Tuesday 16 September 2014

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The EU is governed by seven institutions: the European Parliament, the European Council, the Council of the European Union (the Council); the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank and the Court of Auditors.


Jean-Claude Juncker unveils his new European Commission, and it’s good news for Britain

Posted by on 10/09/14

Whitehouse Consultancy Political Consultant Alessandro Fusco provides an analysis of the new European Commission unveiled yesterday in Brussels by President Jean-Claude Juncker.

To read Alessandro’s article, please click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies.

With Tusk, Poland has reached a tipping point

Posted by on 09/09/14
By Adam Czyzewski As of this May, Poland has been a member of the European Union for 10 years. Our membership in the EU has already brought us tangible economic, social and political benefits. A clear testament to the latter is PM Donald Tusk’s appointment as the President of the European Council, which is not only a great personal success of the Prime Minister and of Poland’s economic policy, but also a tremendous diplomatic accomplishment.

New book: Next Europe

Posted by on 01/09/14

Next Europe – How the EU can survive in a world of tectonic shifts

After many months of interviewing, research and writing, I am happy to announce the launch of my fourth book: Next Europe.

It is already downloadable from Amazon, the Apple StoreGoogle BooksKobo BooksBruna and Smashwords. Other ebook stores will follow soon. 

Next Europe cover


The EU is in deep trouble. As the eurozone crisis keeps raging on, the European dream lies shattered on the ground. Euroscepticism and nationalism are on the rise, tens of millions are unemployed, Great Britain is heading for the exit door, while Russia flexes its muscles and the Middle East burns.

Is there any hopeful future for the European Union? Are we going to lose the race with the BRICS? Will Europeans ever truly engage with the EU institutes in Brussels?

Next Europe gives some compelling answers to the big questions of our time. EU Watcher Joop Hazenberg, a young Dutch writer who has been based in Brussels since early 2013, takes the reader on a venture across the globe to gain insight into the position of Europe in the 21st century.

His findings are surprising. The old continent is stronger and richer than we are inclined to think. Though the EU is in a mess, so is the rest of the world. Many of the rising giants will stumble and may even fall before they can do Europe harm. But it is also true that we are no longer the coolest dudes on the planet and that new (and old) dangers threaten our security and well-being.

Based on extensive research and interviews with leading experts, Next Europe soothes the unease that looms over our future. Joop Hazenberg also formulates a bold and strong agenda for reform of the EU. If we want to survive the coming age of uncertainty and tectonic shifts, then the European Union needs a restart. Not only in Brussels, but also in the capillaries of our society.

By acting now, Europe could become, once again, a leading continent. Next Europe is the starting point for a better understanding of our world, whether you are a student, Commission bureaucrat, a voter for UKIP or a Chinese businessman.

Praise for Next Europe

‘A spirited and courageous work’ – Jonathan Holslag, Professor of International Politics at the Free University in Brussels

‘Joop Hazenberg is a young thinker with the wisdom to realise that Europe has taken a wrong turn and the courage to want to change things’ – Philippe Legrain, author of European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess and How to Put Them Right

Launch details

The official launch is in Brussels on Monday 22 September. I will hand over the ‘first copy’ to Constantijn van Oranje-Nassau, Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Kroes.

If you want to know more about the programme of the presentation or attending, please contact me.

I am also available for (media) interviews, lectures and panels.


Angela Merkel believed in the EU Primary elections – and won!

Posted by on 28/08/14
Recently Jean-Claude Juncker was officially elected President of the European Commission. One year before the European Elections were scheduled, even the most fanatical federalist did not believe that the Primaries could really nominate the EU chief executive. It’s paradoxical, but even after the European elections of 25 May 2014, chances were over 50% for the [...]

The European Ombudsman needs to protect whistleblowers in EU

Posted by on 04/08/14

Last week the European Ombudsman announced that it had launched an inquiry into the internal rules for whistleblowing which the EU institutions are required to adopt as of 1 January 2014. While this might be seen as good example of the Ombudsman’s own-initiative investigations, the inquiry is limited in scope and misses the Ombudsman’s own role in whistleblowing protection.

Whistleblowing is usually defined as unauthorised disclosure or reporting of corporate information to people and media outside the organisation (external disclosure). Whistleblowing, however, can also take place inside the organisation when for example an employee reports to his manager that wrong-doing or malpractice has occurred (internal disclosure).

