Friday 22 August 2014

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When people in Brussels look out to the 27 EU countries, they tend to forget that hardly anyone looks back. Polls and election turnouts confirm that for vast parts of the EU population, the national perspective prevails a long time before the European one. What lessons for the European Union to be learnt?


How to unlock the EU this summer?

Posted by on 22/07/14
By Dan Luca Federica Mogherini. Jonathan Hill. Names and nominees are floated for future Commissioners, but can't Europe do better? The best thing for the UK's relationship with the rest of Europe, for example, is to put forward David Miliband in the field. Yes: his brother leads the Left in Britain. But David is by far the best choice for all stakeholders, including the Conservatives.

Development Aid: the benefits of transparency

Posted by on 22/07/14

The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has launched an open data platform on Development Aid, aimed at improving transparency on funds to developing countries. The new website is still under development. The Ministry already provides OECD with an annual report on this data.
Information on 2004-2012 period is already available on the new website.

In 2012 most of Italian funds have been addressed to Tunisia (78 millions) Pakistan (61 millions) and Afghanistan (39 millions).
Best Italian donors are: central Public Administrations, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Development Aid Directorate).

Most of the money is targeted at funding projects helping refugees, build infrastructures and send humanitarian aid.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must soon decide whether to publish aid flow data on the International Aid Transparency Initiative, a voluntary, multi-stakeholder initiative that seeks to improve the transparency of aid, development and humanitarian resources in order to increase their effectiveness in tackling poverty.

The common standard was called for in the Busan Partnership Agreement and further defined by the OECD.

After the Government of Japan has begun publishing to IATI in June 2014, Italy and Russia are the only G8 governments not taking part in the process.

According to the not-for-profit organisation “Publish what you fund”, the Italian aid portal is the first step this country has made in the right direction to make its aid transparent. However, in order to be truly useful, the information must be timely, comparable, comprehensive and accessible – so, it must be published to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). Italy agreed to do this as part of its G8 commitments last year, so it must begin publishing to this internationally agreed standard if it really wants to keep the promise to open aid flows by the end of 2015.

Development aid is a precious resource. Open aid data also facilitates the participation of citizens and parliamentarians in holding their governments to account.

City of Zagreb still playing with fire

Posted by on 20/07/14

Seasoned Bankwatch-watchers may recall our successful four-year campaign to stop the EBRD from financing a waste incinerator just outside Zagreb. Between 2005 and 2008, we supported Zelena akcija/Friends of the Earth Croatia and local group UZOR to prevent the City of Zagreb from building a huge 385 000 tonnes per year waste incinerator in Resnik on the outskirts of Croatia’s capital.

The reasons against the project were clear: the low levels of recycling and composting in Zagreb, the lack of facilities to safely dispose of the bottom ash, fly ash and filter residues, the inflexibility of such a large facility and poor previous experience with environmental enforcement in Croatia.

Whether for these or other reasons, the EBRD and later the EIB wisely avoided financing the project, with the Mayor of Zagreb confirming in late 2008 that the project would not go ahead.

Since then however, the City of Zagreb seems intent on passing a waste management plan that includes almost exactly the same measures, in spite of Zelena akcija’s best efforts to promote alternatives. The city is again holding a public consultation for a plan that looks eerily similar to the previous.

Even though Croatia must recycle 50 percent of its waste by 2020 as per EU targets and Zagreb has almost a quarter of the country’s population, the city’s new draft waste plan still has the incinerator project as its centrepiece, now – incomprehensibly – with a capacity of 400 000 tonnes per year.

This in spite of the fact that Zagreb’s annual residual waste actually dropped to around 270 000 tonnes per year for the years 2009-2013, all with a very low percentage of recycling and no serious efforts to reduce the production of waste. So imagine what would happen if Zagreb’s authorities really made an effort on recycling, composting and waste reduction.

The proposed waste management plan foresees no less than EUR 360 million for the construction of the incinerator and an ash landfill, 35 times less money for recycling and separated collection, and zero for waste reduction measures. The costs of the incinerator alone total 83 per cent of the entire budget to implement the plan, turning the waste hierarchy on its head.

The only city-wide recycling measures include an increased number of recycling containers, which enable recycling only of a few materials and have long proven to be of limited use when people must walk further to use them and have no economic incentive to do so.

