conseil Européen, loin de tout pluralisme institutionnel. Déjà en 2009, lors de l’adoption du programme de Stockholm, la Commission avait, par la suite, adopté un Plan d’Action précisant l’application des orientations stratégiques du Conseil Européen. La Commission lançait ainsi une attaque directe au monopole intergouvernementale dans la définition des priorités politiques de l’ELSJ, mais, ce qui est encore plus fondamental, cette initiative marquait le début d’une stratégie politique à voix multiples, diversifiées et concurrentielles, souvent aussi incohérentes.

 C’est dans ce cadre qu’intervient le Parlement Européen, et la commission LIBE avant tous, en tant que copropriétaire dans la définition de l’agenda politique de l’ELSJ.

 Actuellement le moment est d’autant plus crucial car comme ont souligné les experts intervenus lors de la conférence accueillie par Birgit Sippel (S&D):‘The European Area of Freedom, Security and Justice after the Stockholm Program – what comes next? Setting priorities for the new mandate of the European Parliament’, spécialement adressée aux membres LIBE.

 En effet, malgré l’art.68 du TFUE qui aurait dû réservé le rôle de guide politique en ces matières après les conclusions du Conseil Européen, en juin 2014, au contraire, il ne semble pas avoir joué le jeu : il n’a pas défini des lignes d’action précises et il ne s’a pas répondu aux besoins effectifs des personnes concernées. D’après Yves Pascouau, Senior Policy Analyst and Director en politiques de migration et asile à l’European Policy Center, les conclusions du juin 2014 sont ‘un message des EU bubblers aux EU bubblers’. En plus, le texte semble oublier tous les résultats atteints jusqu’à maintenant : le Conseil Européen a ‘tué les dispositions des traités’, accuse-t-il.

 En conséquence, le Parlement Européen est davantage légitimé à devenir Agenda-setter de l’ELSJ, comblant l’écart entre l’échec des orientations générales du Conseil Européen et leur dimension concrète, centrée sur les personnes directement concernées. Il s’agit d’une opportunité et d’une nécessité pour la commission LIBE qui, d’une part, doit garantir que les droits fondamentaux sont toujours pris en considération de façon prioritaire et selon une approche transversale, alors que, d’autre part, les ambitions de l’Union Européenne pour l’ELSJ restent élevées.

  Un rôle moteur dans la défense des Droits fondamentaux

La centralité du rôle de LIBE est davantage cruciale, car tous les députés doivent mettre en avant la protection des Droits des citoyens, des Droits Fondamentaux et des Droits de l’Homme, sur l’ensemble du territoire de l’Union, comme il est inscrit dans le règlement intérieur du Parlement Européen. Il l’affirme clairement aussi à l’article 36, qu’il faut garantir la compatibilité d’un texte législatif,quelqu’il soit, avec la Charte des droits fondamentaux. De surcroît, il revient à la commission LIBE de vérifier la correcte implémentation dudit article. Une autre disposition très importante est l’art. 126 du Code de procédure du PE qui permet la consultation des agences, y compris celle en charge des droits fondamentaux (FRA) ,ainsi que le service juridique du Parlement Européen.

 Enfin, comme déjà souligné , la promotion des droits fondamentaux est une des préoccupations fondamentales de la commission LIBE. Cependant, les étude actuelles dénoncent ‘the way in which fundamental rights compliance is ensured throughout the EU policy cycle remains a policy challenge, including for the EP itself’, ce qui démontre l’efficacité discutable de l’ensemble de ces outils.

 La commission LIBE colégislative: une institution jeune, un rôle nouveau mais proactif

 Dès l’entrée en vigueur du Traité de Lisbonne, la commission LIBE a su bien interpréter son rôle, alors qu’au départ elle n’avait pas la même expertise que le Conseil, dans la maîtrise des techniques législatives. En effet, les politiques qui relèvent de sa compétence ont une nature purement politique. Par conséquence, les négociations interinstitutionnelles suivent des logiques subtiles, beaucoup plus que dans d’autres domaines, plus techniques. Il faut, donc, connaître et avoir une aisance parfaite des jeux de compromis, des escamotages et des astuces.