It has been a hot topic in the European Commission since 1999 when 20 commissioners were forced to resign following the disclosure of irregularities. A single person, Paul van Buitenen, “blowed the whistle” and alarmed the European Parliament, which in its turn expressed its non-confidence in the entire College of Commissioners.

Buitenen was later elected to the European Parliament. He has described and justified his whistleblowing in a book: “Blowing the whistle – one man’s fight against fraud in the European Commission”. His whistleblowing was effective but he and his family paid a price in terms of personal suffering and economic uncertainty.

Following this incident, the Commission adopted new rules in the internal staff regulations. An official shall not suffer any “prejudicial effects” on the part of the institution as a result of having communicated information concerning “possible illegal activity, incl. fraud or corruption”, provided that he acted “reasonably and honestly”.

However, this doesn’t apply to information disclosed to the official in the course of proceedings in legal cases, whether pending or closed. It’s also obvious from the rules that the Commission prefers internal disclosure.

Protection isn’t guaranteed if an official discloses information even to the European Parliament or the European Court of Auditors without previously having disclosed it to OLAF or to his own institution. That said, the situation is surely better than it used to be when there was no protection whatsoever.

To assess the effectiveness of whistleblowing regulation in the EU one would need to ask some questions. How often does whistleblowing achieve its declared objective of putting an end to wrong-doing? How often does the whistle-blower remain unharmed and protected against replacement, dismissal, or other forms of retaliation by the employer?

When an employee blows the whistle the attention will be drawn to him/herself rather than to the issue that needs to be corrected. A double burden of proof will most often be laid on the whistle-blower – to prove that the allegations are true and that his/she has acted in good faith.

Therefore the odds are heavily against the whistle-blower as the following quotation shows (Glazer, “Whistleblowing”, in Psychology Today, Aug 1986):

“If you have God, the law, the press and the facts on your side, you have a 50 – 50 chance of winning.”
The inquiry by the European Ombudsman will obviously not deal with these questions which are more appropriate for an external audit. The inquiry is limited to the implementation of a new paragraph (22 c) in the staff regulations.

It requires the EU institutions to put in place a procedure for the handling of complaints made by officials concerning the way in which they were treated after or in consequence of whistleblowing. The procedure shall include rules for the “protection of the legitimate interests” of the officials concerned and of their privacy.

Is this enough? The European Ombudsman draws the attention to its own draft decision on internal rules concerning whistleblowing. In this decision the Ombudsperson herself shall protect a whistleblower against any acts of retaliation or reprisal. However, this applies only for the employees in the European Ombudsman institution.

There is a growing awareness that employees, both in the public and private sector, need an external supervisory body to protect them against negative consequences if they have acted in good faith and used accepted and authorised channels for reporting on wrong-doing and irregularities.

Employees should try to avoid whistleblowing for the simple reason that it’s never in their best interest to get entangled in whistleblowing. Nor is it in the interest of employers to receive negative publicity on not having prevented an irregularity. But it would be wishful thinking to think that we live in the best of worlds where no whistleblowing will ever have to happen.

There is definitely a public interest in the protection of employees disclosing criminal offences committed by companies or public bodies, in particular when public funds are involved or when there is a clear danger to health, safety and environment. Such protection can be given by Ombudsman institutions, e.g. by rulings against adverse measures against the whistle-blower.

Whistleblowing protection isn’t only an issue in the EU institutions but even more so in the member states where most corruption occurs. A study in 2012 by Transparency International (“Money, politics, power – corruption risks in Europe”) showed that the vast majority of EU member states haven’t introduced whistle-blower protection legislation.

Legislation, where is exists, reflects a piecemeal approach and is often inadequate. An EU directive on whistleblowing protection legislation might be required.

The best known example of legislation is the Public Interest Disclosure Act (PIDA) in United Kingdom. The act entered into force in 1999 and has been described as one of the world’s broadest whistleblowing laws. On the positive side is also the current discussion in the new network of Ombudsman institutions in the candidate countries to include whistleblowing protection among their tasks.

Vivimos en una Europa incolora, insípida e indolora

Posted by on 27/07/14
Por Jesús González Aire irrespirable para muchos millones de ciudadanos europeos que no creen en la construcción, ni en el proyecto más exitoso de nuestra historia. Estamos entre todos, unos por acción y otros por omisión de no participar en el cambio de rumbo, agotando las opciones de seguir constituyendo el espacio de libertad humana más sólido en el tiempo y en el espacio.

