Saturday 28 February 2015

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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.

 

“EU Constitution belongs to citizen” – Andrew Duff

Posted by on 25/02/15

 

Prior to the 2014 elections the EU’s leading federalist and constitution specialist, Andrew Duff, oversaw the writing and drafting of the Fundamental Law Treaty to amend the Lisbon Treaty. The aim is for the EU to form a federal government to help it function more efficiently and eliminate many of the problems the EU has been encountering. The recent crisis’s have threatened the EU edifices, which were launched to help European citizens achieve greater prosperity.

Andrew Duff, is currently helping to prompt the initiation of an intergovernmental conference, which is the first official step for a treaty revision. His latest book, “Penelope, Pandora and Polity: How to Save the European Union, details the need for a federal government for the EU to overcome its structural problems. He is currently speaking throughout the EU to educate EU citizens on his proposals.

EU architect’s like Andrew Duff aim for a Europe that is united similar to a United States of Europe. According to EU critics, men like Andrew Duff are faceless bureaucrats out of touch with the citizens of the European Union. This is not the case with Andrew Duff. He makes continuous efforts to draw close to the citizen.  In his books he invites EU citizens to his twitter account to comment on his proposals.  Andrew Duff also contributes to several blog sites and writes letters to the editor, which is unheard of from a man who is lumped in with the political elite. Andrew Duff even appeared in the comment section of an article correcting the journalist who wrote it.

In one particular interview, Andrew Duff was questioned by a youth who suffered a disability from Speak Up, an award winning charity for the disabled. According to Speak Up’s website, Andrew Duff stopped in to see them.

Andrew Duff is helping write the EU’s future and while pressing for the initiation of the Fundamental Law he makes every attempt to get as close to the people as possible.  This is reflected in his affirmation that “the Constitution belongs to the citizen.” Andrew Duff’s actions mirror his words.

While this interview provides a view into the EU’s move forward, and takes an in-depth look at the Fundamental Law, while getting a glimpse into the mind of the man who wrote it, we see Mr. Duff’s emphasis on the preeminent Member State within the EU and the role of the citizen.

Erika Grey

Europa lists seven Treaties and one act that make up the European Union, but you list many more in your book on Pandora, Penelope and Polity, How to Change the European Union.  How many actual Treaties make up the Union and how many Acts?

ANDREW DUFF

The Treaties process- the founding Treaties, which go back to the Treaty in Paris in 1951 and all those things that have happened throughout that period, comprise a corpus of constitutional law, which is the statute of the European Union.

The pile of these Treaties- when you pile them up on a table, is very tall and very heavy.  The drafting hasn’t always been very good.  In fact [it has] frequently been drafted so that the outcomes and figutes have sort of disguised the purpose of changing the Treaties- the [Member] States have clouded in ambiguity- when they drafted these things.

It is not a surprise that the public is uncertain as to their meaning. It’s very difficult. It is very hard to oblige the citizen to be interested in constitutional law. The American people think they have this great thing the constitution, but they’ve never read it. They have no idea how much its grown with amendment after amendment and how complex it is has become…this idea that it is a simple concise clear thing like the Magna Carta for instance.

Erika Grey

I have certain questions regarding the Fundamental Law. The Member States play a significant role in the EU’s political evolution and have derailed its momentum and progress at times, does this change with the Fundamental Law?

ANDREW DUFF

Yes, the Fundamental Law displays or it illustrates what a federal union would be like. The States are still there.  They still play and important part especially as the component of the second chamber of the legislature- in critical issues of global strategy for instance the Ukrainian crisis. The States and especially the Prime Ministers and Presidents of the larger States have a important part to play in such a global crisis. But, they aren’t in the federal prospectus that I’ve put forward. As it were the masters of the Treaties; the Treaties become a Constitution and the Constitution belongs to the citizen, which has popular sovereignty- to own the Treaty construct, which at present it does not. It’s not up to lawyers and diplomats. We want to bring the exercise closer to the people so that there is a sense of identity with the government of the union that at present people just don’t have.

Erika Grey

I want to ask you some questions about what I see as inconsistencies in the Fundamental Law. The Fundamental Law or “the Law of the Union.” reclassifies Member States as States and its aim is to establish full-fledged Federal Union. Yet, in several areas it reverts back to the nation state having preeminence such as in the UN.

Article 414, it states:

States which are also members of the United Nations Security Council will concert and keep the other States and the Foreign Minister fully informed. States which are members of the Security Council will in the execution of their functions, defend the positions and the interests of the Union, without prejudice to their responsibilities under the provisions of the United Nations Charter.

Once the Fundamental Law establishes the EU as a United States of Europe and it is a federal union, wouldn’t the States that hold seats in the Security Council cease to exist as sovereign nations and have to withdraw from the Security Council, such as West Germany, Czechoslovakia? The follow up question to that is, once the Fundamental Law is established and the EU achieves political union wouldn’t the federalized EU need to submit a new application to the UN and apply as a member because it will be an actual government for the people?

