Sunday 26 October 2014

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What should the EU’s overall priorities be? Or those of the next Presidency? And what should the EU Council really be talking about when they next meet.


A European narrative: Propaganda or debate?

Posted by on 23/10/14

Kathleen Garnett

Last week the Committee of the Regions organised its fifth EuroPCom conference at the Committee of the Regions on how to communicate Europe to a wider public. With the rise of vocal, populist right-wing parties that tap into people’s fears, never has the need for Brussels to present it’s case been more important. It is estimated the EU has approximately five years, before the next Parliamentary elections, to do so. If it fails there is the risk that the EU’s very legitimacy will begin to crumble and give way to forces that promote fragmentation rather than union, rupture rather than settlement, chasm rather than understanding.

Many within the EU are trying. God knows they are trying. From catchy You Tube style videos, to social media tricks, from glossy brochure, to children’s comic-strip info-pack, from out-reach programmes to all-singing, all-dancing local youth events. Every single aspect of communicating the EU to a wider European audience has been and was analysed. All interesting. All very expensive. All pretty useless. Those tools can best be described as the props. They are not exactly defining the plot. Nor can they act as the foundation on which to build an effective, accurate communications strategy.

The only tool capable of reaching out to a wider European audience is a pan-European press that presents the European, as opposed to the national, perspective.

For the moment, however, the European narrative is being written elsewhere far away from Brussels by largely hostile script-writers and no amount of social media, You Tube videos, glossy brochures, awards and out-reach programmes alone will be capable of communicating Europe to the wider European public audience.

Never underestimate the vital role that an independent and varied press plays in communicating local, regional and global affairs to a wider public. At the moment most Europeans read, listen and watch the news as presented to them by their national media and they have proven time and again that EU affairs are not their priority.

Worse than blanking out or ignoring EU policies is the continual drip, drip of negative and blatantly exaggerated coverage of the EU by writers who are more than happy to write a hostile narrative. Those controlling the plot portray the EU as the villain – either an egocentric, power-hungry, corrupter of national sovereignty; a bureaucratic tormentor intent on destroying national values or as a petty autocrat imposing tangled diktats on hard-working member sates.

As long as the good times roll such a narrative is largely ignored and put down to the ranting’s of the loonies that are known to inhabit the shadowy swamps of the periphery. By and large the EU is viewed, as an engine for growth, prosperity and peace. Although little understood most Europeans view the EU positively at best, with indifference at worst. Yet years of unchecked snipping from the side-lines by bored journalists, ignorant of EU affairs have slowly but surely begun to tilt the balance. It is their narrative that is creating an opening for the loonies to migrate out of the shadows and colonise the mainstream.

One need look no further than the announcement yesterday by UKIP that it is forming an alliance with a party that denies the holocaust and promotes wife bashing to realise how mainstream the loony views of UKIP have become. The sad reality is that far too many in the UK have become so brain-washed by the constant stream of negative coverage they are now more prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to a Polish holocaust denier than they are the EU. Something is very flawed indeed when UKIP can ally itself with such extreme views and still hope to win thirty seats in Westminster.

For too long the EU has allowed the narrative to be written by editors who have stated, in public, they oppose the EU. Unless a pan-European media is developed to act as a counter-balance to such hostile positions it will be the national media that will shape how Europeans perceive the EU not those in the driving seat. This is problematic. It is the script-writer who has the power to decide the fate of the protagonists. Does the EU really want its fate to be written by an openly antagonistic media?

Yet, the development of a thriving, well written, newsworthy, independent pan-European press to counter-balance the views of the national media was barely touched upon at the conference. When it was, it was dismissed as too expensive, unprofitable, impossible to realise and too politically sensitive to organise. Past failures were cited as evidence that a pan-European media is economically unviable.

Over and again it was said that the promotion of a pan-European media could be construed as EU propaganda. To which euperspectives replies why such timidity? Has Brussels become so brow-beaten and bullied by the snarlings of the euro sceptics that they actually believe there is any merit to such an argument?

In the free world it is vital that news is presented from a variety of sources capable of expressing their own interpretations of world events. In the UK, The Guardian is a left-leaning paper whilst The Times leans to the right. The Mirror panders to Labour voters. The Daily Mail to UKIP. Few question the legitimacy of this approach. As far as the EU is concerned the only voice being heard is that of the national perspective, which is why there is such an imbalance in the reporting of EU affairs.

The EU has but a few years in which to rethink its communication policy. Now is the time for it to seize the initiative and develop a fully functioning, well respected media staffed by experienced journalists and commentators, capable of presenting broad stories that touch a cord with all Europeans. Only in such a way can Europe regain the initiative, write its own narrative from a European perspective and let Europeans decide whether the EU is worth investing in or not based on accurate, informed stories not on half-truths and deception.

Such a project is not only viable, it is the only way to communicate European objectives to a wider audience. Call it propaganda if you will but it you do the EU would only be doing what the national press are already culpable of – no more, no less.


Again and again the same play in Eurozone?

Posted by on 20/10/14

Mr Pierre Moscovici takes office in less than 10 days, after a tumultuous hearing a couple of weeks earlier. During this month, stock markets were shockingly destabilized with distrust over Eurozone to put again into the spotlight. Recent reports unveiled the weaknesses of the German economy, while Britain is heading into the sixth day of protests due to constant income squeezing. In the meantime, the Greek government has declared its will to exit from IMF’s surveillance into its public finances and policy, with international reports focusing on the next day in Greece, after the almost-proclaimed national elections in the first months of 2015. In this respect, it Eurozone recovering?

Paris is in talks with Berlin with reference to the German backing towards the “exceptionality” that French economy should enjoy. As President Hollande wants to increase public debt and escape the threshold of 3% of public deficit agreed under the Stability Pact, the question of equal treatment of all member-states comes again into surface. France’s public debt is now 92% and it is expected to grow and reach almost 97% by the end of 2015. Meanwhile, Spain’s public debt is 94%, Belgium’s 102%, Portugal’s 128%, Italy’s 133%, and Greece’s 170%. From these countries, only Greece is faced with increasing distrust from the markets, with Portugal and Spain having gained significant confidence, and Italy having escaped the turmoil for the moment due to its Presidency in the Council of the European Union. But hard days are coming for Mr Renzi and his government. Nonetheless, all the above member-states have decreasing trends when it comes to public deficit – except for France.

The problem with the exceptionality of France is that it is hard to avoid it. Even if the Commission might call France to make the necessary amendments – i.e. meaning more job and income cuts and possibly higher taxation- it is quite irrelevant for a country with the power and influence of France to push further any austerity policy. What we have seen so far from President Hollande in his tenure in office is a decision-maker that can hardly accommodate his electoral promises a couple of years ago with the ongoing economic reality in Eurozone.

