outubro 14, 2004

Turkey faces tough EU terms of entry

[Fonte: The Times]

TURKISH workers could face permanent curbs on working in Western Europe as a condition of Turkey being allowed to join the European Union. The proposal aims to calm public fears about the accession of the Muslim nation, which would probably be the most populous EU member by the time that it joined the Union.

Germany, Austria and France, in particular, are concerned about a large influx of Turkish labourers.

The Turkish Government has reacted bitterly. Abdullah Gul, the Foreign Minister, said: “There can be no question of special conditions concerning Turkey.”

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, is expected to confirm today that Turkey has fulfilled all the political and human rights criteria to start talks, but is expected to impose tougher conditions than applied to other new member states. All other new EU members have faced limited restrictions on the free movement of labour.

The negotiations for Turkey’s membership are expected to receive final approval by the EU heads of state in December. They are expected to last around ten years, enabling Turkey to join in about 2015.

However, today’s European Commission report is set to insist on an unprecedented “emergency break” on negotiations, in case Turkey slides on its human rights’ and democratic progress. Draft copies of the report circulating in Brussels yesterday showed a tough line on human rights abuses, including the use of torture and prosecution of journalists. It also pushed for protection of minorities such as Kurds and Orthodox Christians.

Publicado por jpdias às 06:09 PM

outubro 15, 2004

Tough talking on two-speed Europe

[Fonte: The Times]

TONY BLAIR warned France and Germany to respect the wishes of other European countries, and not to join forces to push ahead with further political integration.

In unusually strong language, he signalled a hardening of his position on Europe, saying: “We should reject any suggestion of inner or outer cores of Europe.”

France, Germany, and Belgium have been dismayed that the addition of ten mainly Eastern European countries to the EU has apparantly brought the process of political integration to a halt. Leaders from those countries have talked openly about creating a two-speed Europe, with an “inner core” of the founding members who push ahead with further integration, such as harmonising taxes.

Britain has previously taken a fairly relaxed attitude on the issue, however Mr Blair firmly rejected the idea of a “multispeed” Europe yesterday, with Britain and Eastern Europe in the “slow lane”.

Writing in a Hungarian newspaper, as he attended a conference of centre-left leaders in Budapest, he wrote: “We need a European Union in which all countries — big or small, old members or new — are equal. It is up to old members to demonstrate to the new that the EU now also belongs to them.” Although he didn’t mention France and Germany by name, it was a clear reference to them.

Publicado por jpdias às 11:48 PM

How Britain rose from its sickbed and became the envy of Europe. The European Union believes it is witnessing a new British ascendancy

[Fonte: The Times]

IN BERLIN, a thousand German music fans wave Union Jacks to a relayed broadcast of the Proms and Rule Britannia. In the Czech Republic, Tesco becomes a household name. In Paris, officials lament the British takeover of the European Union.

These are among many images that illustrate what much of the Continent sees as a new British ascendancy in Europe. Twenty years from the Thatcher revolution and a decade since the peak of Franco-German power, the former sick man of Europe has recovered to set the pace in a union that little resembles the version that reigns in the media and pub conversation of Albion.

In the view of much of Europe, Britain’s longstanding sense of inferiority, its perception of battling to defend beleaguered interests against a French-driven machine, has blinded it to a new reality: the British social model, business methods, diplomacy, economic affluence and cultural power are paramount in the new union of 25 members.

Less loved than admired, often grudgingly, Britain has perhaps not exerted so much all-round influence since the Edwardian age a century ago.

“The British model is very largely dominant in Europe,” says Nicolas Baverez, author of Falling France, one of a stream of books on French decline. “The French like to think that they are still the masters of Europe when they are no longer. The British refuse to believe that they are the new masters of Europe because they hate Europe so much.”

Britain’s lack of self-confidence often masks the country’s success as the pioneer of a looser, de-regulated, globalising, market-driven union. While Britons were anguishing this summer about giving up sovereignty under the new EU Constitution, much of “old Europe” was marvelling at London’s triumph.

Italy’s La Stampa newspaper said: “Blair’s United Kingdom has been and still is the lion . . . and it alone has won the bout.”

Germany’s Handelsblatt said: “The British have fought excellently and achieved what they wanted . . . the remaining member states, including Germany, have realised that and have long since accepted London’s diktat.”

The new image of the British as fiendishly efficient negotiators, diplomats and businessmen is especially prevalent in France and certainly excessive. “It is almost embarrassing,” says one British envoy. “The French think that we have colonised Brussels, just taken it over, which is nonsense of course.”

The sense of British renaissance should not be exaggerated. The old Franco-German core that created and drove four decades of postwar integration is still active. Tony Blair’s Britain may enjoy the highest per capita income and lowest unemployment among the big states, but is still seen in some of old Europe as a rough-and-ready place of social inequality and crumbling infrastructure.

Mr Blair’s alliance with President Bush over Iraq has also damaged Britain in the eyes of much of the Continent. The British Prime Minister is still seen across the EU as the most dynamic national leader, but no longer as the hero that he was in the late 1990s.

In many places, drunken tourists and football hooligans shape the local view of Britons as much as those universal icons Harry Potter, Robbie Williams, David Beckham and James Bond. It could also be argued that French football players, Mediterranean cuisine, and the arrival of European companies have brought the Continent to Britain rather than the reverse.

But there is no dispute that Britain has achieved pre-eminence, thanks to a confluence of factors, including luck, talent and timing. Membership of the American-led “Anglo-Saxon family” has fuelled Britain’s economic and cultural penetration. The English language, which has eclipsed French as Europe’s lingua franca, is the main vector.

More than 40 per cent of Europeans claim to speak English as a first or second language, more than French, German, Italian and Spanish combined. Over the past decade, English has come to dominate work at the European Commission, long a French bastion.

Big companies such as Thales, the French-based defence and electronics firm, Germany’s Siemens and EADS, the Franco-German-led aerospace giant, have adopted English as their corporate languages. The Paris Education Ministry decided this week to impose “international English” as one of the five essentials in a new back-to-basics syllabus.

Publicado por jpdias às 11:51 PM

outubro 18, 2004

Pope's ally sparks EU power battle over views on sex

[Fonte: The Times]

ROCCO BUTTIGLIONE has inflamed the bitter row over his appointment as Europe’s next Security and Justice Commissioner with a withering criticism of single mothers. The Italian politician, who enraged Members of the European Parliament with his comments on homosexuals, said that children who had only a mother and no father were “the children of a not very good mother”. Equally, children who had only a father could only be “robots” and not well-rounded human beings, he said. Yesterday Signor Buttiglione, a member of the centre-right coalition Government of Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, sought to defuse the row, saying that his comments, made at a conference at Saint-Vincent in northern Italy on the role of the family in Europe and the United States, had been taken out of context. But his latest intervention will embarrass José Manuel Durão Barroso, the incoming Commission President, who is expected to defy MEPs this week by refusing to withdraw Signor Buttiglione’s nomination. Signor Buttiglione’s conservative Roman Catholic views on homosexuality and the role of women in society are presenting the European Commission with its most serious political crisis for more than five years. Large sections of the European Parliament want the Italian Minister for European Affairs to be removed from the highly sensitive Commission security and justice portfolio. If Senhor Barroso fails to bow to the MEPs’ demands at a meeting on Thursday, they are threatening to use their powers to reject his entire team. Signor Buttiglione has already been blackballed by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee, of which he was once briefly a member, for claiming that homosexuals are sinners and that women should stay at home and breed. However, abhorrence at one individual’s public statements has taken on wider significance. It is now a trial of strength between two of the European Union’s most important institutions — the Parliament and the Commission. In Italy, criticism of Signor Buttiglione, a professor of political philosophy who is close to the Pope, is being portrayed as a politically correct crusade against anyone with traditional views on sexuality. Signor Berlusconi, who nominated Signor Buttiglione as his country’s commissioner, called the Parliament’s criticism “crude propaganda” by left-wingers. MEPs insist that their objections are more fundamental. Many would accept the Italian as a commissioner, but in another post. They believe that there is an incompatibility between a politician publicly expressing personal views that are at odds with official EU policy in the area for which they are directly responsible. Michael Cashman, Labour’s Euro-spokesman on justice and home affairs, said: “The primary issue is that many of his views are diametrically opposed to the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and to Article 13 of the EU treaties.” This outlaws discrimination based on sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Yesterday, Signor Buttiglione tried to defuse the row, telling an Italian newspaper: “Single women who keep a baby and raise it when it would be easy to have an abortion are the heroines of our time. There is great moral value in making certain choices, when it is easy not to take responsibility.” He also claimed that MEPs were trying to block his nomination because of his religious beliefs. “There is a hate campaign being waged against me,” he said. “Whatever I say is being interpreted the wrong way.”

Publicado por esta às 05:45 PM

Blair sees as liability in referendum on EU. Vote could be about the Prime Minister rather than the Constitution

[Fonte: The Times]

SENIOR government figures fear that Tony Blair’s pledge to serve a full third term could wreck his chances of winning a European referendum in 2006. They believe that questions over the Prime Minister’s future will inevitably cloud a campaign which many voters will regard as their last and best chance to oust him. Mr Blair, due to sign a provisional treaty on the European Constitution later this month, is committed to calling a referendum on ratifying the document within two years. Although Labour is still expected to win a general election next year, party strategists acknowledge tthis could be with little more than a third of the vote. Polls suggest that the fallout from Iraq has created an anti-Blair majority among the British public. “Everybody knows that after the election the referendum will be the next crunch point for all of us,” said a No 10 source. “Tony has always wanted a pro-Europe vote to be his legacy. Our problem is that the referendum could now be about him, rather than Europe.” Before Mr Blair’s recent announcement that he intends to stay on until 2009 or even 2010, many ministers assumed that he would quit shortly after the referendum. Some of them are worried that his promise has made it more likely he will lose the vote on Europe, as well as his job. Aides note that other EU prime ministers have not had to resign after being defeated in such referendums, but also accept that he would find it hard to continue if he lost to a campaign based on the theme of “vote ‘no’ to get Blair out”. A number of pro-Europeans have recently told the Prime Minister that he should not seek to head the “yes” campaign. These include Charles Kennedy, the Liberal Democrat leader, who hopes to capitalise on anti-war sentiment among Labour voters at the next election. Polling research published last month by the Foreign Policy Centre has also suggested Mr Blair should be kept in the background during the referendum campaign because he risks turning off key swing voters. Instead, the centre’s report said that Chris Patten, the former EU commissioner, should head the campaign with a supporting cast of Gordon Brown, Kenneth Clarke and Mr Kennedy. Mr Brown has been privately sceptical towards some aspects of the EU constitution and there are fears that the Chancellor might “sulk in his tent” during the referendum — not least because defeat for Mr Blair could re-open the prospect of Mr Brown taking over earlier than expected. But the Chancellor’s allies say he neither wants to be seen as a “wrecker”, nor pick up the pieces of a referendum defeat which could have profound consequences for both party unity and Government policies on the EU. Lucy Powell, director of the Britain in Europe group, said: “We hope to have a cross-party campaign. It will be really important that people focus on the real issues rather than use it as an opportunity to kick Tony Blair.” One source said: “I don’t think we would hold a referendum during the UK’s EU presidency in 2005, but we may also want to wait around and see what happens in some of the other eight member states having votes on the constitution.” There have been suggestions that the French referendum, due to be held in the second half of 2005, could bail Mr Blair out of his difficulties by delivering its own “no” verdict.

Publicado por esta às 05:55 PM

outubro 19, 2004

Italy set to ratify EU constitution

[Fonte: The Times]

ITALY hopes to be the first European Union member state to approve the European constitution by rushing through a vote to endorse the controversial document after the signing ceremony in Rome next week.

Rome has decided against joining the six countries that have pledged to hold referendums on the issue.

The constitution, which has to be ratified by all member states to come into force, will be signed on October 29 at a lavish ceremony at the Campidoglio, a Renaissance-era palazzo on Capitol Hill where the Treaty of Rome was signed by the six founder nations of the EU in 1957.

A €4 million (£2.8 million) restoration effort is under way to ensure that the palazzo’s marble floors and frescoed walls are in perfect condition for the signing of the “Second Treaty of Rome” by leaders of the 25 member states of the enlarged EU. Six states — Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, Belgium, and Denmark — have pledged to hold referendums to ratify the constitution, while Poland, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands have signalled that they may also hold referendums.

Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Minister, had indicated that Italy would follow suit. But yesterday officials ruled this out, saying that a referendum would be contrary to Italy’s national Constitution. Article 75 states that referendums may not be held on matters relating to the budget, prison amnesties or “the ratification of international treaties”.

Instead, the Constitution will be put to a parliamentary vote. Constitutional laws in Italy must be passed twice by the Lower House by two-thirds majorities, with an interval of three months between the two votes.

Officials said that Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, hoped that the first vote could be held before or shortly after the next EU summit in Brussels on November 5, allowing the second vote to be held before the Spanish referendum, scheduled for February 20.

Political commentators predict that Signor Berlusconi is likely to face a revolt within his own coalition from the maverick Northern League, which sees the new constitution as an erosion of national and regional sovereignty, as do the communists. However, the main Centre Left opposition parties are likely to offer Signor Berlusconi bipartisan support, ensuring a two-thirds majority.

Signor Berlusconi persuaded fellow EU leaders to stage the ceremony in Rome even though Italy failed to bring negotiations over the constitution to a close when it held the EU presidency in the second half of last year.

Instead, the deadlock was broken under the presidency of Ireland in the first half of this year and the Rome signing will be held under the auspices of the current Dutch presidency. Security for the event will be provided by 4,000 police officers.

The Rome signing ceremony will also be attended by Romano Prodi, Signor Berlusconi’s political rival, in his last act as President of the European Commission, as well as by leaders of EU applicant countries, including Romania, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Signor Berlusconi has repeatedly championed the cause of Turkish EU membership. Yesterday, however, Umberto Bossi, the Northern League leader, who is convalescing after suffering a stroke, embarrassed Signor Berlusconi by insisting that there should be a referendum on Turkey’s eventual membership in Italy and other member states because it would be an “epoch making event which will affect the development of Europe for centuries to come”.

Achille Sera, the Rome chief of police, said a “security cordon” would be thrown around the Campidoglio for the ceremony, despite the incovenience to tourists. He said left wing protesters who had demanded the right to hold a demonstration against the Iraq war would be allowed to do so, but not until the EU leaders had left.

Publicado por esta às 10:58 PM

outubro 22, 2004

Drop Italian or we will bring down Commission, say MEPs

Fonte:The Times

Drop Italian or we will bring down Commission, say MEPs
By Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent

THE furious row over Europe’s new “anti-gay” commissioner plunged the European Union into crisis last night after MEPs threatened to reject the entire Commission unless he was fired.
José Manuel Durao Barroso, the incoming President of the Commission, yesterday defied calls to ditch his chosen justice commissioner, the Italian Rocco Buttiglione, for his views on homosexuality and marriage.

His decision to stand by Signor Buttiglione enraged political leaders wielding a majority of votes in the European Parliament. They pledged to veto Senhor Barroso’s entire commission when it is put to the vote next week.

Signor Buttiglione, a conservative Catholic and friend of the Pope, is due to be given responsibility for the EU’s antidiscrimination policies, but caused outrage by describing homosexuality as a “sin”, suggesting women should spend more time having babies and less time working, and that single mothers “weren’t very good”.

Signor Buttiglione, a philosophy professor, published a letter of apology yesterday, and Senhor Barroso tried to broker a deal with party leaders, offering to curb some of Signor Buttiglione’s powers. Under his compromise, civil liberties and human rights would no longer be left to Signor Buttiglione alone, but would be overseen by a panel including the controversial Italian and chaired by Senhor Barroso himself.

However, the leaders of most of the political groups emerged from talks insisting that the compromise did not go far enough and that the incoming Commission would be rejected in order to establish the credibility of the European Parliament.

The new commission, which includes the former Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson, is due to take office on November 1, but it must be approved by a vote of the European Parliament on Wednesday.

If the Parliament wields its veto, then the current commission, under President Romano Prodi, would have to continue in a caretaker role until a resolution to the crisis was found.

It would be the first time in the history of the EU that an incoming European Commission had been brought down before it had taken power. In 1999 the European Parliament passed a vote of no-confidence in the Commission under Jacques Santer after a corruption scandal, prompting a mass resignation.

The Buttiglione row, which has been simmering for more than two weeks, exploded yesterday after Senhor Barroso tried to broker a compromise with the presidents of the political groups in the parliament.

After the meeting, the leaders of most political groups, including socialists, liberals and greens, pledged to veto the Commission. They carry far more votes than the groups that support the commission, which include the centre-right European People’s Party.

Martin Schulz, the president of the Socialist group in Parliament, which includes the Labour Party, said: “It is going to be difficult to get a majority behind such a commission. We don’t have confidence in it.”

Chris Davies, the leader of Britain’s Liberal Democrats, said: “Our position has hardened — it’s one of those occasions that the parliament has to use the powers at its disposal as a point of principle, and to set a precedent for the future.”

Hans-Gert Pöttering, leader of the European People’s Party, which includes Britain’s Conservative Party, said that he supported the Commission, but admitted he might lose the vote. “Human and political life is always full of risks — only when the vote happens next week will be certain,” he said.

The European Parliament has also expressed reservations about other commissioners, including Neelie Kroes, of the Netherlands, who will be in charge of competition, and Laszlo Kovacs, of Hungary, who has been given responsibility for energy.

Under EU law the Parliament can veto the entire commission of 25 people, but not individual commissioners. Yesterday Senhor Barroso insisted he was “absolutely confident” his commission would be approved, and demanded that the European Parliament act responsibly. “Is it reasonable to make a commission fall because two or three commissioners aren’t satisfactory?” he asked. “No. One must keep a sense of balance. We have to think about the consequences of this vote.”
Signor Buttiglione is due to be given the wide-ranging brief of Justice, Freedom and Security, including responsibility for civil liberties, immigration and counter-terrorism.

Members of the European Parliament had demanded that he be dismissed or given another portfolio. The minimum requirement was for him to relinquish responsibility for discrimination policies. But Senhor Barroso argued that it would be enough to set up an advisory committee for discrimination policies.

In his letter of apology, Signor Buttiglione said: “I deeply regret the difficulties and problems that have arisen . . . words so emotionally charged as sin should perhaps not be introduced in the political debate.”

He insisted that he was opposed to all forms of discrimination, and repeated his claim that he had been the victim of anti-Christian discrimination.

Senhor Barroso said: “We have Christians and Roman Catholics working for Europe. We have agnostics and atheists and all levels of different religions, Christian and non-Christian. This tolerance is a wonderful thing and we should show the same level of tolerance for people’s opinions.”

The political groups are holding emergency meetings over the next few days, but most insisted last night that only significant concessions by Senhor Barroso would prevent them from vetoing the commission.

Publicado por esta às 02:22 PM

outubro 26, 2004

Prince backs Turkish campaign to join EU

[Fonte: The Times]

THE Prince of Wales made an unusually direct political intervention yesterday to support Turkey’s bid to join the European Union. In a speech made as he re-opened Britain’s consulate in Istanbul, blasted by an al-Qaeda suicide bomb last year, he sought to emphasise the unifying effect of the bombing. The consulate bomb killed Consul General Roger Short and was one of four attacks that also hit two Jewish synagogues and the British-owned HSBC bank in the city and killed several passers-by. In the speech to an assembly that included Turkish politicians, businessmen and writers as well as leading figures from many religious communities, the Prince, broadly following the Government policy, said: “As we look ahead today at a new era of British diplomatic and consular activity here in Istanbul, we also see Turkey taking its place in the European Union. “There will be those both here and elsewhere in Europe who fear that their values, beliefs and standards may somehow be diluted in a fusion of East and West, of Islam and Christianity. I understand those fears and I hope that the UK can play a special part in helping to allay them. The essence of Turkish culture needs to be preserved inside the European Union. “For many years, the United Kingdom has been one of Turkey’s most steadfast supporters in Europe and more widely. I know we will continue to provide that support in the years to come.” Of Turkey’s EU application, he said: “You are in a position to demonstrate, once and for all, that secular democracy does not have to come at the expense of Islamic values and social justice; and that accepting Turkish cultural and social values within Europe does not mean that democracy and the rule of law are under threat.” Talks on Turkish entry to the EU were given the go ahead earlier this month in a report from the European Commission but in some member states, especially in France, Austria and Holland, there is powerful opposition especially from right-wingers. Sir Teddy Taylor, the backbench Eurosceptic Tory MP, said the Prince of Wales was only reflecting government policy. “I’m sure he wouldn’t have said anything without checking it out with the Foreign Office first, but they have some funny ideas at the moment. I think an excellent proposal for the Prince to put forward instead is to let Turkey in as long as Britain goes out at the same time.” The Prince spoke in the interior courtyard of the 19th-century Pera House. Outside the imposing Portland stone building there now stands a thick, black blast-proof perimeter wall separating the British mission from the bustle of central Istanbul’s Beyoglu district. There was no trace of the former entrance gate, blown apart by the truck bomb on November 20. Across from the Consulate, the old Istanbul apartment blocks that crowded the Pera House gate were still in various states of disrepair. Some still lacked windows, which had been blown out by last year’s blasts. A few, sad blocks stood abandoned as broken reminders of the first shocking appearance of a local al-Qaeda cell in Muslim, secular Turkey. Pera House, too, has yet to be completed. Sir Peter Westmacott, the ambassador, said that people were keen to return to a building. Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, reiterated what has become almost a mantra for a Consulate determined to stay put, refusing to give in to the militants. He said: “Part of our response (to the attacks) was to repair and then return to our traditional Istanbul home, and to the community of which it has been a part for nearly two centuries.”