ANDREW DUFF

Yes, I think that one’s not to preempt or preclude from anything happening in the years to come. The problem in the present treaties is it is very prohibited to what you can’t do, what you mustn’t do.

What I want to do is to create a treaty- constitutional treaty -that is more permissive that will permit the development of a common foreign security and defense policy in its time and as circumstances permit.

If I had sought at this stage to prescribe the abolition of the permanent seats of France and the UK in the Security Council of the UN- in the absence of any larger reform of the UN, incidentally, which is a different issue but an associated one- I think that would have been considered to be rather absurd. One has to be pragmatic.  One can have aspirations.  One can have clear objectives, but I think that in the means to achieve a common international policy, one has to recognize it’s going to take time. It’s going to take process.  There is going to be a process of integration as simulation of building trust between the States of the EU in each other’s diplomacy-sharing intelligence’s-but treatment is a very sensitive issue.

Erika Grey

Yes, it’s very delicate, and to try to balance that as well.

ANDREW DUFF

So one I think can’t be too naive about this.

Erika Grey

So that was deliberate then, that was deliberate to not take that step because that would be too offensive?

ANDREW DUFF

Yes.

 

For more from Andrew Duff follow him on twitter @AndrewDuffEU, and be sure to purchase a copy of his book. Penelope, Pandora and Polity: How To Change The European Union. Also be on the lookout for the next interview in this series, which continues to take a deep look into the Fundamental Law and Europe’s move forward.

 

Why Germany’s identity will define the future of Europe

Posted by on 22/02/15
By Rebecca Harding, CEO of Delta Economics Germany holds the answer to Kissinger’s question: “Who do I call if I want to speak to Europe?” It needs - metaphorically - to pick up the phone.

An EU Federalist Out of the Closet- Interview with Andrew Duff

Posted by on 22/02/15

Federalism has become such a dirty word in EU politics, and federalists are accused of so many evils that some EU’s federalists are now hiding in the closet and will not freely admit their affiliation. The nationalists view the Federalists as the bad boys of EU politics who are trying to turn the EU into a United States of Europe while the federalists view the nationalists as a hindrance to the European project.

Federalists believe that deepening European integration is the direction to build the EU, which best benefits the citizens of Europe and gives Europe as a whole a strong voice on the world stage.  The federalists are the builders of a federal united Europe and the nationalists want to tear the building down to a loose confederation. Nationalists want economic union but no coordination of any other policies.

Federalists are the mud of choice for certain experts who accuse them of being sinister, dark, faceless bureaucrats who are attempting to build a United States of Europe in violation of the citizen, democracy and the sovereignty of the nation state. They have even become fodder for conspiracy theorists.   Federalists do want to build a United States of Europe because they believe that only in unity will Europe have prosperity and protection from the world’s ills. Contrary to being accused of being non-democratic, federalists want to ensure their union is democratic and for the citizen.  Part of the problem is that many have failed to recognize that “democratic” just like “federalism” has come to encompass a varied interpretation in the political vernacular.

While the nationalists have their national pride, and proudly defend their nation, federalists as Andrew Duff alluded hide in the closet. Federalism is such a negative word in EU politics that leading federalists deny being federalists.

Since Federalism is both misunderstood and reviled I thought it a good idea to question the EU’s leading federalist Andrew Duff, who has come out of the closet and agreed to discuss some of these issues.  Andrew Duff was director of the Federal Trust, the EU’s leading think-tank and he was president of the Union of European Federalists.  If that is all not federalist enough, he helped found the Spinelli group to help ensure that the EU progress along federal lines.  Hold on to your seats for what is coming next because it gets even better. Andrew Duff is the EU’s constitution specialist who helped draft several EU treaties and oversaw the drafting of the Fundamental Law to revise the Lisbon treaty.  He is the EU’s James Madison and one of the chief architects of a United States of Europe. Andrew Duff is not only a federalist out of the closet, he is leader of the pack.

Erika Grey

European federalism is misunderstood in Europe, virtually unheard of in the United States and yet federalism is the ideology that drives the European Union and many EU federalists have held and hold leading positions in the EU institutions. Why do you think that with such a sophisticated and educated group of adherents to the ideology, which includes journalists, is European federalism misunderstood within the EU nations and virtually unheard of around the world?

ANDREW DUFF

It’s an extremely good question and I ask myself that a lot. I think that it’s not quite fair to say that federalism has disappeared. It is there inside the atmosphere still and the British even who seem to be especially opposed to the federal idea in the EU context are responsible for promoting it in the empire: in the British Empire. After all, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Italy, India, Nigeria, are all federations and all of these bases were a gifted federalism at the end of empire, but the Brits have not ever embraced it- either internally in the UK- and as a result of that the UK is experiencing huge tensions between the component nations. [This is] despite the fact that the Brits and the Americans were responsible for imposing a federal constitution on Germany after the war.

The Brits have not ever thought of themselves as European federalists, that’s a pity. But, I still think that the logic of the EU, if you go right back to the end of the war, is as you say federalist and what we have to do is to return to the spirit and the logic of the founding fathers of the EU. I think that can be done, but it needs clear thinking and courageous leadership and unfortunately we haven’t an awful lot of all of those things.