Having this in mind, the following question comes again: as long as Eurozone cannot deal with austerity and stabilize its economies long-term, why EU leaders do not think the opposite way and push for a more flexible monetary policy? ECB’s President Mario Draghi has already pinpointed such a possibility one year ago, at least in the context of a more expansionist policy in the short run, but still we are faced with a mix of restrictive policies that bring Eurozone closer to instability. Again.

The case of France and the expectations from the hardliners in Eurozone can certainly give us the lesson we did not learn these four years. In 2010 and in 2012 Eurozone had to deal with increased distrust from the markets, with Portugal, Spain, and Greece swept down to tough monitoring and in need of bailing-out. Now, in 2014, we risk to watch again the same scene and a really exhausting play for the people of Europe and the young generation. If we are to avoid another flash-back, the European Commission should revisit the normative approach of the Stability Pact and relax any measures taken or agreed. It might be time for more inflationary policies and less austerity, at last.

Seven reasons we love Slovenia’s new Commission nominee Violeta Bulc

Posted by on 16/10/14
By Open Europe Violeta Bulc, Slovenia's new Commissioner-designate, will be grilled by MEPs on her suitability for the Transport portfolio, next Monday. Here's our 7 reasons why she might shake up the Brussels bubble.

Slovenia tries again

Posted by on 16/10/14

Some Europeans are deeply respectful of European institutions and serious about the jobs of the persons that lead it. It is a valuable project that brought peace, prosperity and democracy to the continent. It deserves full support. On the other hand, the Slovenian center-left was cheering to the song that refrains “Europe is a gang of thieves”. Somewhere in between these two understandings is the second nomination for the member of the European Commission from Slovenia.

Not serious

Ms. Bulc has had a political job for a few weeks only. She has zero political experience. She has never been involved in policy-making. However, Slovenia is a country of political opportunity. For some. After a poor performance of the center-left government of MS. Bratušek, the voters this summer did not give a chance to the opposition. Instead they awarded Mr. Cerar, a center-left “non-politician”, with a landslide victory. The current prime minister was never leading anything bigger than a chair at a University. He set up his party a few weeks before the elections. He now leads the country. The uneven political playing field in Slovenia makes this possible.

Why, then, could not an absolute beginner lead a portfolio in the European Commission? The decision to nominate Ms. Bulc could be interpreted as an indicator of a shallow talent base of the Cerar’s party and a result of poor understanding of the seriousness of the European project. Which I believe is the case.

However, it could also be interpreted as a sign of contempt and disrespect: as if being a Commissioner is a job that does not require any experience. As if just about anyone who did some public speaking could do it.

It is worth remembering that in August, when his opinion did not matter much, Mr. Cerar said he was supporting Mr. Potocnik; then Ms. Fajon and Mr. Erjavec. Now that his opinion matters, he pushes his party loyal Ms. Bulc through the process. Though even in the government there were 7 votes against her, 6 in favor and 2 abstained. But technically not a majority against.

Mr. Cerar won the national elections on the ticket of morality and ethics. He is becoming a politician fast. Sadly Ms. Romana Jordan, two time MEP, PhD in nuclear physics and a respected member of ITRE was never seriously considered in Slovenia though she could excel in an energy, industry or science related portfolio.

The sacred feminine

The second controversy that is accompanying Ms. Bulc’s nomination is her track record in the occult, in shamanism, in walking on fire, whispering to horses, annulling the second law of thermodynamics. The list of readings and links on her website is long and mind-boggling.

If she is appointed a European Commissioner she could inspire the next Dan Brown’s novel. On how the sacred feminine energy, symbolized by the Zeus’s mistress Europa is returning to the center stage of Europe. Yes, the novel would take place in Brussels, not Vatican, Florence and Istanbul. Perhaps there are some some underground corridors between Justus Lipsius and Barleymont for Prof. Langdon to navigate.

On a more serious note, I actually think Ms. Bulc’s appointment (a few weeks ago) into the Slovenian government – to a position similar to mine in 2007-2008 – was not a bad idea. At a non-portfolio post she could not do much damage but could bring some out of the box thinking to the government table. Which can be valuable.

The way I understand Ms. Bulc’s consulting, it is about making businesses more creative and innovative. Without going too deep into the theory and psychology of creativity, being creative means finding a solution, which as outside of the set of obvious solutions that a mind limited with rationality could come across. The mumbo-jumbo that she preaches could be a way to “overload” the rational brain and, with the shields of common sense and reason weakened, allow for “out of the box” ideas to emerge – in business, design, anywhere.

I do not know if she really believes in the unscientific quackery that she lectures about or is just selling that snake oil to (naïve) business customers to help them be more innovative and creative. If it is the second, Brussels could certainly use an occasional departure from the politically correct but often void phrases that dominate the bubble.

She will make it

The problem is the thin line between the irrational and the creative. If she can persuade Mr. Juncker and the MEPs that she can walk it, she will do just fine at the hearings. After all, it would be disrespectful and un-European to dismiss a second Slovenian in a row.

There might even be sympathy for her beliefs in the parliament. In the West the appreciation of shamanism, African cults, conversations with horses etc. is regarded open, tolerant and multicultural. She would be in much greater trouble had her blogs be about the visions of Archangel Gabriel instead of pseudo-scientific equations; and conversations with Virgin Mary instead of with the spirits of horses.

Commissioners were dismissed for less. In the European Parliament it is more dangerous to be a strict catholic (such as Mr. Buttiglione) than a shaman. It is worth noting that we are speaking about European and not African Union.

Personally I am sorry that Slovenia was unable to look beyond petty party interests in the nomination of its Commission candidates. Ms. Bulc is not the best choice but has broad horizons, is intelligent and will hopefully learn fast.

The lesson

What Europe should learn from the saga with the Commission member from Slovenia (and a few others) is, that the Commission construction process is dysfunctional. The president of the Commission should simply have more to say on who he/she wants on his team. Parliamentary rejection also should not be such an exception. After all, the success or failure of the Commission is not the responsibility of the member states. It is the responsibility of president of the Commission and, to some extent, of the Parliament. Powers, formal and grabbed, should be compatible with that.

Welcome and Good Luck Mogherini

Posted by on 13/10/14

It was not long time ago when Federica Mogherini took office in Rome as the Foreign Affairs minister, and soon after she found herself to be the “chosen one” to cover a role as tricky as scorching in Mr Juncker’s “team” – as the incoming resident of the Berlaymont building rather calls the Junker Commission. Her former “chief” moved fast from being mayor of Florence in to take over the role of Italian Prime Minister, as well her career has markedly speeded up when she has been appointed to lead the EU external relations system, not only Italian foreign affairs.

 Italian FM Mogherini attends EU parliament hearingShe has been picked out of a bunch of overqualified names to make the difference. And indeed she differs from the old-fashioned attitude to appoint to the role of Commissioners “dinos politicians” on the edge of the retirement after a long honoured national career. The EP has loaded on her shoulder huge weights, made of great expectation and big tasks. Although this time, from great responsibility does not subsequently come great powers. Overcoming national interests in the management of foreign affairs may be her mandate’s first snag. One of her main claim during the EP hearing on Monday 8th October was to bear in mind that EU interests shall match national interests. It is the time to think big, and to act subsequently, as she answered to the question arisen by ECR group EPM, Tannock.