Publicado por esta às 02:47 PM

Britain faces pressure over asylum policy for Europe

[Fonte: The Times]

THE European Union ignored British Government concerns yesterday and decided to push ahead with a common European asylum system by 2010. Tony Blair defended the Government’s position, saying that the UK has the “best of both worlds” because it had retained an opt out, allowing it to avoid any policies that it did not like. However, Britain has started coming under pressure to comply with an eventual EU asylum policy. David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, attended a meeting in Luxembourg of the interior ministers of all 25 EU countries, which agreed a programme for a common EU policy on asylum and immigration over the next five years, called the “Hague Programme”. He supported a move to speed decision making by giving up national vetoes on immigration policy and agreeing new policies by majority voting. But Mr Blunkett said that because Britain retains the right to opt out of any policy that is agreed, it was a case of “No surrender, no capitulation, just good simple common sense”. Mr Blunkett opposed the plan to adopt a common European asylum policy by 2010, insisting that the EU should assess common standards already adopted before pushing ahead. “What we want is practical action rather than visionary dreams,” he said. Although supported by several Eastern European countries, Britain was opposed by France and many other countries which want to push ahead with the ambitious common policy. Rita Verdonk, the Immigration Minister from the Netherlands, which holds the EU presidency, said that the Hague Programme would include a timetable to adopt a common asylum policy. She added: “We need a comprehensive schedule. The objective is that in the EU there will be a common asylum system, and the aim is to achieve that by 2010.” António Vitorino, the European Commissioner with responsibility for immigration, said: “Establishing a common asylum system by 2010 appears to be entirely realistic.” According to the Hague Programme, the common European asylum system would include common standards and procedures for asylum-seekers, possibly including a European centre for processing claims, and a European border guard to deter illegal immigrants. The first pressure that Britain could be under to drop its opt out in certain areas emerged yesterday. Senhor Vitorino said: “National exceptions undermine the burden sharing when it comes to a common asylum policy.” Dominique de Villepin, the French Interior Minister, said in a clear reference to Britain: “The fact that certain countries have expressed reservations does not mean that they should not work in a European manner.” The decision to remove national vetoes and push for a common European asylum system now has to be approved by meeting of heads of state in Brussels. Speaking in London, Mr Blair said: “There is no question of Britain giving up our veto on our border controls. With the Treaty of Amsterdam seven years ago, we secured the absolute right to opt in to any of the asylum and immigration provisions that we wanted to in Europe. And what this actually gives us is the best of both worlds. He added: “We are not obliged to have any of the European rules here. But where we decide in a particular area, for example to halt the trafficking in people, for example to make sure that there are proper restrictions on some of the European borders that end up affecting our country, it allows us to opt in and take part in these measures.” However, the Conservatives insisted that Britain will find it difficult to retain its opt out. David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “They will create a large body of common European law and that in itself will tend to force us towards compliance. “It is clear to me that what this will lead to is a large common asylum and immigration policy in Europe and there will be pressure thereafter to limit, or even terminate, our opt out,” he said.

Why an opt-out may not have the power of a veto

TONY BLAIR said that Britain has retained its veto on immigration issues because it has has an opt out. But there is a difference between an opt out and a veto, which is central to Tory accusations against the Government. Giving up the veto and moving to qualified majority voting means that Britain — or any other EU country — cannot block new EU asylum and immigration policies. EU member states decided that it would be difficult to develop common asylum policies in a union of 25 countries if they always had to reach unanimous agreement, so they decided to move to majority voting. However, Britain and Ireland, and in a different form Denmark, retain an opt out, which means that they can vote in the creation of a common asylum policy, but if they don’t like the result they can decide not to adopt it. The Government’s critics charge that a common asylum policy will put huge pressure on Britain to join in later, so it would be better to block its creation by retaining the national veto.

Publicado por esta às 02:49 PM

Prince backs Turkish campaign to join EU

Fonte: The Times

Prince backs Turkish campaign to join EU
By Suna Erdem
Istanbul bombers 'simply brought us together, Briton and Turk, Muslim, Jew and Christian'

THE Prince of Wales made an unusually direct political intervention yesterday to support Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.
In a speech made as he re-opened Britain’s consulate in Istanbul, blasted by an al-Qaeda suicide bomb last year, he sought to emphasise the unifying effect of the bombing. The consulate bomb killed Consul General Roger Short and was one of four attacks that also hit two Jewish synagogues and the British-owned HSBC bank in the city and killed several passers-by.

In the speech to an assembly that included Turkish politicians, businessmen and writers as well as leading figures from many religious communities, the Prince, broadly following the Government policy, said: “As we look ahead today at a new era of British diplomatic and consular activity here in Istanbul, we also see Turkey taking its place in the European Union.

“There will be those both here and elsewhere in Europe who fear that their values, beliefs and standards may somehow be diluted in a fusion of East and West, of Islam and Christianity. I understand those fears and I hope that the UK can play a special part in helping to allay them. The essence of Turkish culture needs to be preserved inside the European Union.

“For many years, the United Kingdom has been one of Turkey’s most steadfast supporters in Europe and more widely. I know we will continue to provide that support in the years to come.”

Of Turkey’s EU application, he said: “You are in a position to demonstrate, once and for all, that secular democracy does not have to come at the expense of Islamic values and social justice; and that accepting Turkish cultural and social values within Europe does not mean that democracy and the rule of law are under threat.”

Talks on Turkish entry to the EU were given the go ahead earlier this month in a report from the European Commission but in some member states, especially in France, Austria and Holland, there is powerful opposition especially from right-wingers. Sir Teddy Taylor, the backbench Eurosceptic Tory MP, said the Prince of Wales was only reflecting government policy.

“I’m sure he wouldn’t have said anything without checking it out with the Foreign Office first, but they have some funny ideas at the moment. I think an excellent proposal for the Prince to put forward instead is to let Turkey in as long as Britain goes out at the same time.”

The Prince spoke in the interior courtyard of the 19th-century Pera House.

Outside the imposing Portland stone building there now stands a thick, black blast-proof perimeter wall separating the British mission from the bustle of central Istanbul’s Beyoglu district. There was no trace of the former entrance gate, blown apart by the truck bomb on November 20.

Across from the Consulate, the old Istanbul apartment blocks that crowded the Pera House gate were still in various states of disrepair.

Some still lacked windows, which had been blown out by last year’s blasts. A few, sad blocks stood abandoned as broken reminders of the first shocking appearance of a local al-Qaeda cell in Muslim, secular Turkey.

Pera House, too, has yet to be completed. Sir Peter Westmacott, the ambassador, said that people were keen to return to a building.

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, reiterated what has become almost a mantra for a Consulate determined to stay put, refusing to give in to the militants.

He said: “Part of our response (to the attacks) was to repair and then return to our traditional Istanbul home, and to the community of which it has been a part for nearly two centuries.”

Publicado por esta às 05:47 PM

Britain faces pressure over asylum policy for Europe

Fonte: The Times

Britain faces pressure over asylum policy for Europe
From Anthony Browne, in Luxembourg

THE European Union ignored British Government concerns yesterday and decided to push ahead with a common European asylum system by 2010.
Tony Blair defended the Government’s position, saying that the UK has the “best of both worlds” because it had retained an opt out, allowing it to avoid any policies that it did not like.

However, Britain has started coming under pressure to comply with an eventual EU asylum policy.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, attended a meeting in Luxembourg of the interior ministers of all 25 EU countries, which agreed a programme for a common EU policy on asylum and immigration over the next five years, called the “Hague Programme”.

He supported a move to speed decision making by giving up national vetoes on immigration policy and agreeing new policies by majority voting.

But Mr Blunkett said that because Britain retains the right to opt out of any policy that is agreed, it was a case of “No surrender, no capitulation, just good simple common sense”.

Mr Blunkett opposed the plan to adopt a common European asylum policy by 2010, insisting that the EU should assess common standards already adopted before pushing ahead.

“What we want is practical action rather than visionary dreams,” he said.

Although supported by several Eastern European countries, Britain was opposed by France and many other countries which want to push ahead with the ambitious common policy.

Rita Verdonk, the Immigration Minister from the Netherlands, which holds the EU presidency, said that the Hague Programme would include a timetable to adopt a common asylum policy.

She added: “We need a comprehensive schedule. The objective is that in the EU there will be a common asylum system, and the aim is to achieve that by 2010.”

António Vitorino, the European Commissioner with responsibility for immigration, said: “Establishing a common asylum system by 2010 appears to be entirely realistic.” According to the Hague Programme, the common European asylum system would include common standards and procedures for asylum-seekers, possibly including a European centre for processing claims, and a European border guard to deter illegal immigrants.

The first pressure that Britain could be under to drop its opt out in certain areas emerged yesterday.

Senhor Vitorino said: “National exceptions undermine the burden sharing when it comes to a common asylum policy.”

Dominique de Villepin, the French Interior Minister, said in a clear reference to Britain: “The fact that certain countries have expressed reservations does not mean that they should not work in a European manner.” The decision to remove national vetoes and push for a common European asylum system now has to be approved by meeting of heads of state in Brussels.
Speaking in London, Mr Blair said: “There is no question of Britain giving up our veto on our border controls. With the Treaty of Amsterdam seven years ago, we secured the absolute right to opt in to any of the asylum and immigration provisions that we wanted to in Europe. And what this actually gives us is the best of both worlds.
He added: “We are not obliged to have any of the European rules here. But where we decide in a particular area, for example to halt the trafficking in people, for example to make sure that there are proper restrictions on some of the European borders that end up affecting our country, it allows us to opt in and take part in these measures.”

However, the Conservatives insisted that Britain will find it difficult to retain its opt out. David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary, said: “They will create a large body of common European law and that in itself will tend to force us towards compliance.

“It is clear to me that what this will lead to is a large common asylum and immigration policy in Europe and there will be pressure thereafter to limit, or even terminate, our opt out,” he said.

Why an opt-out may not have the power of a veto

TONY BLAIR said that Britain has retained its veto on immigration issues because it has has an opt out. But there is a difference between an opt out and a veto, which is central to Tory accusations against the Government.

Giving up the veto and moving to qualified majority voting means that Britain — or any other EU country — cannot block new EU asylum and immigration policies.

EU member states decided that it would be difficult to develop common asylum policies in a union of 25 countries if they always had to reach unanimous agreement, so they decided to move to majority voting. However, Britain and Ireland, and in a different form Denmark, retain an opt out, which means that they can vote in the creation of a common asylum policy, but if they don’t like the result they can decide not to adopt it.

The Government’s critics charge that a common asylum policy will put huge pressure on Britain to join in later, so it would be better to block its creation by retaining the national veto.

Publicado por esta às 05:51 PM

outubro 27, 2004

Barroso backs off in row over anti-gay commissioner

Fonte: The Times

Barroso backs off in row over anti-gay commissioner
By Philippe Naughton, Times Online

Left-wing members of the European Parliament celebrated today after forcing José Manuel Durão Barroso, incoming President of the European Commission, into a humiliating climbdown over the line-up of his team.

The MEPs put on a show of strength that few expected - it was the poodle that roared

Anthony Browne
Europe Correspondent

Read his Q&A

Senhor Barroso has been arguing with MEPs over the nomination to the sensitive post of justice commissioner of Rocco Buttiglione, a Catholic Italian conservative who believes that homosexuality is a sin and says women should stay at home and raise children.

But two days of backroom wrangling - which included phone calls from Downing Street to Labour MEPs opposing Signor Buttiglione's nomination - failed to end the impasse and Senhor Barroso was facing defeat in a vote that would have plunged the European Union into its worst political crisis.

This morning, just one hour before that vote, Senhor Barroso addressed the 732-member assembly and told them that if a vote were to go ahead the outcome would "not be positive" for the European Union and its key institutions.

To loud cheers and clapping from MEPs, he added: "In these circumstances I have decided not to submit a new Commission for your approval today.

"I need more time to look at this issue and to consult with the Council (of European leaders) and consult further with you, so we can have strong support for the new Commission. It is better to have more time to get it right."

Then, displaying some of the diplomatic skills for which he was chosen to Europe's top post, he added: "Ladies and gentlemen, these last days have demosntrated that the European Union is an intensely political construction and that this Parliament, elected by popular vote across all our member states, has indeed a vital role to play in the governance of Europe."

The decision means that the current European Commision led by Romano Prodi and including Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten will stay in position for at least several weeks. The 24 new commissioners, including the former Labour minister Peter Mandelson, were due to have started work next week.

Mr Mandelson said the decision would probably cost him a month's salary, but it was "worth the sacrifice to get the Commission team right".

He added: "It would have been great to have voted the new Commission into being. But if pushed to vote today, this would have been a very polarised outcome.

"I think it is important to get the broadest base of support for the Commission - the Commission will be much stronger as a result, with a more stable relationship with the Parliament - by taking a bit more time to sort things out."

European leaders are meeting in Rome on Friday to sign the new European Constitution, a grand ceremony that will now be overshadowed by the Buttiglione row. EU officials suggested that the leaders might fly into Rome tomorrow night for urgent talks on what to do next.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, is already under pressure from fellow European leaders to either replace his candidate or accept that he takes on another job - a move that Signor Buttiglione says he will not accept.

This afternoon, Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Minister, said that Signor Buttiglione remained Italy's candidate. He said: "The Prime Minister will have a discussion with Barroso but it is clear ... at present, Italy's candidate is the designated candidate, Professor Buttiglione."

Signor Buttiglione, a former philosophy professor who is close to the Pope and is believed to have written some of his papal encyclicals, sat stony-faced through Senhor Barroso's speech this morning as MEPs cheered their victory.

In his nomination hearing two weeks ago, the Italian told MEPs that as a Catholic he considered homosexuality to be a sin. He also believed marriage existed to allow women to have children and the protection of a male. The next week he was reported to have said that single mothers were not very good people.

Those politically incorrect views outraged leftwingers in the Parliament, and gave Martin Schulz - the German leader of the 200-strong socialist bloc - an opportunity for revenge against Signor Berlsuconi, who had likened the German to a Nazi concentration camp guard during a rowdy session of the Parliament last year. Herr Schulz has denied that revenge was a motive.

The crisis was made worse by the fact that MEPs cannot reject individual commissioners but can veto only the entire line-up, which they have never done before.

Once the MEPs' cheers die down, Signor Buttiglione's rejection as a commissioner will leave Europe with a long-term problem and set a dangerous precedent for the nomination of future commissioners.

It will also anger many Catholics who will see it as proof that Europe's foremost Christian church is in open conflict with the values of the continent's main political institution.

Although Signor Berlusconi is expected to accept that he must find a new candidate, he could also demand that at least one or two of the leftwing commissioners-designate be replaced at the same time. Slovenia and Lithuania, which have both had elections since their candidates were chosen, are expected to use the occasion to change their nominees too.

Anthony Browne, The Times Europe Correspondent, said from Strasbourg: "This opens up a whole new can of worms. There will have to be a lot of negotiations - I should think it will take about a month."

But Browne said the row would not affect the signing of the EU Constitution itself. "It's politically embarrassing to sign the Constitution while there's this crisis, but it doesn't actually matter."

Publicado por esta às 05:41 PM

Barroso calls for help to avert crisis at the heart of Europe

Fonte: The Times

Barroso calls for help to avert crisis at the heart of Europe
By Anthony Browne in Strasbourg
The incoming president’s new executive is on increasingly fragile ground

José Manuel Durão appeals to MEPs in Strasbourg to vote for his new commission (THOMAS WIRTH /AFP/ GETTY IMAGES)

THE incoming president of the European commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, summoned the help of Tony Blair and other national leaders yesterday as he fought desperately to prevent the European Parliament voting down his new executive today.
As frustration, anger and a mood of rebellion mounted in the European Parliament, MEPs said they were set to reject Senhor Barroso’s team, leaving the European Union without a permanent commission, and plunging it into a political crisis.

Senhor Barroso held talks last night with the Liberal group of MEPs, at which he demanded understanding for his difficulties. He offered no concessions, however, and the Liberals, who hold the swing vote in Parliament, held a count showing that they would vote against the commission two to one. Sarah Ludford, the Liberal Democrat spokeswoman for civil liberties, said that the mood in the party had hardened against the Barroso commission: “There are people who felt he just hadn’ t listened to Parliament. What has he delivered?” One Commission source admitted: “The maths looks bad.”

Senhor Barroso earlier made a passionate plea to the Parliament to approve his new team, while Mr Blair and Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, lobbied their national MEPs in an attempt to avert a defeat that would throw the EU into turmoil on the eve of Friday’s signing ceremony for Europe’s new constitution.

Although Mr Blair made a personal telephone plea to Gary Titley, the Labour leader in the European Parliament, Labour MEPs pledged to defy Downing Street and reject the incoming commission. Left-wing MEPs are angered by Senhor Barroso’s refusal to give ground on Rocco Buttiglione, the nominated justice commissioner who said in his parliamentary hearings that homosexuality is a sin, and mothers should spend more time having babies and less time working.

Although the Conservative Party officially supports the right-wing Senhor Barroso, many of its more Eurosceptic MEPs are determined to vote “no”. “It is a great chance to cause chaos,” said one. The new commission must be approved by the Parliament before it can take power on Monday, but most of the political groups are opposed. The centre-right European People’s Party supports Senhor Barroso, leaving the deeply split Liberal group as the kingmaker.

Most MEPs concluded that Senhor Barroso would lose, possibly by as much as 80 votes, in the 732-strong assembly. If the Parliament fails to approve the incoming commission, the EU will be in uncharted territory. Romano Prodi’s outgoing Commission would almost certainly have to stay on in a caretaker role.

As a glum-faced Signor Buttiglione looked on, Senhor Barroso pleaded with Parliament: “I appeal to your sense of responsibility. I appeal above all to your European identity. If this commission is not supportedit will be . . . a bad day for Europe.” Senhor Barroso pledged to step up measures to combat racism and discrimination of all forms, but refused to move Signor Buttiglioni, a conservative Roman Catholic and friend of the Pope, to another job. “I cannot surrender to a culture of intolerance,” he said. “Are you really going to line up with extremists, the extreme Right, who do not support our European project?” Senhor Barroso has been in touch with 23 out of 25 European leaders and said that he could not give in: “A reshuffle would create more institutional and political problems than it would resolve.”

Opponents dismissed his offer of more anti-racism initiatives as cosmetic, and grew increasingly angry at his intransigence. Martin Schulz, the leader of the 200-strong Socialist group said: “Barroso has not been able to win over the confidence of my group.”As attitudes became entrenched, many MEPs said the Parliament would not be taken seriously unless it flexed its muscles. Although Labour MEPs were cagey about the lobby from Mr Blair, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the Green group, derided the interference: “British members are getting fed up. We can’t have prime ministers phoning us up.”