Erika Grey

Can you provide a one sentence definition of European Federalism?

ANDREW DUFF

It is about coordinate government at different levels addressing the issues of different scales of complexity, but coordinate with each other so that the center is not supreme. It’s not going to impose itself upon the provincial state levels.

I think that is misunderstood, and I thinks it’s misunderstood even in Brussels at present because at present we’re in a semi-federal pre-federal construct. The Commission is obliged to try to coordinate national policy to centralize the coordination of national policies. But, I do not think that is federal. That’s not a truly federal solution. In order for there to be one, one has to have something that approximates to a federal government. It is that we haven’t got.

Historically I think we are in a limbo, trapped in a limbo between a confederal system of governance, which we know isn’t working very well on the one hand, and a federal union between prefigured, we’ve sort of kind of seen it through the cloud, but we haven’t got the courage to progress towards it.

Erika Grey

While others shy away and have retreated from being labeled a federalist you are smiling in a photo with a sign above you that reads, “I am a federalist,” and you look rather content in the photo. If you were in Juncker’s and Guys Verhofstadt’s shoes at the time of the elections, and running for the Commission presidency would you too have avoided being labeled a federalist or denied being one?

ANDREW DUFF

No, absolutely not I’ve always been prepared to come out of the closet, and indeed of course as you know I lost my seat in the last elections, and part of the reason that I lost is because I’m an outed federalist.

Erika Grey

The nationalist and populist parties that gained in the EU elections have noted the “arch federalists” and speak of federalists as the villains in EU politics.  The Bruges group alleges that Federalists are sinister as they build the EU federation into a United States of Europe. How does it feel to be cast as a sinister political villain, and see your peers avoid being labeled as federalist and deny their affiliation?

ANDREW DUFF

Well I think it would be sinister if there were a plot, a conspiracy to do this. But, I don’t see that, or at least if there is a conspiracy to create a federal super state in Europe then I would probably be a part of it. I would probably been told, but there isn’t. It is important that we are transparent in what we do, that we’re very democratic, that we are prepared to face up to comment, criticism, and to take on the nationalists. I think if you counter poise the nationalists and the federalists you can see more clearly the political dynamics, which move the EU, than if you only have a look into terms of left and right or poor and rich or south and north or east and west. There is lots of other ways to looking at the EU in order of its complexity. But, a key dynamic is federalist and nationalist and I’m quite happy to argue that case.

Erika Grey

You became director of the Federal Trust in 1993, when you were about 43 years old. At the age of 32 in 1982 you were elected to the City Council in Cambridge and at the age of 34 you made your first attempt to get elected to the EU Parliament, which at the time was only a forum for debate and a consultative body. In that year Alterio Spinelli was still serving as an MEP and the Single European Act had not yet been decided. Gaston Thorn was Commission President and the single market white paper of 1985 had also not been launched. The European Community comprised of only 10 members and was still in its infancy. What started your interest in European federalism and in the European Community in those early years?

ANDREW DUFF

Well it’s a long time ago, but I think I started to – in fact I’m certain that I started to- be interested even before then. I think I was anxious to be a member of the European Parliament even before it had been created.

My experience as a student in 1968, I was 17 in 1968, and was just on the way from school to Cambridge.  But, I spent a lot of it time in Paris at that time as well and so I had first-hand experience of the sense that things were changing fast and that politics of the post war generation were under pressure and that the dynamics were moving. It was a very turbulent time.  It was a very exciting time and clearly the experience of the students in Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Amsterdam, I remember was a very post national experience. We were sharing each other’s demonstrations, manifestos, the discourse between students was very European, and I found that experience very enriching…if it could be continued, built on, that was a good thing to try to do. It wasn’t far from that to start the federal experiment or to join in the federal campaign that had always been there. I met Monet and Spinelli and that was also a great inspiration.

Erika Grey

I read where you previously stated, “I have always wanted to be in the European Parliament, I think even before the Parliament was first thought of.” …Can we expect to see you running in the next MEP election?

ANDREW DUFF

I would like Parliament to carry on in the place that I left off, was forced to leave off, to try to create for a certain number of MEP’s a pan European constituency, which would elect some of them from transnational political party lists. The idea of this was approved in the Parliament in a fairly ambiguous way, but I think it’s the key to growing strong federal parties to compete with national political parties, which in the past have had sort of a monopoly on the campaigns: a grip on the election campaigns of the European Parliament.  It means that those campaigns have been very national and completely isolated from one another.

I would like to think that my idea of trans-national lists for a pan European seat will in the end win through. If that happens I will certainly seek to put up for the European Parliament again, but for a national political party, no I think I’ve tried that.

Erika Grey

You have spoken of your mission, you are obviously a man with a life mission, can you in your own words tell us your mission and why it is so important to you?

ANDREW DUFF

We need to create a Europe, which can punch its weight in global affairs in the interests of our values and principles that we want to project elsewhere. I would like a Europe that will be able to square up to the great challenges that we now face in climate, security, prosperity; things whose scale and complexity have transcended the scale of the nation state.