 Malgré la difficulté à s’adapter au nouveau rôle, nombre d’exemples démontrent que la commission LIBE est pleinement à la hauteur: le blocage du dossier PNR, ainsi que l’accélération de la procédure des nouvelles règles du sauvetage des vies en Méditerranée, dans le cadre des opérations Frontex ; mais aussi les actions auprès de la Cour de Justice, comme dans le cas du recours en annulation de la décision du Conseil 2010/252/UE, du 26 avril 2010, visant à compléter le Code Frontières Schengen.

 La procédure ordinaire, toutefois, détermine un forte risque de dépolitisation du débat, notamment au détriment des droits fondamentaux. Comme le montrent les dernières études : grâce à la codécision, la plupart des textes est adoptée en première lecture. Par conséquent, les débats sont restreints, ainsi que les opportunités rares d’insérer des clauses qu’assurent le respect de droits fondamentaux dans tous les actes de l’Union, de manière transversale.

 Afin de faire face à cette baisse d’ambitions politiques, la commission LIBE a su profiter des outils de ‘soft law’ dont elle dispose pour faire pression sur la Commission ainsi que sur le Conseil. Grâce, notamment, aux questions parlementaires, ainsi qu’à l’adoption des résolutions, elle relance les débats sur les questions au cœur de l’espace de liberté sécurité et justice, pour qu’ils gardent leur valeur stratégiques, notamment par exemple, en matière de définition des termes utilisés par la Commission, lorsque cette dernière propose un nouveaux texte.

 Cependant, comme relève l’étude 2013 du Centre de Recherche Européen, il faut aussi que les députés soient au courant des recommandations qu’ils ont adoptées, tout en garantissant leur suivi et la cohérence des politiques différentes impliqué par l’ELSJ.

 Communication et transparence interinstitutionnelles.

 Parallèlement, l’étude reconnaît que la Commission n’a pas répondu toujours de manière ponctuelle et satisfaisante aux initiatives de la Commission LIBE, ce qui démontre la manque de transparence et d’efficacité de communication et d’information entre Commission et Parlement. Cependant, lors de la conférence à l’IES, Hélène Calers, ancienne conseilleur politique à LIBE, s’écarte de cette position et déclare: ‘On peut considérer que, dans la plupart des cas, la Commission et le Parlement sont des alliés importants dans la formulation de l’agenda politique et dans la mise en œuvre de l’ELSJ’.

 En ce qui concerne les relations Parlement-Conseil, le rôle des trilogues est très controversé. Ariadna Ripoll-Servent, professeure en Intégration Européenne, semble être très critiques sur le sujet, notamment à cause du manque de transparence et de la technicité des débats ; de même, elle souligne leur fracture avec toute logique démocratique.

 Pour toute réponse, les conseilleurs politiques et les fonctionnaires ont présenté une vision intéressante de l’intérieur : les trilogues contribuent au processus de légitimation progressive des deux acteurs législatifs, en particuliers de la commission LIBE. Ils ne partagent pas l’idée d’un manque de démocratisation : la commission, au moins au niveau institutionnel, élargie, la participation aux trilogues assure la participation du plus   grand nombre d’acteurs possibles, qui, par la suite, informent les autres députées, de manière ponctuelle, sur les avancées des débats.

 L’environnement institutionnel semble, donc, être positif, aussi en considération du fait que la transparence a accru au fil du temps, comme met à l’évidence Gabriel Toggenburg, Senior Legal Advisor de la Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA). Néanmoins, il faudra agir afin d’améliorer la communication et les échanges d’informations entre les acteurs institutionnels, mais aussi entre ceux internationales, comme le Conseil de l’Europe, les Nations Unies, ainsi que les ONG qui travaillent en ce domaine.

 Des ambitions politiques et démocratiques fortes, pour combattre le consensualisme.

 Autre énorme défi relevé, lors des débats, réside dans la logique consensuelle de l’Union. Comme souligné lors de la conférence organisée par l’Institut of European Studies sur ce sujet: ‘c’est des négociations que sortent des compromis auxquels les acteurs, notamment aux trilogues, ont dû ajuster leur position politiques.’

 Si, au départ, les idéologies des différents partis politiques occupent une place importante, au cours des négociations, notamment lors des trilogues « à portes fermées », la combinaison des positions idéologico-politiques du Parlement doit s’adapter aux propositions avancées par le Conseil, qui représente les intérêts des États, beaucoup plus réticents aux changements.