 Mogherini’s recent past in the national politics has endowed her with the classical taste for mediation and prevention of crisis stemming from the Italian systemic political instability.

It is vital to coordinate and act coherently so to react and counterweight properly threats against EU’s peace and security. In the previous five years, the disconnected actions undertook by 27 actors -then 28 with the Croatian accession- made of the EEAS a second fiddle playing a background melody in the general orchestra. Due to a dangerous mix of national interests and limited legal basis grounding its competences, the EU external service action’s scope has been bordered on a minor set of possible actions.

“Because size DOES matter…”

 Accordingly to this geopolitical assumption, as the time passed by and the EU actual shape outlined, its role has been fixed into a picture showing an economic giant with a weak political punch. Globally speaking indeed, this fragmentation has leaded the EU to be considered a significant actor within regional striking distance. Maybe, the day has come for the UE to counterbalance other global powers and gain the political shine that deserves at international level.

Shared goals and team-working shall involve not only the 28 Member States, but also the EU as a whole, getting rid of the dualistic dialectic of “us and them”, that apparently has been separating the work of the EU institutions for too long. As her sentence “there is no us and them” proves this assumption as well as gave the ground to the claim that all EU’s policies and Commissioners’ portfolio are somehow interconnected having at certain extend an external impact—such policies related to energy, migration, trade, respect of human dignity, recognition of the rule of law. Nonetheless, from a legal point of view, this holistic approach looking at the external and internal security related policy as a unicum, may find the opposition of the art.40 TUE (1).

 Miss Mogherini mentioned several times during the hearings that the EU plants its roots in a set of shared values and founds itself on the respect of the international law principles.

Actually, she sounded to experts and to part of the MEP hawkish when she had to answer the questions addressing her on the Russian territorial aggression against Ukraine (2).

 Some analysts argued that her position was more direct and the message easily intelligible this time to openly get rid of the alleged label of “fellow of Moscow” stuck on her brow due to her early reactions to the break of violence in Ukraine. Nevertheless her smooth reaction at that time was respondent to the Italian strategy, cautious to maintain good diplomatic relations with Moscow in the name of political realism and economic interests. Additionally, the Russian Federation is an essential interlocutor from the wider perspective of the enlarged Middle-Eastern chessboard, particularly for the relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria.

 At this time, no holds barred if the counterpart begs to differ from the European undisputable principle of respect of the rule of law, as pointed out by Lady PESC, the “Signora” forced to recklessly dance at a winter ball with the Russian Bear (3).

 Her answered to the number of questions raised by the MEPs last Monday drawing up her receipt to the lack of prompt solutions and ability to act in the event of a crisis. Particularly, the question asked by the British S&D MEP Howitt, addressed the designated HR on which attitude she deemed valuable to face the Russian Federation, and how it would differ from the line drown by her predecessor, the Baroness Ashton. “Europe needs a mix of assertiveness and diplomacy […] the balance would also depend on the reaction of the Russian bear” as she thoughtfully answered, we may expect a steady shift in the EU-Russian Federation relations, or at least until Russian change of groove or, maybe, until the next big international crisis blows off. Mogherini underlined that at the moment the UE cannot consider the Russian Federation as a partner any longer or at least, till they keep up with the violence and territorial occupation in Ukraine. But answering to the question of the Romanian MEP of the EPP group Preda, she clarified that it is not simply all about finding a definition to describe partners, allies and whatsoever, but the concern is embedded on the third States’ behaviour and interest to “get along” with the EU establishment.

 Because crisis are not so kind to queue in front of your door and ask “may I burst into?”:

 Additionally to this diplomatic crisis involving the area of the Eastern partnership, the Mediterranean region has continued to boil during the summer. Besides the breeding grounds of violence already burning in Libya, Syria, Gaza, the self-proclaimed Caliphate leaded by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi started its compelling march launched to conquer territories and minds of the Muslims. Threatening with acts of pure violence and declarations against the “Imperialists”, the self-proclaimed ISIS Caliphate has been the other main geopolitical concern during the consultations. Indeed, this gave the floor to Mogherini to make clear that the EU must develop a marked sensibility to prevent crisis, to be ready to cope with the upcoming situation or, at least, sit the table of talks with a single coherent political view. The comprehensive strategy she claims must turn around a series of remarks she clarified during her audition, namely to activate a multitasking attitude towards the global scenario as a whole.

 Working simultaneously on the dossiers East and South shall be European priority at the present time, because crisis are not so kind to queue before knocking at your doors, they may erupt in the blink of an eye, everywhere, concurrently. By giving a hint of what the “Mogherini’s doctrine” will be, she sketched a series of instruments that the EU, as big payer in Middle East, may use as leverage to become, eventually, a big political player as well.

 Then, in concomitance with the International Gaza donors’ conference in Cairo of October the 12th, her plead has been not to focus merely on the economy and the material re-construction of Gaza, as case study valuable for many other post-war scenarios. What the EU should do, and actually is enabled to do, is to work together with regional actors so to build up political and social frameworks, which the stability and prosperity of the post-crisis scenarios can thrive through.

The designed keystone is the engagement of civil society and political structure towards a fruitful outcome of stability, notwithstanding the role of transnational and regional actors which may enter and alter these structures. From this perspective, it may be easier to appreciate Mogherini’s call to empower and set up solid region-to-region frameworks of debate, so to engage also those Countries of modest international impact. The logical conclusion of her rational political exercise is to fix solutions on the short-term but planning the long-term strategy to settle problems, so to work on their roots. As she underlined in the written answer to questions submitted by MPEs’ in early September, EU policy together with the agreements it has with third parts may positively affect the roots causes of humanitarian disasters, on the top the root causes of displacement.

 Unfortunately, those tools are only symbolic and so they will remain till the day will come and the Global Approach of Migration and all the mobility partnerships affecting the life of migrants and the whole institute of free mobility become effective (4). In addition, the insurgent issue related to the Jihadists return to their Countries of origin shook the EU policy-makers. Especially true for the conservative groups, as the Italian Northern League EMP Borghezio, he urged to search a new pattern to tackle the problems related to this menace. Mogherini’s remarks following the question underlined the need to find solutions to the uprising issue, although stressing that these set of interventions must not upturn the basic and fundamental EU rules on the free movement. In this sense, the need for an integrate approach and inter-bodies enhanced dialogue become a pressing issue. The interconnection of national orders in the European area of freedom, security and justice grants of course the freedom of movement and the common management and respect of individual freedoms and public security. Seen the return on the stage of security as key element of the contemporary States and consequently of the European democracy, to preserve the right balance between freedom and security turns to be a significant challenge to the European policy makers.