We have out grown the old classical state. We need to create an intergraded regional community that can improve upon the performance of the nation state and will provide the public with goods that it deserves and hear and respond to the anxieties and the aspirations of the citizen in a way that the old states cannot anymore.

If we’re going to do this it’s critical that the form of a government that we create at this level is federal.  If it is not it will be centralized, it will be prone to presidencies– Germany becoming in charge of the EU. It has to be fundamentally and profoundly very democratic and the only way it could be that is if it’s federal.

 

This is the first interview in a series.  The next titled, “The [EU] Constitution Belongs To The People: Interview With Andrew Duff, will deal with The Fundamental Law treaty itself and reveal glimpse of what the EU will look like moving forward as well as take you inside the mind of the man who orchestrated the writing of it.

 

Yale’s Historic Launch- Where was the WSJ, POLITICO & NYT?

Posted by on 16/02/15

 

The EU officially came to Yale this weekend via the European Student Conference who obtained funding from the European Commission’s ERASMUS program for higher education students. The European Student Conference brought to the United States members of the EU Commission and Parliament and other EU heavyweights to officially launch their think -tank European Horizons.  Yale via the European Student Conference now takes the lead as the first US university, which aims to make its mark on EU affairs and the future of the European Union.

This event was a journalist’s dream, but surprisingly there were no journalists representing any of the US news organizations.

Among the speakers was chief EU political architect Andrew Duff, a leading EU federalist and figure in the under-reported European Movement.  Mr. Duff wrote the outline and oversaw the drafting of the Fundamental Law treaty to revise the Lisbon treaty, which he also took part in writing.

When I read the Andrew Duff was going to be attending this conference I could not believe that a chief EU architect was coming to the United States to speak at Yale and I immediately sought to book an interview with him. He is currently speaking on his recently published book Pandora, Penelope and Polity: How to Change the European Union. His book is a call to action in light of the EU’s recent problems and deals with the need for an intergovernmental conference to move the EU towards federal union and the treaty revision, which he drafted.  Mr. Duff is an EU constitutional specialist among his many accolades. During my interview with Andrew Duff I asked him questions about certain articles in the Fundamental Law for a clearer picture on where this treaty will take the EU.  In addition, I have Mr, Duff’s contact info and he agreed to answer any future inquiries that I might have.  I now have an open door with a man who is both one of the EU’s chief architects and an EU insider. He is one of the “elite.” At the moment Andrew Duff handed me his card I went to journalist heaven.

If this was not enough I had a conversation with Pascal Lamy, a two time director of the World Trade Organization and our chatting while walking toward the reception area about the TTIP only added to my journalistic heavenly bliss.  There were more notables and discussions and email exchanges. I had a great discussion about the euro, the UK and Greece with Richard Tufft, the Managing Director of Global Investment Research for Goldman Sachs.  Then there was the conference itself which was unprecedented and put Yale on the map as the 1st US University to take a lead in an endeavor to influence EU policy. Yale brought  EU heavyweights to the US in its historic launch.  Need I mention again that there were no journalists present from the major US news rags at this newsworthy event?

If the WSJ or NYT offered any real EU news they would have covered the European Student Conference. If they had any knowledge of the European Union and it affairs they would know of  Andrew Duff and of the Spinelli group he helped found. They would have been at the conference stampeding over me to interview him. He was within an hour and a half’s hour drive from their headquarters in New York City. If they didn’t want to drive they could have gone to Grand Central and hopped a Metro North Train east of the Hudson to New Haven.

The US Media ought to be walking with their tail between their legs. NBC’s leading anchor Brian Williams made up stories while reporting.    Other major news outlets do not make up stories but fail to report newsworthy news. When it comes to the European Union the US media misleads the public with continuous headlines of the EU and euro falling apart.  Overall their EU reporting is not in-depth and riddled with misconceptions. I contacted the owner and editor of a conservative news outlet for their lack of EU coverage even though they state they are providing world news and the response was essentially that the EU was not newsworthy of any coverage in world news.  I will not provide the name of that news outfit because they are not worth a mention even in a negative context with that opinion of European Union news.

In one corner we have NBC whose anchor makes up stories and on the other the US media outlets whose reporting on the EU is scant, relaying shallow and misleading information while the European Project is one of the most news worthy endeavors of men and women in our times.  It is far from boring and I can think of many headlines that would have grabbed a reader’s attention while also informing the public. As Meagan Trainer sings, “Its all about that bass,” in the US media today its all about page hits. How many times did CNN overuse Breaking News on insignificant stories to get viewer’s attention, which by the way would have been a great article in itself, listing the meaningless stories CNN headed with “Breaking News”. CNN’s EU coverage ranks abysmally with the other US news outlets. In Nina dos Santos commentary, “The EU Needs a New Vision,” she claims the original vision unraveled with the fall of the Berlin wall. With a statement that erroneous, untrue and misleading she ranks along with Brian Williams.