Senhor Barroso could reshuffle his commission and move Signor Buttiglione. The Parliament would then hold an emergency vote to approve the commission. While a blow to Senhor Barroso’s credibility, his commission would still take office next week without the need for the old Commission to stay on in a caretaker role

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, a backer of Senhor Barroso, insisted that Signor Buttiglione got the justice and home affairs portfolio, and he may refuse to back down

Right-wing MEPs may decide they want the scalp of a left-wing commissioner in revenge

To break the impasse, Senhor Barroso may have to start another round of negotiations with European leaders, which would not only overshadow the signing of the constitution in Rome on Friday, but also could take some time

Signor Buttiglione could choose to resign, forcing Signor Berlusconi to appoint a replacement, to be approved by Parliament

Signor Berlusconi might refuse to appoint another person straight away.

Publicado por esta às 05:43 PM

outubro 28, 2004

Barroso sees clutch of changes to EU line-up

[Fonte: The Times]

José Manuel Durão Barroso, the incoming president of the European Commission, is expecting to have to make a clutch of changes to the line-up of his executive if he is to get it past a rebellious European Parliament. Senhor Barroso was forced yesterday to back down from an attempt to bulldoze his line-up past MEPs, who were angered about what were seen as homophobic and illiberal comments by Rocco Buttiglione, a Catholic right-winger who is Italy's nomination for justice commissioner. But MEPs from both sides of the political spectrum said that Signor Buttiglione, a philosophy professor with close ties to the Pope, was not their only target. They also had problems with Laszlo Kovacs, the proposed energy commissioner from Hungary, with Ingrida Udre, a Latvian Green who is due to oversee tax issues, and Mariann Fischer Boel, the Danish nominee for the agriculture post. MEPs were also distinctly unimpressed by the performance at her nomination hearing of Neelie Kroes, a Dutch businesswoman nominated as competition commissioner. MEPs fear that her business links could affect the way that she carries out her role. In an interview today with France's Europe 1 radio, Senhor Barroso declined to say how many changes in his 25-strong team he would make except that it would involve "well less than eight, ten". He hoped to finalise it within a month. Until then the current Commission, including Neil Kinnock and Chris Patten, remain in office. The negotiations were expected to start formally tonight, when Senhor Barroso meets top Dutch ministers in Rome ahead of Friday's scheduled signing of the European Constitution. The Dutch currently hold the rotating presidency of the European Council of ministers. So far, Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, has refused to publicly cut loose Signor Buttiglione, who angered MEPs by telling them that he considered homosexuality to be a sin. But Signor Berlusconi is thought to be keen to find a way out of the crisis without leaving Italy with a lame duck commissioner.

Publicado por esta às 04:26 PM

EU in crisis as Parliament rejects new Commission

[Fonte: The Times]

THE European Union was in crisis yesterday after the European Parliament forced the incoming President of the European commission to withdraw his team of commissioners days before they were due to take office. José Manuel Durão Barroso backed down at the eleventh hour when it became clear that the Parliament would vote to reject a commission that included Rocco Buttiglioni, a conservative Roman Catholic from Italy, who had told Parliament that he thought that homosexuality was a sin. The Strasbourg Parliament’s action left a power vacuum at the heart of the EU just as European heads of government head to Rome for the formal signing ceremony tomorrow of the new European constitution. That summit is now being turned into emergency talks to resolve the impasse. Romano Prodi, the departing Commission President, who has been longing to return to the political fray in Italy, will have to stay on in a caretaker role, along with the rest of his team, including Chris Patten and Neil Kinnock. It is the first time in the EU’s half-century history that an incoming European commission has been vetoed before even starting its job and the first time that an outgoing Commission has been forced to stay beyond its five-year term. Senhor Barroso’s climbdown was the result of an unprecedented show of strength by the Parliament, which for the first time exerted its authority over both the Commission and national governments. Left-wing and liberal MEPs had become increasingly angry about Senhor Barroso’s refusal to back down over Signor Buttiglioni and his politically incorrect opinions. Under EU rules, the European Parliament can reject only the entire commission, not individual commissioners. Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and other EU leaders had directly lobbied their own MEPs, but failed to avert the Strasbourg rebellion. Senhor Barroso realised that he faced defeat after the Socialist group, the second-largest in the Parliament, decided unanimously on Tuesday night to vote “no”. He accepted his humiliating defeat yesterday morning, telling the Parliament that he would withdraw his commission until he could find a solution. To cheering and stamping from the assembled parliamentarians, he announced: “I have come to the conclusion that if a vote is taken, then the outcome will not be positive for European institutions or the EU project. In these circumstances, I have decided not to submit my new commission for your approval today.” Peter Mandelson, who will not now take up his post as European trade commissioner on Monday, said: “Mr Barroso has done the right thing. It’s better to have the right commission with the best cross-party support than to have one pushed through when feelings are running so high on both sides.” Jonathan Evans, leader of Conservative MEPs, said: “Mr Barroso should have stood firm in the face of this left-wing witch-hunt. By giving in to the Socialists, we are now stuck with Neil Kinnock and the rest of the failed Prodi Commission.” Mr Kinnock, anxious to end his ten-year stint at the Commission, said: “I don’t see any smiling faces at the prospect of an additional month at least.” Few expect that the crisis — the biggest since the disgraced Santer commission was forced to resign en masse in 1999 — will be resolved quickly. European heads of government, Senhor Barroso and the European Parliament will now have to start a fresh round of negotiations, which could result in wide-ranging changes to the incoming commission, and are expected to last at least a month. Senhor Barroso spoke by telephone to Jens-Peter Balkenende, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, to seek his support for the withdrawal of his incoming Commission. National governments must decide what changes to make to the new commission, with at least a couple of European governments expected to change their commissioners. Although MEPs objected primarily to Signor Buttiglione being in charge of civil liberties, and had mainly demanded a reshuffle, many thought that it was now inconceivable that he could remain a member of Senhor Barroso’s commission. EU leaders will negotiate the changes to the incoming commission in Rome tomorrow, and then at a pre-arranged summit next Friday in Brussels. Any new commissioners will have to have hearings by the European Parliament, which will then have to vote its approval of the revised Barroso Commission. Mr Blair’s spokesman played down the sense of crisis, saying: “What’s happened is the perfectly proper scrutiny by the European Parliament.” Graham Watson, the leader of the Liberal group of MEP’s, said: “Today, Euroscepticism loses because the voice of democracy in Europe has risen by an octave, and made itself heard.”

Publicado por esta às 04:27 PM

MEPs hail win but everyone's a loser

[Fonte: The Times]

IN THE afterglow of their victory, MEPs argued that pretty much everyone, apart from Rocco Buttiglione himself, was a winner. In fact, for most it was a severe defeat. The Parliament portrayed itself as the poodle that roared. MEPs said that the Commission and national governments would now have to take it seriously. “This house has grown in stature. Our will was tested, and our will prevailed,” Graham Watson, the Parliament’s Liberal leader, said. MEPs also argued that purging the new Commission’s weaker elements would strengthen it. “We’ll have a stronger Commission with greater authority,” Gary Titley, the Labour Party leader, said. But the fact remains that José Manuel Durão Barroso is the first Commission President to fail to persuade the Parliament to approve his team. He must now go back to the European Union heads of government to sort out the mess. Those heads must be questioning his political judgment and wondering how, having fluffed this crisis, he will avoid the far more complex problems that he will face leading the EU. Almost everyone else has lost out. Signor Buttiglione is unlikely to remain as a Commissioner. His sponsor, Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, has suffered a serious setback that will overshadow his moment in the sun at tomorrow’s signing of Europe’s new constitution in Rome. Several other new commissioners will now be fearing for their jobs. The old ones, who have already packed up their offices and Brussels homes, must hang on longer. “The only silver lining is that I now have time to look properly for a home in Brussels. That, plus concentrating on my France language,” Peter Mandelson, Britain’s new Commissioner, said. Even the Parliament may end up losing. The public are likely to view this less as a victory for European democracy than a severe case of the “EU in crisis”, concluding that the institutions are incapable of managing themselves, let alone a complex continent.

Publicado por esta às 04:31 PM

How one man fell foul of bigger forces

[Fonte: The Times]

IT WAS, on the face of it, totally out of proportion. The entire incoming European Commission has been vetoed, and the EU plunged into one of its deepest crises, because one member, a Roman Catholic, said that he believed his Church’s teaching that homosexuality is “a sin”. The Conservative Party, and Rocco Buttiglione himself, called it a witch-hunt. Others declared it a triumph of political correctness. Even Gary Titley, the leader of Labour’s MEPs, admitted: “This was a bit of a storm in a teacup in the beginning, but it escalated.” Since all practising Catholics are expected to believe, and probably the majority of the European population do believe, that homosexuality is a sin, Signor Buttiglione’s rejection is likely to appear an extraordinary over-reaction to most Europeans. But Signor Buttiglione was actually caught in a range of complex ideological and political struggles that turned a drama into a full-blown crisis. He was caught in a struggle between Left and Right, between secularism and religious values and in a three-way institutional struggle between the European Parliament, the European Commission and national governments. His views offended many people, not just gay-rights campaigners. He also suggested that women should spend more time making babies and less time working, and has taken a hard line on immigration. His remarks helped unite a range of powerful left-wing lobby groups against him. One of the fastest growing policy areas of the EU is in civil liberties, justice and immigration, traditionally passionate left-wing causes. To have a staunch conservative, whose views they abhor, in charge of this portfolio made many on the Left determined to oust him. Signor Buttiglione complained bitterly of anti-Catholic persecution. Many of the left-wing political groups in Europe were founded on anti-clerical movements, resisting the power of conservative priests. The fact that Signor Buttiglioni was a personal friend of the Pope has been whispered in EU corridors in almost horrified tones. Many right-wing MEPs, particularly Christian Democrats who acknowledge the importance of religion in their politics, complained that if Signor Buttiglione had been Muslim his opponents would only have whispered a complaint, rather than setting up a full-blown campaign. In Italy, his complaints of anti-Catholic bias in the EU struck a chord and helped him to drum up domestic support. Certainly, many Italian politicians have little sympathy for the determined secularism of many of their European colleagues. But in such a diverse continent — and with the prospect of Muslim Turkey joining — many EU politicians are adamant that it can only be held together by secular liberal values, and that bringing religious values to the job will be divisive. The fact that he was sponsored by Silvio Berlusconi also counted against him. Mr Berlusconi is seen by many MEPs as the unacceptable face of European politics. The fact that the Italian Prime Minister once publicly compared Martin Schulz, the leader of the parliament’s Socialist group, to a Nazi commandant, is unlikely to have made Herr Schulz sympathetic to Signor Berlusconi’s nominee. The Iraq war, which has also deeply divided Europe, made frequent appearances in the debate. The Parliament was overwhelmingly opposed to the war in which José Manuel Barroso, the new commission president, was an ally of Signor Berlusconi, Tony Blair and George Bush. Having failed to prevent the war, many in the parliament were keen to seek revenge on those who perpetrated it. Parliamentarians were also angered that Senhor Barroso refused to make any significant compromises. The MEPs felt that their authority was brought into question. If they did not win this battle they “might as well pack up and go home. What’s the point? ” said one. It became a symbolic battle that, whatever its genesis, many felt they simply had to win for the future of the parliament. In the last few days, the talk in Strasbourg was not the offensiveness of thinking that homosexuality is a “sin”, but the effect of backing down. MEPs took Senhor Barroso’s refusal to compromise as a sign that he was far more worried about upsetting national governments than he was about upsetting the parliament, and that concerned them.Many who thought that it was not worth vetoing the entire commission because of Signor Buttiglione’s views on homosexuality joined the campaign against him when they felt that their prestige was at stake.

Publicado por esta às 04:32 PM

outubro 29, 2004

EU referendum in early 2006, says Straw

Fonte: The Times

EU referendum in early 2006, says Straw
By Jenny Booth, Times Online

A referendum on whether to accept the new EU Constitution will probably be held in Britain in early 2006, Jack Straw confirmed today.

The Foreign Secretary told the BBC that it would not be possible to hold the vote any earlier because next year the Government would be too busy holding the EU presidency.

Mr Straw spoke in Rome as all 25 EU heads of state converged on the Italian capital for the ceremony of signing the new constitution.

The document is designed to make the recently-enlarged Europe of 25 states governable, by watered down the right of single states to use their veto to delay decision-making.

But the constitution has provoked anger and alarm among Conservatives who fear that Britain is giving away its sovereignty.

They have pressed for an early referendum, predicting that the British public will turn the new constitution down. Labour believes that a longer wait will allow Britons to get used to the new arrangements and will give time for a campaign to allay fears.

Mr Straw said on the Radio 4 Today programme: "No precise date has been accepted and it depends partly on the parliamentary process. It is likely to be in early 2006 for the simple reason that in the autumn of 2005 we have the presidency of the European Union and it would be practically almost impossible to combine both running the presidency with a referendum.”

The constitutional treaty was being signed this morning in the spectacular Renaissance surroundings of the Campidoglio, Rome's town hall designed by Michelangelo.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, has ensured that the event will pass off with as much showmanship as the country can muster. He has recruited the fashion designer Valentino to design the stewards' uniforms, and the film director Franco Zeffirelli is directing the television coverage. Two lorry loads of flowers have been brought in.

The centre of Rome has been closed for security reasons, and one of the capital's two airports is also shut to the public to allow the flood of dignitaries to arrive and depart.

But while the signing of the constitution is expected to pass off without a hitch, the task of selling it to the nations of Europe is likely to pose a more difficult problem for the heads of state.

Up to 19 countries are planning to hold a referendum on whether to ratify the treatry, with France, Belgium, Denmark, the Irish republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Britain certain to do so.

If just one nation rejects the constitution in its referendum, then the whole document falls and the EU has to go back to the drawing board.

Britain is not the only nation where the people are sceptical - France, too, is experiencing an anti-constitution backlash, where the leading socialist politician Larent Fabius has come out against it.

The Government is keen to have Britain avoid the opprobrium of being the nation which brought the constitution crashing down. Holding its referendum right at the end, after the other nations have held theirs, including Eurosceptic Poland, Denmark and the Czech Republic, lengthens the odds that Britain will be seen as the wrecker of Europe.


· creates an EU Foreign Minister

· creates a permanent EU president

· enshrines EU law as being supreme over national law

· gives the EU a legal identity so that it can sign treaties on behalf of countries

· sets up an EU common defence policy, compatible with Nato

· gives EU more powers in areas such as immigration, energy and health

· speeds up decision-making in an enlarged EU

· gives countries a legal route to leave the EU for the first time

· condenses all previous EU treaties into one simpler, more easily understood document

· contains a new Charter of Fundamental Rights, which goes considerably further than the European Convention of Human Rights, already enshrined in UK law

Publicado por esta às 02:01 PM

Treaty for an EU constitution

Fonte: The Times
Treaty for an EU constitution
From Mr Christopher Patten, CH, and others

Sir, On Friday the nations of the European Union come together to sign a “second Treaty of Rome”.
This treaty will create new and simpler constitutional arrangements, replacing almost five decades of complex and overlapping documents with a single text. It will protect the sovereignty of Europe’s nation states and set limits for the first time on what the EU can and cannot do.

The treaty makes it easier for us to work together to deal with the cross-border issues that define the 21st century, such as global warming and the threat of international terrorism. It will give a bigger role to the Parliament and people of this country. It commits Europe to work for the economic and social benefit of us all.

Across Europe this treaty is viewed as a landmark success for Britain. It will protect and enhance our vital national interests and enable us to work more effectively with our partners to change Europe for the better.

Publicado por esta às 02:04 PM

Rome closed for a day as dignitaries flood in

Fonte: The Times

Rome closed for a day as dignitaries flood in
By Anthony Browne, Europe Correspondent

WHEN the European Union’s 25 heads of government gather in Rome today to sign Europe’s constitution, they will also be embarking upon a difficult journey to get the people of Europe to accept it.
The constitutional treaty will be signed in the Campidoglio, Rome’s spectacular town hall designed by Michelangelo, where the Treaty of Rome, which first set the EU in motion, was signed in 1957.

With all the showmanship that Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, can muster, two lorryloads of flowers are being brought in, the fashion guru Valentino is designing the stewards’ uniforms, and Franco Zeffirelli, the film director, is responsible for TV coverage, to be beamed across the Continent.

The centre of Rome is being closed for security reasons for the first time in modern history, and one of the city’s airports is being closed to the public to cope with the flood of dignitaries. But after the theatricals are over and the champagne sipped, the heads of government must return home to get the constitution ratified by June 2006 at the latest.

Some are simply putting it to a vote in their parliaments, but up to 19 countries will hold a referendum; France, Belgium, Denmark, the Irish Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Britain are certain to do so.

It will be the biggest popular consultation in the continent that gave the world democracy, probably involving more than half the EU’s citizens and more than half its countries. Few European governments had previously dared put new EU treaties to their people. “This is a seismic shift in EU politics. The EU is on the cusp of a direct democracy revolution,” wrote Daniel Keohane of the left-leaning pro-EU Centre for European Reform think-tank.

The outcome is far from clear. With Euroscepticism at record levels in many countries, opinion polls suggest that at least four — Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark — could reject it, while in France and Ireland opinion is divided. The collapse this week of the incoming European commission can only fuel Euroscepticism further.

It would only take one country to say “no” to throw the whole project in doubt and send heads of government into a crisis summit. If several countries, or a founding country such as France, said “no”, it would throw the EU into its worst ever crisis. Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxembourg Prime Minister, said this week: “A French ‘non’ would lead Europe into an absolute crisis where there would be no more European dream (or) ideal to nurture: it would be paralysis.”

The trouble is that the EU has a poor record of convincing voters. While countries, such as those in Eastern Europe, vote enthusiastically to join the EU, once people are safely in, they have a disconcerting habit of rejecting new treaties. The Danes voted against the Maastricht treaty, the Irish against the Nice treaty and Europhile France passed the Maastricht treaty by only 51 per cent.

The EU’s biggest project, the euro, was adopted by 12 nations without any of them having approved it in a referendum.

These referendums will be the first time a big EU project will be put to a popular vote among a majority of citizens.

Already national pro and anti campaign groups are forming and joining forces across national borders.

Britain’s “no” campaign has raised considerable money and support, while its opponent, Britain in Europe, complains that so far it has just a tenth of the money, although it has the support of Britain’s two outgoing European commissioners, Chris Patten and Neil Kinnock.Governments are also talking to each other to co-ordinate their campaigns.

The strategy is to hold referendums in the most Europhile nations first, hoping that this will influence more Eurosceptic nations. Britain, as Europe’s most Eurosceptic nation, is set to hold its referendum in March 2006, probably the last to do so.

The theory is that in most countries, people will be frightened to be the first to reject the treaty, a feeling unlikely to inhibit British voters, to whom Eurosceptics across the continent are looking to save them from the constitution.

Italy’s Government, which has rejected a referendum, has just announced that it wants to be the first to ratify the treaty. Franco Frattini, Italy’s Foreign Minister, said: “We seek to be the first to ratify it . . . at the latest it will be a Christmas present.”

A batch of Europhile countries — Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain — will then hold referendums early next year, giving momentum to “yes” campaigns in the countries that follow. France is likely to be next after that, but the outcome is in doubt after the leading socialist politician Laurent Fabius came out against the constitution.

Britain, Poland, the Czech Republic and Denmark are set to hold their referendums right at the end, and all are sceptical. Getting national governments to agree the treaty’s wording took two years and was hard enough.

But getting the people to approve it is almost certain to be harder.

Publicado por esta às 02:07 PM

Prodi’s challenge clouds Berlusconi’s big moment

Fonte: The Times

Prodi’s challenge clouds Berlusconi’s big moment
By Richard Owen, in Rome

TODAY’S glittering ceremony in Rome should have been a moment of triumph for Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, and a chance to re- establish Italy’s European credentials amid carefully stage-managed pomp and ceremony.
Instead it is being tarnished not only by the turmoil over the European Parliament’s objections to the conservative Catholicism of Rocco Buttiglione, Italy’s commissioner, but also by the challenge to Signor Berlusconi’s hold on power from his arch rival, Romano Prodi, the Centre Left leader, as he returns from Brussels.

Yesterday Signor Prodi visited the Pope, who said that he hoped that the impasse over Signor Buttiglione — a papal adviser — would be resolved with reciprocal respect in a spirit of goodwill.

The Pope admonished the EU for omitting from its new constitution any mention of the Christian values on which Europe was founded, saying that the role of Christianity over the centuries was “an undeniable fact that no historian can forget”.

