Posts in "Belgium" Category

Dear @Xavier_Bettel, it’s time to rotate the @EU_Presidency

Bettel

In seven months Luxembourg will take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union. Preparations seem to be well underway, but so far your government has not set up a specific Twitter account for the presidency.

As you may know, the current Italian EU Presidency is quite active on Twitter. It has amassed more than 32,000 followers to its account, @IT2014EU. The Latvian government – which holds the presidency in the first half of 2015 – is already tweeting via two accounts – in English (@EU2015LV), and in Latvian (@ES2015LV). They have a combined total of  more than 3,800 followers.

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A trio of troubles in Tusk’s in-tray

??????????????????????????????????The final piece of Europe’s jigsaw is almost in place.

On Monday, Donald Tusk (pictured above) – elected by the national leaders at the end of August, becomes President of the European Council. But what faces the former Polish prime minister when he arrives in his new office on Monday?

Herman Van Rompuy – Tusk’s predecessor in the role – identified three key issues when the new President was unveiled in the summer. None of the these three issues has become simpler in the last three months.

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A five-point guide to the EU top jobs puzzle

This weekend, the European Council will meet again to decide on the holders of the EU’s top jobs.

Here’s our five-point guide to Saturday’s meeting and what it means – and have your say on one of the key issues of the summer by voting in our poll.

1. Time for action

hvr squareAfter the failure to agree on the top jobs at the last summit in July, European Union leaders are under pressure to reach an accord. The European Council is increasingly gaining a reputation as an institution that takes too long to decide anything, and whose decisions are often ‘fudges’.

Saturday is the crunch moment: if EU leaders fail to conclude a ‘package’ of appointments, it will put paid to any remote hopes of appointing the Commission on time. More importantly in the long term, it will increase popular and global perceptions of the EU as a sclerotic organisation. Herman Van Rompuy (pictured left), the President of the European Council, was criticised by EU leaders and many analysts for not preparing a watertight deal before July’s summit (although he was not helped by some prime ministers). The President will not want another failure.

The decisions are not easy: there are significant political, institutional and personal headaches for the 28 leaders. But the leaders are there to lead, and to decide. It’s time to act.

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Building a new Commission – the runners and riders for the next College

[infopane color=”6″ icon=”0049.png”]Post updated later on Wednesday 11 June to account for news that Dacian Cioloș (Agriculture and Rural Development; Romania) may be re-nominated to the Commission.[/infopane]

With the choice of a President of the European Commission still up in the air, we are a long way off knowing the full team that will occupy the upper floors of the Berlaymont for the next five years.

Nevertheless, national governments are already putting forward their proposed nominees to sit in the new College. Here’s our look at the comings and goings in the Commission in 2014, and the potential candidates to take a seat in the new Commission.

If you have comments or suggestions, please include them in the comments box.

See our country-by-country guide to the potential nominees

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Who’s going where? Tracking the musical chairs in the European Parliament

[infopane color=”5″ icon=”0049.png”]Please note that since the constitutive session of the European Parliament on 1 July 2014, this page is no longer being updated.[/infopane]
EPP S&D ALDE G/EFA ECR EFDD GUE/NGL NI
221 191 67 50 70 48 52 52
27 countries 28 countries 21 countries 17 countries 15 countries 7 countries 14 countries 10 countries
The 2014 European elections brought 34 new parties or independent candidates to the European Parliament.

Now, many of those new MEPs are seeking to join political groups to strengthen their voice in the Parliament, while a battle goes on between the groups to attract new members that help ensure their survival and maximise their influence, speaking time and funding.

One new group – the European Alliance for Freedom – has also been mooted as a way to bring together anti-EU parties on the radical right. To form this and other groups, a minimum of 25 MEPs are needed, representing at least seven member states.

At the same time, other parties are considering changing groups or allying themselves to a group for the first time.

Take a look at our table listing the parties up for grabs, based on the vast array of information from intelligence we have gathered and media reports – and contribute via the button below or the comments box at the bottom of the page.

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Five days on from the election: five reflections on the Commission presidency

[infopane color=”6″ icon=”0049.png”]This blogpost, originally published at 12:55 on Friday 30 May, has been updated following remarks by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, later on Friday afternoon.[/infopane]

That was the week that was: an odd few days where the European People’s Party won the European Parliament elections, but was also the biggest loser; and where Socialists in the Parliament backed the EPP lead candidate for the European Commission presidency, only for some centre-right leaders to apply the brakes in the European Council.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the EPP lead candidate, is still the frontrunner and the only person formally in the running. His chances have been boosted tanks to comments by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on Friday, that she is conducting negotiations on the basis that Juncker should be President.