The need to treat waste sludge from Zagreb’s controversial wastewater treatment plant is often cited as a reason for the incinerator, but no alternative treatments are covered in the waste management plan, nor is there an explanation of what will happen once the backlog of sludge is burned and Zagreb does not produce enough other waste to fill it. Importing other people’s waste seems like the only outcome if the burner is built.

The incinerator would create around 100 000 tonnes of ash, but there have so far been no realistic proposals of where this could be landfilled, as all suggested locations have been met unsurprisingly with fierce local resistance. It is also unclear where the hazardous fractions of the waste eg. the filter residues, would be disposed of and how much this would cost, but considering that Croatia has no suitable facilities it can be expected that this could incur considerable costs and as well raise ethical questions about leaving other countries to bear the consequences of Croatia’s waste.

The frustrating thing is that the alternatives – waste prevention, recycling, composting and mechanical biological treatment with anaerobic digestion – are available and functioning in many cities, but the City of Zagreb refuses to see this. We must move quickly beyond this impasse and agree on a waste management plan we can all live with. And that means that the City of Zagreb will have to open its ears and start listening rather than blundering blindly on with its plans.

The question here is where the international financial institutions stand. A meeting with EBRD representatives in Zagreb in May 2013 showed that the bank is aware of the imperative of solving Zagreb’s waste problem and is interested in supporting the city’s efforts. But will it silently follow the City of Zagreb’s increasingly absurd plans or help it finally develop a waste management system we can be proud of?

Nationalmannschaft für Europa

Posted by on 15/07/14

Angela Merkel mag diese Momente. Sie mag Fußball, sie mag es, wenn die Nationalmannschaft gewinnt, und sie weiß, auch sie wird davon profitieren. Der erste Effekt ist kurzfristig. Deutschland ist Weltmeister, die Menschen freuen sich, die Wähler sind glücklich. Wer über Mario Götzes grandioses Tor redet, der regt sich nicht über Hartz IV auf oder über marode Straßen oder über die NSA. Ist doch eigentlich alles prima, dann kann die Regierung auch nicht so schlecht sein.

Der zweite Effekt ist langfristiger, und Angela Merkel nutzt ihn sehr virtuos. Merkel ist Regierungschefin, wir sehen sie im Kanzleramt, wir sehen sie auf dem roten Teppich bei irgendwelchen Gipfeltreffen, und wir wissen, hier ist Macht, hier wird regiert. Das kann leicht abgehoben wirken, deshalb baut Angela Merkel immer wieder Kontrapunkte ein, Situationen, in denen sie ganz normal wirkt, so wie eine von uns.

Abends auf dem Weg vom Kanzleramt nach Hause geht sie oft noch einkaufen,… sie backt ihrem Mann gerne Kuchen,… und beim Fußball freut sie sich, wenn Deutschland gewinnt – so wie wir. Das macht Merkel normal, das erdet sie für viele Menschen, das schafft Vertrauen. Gerhard Schröder hat das ähnlich gemacht…

Und die Bilder, die jubelnde Angela Merkel im Stadion, das Selfie in der Kabine, das macht sie dazu noch zu einem Teil dieses Sieges. Danach mit der Limousine zum Regierungsflieger und zurück nach Berlin. Heute Nachmittag spricht Merkel schon wieder beim Petersberger Klimadialog. Dann sehen wir wieder die andere Angela Merkel.

Vassilev-Peevski, CCB bank run: oligarchy in Bulgaria exposed

Posted by on 13/07/14

Credit dossiers for a total of 3.5 billion leva (1.78 billion euro) of Bulgaria’s Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) have disappeared and a sum equivalent to 206 million leva (105 million euro) has been withdrawn in cash upon order by its president of the supervisory board and the majority shareholder Tzvetan Vassilev, the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) announced on 11 July. Tzetan Vassilev is left on the photo.