Signor Prodi also made what he described as a courtesy call on Signor Berlusconi. La Repubblica, however, noted that Italy’s six-month EU presidency in the second half of last year had been clouded not only by Signor Berlusconi’s gaffes but also by tensions between him and Signor Prodi.

Signor Berlusconi blamed the Italian Left for encouraging leftwingers at Strasbourg to oppose Signor Buttiglione. The Left retorted that Signor Berlusconi had precipitated the crisis by insisting on appointing Signor Buttiglione instead of renominating Mario Monti, the highly respected Competition Commissioner in the outgoing Prodi commission.

Reports said that Signor Berlusconi had tried in vain to persuade Signor Buttiglione to withdraw but was standing by him for the present.

Alternative Italian candidates include Franco Frattini, the Foreign Minister, and Letizia Moratti, the Minister for Education and Research.

Signor Prodi said that he would stay on as interim President of the Commission until the impasse was resolved. His return to Italian politics would be delayed, he said, with anti-Berlusconi protests planned for November 6 postponed until December. But he appeared in ebullient form after sweeping centre-left gains in this week’s parliamentary byelections, and vowed to repeat his 1996 election victory over Signor Berlusconi in the next election, due by 2006.

Signor Berlusconi, by contrast, faced calls for a reshuffle of his centre-right coalition after the by-election setbacks, with Gianfranco Fini, the Deputy Prime Minister, admitting that the Government “clearly cannot keep its promises”.

Publicado por esta às 02:10 PM

Europe woos sceptics on rocky route to ratify the constitution

Fonte: The Times

Europe woos sceptics on rocky route to ratify the constitution
By Anthony Browne and Rory Watson, in Brussels

THE incoming European commission chief said yesterday that he will make several changes to his rejected executive team and hopes to put an end to the crisis within a month.
José Manuel Durão Barroso made the statement as the outgoing European Commission, under Romano Prodi, who was to step down today, made emergency plans to carry on working, extending contracts and preventing people leaving for other jobs, to prevent a power vacuum causing paralysis in the heart of Europe.

Senhor Barroso was humiliatingly forced to withdraw his entire team of 24 commissioners days before they were due to take office because the European Parliament rejected it after the Italian nominee, Rocco Buttiglione, who was to be in charge of civil liberties, said he thought that homosexuality was a sin. Yesterday the Pope interceded in the crisis, coming to the defence of Signor Buttiglione, a conservative Roman C atholic, by calling for a solution based on mutual respect for all points of view.

Senhor Barroso will today consult on the issue with national heads of government signing the constitution in Rome, but he said he would have to carry out changes to the commission team.

Signor Buttiglione faced increasing calls to step down, although he is still formally backed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister. Senhor Barroso acknowledged in a radio interview that he could not just simply replace Signor Buttiglione. Asked if he would have to rebuild the entire commission, he said: “No, not from scratch. But of course it can mean there will not be only one change but several changes.”

In another interview, he said the revamp would involve “fewer than eight, ten” of the 25-strong team: “There will not be an extensive reshuffle. It will be very limited, in less than a month, I hope. There will be appropriate changes.”

The incoming British commissioner, Peter Mandelson, is thought to be safe in his job as Trade Commissioner, but the European Parliament has expressed doubt about several other commissioners. Right-wing leaders in the Parliament, who fought hard to defend Signor Buttiglione, are also demanding reciprocal changes to left-wing commissioners.

Jean-Claude Junker, the right-wing Prime Minister of Luxembourg, said: “There are three or four commissioners who did not have the support of the Parliament. We need a somewhat broader change.”

Other nominees potentially at risk after being criticised by the Parliament include Hungary’s Laszlo Kovacs (energy), Latvia’s Ingrida Udre (taxation), the Netherlands’ Neelie Kroes (competition) and Denmark’s Mariann Fischer Boel (agriculture). Since the appointment of the commissioners, two EU governments — Slovenia and Lithuania — have changed, and the new governments may wish to appoint their commissioners. The Latvian Government also fell yesterday, making it more likely that Ms Udre will lose her job.

The outgoing Prodi Commission moved quickly to ensure that it could plug the gap until its successor is appointed. “My understanding is that the whole team of commissioners is ready to stay as long as it takes. All their contracts have been extended until the end of the year,” a spokesman said.

Gunter Verheugen, an outgoing commissioner, said: “There is no power vacuum — but this situation should not last too long.” Political advisers are being hastily recalled. Outgoing Commissioners, many of whom had packed up as they took on new posts, were starting to unpack again yesterday.

Even those who are expecting to serve another five years have been told to stay in their current offices instead of moving into the refurbished premises of their Berlaymont headquarters.

“By next week, everything will be back to normal,” the spokesman added.

Although the new Barroso team should have been in place by Monday, the Commission’s lawyers are confident that they have sufficiently strong legal safeguards to extend the mandate of the present members and allow them to take any sensitive decisions, especially on competition policy, without risking a challenge in the courts. “We believe our legal base is sufficient. In competition policy, we largely apply existing rules and we will continue to do that.

There are various legal deadlines and we will respect them,” an official said.

As it is, the Commission’s agenda is notoriously light for the coming weeks. This had been deliberately planned as Signor Prodi’s team wound down and its successors gradually worked themselves into their new positions.


creates an EU Foreign Minister
creates a permanent EU president
enshrines EU law as being supreme over national law
gives the EU a legal identity so that it can sign treaties on behalf of countries
sets up an EU common defence policy, compatible with Nato
gives EU more powers in areas such as immigration, energy and health
speeds up decision-making in an enlarged EU
gives countries a legal route to leave the EU for the first time
condenses all previous EU treaties into one simpler, more easily understood document
contains a new Charter of Fundamental Rights, which goes considerably further than the European Convention of Human Rights, already enshrined in UK law

Publicado por esta às 02:11 PM

Assinada Constituição Europeia

Fonte : Visão

Os chefes de Estado e de Governo dos 25 assinaram esta sexta-feira, em Roma, o Tratado que institui a Constituição Europeia. É o resultado de um longo processo que está longe de terminar e que passa ainda pela ratificação do documento por todos os Estados-membros

Adoptada formalmente em Junho, a Constituição Europeia foi assinada esta sexta-feira, em Roma - por entre fortes medidas de segurança - marcando mais um passo decisivo no longo processo que passa ainda pela ratificação por todos os Estados-membros, indispensável para que esta possa entrar em vigor. Só que, antes disso, ainda falta conhecer os resultados dos referendos que, pelo menos, 10 paises tencionam realizar.

Os 25 assinaram o Tratado por ordem alfabética tendo em conta a inicial do nome do país na sua língua de origem, tendo Portugal sido representado pelo primeiro-ministro, Pedro Santana Lopes, e pelo chefe da diplomacia, António Monteiro.

A não ratificação por parte de um dos países poderá significar o fim de um documento que foi preparado durante mais de dois anos e negociado pelos Estados-membros da UE durante nove meses. Foi em 18 de Junho último que os chefes de Estado e de Governo da UE chegaram a acordo sobre o texto actual depois de longas e difíceis negociações.

Publicado por esta às 03:30 PM

novembro 02, 2004

Time's up for Kilroy-Silk

Fonte: The Times

Time's up for Kilroy-Silk
By Anthony Browne

The United Kingdom Independence Party will vote on Monday to expel the former BBC television presenter Robert Kilroy-Silk five months after he joined. Mr Kilroy-Silk demanded to be the leader of the party at its annual conference last month. Supporters of the present leader, Roger Knapman, insisted that he would serve the four-year term to which he had been elected. Mr Kilroy-Silk has also said that he got nowhere with attempts to make the party professional.
Mr Knapman said of Mr Kilroy-Silk on BBC radio yesterday: “I will miss him, but not for very long. I think I could sleep at night without him.” Mr Kilroy-Silk said of his impending departure: “I can’t wait until it’s all over.”

Publicado por esta às 01:05 PM

Kinnock accepts seat in the Lords

Fonte: The Times

Kinnock accepts seat in the Lords
By Philip Webster, Political Editor

NEIL KINNOCK is to overcome his long-held doubts about the House of Lords to become a life peer, it is announced today. He and Chris Patten, both members of the outgoing European Commission, will go to the Lords once the new Brussels Commission takes over.
Mr Kinnock, the once fiery leftwinger from South Wales who became Labour leader in 1983 and ran the party for nine years, once suggested that hereditary peers were descendants of “brigands, muggers, bribers and gangsters”.

As recently as the spring of last year he was suggesting he might not take an offer to go to the Upper House if one was made. He said then that the Lords was still not a meaningful chamber even after six years of Labour in power.

A few months later he said he was not sure. “Let’s put it like this: I do not feel magnetised by it.” But last night Mr Kinnock said he had accepted the “kind invitation” to enter the House of Lords for practical political reasons.

He is soon to head the British Council, the body that promotes Britain’s culture and education. Mr Kinnock said that the Upper House was “a good base for campaigning on national issues like education, sustainable transport, industrial change and the ageing society and global concerns, particularly poverty and oppression. It is a forum for putting the continuing case for our country’s effective engagement in the EU.”

Peter Hain, the Welsh Secretary, said of Mr Kinnock: “Neil will be a powerful voice for social justice, freedom and equality. Wales is proud of yet another achievement on top of his past successes.”

Mr Patten, the former Conservative Cabinet minister and Hong Kong Governor, said: “I am honoured to be invited to become a life peer. It will give me the opportunity to contribute to the national debate on issues like higher education, research, Europe and foreign policy.”

It appeared unlikely that either Mr Kinnock or Mr Patten would rejoin their front benches in the Lords, because of their commitments. But both are likely to play a big role in the campaign for Britain to sign up to the European Constitution.

Publicado por esta às 01:07 PM

Italy ready to drop Buttiglione to break European deadlock

Fonte: The Times

Italy ready to drop Buttiglione to break European deadlock
By Anthony Browne and Richard Owen

SILVIO BERLUSCONI, the Italian Prime Minister, last night gave a clear signal that he would resolve the impasse over the new European Commission by withdrawing Rocco Buttiglione as Italy’s candidate for Commissioner and nominating a replacement.
Signor Berlusconi said the “most probable outcome” of the crisis over Signor Buttiglione’s conservative Catholic views on homosexuality, marriage and the role of women was that he “will remain a minister”.

ANSA, the Italian news agency, said the new Italian nominee would be another member of the Government. Signor Buttiglione, a Christian Democrat close to the Pope, is at present Minister for European Affairs in Signor Berlusconi’s Centre Right coalition, which took office in 2001.

The Italian leader was speaking after a Cabinet meeting to draw up a resolution for the ratification of the new European Constitution, signed at a glittering ceremony on Capitol Hill yesterday by the leaders of the 25 EU member states, including Tony Blair. Italy hopes to become the first EU state to ratify the Constitution using a vote in Parliament — where the Centre Right has a commanding majority — rather than a referendum.

Signor Berlusconi last week privately urged Signor Buttiglione to step down, but defended him in public. As late as yesterday evening Franco Frattini, the Foreign Minister, said Signor Buttiglione’s nomination as Italy’s Commissioner was “not up for discussion”.

Signor Berlusconi appears to have taken a different view, however, after talks with fellow EU leaders over lunch following the signing ceremony. Mr Blair did not attend the lunch.

The Italian leader did not indicate whom he had in mind as a replacement for Signor Buttiglione. Known candidates include Signor Frattini, Letizia Moratti, the Education and Research Minister, and Giulio Tremonti, who until July was Economics Minister.

There is speculation in Rome that if Signora Moratti went to Brussels, Signor Buttiglione would take over her education portfolio in the Italian government. Earlier, the embattled incoming president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, said that he expected to replace members of his rejected team rather than just reshuffle responsibilities. He had intensive talks with EU leaders at the European Constitutional signing session in Rome after the European Parliament vetoed the incoming European Commission. After talks with Jan Peter Balkenende, the Dutch Prime Minister, whose country holds the EU presidency, Senhor Barroso told reporters: “We need more time so I can go back to some of the prime ministers so that I can get better choices.”

Signor Buttiglione, who attended the ceremony as Italy’s Minister for European Affairs, said that he had no intention of stepping down. He indicated, however, that he “might accept” a change of portfolio

Publicado por esta às 01:08 PM

West meets East for an historic EU signing

Fonte: The Times

West meets East for an historic EU signing
By Richard Owen
Leaders from the 25 states of the enlarged Union met in Rome to put a seal on its Constitution

TO THE soothing strains of Enya and Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, leaders from the 25 states of the enlarged European Union put aside the turmoil over the new European Commission yesterday to sign the EU’s first constitution.
At an historic and lavish ceremony on Capitol Hill, in the room where the EU’s founding treaty was signed by just six nations in 1957, presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers celebrated the reunion of East and West against a backdrop of Roman statues and Renaissance frescoes.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister, media tycoon and summit host, declared: “Never before in history have we seen an example of nations voluntarily deciding to exercise their sovereign powers jointly in the exclusive interests of their peoples, thus overcoming age-old impulses of rivalry and distrust.” President Ciampi of Italy, recalling the great wars of the 20th century, told the elite gathering: “It is a birth of a political union, not only an economic and social union; an event unique in the history of our Continent, a turning point in the history of humanity.”

Jan Peter Balkenende, Prime Minister of the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, said integration had turned Europe into “a realm of peace and co-operation that is the envy of nations worldwide”. Only Tony Blair, the last leader to arrive and first to leave, look ed as if he wished he were somewhere else .

After the signing ceremony he posed for the “family photograph” of EU leaders — the largest ever assembled — but skipped the lunch, heading straight back to London instead of tucking into stuffed crêpes, lamb and chestnut dessert.

The Italian press complained of a snub to President Ciampi. A British Embassy spokesman, however, said that Mr Blair had never intended to stay after the signing ceremony, and had been represented at the lunch by Mr Straw. A Downing Street spokesman called the ceremony a significant moment, adding: “We were not there in 1957, and the feeling is that we have spent a lot of the time since playing catch up.”

He said Britain was “very comfortable with this Constitution”.

The Constitution, a cumbersome document which took over two years to negotiate, must be ratified by all states to take effect, and nine nations — including Britain — have pledged to hold a referendum.

Signor Berlusconi, who had persuaded EU leaders to hold the ceremony in Rome for reasons of history despite failing to conclude the constitutional negotiations during Italy’s gaffe-filled EU Presidency last year, vowed that Italy would be the first to ratify the Constitution, using a parliamentary vote instead of a referendum.

He faces a post-summit row, however, with the Northern League, his troublesome coalition ally, which is demanding a referendum not only on the Constitution but also on eventual Turkish membership of the EU.

He was also left to deal with the fury of RAI, the state broadcasting company, which protested that for the first time a private network, Euroscena, had been given the rights to the ceremony, with Franco Zeffirelli, the film director and a member of Signor Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, in charge of the direction.

In a lengthy statement read out on the television news RAI said this was “a slap in the face for RAI’s autonomy and an insult to its ability”. The opposition Centre Left said it was was the latest sign of Signor Berlusconi’s control over the media.

Mr Blair apart, most of the leaders revelled in the ceremony, as did the Prime Ministers of Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey and Croatia, who attended as candidates for EU membership. They went home clutching their summit gifts: a magnum of Amarone, a 15 per cent proof wine from the Valpolicella region, a leather document case and — rather less portable — a 30kg “symbolic sculpture” made of crystal, bronze and travertine marble representing Europe.

Publicado por esta às 01:10 PM

Constitution is signed but ministers will have 18 months to win round voters

Fonte: The Times

Constitution is signed but ministers will have 18 months to win round voters
By Philip Webster, Political Editor

BRITAIN’S referendum on the new European constitution will be delayed until 2006, giving ministers at least 18 months to convince a sceptical public.
The crucial vote is expected in early 2006, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said as European leaders gathered in Rome to sign the constitutional treaty yesterday. Well-placed sources suggested that it could be held even later.

The British vote will come several months after that in France, where there are growing doubts about whether President Chirac will be able to secure a “yes” vote, and in other countries.

Some ministers, MPs and officials fear that the referendum could become a vote on Tony Blair’s premiership and that, if he is unpopular at the time, it will become more about him than Europe.

Many MPs believe that Mr Blair may use the referendum to bow out, win or lose. He announced last month that he would fight for a third term but leave office towards the end of it.

The timing of the referendum means that he will be unable to avoid speculation about his future within a year of the election and may be forced into saying that he intends to stay on regardless of the result.

His position would be eased if the French reject the treaty in their vote, expected next summer. That would leave the EU in crisis.

Although Downing Street insisted yesterday that the British vote would take place come what may, there will be huge uncertainty if the French vote “no”, and several ministers believe that a British referendum would then be pointless.

Downing Street ruled out yesterday a second question on membership of the euro being put in the referendum, as some pro-European ministers have privately suggested. “They are separate isues,” Mr Blair’s official spokesman said.

Mr Straw’s prediction appears to be based on the near-certainty of a general election next May. He said the referendum was likely in early 2006 because Britain holds the EU presidency between July and December next year and a referendum would be practically impossible in that period.

The vote can be held any time up to October 2006 and the wait is the clearest sign that Mr Blair knows he has a huge task to win round public opinion.

Michael Ancram, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said that it was rubbish to suggest that there could not be a referendum during Britain’s presidency. If the Conservatives won the election, they would hold a referendum by next October, he said.

Legislation ratifying the treaty will be introduced in the Queeen’s Speech on November 23, but the Bill authorising a referendum is not expected until after the general election. Mr Blair would clearly use the British presidency as a starting point for his campaign.

Italy ready to drop ‘gay row’ commissioner

SILVIO BERLUSCONI indicated last night that he was ready to ditch Rocco Buttiglione as a European commissioner.

Signor Buttiglione ran into fierce opposition by saying that homosexuality was a sin. He was the first nominee to be rejected by the European Parliament.

Signor Berlusconi said that Signor Buttiglione would remain a minister in his Government and that another candidate was likely to be found as candidate for European commissioner22

Publicado por esta às 01:11 PM

Signing of the European constitution

Fonte: The Times

Signing of the European constitution
From Mr David Sullivan

Sir, Mr Christopher Patten and his chums (letter, October 29) extol the virtues of the EU constitution as giving “a bigger role to the Parliament and people of this country” and as “a landmark success for Britain”, which “will protect and enhance our vital national interests and enable us to work more effectively with our partners to change Europe for the better”. Yet it was not so long ago that this Government told us that the constitution was little more than a “tidying-up exercise” which did not merit a referendum.
The deceit of all our political parties over the past 30 years is now laid bare. Can the political classes really be surprised at the cynicism and hostility of the British electorate towards all things European? Yours faithfully,

Willowmead, Cornish Hall End,
Finchingfield, Essex CM7 4HL.
October 29.

From Mr Tim Cooper

Sir, The controversy surrounding the aborted appointment of the new European commission this week has overshadowed the signing of the European constitution today.

With two years in which to ratify the treaty and due public scrutiny in the form of several referendums, Europeans will have ample time to take an informed view on its relevance and desirability. It is now, however, when we would do well to look closer to home and consider the constitutional lacuna within our own society.

The British constitution is an elusive concept, with no definitive record or set of principles articulated in any one specific document. The absence of such a fixed compass point means that not only is constitutional law a dark art of patchy precedent, but also the relationship between the individual citizen and the State is inevitably weaker. As can be seen in the United States, a written constitution can help to increase the sense of collective responsibility and ownership that citizens have towards their State in a way that is lacking here.

If we are to throw off the shackles of self-doubt that accompanied the passing of the British Empire and embrace the European ideal with confidence, we need first to set out a modern and inclusive constitution that will guide us into the future with unity and certainty of purpose. It is about time that the “silent constitution”, as the judge Sir Stephen Sedley termed it, found its voice.

Publicado por esta às 01:13 PM

Barroso faces more upheaval

Fonte: The Times

Barroso faces more upheaval
By Rory Watson in Brussels

THE embattled European Commission President-designate is under pressure to put together a new team of colleagues in time for a summit of European Union leaders in Brussels on Thursday.

As José Manuel Durão Barroso, the former Portuguese Prime Minister, struggles to defuse the EU’s worst crisis for more than five years, he may be forced to sacrifice at least three, possibly more, from his original 24-person line-up.

The door for a significant shake-up was opened during the weekend when Rocco Buttiglione, the Italian European Affairs Minister, resigned as a future commissioner after being widely criticised by Euro MPs for his conservative Roman Catholic beliefs on sex and marriage.