However, it is clear that a number of heads of government would like to dump him in favour of someone else. The President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, has been charged with an exploratory mission to find the person – Juncker included – who can command the sufficient majority in the Parliament and European Council.

Meanwhile, five political groups in the European Parliament have backed Juncker to have a first go at building majorities in the same institutions – and if he fails, are likely to call for Martin Schulz, lead candidate of the second-placed Socialists, to have a go.

If those who want to block Juncker in the European Council succeed – and it is not a done deal yet for the former Luxembourg prime minister – an inter-institutional battle between the Parliament and European Council will be on the cards.

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Elections round-up: EPP loses but stays as biggest group, while anti-EU parties surge

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Europe’s voters have backed a vast array of anti-EU and anti-establishment voters in the 2014 European Parliament elections, sending fewer MEPs from each of the main political groups back to Brussels and Strasbourg.

Despite being the biggest loser of the night in terms of seats, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) looks like emerging as the biggest party in the European Parliament with its support holding up in Germany and Poland among the larger member states, and good support across central and Eastern Europe. The Socialists are also set to lose a handful of seats, with the Liberals likely to lose around 20 seats according to the latest projections.

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The populist challenge and the mainstream response

Marley Morris of Counterpoint, a UK-based research group that focuses on cultural and social dynamics underpinning politics, economics and security, writes on the prospect of an increase in populist voices at the European elections:

The European Parliament elections contain a strange contradiction.

The next parliament, thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, will have more power than any of its predecessors. It will be able to elect the President of the European Commission for the first time. Vast areas of vital policy – not least the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – are at stake. And as the first pan-European elections since the worst moments of the eurozone crisis, the results will be analysed as a crucial gauge of public opinion.

Euranet Plus interview - Guest of the Week with MEP Marine LE PENAnd yet there is still a long way to go to making the European Parliament elections comparable in status to national polls. Eurobarometer tells us that only 54 per cent of European Union citizens are aware that the European Parliament is directly elected.

Efforts by the mainstream European-level parties to tout their ‘lead candidates’ seem to have had limited success, with many voters unaware of the contest, and numerous commentators suspecting that the next Commission president may well be someone else entirely.

A populist surge?

Ten days from the elections, the expectation is that apathy will translate into success for Eurosceptics and populists at the polls.

Marine Le Pen (right), the leader of France’s populist radical right National Front (FN) party, and Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-Islam and Eurosceptic Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, pledged last year to join forces. They plan to form a political group with like-minded parties in the new Parliament. Wilders has said of the proposed alliance: “We will have an enormous influence… We are working on a historical project.”

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2014: focus on youth

Giuseppe Porcaro, Secretary-General of the European Youth Forum, looks at what the European political parties are offering to young people:

After the first European Council of last year, Herman Van Rompuy tweeted on youth issues – an act that symbolically represented the entrance of youth into mainstream European political discourse at the highest level.

After that, references to youth, once very hard to spot, became standard in most speeches of European leaders. This is not by chance. The unemployment and exclusion of millions of young people is one of the greatest challenges in European politics today, and is a challenge that youth movements have been highlighting for many years.

Considering this background, it is no surprise that youth is one of the buzzwords of the campaigns for the European Parliament elections in May. But to what extent do the freshly adopted manifestos of the European parties represent young people?

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The first head-to-head: much ado about very little

EP President meets Jean-Claude Juncker

A little bit of European political history was made yesterday, with the first televised head-to-head debate between candidates for the European Commission presidency.

The first debate between Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz – the lead candidates for the European People’s Party and the Party of European Socialists – took place in Brussels and was broadcast live on France 24, with a replay later that evening on Radio France International.

It is the first in a series of debates between the lead candidates (see panel) – and there is definitely scope for improvement if the candidates – and broadcasters – truly want to engage people in the discussion on Europe’s future leadership.
[infopane color=”6″ icon=”0869.png”]Next live TV debates

Juncker v Schulz
8 May at 20:15 CET – broadcast on ÖRF (Austria) and ZDF (Germany), in German
20 May at 21:00 CET – broadcast on ARD (Germany), in German

Open to all candidates (note: Alexis Tsipras not confirmed for 28 April and 9 May)
28 April at 19:00 CET – broadcast on Euronews
9 May at 18:30 CET – broadcast on Rai (Italy)
15 May at 21:00 CET – organised by the EBU – national coverage may vary[/infopane]

My overall view on the France 24 / RFI debate is that it that it was rather dull in format and content – everyone was playing things a bit safe. It’s natural for a first debate, but if the candidates and broadcasters want to engage voters, there needs to be more dynamism.

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