BNB Governor Ivan Iskrov also said the license of CCB will be withdrawn, the bank will be declared bankrupt and all deposits and accounts of individuals and companies, with the exception of the accounts of Vassilev, will be transferred to CCB’s subsidiary bank “Crédit Agricole Bulgaria”, which will be nationalized.
Vassilev spoke from Vienna, denied any wrongdoing and basically said the developments were a conspiracy.
So much for the news. Now some comments.
Several media in Bulgaria titled “The robbery of the century”. It is assumed that CCB, one of the few Bulgarian-owned banks in the country, is the “bank of the power” – this is where most of the state assets used to be deposited.
In return for the favour, CCB contolled a media empire which paid lip service to the government – previously of Boyko Borissov, presently of the coalition between the mainly ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) and the Socialists. The media empire also badly attacked political foes and critics, including in the media.
A key figure in the story is Delyan Peevski, a shady power broker and MEP from DPS. Deevski is right on the photo. As it is common knowledge, the biggest concentration of Bulgarian media ownership and distribution concerns primarily the New Bulgarian Media Group Holding, of which Peevski’s mother Irena Krasteva is the owner, and of which credible press investigative reports suggested long ago that Vassilev is the creditor. I wrote about it myself some time ago.
In fact, the European Commission’s latest monitoring report on Bulgaria’s deficient law-enforcement system largely focused on Peevski, without naming him.
CCB has also reportedly financed the expensive European election campaign of the party “Bulgaria without censorship” of former journalist Nikolay Barekov, who is now an MEP. Vassilev has made no secret he wanted to play a role in politics. Barekov denies having been financed by CCB.
Then, the relations between Vassilev and Peevski deteriorated greatly, for undisclosed reasons. The Bulgarian prosecution took seriously Peevski’s signal that Vassilev had hired three people to kill him and investigated Vassilev’s offices, which contributed to a bank run on CCB that accelerated the early elections.
According to media reports, DPS has largely taken control over the siphoning of Bulgaria’s state resource, in terms of public procurement, governmental decision-making and law-making. Also according to publications in the Bulgarian press, the Prosecutor General Sotir Tsatsarov often appears to act (or not to act) according to Peevski’s will.
Now the main topic in Bulgaria is “who will pay” over the salvaging of the bankrupt CCB. Some views support the conspiracy theory – unnamed big creditors created the bank run, so they will not have to pay.
In Bulgaria, huge wealth is visible (against the background of massive poverty), although few economic activities exist. It is assumed that much of the wealth has been created during a major previous bank crisis, in 1996.
Maybe we see a remake of the story. How was it possible that CCB and Peevski created such a powerful center of oligarchic power? Despite the fact that several media outlets in Bulgaria have warned against both against Vassilev and Peevski’s alleged foul play? How is it possible that the Bulgarian Central Bank did not notice for years the wrongdoings of CCB, before Iskov cried wolf a few days ago? Why major political forces were so largely silent, what was their interest to keep their eyes wide shut? Who are those people and companies who safely withdrew their millions just before the bank run became obvious?
Vassilev’s bank offered extremely generous interest rates for savers, and this is why most of the Bulgarian elite had put their money in his bank.
Many Bulgarian commentators today speak as if they were paid communicators by Vassilev. And nobody in the Bulgaria major TV stations asks those commentators before inviting them to comment: do you have put your money in CCB?
I don’t have any and will try to remain objective when returning to the matter.

Presidencia italiana, Renzi nos propone el reto de recuperar el alma de Europa

Posted by on 10/07/14

Una estrella rutilante recorre Europa, Matteo Renzi, el primer ministro italiano, quien coincidiendo con el arranque de la presidente de turno de Italia de la Unión, ha lanzado un reto de fondo a los europeos: “recuperar el alma de Europa”. Lo hizo en Estrasburgo, ante los nuevos eurodiputados electos, ante una eurocámara con muchos más poderes que las constituidas en anteriores legislaturas, ante 751 representantes de más de 500 millones de personas, de todos los colores y condiciones, eurófobos, euroescépticos y europeístas, que de todo hay en la viña de la UE. Por primera vez un primer ministro se dirigía con este lenguaje y con este discurso alejado de la rutina del trámite que obliga a desgranar tristes objetivos y agenda previsible del semestre. El mandatario italiano, junto a Merkel, el mejor parado de las elecciones del 25 de mayo, se ha erigido en el paladín de la socialdemocracia europea ante el derrumbe monumental de los socialistas francesas de la mano del presidente galo, François Hollande. Y gracias a su iniciativa se ha alcanzado el pacto entre populares y socialistas en la eurocámara que ha hecho posible la reelección de Schulz como presidente de la misma y de Junker como presidente de la Comisión como candidato de la lista más votada, la de los populares europeos. Ha demostrado tener capacidad e iniciativa política, pero lo más importante, este ambicioso ex alcalde de Florencia que en la sombra urdió el asalto final al cavaliere Berlusconi y después forzó la caída por sorpresa de su correlegionario Enrico Letta al frente del Gobierno, nos ha hablado del nuevo relato que necesita imperiosamente el proyecto europeo.