Although the focus was obviously on the two on-going crises emerging from the direct European’s neighbourhood, some MPEs’ questions addressed the designed High Representative on other geo-regions such as Asia, Gulf Cooperation Council, MERCOSUR as to launch a new foreign policy mantra that it may read “neighbours of our neighbours, are also our neighbours”.

 The MEP Lunacek of the Group of the Green, enlarged the scope of the interrogation by adding the EU’s prerogative to establish partnership within a legal frame and being assure of the third part respect of the so-called low politics, such as freedom of speech, respect of the human dignity and human rights. Besides, being of extreme importance for the Greens is, of course, the dossier related to the green energy; her question targeted the Azerbaijan, deemed to be the backbone of the energy supply diversification for the EU. Keeping an eye on the upcoming winter, Mogherini stressed once again the necessity to diversify the suppliers States group. Seen the potent leverage owned by the Russian Federation as huge energetic supplier, as well as acquainted with the Mediterranean instability, especially true for Libyan difficulties in producing and exporting gas, our neighbour partners in the South Caucasus may counterbalance the supply part in the energetic value-chain towards Europe (5).

 Additionally, she mentioned at least once the next big issue affecting the EU institutions and public opinion debate, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), referred as “trade is not only an economic but also a strategic instrument”. But it has still to be widely discussed, as the TTIP turned out to be a thorny point in the already extremely knotty point of the EU’s external projection network, as she answer to the legal issue brought up by the Italian MEP Castaldo, EFDD Group. The Transatlantic partnership, as well as the EU partnership with Israel and EU relations with its challenger, the People Republic of China, revealed how complex will be the forthcoming 5 years of work at the Barlaymont building, for the whole Junker Commission.

A mix of human rights-related issues and protectionist concerns flavoured the atmosphere when the audition touched the themes associated to the EU strategy towards Asian Continent. EU’s task should be to convince Asians that Europe is strategically important for them and not vice-versa, as Mogherini said.

 The quiz is over and Mogherini brings home the Jackpot

 Mostly, the committee’s questions addressed very specific geopolitical and strategic issues, covering pretty much every region in the world requiring foreign policy attention, in the present or prospectively in the next future, the Arctic included.

She remarked that none asked of her intentions on how to manage in particular the EEAS-EP relations. Standing article 218 TFUE (6), the EP should be “immediately and fully informed at all stages of the procedure”. Notwithstanding the clear legal base, it never happened since the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon. Hence, she expressed her availability and interest to take part at any committee meeting and to keep the EP constantly posted on the evolution and affairs going on in the EEAS. She appeared calm, charmed the audience and sounded thoughtful without contributing too much in terms of concreteness and substantive policy. Although, an EP hearing is never the place to have an in-depth discussion on policy and where to hear well-structured action plans. Eventually, it was common perception of a person fitted for the role. She set the priorities and prepared the path to be trotted to frame forthcoming five years of actions and decisions.
(Anita Nappo)

(1)  Treaty of Lisbon, art.40 (2)    Mogherini more hawkish on Russia in EP hearing;

  • (3) Federica Mogherini questioned over EU-Russia relations;

(4)    Some questions to the candidate High Representative for external relations (Federica Mogherini)

Further readings:

-        [en] Exchange of Views on the situation in Ukraine, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Gaza

-        [en] Six things we like about Federica Mogherini, the EU’s candidate HRVP

-        [en] Priorities for the Next Legislature: EU external action

Classé dans:Actualités, CITOYENNETE EUROPEENNE, Questions institutionnelles

Cañete commissaire. Quand le Parlement européen renonce à ses prérogatives de contrôle

Posted by on 13/10/14
Guest blog par Virginie Roziere MdPE du Groupe de l’Alliance Progressiste des Socialistes et Démocrates au Parlement européen.   Ce Parlement est-il à la hauteur ? L’Espagnol Miguel Arias Cañete, commissaire désigné à l’Énergie et à l‘Action pour le climat, est mis en cause par plusieurs ONG pour de possibles liens avec l’industrie pétrolière, ce [...]

Dalligate: Barroso to the exit, with a toxic legacy

Posted by on 13/10/14
Guest blog post by Bart Staes and José Bové October 16th will be the sad and second, silent birthday of the day the European Commission president José Manuel Barroso gave in to manipulations of the Tobacco Industry by sacking Commissioner for Public Health, John Dalli. 700.000 Europeans that die every year of smoking in the EU and one sacked European Commissioner is enough.


Posted by on 13/10/14

Es ist mehrfach bewiesen worden: Wenn man die Namen auf Bewerbungen anonymisiert, wählen die Personalverantwortlichen auch diejenigen, die sie ansonsten ablehnen würden. Diese Form von Diskriminierung auf dem Arbeitsmarkt bekommen auch die EU-Kommissar-Kandidaten zu spüren. Die EU-Parlamentarier haben an manchen von ihnen kein gutes Haar gelassen. Doch wenn alle Fragen statt in Anhörungen in anonymisierter Form schriftlich beantwortet würden, gäbe es weit weniger Kritik. Oder sie würde sich gegen ganz andere Kandidaten richten.

Resultat der Anhörungen

Posted by on 13/10/14

Das Resultat der Anhörungen ist, dass die EU-Kommission von Jean-Claude Juncker besser sein wird als die ursprünglich vorgeschlagene Konstellation. Das Europaparlament hat in energischer und zugleich behutsamer Weise von seiner Macht Gebrauch gemacht. Einige EU-Staaten sollten sich daran ein Beispiel nehmen. Spanien hätte eine bessere Regierung, wenn die Minister sich einer solchen Anhörung stellen müsste. Das Verfahren hat allerdings auch seine Schattenseite. Diese besteht in dem Brauch, dass die großen politischen Lager sich gegenseitig erpressen. Die Christdemokraten drohten, den französischen Sozialisten Pierre Moscovici abzulehnen, wenn der konservative Spanier Miguel Arias Cañete zu Fall gebracht würde.

Una nueva Comisión, ¿para una nueva Europa?

Posted by on 13/10/14

La nueva Comisión Europea Juncker 1, sucesora de la Barroso 2, está a escasas semanas de tomar posesión. A partir del 1 de noviembre este órganismo que es una especie de injerto de Ejecutivo y de Legislativo de la UE, cambiará de titulares y deberá enfrentarse a una agenda interna y externa repleta de retos y problemas. El equilibrio inestable diseñado por el veterano político luxemburgués es auténtico encaje de bolillos para contentar a los Estados miembros y las familias políticas que componen desde mayo el nuevo Europarlamento. Pero por si fuera poco, la nueva Comisión por deseo de su presidente tendrá una alta complejidad de interdependencias entre departamentos, lo que obligará a mayores niveles de coordinación por parte de los vicepresidentes, hasta ahora mero apellido de una cartera de contenido específico. Nada de esto debería sorprendernos teniendo en cuenta que a raíz de la plena entrada en vigor del Tratado de Lisboa, se ha producido una auténtico sismo en el terreno de los equilibrios de poder de las instituciones europeas.  La otrara todopoderosa Comisión, en el último período ha perdido su capacidad normativa casi omnímoda a manos de un Parlamento empoderado, que ejerce cada día más su poder de codecisión. Y ante este nuevo reparto de papeles y urgidos por una crisis económica interminable, el Consejo Europeo, el hogar de los jefes de Gobierno, ha apretado el acelerador de la mano firme de la Canciller, Ángela Merkel.