Centennial Commemoration of the First World War

Posted by on 23/07/14

The killing of a man’s nephew triggered an event that changed the course of human civilization in the subsequent decades. It was on June 28, 1914 when a Yugoslav nationalist assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, in Sarajevo.

What followed then was the July Crisis. And on this very day 100 years ago, July 23, the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary issued an ultimatum against Serbia, for they believed that the assassination was concocted by a secret military society consisted of members of the Serbian military. The notion gave the Austrian government the opportunity for them to exert their influential authority over Southeast Europe and suppress nationalist movements.

The ultimatum though was impossible to abide as it threatened Serbia’s sovereignty. It was Austria’s expectation that Serbia would reject the remarkably severe terms of said ultimatum, thus giving it a “legitimate” pretext for declaring war. The Kaiserreich declared war on Serbia five days later, which also implied the declaration of the death warrants of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and three other powerful empires in Europe that time.

It’s vital for us to memorialize the centennial anniversary of the “Great War”. But there is nothing great in war, especially in this one. World War I was one of the deadliest conflicts in human history, one that cost the world €186b and resulted to 20 million senseless deaths, all caused by a few absurd yet essential factors, which include imperialist foreign policies, militarism, sheer nationalism, complex alliances, and domestic crises.

One of those factors still infect world politics today. Nationalism, still a major contributing factor to armed conflicts, continues to stand firm. 19th century nationalism was when great powers of Europe had the desire for dominance and prestige. This shameless and greedy desire for power should be condemned. And I have redundantly condemned the ideology in almost every piece I’ve written in this blog. And it deserves more damnation.

Ongoing civil wars in Africa and the Middle East, the rise of new terror extremists, the recklessness of rising superpowers and their refusal to adhere to international legal and diplomatic principles, the capitalist-consumerist policies that hinder world poverty reduction, and the lack of global progress in addressing climate change are just some of the major challenges our world currently faces. And they are the challenges that will continue to make human civilization suffer if we don’t act.

I realize that the planet is geopolitically divided. Power politics continue to evolve and dominate the current global order but I nevertheless believe that we citizens ultimately have the power to construct the world we want to live in. And we can achieve that by pressuring our governments to promote further enhancements in global governance.

From an EU perspective, the creation of a quasi-political union was the first step in promoting regional organizational integration as a mechanism to change an order to a system where unity of nations prevail over individual sovereign states. It’s time to take the next step. For Europe, it’s time to promote more integration. Not just inside the Union, but also outside, by advocating enhanced regional integration of similar organizations.

A huge step is to also reform the United Nations, starting with the Security Council. Reforming the UN is reforming the current global order. It needs to be adapted to contemporary global sociopolitical realities for it to genuinely fulfill its aim to maintain world peace and prosperity.

Let us learn from history. Let’s not do the same mistake. Nationalism was one of the gross factors that triggered the atrocities of the past century. It’s time for us to contemplate this and rationalize a new approach in changing our ways and our world. Thus, governments should start discouraging militarism and jingoism as it is the only way for human civilization to weaken our warmongering mentality. Warfare must be put to an end before it ends us.



(Political cartoons from Google Images, courtesy of the rightful owners.)



Réformer les Traités ou réformer la Commission ?

Posted by on 22/07/14

 Pourquoi la Commission ? D’abord, elle a concentré les critiques et l’impopularité et son efficacité et sa légitimité ont été mises en causes occultant ses mérites durant toute la crise, perdant de vue que ses pouvoirs ont été renforcés en matière économique et budgétaire. Les principaux enjeux politiques pour réformer la Commission sont faciles à appréhender au moment où commence un nouveau cycle politique avec l’élection du Parlement européen, une nouvelle Commission, un nouveau président du Conseil européen, un nouveau Haut représentant pour les relations extérieurs, un nouveau président pour la zone euro…

Dés lors il est naturel que resurgissent des débats sur les modifications des traités. Il est le fait pour l’essentiel de la société civile qui propose de lancer une « grande » Convention pour réviser les traités, c’est le cas par exemple de la Plateforme Europe+ qui vient de rassembler plusieurs ONG bien connues, des vétérans pour la plupart du militantisme européen. Tous souhaitent un grand débat sur le contenu de l’avenir européen, dans le cadre d’un processus ouvert promouvant démocratie directe et transparence. Il convient de saluer ces initiatives. Mais il convient aussi d’en souligner les limites et de s’interroger sur leur réalisme, pour ne pas parler de leur opportunité. Faut-il rappeler que les élections européennes ont été marquées par une poussée du vote eurosceptique, désormais bien identifiable ce qui cependant a eu le mérite de coaliser les forces pro européennes, largement majoritaires. Le pourcentage des citoyens européens qui ont pris part au vote stagne ((43,09 %) malgré une campagne qui sur la fin a essayé d’insuffler un nouvel intérêt pour les affaires européennes et les encourager à se déplacer pour voter. Cette tentative n’a pas été couronnée d’un franc succès.