 Les confrontations amènent, donc, à des résultats toujours imparfaits, qui, toutefois, représentent l’équilibre nécessaire entre les pulsions au changement de la part du Parlement et le réalisme politique, d’autre part. Un conseiller politique PPE à la LIBE, Mr. Andris Petersons, admet : ‘Si on veut des résultats il faut s’adapter.’

 D’ailleurs, il ne faut pas être déçu du résultat des négociations qui s’inscrit dans la tradition européenne du «  gradualisme normatif » de l’Union. Il faut, plutôt, accepter cette logique systémique et être toujours satisfaits, parce que chaque avancée, même marginale, améliore l’état normatif précèdent.

 Une approche inclusive pour une implémentation plus efficace.

 La commission LIBE n’a pas de bases légales fortes pour assurer l’implémentation des règlements et des directives. En conséquence, grâce aux contacts réguliers que les députés ont avec les organisations internationales, les experts, mais surtout avec les organisations de la sociétés civile, elle réussit à évaluer et surveiller l’application correcte des engagements des États. En même temps, l’échange d’informations renforce leur compétence technique, qui lui permet d’avoir une vision plus concrète des priorités réelles des politiques de l’ELSJ. Sur ces bases solides le Parlement pourra exercer davantage de pression sur les États, mais surtout sur la Commission afin qu’elle introduise plus souvent des procédures d’infraction en manquement quand cela se révèle nécessaire.

 Recommandations finales.

 Les expert académiques, Steve Peers, professor of EU Law & Human Rights Law à l’University of Essex, Gabriel Toggenburg, Senior Legal Advisor de la Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), et Yves Pascouau, Senior Policy Analyst and Director en politiques de migration et asile à l’European Policy Center, ont présenté des considérations et des recommandations intéressantes pour les députés de la commission LIBE appelée à développer une stratégie globale et cohérente, qui pourrait être structurée ainsi:

 -. Relever les défis futurs, de manière plus précise que les Conclusions du Conseil Européen, limitées à la question démographique et à l’instabilité du phénomène.

 -. Identifier les objectifs clé de l’Union Européenne, en se focalisant sur comment mieux gérer la mobilité au niveau mondial et au sein de l’UE ; comment mieux garantir la protection des personnes à travers la loi mais aussi dans le cadre des mesures opérationnelles que l’Union européenne est amenée à prendre.

 -. Intégrer la dimension intérieure et extérieure de la politique d’immigration de l’UE, à commencer par l’intégration, aspect autant crucial qu’oublié.

 -. Mettre en place une cohérence entre les institutions et à l’intérieur de chaque institution, dans un cadre ‘pentagonale’ qui comprenne le triangle institutionnel classique, ainsi que la CJUE, mais aussi l’EEAS, acteur de plus en plus influant en ce domaine.

 Pour l’instant la situation est en train d’évoluer et il n’y a pas une idée claire sur comment cette stratégie sera réalisée concrètement. Toutefois, il est nécessaire de tenir haut le débat et commencer à en discuter.

 

Elena Sbarai

 

En savoir plus

      -. CEPS, ‘The “Lisbonisation” of the European Parliament, assessing progress, shortcomings and challenges for democratic accountability in the area of freedom security and justice’ (2013) FR http://www.europarl.europa.eu

EN http://www.ceps.eu

     -. Article EU-Logos, ‘Espace De Liberté,Sécurité Et Justice :Un Nouveau Départ ? Quelles Perspectives Réelles ?’, 5 septembre 2014 http://europe-liberte-securite-justice.org


Classé dans:Actualités, BREVES

Contempt for a public oath of impartiality underscores Commission illegitimacy

Posted by on 18/11/14

Commissioners are obliged by Treaty law to swear or affirm on their honour that they are absolutely impartial and independent. They must pledge not to take any instructions or seek instructions from governments, political parties or any interest groups or any ‘entities’, that is, anybody else.

Is that clear? Believers in divine justice in our democratic Judeo-Christian society, make an oath or affirmation before God. Those who are agnostic or atheists make an affirmation before their conscience (as their record for the Day of Judgement).

So far the Juncker Commission — whose members deem themselves to be in office — has contemptuously failed to take the oath of office. Today they are merely politicians, selected by governments as their personal and national representatives. This is contrary to the letter and spirit of treaties since 1951 — even  of the misbegotten Lisbon Treaty that violated national referendums.