De ahí que Juncker, uno de los políticos europeos con más arrugas en su rostro a base de reuniones comunitarias, haya optado por alambicar los procesos y horizontalizar las decisiones. Prefiere ir más lento, pero más seguro. No en vano es el primer presidente de la Comisión salido de las urnas, pues, a los jefes de Gobierno de los Estados miembros no les quedó más remedio que avalarle como el candidato más votado y, por tanto, el que contaría con mayoría suficiente en el Parlamento. Como tampoco olvida que son los eurodiputados los que pueden cesarle en el cargo a él y a todo el colegio de comisarios. Y una buena representación del grandilocuente poder que pretende ejercer la Eurocámara lo han representado los hearings o exámenes que cada uno de los aspirantes a comisarios han pasado ante las comisiones del Parlamento y si no que se lo digan al español Miguel Arias Cañete obligado a pasar un duro trago al responder a las preguntas de la izquierda europea. Un ejercicio que debería servir para tomar conciencia de la seriedad institucional que rodea a la Unión. Se trata de un caso único en la práctica parlamentaria, hacer pasar a los miembros de un gobierno un exhaustivo control con declaraciones de incompatibilidad previas, de descripción del planteamiento político con que se encara el cargo y un duro repertorio de preguntas ligadas a los curriculas personales y declaraciones realizadas con poco acierto. Es uno de esos ejercicios que debería ayudar a recuperar la credibilidad de la clase política y a tener más fe en conjunto en el proyecto europeo en el que todos estamos embarcados.


Parece, pues, evidente que las instituciones europeas han entrado en un proceso de furiosa competencia por ocupar el espacio que consideran natural. Y las personas que ostentan cargos no resultan intrascendentes en este momento de relevo histórico en Bruselas. El Parlamento lo sigue presidiendo el socialdemócrata alemán Martin Schulz, convencido europeista que sin duda dará imagen a una eurocámara crecida y repleta de eurodiputados con deseo de protagonismo. La Comisión de la mano de un veterano de la política europea,  Jean Claude Juncker, que no terminará sus días de actividad sin pena ni gloria. Y en el Consejo la única incógnita por despejar, la del polaco Donald Tusk, una apuesta descarada de Merkel, sin experiencia internacional y algo lego en idiomas. No se lo han puesto fácil para defender la posición del Consejo ante dos políticos conchabados en llevar adelante el proyecto europeo pese al presidente de Gobierno que le pese. Si el Consejo se duerme ensimismado en sus asuntos y calendarios electorales patrios y la Comisión y el Parlamento deciden pisar el acelerador, podemos encontrarnos con la grata sorpresa de una Europa que cabalgue sola a lomos de comisarios y eurodiputados.

A expensas de la última palabra del Parlamento, la nueva Comisión tendrá siete vicepresidentes, seis además de la Alta Representante de la Unión para Asuntos Exteriores y Política de Seguridad (Federica Mogherini), cada uno de los cuales dirigirá un equipo de proyecto. Dirigirán y coordinarán el trabajo de un determinado número de comisarios cuya composición podrá cambiar en función de las necesidades y de que se desarrollen nuevos proyectos con el paso del tiempo. Estos equipos de proyecto reflejarán las Directrices políticas. He aquí algunos ejemplos de esas composiciones: «Empleo, Crecimiento, Investigación y Competencia», «Mercado único digital» o «Unión de la Energía». Con ello se asegurará una interacción dinámica de todos los miembros de la Comisión, eliminando cotos y abandonando estructuras estáticas. Los vicepresidentes actuarán como auténticos adjuntos del Presidente.

Un Vicepresidente primero (Frans Timmermans) será la mano derecha del Presidente. Por primera vez habrá un comisario consagrado a que haya un programa para legislar mejor, que garantice que cada propuesta de la Comisión sea verdaderamente necesaria, es decir que los objetivos no puedan alcanzarse por los Estados miembros. El Vicepresidente primero desempeñará asimismo una labor de control, defendiendo la Carta de los Derechos Fundamentales y el Estado de Derecho en todas las actividades de la Comisión. La nueva cartera de Mercado Interior, Industria, Iniciativa empresarial y Pymes (encomendada a Elžbieta Bieńkowska) será la sala de máquinas de la economía real. También por primera vez se incluye específicamente a las pequeñas y medianas empresas, la columna vertebral de nuestra economía. La nueva cartera de Asuntos Económicos y Financieros, Fiscalidad y Aduanas (a cuyo frente estará Pierre Moscovici) velará por que las políticas fiscal y aduanera de la Unión sean parte integrante de una Unión Económica y Monetaria profunda y auténtica y contribuyan al buen funcionamiento del marco de la gobernanza económica general de la UE. Se ha creado una cartera de Consumidores importante. La Política de los Consumidores ya no estará repartida entre varias carteras y ocupará un lugar prominente en la de Justicia, Consumidores e Igualdad de Género (Věra Jourová). Como el Presidente electo anunció en el discurso que pronunció ante el Parlamento Europeo el 15 de julio pasado, habrá una cartera específica dedicada a la Migración (atribuida a Dimitris Avramopoulos) que dé prioridad a la elaboración de una nueva política de migración para abordar decididamente la migración irregular y lograr, al mismo tiempo, que Europa sea un destino atractivo para los grandes talentos. Se han reestructurado y racionalizado algunas carteras. En este sentido cabe destacar que se han juntado en una sola Medio Ambiente y Asuntos Marítimos y Pesca (al frente del cual estará Karmenu Vella) con el fin de reflejar la doble lógica del Crecimiento «azul» y «verde»: las políticas de conservación del medio ambiente y del medio marítimo también pueden y deben desempeñar un papel fundamental a la hora de crear empleos, preservar recursos, estimular el crecimiento y fomentar la inversión. Proteger el medio ambiente y mantener nuestra competitividad tienen que ir de la mano, pues en ambos casos de lo que se trata es de que el futuro sea sostenible. Esa misma lógica se ha aplicado al decidir crear una cartera de Acción por el Clima y Política de Energía (encomendada a Miguel Arias Cañete). Reforzar la proporción de las energías renovables no solo es una cuestión que debe abordar una política de cambio climático responsable; también es un imperativo de la política industrial si Europa quiere disponer de energía asequible a medio plazo. Estas dos nuevas carteras contribuirán al equipo del proyecto «Unión de la Energía» dirigido y coordinado por Alenka Bratušek. La cartera de Política Europea de Vecindad y Negociaciones para la Ampliación (confiada a Johannes Hahn), junto con una política de vecindad reforzada, se centra en la continuación de las negociaciones para la ampliación a la par que se reconoce que no habrá nuevas adhesiones a la Unión Europa durante los próximos cinco años, tal como estableció el Presidente electo Juncker en sus Orientaciones políticas. La nueva cartera de Estabilidad Financiera, Servicios Financieros y Unión de los Mercados de Capital (atribuida a Jonathan Hill) centrará los conocimientos técnicos y la responsabilidad en un solo punto, una Dirección General de nueva creación, y garantizará que la Comisión siga estando vigilante y activa en lo que atañe a la aplicación de las nuevas normas de supervisión y liquidación de bancos.