In his resignation remarks, Signor Buttiglione depicted himself as a scapegoat and the innocent victim of an “orchestrated campaign”. His views were widely shared in Europe, he said, but had been “distorted by superficial press coverage”. He added that if Romano Prodi, a devout Catholic who is poised to return to Italian politics after five years as Commission President , “had been asked the same questions, he would have given much the same answers”.

However, Michel Barnier, the French Foreign Minister and a former European Commissioner, saw the European Parliament’s refusal to endorse Senhor Barroso’s team last week in a different light. He said yesterday: “This is proof that we’re working with European institutions and within a European process that is becoming more and more democratic.”

After Signor Buttiglione’s departure, two other nominees who came in for criticism from the European Parliament face a fight for their jobs.

Criticism of Laszlo Kovacs centred on the Hungarian’s weak grasp of his future energy portfolio; Ingride Udre, a former Speaker of the Latvian parliament, who is being lined up for the taxation brief, is under attack because she has failed to rebut allegations of illegal funding for her political party. The collapse of the Latvian Government last week has made her position even more precarious.

The most effective solution would be to renew the mandates of Peter Balazs and Sandra Kalniete, the existing Hungarian and Latvian European Commissioners. Both are professional diplomats who have performed well since being appointed in May.

Senhor Barroso is also under pressure to move Neelie Kroes-Smit, of the Netherlands, from the competition policy portfolio. Critics argue that her business connections would lead to conflicts of interest. The Dutch nominee has pledged to stand back from cases where she had been involved with any of the parties, but this has not stifled the criticism. “It is simply not good enough if she can only do a three-day week,” one parliamentary source said.

The Pope, reflecting Vatican disappointment that Signor Buttiglione had resigned because of his religious beliefs, called for Europe to remember its Christian roots. Addressing pilgrims in St Peter’s Square, he said: “To take into account the Christian roots of the European Continent remains fundamental for future developments of the Union.”

Publicado por esta às 01:14 PM

novembro 04, 2004

Durão Barroso assiste a Cimeira de líderes

Fonte : Visao
Na qualidade de presidente indigitado da Comissão Europeia, José Manuel Durão Barroso, vai estar, hoje e amanhã, ao lado de Romano Prodi na cimeira de líderes da União Europeia. Espera-se que aproveite a ocasião intensificar esforços para a remodelação da sua equipa

Os líderes europeus reúnem-se hoje e sexta-feira em Bruxelas numa cimeira consagrada à economia e imigração, mas que deverá ser dominada pelos esforços de Durão Barroso para encontrar uma equipa de comissários europeus.

Atrasado na composição da sua equipa, José Manuel Durão Barroso, presidente indigitado da Comissão Europeia, irá participar na cimeira ao lado do actual presidente do executivo comunitário, Romano Prodi.

Durão Barroso deverá aproveitar a reunião para desenvolver contactos que permitam avanços na remodelação da sua equipa, que se arriscava a ser chumbada pelo Parlamento Europeu, o que o levou a retirá-la de uma votação crucial na semana passada, em Estrasburgo.

A presidência holandesa da UE gostaria que Durão Barroso apresentasse na Cimeira de Bruxelas a lista completa da nova Comissão, mas fontes próximas do presidente indigitado duvidam que isso seja possível.

Os chefes de Estado e de Governo da família política do PPE (consevadores) terão uma reunião a partir do meio-dia, antes do início da cimeira dos 25 líderes europeus.

O primeiro-ministro português, Pedro Santana Lopes, e o presidente indigitado da Comissão Europeia, José Manuel Durão Barroso, também participam nesta reunião.

O resultado das eleições nos Estados Unidos e temas da actualidade internacional, nomeadamente a situação no Iraque, também serão abordados pelos chefes de Estado e de Governo dos 2

Publicado por esta às 02:21 PM

Latvia drops EU nominee but Hungary holds firm

Fonte: The Times

Latvia drops EU nominee but Hungary holds firm
From Rory Watson in Brussels

Sacrificed: Ingrida Udre failed to impress MEPs in Brussels (GEERT VANDEN / WUNGAERT / AP)

THE Latvian Government agreed yesterday to replace its nominee Commissioner, who became the second member of José Manuel Durão Barroso’s European Commission to be sacrificed to secure approval of the team.
Andris Piebalgs, a former Latvian Ambassador to the European Union who was closely involved in the country’s membership negotiations and also a former Finance Minister, takes over from Ingrida Udre, who had faced heavy criticism from Euro MPs in recent weeks.

Mrs Udre, a divorced mother with two children, had been tipped to take the Commission’s taxation portfolio. However, during hearings before the European Parliament, she failed to rebut allegations concerning financial irregularities in the funding of her political party.

The Latvian Government’s decision followed a specific request from Senhor Barroso, who has been forced to reshape his 24-strong team after the European Parliament gave warning last week that it could not endorse the original line-up.

Mrs Udre’s departure followed the resignation at the weekend of Rocco Buttiglione, the Italian nominee, who had angered a large number of MEPs with his conservative Roman Catholic views on homosexuality and the role of women in society.

Attention will focus next on Laszlo Kovacs, the Hungarian nominee, a former Socialist Foreign Minister and party leader who had demonstrated an embarrassing lack of knowledge in the parliamentary hearings about his future portfolio: energy.

His supporters defend his poor performance, explaining that he had been working throughout the previous night to defuse a domestic political crisis, but even Martin Schulz, the leader of the 200 Socialist Euro MPs, has admitted that Mr Kovacs is “a problematic case”.

Last night, the Hungarian Government insisted that it had no plans to replace Mr Kovacs, although it hinted that it might not object if he were offered another post.

Ferenc Somogyi, a career diplomat, was sworn in yesterday as Mr Kovacs’s successor as Hungarian Foreign Minister.

Mr Somogyi, 59, took the job 36 years after he joined the Foreign Ministry, having studied international relations in Budapest. He has served at the United Nations and led talks on Hungary joining Nato.

Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Prime Minister, said that he still backed Mr Kovacs as Hungary’s nominee to the Commission. However, such a move would be strongly opposed by the 268-strong Christian Democrat group in the European Parliament.

Having lost one of its own in Signor Buttiglione, it is determined that a Socialist commissioner should also be penalised.

Without the group’s support, Senhor Barroso would have no chance of securing the comprehensive endorsement that he is seeking from the European Parliament.

As the Commission President-designate struggles to demonstrate to EU leaders at their Brussels summit this week that he can put together a team that can win the MEPs’ confidence, Silvio Berlusconi appears to be in no hurry to nominate a replacement for Signor Buttiglione.

The Italian Prime Minister was in Russia yesterday, leaving behind speculation that he plans to nominate Franco Frattini, the Foreign Minister, to the Brussels post.

This would allow Signor Berlusconi to reshuffle his Government in an attempt to strengthen his fragile coalition of centre-right parties. Hungary’s ruling parties said that they would ask people to vote against giving dual citizenship to five million ethnic Hungarians living abroad in a referendum to be held next month. Extending citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living beyond the borders could trigger a mass exodus into Hungary, which could devastate the economy, they said.

Publicado por esta às 03:13 PM

novembro 09, 2004

Barroso presents revamped team

Fonte: The Times

Barroso presents revamped team
From Rory Watson in Brussels

THE European Commission President-designate sought to restore his battered authority last night by presenting a reshaped 24-strong team for approval by Euro MPs.

After the European Parliament had rejected his original line-up last week, José Manuel Durão Barroso, the former Portuguese Prime Minister, made the minimum number of changes that he considers necessary to win wide support among MEPs.

The initiative, on the first day of the EU leaders’ Brussels summit, is designed to end the political impasse and to enable the Barroso Commission, which should have taken up office last Monday, to begin working this month. “We are back on track,” Senhor Barroso said. “We need to get down to work quickly.”

The final piece of the jigsaw fell into place late yesterday when Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Premier, nominated Franco Frattini, his country’s Foreign Minister, as Italy’s representative on the new Commission.

Signor Frattini is being lined up to take over the highly politicised justice, freedom and security portfolio after Italy’s first nominee, Rocco Buttiglione, was forced to resign because of his conservative Catholic views on homosexuality and women.

As part of the new package, the Hungarian nominee, László Kovács, who had faced criticism because of his lack of knowledge of his energy brief, will instead handle taxation.

Publicado por esta às 02:21 PM

Spectre of Bush haunts EU

Fonte: The Times

Spectre of Bush haunts EU
From Anthony Browne, Greg Hurst and Rory Watson in Brussels

EUROPEAN leaders struggled to prevent tensions over Iraq and transatlantic relations flaring out of control last night as President Bush’s election victory dominated an EU summit.

While Tony Blair accused Europe of being in denial about America, President Chirac of France withdrew from a lunch with Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi leader, who accused France of being a “spectator” refusing to get involved in his country’s reconstruction.

President Bush’s re-election has upset his critics in Europe, particularly in France, which had led the anti-war effort. Yesterday French politicians insisted that Mr Bush’s re-election showed the need to turn the EU into a superpower to counteract the US.

The EU summit had been meant to put European divisions over the Iraq war in the past, with EU leaders committing themselves to rebuilding the country.

Although the EU offered an additional €16.5 million (£11.5million) to help elections in Iraq, bringing the total to €31.5 million, France and Germany have refused other practical help, such as peacekeeping troops.

Mr Allawi lambasted countries that were content to watch from the sidelines as he struggled to buttress security in his country before the elections in January, declaring: “I want to take this opportunity to call on the countries that are content to have a spectator role to help us to build a better Iraq.”

Asked later whether he specifically meant France and Germany, he said: “Yes. But we want to build better relationships with France and Germany and forget the past.”

President Chirac’s office then announced that he would leave the summit early and would no longer be meeting Dr Allawi at today’s lunch. However, they insisted that it was not a snub, saying that M Chirac had to attend a memorial in the United Arab Emirates for its late leader.

Michael Ancram, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “Chirac’s dislike of all things American is well known but he should realise that the EU needs the US and the US needs the EU. His obstinacy can only make an unsettled world more unsettled.”

European leaders made appeals to put past divisions behind them. Bernard Bot, the Foreign Minister of the Netherlands, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said of Dr Allawi’s comments: “This has angered some in Paris, and I think that the language used was not the most felicitous one. But what matters is that we strike a positive note and that we discuss with Mr Allawi the future and not look back too much.”

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish Prime Minister, who supported the Iraq war, said: “You cannot escape the disagreements there have been in the run-up to the war in Iraq, but I think everyone realises and has to realise that we now face a common challenge, that is to create a sustainable democracy in Iraq.”

Although European leaders paid effusive tribute to Mr Bush’s election victory, they admitted that it would do little to ease tensions between the US and Europe, particularly over the Middle East. Michel Barnier, the French Foreign Minister, said: “Our world needs several powers. They (the US) are first. We are in the process of gathering the pieces and the will to become another power.”

Javier Solana, the EU’s foreign affairs chief, forecast inevitable frictions in the next four years, adding: “But I’m sure also we’ll be able to overcome those frictions with good will. Of course political life is not an easy journey. Sometimes you have difficulties in the journey. Mr Blair, Mr Bush’s chief European ally, underlined in congratulating Mr Bush that it was ‘ urgent’ to renew frayed transatlantic ties. Europe and America must build anew their alliance. All of us in positions of leadership have a responsibility to rise to this challenge.”

Publicado por esta às 02:23 PM

Axis regroups to curb Bush in second term

Fonte: The Times

Axis regroups to curb Bush in second term
By Greg Hurst Political Correspondent in Brussels

FRANCE, Germany and Spain signalled a new alliance yesterday to strengthen the European Union’s political project as a counterbalance to the United States after the re-election of President Bush.
The triple axis formed by “old Europe” powers, whose leaders were the most vociferous in opposing the Iraq war, was a rebuff to Tony Blair’s accusation that they were in a “state of denial” over the outcome of America’s presidential election.

Jacques Chirac, the French President, declared that the result left the world “more multi-polar than ever” and said that Europe must react by strengthening its political unity and press ahead with its new constitution. “The confirmation of strong American politics leads naturally to the necessity to reinforce Europe politically and economically,” M Chirac said at an EU summit in Brussels.

“Europe today has more than ever the need and necessity to reinforce its unity. That is the goal of the constitution. It will help this reinforcement of European unity in the face of global powers in a world which is more multi-polar than ever.”

The warning from Mr Blair, in an interview with The Times, was aimed chiefly at M Chirac and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish Prime Minister, who withdrew Spanish troops from Iraq and privately predicted a John Kerry victory to other European centre-left politicians. M Chirac and Señor Zapatero met in Brussels yesterday with Gerhard Schröder, the German Chancellor, and agreed to work more closely together to build a stronger Europe in response to the renewed mandate won by President Bush.

One outcome is that the three leaders are to attend rallies in support of the European constitution in France and Spain, where referendums are to be held to endorse it; a referendum is unlikely to be held in Germany, whose constitution forbids it.

Mr Blair has been trying to cement his political links with Herr Schröder and to build new economic ties with Spain, although he retains pro-war allies such as Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Prime Minister.

Several European leaders called for better relations with Washington, although there was a sense among some that President Bush must curb the unilateralism that marked his first term.

Señor Zapatero referred to the differences that remained between Europe and America, saying: “We are disposed to collaborate and to increase the transatlantic dialogue and to respect each other’s positions.”

Mr Blair and Iyad Allawi, the interim Iraqi Prime Minister who addressed EU leaders over lunch, made a concerted attempt to bury the controversy over Dr Allawi’s description of some countries who have not sent troops to Iraq as “spectators”, and M Chirac’s departure before they discussed Iraq.

Dr Allawi said: “What I said really is history. We need to start afreshand develop our relations with countries in the world. We want to forge a positive alliance with Europe.”

M Chirac, who left before the lunch to fly to the United Arab Emirates, insisted this was not a snub and disclosed he had invited Ghazi Yawar, the Iraqi President, to Paris.

EU leaders approved a modest €31.5 million (£22 million) package of support and training for Iraq’s elections. France and Germany offered Iraq bilateral debt relief, but there was lingering anger at Dr Allawi over his reference to “spectators”, which soured his visit to the summit.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg and a critic of the war, said: “I don’t like the expression ‘spectator states’ at all. I don’t understand it, and if I do understand it right, I don’t like it at all.”

Publicado por esta às 02:25 PM

Britain under pressure to stay with EU’s policy on migrants

Fonte: The Times

Britain under pressure to stay with EU’s policy on migrants
From Anthony Browne in Brussels

THE British Government came under pressure not to use its “opt-out” on asylum policies yesterday as European Union leaders agreed an ambitious five-year programme to develop a common European immigration and justice policy.
Tony Blair and his counterparts in the other 24 EU countries agreed to give up their national vetoes on asylum and illegal immigration policies to accelerate the creation of a new body of EU law, which will be developed by the European Commission in Brussels and upheld by the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

A statement agreed by EU leaders after a two-day meeting stated: “Freedom, justice, control at the external borders, internal security and the prevention of terrorism should henceforth be considered indivisible within the Union as a whole.”

The “Hague programme” to make the EU an area of common “freedom, justice and security” includes many new policies, including a common European asylum system, a common repatriation policy for illegal immigrants, an EU diplomatic corps, common issuing of visas, harmonisation of divorce and family laws to help to settle cross-border disputes, mutual recognition of court judgments, complete sharing of police information, and a European criminal record. Until now, the EU had only limited competence in those areas. Caroline Flint, the Home Office Minister, insisted: “There is a very solid case to be made for EU co-operation. Criminals or those who want to abuse our asylum system don’t recognise national borders. We have to work together.”

When The Times disclosed last month that Britain was giving up its veto on asylum and illegal immigration, a political row erupted. The Conservatives accused the Government of surrendering control of Britain’s borders. Mr Blair retorted that Britain would retain an opt-out allowing it to avoid policies it does not like, so Britain had the “ best of both worlds”.

Jan-Peter Balkenende, the Dutch Prime Minister who holds the EU’s rotating presidency, made clear yesterday that a common European asylum system would be created by 2010, and put pressure on Britain not to undermine it by opting out.

Implicitly backing the Conservative claims that Britain will come under pressure to comply, he said: “It is important that there is one reality as far as asylum and immigration is concerned. We are stressing the importance of following the same line. That is the message to the UK.”

Asylum and illegal immigration have been one of the most contentious issues in Britain in recent years. But if the Government now decides to adopt new EU asylum policies, it can do so in agreement with other countries without having to push new laws through Parliament.

The common asylum policy will include common procedures and standards, with co-operation on processing applications in a new European asylum centre, and the possible establishment of EU asylum camps in North African and other transit countries.

A common repatriation policy will be developed for illegal immigrants. An EU “white list” will be developed of countries deemed safe for the return of asylum-seekers. The EU will develop a common integration policy to ensure that legal immigrants become part of their host community, including anti-discrimination policies and the requirement to learn the national language.

A new EU diplomatic service will process visa applications from non-EU citizens.

A European border guard will be set up, providing a rapid reaction force for countries unable to protect their frontiers from a sudden influx of illegal immigrants.

The Hague programme also includes measures to create a “European Area of Justice” to combat crime, with mutual recognition of court judgments. Police forces will be required to share all information.


Common European asylum system by 2010 with common procedures and processing of applications
Ending the national veto on illegal immigration and asylum policy. Britain retains right to opt out
Ending national veto on migration policies, such as work permits, when constitution is ratified

Common issuing of EU visas to third country citizens by a new EU diplomatic corp

Common repatriation policy for illegal immigrants

Co-operation on integration policies for immigrants

Common EU “white list” of countries deemed safe to return asylum-seekers

New European human rights agency

New European asylum centre to process applications

Possible new European border guard

Mutual recognition of judgments of court cases

European criminal record, allowing police to trace all offences committed within the EU

Co-operation on family law to make it easier to resolve cross-border family disputes

Moves to harmonise inheritance law to stop family disputes

Publicado por esta às 02:27 PM

Critics happy with Barroso’s new team

Fonte: The Times

Critics happy with Barroso’s new team
From Rory Watson in Brussels

THE European Parliament’s main political barons signalled yesterday that they will end their power struggle with the Commission and are now ready to endorse José Manuel Durão Barroso’s team.
The MEPs’ formal approval will end the institutional crisis created at the end of last month when the Parliament made clear that it could not accept his original line-up.

The Italian and Latvian Governments were forced to replace their original nominees and Senhor Barroso, the President-designate, had to reshuffle two portfolios. Last night, the changes appeared to satisfy most of the criticism which had been directed at the commission team that should have taken up office this week.

Yesterday Martin Schulz, the leader of the 200-strong Socialist group, who had earlier been one of Senhor Barroso’s most vociferous critics, said: “We had four core demands. Three of them have been met. We appreciate that Mr Barroso has moved.”

Publicado por esta às 02:30 PM

novembro 10, 2004

Buttiglione 'outs' his EU successor as a Freemason

Fonte: The Times

Buttiglione 'outs' his EU successor as a Freemason
From Richard Owen in Rome

ROCCO BUTTIGLIONE, the Catholic politician and papal adviser whose views on homosexuality and marriage cost him his job as an EU Commissioner last month, yesterday caused further controversy by claiming that his successor was a Freemason.
Signor Buttiglione congratulated Franco Frattini, the Foreign Minister, on his nomination as EU Justice Commissioner, the job for which Signor Buttiglione had been nominated by Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister.

But he went on: “I hope his hearings go well and that nobody asks him if he is a Freemason. If they do they will only be repeating the same injustice that was done to me.”

Signor Frattini, who has been Foreign Minister since November 2002, yesterday held talks in Brussels with José Manuel Durão Barroso, the new European Commission President, ahead of confirmation hearings at the European Parliament next Monday and Tuesday. Senhor Barroso hopes his entire Commission will be confirmed next Thursday by Euro MPs, enabling it to take office the following Monday.

Freemasonry, which was banned under Mussolini, flourished under the Christian Democrats in postwar Italy, and remains legal. But it is still viewed with suspicion by the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.

It has been a highly sensitive issue in Italy since 1981, when a secret and illegal right-wing Masonic lodge known as P2 — Propaganda Due — was broken up amid public scandal.