This lack of EU reporting or the reporting of inaccurate misleading facts has occurred because the editors who work for these US publications do not have any real knowledge of the European Union. Sending their writers to Brussels or hiring someone from within the EU who does not have a good grasp of EU affairs does not guarantee the US media will be able to provide good EU coverage.   I recently read an article in the New York Times on the EU that was absolute junk, which I call junk journalism. This is a piece written by someone with the skill to write, and it will have an attention grabbing headline, but the writer does not have any real knowledge of the topic and the topic misleads in the pursuit of page hits. On the totem pole of  bad journalism  the rung lower than junk journalism is taken by those who make up stories or facts such as the Brian William’s and Nino dos Santos who wrote that the Monnet’s vision for the EU ended with the collapse of the Berlin wall.  The lowest on the totem pole are the conspiracy theorists because their articles border on delusion. I have been written by conspiracy theorists and they are a belligerent bunch as well.

The US news rags while they are at least are a rung above Brian Williams should feel ashamed for producing junk as they pursue the almighty page hit.

Meanwhile since I was not stampeded over and I entered the cruise ship the US news rags missed, while this event took place on their soil, I have articles forthcoming that will provide you with information on the EU that is not being reported by any of the mainstream US media. The articles that will come from my interview with chief EU architect Andrew Duff will provide insight into EU federalism and the EU’s move forward.  You will also want to see my article, which will follow this one  on the Yale conference itself which was at a fever pitch and learn about Yale’s historic launch to influence EU affairs.

 

Eurozone future: we should already know the answers to Juncker’s questions

Posted by on 15/02/15

There we go again with questions, this time on the future of the Eurozone. Yet again. After 7 years of financial and economic strain, are we still wondering what a monetary union really is and what it needs to succeed in the long-run?

At the informal meeting of the European Council yesterday evening in Brussels, the spotlights were on Ukraine and Greece. However, a presentation by the Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (Analytical Note – Preparing for next steps on better economic governance in the Euro area) may have longer lasting impact. So we should hope. Prepared in close cooperation with the President of the European Council, the President of the Eurogroup and the President of the European Central Bank, the Note is meant to be the first step towards a report of the Four Presidents on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union. Requested by the meeting of the European Council last December, it should be presented at the European Council meeting in June 2015.

Juncker’s Note explains well the weaknesses of a Eurozone with a single currency and single monetary policy, but with economic and fiscal policies that remain largely national and in Member States’ hands. He highlights the limits of the (important) measures taken since 2010 to strengthen the Economic and Monetary Union (the European Stability Mechanism, the Banking Union, the Fiscal Compact, the reform of the Stability and Growth Pact and the new rules to more closely coordinate national economic policies and try to prevent and correct imbalances). With ruthless graphs and statistics, he depicts the bleak status of the Eurozone economy.  Debt and unemployment remain record high. Countries struggle to achieve sustainable debt reduction. Competitiveness and output gaps are broad. European recommendation go systematically neglected and the EU institution have little to no enforcement powers. Since the inception of the Euro, countries have spent years in breach of European rules (France was under the so-called Excessive Deficit Procedure for in 11 years, as much as Greece and Ireland, and Germany for 8 years, as much as Spain and longer than Italy).  Juncker encourages to be forward-looking and assess what steps are required towards an Economic and Monetary Union that is deep, fair and sustainable. Warnings that “the Euro is more than a currency. It is also a political project” and that “the integrity of the euro area as a whole is at stake” add a dose of pathos to the storyline.

So far, so good. Then politics kick-in.

Juncker warns that citizens and markets (Member States and politicians are, oddly, not included in the warning) must develop a long-term perspective on how the framework of the Economic and Monetary Union should develop. Then he asks questions. Questions with no answer.

—–

How can we ensure sound fiscal and economic positions in all euro area Member States? How could a better implementation and enforcement of the economic and fiscal governance framework be ensured? Is the current governance framework – if fully implemented – sufficient to make the euro area shock-resilient and prosperous in the long run? To what extent can the framework of EMU mainly rely on strong rules and to what extent are strong common institutions also required? What instruments are needed in situations in which national policies continue – despite surveillance under the governance framework – to go harmfully astray? Has the fiscal-financial nexus been sufficiently dealt with in order to prevent the repetition of negative feedback loops between banks and sovereign debt? How could private risk-sharing through financial markets in the euro area be enhanced to ensure a better absorption of asymmetric shocks? To what extent is the present sharing of sovereignty adequate to meet the economic, financial and fiscal framework requirements of the common currency? Is a further risk-sharing in the fiscal realm desirable? What would be the preconditions? Under which conditions and in which form could a stronger common governance over structural reforms be envisaged? How could it foster real convergence? How can accountability and legitimacy be best achieved in a multilevel setup such as EMU?

—–

They are the right questions. Between the lines one can certainly read the answers that Juncker and the European Commission would give. With a leap of faith, a Eurozone budget and a Eurozone Parliament and Government in a multi-level EU come to mind. But, for the moment, questions they remain.