La société civile le reconnait : les réseaux de militants doivent être consolidés, la mobilisation demeure un enjeu crucial pour assurer une plus forte pénétration à l’intérieur des Etats, assurer un plus grand rassemblement pour une plus grande visibilité. La société civile européenne reste encore trop faible et trop peu visible pour lui donner une valeur stratégique et l’engager dans la réforme des traités, une opération au demeurant trop abstraite pour la plupart des citoyens. Cette société civile d’avant-garde souhaite l’organisation d’une Convention sur l’avenir de l’Europe, une telle convention a déjà eu lieu de 2001 à 2003 et la société civile y a été formellement associée. Ce fut, il faut le reconnaitre, un échec pour la société civile et Jean-Luc Dehaene, en charge au cours de la Convention de la société civile, a multiplié les critiques sévères à son égard, notamment celles de « technocratique ». A sa suite le Parlement européen, comme chef de file, a organisé trois agora de la société civile : ce ne fut pas convainquant et surtout chacun de ces évènements est resté un « évènement » isolés et sans lendemain. Le fonctionnement de la société civile pour l’Europe est celui d’un oligopole. Enfin se lancer dans une réforme des traités, c’est du pain bénit pour David Cameron comme pour ses successeurs.

Tout cela doit faire réfléchir : la priorité n’est pas de se pencher sur le moteur du véhicule, mais sur le voyage, l’itinéraire et la destination. Trop de mécaniciens et pas assez de pilotes ou de navigateurs. Pourtant ces derniers ne manquent pas : récemment Antonio Vitorino avec Yves Bertoncini a produit un « Réformer la Commission entre efficacité et légitimité » (1) qui mérite une lecture attentive : avec concision et simplicité il est allé à l’essentiel. De longue date il développe une stratégie d’innovation et de sortie du marasme mais largement à Traités constants. Invoquer comme préalable la réforme des Traités revient à se créer un alibi pour ne rien faire, estime-t-il.

Antonio Vitorino fait un petit nombre de constats et retient un petit nombre de grands principes, en eux-mêmes, simples d’un simplicité biblique loin des sophistications des grands institutionnalistes de l’Europe, mais aux conséquences décisives

1.• Les membres de la Commission n’étant pas élus directement, la légitimité de la Commission est nécessairement double : elle repose sur le Conseil européen (un commissaire par État membre, tous dotés du même droit de vote à la différence des Conseils avec ses votes à la majorité pondérée) autant que sur le Parlement européen (dont les membres élisent le président de la Commission et investissent le collège).

• Une application effective du principe de collégialité est nécessaire afin de promouvoir une vision politique large : la taille du collège peut la rendre plus difficile, mais c’est le rôle du président d’oeuvrer en ce sens. Le fait d’avoir un commissaire par État est un fait négatif en soi (ce n’est plus un collège mais une assemblée délibérante diront certains) mais A. Vitorino s’il se résigne à voir ce principe perdurer en propose les antidotes notamment pour éviter d’en faire un Coreper de plus.

Un profil politique marqué des commissaires est déterminant pour le dynamisme de la Commission.

• Les pouvoirs du Parlement européen ont été renforcés par tous les traités successifs, et le Conseil européen est apparu plus légitime en période de crise. Il convient de faire remarquer au passage que les compétences en la matière n’étaient pas toutes inscrites dans le marbre des Traités, la dérive intergouvernementale dénoncée ici ou là en devenait inévitable sans être pour autant être une tendance profonde pour le long terme. En temps « normal », la Commission ne peut qu’être plus influente si elle est bien conduite, y compris grâce à un nouveau collège bénéficiant d’une légitimité renforcée.