Over the years, as Europe’s honest broker showed itself less than honest, the Commission tried to make the oath an obscure and hidden operation. Was that because of a bad conscience about funding wasteful wine and milk lakes, meat mountains, butter bergs and politicians’ pet projects of useless airports, bridges and motorways to nowhere?

Taking an oath of office should be a celebration of legitimacy and public support. It follows general national practice in democracies. Members of governments, privy counsellors, members of national parliament generally take an oath of office BEFORE they take office. The US President takes his oath of office very publicly — with a whole day of celebration and before the widest audience possible. It is all broadcast on radio, television and the internet.

Why does the European Commission feel it is above the law?

A European Commission that refuses to take a very open and public oath of impartiality and independence while freely drawing its salary is acting contrary to Treaty law. This requires that they make a ‘solemn undertaking‘ BEFORE they start work. Why wait? What are they up to now?  Making inappropriate deals? Perhaps obscuring problems and crises that may involve personal, party or national interests? Do they think they are permitted to violate the Treaties before they take the oath?

It is no argument to say ‘We will take the oath later, when we have time.‘ It shows contempt of the office. Where does logic or law say an oath of impartiality or any oath can act retrospectively?

Commissioners do not take office UNTIL they have pledged their suitability in an oath of impartiality. If they doubt this ask the judges at the European Court of Justice! Their oath is made as their entry into office. The President of the Court confirms the Commissioners’ oath to be the essential link BEFORE installation to office.

Why have 28 Candidate Commissioners, who should encapsulate honest politics, all remained silent about the issue?

The following is the oath of independence they have to agree to. Just reading it makes it plain that it must be sworn or affirmed BEFORE they start work.

  • “Having been appointed as a Member of the European Commission by the European Council, following the vote of consent by the European Parliament
  • I solemnly undertake:

    • to respect the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union in the fulfilment of all my duties;
    • to be completely independent in carrying out my responsibilities, in the general interest of the Union;
    • in the performance of my tasks, neither to seek nor to take instructions from any Government or from any other institution, body, office or entity;
    • to refrain from any action incompatible with my duties or the performance of my tasks.

    “I formally note the undertaking of each Member State to respect this principle and not to seek to influence Members of the Commission in the performance of their tasks.

    “I further undertake to respect, both during and after my term of office, the obligation arising therefrom, and in particular the duty to behave with integrity and discretion as regards the acceptance, after I have ceased to hold office, of certain appointments or benefits.”

    If Commissioners only take this oath months after taking office, does that mean that they can say in Court that what they did illegally before taking the oath is permissible as they are not obliged to be impartial before? Hardly. That is why the oath should be taken immediately and very publicly.

    The first oath was not made in secret. Nor in the building of the European Court of Justice. It was made in the most public place, the City Hall of Luxembourg, before a big audience and national observers. A Court environment is useful to remind Commissioners that they have a legal obligation to be impartial. If they are not, they can be taken to Court.

    But what is more important for the EU as a whole is that this oath should be widely known by all European citizens. All the ‘entities‘, the interest groups and all the many lobbies and lobbyists should see and hear it. They should know it is illegal to communicate with the Commission in secret. The treaties give specific means so that the Commission can be fully informed about all issues in Europe without secret lobbying of governments, companies and political parties.

    Today it makes more sense that the oath should be taken in Brussels, before the public and the press, and broadcast to the whole Continent and the world. The Commission should act like any mature democracy does. Why? Because the entire population of more than half a billion people in the EU need to hear that all Commissioners pledge absolutely that they will not receive instructions, nor seek them. They will make decisions according to their conscience and as openly as possible.

    Their oath, like that of the judges of the European Court of Justice, is intended to be taken before they start work. In the case of the Commission the oath is even more detailed than the judges’ about the impartiality that they must acknowledge and follow. Any deviation from impartiality will bring them to the European Court of Justice.

    At the moment the Commissioners have not promised anything. Yet the Commission is in a crisis about tax fraud, tax evasion and avoidance  and a number of other serious matters.

    How will the unsworn Commission act now towards the citizen — who pays their salaries? What about ‘tax havens‘ for the world’s biggest companies? If the global companies do not pay tax, the burden falls on small companies and poor individuals.

    Consider the matter of the State extracting your personal or small company taxes. You are brought to a Court of Law. How would you react if faced with a judge highly prejudiced and partisan against you? Distrust and fear.