It seems now forgotten that only 2 years ago, in November 2012, the European Commission presented a very elaborate  Blueprint for a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union. That report laid out very precise proposals, with different options and a timetable, to move in stages towards a fiscal and economic union. It envisaged a collective conduct of budgetary and economic policies and of national structural reforms. A  dedicated “fiscal capacity” for the Euro Area (a EU budget) with sufficient own resources to support national structural reforms and to conduct anti-cyclical investments at European level. A redemption fund and Eurobills to collectively reduce member states debt. Prospectively, the common issuance of European public debt to finance European projects. In December 2012, the report “Towards a Genuine Economic and Monetary Union” of the previous Four Presidents watered down the Commission’s proposals, but nevertheless it defended the project of moving in stages from pure coordination of national economic policies to a European fiscal and economic union. It also raised the issue of democratic legitimacy and accountability that call for political union alongside fiscal and economic union.

After 2 years of intense public debate on the future of the Economic and Monetary Union, and the interface between national reforms and European institutions and policies, we are back to questions, back to mapping, back to scouting Member States’ positions and intentions. Consensus among Member States is obviously not there and at best the Commission can start asking questions and hope to create a climate that favour consensus-building. This is welcome, but  the time to address these questions and create consensus to move forward is not indefinite. Member States should let the Commission work, refresh the proposals of 2012 into a new a wide-raging report in June, and then move swiftly forward to its implementation.

Recognition for Spitzenkandidaten 2019 should be decided now!

Posted by on 08/02/15
By Dan Luca “To be honest, I was wrong about the Spitzenkandidaten process. It is an important first step to give the EU a face – and it gives the public a buy-in to EU politics”, said a former UK cabinet minister at an event in Brussels. 2015 is the perfect time to start the discussion on the next round of Spitzenkandidaten campaigning.

Crunch time! EurActory beta goes live

Posted by on 30/01/15

Yesterday was crunch time for EurActory, EU Community’s first tool to identify relevant EU experts.

EurActiv, partner in the project, held an event at the European Parliament dubbed #Media4EU. Suddenly, we found ourselves surrounding by 150+ potential users, eager to take a peek at the platform.

MEPs like Siegfried Muresan and Brando Benifei. Former EU Commissioners like Siim Kallas and Connie Hedegaard. Businesses reps like Karl Cox (Oracle) and Chris Sherwood (Allegro). Or media reps like Tom Weingärtner (API) or Max von Abendroth (EMMA).

All of them, and many others, in the room.

So we pitched them EurActory…

 

 

 

EurActory is now open for user feedback. Caution: it’s a beta! That means bugs may occur when you’re browsing the platform. But we wanted to open it up to users, get your input and make sure we shape the service to what you are looking for.

Visit the homepage. Type a search query and see what comes up. Read about how to get in the directory. And give us your feedback.

 

 

 

EurActory was initiated by EurActiv, is coordinated by the leading IT Solutions group Intrasoft and is developed by a consortium of eight organisations as part of the project EU Community (info).

EU Community is co-funded by the European Commission’s DG CONNECT under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7). Oracle is a Partner of this public-private partnership project.

 

 

The service will be continuously developed, as more and more EU experts and professionals discover it. The platform was released to get feedback from the community of EU experts, making future development open and collaborative.

 

 

 

 

 

EU Parliament scored own goal in failing to assert power over Commission

Posted by on 25/01/15

Research Executive Elias Papadopoulos comments on the European Parliament’s inability to adopt a common position on the Commission’s 2015 Work Programme.

To read Elias’ article, please click here.

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

 

New tool for EU experts – Who is behind EurActory?

Posted by on 23/01/15

EU Community will launch the beta version of its first, free service EurActory on 29 January at the European Parliament. But first, we explain the idea one ‘frequently asked question’ at a time.

 

FAQ5 – Who is behind EurActory?

At the very beginning of the project, the initiators were confronted with a challenge. The tools and applications on the table would require topnotch technology experts just as much as creative policy experts.

Having useful apps would require people who understand data, tech and development to team up with people who know the EU policy-making process… and know the community of EU experts.

EurActory is developed by a consortium of eight organisations as part of EU Community. EU Community is initiated by EurActiv.com, coordinated by Intrasoft and executed together with the other consortium members which are leading research centres and ICT enterprises.

The consortium includes:

EU Community is co-funded by the European Commission’s directorate general for communications networks, content & technology, known as DG CONNECT. It won a Call for Proposals under the Seventh Framework Programme for Research(FP7).

 

EU Community on TwitterLinkedInFacebook

 

Grexit? Brexit? Don’t bet on it.

Posted by on 22/01/15
By EU Perspectives The old cliché “who’ll blink first” has never seemed more appropriate when it comes to Greece’s election as Merkel and Tsipras face each other.

New tool for EU experts – What will EurActory look like in the future?

Posted by on 22/01/15

EU Community will launch the beta version of its first, free service EurActory on 29 January at the European Parliament. But first, we explain the idea one ‘frequently asked question’ at a time.

 

FAQ4 – What will EurActory look like in the future?

Next week, we release the ‘beta version’ of EurActory: a first version, designed to cater to EU professionals’ first needs and to trigger feedback to make it a better tool.