Renzi se presentó ante la eurocámara como representante de la generación de Telémaco, el hijo de Ulises que regresó a Ítaca y la referencia a la mitología griega no podía ser más idónea. Telémaco era todavía un niño cuando su padre marchó a la Guerra de Troya y en sus casi veinte años de ausencia creció hasta hacerse adulto. Después de que los dioses en asamblea hubieran decidido que Ulises debía volver a casa desde la isla de Ogigia, Atenea, adoptando la apariencia de Méntor, rey de los tafios, fue a Ítaca y advirtió a Telémaco que expulsase de su casa a los molestos pretendientes de su madre Penélope y se dirigiese a Pilos y Esparta con el fin de recabar información sobre su padre. Telémaco siguió el consejo, pero los pretendientes se negaron a abandonar su hogar, y Atenea, aún con la forma de Méntor, lo acompañó a Pilos. Allí fueron recibidos hospitalariamente por Néstor. Su hijo Pisístrato durmió junto a él, mientras Méntor lo hizo en el barco con la tripulación. Al día siguiente, una hija de Néstor, Policasta, bañó a Telémaco. Luego Pisístrato lo guió a Esparta. También Menelao lo recibió amablemente, y le comunicó la profecía de Proteo sobre Ulises: que estaba siendo retenido contra su voluntad por la ninfa Calipso, que lo amaba. Desde Esparta, Telémaco regresó a casa, y una vez allí encontró a su padre con su fiel porquerizo Eumeo. Sin embargo, Atenea había transformado a Ulises en mendigo, así que Telémaco no reconoció a su padre sino más tarde, al revelarle éste su identidad. Padre e hijo acordaron entonces castigar a los pretendientes; y cuando acabaron con ellos o los dispersaron, Telémaco acompañó a su padre a ver a su anciano abuelo Laertes.


Todos estos trabajos épicos hubo de llevar a cabo Telémaco para recuperar los logros de su padre el héroe Ulises. No cabe duda que las generaciones que hicieron posible la recuperación de Europa tras el desastre de la II Guerra Mundial y que nos legaron el proyecto de paz en común, han sucumbido ante el azote de una crisis que ha empobrecido no solo nuestros Estados del Bienestar, sino los anhelos propios de unidad. De ahí que escuchar en boca de un joven líder italiano – Renzi tiene tan solo 39 años – un nuevo discurso de regeneración es toda una novedad en estos días de zozobra. Sin papeles y con la vehemencia del político que aun no ha sido baqueteado por la realidad, Renzi afirmó, con un lenguaje fresco y espontáneo, que “si Europa asistiera hoy a su propio selfie [el autorretrato fotográfico popularizado por el teléfono móvil], mostraría cara de cansancio, de resignación, un rostro aburrido. Y es curioso porque el futuro necesita mucho de nosotros”. Pero no se quedó en grandes palabras su intervención ante los eurodiputados, Renzi clamó por reconvertir el pacto de estabilidad en un pacto por el crecimiento. Tras el intento fallido del presidente francés, el dirigente italiano ha sido el primer líder socialdemócrata europeo que ha logrado abrir el debate de esa mayor flexibilidad en las reglas para insuflar aire a Europa. Seis años después de que se iniciara la crisis, el paisaje es inquietante: 26 millones de parados y un crecimiento anémico en el continente. Con grandes diferencias entre países, la UE presenta un parte de daños muy superior al de EE.UU., que en 2013 creció ya cerca del 2% anual.