    How about a judge who was directly chosen by ‘entities and interest groups‘ who have already taken 40 percent of your income? For your case, they especially chose a judge who has declared and demonstrated his partisanship for decades. He maintained with pride his strong links to parties and specific interest groups.

    I am not referring to a mere magistrate but the most powerful judge in the land. What if the judge was involved in multi-billion euro deals with the very people who were stripping you bare of your meager resources?

    Wouldn’t you cry: INJUSTICE! Your whole being would revolt against the system. All Courts across the land would lose public confidence, their legitimacy would be reviled. People would forms groups based on their separate outrages to overturn and destroy the system. Society would be divided between the rulers and the skeptics. Europe will fragment. It’s happening.

    What are the most powerful actors against individuals in society? Many would consider governments wield the most power. Consider how much tax they raise from society. They usually take up to half of all income.

    2012 Tax on national income
    Country % burden
    Austria 43.1%
    Belgium 45.4%
    Bulgaria 27.9%
    Cyprus 35.5%
    Czech Rep. 35%
    Denmark 48.1%
    Estonia 32.5%
    Finland 44.1%
    France 45.0%
    Germany 39.1%
    Greece 33.7%
    Hungary 39.2%
    Ireland 28.7%
    Italy 44.0%
    Latvia 27.9%
    Lithuania 27.2%
    Luxembourg 39.3%
    Malta 33.6%
    Netherlands 39.0%
    Poland 32.5%
    Portugal 32.4%
    Romania 28.3%
    Slovakia 28.3%
    Slovenia 37.6%
    Spain 31.8%
    Sweden 44.2%
    United Kingdom 35.4%

    EU28:                       39.4%   (Eurostat 2014).

    History tells us that the State provides benefits but also abuses its powers. Some governmental groups, for example political parties, are assumed to incorporate the needs and interests of sections of the population. But their policies are often made in secret and donors to party funding often dictate the policies.

    In the UK House of Parliament, whose members like to consider themselves the paragons of democracy, the following exchanges took place on 10 July 2013:

    Ed Miliband, leader of the Opposition Labour Party: The Prime Minister ‘ is owned by a few millionaires at the top of society and everyone knows it.’

    PM Cameron: ‘The trades unions own you (Mr Miliband) lock, stock and block vote. … They buy the candidates (for Parliament), they buy the policies, they buy the leader.’

    Some consider that large corporations now detain the world’s most formidable powers. Even by 1900s commercial companies represented around half of the world’s largest entities, bigger than many national States. Today Corporations are huge. They provide goods and services for the public. They act globally. But who really controls them? Certainly not the public, it seems.
    But the Commission is the world’s first international anti-cartel agency. For good reason. Cartels were the major cause of World War One. If the Commissioners are not staunchly impartial and seen to be impartial, how can the Commission control global cartels, global tax fraud, international mafias and illicit foreign exploitation of the EU’s internal energy and financial markets?

    Corporations want maximum profits, minimum taxation. Hence they want to make secret tax arrangements with some governments so that they can avoid paying tax in all the Member States. And then the other States complain of lost revenues. The corporations work such ‘fiscal competition‘ to their own benefit.  Multinationals can parachute their flexible ‘headquarters‘ into the most favourable State. Small States offer ‘sweetheart deals’. That means depriving other States of tax, but it means that small States can benefit hugely. If they tax the multinationals only a small percentage, it is a major boost to the small national budget. The large States– which might have large revenues if taxed at ordinary rates — are left high and dry. ‘European‘ tax has in theory been paid.

    A dog-fight behind closed doors between them and tax administrations occurs. Governments are desperate to be able to tax the most lucrative corporations in the world. The public does not see the counter-struggle of the multinationals who fob off one administration against another and select the cheapest option. The Robber State is robbed and conned.

    Now consider the public. What is their view? Because the corporations are paying low tax, the general public in all countries is paying higher personal tax.

    Tax is levied by the State or rather the party politicians. They want to remain in power. How can they go about it? They usually try to bribe the public by offering ‘services‘, by creating ‘infrastructure’, by providing what they call ‘benefits‘ to certain groups who will vote for them. The also create bureaucracies and inefficiencies. Is their choice always correct and fair? Obviously not! That is why one lot of rascals gets thrown out in elections and another lot of rascals gets put in place.