Nearly a thousand members of P2 were named, including senior figures in business, politics, banking, journalism, the intelligence services and the military. The scandal brought down the Christian Democrat-led Government of Arnaldo Forlani, which had tried to keep the details secret.

Signor Frattini and Signor Berlusconi declined to comment on Signor Buttiglione’s outburst. Lapo Pistelli, an Italian left-wing Euro MP, said that it was a “poisoned dart. I have no idea if Frattini is a Mason or not, but I have no doubt that, unlike Buttiglione, he will appear at his hearing fully prepared and there will be no unpleasant surprises.”

However, Mario Borghezio, a Northern League Euro MP, said that he hoped Signor Frattini was “independent of the occult powers which control Europe”.

Signor Frattini, 47, a parliamentary deputy for Signor Berlusconi’s Forza Italia Party since 1996 and former head of the parliamentary commission overseeing the intelligence services, is widely admired for his competence and equanimity.

Last night Signor Berlusconi held a meeting of his Centre Right coalition to discuss the nomination of Gianfranco Fini, the “post Fascist” Deputy Prime Minister, as the new Foreign Minister. Signor Buttiglione, far from returning to relative obscurity as Italy’s Minister for European Affairs since his rejection by Euro MPs, has defiantly maintained a high profile through public meetings and interviews, in which he has lambasted the “totalitarianism” of an “over secularised and politically correct Europe”.

Last weekend he began a campaign for a return to “traditional religious values” in public life, and said that thousands of people all over Europe had offered support for his campaign to inject “Christian family values” into politics.

A survey this week showed that 61 per cent of Italians were against gay marriage.


Freemasonry is one of the oldest secular fraternities in the world. The first Grand Lodge was established in England in 1717. There are about 5 million freemasons worldwide, with 300,000 in England and Wales.

In the 1930s, freemasonry was banned in Germany and Spain and many members were jailed and killed, causing the organisation to become more secretive.

Candidates have to believe in a supreme being. Discussion of religion is forbidden, as is the discussion of politics.

Members swear not to reveal secret rituals. In 1986, the rules changed so that they no longer had to agree to have throats slit and tongues cut out if they broke their oaths.

The Roman Catholic Church prohibits Catholics from membership.The Church of England has expressed concern about Masonic rituals.

Publicado por esta às 10:18 AM

novembro 15, 2004

Open and shut

Fonte: The Times

Open and shut
Competition in EU public procurement barely exists

Government contracts account for a huge slice of the European economy — some £1,040 billion a year in the pre-enlargement European Union. Under European Union law, these contracts should be as open to the refreshing breeze of international competition as any in the private sector.
That they should be so is to everyone’s benefit. Under open bidding that puts foreign firms on the same footing as domestic ones, taxpayers get better value for money, companies gain access to wider markets, and the European Union’s single market functions as intended, improving Europe’s international competitiveness. That Birmingham’s new Metro is Italian-made should be a source of satisfaction, not lamentations about “lost” British jobs.

Where anger about lost jobs is entirely justified is when British bidders are denied similarly fair and open treatment in other EU countries. Gordon Brown’s selection of Alan Wood, chief executive of Siemens UK, to investigate these complaints raised a few eyebrows when it was announced. Sir Alan, a passionate advocate of euro membership, was not expected to be over-hard on continental practices; but he has uncovered damning evidence of unfair treatment.

The Wood Review, to be released today, treads delicately across the political minefield. Where political favouritism and tricks obviously designed to bend the rules are at issue, it speaks of “cultural and political factors”. It would be interesting to learn what is meant by the advice to British companies, in an annexe to the report, to be “well-integrated within the local culture and business environment” and familiar “with informal problem-solving mechanisms ”. In Italy, such advice would mean only one thing: get out that brown envelope, and stuff it generously. But, however low-key its tone, the report clearly demonstrates that in France, Spain, Germany and Italy, to name the obvious offenders, open competition can barely be said to exist.

There are no fewer than ten EU directives on public procurement, all of them based on non-discrimination, equal treatment, transparency and mutual recognition of standards. According to the Office of Government Commerce which monitors procurement in Britain, these are “not prescriptive rules” but “broad principles, open to interpretation”. That cannot excuse awarding contracts according to political allegiance, requiring tenderers to manufacture locally, or using foreign bids as “false tenders” to beat down local suppliers who were always going to get the job — as a British company bidding for a German IT contract found when it offered a 50 per cent saving to the client, yet still lost out to the incumbent German supplier.

These examples are moreover drawn from only a tiny proportion of the procurement pot. Less than a fifth of public procurement tenders reach the international domain, with a mere 16 per cent published in the EU official journal; and defence, energy, transport and some services are still off-limits in many EU countries. The Chancellor intends to push this report hard at the Ecofin finance ministers’ meeting tomorrow, and insist on a fairer playing field. He will, rightly, demand clearer benchmarks from the Commission. The one thing Britain should not do is close its own market. Complain, by all means, when others cheat foreign firms and their own taxpayers; but their folly is no reason for the UK to throw public money down the drain.

Publicado por esta às 12:42 PM

High-profile Frattini keeps his private life from public scrutiny

Fonte: The Times

High-profile Frattini keeps his private life from public scrutiny
By Richard Owen

Rome: The trenchant views of Rocco Buttiglione on homosexuals and single mothers cost him high office at the European Commission. The views on such issues of Franco Frattini, the man chosen to replace him, are a closely guarded secret.

Blessed with good looks and sporting ability — he is a qualified ski-instructor — Signor Frattini, 47, is one of Italy’s most visible politicians. Yet little is known about his private life and views.

Few Italians are aware that Signor Frattini, the Foreign Minister, is divorced, with a 14-year-old daughter. As he is usually alone when he attends official functions in Rome, there was surprise when Vanity Fair suggested that his companion for the past three years was Simona Ingaglio, a model.

Signora Ingaglio, 32, said in an interview in the magazine that she had decided to “emerge from anonimity”, having become “tired of being described as the unknown young woman at his side”, but that they had not yet discussed marriage.

Signor Frattini has said that skiing taught him “how to control emotions”, as well as how to slalom through the political obstacle course. “If you can manage the fear at the starting line before a race then you can handle any political challenge,” he once said.

Born in Rome to Tuscan parents (his father was a poetry professor) Signor Frattini studied law and became a magistrate at the age of 24. Left wing as a student, he turned to the Right, becoming an adviser to the Treasury and secretary to the Council of Ministers, then an aide to Silvio Berlusconi whose Forza Italia party he joined in 1996, when he entered Parliament.

Signor Frattini was chairman of the parliamentary commission for intelligence services from 1996 to 2001 and was made Minister of Public Administration and Foreign Minister in 2002.He is a “committed European”, arguing that Europe must “speak with a single voice”.

Publicado por esta às 12:45 PM

EU leader faces test of strength

Fonte: The Times

EU leader faces test of strength
By Rory Watson
MEPs seek more power of Commission

EURO MPs are looking to wring yet more political concessions from José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President-designate, before agreeing to vote his 24-strong team into office this week.
The European Parliament has already forced Romano Prodi’s successor to discard two of his future colleagues and to reshuffle a brace of policy portfolios after the original nominees sparked a storm of protests.

Buoyed by that unprecedented success, many MEPs aim to strengthen their powers over the Brussels Executive by securing a political commitment from Senhor Barroso that, in future, any commissioner who loses the confidence of the Parliament would have to resign.

The incoming Commission President will be very reluctant to make such a pledge. It would increase considerably the Parliament’s political leverage, since at the moment it may use only the nuclear option of forcing all, not single, commissioners, to resign — but he may be forced to agree to the commitment to end the political crisis that has hung over the European Union since last month, when Euro MPs effectively rejected his original line-up. Since then, much EU business has been paralysed as Signor Prodi’s Commission has stayed on in a caretaker capacity.

After that setback, Senhor Barroso persuaded the Italian Government to replace Rocco Buttiglione, its original nominee, who had alarmed MEPs with his deeply conservative views on homosexuality and the place of women in society, with Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Minister.

The Latvian Government has also withdrawn Ingrida Udre, its original candidate, who had failed to rebut satisfactorily allegations of financial irregularity in the funding of her political party. It has nominated Andris Piebalgs, a respected diplomat who was briefly Finance Minister.

Both replacements will face detailed questioning from MEPs over the next 24 hours to determine whether they are suitably qualified for their future posts. Signor Frattini could come under attack for being associated with the measures that Silvio Berlusconi has taken to protect himself and his media empire.

A spokesman for Green Euro MPs, referring to the web of judicial investigations surrounding the Italian Prime Minister, said: “Giving Italy justice and home affairs is making the poacher into the gamekeeper.”

However, both should survive their parliamentary hearings. Instead, most attention will be diverted to two other controversial appointments. The first is Laszlo Kovacs, the Hungarian nominee, who performed disastrously first time round, astounding MEPs with his lack of knowledge of the energy portfolio that he was being given.

Senhor Barroso has been forced to move the former Hungarian Foreign Minister to the taxation dossier. However, in private conversations with MEPs over the past week, Mr Kovacs has admitted that he knows little about his new responsibilities, either.

Conservative and Christian Democrat Euro MPs, in particular, are likely to subject the former communist to intense scrutiny. Many are angry that the Parliament forced the withdrawal of Signor Buttiglione, a centre-right politician, and are looking to secure a Socialist victim in revenge.

The spotlight will also fall on Neelie Kroes, the Dutch nominee, who is being put in charge of competition policy, a highly sensitive area with extensive powers over corporate and government behaviour.

To make a clean break with her extensive business background, Mrs Kroes has agreed to sell all her shares and pledged not to sit in judgment in any cases concerning companies in which she was previously involved. Despite the commitment, critics still believe that she will face inevitable conflicts of interest and want her moved to a new post.

If any of the new nominees fail to pass their parliamentary tests in the next 24 hours, Senhor Barroso will have to go back to the drawing board. If they emerge unscathed, the new Commission should be endorsed by the Parliament on Thursday and be ready to start work in a week’s time.

Publicado por esta às 12:46 PM

novembro 16, 2004

Greece, France and Spain named and shamed

Fonte: The Times

Greece, France and Spain named and shamed
By Elizabeth Judge

THE techniques deployed by European countries to lock out competitors are alarming and ingenious, according to the review by Alan Wood, the industrialist.
They range from demanding that bids for contracts are presented in regional dialect to forcing foreign companies to comply with “arcane” local laws in a bid to deter them at the first hurdle.

One third of businesses questioned for the study felt they had lost out because procurement laws had been breached.

Countries named and shamed for alleged unfair procurement practices include Greece, France, and Spain.

But Mr Wood, who relied on face-to-face interviews with companies of all sizes as well as trade groups and anecdotal evidence to produce his report at the Chancellor’s request, concedes that securing evidence of breach of the European procurement rules could prove difficult.

The problem, he says, is that many European member states exploit loopholes which enable them to comply with the letter of the law while failing to adhere to the spirit of it.

Some British companies have become so exasperated with the barriers they face that, the study says, they have resorted to buying up local companies in the country where work is on offer to boost their chances of winning it.

Governments frequently resort, the study says, to a technique known as “price squeezing”. Under this Governments ply local contenders for contracts with subsidies to ensure that companies from other countries will find it impossible to compete on price. This, the report says, creates an “uneven playing field” for businesses competing for the work.

It is particularly hard for British firms, it says, because, by measure of GDP, the UK grants the lowest amount of state aid across the European Union.

Another favoured technique exposed in the study is that of “false tendering” in which authorities invite international bids — which are expected to be lower — simply to drive down the price of the favoured local bidder, not because they want seriously to consider another company’s pitch.

Authorities may also break down big contracts into several smaller ones to avoid triggering the value threshold at which bids must be opened up to international competition.

More blatant techniques include ignoring the requirement to publish details of contracts and favouring companies because of their political allegiances. Businesses questioned in the study reported instances where they had allegedly been openly informed that the bid was won on the basis of a “political decision” — not on merit.

Even where countries are apparently following procurement rules, the report alleges, British companies still lose out. It is an open secret, the study says, that if a company finds out about a contract for the first time when it appears in the Official Journal of the European Union — the website where all European Union contracts are published — it is too late to compete.

Legitimate local rules such as Germany’s requirement for products to carry a so-called Technical Surveillance Association certificate — a safety approval from a German authority — also come under fire for making it “difficult and expensive” for foreign firms to tender for work.

Unfair techniques are not the only factor which prevents British companies accessing contracts though, the study says. It also criticises the so-called “baby buyer” syndrome, in which young, inexperienced and incompetent individuals are made responsible for handing out contracts worth hundreds of thousands of euros.

Publicado por esta às 01:33 PM

Europe hits back in market row

Fonte: The Times

Europe hits back in market row
By Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent

GORDON BROWN’S claims that British companies are losing out unfairly in the battle for European public contracts backfired yesterday when the European Commission revealed that it was investigating the Scottish Parliament for allegedly breaching EU rules.
The Commission also pointed out that Britain was one of the few European countries not to have fully implemented rules designed to ensure a level playing field.

The Chancellor published a report yesterday that claimed that European governments were unfairly favouring their own national companies in the £1,000 billion-a-year contracts market.

He pointed to Spain and France as the worst offenders against EU internal market rules, which require governments openly and fairly to put all contracts over a certain amount to an EU-wide tender.

The Commission dismissed the claims, and revealed that it is investigating alleged breaches of EU rules over the award of the design contract for the controversial new £431 million Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh.

An official said: “We have been investigating for several months a complaint that the public procurement rules were not followed in the award of the contract to design the Scottish Parliament, a design which played its part in the whole budget going hugely over budget.”

The Commission accused the UK of being one of the few countries not to be fully implementing single-market rules designed to ensure that foreign companies had fair access to government contracts.

The Commission gave a formal warning to Britain in March that it must introduce measures to make it easier for companies to seek legal redress if they feel that they have been unfairly discriminated against.

A government spokesman admitted: “We are in the process of amending our national legislation to take into account developments since we implemented the original directive.”

As revealed in The Times, Mr Brown yesterday published the Wood report, which suggested that British companies face serious obstacles in competing for lucrative European government contracts, such as building roads or supplying police helicopters.

The report claimed that foreign governments still favoured their own countries’ companies. It found that although there were few examples of “clear breaches” of EU rules, there were many “grey areas” that allowed governments to favour their own national firms at the expense of British ones.

The report was aimed at the incoming Commission under José Manuel Durão Barroso, which contains a large number of free-market commissioners, rather than the outgoing Commission under Romano Prodi.

Mr Brown said yesterday: “We’re losing out substantially in terms of contracts. I’m hoping we’ll get a series of market investigations, that the Commission will clamp down on this practice that is happening in other countries.”

The Commission insisted that it already “cracks down hard” on any evidence of abuse of the rules. A spokesman for Frits Bolkestein, the Internal Market Commissioner, said: “There is no evidence that the UK is being singled out for unfair treatment.

“It would be helpful, if Mr Brown had some concerns, if he informed the Commission rather than just Westminster journalists. The Commission has not received a copy of this report.”

Publicado por esta às 01:41 PM

novembro 17, 2004

Brown labels EU spending plans unrealistic and unacceptable

Fonte: The Times

Brown labels EU spending plans unrealistic and unacceptable
By Rory Watson
Chancellor will not give up Britain's £3.2 billion budget rebate

GORDON BROWN told the European Commission to put its finances in order yesterday while firmly rejecting moves to water down Britain’s multibillion pound budget rebate.
As EU finance ministers examined the union’s proposed spending plans for the next nine years, Mr Brown insisted that the 35 per cent increase the Commission is seeking in the €100 billion (£70 billion) annual budget was “unrealistic and unacceptable”.

“No finance minister here today could even put such an increase to his country and no parliament would expect such a finance minister to stay in the job if he did so,” he said.

The Chancellor’s criticism of the union’s long-term expenditure proposals coincided with the refusal, for the tenth year running, by the European Court of Auditors to sign off the EU’s annual accounts because it could not be certain the funds had been correctly spent. The financial watchdog also found that a €200 billion backlog had built up since the Commission has been unable to spend the money which was agreed in 1999 to be made available for infrastructure projects.

Mr Brown, who is prepared to see a 6.5 per cent rise in EU expenditure over the coming decade, argued that the backlog and the demand for more funds were at odds with the Commission’s strictures on the need for strong budgetary discipline. “It is ironic the Commission lectures member states on keeping budget deficits below 3 per cent and at the same time is coming here asking for a 35 per cent increase in expenditure,” he said.

Mr Brown made clear that the Government had no intention of giving up the budget rebate which Margaret Thatcher secured 20 years ago, now worth €4.6 billion annually.

“The rebate has been, is, and will remain fully justified. Britain has the lowest receipts of all member states, both per head of population and as a percentage of gross national income,” he said, pointing out that over the past two decades, the UK had made net payments to the EU of around €58 billion, second only to Germany.

However, the Government will come under increasing pressure over the rebate in the months ahead. Several other major net contributors, notably the Netherlands, are looking for similar compensation and the less well-off new EU members resent contributing to the UK refund. In their annual report, the auditors only gave a clean bill of health to EU administrative expenditure, or just 6 per cent of the annual budget. “This does not mean that 93 per cent of the budget is misspent, but that we cannot tell with reasonable confidence that there is no material level of error,” said one official.

Publicado por esta às 01:56 PM

novembro 19, 2004

British ministers are EU part-timers

Fonte: The Times

British ministers are EU part-timers
By Anthony Browne and Rory Watson in Brussels

BRITISH Cabinet ministers were accused of being “part time” yesterday after research by The Times showed that they have the worst attendance records of the biggest member states at important EU meetings.
Although Tony Blair pledged to put Britain at the heart of Europe, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for agriculture, have all attended fewer EU ministers’ meetings than their French and German counterparts over the past three years.

More than half of British laws now originate in Brussels, and are automatically adopted by Westminster.

Mr Brown’s attendance at EU finance ministers’ meetings has been declining steadily since 2002 despite the regular lectures he delivers to Brussels on how to improve the EU’s economic performance. He has attended only 19 of the 29 finance ministers’ meetings since 2002. Often he sends a junior minister.

“Brown doesn’t really get on with any of the other ministers, and often doesn’t bother showing up. We’ve always no idea whether he is coming,” one EU official said.

Mr Brown angered the European Commission and his European counterparts on Monday by announcing that he was going to a finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels to demand that British businesses get a fair share of the £1,000 billion annual European government contract market.

However, the issue was not on the agenda, and Mr Brown did not give a copy of the report supporting his claim of bias to either the Commission or any other EU country.

Mr Blunkett has the worst attendance record. He has attended only four of 19 formal interior ministers’ meetings since 2002, and attended none last year. His French counterpart has attended twice as often, while Otto Schily, the German Interior Minister, attended all 19 meetings.

Justice, immigration and civil liberties are among the fastest growing areas of EU law, with a new European arrest warrant, harmonisation of legal standards, anti-terrorism measures and the development of a common asylum system.

The Home Office is normally represented in Europe by the junior minister Caroline Flint. “Blunkett just doesn’t do Europe,” one EU official said.

Ministers from each member state meet, usually monthly, in the so-called Council of Ministers, the senior law-making body of the EU, to negotiate EU laws and to vote on which polices to adopt.

Governments normally send their most senior minister for the policy area under discussion, but they can be represented by junior ministers or even civil servants. Mr Straw and Mrs Beckett have better attendance records than Mr Brown and Mr Blunkett, but still lag behind their French and German counterparts.

Although Britain prides itself as being the main driving force for EU foreign policy, Mr Straw has attended only 33 of the last 50 foreign ministers’ meetings, compared with 39 for France and 35 for Germany.

Jonathan Evans, the Conservatives’ leader in the European Parliament, said: “Against a background of raising influence of EU legislation, it appears our ministers are attending part-time in defending British interests.”

Chris Davies, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European Parliament, said: “The democratic deficit in Europe starts in Whitehall. More than 50 per cent of British laws are now made in Brussels, but ministers seem more interested in interfering in a school in Scunthorpe than getting engaged in policies that affect us all. You can’t achieve influence from an office 200 miles from Brussels.”

A government spokesman said: “We attend every EU meeting at the appropriate level depending on the issues under discussion and whether decisions need to be taken. We have a strong voice in Europe.”

Ankara: Turkey does not intend to recognise EU member Cyprus, despite veiled threats by Nicosia to veto Ankara’s bid to join the bloc, Abdullah Gul, the Foreign Minister, said.
He also warned EU leaders, who will decide on December 17 whether to start accession talks with Turkey, that Ankara will reject any proposals other than full membership of the EU.