“¿Qué sentido tiene que permanezcamos juntos”", esa fue la gran pregunta lanzada al aire del Edificio Louise Weiss que por su franqueza dejó boquiabiertos a los parlamentarios. Si no podemos encontrar motivos para seguir recorriendo esta Odisea unidos, el sueño de una Europa ejemplo de civilización de respeto de derechos, en paz y democracia, volverá a estar en riesgo. Y esa es la verdadera alma de la Europa que queremos y que debemos ser capaces de transmitir sobre todo a los más jóvenes. Ellos deben ser protagonistas ahora del nuevo relato de la UE, ellos deben convencerse de las bondades del espacio común, ellos tienen la obligación de reconocerse como un todo, plural y diverso, pero homogéneo en objetivos. Toca escuchar a los jóvenes europeos, toca darles la voz y la palabra para no hundirnos en un proyecto reiterativo y falto de respuestas a los grandes retos que el mundo global nos lanza cada día. Solo de su mano podemos dibujar un futuro que hoy ya es la única receta válida para liberarnos de este presente caduco y decrépito, trufado de corrupción y desigualdades crecientes. Necesitamos nuevo discurso, nuevos protagonistas, nueva agenda, nueva Europa en suma. Un tiempo nuevo para una sociedad más formada e informada, que quiere participar y escoger el camino a seguir. No sirven ya los modelos autocráticos, de democracia delegada en representantes que hablan con sus representados cada cuatro años en forma de voto en urna o hablando a través de unos medios de comunicación desacreditados y que han perdido el sentido de la responsabilidad del derecho a la información y solo defienden intereses empresariales.

Si de algo ha adolecido el proyecto europeo ha sido de sentido identitario, con todo lo que ello supone, falta de simbología, de mitos o iconos sobre los que construir el relato pasional, es decir, le ha faltado todo aquello que le sobra a las naciones que lo componen. Ahora estamos a tiempo de corregir este desequilibrio de origen. Sería lógico abrir un debate continuo entre los europeos para saber que piensan y qué quieren de Europa. Las TIC’s, la smartización y la aplicación del Internet a las cosas más cercanas y prácticas, nos ofrece un nuevo terreno de juego de comunicación entre los ciudadanos europeos. Ese diálogo, esa forma de hablar entre todos que hace décadas no existía, debe impregnar todas las decisiones de las instituciones europeas. La Unión tiene una oportunidad de oro para imponerse a los gobiernos nacionales que han perdido su relación con sus gobernados. La teórica crisis de la política, lo es de esos gobernantes nacionales por su incapacidad para escuchar a los ciudadanos. La Unión no tiene porqué seguir cometiendo ese error, pese a que hasta la fecha es percibida como una Administración lejana y ajena a los problemas reales de la sociedad. Se trata de convertir un problema en una oportunidad, se trata de que Europa sea la solución. Si escuchamos adecuadamente los conceptos, las ideas y las opiniones sobre las que se construye el consenso en el ámbito europeo tendremos claros los objetivos que deben ordenar la agenda de actuación de las instituciones europeas y, solo entonces, tendrá sentido el ejercicio de cesión de soberanía que todos hemos realizado.

Renzi ha sacudido las conciencias de los eurodiputados y le corresponde dar la batalla entre sus colegas jefes de Gobierno en el Consejo. Es evidente que se avecinan tiempos de cambios imparables pero lo que está en juego en esta era de revolución tecnológica como en todas las transiciones de la civilización es si nos enfrentamos a un proceso de reformas por profundas que sean o la mutación de la piel social se producirá por ruptura de sus esquemas y sus estructuras, algo que históricamente nunca ha estado exento de violencia. Eso dependerá exclusivamente de que quienes deben tomar las decisiones sepan escuchar. Empezando por los jóvenes, siguiendo por las identidades de comunidades y pueblos que recorren el continente, por poner oído a las quejas de los más desfavorecidos y no solo ser sensibles a las presiones de los más poderosos y por saber distinguir las voces de los ecos, de interpretar los deseos de las mayorías silenciosas sin aplastar a las minorías, pero sin ceder el rumbo a los que más protestan. Escuchar y dialogar, la esencia de la más vieja de las expresiones democráticas, la que se producía en el ágora griega, la que fuimos perdiendo con la magnitud de las cosas a gobernar, alejándonos de la cercanía de las opiniones de los que nos rodean. Esa cercanía que hoy nos brinda la Red y las tecnologías de comunicación en su infinidad de expresiones aplicativas. Recobremos el sentido del poder del pueblo, del demos kratos, dejando atrás fórmulas representativas indirectas, orgánicas y perdamos el miedo a las formas de expresión directas. Saber lo que queremos es la mejor forma de sentirnos unidos.