    However, nowadays it is harder and harder for the average citizen to distinguish between parties of ‘left‘, ‘right‘ or ‘centre‘. They seem all to be working on the same agenda. Some suspect this is ‘fleece the public‘ and maintain a well-paid career. Youngsters leave university, join the party apparatus and they spend the rest of their life in the service of the party. Nowadays it is common for politicians to have never held any other job or earned a proper salary in their life.

    The main distinction people see nowadays is between new instant parties that wish to leave or destroy the European Union with its obvious corruption, and those who wish to maintain the status quo.

    How can the honest, hardworking citizen find an exit to this sorry tale of corrupt entanglement and self-interest by

    • States
    • Politicians
    • Corporations
    • Cartels and paper companies
    • Trades unions
    • Other interest groups
    • External cartels and exploiters?

    As Giscard d’Estaing reminded Brussels institutions recently, the Treaties say the Commission should be reduced to 13 or at maximum 15 persons. No public debate has been conducted, nor has public approval been given that justifies the Council delinquency in demanding 28 Commissioners, one for each Prime Minister.

    • The European Commission is not the exclusive zone for hiring party politicians and excluding eminent members of the public who are not party political. The concept of the Commission being made up of only national representatives is repellent, odious and an affront to the Community’s supranational principle.
    • A small, impartial Commission should be in permanent dialogue with duly-elected Consultative Committees who represent the whole European Community, its economy, its regions and its energy resources.
    • The Council of Ministers is the institution for expressing national positions. The Commission is not their secretariat.
    • The European Parliament is the place for political parties to express their views. The treaties say it should be elected according to a Single Statute for the whole of Europe. Politicians refused. Voters have been diddled out of their voice for more than sixty years. The politicians should be defending the individual who is in need and not consciously or indirectly furthering blind party politics.

     

    The Nordics: A point of reference for the European Union

    Posted by on 16/11/14

    Last week, I was asked to discuss the potential lessons for the European Union from the Nordic Models at the Nordic Labour Movement congress SAMAK. For me, three points seem essential:

    First: Freedom and prosperity needs to be created through opportunities and challenges!

    Democracy, respect for human rights and rule of law remain guiding principles of the European Union. The mission has remained to promote them beyond the borders. This is why the subsequent enlargements have been so important, marking historical turning points from which onwards people in different states hope to lead lives enjoying freedom, dignity and prosperity. But what once has been a common desire now is rather taken for granted. Democracy seems to appear rather as a static arrangement that is there because it is agreed upon in treaties. It is not seen as an ideal that requires all to assume responsibility for its constant development. Therefore the populists have a space to promote a discourse of fear, they build upon disenchantment and despair. They grow stronger day-by-day, trashing democratic politics and actors involved. And they will, unless challenged properly, increase in numbers.

    This is the most important lesson the European Union has to learn from the Nordics: More freedom is needed and it is not given. Everyone has to accept their duties but can demand their rights are respected. Respect and freedom are the basis for a fertile ground for progress and unity.

    Second: Only equality of labour standards ensures long-term progress and social welfare!

    The historical objective of the European integration process was to establish mechanisms of inter-state cooperation that would protect people from conflicts, poverty and hunger. While the traditions that underpin different post-war welfare systems may differ, the overall principles of equality and social justice have been common and hence allowed to speak in terms of an ideal of a European Social Model.

    The vision of a Social Europe is to ensure that the common effort for the Union translates into an improvement of living and working conditions. It has always taken a lot of persistence to negotiate compromises, especially when the strategies for social transformation take a long time to show results. So when they finally reach that stage, the benefits of them are often already taken for granted.

    This is also one of the reasons, why some of the welfare arrangements have evolved to be old-fashioned, not really sticking to our changing society. However, while the crisis hit, conservatives have made no differentiation and social provisions in general have become the first target of austerity.

    The social objectives must translate into both labour and social policies. However austerity policies in many Eurozone countries have significantly impaired the possibility to put forward a new framework on progressive labour and social policies. The recent years have seen detachment of the debate on these even within the progressive movement.

    Furthermore, European added value must not be mistaken for competing on the national level at any cost. An essential is the European labour standards. There is no trade off between efficiency and equality.

