If it were not funny, it would be tragic. The UK Conservative party’s decision to quit the European People’s Party (EPP), the main centre-right political group in the European Parliament, is backfiring on the Tories in spectacular fashion. The decision was always daft – a bit like the right wing of the US Republican Party splitting off and forming a minority group in Congress – but it now looks more short-sighted than ever.
On Tuesday the Tories relinquished the leadership of their new “anti-federalist” faction, the so-called European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, to Michal Tomasz Kaminski, a Polish politician. They felt obliged to do so after Edward McMillan-Scott, a Tory MEP, refused to respect a deal in which Kaminski had been promised one of the parliament’s prestigious vice-presidency posts. Read more
It seems light years ago now, but I once had a delightful Swedish friend whose father, reflecting on his distinguished career in public service, told her that the proudest moment of his life was when Sweden switched from driving on the left side of the road to the right and there were no serious traffic accidents.
That was in 1967, and there’s no denying it – it’s damned impressive. Imagine if they tried to introduce a change like that today in Britain, or in other countries that still drive on the left such as India, Japan, Pakistan or South Africa. It would make the chaos on the opening day of Heathrow airport’s Terminal 5 look like a spot of trouble with the signalling on a model train set. Read more
José Manuel Barroso is all but certain to be reappointed as European Commission president. But who will get the other plum European Union jobs that will soon be up for grabs?
The most startling suggestion I have heard in recent days – and it came from a high-ranking EU diplomat – is that the EU’s first ever full-time president could be none other than Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the UK. The thinking here is that, because the job will require its holder to represent the EU on the world stage, it would suit Brown well. He has oodles of experience and excellent connections at the highest level, starting with President Barack Obama. Read more
It’s election day in Europe, but in certain respects the most important events are taking place outside the voting booths.
According to a RTE/Sunday Independent opinion poll in Ireland, supporters of the European Union’s Lisbon treaty will defeat opponents by a margin of 54 per cent to 28 per cent (with 18 per cent undecided) when the treaty is submitted to a second referendum, probably in October. Such a thumping victory would not only reverse but for all practical purposes bury the memory of Irish voters’ rejection of the treaty in June 2008. Read more
German chancellor Angela Merkel is usually a model of diplomatic politeness when she talks in public about Germany’s allies. Not last Tuesday, however.
Towards the end of a speech in Berlin, she criticised the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and to a lesser extent the European Central Bank for responding to the global economic crisis with an unorthodox and irresponsible splurge of money creation. Unless the central banks reversed these policies, she warned, the western world would find itself in the same kind of mess 10 years from now that it’s in today. Read more
The closer the European Parliament elections, the sneakier the stratagems of British centre-right politicians and activists in Brussels.
As David Cameron made clear on May 18 when he launched the election campaign of his opposition Conservative party, the Tories are poised to leave the mainstream European People’s Party-European Democrats (EPP-ED) group soon after the vote. They plan to set up a new centre-right group in the EU legislature that would be strongly opposed to more EU political and economic integration. Read more
The Czech hosts of Thursday’s European Union summit with six ex-Soviet states are not happy bunnies. The list of the EU leaders who couldn’t be bothered to show up for the Eastern Partnership event in Prague, a highlight of the Czechs’ six-month EU presidency, was embarrassingly long.
Let’s take them one by one. Read more
They say newspapers are the first draft of history. Here I’m on a mission to prove that blogs are the second draft.
The piece of history I have in mind is the European Union summit of March 19-20, when the bloc’s 27 leaders issued a statement pledging €75bn in new EU contributions to the International Monetary Fund to help fight the global economic crisis. This commitment was duly reported in the Financial Times and other newspapers and was the “first version of history”. Read more
It’s one of the most eagerly awaited events of the European Union’s 2009 political calendar. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is giving a speech on Tuesday to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and everyone who’s anyone in Europe wants to be there to hear it.
One reason is that people remember the last time a UK premier addressed the EU legislature. It was Tony Blair in June 2005, and those who were present recall it as one of the finest speeches of his entire political life. Looking at Blair’s speech almost four years later, how well does it hold up? Read more
Among the various headaches keeping European Union leaders awake at night is the prospect of a thumping Conservative victory in the UK’s next general election, which must be held by June 2010. The fear is that the new Tory government would be so anti-EU that it would make the 1979-1997 governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major look like Jacques Delors’s European Commission in its heyday.
The nightmare inched one step closer on Wednesday when the Conservatives confirmed their intention of leaving the European People’s Party (EPP), the European Parliament’s main centre-right political group. This is a club with members from all over the 27-nation bloc. It is the largest group in the parliament, with about 37 per cent of the seats, and it will probably retain that position after June’s European Parliament elections. Read more