Germany’s Dangerous Game (?)

Posted by on 09/07/14

The German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported July 9 that the German criminal police have searched the Berlin apartment of a second man thought to be spying for the CIA. The first such case under investigation was reported in local German media on July 2 and got to the international (English) media on July 4. On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, referring to the first reported case, that IF this is true, then it is serious.

This is a hot topic for German media, of course. But, while the World Cup is still going on, this is not a topic for the German public necessarily. It relates more to those following the news related to the international balance of power.

Germany allowed this information to be known – the German government could have decided to keep this secret and deal privately with the US. This can be seen as a message that Berlin sends to Washington – but what message? We may certainly interpret that this says that not everything is rosy in the bilateral relationship between the US and Germany. But this is true for all bilateral relationships – especially the strategic ones.

In the context of the Snowden leak last year and the Ukraine crisis – where Germany had a much more nuanced position than the US’s, the spies’ story adds more detail to Germany’s balancing act.  It looks like it is telling the world – and the US in particular – that Berlin can pursue an independent foreign policy. In the current context, that could be translated into Germany having its own approach towards Russia, regardless of what the US says about it. Moreover, the never ending stories of America spying on its allies give Germany political arguments to selectively challenge or contradict the US on certain issues, thus giving Berlin room to pursue its delicate balance between its interests in the West and in the East.

This approach could well backfire. The US may react to what Germany is currently doing – while the US doesn’t discuss this kind of issues in public, it may well decide to do so this time. However, the ultimate – and most important question is not related to how will the US react but how bad does Germany intend to handle the US-German relations.  The “IF” in Merkel’s response to the matter indicates that Berlin will not go beyond limits…or maybe not.

KFZ-Steuer in Deutschland

Posted by on 08/07/14

… Es ist ein Irrsinnsprojekt, das sich die CSU da im vergangenen Jahr auf die Fahnen geschrieben hat. Es war ja ursprünglich eine populistische Idee für den Bundestagswahlkampf…

(In) Deutschland ein völlig neues Mautsystem für Pkw-Fahrer zu installieren macht keinen Sinn. Der Verwaltungsaufwand dafür ist immens. Zu Recht sprechen die Grünen von einem bürokratischen Monster… Insgesamt zahlen die Autofahrer über 50 Milliarden Euro an Steuern und Abgaben jedes Jahr; und davon werden nur 20 Milliarden wieder in den Straßenbau investiert. Das zeigt, das Geld ist eigentlich vorhanden, aber es wird für andere Dinge ausgegeben.

Wenn die Bundesregierung tatsächlich die zum Teil maroden Straßen und Brücken in Deutschland auf Vordermann bringen will, dann sollte sie entsprechend im Haushalt umschichten – oder aber die Kfz-Steuer erhöhen. Dafür bräuchte man keine neue Bürokratie. Man muss sich auch darüber klar werden, dass die Maut, wenn sie erst einmal eingeführt ist, auch steigen wird wie alle Abgaben, die der Staat erfindet.

Deshalb – nur wegen des Ärgers über die ausländischen Autofahrer auf deutschen Straßen und wegen eines populistischen Wahlkampfversprechens der CSU eine Maut einzuführen macht keinen Sinn. Man kann nur hoffen, dass Dobrindt mit seinen Plänen scheitert.

Game over for Stanishev in Bulgaria. New life for him in the EU Commission?

Posted by on 06/07/14

Stakes are high that Sergei Stanishev, (outgoing) leader of the Bulgarian Socialist Party and (still) President of PES, the Party of European Socialists, will be his country candidate for EU Commissioner.
Boyko Borissov, former Prime Minister said bets that Stanishev will be the Bulgarian candidacy, to be announced by the outgoing Prime Minister Plamen Oresharski. Borissov is better informed than me on home issues.