    Progressives must reopen the debate and embark on the struggle for quality employment for all. This is especially essential now, when they are working for proposals for a re-industrialisation strategy. Here we encounter one of the main lessons from the Nordics for the European Union to consider. The European Union has to continue to fight for equal labour standards and better income in all European member states. The Nordics have been strong in ensuring common standards based on respect but also based on strong and effective democratic institutions.

     

    Third: Globalisation gives us the duty to re-define economic thinking!

    Globalisation and its new challenges demand a redefinition of fiscal, monetary and global economic policy. Here both the Nordics and the European Union need to learn.

    Fiscal and monetary policy should be seen as having the fundamental function of ensuring high-levels of aggregate demand. In addition and to fight against inequalities there is an essential need for a common European labour policy and a shift away from the current system of wage repression amongst the member states and amongst the different economic zones elsewhere.

    A common international labour policy and a progressive harmonisation of labour rights and social protection could lead to a reasonably egalitarian income distribution and to an end to the current dysfunctional framework.

    Modern global capitalism cannot remain an uncontrolled “wild” engine. Achieving significant increases in employment, growth and reducing inequality in Europe will not be easy, but it is certainly achievable. It will imply the implementation of a range of progressive economic policies at both the country levels and the EU level. These imply that the European Union will have to become more coordinated and more progress could only be achieved through international cooperation.

    In this regard, a strong and active Union with an agenda of regulated international trade based on decent work for all is to be advanced. New protectionism and fear are not the answers. But this demands a creation of a strong moral and political legitimacy for economic and labour market policy as well as for new trade arrangements such as TTIP. It should become a model for such a new approach in international treaties and an answer to modern globalisation and capitalism.

    When the Nordics are looking for a more human approach in the globalised world this should be done together with other Europeans and not separately. The Nordics are part of Europe and our continent will only remain strong when united. The challenges of our century are immense. Climate change, rising inequalities, technological advances, rising of new global powers, only to name the most challenging one.

    European integration remains the only solid and serious alternative to tackle this. The nineteenth century created the labour movements as an answer to industrialisation. The twentieth century created the European Union as an answer to war and self-destruction in Europe. We should now create an answer to a human globalisation. All the lessons learnt need to be incorporated in order to ensure a better and a more prosperous Europe.

     

     

    Message from Brussels – How to prepare my child for life?

    Posted by on 13/11/14
    Living and working in the EU Brussels bubble, I am regularly asked to express my views about the career of young professionals or even for a presentation of opportunities to find a job in the capital of Europe. I am not referring to the academic courses that I teach in Brussels, Bucharest and Cluj, or [...]

    Juncker responds to Luxleaks tax scandal

    Posted by on 12/11/14
    By Open Europe European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has made an impromptu appearance at the midday press briefing to make a statement on the leaked documents showing the significant number of favourable tax deals given to corporations by the Luxembourg government during his tenure as prime minister and/or finance minister (1989 - 2013). The key points...

    Voices from Marvila’s Neighbourhood

    Posted by on 11/11/14

    In Marvila, a neighbourhood from the Portuguese capital, everybody has a say in what is needed in the neighbourhood!

    LISBON - PILOT PRESENTATION TEMPLATE

    MyN team asked Marvila’s neighbours to share their wishes, interests and needs. We listened and took notes on people’s thoughts and would like to learn even more about their wishes for a better neighbourhood.

    Here are a sample of Marvila’s wishes and needs:

    Romania’s media landscape – so near and yet so far

    Posted by on 04/11/14
    By Ivan Radev, AEJ-Bulgaria What kinds of problems exist in the country, which occupies the 45th spot on the Reporters Without Borders ranking list?

