Just read the latest version of Sarko’s “European pact on immigration“.
To recap, this is his plan for European countries to bring their immigration policies closer together. EU interior ministers broadly backed the measure at their meeting in Cannes on Monday. Read more
An EU survey sheds more light on the decisive “no” vote in Ireland’s referendum on the union’s Lisbon reform treaty.
The study shows that those who voted against did so because of; a lack of knowledge of the treaty; a desire to protect Irish identity and safeguard neutrality; a lack of trust in politicians; the potential loss of a permanent commissioner in Brussels and to protect the tax system. Read more
A big and rather heavy parcel arrived in the Brussels office last week.
It contained three weighty tomes – including Norman Davies’ 1,365 page work ”Europe a History.” Also in the box were three discs, two large, glossy picture books and two brochures – all linked to the western Polish city of Wroclaw. Read more
Who will feature in the next European Commission, to take office in 2009?
Well, for starters, it is widely thought that José Manuel Barroso wants a second term running the show. So how does the Portuguese liberal re-apply for his own job? Read more
The daily press briefing at the European Commission’s star-shaped Berlaymont HQ in Brussels is an event rarely noted for its humour.
Yesterday’s menu, for example, included questions to the Commission on the subjects of organised crime in Bulgaria, a court judgment on Sweden’s alcohol taxation rules, the Macedonian elections, and Greek asylum policy, among others. Read more
A colleague visited recently from the FT’s London mothership, and a few of us took him out to sample some hearty Belgian fare.
Over his beer and stoemp (bangers and mash, Belgian-style) he asked who in the Brussels machine was the ultimate dinner party guest. A member of the European parliament, a national ambassador to the EU, or a European commissioner?
The consensus was that with Brussels dancing to the beat of the European Commission (the EU executive), commissioners were at the top of the pecking order.
Granted, not all commissioners’ roles are equal. Holding the EU education and training portfolio (where the union has only a small role) hardly has the same cachet as, say, the competition supremo job which gives Neelie Kroes, the incumbent, the power to take on companies such as Microsoft.
But now this Commission has entered its final year and a half, and some of its members have already jumped ship. Markos Kyprianou, formerly health commissioner, has returned to Cyprus to become its foreign minister. Franco Frattini, justice commissioner, is on unpaid leave to participate in this month’s elections in his native Italy. Read more
In many ways, continental Europe is increasingly an area without borders (viz the euro single currency, cheaper cross-border mobile phone calls, the enlarged passport-free travel zone).
But not everything works seamlessly. Read more
An intriguing development here: it looks as if Britain has been cornered in a fight to settle two hugely controversial EU labour rules.
This would be more bad news for Gordon Brown, and infuriate some British employers.
To them, these laws – one on temps’ rights, the other on the maximum working week – are a pet hate, a sign of Brussels meddling in the UK’s flexible labour market.
But many countries are keen to get agreement on the rules, which are stuck in a legislative deep freeze after years of delays.
If the plan – put forward this week by the Portuguese EU presidency – goes through, the UK would have to compromise on one of the laws. Read more
It is 2028. The ice caps are dwindling, Chelsea Clinton continues her parents’ presidential legacy in the White House…and Belgium still awaits a new federal government after elections in June 2007.
Yes, I’m joking. Belgium faces a very difficult situation right now, and many people hope it will get out of its impasse in the coming weeks. But how?
A quick recap: The linguistically-divided country has been without a new government since an election more than five months ago.
The francophone parties and the Flemish groups expected to make up a centre-right coalition just can’t agree on state reform, prompting concerns that the country could break up along its linguistic fault lines. Read more
Since you’re reading this, it’s not too much to assume that you’re interested in the blogsphere…
So you might want to know about a report – The online world – a new constituency – which comes out tomorrow. It’ll be posted on the website of a PR firm called Edelman.
Perhaps it is a little self-serving for a blog to write up this study. After all, it details the growing role of the medium. And yes, it can be tricky for a report to get the measure of these sorts of phenomena. Still, for what it’s worth, here are some of the core points:
And on it goes…
Belgium waits and waits for a new federal government, almost five months after the election. Next week, it is expected to break its record for the longest-ever talks to form a coalition.
This leaves everyone to muse about the linguistically-divided country’s future, and in particular, the claim that the Flemings of the wealthy (Dutch-speaking) north and the Walloons of the poorer, francophone south, barely know each other.
I suppose when your country has been (briefly) put up for sale on eBay, and the prime minister designate appears unwilling to sing the national anthem, you’re justified in questioning things? But is the doom and gloom making everyone become a bit too tough on themselves? Read more
One of the big upcoming stories in EU-land is the planned expansion of the union’s passport-free zone by the year-end.
It’s a tough task for the nine (almost all ex-Communist) countries to meet the criteria to join the Schengen area. (There are no internal frontier controls between member states that sign up to Schengen). In Wednesday’s paper, we wrote about the progress of the countries vying to join. The confidential report that we saw shows that a lot of work is still needed – especially on improving visa issuance. But some countries, notably Poland, have made great strides.
An intriguing twist in a tale that is fast turning into one of the best dramas in the Brussels law-making machine.
It’s all to do with whether some of the biggest telecoms companies in the EU – such as Deutsche Telekom – could be forced to change the way they work, as part of efforts to bolster broadband development.
On Wednesday, the EU’s national telecoms watchdogs unanimously backed a plan that would give them the right to break up large operators if other regulatory tools had failed.
So, regulators like the idea of having more power. Big deal?
Actually, it is…
Just setting up in sunny Amsterdam, where I’ll work for a couple of weeks. In Brussels last week, the talk was all about whether Belgium would split, creating an independent Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north, and a French-speaking nation in southern Wallonia. Why? Because three months after the general election, the political parties have failed to agree on a new, national government, and even an intervention by the King has failed – so far. So amid all the doom and gloom, it’s worth nothing that there’s visible support for the supposedly unloved Belgian state.
It’s three months today since Belgium held a general election, and still there’s no new government.
To recap: after the poll, Yves Leterme, a Flemish Christian Democrat, was poised to be the next premier.
But talks on forming a coalition of French, and Dutch, speaking-parties are deadlocked. The weird thing is how easily you can forget this.
This report on the EU’s broadband market just landed in my inbox.
It’s by Ecta, a lobby group representing new telecoms companies that take on big, former state-run “incumbent” operators.
The study shows that EU broadband subscriptions have risen and are drawing level with the US and Japan. That said, the proportion of people signing up varies widely across member states and competition is weak in some countries.
One key point in the paper: in Britain, where regulators took radical action to split BT, the big telecoms group, the market is doing well and competition has increased.
Spotted this in a stack of written questions from MEPs to the European Commission:
"What figures has the Commission of the numbers of immigrants who registered to study in member states, but who never turned up at the institutions and became, instead, illegal immigrants?"
It might not surprise you to know that it’s from Robert Kilroy-Silk, the perma-tanned, British, ex-chat show host (learn more)
Here’s the answer, from Franco Frattini, EU immigration commissioner:
And the EU’s mobile phone roaming debate goes on…and on…
Brussels recently revealed its “name and shame” website. This shows whether telecoms companies are slashing the cost of international phone use, as demanded under a controversial new EU law.
By and large, it shows that they are. Big deal? Not really, given the spotlight they are under.