Está claro que nos enfrentamos a un nuevo escenario europeo y que por todos los motivos reseñados estamos ante un nuevo modelo de Comisión, donde no solo han cambiado las personas. Nos queda por saber si ambos, personas y modelo, están a la altura de las circunstancias. La agenda de la UE interna y externa es abrumadora y ha quedado patente que el funcionamiento institucional de la última década ha dejado mucho que desear. De nada valdrá haber acercado el Parlamento a los europeos si los nuevos comisarios no comprenden la alta tarea a la que se enfrentan. Europa necesita esta nueva Comisión para crear una nueva Europa. No son cargos de mero trámite, les corresponde poner a la Unión al galope de la innovación,  defender la imagen de defensa de los derechos humanos en el mundo, ampliar la base de igualdad y equidad de la ciudadanía, recuperar el crédito de la política y, sobre todo, crear empleo en todo el espacio común. Ingente tarea por delante que requiere visión de la misión encomendada. Suerte comisarios porque nos va Europa en ello.


Closed Doors: The ECB’s New Strategy

Posted by on 06/10/14

The draft report of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament over the regulations and powers of the European Central Bank to impose sanctions (EC No 2532/98), issued on September 17, includes a rather ambiguous, to be polite, provision, entitling the ECB to decide whether to publish or not decisions of its board that could jeopardize the stability of the financial markets. In other words, and with reference to bail-out member-states like Greece, the ECB can delay a publication of a certain sanction or administrative pecuniary penalty up to three (3) years after the date on which the decision was taken.

Connecting the provision of this draft with the “embezzled hearing” of the Commissioner-designate Pierre Moscovici last week, we are in front of a double dilemma: either start deliberating on the executive powers of the ECB and the depth of censorship that we might see it implemented in the months to come (i.e. considering the sensitive case of Greece and the fact that the government is not abiding by troika’s budget goals for 2014-15), or re-consider Mr Moscovici’s strategic plan for more austerity, added with sort of misleading information.

The above draft actually diminishes European Parliament’s checks and balances over ECB. On the one hand, it might be beneficial for certain circumstances, especially in a highly fragile economic and financial environment, but on the other hand the concealment of a decision for up to three years is considered a long period that inevitably creates transparency burdens in every possible respect. For member-states with increasing phenomena of corruption, such a delay could also undermine both investors and depositors and distort the credibility of the banking institutions.

From a similar perspective, ECB’s new strategy to increase its powers in such a manner can definitely lower the influence of the political system, and therefore the executive and influencing power of the European Parliament, in a top-down process affecting also the relationship between the banking institutions and the political systems of the member-states. The debate is crucial for the future of decision-making as well, as the “forced” stability of the banking system in the European Union can alter the current democratic model of policy-making and turn the markets literally dependent to selective information.

For the time being, the governing parties of Greece and of other fractious economies like Spain and Italy that implement austerity measures can only benefit from such a development.

Oettinger aura t-il convaincu les députés européens sur ses compétences en matière d’économie et de société digitale ?

Posted by on 06/10/14

Ce lundi 29 septembre 2014, Günther Oettinger, ancien commissaire à l’Energie, a été auditionné par le Parlement européen, afin de vérifier ses compétences pour assurer le poste de commissaire à la société et l’économie digitale.

 oet3h de questions-réponses entre les députés européens et Oettinger, ont permis ainsi de tester ces connaissances en la matière ainsi que d’éclaircir certains points concernant l’orientation politique de celui ci compte tenu de la lettre de mission qui lui a été assigné par le président de la Commission Jean-Claude Juncker.

 Oettinger a été questionné sur de nombreuses questions, par les groupes politiques ainsi que les députés des commissions de la culture et de l’éducation (CULT ), de l’industrie, de la recherche et de l’énergie (ITRE ), ainsi que par la commission des libertés civiles, de la justice et des affaires intérieures (LIBE ), la commission du marché intérieur et de la protection des consommateurs (IMCO ) et la commission des affaires juridiques (JURI ).

 Les questions très variées auront permis de connaître les positions de Günther Oettinger sur les infrastructures à mettre en place, les droits découlant de la société numérique, droit à l’oubli, protection des données, droit d’auteur, mais aussi des questions touchant au secteur de la culture, de l’éducation.

 Les infrastructures :

 Tout comme en matière d’énergie, Oettinger, considère que l’infrastructure est essentielle pour l’exécution du portefeuille concernant la société et l’économie digitale.


Oettinger a donc mis l’accent sur la nécessité de développer et investir dans les infrastructures numériques en Europe. Le marché numérique représente un potentiel de croissance et d’emploi en Europe, et c’est pourquoi la mise en place d’un marché unique en matière du numérique doit être une priorité pour les cinq années à venir. L’europe doit se placer comme pionnier mondial en matière de TIC et pour cela elle ne peut pas se permettre un retard en matière d’infrastructure. Oettinger a ainsi souligné que la recherche et l’innovation doivent être favorisé par le biais d’investissement privés et publics. Qu’il travaillerait dans ce sens afin que les investissements puissent être encouragés tant au niveau des États, que des fonds privés et européens.

 La défragmentation du marché du digital :

 Suite aux différentes questions posées par les députés, Oettinger a insisté sur la réalisation d’un marché unique européen du numérique. Ce marché unique du numérique devrait permettre de connecter toutes les régions européennes qu’elles soient rurales ou non. La défragmentation du marché du digital, ne pourra passer que par une européanisation de la politique lui afférant. Des efforts devront être menés notamment en matière d’investissement privé ou public, pour qu’il n’y ait plus d’inégalité entre les pays riches et les pays pauvres de l’UE, mais aussi entre les différentes européennes, qu’elles soient rurales ou plus urbaines.

La 5G doit constituer l’avenir pour l’Europe et Oettinger a souligné que l’Europe devrait être pionnière en la matière. Le marché unique en matière de numérique devra s’appuyer à la fois sur les entreprises globales ainsi que les start-ups. Les start-ups doivent selon lui faire l’objet d’une attention particulière car elles sont porteuses de l’innovation. D’autre part il a souligné qu’une idée qui échouerait aujourd’hui pourrait prospérer demain.

 Le droit d’auteur :

Oettinger s’est engagé à proposer une nouvelle législation en matière de droit d’auteur d’ici deux ans. Il est conscient que le droit d’auteur doit être rénové car « celui ci n’est plus adapté au monde actuel, c’est à dire au numérique ».