2. La légitimité et l’efficacité de la Commission dépendent d’abord du profil de ses membres, dont la sélection revient aux États membres, sous le contrôle du Parlement européen et avec l’habileté et le savoir faire du Président de la Commission : c’est à eux de nommer les bons commissaires aux bons postes. Ces dernières semaines témoignent du rôle grandissant dans cet exercice du Président de la Commission qui n’a d’autres obligations que de prendre en considération les suggestions des Etats membres. Les péripéties de ces derniers jours tendent à démontrer que le temps où un Etat membre pouvait choisir et « nommer » « son » commissaire, au poste qu’il s’est attribué, ce temps est révolu.

• L’organisation interne plus verticale qu’il faut promouvoir au sein du collège devrait découler non seulement des pouvoirs du président en matière d’attributions des responsabilités entre ses membres, mais aussi d’un nouvel usage du statut des 6 vice-présidents, qu’il faut choisir en fonction de leurs poids politique, et de leurs mérites propres et non pour compenser l’étroitesse de leur portefeuille.

• Les président et vice-présidents de la Commission coordonneront l’action des autres commissaires, dont les portefeuilles seront connectés à leurs sept domaines de compétences respectifs, sur la base d’un système de « clusters ».

• Les périmètres et noms précis de ces 7 « clusters » peuvent varier (L’annexe 1 du policy paper de Notre Europe en donne la liste), mais l’enjeu clé est que ces clusters rassemblent des commissaires agissant en fonction des mêmes réalités fonctionnelles et au service des mêmes grands objectifs politiques.

• Le principe de collégialité sera pleinement appliqué et utilisé (discussions politiques ouvertes au lieu d’accords purement formels ou tacites où le respect des procédures l’emporte sur le débat de fond et où les votes sont rares et le consensus la règle dominante).

3. Une possible consolidation légale de ces évolutions fonctionnelles

• Le « règlement intérieur » de la Commission devrait être revu afin de faciliter la mise en place du système de clusters, par exemple en donnant des pouvoirs spécifiques aux vice-présidents et en revoyant les procédures d’habilitation et de délégation.

• Après avoir reçu le pouvoir de se séparer des membres du collège, le président de la Commission devrait être en mesure de nommer lui-même les commissaires : c’est un principe de cohérence. Cette modification des traités renforcerait la probabilité d’avoir les bons commissaires aux bons postes, et donnerait en outre davantage de pouvoirs verticaux au président de la Commission. Une telle évolution est logique, inévitable au terme d’un processus long et progressif comme l’a été la désignation du président de la Commission, mais il n’est pas pour aujourd’hui

A ce stade il apparait clairement que l’objectif premier de la Commission devrait être d’encourager une vision de la Commission qui soit plus politique et globale, plutôt qu’une vision technique et sectorielle comme celle qui a tendance à prévaloir et qui empêche la Commission de jouer le rôle clé qui devrait être le sien par rapport aux États membres et à leurs opinions publiques. Il faut ensuite encourager des évolutions politiques, certes significatives, mais surtout acceptables, pour toutes ces raisons la voie de la Convention n’est sans doute pas, pour l’instant, la voie la plus efficace.

Enfin bien que pas évoqués jusqu’à maintenant, il doit être admis au moins tacitement que la zone euro et l’espace Schengen, ces deux réalisations sont la clé de voûte de l’Union politique.


Au terme de la lecture du texte de « Notre Europe » on est tenté de s’interroger : « quoi !c’est tout ? » Oui, rien de plus pour l’essentiel. Certes tous ces changements humains, organisationnels et légaux seraient complétés par d’autres, en particulier en ce qui concerne la nature et le nombre des accords institutionnels conclus par la Commission et les autres institutions avec au premier plan, la négociation et l’adoption d’un accord interinstitutionnel sur le programme politique de la Commission pour la durée de son mandat (2014-2019). Cette simplicité et cette concision devrait rassurer.

Mais c’est au Conseil et au Parlement à faire preuve de sagesse pour que de bons commissaires soient nommés aux bons postes. Ce qui doit l’emporter c’est la capacité du commissaire de savoir s’appuyer sur l’apport politique inestimable et bien réel qu’apporte son appartenance au collège de la Commission européenne, savoir user de tous les pouvoirs de la Commission (et en particulier de son droit d’initiative) et, enfin, encourager une vision claire et globale des politiques de l’Union européenne et de son avenir. Les commissaires proposés par les États membres devraient également être choisis sur la base de leur contribution potentielle à l’intérêt général de l’Europe, plutôt que pour des raisons de politique intérieure. Au bout du compte c’est le président de la Commission qui est le mieux placé (sa légitimité vient d’être renforcée)pour évaluer les profils des commissaires potentiels répondant au mieux aux besoins concrets de l’institution et de son organisation interne.