    Everyone take a deep breath: Merkel’s comments are wide of the mark

    Posted by on 03/11/14
    Der Spiegel reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned David Cameron at last month’s EU summit that she would no longer try to keep the UK in the EU if Cameron sought to impose quotas or a cap on workers from other EU countries, as opposed to changing the rules around EU migrants’ access to benefits. The magazine also reported that the German Chancellery and Foreign Ministry fear that, for the first time, Cameron is pushing the UK towards a “point of no return” in terms of its EU membership and that a UK exit is “possible”. But there’s no reason to be get overly excited though.
    • This was a report from one magazine which didn’t include any direct quotes from Merkel, but merely quoted unnamed sources. Moreover, as Sky News' Faisal Islam points out, the report isn't exactly front page either... its on page 36 of the print edition.
    • The reported comments were specifically about reports in the UK media about Number 10 possibly considering putting outright caps on the number of EU migrants who can come to Britain to work, either via quotas or a points-based system. So one speculative media report leading to another.
    • As we’ve argued repeatedly, there are two elements to free movement: volume – how many EU migrants come to the UK every year. And fairness: who can access what benefits and when. That Merkel doesn’t support an end to the basic right for EU migrants to come to the UK to work isn’t surprising at all. It’s been the German government position for ages. Stefan Seibert, Merkel’s spokesperson this morning re-stated Germany’s commitment to “the general principle of free movement”.
    However, within that there’s a lot of scope for change and plenty of EU reforms that could fly in Berlin. Remember, the Bundestag will this week vote on a number of proposals aimed at tightening EU migrants’ access to benefits, including re-entry bans for those migrants that abuse of the German welfare system.

    It’s interesting that since the stories in the UK media about a points-based system or quotas for EU migrants, FAZ and the Sunday Times note that the UK government is now looking to make its EU free movement proposals “Germany-compatible”. Also, UK Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC this morning,
    “It was never envisaged that you would have such large numbers of people coming, people coming who don’t have job offers, people who move on to our benefits system…We are going to do this in a calm and rational way, but the British people want this addressed.”
    The “job offer” part is interesting – the right to move to another EU country without a specific job offer hasn’t always been there. However, note there’s nothing about a cap – what the Der Spiegel report was about.

    Similarly, at Downing Street’s briefing to journalists today, Cameron’s spokeswoman said:
    “When the founding fathers established the European Union and introduced the principle of free movement, it was about labour and how you integrate the countries of the single market. The mass migration that we have seen with new countries joining, the impact on countries like the UK, the free movement to claim benefit – these are areas that have evolved and need to be addressed.”
    There’s the point about wider “impact” but, again, the main focal point is benefits.

    Which may suggest that No 10 remains primarily committed to looking at “fairness” – not actually ending free movement per se.

    So only tweaks then? Not at all. Open Europe has today published a new pamphlet by Professor Damian Chalmers and Open Europe Research Director Stephen Booth which argues that the basic right to go and work anywhere in the EU should stand – on the whole, free movement remains a clear benefit to the UK. However, national governments should be able to limit EU migrants’ access to out-of-work and in-work benefits, social housing and publicly funded apprenticeships until after three years.

    Incidentally, Der Spiegel did not claim that Merkel was now ‘ready to accept’ the UK exiting the EU, as some UK media outlets have reported. Instead, she now considers Brexit “möglich”, which translates as “possible”, which is more along the lines that it is something she fears.

    In other words, whilst certainly a strong indicator of the mood music in Germany and the UK, on specific substance, this is much less of a story than the headlines suggest.

    Who is qualified to become engaged in European affairs?

    Posted by on 02/11/14

    I was attracted to Florian Pantazi’s blog on 29.10 by its catching title (see http://florianpantazi.blogactiv.eu/2014/…). However, I was surprised after reading it. It contains “ethnic slurs” which are forbidden according to EurActiv’s blogging guidelines.

    In his blog plost, Pantazi makes an issue of the Jewish origin of the American diplomat Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs at the United States Department of State.

    Admittedly, Nuland made a blunder in a leaked phone conversation on EU and Ukraine. According to Washington Post, she was “dismissively referring to slow-moving European efforts” to address the crisis in the country. She has also been critical against the “illiberal democracy” in Hungary. Most people in the EU would probably agree with her.

    So what has this to do with her Jewish origin which according to Pantazi was a reason for the American administration not to appoint her? He writes that “some officials of Jewish origin are the children of World War II victims and as such are themselves personally affected by an irrational hate of Europe and especially of Russia”.

    Being a child of Holocaust survivors makes you apparently biased against Europe!? Are all European Jews biased?

    On the contrary, I would say. Nuland and others with her background are well motivated to contribute to a better Europe which respects human rights and where discrimination, ethnic cleansing, wars and genocide will never happen again.

    With Pantazi’s logic, what about the children of the Nazi perpetrators? Should they also be disqualified from engaging in European affairs? What about the children of members of the former communist parties in Eastern Europe? If everyone should be disqualified because he/she belongs to a certain group, no one is left to work for a better Europe. And we are left with discrimination as in the past, before EU was established.

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