Turkey’s opponents, who maintain that the vast Muslim-majority nation is not fit for EU membership, say that Ankara should be given a special partnership status rather than full membership. (AFP)

Publicado por esta às 01:31 PM

MEPs give new team approval

Fonte: The Times

Manuel Barroso, the new President, had earlier been forced by MEPs to drop two of the original members and redistribute certain portfolios.

The reshuffle was sufficient to win the support of Christian Democrats, Socialists and Liberals, but not the Green, Communist and Eurosceptic members.

However, MEPs gave warning that they would continue to scrutinise individual commissioners and would press for their resignation if they failed to perform satisfactorily. In particular, many believe that Nellie Kroes, the future competition policy commissioner, will face inevitable conflicts of interest because of her extensive business contacts.

Publicado por esta às 01:59 PM

novembro 22, 2004

Barroso's new team gets to work

Fonte: The Times

Barroso's new team gets to work
By Rory Watson
MEPs will be keeping a watchful eye on the President's 'new and improved' commission line-up

AS HIS new team takes up office this morning in the European Commission’s newly refurbished Berlaymont headquarters, José Manuel Barroso, the new Commission President, will be keenly aware that he and his colleagues are beginning work under a cloud and are still on probation.
He has made it clear that pushing through economic reform and improving Europe’s competitive base will be his top priority. Within the next two weeks, Senhor Barroso, a former Prime Minister of Portugal, will put together a team of Commissioners to join himself, Peter Mandelson, Britain’s commissioner who is in charge of international trade, and Günter Verheugen, the German member in charge of industrial policy, to promote economic growth and the creation of jobs in the Union.

The European Parliament gave its endorsement to the commission line-up last week after Senhor Barroso had agreed to sacrifice two of the original nominees and to reshuffle two other portfolios.

MEPs will be keeping a close watch on Neelie Kroes, the Dutch member in charge of competition policy with considerable powers over corporate and government behaviour. Critics believe that she will face inevitable conflicts of interest because of the extensive business contacts she built up before coming to Brussels.

To counter the criticism, Mrs Kroes has sold all her shares and pledged not to sit on cases involving companies with which she was associated.

Commission officials have so far identified only three instances among the 1,000 investigations currently being conducted where Mrs Kroes will have to stand on the sidelines.

It is unclear what role the former Dutch businesswoman, who has had links with shipping companies in the past, will play when the Commission comes to reform the competition rules that apply to maritime transport.

The biggest headache facing Senhor Barroso has come from an unexpected quarter: Jacques Barrot, the French Commissioner, who is a vice-president in charge of transport policy.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, caused a storm last week when he revealed that M Barrot had received a suspended jail sentence four years ago after being convicted for embezzlement in a political party funding case dating from the early 1980s.

The French politician was involved in the legal action because of his senior party position, although he was not directly involved in the affair and never barred from standing for public office.

Senhor Barroso, who was unaware of the sentence until last Thursday, is standing behind M Barrot. But, under pressure from MEPs, he confirmed at the weekend that the commissioner would give the European Parliament “all the necessary information relating to his personal situation”.

Meanwhile, Mr Mandelson, who has twice been forced to resign as a British minister, is expected to take a leading role in the drive for economic reform and represent the 25-member European Union in sensitive negotiations with commercial partners including the United States, Russia, China and Japan.

He flies to Geneva this evening to meet officials at the World Trade Organisation, the main referee on international trade disputes. On Thursday, he will be in The Hague for an EU summit with members of the Russian Government.

Publicado por esta às 01:36 PM

dezembro 02, 2004

French Left votes for EU treaty

Fonte: The Times

French Left votes for EU treaty
From Adam Sage in Paris

SUPPORTERS of the European constitution won a significant victory in France last night when the country’s Socialist Party voted to approve the document in an internal ballot.
The chances of France rejecting the constitution in a national referendum next year appeared to recede after the socialist decision.

With President Chirac’s centre-right allies already backing the constitution, the result of last night’s ballot means that there will be a mainstream consensus in favour of a “yes” vote in the French referendum.

The European constitution must be ratified by each of the 25 EU member states. Britain and France are among a minority of member states where the decision will be submitted to a referendum. After a campaign that had split the French Left, the Socialist Party’s 120,000 members voted decisively in favour of the document. Initial figures suggested that at least 55 per cent had approved it. François Mitterrand’s former Prime Minister, Laurent Fabius, who had led the campaign for a “no” vote, conceded defeat last night.

He had called on Socialists to reject the treaty, which he described as an unacceptable sop to Anglo-Saxon liberalism.

M Fabius believes that a French “non” would force the EU to rethink its direction and introduce a greater dose of social democratic or socialist thinking into its policies. However, François Hollande, the party’s general secretary, gave warning that a “no” vote would signal a break with the Socialists’ pro-European tradition.

He said that it would leave the party isolated within the European Left, just as rejection by the French electorate in the referendum next year would leave France isolated in the EU. M Hollande said that the constitution contains clauses that represent progress for workers’ and union rights.

Elisabeth Guigou, the former Socialist Justice Minister, said last night: “The party’s members have turned their backs on populism. They haven’t been tricked by illusions and false arguments.

Jack Lang, the former Culture Minister, said: “They have expressed their old, profoundly European identity. This is a great happiness. This is a victory for Europe, for the Socialist Party and for France.”

The result of the ballot will give the French political class a customary appearance as it shapes up for the referendum campaign next year.

The leadership of the two main French parties, the Socialists and the centre-right Union for a Popular Majority, will urge a “yes” vote. Standing against them will be dissidents from among their ranks, and a wide range of smaller parties, including eurosceptics, the extreme-right National Front and the Communists. Current opinion polls put the “yes” vote ahead. Twelve years ago, in a referendum on the Maastricht treaty, supporters had a comfortable lead when the campaign started, but only a small margin of victory at the end of it.

A French appeal court has reduced to one year the ban on Alain Juppé, the former Prime Minister, from holding elected office for corruption. The ruling means that M Juppé, 59, can stand for presidential and parliamentary elections in 2007.

Publicado por esta às 01:37 PM

dezembro 09, 2004

EU position on Romania's entry

Fonte: The Times

EU position on Romania's entry
From Mr Chris Davies, MEP for North West Region (Liberal Democrat)

Sir, EU leaders at the European Council on December 17 are expected to signal that Romania can become a full member of the EU in little more than two years’ time. Britain will be amongst those arguing most passionately for this decision. It may prove a terrible error.
The European Commission’s strategy paper of October 6 made clear that corruption in Romania remains serious and widespread. Media independence is not guaranteed. The judicial system is not independent. Emergency ordinances are used to circumvent the parliamentary process.

To this catalogue of woes must now be added concern about widespread electoral fraud in the parliamentary elections of November 28.

Events in Ukraine and the prospect of EU accession negotiations with Turkey have distracted media attention from consideration of these matters. This is a tragedy. If Romania is to modernise and comply with the best of EU values, pressure for change must be intensified.

The European Union has been successful to date in helping to make bad apples wholesome. Former dictatorships and communist regimes have been transformed into modern democracies. But, with enforcement mechanisms weak, there is nothing certain about this process.

Romania may prove to be one bad apple too many

Publicado por esta às 11:19 AM

dezembro 14, 2004

Road to West remains rocky, even without Communists

Fonte: The Times

Road to West remains rocky, even without Communists
By Bronwen Maddox

ROMANIA is not Ukraine. The important point about the election result is how little difference the choice of president may make to Romania’s hopes of joining the European Union.

The new President will be as intent on Romania’s membership as his rival: that is the good news. But Romania’s problems remain enormous and the political power to overcome them is suspect: that is the great worry.The winner, Traian Basescu, and the loser, Adrian Nastase, are united in their fervour for Romania to join the EU as soon as possible. Neither has contemplated another plan.

Nor have many Romanians. True, Basescu had the support of the urban middle class, who are most passionately convinced of the advantages of joining Europe. He represents a break with the communist past. Nastase had more of the support of the small farmers who reckon — with good reason — that they have most to lose from EU regulations.

But there is no comparison with eastern Ukraine — a slab of the country with its back turned emphatically on the West, still brooding on the ties with former masters in Moscow. In the Romanian elections, the far Right got almost nowhere.

So the surprise victory of Basescu will produce no great change of policy on Europe. The pity is that nor may it produce much change to Romania’s paralysing problems.

The European Commission has taken an indulgent line towards Romania’s candidacy and its difficulty in meeting the standards of accession (even more so than towards its “twin” candidate Bulgaria).

The Commission has accepted Romania’s claim that it has a functioning “market economy”, which is an act of wilful generosity.

For all the anxiety in Bucharest, Romania’s membership has been widely regarded in Brussels as a done deal; a question of when, not if. A bit of slack has been built into the plans: there is provision for the 2007 target date for joining to slip by a year were Romania’s progress to be really inadequate.

But Brussels has paused, rightly, on the question of the corruption that pervades Romanian politics and business, and on the lack of a robust independent judiciary or protection for the media.

This month’s deadlines for satisfying the Commission on these points have quietly been “softened” to the middle of next year, on the ground that the elections were an unavoidable distraction.

But that is something of a pretext. There is now real concern at Romania’s lack of progress.

The question is whether Basescu can make any more headway than Nastase would have made. The victor’s Justice and Truth Alliance party is generally seen as less tainted with corruption than the Communists. But during the Opposition’s brief spell in power in the late 1990s it made few inroads into the problem.

Nor will it be easy for Basescu to form a stable coalition, despite helpful noises made by Nastase yesterday.

Perhaps Brussels will be so charmed by the symbolic break with communism that it will give Basescu more leeway than it would have given Nastase. Certainly, no one is saying the unthinkable — that the EU’s eastward expansion might suddenly come to a halt.

But there is a desire to see real progress from the new President. The anxiety in Bucharest about passing the tests is justified.

Publicado por esta às 02:47 PM

EU beckons as reformist wins election in Romania

Fonte: The Times

EU beckons as reformist wins election in Romania
From Adam LeBor, Central Europe Correspondent

ROMANIA turned its back on the country’s communist past yesterday with the unexpected election of Traian Basescu, the reformist Mayor of Bucharest, as its next President.
The former sea captain won 51.23 per cent of the vote in Sunday’s run-off against Adrian Nastase, the Prime Minister, the favourite, promising to fight corruption and lead Romania into the European Union in 2007. He succeeds Ion Iliescu, the veteran former communist leader whose Social Democratic (PSD) party had dominated the political scene since the revolution 15 years ago.

Yesterday Mr Basescu’s cheering supporters flocked to the centre of Bucharest, many of them waving trademark orange flags that were also the symbol of Ukraine’s “Chestnut Revolution”.

Conceding defeat, Mr Nastase said: “It is the decision of the Romanian people and I respect it. I have congratulated Basescu personally on the telephone today. Basescu is the future President of Romania.”

Mr Basescu’s victory defied opinion polls, which predicted a clear win for Mr Nastase. The outcome will be widely welcomed in Brussels and Western capitals. EU leaders will decide at a summit in Brussels this week whether to close accession talks with the Balkan nation of 23 million people, and allow it to join in January 2007, a prospect more likely with Mr Basescu in power.

The PSD, the successor to the Communist party, held power for 11 of the 15 years since the bloody revolution that toppled Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. The years of PSD rule were marked by sleaze and corruption as the ruling elite regarded the public purse as a vehicle for enriching themselves and their supporters.

Dan Visoiu, of the Romania Think-Tank, which campaigns for transparency and the rule of law, said: “Basescu’s victory finally breaks Romania’s bond to its communist past. The people who have been running Romania for most of the past 15 years no longer have any significant decision-making powers.”

The shadow of the Ceausescu dictatorship was finally lifted, Mr Visoiu said. “A younger generation, one much less influenced by communism, will be running the country for the next five years. Practically, we can now say, 15 years after the 1989 revolution, that communism is finally dead.”

Officials from the European Union and the US requested that the election monitoring group, Pro Democracia, redeploy 3,000 monitors across the country in the second round of voting, after the organisation said that it would pull out because of the widespread vote-rigging that its members observed in the first round.

Stung by comparisons with neighbouring Ukraine, Romanian election officials closed several loopholes that appeared to permit multiple voting with no effective safeguards.

Mr Basescu now faces the difficult task of constructing a viable coalition government. He will almost certainly ask his own centre-right Justice and Truth Alliance to nominate a Cabinet, which needs to be approved by parliament. However, Mr Nastase’s Social Democrats won 189 of 469 seats in the parliamentary elections this month, while the alliance won 161. Mr Basescu said that he will propose his running- mate, Calin Tariceanu, of the National Liberal Party, for prime minister.

As Mayor of Bucharest, Mr Basescu defied Brigitte Bardot, the French actress and animal rights campaigner, over his plans to cull thousands of stray dogs that roamed the city. “I am elected by the people of Bucharest, not the dogs,” he declared. The cull went ahead and Bucharest’s 2.3 million inhabitants could again walk freely in the parks and streets.

As President, he will face wilier and more dangerous adversaries — the embittered apparatchiks of the former ruling Social Democrats who are soon to be deprived of their positions and access to the public purse.

But Mr Basescu’s supporters, both within Romania and in Brussels and Washington, are hopeful that his victory in the presidential elections will give him the base that he needs to tackle the endemic corruption and cronyism that has held back the Balkan nation.

Publicado por esta às 02:52 PM

dezembro 16, 2004

Turkey: This is the moment... but EU goes back in the fridge if EU terms are too tough

Fonte: The Times

Turkey: This is the moment... but EU goes back in the fridge if EU terms are too tough
By Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent

Yes, yes, yes: MEPs voting yesterday to open membership talks - but the Turkish Prime Minister is still threatening to walk away (VINCENT KESSLER / REUTERS)

TURKEY gave warning yesterday that it would abandon its 40-year dream of joining the European Union if it is presented with unacceptable conditions by EU leaders at a dinner in Brussels tonight.
In an apparent last-minute attempt to soften entry conditions, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish Prime Minister, said that he could modernise his country without the EU. He made the statement just as the European Parliament voted to let Turkey join the EU, and José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, said: “This is the moment.”

Tony Blair and his counterparts in the European Council are almost certain to approve starting entry talks with Turkey tonight. However, they are set to include a series of conditions to appease the deep misgivings in many member states about letting such a large, poor, Muslim and mainly Asian country become the biggest member of the Union.

France and Austria are demanding that entry talks should not necessarily lead to full membership, while EU leaders have already agreed that Turks could be permanently barred from the right to live and work in EU countries, a right given to other EU citizens. Turkey will also be required to reach a deal on Cyprus, and officially recognise the Cypriot Government.

Almost unanimous agreement has been reached between member states. A British official said last night: “It’s within grasp, but not in the bag. We are almost there, but not there.”

However, Mr Erdogan dramatically upped the stakes in unusually forthright language, saying as he left for Brussels: “We do not expect any unacceptable conditions to be put before us, but if such conditions are imposed . . . we will definitely put the matter in the refrigerator and continue on our way.”

Asked whether it would make a difference to the final hours of negotiations, the British official said: “It’s a factor. It’s going to be on people’s minds; of course it is.”

Turkey is particularly annoyed at the demand for a “permanent” safeguard against Turkish immigration to Western Europe, and at the suggestion that entry talks — which are expected to last ten years — may end only in a “privileged partnership” and not full membership.

Wolfgang Schüssel, the Austrian Chancellor, insisted that the EU must make it clear that the talks will not necessarily lead to membership. “It has to be in there that the result will come from an open process, and that this result cannot be guaranteed in advance,” he said, adding that he would not accept giving all Turks the right to work anywhere in the EU. “This would overwhelm the capacity of our labour markets in the EU,” he said.

Mr Erdogan said that his campaign to join the EU, which has been his top political priority for the past two years, was a “civilisation project” to modernise Turkey. However, he insisted that the country could carry on without the EU.

“We want to move this project forward together with the European Union . . . but if unacceptable conditions are put forward,” he said. “I have to openly say that this will not be the end of the world. We will continue on our way, because Turkey is strong enough to shoulder this task.”

Abdullah Gul, the Turkish Foreign Minister, said: “What we demand is nothing more than our legitimate rights. We will not accept any injustice.”

The threat is likely to cause annoyance with more sceptical EU leaders, who feel that Turkey is trying to bully its way into the EU. Last weekend Mr Erdogan said that Islamic terrorism would continue unaba-ted unless the EU stopped being a “Christian club”.

In many European countries already struggling to integrate Muslim minorities, such as France and Germany, there is widespread popular opposition to letting Turkey join.

In London, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, set out the reasons for membership to the House of Commons. “Turkey’s dynamic economy and society would be a valuable asset to the whole of Europe,” he said, “but Turkey’s European destiny is also important for wider reasons, because of the signal which a European Turkey would send to people everywhere of Europe’s commitment to diversity and to truly universal values

“We want to see an economically successful, democratic Turkey anchored in Europe and that would deal a heavy blow to those who stoke up mistrust and division and it could be an inspiration to many others in the Muslim world.”
After a bitter debate, the European Parliament in Strasbourg passed a non-binding motion calling on EU leaders to start entry talks with Turkey, by 407 votes to 262. The Parliament urged EU leaders to open talks with Turkey “without undue delay” and rejected decisively amendments offering a “special partnership.”

It also called on Turkey to accept that it committed genocide against the Armenians in 1915, a condition that France has also insisted on but that Turkey has rejected.

As the momentum to start negotiations seemed unstoppable, Senhor Barroso said: “It is now time for the European Council to honour its commitment to Turkey and announce the opening of accession negotiations.”

He insisted that current concerns about Turkey should not be used as an excuse to delay negotiations. “I believe this is the moment,” he said. “In ten years, Turkey won’t be the same as today . . . and fears that exist today can be put aside.”

Publicado por esta às 11:03 AM

janeiro 05, 2005

No stability, no growth, no pact. It is time to confront the Euro disaster zone

Fonte:The Times

No stability, no growth, no pact. It is time to confront the Euro disaster zone
Bill Cash

SCARCELY anyone seriously believes that the European constitution would achieves a “yes” vote in a British referendum. Yet hardly any attention has been given to the necessity, in any event, to renegotiate the existing European treaties embedded in the constitution. Already the boundaries of these treaties are being pushed further forward and European laws are being made, going far beyond what was anticipated.
The European issue affects almost every aspect of our daily lives: who governs us and how we are governed. It is not a theological distraction but a practical question about our democracy and the voters’ right to choose their government and laws in general elections.

It is transparently clear that the European project is failing under the existing treaties, as Wim Kok’s report on the Lisbon agenda amply demonstrates. There is low growth and high unemployment. No stability, no growth, no pact. There is endemic fraud and the Court of Auditors has yet again refused to sign off the European accounts. The immigration and asylum policies under the existing treaties have broken down and social tensions are breaking out. As the President of the CBI indicated, overregulation has become intolerable. The Prime Minister’s own Better Regulation Task Force has said that overregulation is costing British business £100 billion a year — most of this regulation from Europe.

So where do we go? The Conservative Party is the only party with any realistic means of reversing this. Certainly it is committed to rejecting the constitution in principle, but it is on the question of renegotiation that it needs to clarify and explain its position on the existing treaties. Michael Howard has rightly called for renegotiation on the Common Fisheries Policy and publicly stated that if the other member states will not accept renegotiation, we will legislate at Westminster unilaterally. This policy of renegotiation is, however, limited to fisheries, foreign aid and the social chapter, but does not tackle the key question of the wide range of matters that need to be renegotiated, including the political structure of Europe.

Current opinion polls are distinctly depressing for the Conservative Party but could be reversed by seizing the high ground on Europe. It is clear from the ICM poll for the European Foundation in November that 58 per cent of voters, including 68 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds, want the existing treaties reduced to trade and association agreements. Voters assume that there will be a referendum on the constitution and, as with William Hague’s policy on the euro referendum in the 1997 general election, the political marketplace has largely discounted the result. The Economist indicated last June that a policy for associate status could add as much as 8 per cent to the Conservative Party tally in a general election, even before it is fully explained.

The Prime Minister claims that it is impossible to renegotiate without the agreement of every one of the other 24 EU member states. He refuses to accept that the national interest turns on political will and that Westminster, on behalf of its electorate, can legislate at will. If the other member states refuse to listen and to act on our proposals for renegotiation, it is open to us to exercise our political will with a determined threat of withdrawal.