Le président de la Commission en viendra, un jour, à nommer naturellement les commissaires et au sein de ce nouveau cadre légal, le président de la Commission pourrait nommer plus facilement les vice-présidents et les commissaires, comme dans n’importe quel gouvernement national. Le président devrait choisir les vice-présidents en respectant les équilibres politiques de l’UE (grands/plus petits États membres et nord/sud/est/ouest en particulier).Les États membres pourraient sans doute accepter une telle hiérarchie politique interne de facto, alors qu’ils sont peu disposés à accepter une hiérarchie de jure comme les négociations en cours et passées le démontrent bien.

Quoi qu’il en soit, même si elles ne sont pas révolutionnaires en ce qui concerne la nature des traités de l’UE et le jeu politique, les propositions fonctionnelles présentées par A. Vitorino et Y. Bertoncini semblent être les seules options possibles et efficaces qui soient susceptibles d’insuffler , immédiatement, à la Commission toute la force nouvelle requise pour contribuer à relever les défis auxquels l’Europe doit faire face aujourd’hui.

(1)    « Réformer la Commission entre efficacité et légitimité » par Antonio Vitorino et Yves Bertoncini Notre Europe-Institut Jacques Delors http://www.notre-europe.eu/media/reformecommissioneuropeenne-bertoncini-vitorino-ne-ijd-juil14.pdf?pdf=ok



Classé dans:Actualités, BREVES

My book: Next Europe

Posted by on 09/07/14
Our blogger Joop Hazenberg joined BlogActiv some nine months ago, kicking off the research for a book on Europe. After many blogposts of his interviews and thoughts on the EU's big questions and challenges, he now launches the finished version of his book 'Next Europe': "The EU is in a serious mid-life crisis and seems to have lost direction."

Italian PM Matteo Renzi to use EU Council presidency to push for less austerity

Posted by on 02/07/14

Can the Italian Leader translate popularity at home into real impact in Europe, asks Whitehouse colleague, Alessandro Fusco.

Italy took over the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on 1st July, following on from Greece. In keeping with the clichés about the inefficiency of Italian public administration, the presidency started with its dedicated website still under construction and important information missing. There was no trace of the programme setting out the priorities of the Italian Government for the next six months, with only a short line informing that this would be published its official presentation on Wednesday 2nd July.

But while much can be said about the generally exasperating slowness of Italian bureaucracy, this time round Italian officials could have some plausible justifications for the apparent delays. Indeed, the centre-left government led by Matteo Renzi, the former Mayor of Florence, was sworn in only at the end of February and immediately embarked on an extremely ambitious programme of reforms which took much up most of the executive’s time during the past four months.

Yet, following the astounding victory of Renzi’s Democratic Party in May’s European elections many within the continental left look at the young leader as someone who might help break the hegemony of austerity ideology championed by Angela Merkel since the start of the economic crisis. This might not be an easy feat, even for a politician sometimes called Il Rottamatore (‘The Scrapper’), but Renzi has sent some strong signals that he intends to use the Italian semester at the helm of the Council to argue for a different approach to economic growth and job creation.

While having repeated in multiple occasions that Italy intends to comply with the 3% deficit target which binds Eurozone Member States as part of the Fiscal Compact, Renzi is keen to talk about introducing more ‘flexibility’ in how the rules are applied by the European Commission. Only a few days ago Sandro Gozi, the man in charge of European Affairs within Renzi’s cabinet office, told Italian radio that the government would push for a substantial change in how economic affairs are dealt with by the Commission after the end of Commissioner Rehn’s mandate.  Rehn has of course been seen as an enforcer of the austerity approach over the last few years and the Italian opposition may make it difficult for his successor, former Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen, to succeed him in the post.

Renzi’s keenness on starting to re-frame the economic agenda on the continent was also reflected in the way in which he played his cards during the negotiations for the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as new President of the Commission. As it was highlighted by British media, the Italian Prime Minister did not explicitly back the Luxembourger politician at first, stressing that agreeing on a programme was more important than agreeing on a name and arguing that there is a need for ‘new faces’. While his stance was hyped by some British media – which were desperately trying to identify an ally for David Cameron in his fight against Juncker – this was an eminently tactical move, which might have already borne fruit. Indeed, Gozi mentioned ‘significant’ advances towards introducing more flexible measures in the mandate for the Commission’s work over the next five years, including the possibility of ‘developing financial instruments for long-term investment projects.’