Oresharski said he will resign on 23 July. He also said he will attend the extraordinary 16 July EU summit, where top EU jobs will be discussed.
In an article I wrote for the Bulgarian press, I appealed for the President Rossen Plevneliev to represent Bulgaria at the 16 July summit. I also suggested that political forces should agree before that for a candidate. Current Bulgarian Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, current Humanitarian Aid Commissioner, appears to be a strong candidate for the next EU executive and it would be logical that Bulgaria would bank on her.
Stanishev made many mistakes, the biggest being the attempt to appoint Delyan Peevski, a shady power broker, as head of the country’s law-enforcement agency. Another has been to accept a government formula with the support of the extremist Ataka party. Further mistakes included waging an all-out war with political opponents inside the Bulgarian left, which brought anxiety and despair among the supporters of this political force.
When I wrote the article I wasn’t aware of the date of the resignation of the Prime Minister. It looks absurd that Bulgaria would be represented by an outgoing prime minister. Bulgaria has a long-standing practice that its President attends EU summits. Especially if there is a good reason for it.
In the meantime, yesterday (5 July) a forum of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) was held, where a decision was taken that a Congress (the highest decision-making structure) would be convened on 27 July to elect a new leader, and that Stanishev was not going to be a candidate again.
This basically means that for Stanishev, it’s game over in Bulgaria. But does it mean that he should be given another chance to follow up at EU level?
It’s very much in the hands of Oresharski, and of Jean-Claude Juncker. The future Commission President may just mechanically take up the candidacies from capitals and play the (Russian) roulette gamble with the hearings in Parliament. Or Mr. Juncker could say: Stanishev is not a good candidate for the project I intend to lead.

Deutscher Mindestlohn

Posted by on 01/07/14

Die jetzigen Proteste sind genauso übertrieben wie Prognosen von Wirtschaftslobbyisten, mehrere Hunderttausend Arbeitsplätze würden wegfallen. Erfahrungen aus anderen Ländern zeigen: Dort, wo Mindestlöhne mit Maß eingeführt wurden, hielten sich die Jobverluste in Grenzen. Maßvoll ist der Gesetzentwurf von Andrea Nahles nicht zuletzt dank der Ausnahmen für Minderjährige, Praktikanten und Langzeitarbeitslose. Für diese drei Gruppen dürfte Berufspraxis kaum weniger wichtig sein als Bezahlung. Sollten Unternehmen das jedoch ausnutzen, um den Mindestlohn gezielt zu unterlaufen, muss die Regierung gegensteuern. Ohnehin ist die Einführung ab Januar 2015 zunächst ein gewaltiger Feldversuch, der steter Kontrolle und Nachjustierung bedarf.

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!


The Greek Presidency in review

Posted by on 30/06/14
Bridging Europe has conducted an independent assessment report on the deeds and performance of the Greek Presidency in the Council of the European Union for the first semester of 2014. How did they do? Find out here.

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 on June 28th (in German). Follow me on Twitter @brnshnwd

La présidence grecque de l’UE : bilan sur son action pour l’égalité hommes-femmes

Posted by on 26/06/14

La présidence grecque de l’Union européenne s’achève au 30 juin, c’est l’occasion de dresser un bilan de la présidence dans le domaine de l’égalité hommes-femmes.

 Dans son programme de Présidence, la Grèce avait indiqué que l’égalité hommes-femmes était une valeur essentielle de l’Union européenne et que la promouvoir était une condition nécessaire pour l’égalité entre les individus et la croissance.

       -. Des réunions de haut-niveau pour améliorer l’égalité hommes-femmes:

Tout au long de la présidence, ont eu lieu des réunions de haut-niveau pour sensibiliser et réfléchir à des initiatives dans le cadre de la Stratégie 2020. L’indépendance et les droits économiques des femmes et la proposition de directive sur la mis en place d’un quota de femmes dans les conseils d’administration a été discuté lors du Conseil EPSCO (Emploi, Politique Sociale, santé et consommateurs) de Juin 2014. Le Conseil a adopté une série de trois indicateurs qui permettront de mieux comprendre la relation des femmes au marché du travail en se concentrant sur l’évaluation des rythmes de travail. Ils auront pour but notamment de voir en quelle mesure le travail à temps partiel est imposé à la personne active.

 Le Conseil Eudcation, Jeunesse, Culture et Sport a également adopté des conclusions sur l’égalité homme-femme dans le sport lors de sa réunion du 21 mai 2014. Le sport est un domaine où l’inégalité entre les genres peut être particulièrement forte : sous-représentation des femmes dans certaines disciplines, risques de violences voire d’harcèlements sexuels. Les médias ont également été épinglés : ils peuvent favoriser la reproduction des stéréotypes, puvant orter préjudice aux sportives de haut-niveau.