If the EU won’t listen we could pass something in line with my Sovereignty of Parliament Bill which would require judges to give precedence to new British laws over the European Communities Act 1972.

Where, therefore, does this place the Conservative Party? The Conservatives have been faced with at least five similar situations over the past 150 years, which led to splits. These include the Corn Laws, Home Rule, tariff reform, appeasement and the Thatcher trade union reforms. In every case, those who had been in the minority before reality set in have won the day. When Kenneth Clarke on the Queen’s Speech argues for the European constitution and against a referendum, he and his diminutive band demonstrate their irreconcilable divergence from the party’s principles.

In another recent ICM poll 70 per cent of Conservative Party members have suggested that if the party does not toughen its stance on Europe, people “like themselves” could vote for the UK Independence Party. The UKIP policy of unconditional withdrawal requires some form of negotiation. The UKIP cannot achieve its objective without the Conservatives being in power and the Conservatives cannot get into power without winning back those who have deserted to the UKIP. In other words, Eurosceptics face mutually assured destruction, with the Eurofanatic Labour Party and the Lib Dems winning by divide and rule.

There will almost certainly be an election this year. The Conservative Party will succeed if it matches its principles and its policies in line with the great issue of who governs Britain and demonstrates, as can easily be done, the relationship of this to their daily lives. Some 60 per cent of British laws are already spawned by the EU, most of which are unpopular. Yet the focus-group-driven Conservative programme relegates the European issue to relative obscurity.

The European issue is sometimes low in polling priorities only because it has never been properly explained. For example, when Gordon Brown and the Prime Minister taunt the Conservative Party over the high interest rates and high unemployment of the 1990s, why do we not respond that they too were in favour of the ERM and that the main reason why Mr Brown can claim a better economy here than in the eurozone is despite, and not because of, the Government’s commitment to the European economic project?

The European issue is not the only issue before the British people, but it is the most fundamental. Failure to grapple with the existing treaties before the next election would become one of the great political mysteries and failures of our time.

Publicado por esta às 12:31 PM

janeiro 14, 2005

Britain told to give up its £2.5bn EU rebate

Fonte:The Times

Britain told to give up its £2.5bn EU rebate
By Anthony Browne
The Budget Commissioner believes rich countries must pay more to save idea of Europe

THE European Commission warned Britain yesterday that it must pay billions of pounds more into its coffers each year or jeopardise the future of the Union.
Dalia Grybauskaite, the European Budget Commissioner, told The Times that unless Britain and other big EU countries increased their payments to Brussels over the next seven years, the EU would be unable to provide the skills, technology and infrastructure required to compete in the global market. That, she said, could kill the idea of Europe.

In a clear challenge to the British Government, the former Lithuanian Finance Minister also said that for the greater good of Europe Britain must give up the multibillion-pound annual budget rebate that Margaret Thatcher secured in 1984.

The Commission is increasing its pressure on Britain as part of its demands for just over €1 trillion (£700 billion) in member state contributions for the next seven-year budget period which starts in 2007. Time is running out for securing Britain’s agreement to a budget that could cost it dear and fuel the country’s euroscepticism. Britain takes over the rotating EU presidency in July, and holds its referendum on the new EU constitution next year.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has steadfastly rejected a commission proposal to spread the British rebate, currently worth about £2.5 billion a year, around other countries, on the ground that Britain would lose out financially. In total, the demands for bigger contributions and a reduced rebate could cost British taxpayers as much as £5 billion a year.

But Ms Grybauskaite, who has a black belt in martial arts and a formidable reputation, gave warning in an interview: “If other member states started to negotiate just on physical amounts of money, you are forgetting solidarity, a core policy of the European Union. If you have bad times, you have been helped. If you have good times, you help others. Those are principles that most of us believe in. If one or another country start to revise it, it jeopardises the future of the EU.”

Mrs Thatcher won the rebate — famously demanding “I want my money back” — as compensation because Britain, then one of the poorest countries of the EU, contributed more than any other country.

Although each country pays in the same amount as a proportion of its economy, Britain gets less back from the Common Agricultural Policy than France and Italy because its farmers are more efficient.

Over the past 20 years, the rebate has brought back €64 billion to Britain, or about €1,000 per citizen. Without it, Britain would have paid 14 times as much as France or Italy to the EU.

However, the Commission now claims that Britain is the EU’s second-richest country, and that, with enlargement, far poorer countries such as Latvia, Estonia and Ms Grybauskaite’s own Lithuania will have to give money to Britain each year.

The Government is worried about public reaction if it caves in, but Ms Grybauskaite said that the unfairness of Britain’s rebate was beginning to rankle in other member states.

“It is a sensitive issue, and especially for the other 24 countries. We don’t want anybody to be jeopardised, we don’t want anybody to use it against the European idea, and use it against the constitution — and to become a tool for eurosceptics,” she said.

The British rebate is part of the wider budget talks, in which the EU has demanded that each country contribute 1.14 per cent of its GDP each year, amounting to €1,025 billion between 2007 and 2013.

Britain and five other countries have demanded that contributions be capped at 1 per cent of GDP, which would total €815 billion.

But Ms Grybauskaite said that capping the budget at 1 per cent would force the Commission to abandon plans to boost the competitiveness of the EU economy by increasing spending on research, development and education by up to 400 per cent.

That would leave the EU budget dominated by agriculture spending, which has proved politically impossible to significantly scale back because of the powerful French farming lobby.
“Are politicians ready to accept this political responsibility, to say that European priorities are still not competitiveness, research and development, not scientific-based knowledge economy, but priorities that were introduced 30 to 40 years ago?” she asked.

Mr Brown also wants to curb Brussels’ power by demanding that London take back control of EU development funds spent on British regions. At present Britain gives money to Brussels, which then spends some of it on Britain’s poorer regions such as Wales and Cornwall.

But Ms Grybauskaite said that “nationalising” development policies in this way would undermine the Union. “The problem is that in Europe we need to work together to compete and survive in the globalised economy.

“The nationalisation of policies will divide us. This solidarity principle is one of the core ones. To abolish such principle will practically kill the idea of the European Union,” she said.

Publicado por esta às 03:49 PM

janeiro 18, 2005

We're not banning corgis – check your facts, sighs EU

Fonte:The Times

We're not banning corgis – check your facts, sighs EU
By Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent

HEARD the one about the ban on bendy bananas? The European Commission wishes you hadn’t. Frustrated by the “twisted facts” and “lies” about Europe, the European Commission has begun a counter-offensive against the British media.
As part of its campaign to improve flagging confidence in the European Union, it has set up a website giving detailed rebuttal of stories that it complains leaves readers with a “picture of the EU as a bunch of mad “eurocrats”.

The stories include alleged EU plans to ban advertising slogans such as “Guinness is good for you”, the one about the EU wanting to reduce lottery prizes to a maximum of £60,000 and alleged EU plans to ban corgis and 100 other breeds of dog.

The website is aimed at all European media, but nearly 90 per cent of the stories come from Britain. Most British national papers are criticised — with The Sun and the Daily Mail in the lead — as well as the BBC website. Six articles from The Times are included.

“The British press is quite prepared to report fantasy, and they have a habit of deliberately distorting stuff. But many of them are very funny, and we have a laugh ourselves. We do have a sense of humour,” a Commission official said.

The Commission hopes that targeting the British press — the most influential in Europe — will stop stories from spreading. “Mostly, they start in the British press and spread. The story about pigs needing toys started in Britain and went to Germany and the Czech Republic,” the official said.

The website, called “Get Your Facts Straight”, had been intended for journalists, but Margot Wallstrom, the new Communications Commissioner, whose job is to improve the EU’s image, wants to promote the website to the public. With the European constitution being put to a referendum in 11 member states, the Commission has made a priority of improving public confidence in the EU.

Ms Wallstrom’s spokesman said: “It is useful to remind people of the truth. Our purpose is to ensure there is an informed debate, and this is part of that.”

The Commission is supported by the British Government, which has long complained of Euroscepticism in the British press. The Government’s spokesman in Brussels said: “It’s a good thing if stories are rebutted, but it would be better if journalists reported them right in the first place.”

However, Chris Heaton- Harris, a Conservative member of the European Parliament, said that most of the stories were largely true: “There is no smoke without fire in these stories. Eurosceptics don’t have to make up scare stories, because the Commission does a good job themselves. It’s just another plank in their propaganda battle to win the referendum on the constitution.”

Some of the stories rebutted by the EU did not actually originate with the Commission, but with other European bodies. For example, the story about banning Corgis, reported in the Daily Mail, was based on the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, which is part of an organisation called the Council of Europe, of which Britain is a member, but which has nothing to do with the European Union.

Many of the other stories are based on supposedly over- zealous interpretation by local authorities or trade associations. The story that pigs would require toys — reported in The Times — was based on an EU directive that pigs should have an “enriched” environment, which the industry took to mean toy provision, which the Government did not dispute. The ban on butchers giving cast-off bones to dogs was based on an EU regulation on the disposal of animal by- products as a way of combating BSE. The Commission insists that “it does not stop a butcher supplying bones to individual dog-owners for pets’ consumption, provided the bone has not already been thrown away”. Ceredigion County Council took the edict seriously and wrote to butchers ordering them not to give bones to pets.

Sometimes issues are represented as compulsory, whereas they are voluntary. The Commission produced a document called Made in the EU Origin Marking, which considered having a “Made in the EU” label, but it insists that it did not contain plans to actually ban the label “Made in Britain”.

Eurosceptics argue that the EU often introduces voluntary plans and then makes them compulsory.

Publicado por esta às 03:54 PM

EU entry hinges on generals' capture

Fonte:The Times

EU entry hinges on generals' capture
By Bronwen Maddox
President fears that his country could disintegrate if fugitives are not handed over

SERBIA and Montenegro should hand over four generals wanted for war crimes in the next six weeks if it is to retain hopes of joining the European Union.
That was the conclusion of President Marovic, speaking yesterday to The Times after a 40-minute meeting with Tony Blair.

He dearly hopes that Brussels might make an exception for its two most-wanted suspects Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb army chief, and Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader. But for four other generals sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Mr Marovic believes that the end of next month should be the deadline for compliance. “Without co -operation with the tribunal, we stay in the past,” he said. “Any further postponing would mean Serbia-Montenegro would shut down.”

The stark message — directed at his own uncomfortable hybrid of a country, as well as at Brussels — reflects the peculiarity of his position. A lawyer by training, Mr Marovic, 49, was inaugurated in March 2003, shortly after the loose union of Serbia and Montenegro was created out of the remnants of Yugoslavia to stem further Balkans disintegration.

Mr Marovic, a Montenegrin, has little difficulty in saying that Serb generals should be handed over to the tribunal. Nor, coming from the more European-orientated of the two states, is he shy about his belief that the only happy future for either lies in becoming closer to Europe. His problem is that he has little influence over Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian Prime Minister, who heads a fragile coalition government and who has been hostile to the idea of surrendering war crimes suspects.

The end of next month is a deadline of Mr Marovic’s choosing, but is necessary, he feels, to catch the wave of EU enlargement before it passes his country by. “Six weeks is not much time,” he admitted, “but even in one day, you can do a lot — or very little in one year if you do not want to.” The question of the war crimes suspects stands as a huge barrier between Serbia and Montenegro and modernity, stalling political integration and choking foreign investment. Last November Carla Del Ponte, the war crimes tribunal prosecutor, accused powerful elements in Belgrade of helping General Mladic to avoid capture. Her report also accused Bosnia and Croatia of similar resistance, but less harshly.

Mr Marovic is dismissive of what he suggests is Ms Del Ponte’s preoccupation with General Mladic, who is wanted for questioning about the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica of 8,000 men and boys. “We are creating a future for our people. She is just creating another prosecution case.”

Dr Karadzic presents Belgrade with a slightly less damaging quandary as he is thought to be in Bosnia and beyond its jurisdiction. “We are ready to show willing to bring Karadzic and Mladic to face justice,” Mr Marovic said, but “in the meantime there are things we can do faster regarding the generals”. The Hague wants Belgrade to hand over generals Nebojsa Pavkovic, Sreten Lukic, Vlastimir Djordjevic and Vladimir Lazarevic.

The President shows some envy of Croatia, which was told at the end of last year that it could start EU accession talks in March, despite having failed to hand over General Ante Gotovina, who is high on The Hague’s wanted list and a hero to many Croatians. “We are rooting for Croatia” in its EU bid, Mr Marovic said, “but Croatia has received the status of a candidate country even though it has not sent Gotovina. We want the same status.”

Western officials say that Serbia and Montenegro is in danger of deluding itself that Brussels might similarly overlook the Mladic case. EU feelings about Mladic ran higher, he said, and Croatia was seen as more co-operative.

If Serbia and Montenegro does not comply with the tribunal, Mr Marovic cautions, “then the door to a European future will be firmly closed”. That could also prompt Montenegro to break away, feeling that it was unfairly punished for Serbia’s stubbornness. It would also put the country on diplomatically shaky ground in trying to negotiate the future of Kosovo.

Mr Marovic did not quite say that he could imagine an independent Kosovo, something that is anathema to Serb nationalists and to the province’s Serb minority.

No progress towards talks about its final status has been made and Kosovo remains under uneasy international administration. But the issue is less damaging to Serbia and Montenegro’s European hopes simply because it is not expected to have an early resolution.

Two senior Bosnian Serb army officers were convicted yesterday for their involvement in the massacre at Srebrenica. Colonel Vidoje Blagojevic, 54, a wartime commander of the Bratunac Brigade, which took part in the killing, was sentenced to 18 years for complicity in genocide and other war crimes.
Dragan Jokic, 47, a major in the Zvornik Brigade, who assumed command during the killing, received a nine-year sentence. He was convicted of murder, extermination and persecution on racial grounds.

Blagojevic is the second person to be convicted of genocide in connection with Srebrenica. The highest ranking officer is General Radislav Krstic, who is serving a 35-year sentence.

The massacre in July 1995 was Europe’s worst atrocity since the Second World War.

Publicado por esta às 03:58 PM

janeiro 21, 2005

Tony the Tiger and fatty friends banned from TV

Fonte:The Times

Tony the Tiger and fatty friends banned from TV
By Anthony Browne, Brussels Correspondent

TONY THE TIGER, Ronald McDonald and the Honey Monster could be banned from television screens under European Union plans, supported by the British Government, to curb the advertising of junk food to children. Urgent action was needed to tackle the widespread obesity on the Continent, the European Commission said. It called for food companies to take voluntary action to stop promoting food high in sugar, fat and salt to children.
But Markos Kyprianou, the European Health Commissioner, said that Brussles would legislate if necessary. “I would like to see the industry not advertising directly to children ,” he said. “The signs from the industry are encouraging, positive. But if this doesn’t produce satisfactory results, we will proceed to legislation.”

Legislation would focus on adverts aimed at children, in particular those that use cartoon characters to appeal to children, such as Frostie’s Tony the Tiger, Sugar Puff’s Honey Monster and McDonald’s Ronald McDonald.

An alternative to an outright ban would be to limit such advertising to late at night, when children are presumed to be in bed.

Mr Kyrpianou said: “The idea is that children are protected from direct marketing and advertising convincing them and inducing them to consume too much of this product.”

The Commission issued the warning as a result of concern about the widespread obesity among the Continent’s children. One in four European children is overweight while a third of Italian and Greek children are overweight.

With pressure from many national governments, some large companies have started taking voluntary measures. Recently the US company Kraft said that it would stop advertising to under 12 year olds.

The EU has already banned tobacco advertising on television. The Government said that it would support European legislation if the industry did not reform itself.

Melanie Johnson, the Public Health Minister, said: “There is a strong case for action to limit the advertising and promotion to children of those foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar. “We will monitor progress through Ofcom and if, by early 2007, sufficient progress has not been made, we will introduce a compulsory framework for regulating the promotion of food to children.”

Despite her support, the Government has no right to legislate in this area as Brussels has declared that advertising on television is a European-wide issue as many TV stations are shown in more than one country and because TV signals can leak over borders.

The Government has the right to vote only on proposals put forward by the European Commission but could be outvoted by other governments and so be forced to continue to allow junk food advertising on television against its wishes.

Chris Heaton-Harris, a Conservative in the European Parliament, said that the Commission was making the proposal to win friends among the European public before the vote on the constitution. “The EU is trying to make itself more relevant. It is picking issues where it can get good news stories.”

Ms Johnson also criticised junk food companies that promote “two for one” deals and toys to children. “We are seeing contradictory messages going out to the public. It is important that the momentum towards healthy choices for the public is maintained by the food and drinks industry.”

She criticised double burger promotions, such as that recently run by McDonald’s, as well as toy offers with meals for children. The Government would use Britain’s presidency of the EU this year to press ahead with tackling this, she said.

Publicado por esta às 04:01 PM

janeiro 24, 2005

How a spy in sky will keep an EU eye on those who till the land

Fonte: The Times

How a spy in sky will keep an EU eye on those who till the land
By Valerie Elliott, Countryside Editor

A NEW “spy in the sky” satellite is being deployed to snoop on farmers and trap cash cheats.The technology will be used this year to police the new system of farm payments to be introduced throughout the European Union, signalling the biggest revolution in farming since the Second World War.
For the first time, following the reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), farmers are to receive handouts from Brussels for looking after the land instead of keeping animals for food production. The satellite will be able to ensure that they are looking after the land and encouraging wildlife habitats in return for £3 billion from the taxpayer.

The camera is so powerful it can even pick out a farmer ploughing the land. It can see the furrows in a field, measure field margins and even check on the state of hedgerows and footpaths.

The Times has been shown a digital image of a remote farm inspection and tracked down the owner of the farm. Jeremy Cooper, 45, who runs the 1,500-acre Chantry Farm, at Woodham Ferrers, near Chelmsford, Essex, mapped here, was shocked to learn that his farm has been inspected by the satellite as part of a trial. He looked at the image and immediately recognised every slope and corner of his land, his five-bedroomed brick farmhouse and outbuildings. The red areas indicate greenfield, woodland or other vegetation, the blue areas are ploughed field or soil and the purple shows crops growing in the fields.

He was amazed by the detail, especially the tractor lines and the ponds in his fields. “I had no idea we had been spied on like this,” he said. “I’m more than surprised and can honestly say I’m shocked by what you have shown me. I’m rather an easygoing kind of person but other farmers will definitely think this is Big Brother.”

His farm business receives about £76,500 in handouts under the CAP — the payments work out at about £85 an acre on 900 acres traditionally used for cereal production, mainly wheat, oilseed rape, peas and beans.

Mr Cooper accepted that to continue to receive taxpayers’ cash, farmers would have to accept the surveillance. “They have got us over a barrel if we receive state money. On the plus side this might also cut out the need for inspectors on the farm and get rid of some of the red tape.”

He has yet to decide which green farming practices to adopt to meet conditions for the new farm payments but knows that everything he does is now on full view. Tim Bennett, president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: “I think this is a great anti-fraud measure, especially for countries where past administration of farm payments has not been as rigorous as in Britain. It will be really useful in this respect.

“Most farmers are honest and want cheats to be caught. But we have to make sure there are safeguards on people’s privacy.”

Richard Haddock, the union’s livestock committee chairman, who rears beef in South Devon, was incredulous that the technology might be used on any farm. “I don’t think farmers are aware of this. It is amazing how Big Brother this Government is getting. You realise you can be watched at any time by anyone.”

His land is crossed by numerous footpaths and he said: “I was talking to ramblers on my land about the satellite the other day and they really didn't like the idea that someone might be able to follow them and watch them.” This satellite technology, however, is to be used by most European Union countries this year. Only Austria, Finland and Portugal are currently exempt, though they may sign up later.

Simon Kay, a scientific officer for the European Commission joint research centre near Milan, which has been testing the satellite’s value in policing the €45 million farm budget, said it had been used by some countries for inspecting olive groves, cereal and vegetable farms.“The privacy of farmers is not an issue. We are not interested in what individuals are doing. You can see a speck but you don’t know if it’s a person, an animal or a tractor.”

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs could not say how much the images would cost but the money will come from the Rural Payments Agency. About 5 per cent of England’s 70,000 farms will be inspected each year.

Publicado por esta às 11:00 PM