Tag Archives: European Commission

“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.

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?

Ironing boards from Ukraine

2 Jul


Ironing out a few problems

It’s fascinating to see just how many areas of life the EU gets involved in.

Today, for example, it ruled on whether a company in Ukraine is harming European firms by selling ironing boards more cheaply than it would do in its own country.

This is against the rules.

A couple of years ago the European Commission investigated the ironing board market and decided the Ukrainian variety were too cheap so imposed a 10% tax on imports from that country to redress the balance.

The Ukrainian ironing board company complained and today the Council of Ministers reduced it to 7%.

Oh, and just in case you’re not sure what sort of thing we’re talking about, the official document helpfully describes for us the:

“ironing boards, whether or not free-standing, with or without a steam soaking and/or heating top and/or blowing top, including sleeve boards, and essential parts thereof, i.e. the legs, the top and the iron rest, originating in Ukraine.”

It’s worth keeping tabs on because what’s known in trade circles as “dumping” of products can go from the relatively technical to a full-blown trade dispute.

Because on Wednesday, the European Commission announced the start of a similar investigation, this time concerning China and whether it was exporting a type of wireless modem into the EU market too cheaply.

The Chinese government launched a stinging attack in response, saying it had “grave concerns” about what the EU was doing.

Complicated, isn’t it? I’ll stick to the ironing.

Hold the front page!

1 Jul
The end of the world is nigh

Newspapers want help

How ironic it is that the boss of a British newspaper that frequently spreads xenophobic myths about Europe is begging Brussels for help.

Yes, the Daily Mail, whose Sunday sister title broke the made-up story that the EU is going to ban selling eggs by the dozen, wants European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to urgently address the print media’s problems of declining profits.

Representatives of the Daily Mail and other papers across Europe told Barroso that the EU needs to open up the advertising market and take action against news aggregator websites so newspapers can charge people to read content more easily – something which the pressmen said the EU should help promote.

(Incidentally, you might like to know that the Daily Mail and General Trust, which owns the paper, made operating profits in the six months to April this year of £144m (about €175m.))

Newspapers such as the Daily Mail have spent buckets of newsprint year after year vilifying representatives of some industries, such as farmers and fishermen, for relying too heavily on EU subsidies.

It’s a bit rich that they want the EU to help out now.

And from Barroso’s stilted response it doesn’t sound like the European Commission is going to go out of its way to offer assistance.

And neither should it.

EU makes phone calls cheaper

9 Jun

We’ve got the EU to thank for the new lower cost of mobile phone roaming around Europe.

In 2007 the EU decided to cap the amount that mobile phone operators could charge people from using their handset abroad.

Unsurprisingly the mobile phone companies challenged this ruling, initially in Britain, saying it was anti-competitive.

But yesterday Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, judged that the EU did have the right to impose the caps, in the interest of consumers.


Before 2007 it could cost a fortune, sometimes more than £2 a minute to call from one country to another within Europe.

When the rules came in they limited the cost to 49 euro cents (about 40p) to make calls and 24 euro cents (20p) to receive them when in another European country.

Not bad – but it gets better!

Next year costs have to reduce further – to 35 euro cents (29p) to call and 11 cents (9p) to receive.

Victory for Europe! This is what the EU should be for.

And it means Johnny can now go interrailing and still phone his mum (Mrs Erasmus).

Over and out.

Shake it up, baby

31 May

Unless you want to feel the earth move, I wouldn’t go anywhere near Carcassonne in southern France this week.

Johnny, for one, is going to stay in his bunker in Brussels.

What the European Union is calling “a major European disaster simulation exercise” is taking place there all this week.

Officials are testing how good different countries are at co-operating during a major earthquake. It is the first European civil protection exercise since the Lisbon Treaty encouraged countries to work more closely together.

Little information is available but we are told that “command posts will work under realistic conditions in the field”.

The exercise is being organised by France and involves civil protection teams from Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland and Spain, while chiefs watch on from the European Commission’s spookily named Monitoring and Information Centre in Brussels.

Johnny says: “Stay calm everybody!”

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