Tag Archives: EU

“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

Barosso

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.

MEP’s barmy tax plan

8 Jul

Just when we thought some financial and political reality was dawning on policy-makers in Europe, up pops a politician who wants to introduce a new tax to fund the EU.

Jutta Haug, an MEP from Germany, is to chair a European Parliamentary committee looking at the way the EU is paid for.

She wants all countries in Europe to levy the tax – this could be on their citizens or something more specific such as on bank transactions – and send the cash straight to Brussels.

We’d all like to see greater transparancy in the EU’s budget but you’re living in a dreamworld if you think governments around Europe could pull this one off.

Back to the drawing board Jutta.

Coach companies forced to compensate passengers

2 Jun
Indian bus

Slow coaches

Bus and coach companies might soon have to offer hotel accommodation up to €120 (about £100) if passengers are delayed overnight.

This already is the case with airlines but coach firms are likely to have the foot the bill too now.

Travellers will also be able to claim back the cost of the ticket if they are delayed by more than two hours.

Johnny is used to just nibbling on Twiglets when he gets delayed but he welcomes the news that he soon might be given money to get a roof over his head for the night.

This won’t be introduced just yet though because governments believe the European Parliament’s plans go too far.

They don’t.

Where Johnny leads, others follow

20 May
FT

In the pink

You read here on Ooh Brussels on TUESDAY about the success of Scottish fishermen in their battle against the European Commission, which has finally admitted mistakes.

And TWO DAYS LATER, the Financial Times caught up with their own take on the fishy tale.

It’s great to see that Johnny is leading the pack when it comes to European news!

Keep up boys and girls!

And the costs keep rising

20 May
Cash

Piling up

MEPs, who never shy away from getting a bit more money out of our taxes if they can, voted yesterday to increase the cash they get for running each of their offices by €1,500 (about £1,400) per month.

They’ve also decided to hire an extra 150 staff to work at the European Parliament.

Oh, and they’ve already said that next year they want their office allowance (which is generally used to employ assistants) to go up by another €1,500 and have requested another 236 posts.

They say it’s all necessary because of the extra workload caused by the Lisbon Treaty.

It should be noted however, that MEPs from the Conservatives in Britain voted against the €1,500 rise.

Money well spent?

Oh my cod!

18 May
Cod and chips

Cods-wallop

The European Commission has been forced to admit a mistake that left  fishermen in Scotland out of pocket.

Today the Commission came clean about an error in figures used to calculate the amount of fish fishermen are allowed to catch – and then sell.

It was a simple mistake to make but incredibly serious. The Commission mixed up figures in a table it produced between a column for the waters around the west of Scotland with a column dealing with the North Sea.

The trouble was, officials were using the table to work out how many days Scottish fishermen were allowed to take to the seas.

The mistake led to a 10 % reduction in the days they were told they could legally fish in 2007.

It has taken three years for the European Commission to admit this mistake, refused to do so at first, and only does so now following the intervention of the European Ombudsman.

A very fishy tale indeed.

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