Le Conseil invite donc les Etats-membres à mettre en place des mesures favorisant l’égalité homme-femme dans le sport, en visant particulièrement les enfants et les adolescents. Pour cela, ils sont invités à développer des plans nationaux qui promouveront la diversité.

 Le Conseil Justice et Affaires intérieures a quant à lui adopté le 5 juin 2014 des conclusions sur la prévention et la lutte contre toute forme de violence envers les femmes et les filles, y compris la mutilation des organes génitaux féminins. De telles violences vont à l’encontre des droits fondamentaux et de la dignité humaine, c’est pourquoi les Etats-membres sont invités à redoubler d’effforts pour mettre fin à toute violence. Une attention particulière doit être portée sur les victimes, dans leur accompagnement et leurs soins, en accord avec la directive 2009/29/EU. Des campagnes de communication devraient être menées pour sensibiliser les citoyens européens au problème. Le Conseil invite également la Commission à réaliser un Guide qui rassemblerait les actes européens existant déjà sur les violences faites aux femmes. Les conclusions suggèrent également que l’Agence européenne pour les Droits Fondamentaux continue à construire des données sur la question.

       -.Là où le bas blesse : la directive pour un meilleur équilibre hommes-femmes dans les conseils d’administration des grandes entreprises

 Même si la présidence grecque a été très active sur la question de l’égalité homme-femme, elle n’aura pas su débloquer les négociations sur la directive qui instaurerait un quota de 40 % de femmes dans les conseils d’administration des entreprises côtés en bourse à partir de 2020.

La directive, validée depuis novembre 2012, pose ce chiffre de 40 % comme un objectif à atteindre pour 2020. En cas de non-respect, la proposition de directive prévoit des sanctions qui seront appliquées par les Etats-membres : cela peut aller de la sanction administrative à l’annulation, la modification de l’élection du CA.

Si la directive a été adoptée par le Parlement européen en novembre 2013, celle-ci se retrouve maintenant bloqué au sein du Conseil. Les Etats s’accordent tous sur l’objectif à atteindre, mais se divisent sur la façon d’y arriver. Au nom du principe de subsidiarité, le Danemark, les Pays-Bas, la Pologne, la Suède et le Royaume-Uni estiment que ce sont des mesures nationales qui doivent être prises, alors que les autres Etats-membres envisagent une législation européenne. La plupart des Etats-membres émettent également des réserves sur l’application de la directive dans des secteurs où les femmes sont sous-représentées et sur la possible annulation des élections de Conseils d’Administration.

La présidence grecque n’a réalisé que de faibles avancées sur le plan technique pour cette directive, et il ne semble pas que cela avancera davantage sous la présidence italienne, qui a annoncé mettre la croissance et la lutte contre l’austérité comme priorités de son mandat. Pourtant les femmes restent sous-représentées dans les postes à haute responsabilité : Selon les secteurs, les femmes ne représentent qu’ 1 % à 39 % des membres du CA en 2010.


Pour en savoir plus :


- Proposition de directive du Parlement européen et du Conseil relative à un meilleur équilibre hommes-femmes parmi les administrateurs des sociétés cotées en bourse et à des mesures connexes (FR)


- Conseil de l’Union européenne, Note d’information, Conseil « Emploi, politique sociale, santé et consommateurs », Luxembourg, 19 et 20 juin 2014 (FR)


- Conseil de l’Union européenne, Rapport d’avancement sur la Proposition de directive du Parlement européen et du Conseil relative à un meilleur équilibre hommes-femmes parmi les administrateurs des sociétés cotées en bourse et à des mesures connexes, 4/06/2014 (FR)


- Article EU-Logos Athena, « La féminisation des Conseils d’Administration des Grandes entreprises au Parlement européen »,27/10/2013 (FR)


- Programme of the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EN)


- Conseil de l’UE, Conclusions on gender equality in sport, 21/05/2014 (EN)


- Conseil de l’UE, Conclusions on preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls, including female genital mutilation, 05/06/2014 (EN)


- Directive 2009/29/EU establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (EN)




Classé dans:Egalité entre hommes et femmes, NON-DISCRIMINATION

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.