“This is Europe’s moment of truth”

7 Sep

state of the union

State of the Union address

From the romantic:

Europe is not only Brussels or Strasbourg. It is our regions. It is the cities, towns and villages you come from. When you walk round your constituencies, you can point to the European projects that are so important for their prosperity. At the end of the day, we are all in the same boat.

To the historic:

I make a strong appeal not to re-awaken the ghosts of Europe’s past.

To the rallying:

The citizens of Europe expect us to take the action needed to get out of this crisis… It is not with pessimism that we will win this battle.

José Manuel Barroso’s message was clear: You need me.

Yes, there were policy statements and announcements of new initiatives but what really came through was how the president of the European Commission wanted us all to see how indispensible he is.

It suits the message if the situation we face is portrayed as bleak. This, of course, is nothing new in politics. Except this time, the bogeyman is those people who do not buy into the European ideal.

“We either swim together, or sink separately,” he said today. “We will only succeed if, whether acting nationally, regionally or locally, we think European.”

Replace European with “German” or “British” or “Swedish”, or indeed any other nationality, and it sounds ridiculous.

It shows that this isn’t Europe’s “moment of truth” as Barroso put it today, rather yet another occasion when the EU has had to justify its existence.

Q. State of the Union?  A. Still uncertain.


President’s desperate PR fightback

6 Sep


Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

It is bizarre that, at a time when the purpose of the EU’s institutions are being called into question more than ever, the president of the European Commission decides to introduce a US-style “State of the Union” address.

Rather than use tomorrow’s opportunity merely to set out the priorities for the year ahead, José Manuel Barroso’s PR move looks to owe more to style than substance.

The institutions of the EU face the biggest threat to their power since their creation. Member state governments are increasingly regaining the role of Europe’s navigators.

But, rather than analyse the reasons for this, or try to get to grips with Europe’s pressing issues, Barroso’s move aims to put the commission – and himself personally – back on centre stage.

Like a man whose marriage is in difficulty, he’s going out on the town, drinking with his mates, flirting with women, putting on a brave face and trying to prove he’s still got it — rather than staying at home to work out what is wrong.

But it will strike a discordant note with Europe’s citizens who no longer see the relevance of this type of posturing.

The State of the Union address will no doubt play well to the chattering classes who live in the Brussels bubble and see the strengthening of the European Commission as its main raison-d’etre.

But to the those people protesting on the streets of Athens, those in London who view the EU with scepticism, those in Berlin who are worried about the strength of the economy, they will hear Mr Barroso and ask: Why this? Why now?

That’s if they even listen at all.

September is here and Johnny is back!

3 Sep

Back to schoolYes, rejuvenated after lying on the beach sipping cocktails for a month with Mrs Erasmus, I’m back to walk the corridors of European power.

What has been going on in Brussels during my absence? Anything much?

Belgium hasn’t got its own government but still holds the presidency of the EU, attempts to bring in some sort of regulation in the financial sector look to have been successful and France has begun expelling groups of Roma people back to Hungary and Romania.  Meanwhile, European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso is going all American and making the first European “State of the Union” address next week.

What fun.

Join me from Monday for more daily news from Brussels.

Seen this somewhere before?

24 Jul

Daily Mail

A fruity tale

Interesting to see that the Daily Mail yesterday ran a story that you read about on Ooh, Brussels! MORE THAN TWO WEEKS AGO.

In its typical Europhobic tone, the Mail’s article talked about the £12m “squandered” on the study, as reported on Ooh, Brussels! MORE THAN TWO WEEKS AGO that concluded that two apples a day keep the doctor away.

While I’m talking about this story, here’s an interesting blog post by the European Commission’s Antonia Mochan on her Euonym blog, exploring the myths associated with the Daily Mail’s story. She makes a fair point but, nevertheless, despite the Mail’s damning tone, it’s exactly this sort of expenditure that does need scrutiny. Just in a more intelligent way that the Mail usually manages.

Read it on Ooh, Brussels! first.

A message from Johnny

23 Jul
As a relative newcomer to the European blogging community (Ooh, Brussels! has only been going for 10 weeks) I’ve been struck by how lively and thriving the EU blogging scene is.

Debate is informed and constructive and also close-knit: there seems to be a real network of readers and bloggers promoting the medium as a good way of communicating and discussing European affairs.

I’ve also been delighted that this close-knit community isn’t closed to outsiders. No sooner had I written a few posts, I was included on the EU Blogging Portal’s list and thanks to Twitter and bloggers such as Eurogoblin and Europasionaria and Greg H word has got around quickly. I’ve been pleasantly shocked at just how many readers return to read.

There’s a long way to go before Ooh, Brussels! is as good as their blogs, or as good as any of the others listed along with this one on the Fleishman-Hillard’s selection of Euroblogs or the Blogging Portal’s list of blogs.

(And while I’m on the subject, take a look at that list here, to vote for your favourite blogs before Sunday.)

This blog will develop over time but the idea will still be, primarily, to focus on a UK audience to try to make the EU relevant, interesting and written about from an unbiased perspective.

Thanks for you support. Please come again.


One tractor, 50 regulations

23 Jul

Ploughing on

When you see a tractor trundling across a field, you’re witnessing a vehicle that is subject to 50 European directives.

That revelation was made by the European Commission today as part of an announcement that it was time to simplify things just a little bit.

Officials want to make tractors safer – many of them would need to be fitted with anti-lock braking systems for instance – and also cut red tape.

They are planning to replace the 50 directives with five new EU regulations.

A good start. What next?

EU backs Murdoch

22 Jul

Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi is unhappy with EU decision

The European Commission has lifted its block on Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp gaining more control of Italian TV stations.

The company, under its Italian subsidiary Sky Italia, wants to play a role in the increasing digital TV market in the country.

Most of the Italy’s television stations are owned by Prime Minister’s Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire and his government has criticised the European Commission’s decision, saying it will distort competition.

This week in the UK users of Twitter have been tweeting with the hashtag #proudofthebbc in the face of incessant criticism of the corporation by some MPs and the press, some owned by Murdoch.

Berlusconi v Murdoch? Be careful what you wish for.

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