Our next move is ranking. We are working on a sophisticated ranking system, to launch early 2015, which will allow you to identify the most relevant experts per EU policy field within seconds.

To do this, EurActory is developing an algorithm that takes into account a person’s organisational standing, online and offline connections, peer-rated credibility, professional experience and other criteria. This ranking system will be released in full transparency.

EurActory will show which experts have built up a credibility on certain policy topics. Which experts stand out. The system will be rolled out after thorough double-checking the algorithm to make it match the actual world of EU affairs as much as possible.

EU Community will focus on our three pilot topics first, starting with developing the ranking feature for the topic Energy Union.

If you’re curious, connect on social media and you’ll know all about it as soon as the time is right.

 

EU Community on TwitterLinkedInFacebook

 

New tool for EU experts – EurActory: Why am I not in there?

Posted by on 21/01/15

EU Community will launch the beta version of its first, free service EurActory on 29 January at the European Parliament. But first, we explain the idea one ‘frequently asked question’ at a time.


FAQ3 – Why am I not in there?

EurActory currently has over 10,000 experts on EU policy. These are mostly sourced from the EU’s open databases of people working at (and with) the institutions.

When you discover EurActory, on 29 January, it’s possible that you don’t have an expert profile yet. The team behind EurActory could not find your details in the databases that we have integrated.

Not to worry though: you can help us by telling us about yourself and what you do.

Registered users can create a profile on the platform, connect their social media accounts and ‘Create an expert profile’. This will then be checked by one of EU Community’s moderators, after which your profile will appear in the list of experts.

 

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New tool for EU experts – Who has a profile on EurActory?

Posted by on 20/01/15
By EU Community We're launching the beta version of EurActory, our first tool for EU experts. You can find anyone working in the EU institutions on EurActory, as well as a growing of key lobbyists, analysts or other stakeholders.

There is life after €uro

Posted by on 20/01/15

With Greek election only a few days away, I am reminded of a friend’s prediction that this time even loyal voters may vote for a different party that they used to. After having to leave Athens because of the crisis, he is struggling to keep his doctors practice afloat on the small island of Aegina.

Since the early 80’s the Greek state has been managed in a deplorable way by the two major parties in the republic. A closed circle of politicians monopolized power and alternately governed the country. During these years, they developed an extreme political clientelism with as result the creation of two parallel administrations.

This practice, which de facto substituted the official state, is one of the major factors of the actual social and economic bankruptcy of Greek society. If we add to that : (1) the large amount of debt accumulated by public and private spending ; (2) the reckless lending to Greece by dangerously under-capitalized northern European banks and ; (3) euro zone’s blindness and visionless economic policy dictated by Berlin that imposed unsustainable demands, then we understand Greek reality.

Greece enters the eighth year of deep recession. The human toll of the economic crisis is huge. Unemployment is above 25 per cent, and among those aged 15 to 24 it is close to 60 per cent. A study published in the European Journal of Psychiatry in March 2014 provides evidence of a 55, 8 per cent increase in suicides between 2007 and 2011.

Despite the austerity, that has been extremely intense and inhuman, the Greek public debt has increased and now exceeds 170 per cent of GDP. The country lost 25 per cent of its GDP since it has been undertaken by the Troika program.

Here are 5 reasons why Greeks will vote for anti-austerity in the upcoming election:

Greeks don’t buy the fear campaign of #Grexit

The strategy of fear that the actual government is campaigning on clearly does not work. Endorsement of this strategy by European politicians and EU institutions does not help. In the contrary, it has a boomerang effect. Greek citizens are not buying that the opposition constitutes a danger. The EU institutions failed to take into account the social and political implications of the severe austerity programs they imposed in countries like Greece.

Lack of trust towards government coalition

The simplest definition of trust from the perspective of the citizens is the personal confidence and absence of disbelief. When trust is absent, like in Greece, it is replaced by uncertainty, lack of confidence, and the expectation that actual political leaders will do things that are adverse to the interests of the people. Greece has much more debt than the country could ever hope to repay. Denying this reality condemns Greek citizens to a very long period of misery.

EU and the euro lost their credibility

In May 2012 Mario Draghi, the head of the ECB, declared that the crisis had exposed the inadequacy of the financial and economic framework set up for the euro monetary union launched in 1999. The euro was meant to bring convergence to the economies of the EU. Yet it has caused even greater divergence. The emphasis on austerity might have been politically necessary when the debt crisis began, in order to discourage governments from expecting more EU bailouts. However, this policy has also brought EU growth near to zero, encouraged deflation, fed exasperation across the continent and led to the impoverishment of large parts of the Greek population and, other euro zone countries. Under present conditions, the question of staying or not in the euro zone may not be very relevant to the average Greek. Nevertheless, Greece will probably stay in the euro, whoever wins the election. If it doesn’t, I am sure that there is life after euro, even if this will demonstrate complete lack of cohesion and integration inside the euro zone.