With the Italian semester only starting and Renzi’s government having to deliver a challenging set of promised reforms in Italy over the next few months, it would be premature to say that the dominant economic approach in Europe is shifting. However, the appointment of Juncker as President of the European Commission might have, paradoxically, signalled a weakening in Merkel’s political dominance – as highlighted by some analysts. According to an Italian pollster, Matteo Renzi currently enjoys a 74% approval rating, only beaten by the Pope among public figures in Italy. But will he be able to translate this popularity into real impact in Europe over the next six months?

Alessandro Fusco is a Political Consultant with top EU public affairs agency, The Whitehouse Consultancy.

An MEP needs to communicate

Posted by on 01/07/14
By Dan Luca An MEP needs to communicate. They cannot hide, or better said: they can no longer hide. Modern technology, as pointed out by the Treaty of Lisbon, makes each of MEPs more visible. It is therefore imperative that an MEP has a sustainable communication strategy, both to the national space (where he/she is elected), but also to the European public sphere (where the majority of the work takes place).

UNBELIEVABLE INCOMPETENCE EUROPEAN SCHOOLS HAVE MESSED UP BAC 2014, same exam, same inspector, same subject, different year

Posted by on 01/07/14

eeb1.com_fichiers_news_fichiers1_1679_2014-06-LD-34 BACC 2014 CHEMISTRY

VP Sefcovic made some commitments to the European Parliament. He said in 2013 ”Concerning European Baccalaureate 2012 exams, the Commission regrets the problems encountered at the mathematics and chemistry exams. The Commission requested a detailed report from the Office of the Secretary-General of the European Schools which was prepared by independent external experts. A number of recommendations were made that will be followed-up closely in order to avoid similar problems in the future.”

Mr Kivinen the Secretary General should be querying his position now 

I have previously told you that for Chemistry no such independent external expert report was prepared, the report is here RIES report i queried whether the Commission had mislead Parliament.

What were the recommendations he refers to?

what was the close follow-up and by whom?

in the light of this how did it happen again?

I expect MEPs will want to here from the Commission yet again.

the latest disastrous news from the school is at the top of this post.

Will the EURSC now admit its fundamental problems

Will the Member States and the Commission now recognise the harm being done to pupils?

Will the Member States and the Commission now redress the lack of any appeal rights or legal accountability of the EURSC

Will EURSC become subject to EU law, instead of being anarchic?


in shock at latest snafu?

oops they did it again!


Juncker’s nomination marks a new era: Thank you, David Cameron!

Posted by on 29/06/14

With Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Union got its first elected major offical. Voter’s will has eventually prevailed over backroom-ism in Brussel, ushering a new era in the unification of Europe. The debate on his nomination in previous weeks turned into an unprecendented common display of democratic will, that might have ultimately sealed this turning point. That expression could quite easily not have taken place, if it wasn’t for one man: Prime Minister David Cameron.

Maybe there has been such a broad discussion on the state of the European democracy in the past. Maybe there has also been a Greek left-wing populist and horror of all conservatives that unyieldingly stood up for Luxembourger christian democrat. Maybe. Anyhow, I (aged 28) have not experienced anything like that before.

The debate with Mr Juncker’s nomination at last would not have been that long, that popular and that intense, if it wasn’t for the constant attacks by the British Prime minister, that turned the debate from “Pro-Juncker vs. Contra-Juncker” quickly into “Juncker vs. Cameron” – a referendum that in contitental Europe is easy to win, even for people less sympathetic than Jean-Claude Juncker.

Furthermore, Mr Cameron unvolontarily helped his opponent to avoid hard efforts at persuasion in the European Parliament with potentially major concessions to other parties that would have hiddered his work as President of the Commission. Without the verbal attacks from London, Mr Juncker would have had way more difficulties to get a majority for his presidency in the EP.

Mr Juncker on the other hand acted very clever in all this, doing the single best thing to do in such circumstances: basically nothing. He barely appeared in public or raised his voice, sticking with the old wisdom that if you sit by the river long enough, you will see the body of your enemy float by.

All he had to do was to lean back and watch a solid majority forming behind him in the face of Mr Cameron’s uncompromising attitude accompanied by numerous insipidnesses by the Britsh Yellow Press. As of today, he can at least count on the support by his own party, the Socialists and Liberals – a sufficient majority that easily secures his election in the Parliament on July 16th.