Selon lui « il serait bon que tous les citoyens aient accès aux produits culturels mais on ne peut pas vivre uniquement des œuvres passées ». Pour cela il faut renforcer la protection des artistes et de leurs œuvres. Ce n’est qu’à partir d’une bonne protection de leurs œuvres que l’on pourra et stimuler la créativité et l’innovation.

Le marché du numérique présente de réels avantage mais la protection doit aussi être assurée afin « que les créateurs de contenus voient leur potentiel de créativité libéré».

 Le député allemand du groupe de S&D, Dietmar KÖSTER, a interrogé Oettinger sur ses intentions pour établir « l’équilibre entre le marché et la réglementation pour favoriser la croissance et l’emploi dans la créativité ». Oettinger a répondu qu’un travail de deux ans devrait permettre d’aboutir à une solution dans ce sens.

 Un livre blanc en matière de droit d’auteur était prévu pour septembre 2014, mais a été reporté, nous devrons donc attendre pour en savoir plus…

 La protection des données :

 Le Parlement travaille depuis plusieurs années sur la réforme de la protection des données à caractère personnel. Rien d’étonnant que les députés européens aient, à plusieurs reprises, soulevé ce point afin de vérifier les intentions du commissaire- candidat pour la société et l’économie numérique.

Oettinger a affirmait que le développement du numérique dépend de la confiance des citoyens. Celui ci doit donc être au cœur des préoccupations et notamment concernant la protection de leurs données. Il s’est engagé à relancer le débat avec les acteurs internationaux, que ce soit avec les Etats mais aussi avec les multinationales, telles que Google et Microsoft.

 Alors que personne ne l’attendait sur cette question, il a fait remarquer qu’avec les technologies on ne pouvait pas prévenir tous les risques en donnant comme exemple les stars réclamant la suppression de leurs photos dénudées sur la toile. Il a expliqué que l’on ne pouvait pas protéger la « bêtise des gens » qui publient des photos dénudées sans comprendre que bien souvent cela pouvait découler d’un piratage informatique ou de photos violant la vie privée des gens prises à leurs insu.

 Le droit à l’oubli :

 Le jeune député allemand Sonneborn a demandé à Oettinger quelle était sa position sur le droit à l’oubli en faisant référence à son retrait de permis de conduire datant de 25 ans. Oettinger a répondu avec beaucoup d’ingéniosité en affirmant qu’en « politique, on doit être jugé en fonction de ses succès et ses échecs». Il a ainsi pu détourner la question sur le droit à l’oubli.

La neutralité du web :

 A de nombreuses reprises les députés ont interrogé Oettinger sur la question de la neutralité du web. On peut souligner l’intervention du député vert autrichien, Michel Reimon qui lui a demandé quelle était sa définition de la neutralité du web. Question à laquelle nous sommes restées sans réponse malheureusement.

 Que ce soit concernant le monopole ou l’oligopole de Google, ou concernant le respect de la pluralité linguistique et culture, la neutralité du web constitue une préoccupation majeure pour les députés européens. Ils ont tenté à plusieurs reprises de connaître les intentions de la Commission à ce sujet. Oettinger a cependant affirmé que les « travaux du Parlement trouvent une résonance en lui » et qu’il ferra tout pour établir une collaboration avec eux à ce sujet.

 Oettinger a défendu sa position en tant que commissaire pour l’économie et la société digitale, passant en revue une grande série de questions, certaines plus sensibles que d’autres. Ancien commissaire, il a valorisé le travail du Parlement européen à plusieurs reprises et s’est prononcé en faveur d’un équilibre et d’un dialogue inter institutionnel.

 Oettinger a fortement été critiqué pour ses compétences en matière numérique par les députés européens, mais il semblerait que Oettinger ai réussi le test d’entrée au collège des commissaires, contrairement à Jourova ou Caňete. Reste encore à suivre l’audition de l’estonien Andrus Ansip affecté au portefeuille du marché unique du digital ce lundi 6 octobre en attendant les délibérations du 8 octobre sur la nomination des commissaires européens.

Marie Anne Guibbert

En savoir plus :

 - Günther Oettinger promet une réforme du droit d’auteur d’ici deux ans – Euractiv – Aline Robert Langue FR -

 - Oettinger’s new digital job raises eyebrows in Berlin – Euractiv- Langue EN –

 - Günther Oettinger, le commissaire européen qui ne défendra pas Jennifer Lawrence – Vincent Glad – Langue FR –

 - Auditions Günther Oettinger – Europarl – Langue FR

Question and answer session, Günther Oettinger – Member designate of the EC in charge of Digital Economy and Society   – Langue INT, EN, FR, DE, IT, ES, EL, PT, NL, DA, FI, SV, CS, ET, LV, LT, HU, MT, PL, SK, SL, BG, RO, HR –

- Clossing statement, Günther Oettinger – Member designate of the EC in charge of Digital Economy and Society   – Langue INT, EN, FR, DE, IT, ES, EL, PT, NL, DA, FI, SV, CS, ET, LV – LT, HU, MT, PL, SK, SL, BG, RO, HR –


Classé dans:d'expression, de religion, Droit à l'information, Droit à la liberté et à la sûreté, DROITS FONDAMENTAUX, Egalité hommes-femmes, Liberté d'expression, Liberté de pensée, Lutte contre la criminalit_é, Protection des données personnelles

Let’s all play a part in securing the EU cyber future

Posted by on 06/10/14

The opportunities that digital technologies offer to our society are countless. More and more devices that we use on a daily basis – phones, computers, tablets, cars or fridges – are or will be connected. The Internet is not only used as an unlimited source of information anymore but it is at the centre of our lives. We are truly living in an application economy where apps are driving new business models, creating jobs and enabling innovative new services. We use our devices to listen to music, to shop, to access bank accounts or to store data. We are living in an economy that is digital. But as the industry keeps innovating, the cyber threats keep evolving.

The importance of awareness raising has now been acknowledged for some years in the European Union. The Cybersecurity Awareness Month in October is supported by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) and the European Commission. It aims at promoting awareness about cyber security among citizens and enterprises, providing information through education and sharing good practices. “Being aware” constitutes a crucial step in ensuring that citizens can be fully empowered by the tools that today’s and tomorrow’s innovative technology offers them.

This year again, we will play our part in the ECSM. DIGITALEUROPE is organising an educational workshop, hosted by Member of the European Parliament Pilar del Castillo, a leader within the European Parliament on digital. We will use this opportunity to outline what is happening, what the industry is doing to protect products and services, how industry and government respond when an incident occurs and our overall cooperation. It will also include a speaker from ENISA.

Cybersecurity is often regarded as an issue for organisations, rather than individuals. But while the involvement of governments and industry are of utmost importance to fight cyber threats, cybersecurity should be a concern for us all.