Troika is seen as foreign intervention

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the European Commission (EC), form the so-called Troika, which intervened in 2010 to keep Athens from defaulting on its debts and having to leave the euro zone. Greece was put under a system of forced administration. In 2013 the IMF admitted that it made major mistakes on the first bailout, setting excessively optimistic expectations for the country’s economy and underestimating the effects of the austerity measures it imposed. The rescue package kept the country afloat, but it came in exchange for exaggerated austerity measures that have deepened recession and encouraged extremist political parties and polarization.

Leftwing Syriza is moving to the center

In every opinion survey leftwing Syriza is in the lead. The difference with the second party is 3 to 4 per cent and it does not seem to close. Syriza, is retreating from leftist rhetoric by confirming that no unilateral decisions will be taken on obligations towards creditors. It would not be the first party to become more pragmatic once in power. However, many of the party’s policies are unlikely to be accepted by the Troika, despite Syriza’s position having moved to the center recently.

The belief of the leader of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras that there should be a transparent and sustainable re-negotiation of debt, has won applause from other parties in Europe and may lead to a pan-European large-scale anti-austerity strategy. Nevertheless, Tsipras will be obliged to do business with other euro zone countries if he wins the election.

A herbicide spray to keep the bio-tech industry at bay? RIP traditional European agriculture

Posted by on 15/01/15

By Kathleen Garnett

Ever since the first boff in a lab profited from fiddling around with the genetic make-up of plants European agriculture has been at the mercy of the big corporations. Not unlike the pests GMO products are said to repel the bio-tech industry has been swarming all over the treasure chest that is European agriculture determined to find a crack in the armour and squeeze in. Those holding patents to GMO seeds have launched a relentless campaign to get their products approved for use across the EU. For fifteen years the EU put up a good fight but it was clearly no match for the ants. As long as there was sugar in the chest they would find a way to get in and find it they did this week when the European Parliament approved new measures that have effectively opened up the treasure chest and allowed the pest to swarm in.

The crack in the armour? The bio-tech industry’s best tactic was always going to be to focus on science rather than on need or quality. All other arguments in favour of GMO products are weak. Very weak in fact. Few are convinced that GMO products add quality to food. Few believe that commercialising GMO products leads to diversification in agriculture. Few believe that GMO products give European farmers more autonomy over how they manage their farms. Few believe that GMO products offer gourmet tastes and experience. Most of all few really believe that Europe actually needs GMO foods. Europe has food surpluses and a Russian trade embargo.

Forget, for a moment, the whole debate about whether GMO food is or is not safe to eat, whether it will or will not destroy Europe’s eco-system or whether GMO food is more nutritious than mother nature’s bounty (even though the jury is still out on that) … the reality is Europe does not need GMO food. There is no gap in the market that needs plugging. Europe is not suffering from famine. It has other means to control pests, other than perhaps the bio-tech industry itself. It has enough traditional seed varieties that are capable of feeding the population. Nor is there a particularly strong yearning in Europe for GMO food.

In the fifteen or so years since the bio-tech industry has been lobbying Europe to get their products approved for use European consumers have not exactly been clamouring for GMO produce. Europe’s top chefs are hardly frothing at the mouth or singing with joy that the day is nigh when they can finally offer their sophisticated clients a GMO parfait. Supermarkets are not offering pre-booking for the first batch of GMO maize, tomatoes or soya beans to hit the shelves some time next year. This is because pretty much everyone in Europe has figured out what the EU has singularly failed to – no one in Europe particularly wants to eat GMO food, buy GMO food or serve GMO food to their family or friends. Few, other than some random scientists who insist they know more than the rest of us, wish to see European fields transformed into a form of mono-agriculture growing crops that are surplus to requirement.

Sadly, European decision makers – in the Commission, in the Council and in the European Parliament took none of these considerations into account and fell for the “sound” science argument hook, line and sinker. As though all decisions on food should be based on one variable and one variable only – science. Food science is an evolving science and has hardly proven itself worthy of the adjective “sound” in recent years. Other considerations barely factored in to their decision making process leading many to believe that the EU has become frigid with fright at the sight of a scientist in a white coat.

So star-struck by the sound science argument have EU decision-makers become they are even prepared to compromise one of the founding principles of the European Union – a level playing field for the single market. The new measures are a fudge that is going to lead to the weakening not the strengthening of the single European market – and all because the bio-tech industry got a certificate saying that GMO’s are “safe” to eat. This week marked the point of no return for European agriculture. The point when the ants brow-beat Europe’s decision-makers, prised open the chest and got in.

It would be refreshing if for once European decision-makes were to listen to what European consumers are saying rather than being brow beaten by the bio-industry. This week’s development does not auger well for the TTIP and the regulatory convergence in food safety. Expect European food and agriculture to become even more dumbed down within the coming months. As with GMO so with the TTIP. Many in Europe have made is clear that they do not want regulatory convergence of food but based on this week’s development it is unlikely anyone in Brussels is listening to ordinary consumers anyway.

Last summer’s flourishing fields may well be the last anyone remembers when European soil was truly free from commercial GMO crops – unless that it someone can develop a herbicide capable of repelling the bio-tech industry from European soil.

 

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