But what was it that made David Cameron following this counterproductive strategy? Ever since the election on May 25th, the Prime Minister basically had only one ally in this fight, namely his Hungarian equivalent, Viktor Orban. Other sceptics in the European Council like Sweden’s Frederik Reinfeldt and the Netherlands’ Mark Rutte were not such in doubt of Mr Juncker or his credentials as President of the Commission as they were about the new process and the associated power shift among European institutions. But even including these supposed allies it must have been obvious to everybody in Downing Street that they are engaging in a fight, they can barely win.

If, in the face of his inevitable defeat, David Cameron had approached Mr Juncker and his fellowship, he could have gained major concessions for waiving his resistance, namely for his reform efforts or even an influential post in the new Commission.

The fact that he refused to do exactly that and headed for confrontation until the very last minute, even threatening with Brexit and contemplating legal measures, makes plainfully obvious that Mr Cameron in this fight had other things in mind than the future of the European Union or Britian’s role in it.

Mr Cameron lifted his political infights on the domestic front, in his country as well as in his party, up to the European level. He will b up for re-election in 2015 and his vision of Britian’s future in the EU will play a major role in that effort. By fundamentally opposing Mr Juncker, David Cameron hopes for a boost of his popularity and credibility.

If he is able to succeed in these matters, has yet to be seen. The price for all that, however, is extremely high: Today, his country is probably more isolated in the European Union than hardly ever before. He has lost his main partner for EU reform, the German Chancellor. Jean-Claude Juncker, a federalist, becomes President of the Commission. But most of all, Europe has grown to like the sweet taste of a common democracy. It will come to thank David Cameron for his contributions at some point.

This piece first appeared on TheEuropean.de on June 28th (in German). Follow me on Twitter @brnshnwd

New Crisis at European Schools? Rumours are that the Baccalaureate exam mess of 2012 has been repeated.

Posted by on 26/06/14

The European Schools (EURSC) administration appear to surpass themselves yet again.

Having botched the Baccalaureate in 2012, and since then having seen all sorts of commitments to put things right one might expect that things can only get better.

Rumour has it that the 2014 BAC has suffered a fate even worse than that in 2012.

Most likely this is a direct result of the EURSC being an anarchic body, not subject to any normal legal oversight. Amazing though it might be it is not subject to the TFEU or European Law

Watch this space.


Posted by on 21/06/14

Die Formel ist einfach: Gebt uns mehr Zeit, dann bleiben wir weiter auf Reformkurs. So lässt sich beschreiben, was die beiden EU-Mitgliedsländer Italien und Frankreich derzeit der Währungsunion vorschlagen. Oder besser: was sie einfordern. Denn der Moment ist günstig. Schließlich wird es in Kürze darum gehen, ob der konservative Jean-Claude Juncker tatsächlich zum neuen Präsidenten der EU-Kommission gewählt wird. Und deshalb bringen sich die sozialdemokratischen Kräfte – inklusive des deutschen Wirtschaftsministers Gabriel – jetzt mit ihren Forderungen in Position. Und zwar ohne Rücksicht darauf, was neue Schulden mit sich bringen. Politisch mag das verständlich sein, vielleicht geradezu auf der Hand liegen. Es birgt allerdings einiges an Risiko-Potenzial. Schließlich geriet die europäische Staatengemeinschaft eben wegen fehlender Haushaltsdisziplin in die schwerste Krise ihrer Geschichte. Eine Krise, deren Auswirkungen die Gesellschaft bis heute verändert. Zum Beispiel in puncto Jugendarbeitslosigkeit. Junge Menschen ohne Job und damit ohne Perspektive im eigene Land erwarten zu Recht Antworten, also Beschäftigungsprogramme, von ihren Regierungen. Insofern ist der Hinweis, dass Reformen  kurzfristig auch teuer sein dürfen, sicher nicht falsch. Am Ende aber geht es um etwas anderes: Nämlich um die tiefe Überzeugung aller EU-Staaten, die eigenen Schulden entschlossen reduzieren zu wollen. Deshalb darf es kein Zurückfallen geben hinter das Erreichte und keine Aufweichung der Kriterien, die der Stabilitäts- und Wachstumspakt festlegt. Denn eines sollte die Finanzkrise uns gelehrt haben: Eine höhere Verschuldung löst die Probleme Europas nicht – im Gegenteil.