That is also why in addition to the workshop, DIGITALEUROPE’s members are raising awareness inside their own organisations and hosting external events.

Let’s use this month’s opportunity to raise awareness, but particularly to reinforce the fact that citizens have a critical part to play in ensuring we have a safe and secure online environment.


Clearing the Air on Transparency Decisions, and on Industry Demands to the Juncker Commission

Posted by on 05/10/14

At the Ombudsman’s recent conference two points were made that seem to contradict things I’ve said here. It is nice to have a blog to answer back.

I said that the Commission had the final say on EMA’s transparency policy (Article 80 of Regulation (EC) No 726/2004 ). I was immediately contradicted by a member of the EMA, who said that the EMA Board took the final decision “with the agreement of the Commission”. Two members of DG Sanco (at least for the present) made the same point in conversation later. Here is my answer, which is based on the correspondence between EMA and Commission, as released by the Ombudsman. In each case I give the relevant page number in the (171 page) pdf document that you can download from here:

Seven weeks after the end of the public consultation on transparency last year, the EMA presented to the Commission a detailed report of the 27 main industry objections to the proposed transparency policy – under the headings of Patient Confidentiality (6 objections), Clinical Trials Format (3), Rules of Engagement (7), Analysis of Results (4), and Legal Aspects (7) – pages 15-29. This seems to have been before the same material was sent to the EMA Board.

At the EMA Board meeting in December, the representative of DG Sanco said that other commission DGs would be affected by the proposal and should be consulted – page 36

At the Board meeting in March 2014, the Commission said that some other parameters should be evaluated “such as interaction with the TRIPS Agreement and the European patent system” – page 93.

On 20-23rd May the draft policy was discussed in detail with DG Sanco – page 127.

On 28th May Dr Rasi wrote to Director General of DG Sanco requesting the Commission’s agreement to the draft new transparency policy that was to be submitted to the EMA Board – page 146.

The draft transparency policy was discussed again in a meeting in June 2014 between the EMA and DGs Sanco, Enterprise (three representatives), Trade, Research and the Legal Service – page 165.

DG Sanco wrote back on 11th June giving their agreement, subject to certain amendments and conditions – page 169.

To claim that the Board takes the final decision is formally, bureaucratically, pedantically correct but, in the real world, wrong.

Also at the Ombudsman’s conference, the Director General of EFPIA said that the industry association had not requested the transfer of responsibilities for medicines to DG Enterprise or any specific DG. Talking to me later, he said that they had asked that the three Commission units dealing with medicines should be brought together into one, but had never specified into which DG they should be put.

So, where did the industry expect the new medicines unit to end up – in DG Fish? In fact they clearly did not have to specify which DG they had in mind.

The industry clearly asked the new Commission to put together the unit dealing with medicines and medicines safety and the unit charged with promoting the pharmaceutical industry. This is exactly what the entire health sector opposes. No one unit or DG should have responsibility for medicines safety/transparency AND responsibility for strengthening the European pharmaceutical industry. Member states do not normally assign responsibility for medicines to the industry ministry and this should not be done at EU level either. END

Juncker bitten by the hand that fed him

Posted by on 05/10/14
Juncker and Schulz in happier times...
The letter from European Parliament (EP) President Martin Schulz to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has now been published in full and contains an extensive list of questions for the UK’s Lord Hill, the Czech Republic’s Vera Jourová and Hungary’s Tibor Navracsics who have all been invited back for some form of second hearing early next week (whether or not these will be ‘full public hearings’ again remains to be seen).

While the EP is certainly entitled to ask questions and has a role to play in the vetting process, we think the whole situation is getting a bit out of hand and that the Commissioner-designates are being set an almost impossible task. Let us outline a few reasons why.
1) Politicians expected to have the knowledge of technocrats. The EP was the driving force behind increasing the politicisation of the Commission, mostly through the Spitzenkandidaten process. With a more political Commission those inside will ultimately be more politicised, as will decision making. Nearly all the candidates are politicians with little technical experience. However, the EP is subjecting them to a level of scrutiny which no national incoming minister would be expected to pass on a brief they have in most cases never overseen. They seem more akin to the hearings a new central banker would face – the arch technocrats.

At the same however, MEPs are very intolerant of any Commissioners holding – as they see it – the ‘wrong’ political views meaning nominees have to tread a tightrope and try to appease a range of competing interests, e.g. promoting trade while protecting social standards, maintaining budgetary discipline while allowing for ‘flexibility’, or cutting energy costs while pursing green policies. This has led to accusations of a lack of coherence on the part of some Commissioners. This confusion over the Commission’s role is largely of the EP’s own making and sets an almost impossible task for the candidates.

2) Trying to force Commissioners to commit to policies ex-ante. This is simply a bad way to make policy. Sure, the candidates should outline key priorities and ideas, however, asking them whether they will or won’t pursue numerous policy proposals or will rule out certain actions over their entire five-year term seems to be overstepping the mark. Ultimately, the proposals the Commission will take forward are the result of a combined decision with the EP and member states and will be subject to economic and political circumstance.

3) The EP has a legislative role in trialogue negotiations, not in these hearings. Following on from the above point, the EP does not have a right to try to restrict the policy options of the Commission ex-ante. The EP has a role in the trialogue negotiations around legislation and can influence and change Commission proposals there. It should not double up this role by trying to tie the hands of new Commissioners by forcing them to take a policy stance before they have even had a chance to get an overview of their brief.

4) Hearings caught up in political games. There is no doubt that the hearings have become embroiled in political games, mostly between the centre right EPP and centre left S&D. While political trade-offs and negotiations are expected, these should not spill over into the public hearings and hamper the assessment of the competence of Commissioners.

5) Judging Commissioners on different and conflicting criteria. It is also obvious that there is no clear consensus on what basis to judge Commissioners. Some have been opposed on the basis of political allegiances, some on the basis of their nationality and some on their experience/knowledge (or a mix of the above). This picking and choosing of criteria once again undermines the process and makes it impossible for the Commissioners to know on what level they are being assessed. This has led to attempts to try to please everyone further worsening the scrutiny process.
The Commission has always been about a balance between political and technical expertise – it both proposes laws and is responsible for upholding them. There are legitimate questions that can be asked about potential conflicts of interest and a basic grasp of the policy issues at hand nut the EP has hugely overstepped the mark by seeking to pin down Commissioners to particular political agendas.

The Spitzenkandidaten process was all about establishing greater political control over the Commission’s agenda (as we warned). The great mistake that EU leaders made over the appointment of Juncker (we’re not talking about Juncker himself, but giving into the EP over the process) has clearly had the effect of emboldening MEPs further. The Commission – and now the nominees – are the piggy in the middle in the increasingly fraught power battle between national governments and the EP. Throw in a large dose of intra-EP politicking and individual egos, and it is a recipe for chaos and one that is likely to further distance the EU institutions from electorates across Europe, particularly if the EP makes the running despite itself hardly securing a vote of confidence in May’s elections.