October 13, 2010 | MEPs to oversee details of Ashton spending
The European Parliament has won the right to look into the nitty gritty of spending in foreign delegations in the EU's new diplomatic service amid mild alarm over rising costs. The provisional agreement was put together at an informal meeting between MEPs, EU officials and member states on Monday (11 October) and represents an easing of tensions between the assembly and Catherine Ashton's office after a dispute over diplomatic appointments last week. The financial regulations deal means that ambassadors in Ms Ashton's European External Action Service (EEAS) will in future give parliament "a detailed picture of all staff in place in the delegations" covering all pay-grades and locally-hired agents. Ambassadors will also provide annexes on "effectiveness of internal management and control systems put in place in their delegation."
October 12, 2010 | Dogfight over EU budget could end in crisis, MEP says
EU institutions have two months to reach an agreement on next year's EU budget if the bloc is to avoid a new crisis, a senior MEP has warned. Speaking to reporters of Tuesday (12 October), centre-right MEP Alain Lamassoure added that finding a mechanism to enable Brussels to raise its own funding could no longer be ignored. The two issues have become increasingly linked after MEPs in the European Parliament's budgets committee last week proposed a package of amendments to the EU's draft 2011 budget, published by the commission earlier this year.
October 11, 2010 | EU buoyed by aviation deal but critical of climate talks
The EU has welcomed an international deal to limit carbon emissions from the aviation sector, but criticised the slow pace of progress in separate climate talks ahead of a crucial United Nations meeting in Cancun, Mexico, later this year. Senior EU officials said an agreement clinched late on Friday night (8 September) to limit aeroplane emissions would allow the EU to push ahead with plans to charge airlines for pollution permits from 2012 onwards. "This deal is very significant because at a global level, governments and the aviation industry have for the first time agreed to cap greenhouse emissions from 2020," said EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas.
October 08, 2010 | French constitution experts approve burqa ban
A public ban on the Burqa, the Islamic full-face veil, will go into place early next year in France after constitutional experts on Thursday (8 October) approved the move. The Conseil Constitutionnel, the guardian of the country's constitution, ruled that the law banning the wearing of the face-covering veil in public places passed by both chambers of the French parliament does not impinge on civil liberties. The council had widely been expected to overturn the law. However, it passed it almost in its entirety, stipulating only that the law should not apply to public places of worship, where it may violate religious freedom.
October 08, 2010 | Inbjudan - SEMINARIUM OM EUROKRISEN
Skuldkrisen i euroområdet förde eurosamarbetet nära ett sammanbrott i våras. Den akuta krisen löstes genom ett gigantiskt stödlån till Grekland från övriga euroländer och IMF och stödköp av osäkra statspapper av Europeiska Centralbanken. En ny EU-institution har sedan skapats för att ge lån till euroländer som inte längre kan låna på marknaden. Men krisen är inte övervunnen. Flera länder måste genomdriva hård skuldsanering och omfattande strukturreformer. Risken är att åtstramningen leder till ekonomisk stagnation och hög arbetslöshet. Frågorna hopar sig kring europrojektet.
October 07, 2010 | Parliament takes conciliatory tone with Ashton
MEPs on the foreign affairs committee are keen to defuse a dispute with Catherine Ashton over diplomatic appointments but are unwilling to back down on the issue of public hearings for nominees. The head of the committee, Italian centre-right deputy Gabriele Albertini, adopted a conciliatory tone in written remarks sent to this website on Wednesday (6 October) after Ms Ashton earlier this week cancelled a scheduled hearing before the parliamentary body by her new envoy to Japan. Mr Albertini blamed the cancellation on the fact that he and Ms Ashton have not had the chance to discuss outstanding issues "due to her heavy agenda and frequent travels."
October 06, 2010 | National interests creating tension in EU commission
A group of EU commissioners from smaller member states is growing increasingly angry with a number of their larger-state colleagues, perceiving their actions as being driven by national interests rather than the greater European good. "We have sworn in front of the European Court not to work for our national governments back home and I am taking it seriously," a frustrated commissioner from a smaller EU country said in an off-the-record conversation last week. "Of course it is much easier when you come from a small member state where national leaders don't really attempt to influence the course of EU history," the commissioner added.
October 05, 2010 | Chinese leader urges EU to give up more IMF power
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has hinted that Europe may need to sweeten its offer on reforming the International Monetary Fund before a deal can be agreed next month. The issue was one of several topics to be addressed by Asian and EU leaders (ASEM) meeting in Brussels on Monday (4 October) as part of a two-day session of talks, with an ongoing territorial row between China and Japan adding spice to the atmosphere. The EU last week offered to reduce its number of seats on the board of the IMF. Developing nations have criticised the slow pace of reform at the international lending organisation, whose structure has changed little since its set-up in 1945.
October 04, 2010 | Rehn predicts end of Ireland's low-tax regime
With its record budget deficit, Ireland will not be able to keep its low taxes and will become a "normal tax country in the European context," economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn said Friday (1 October), prompting an angry response from large American corporations based on the island. "It's a fact of life that after what has happened, Ireland will not continue as a low-tax country but rather it will become a normal tax country in the European context," Mr Rehn said at a press conference following an informal meeting of finance ministers.
October 01, 2010 | EU responds to threat of 'zombie computers'
The EU's anti-cyber-crime agency Enisa will in future work with Europol to help track down hackers and the creation of botnets or "zombie computers" is to be made illegal under new proposals from the European Commission. "I don't want you to walk out of here totally terrified, but just to give you an idea that there is a threat," home affairs commissioner Cecila Malmstrom said at a press briefing to launch the measures in the EU capital, Brussels, on Thursday (30 October).
September 30, 2010 | Anti-austerity protests hit dozens of EU cities
Tens of thousands of angry workers marched through cities across Europe on Wednesday (29 September) to protest against the wave of government austerity measures that have swept through the region over the past year. A procession of roughly 100,000 people snaked through the streets of Brussels, led by a group dressed in black suits and masks and calling themselves the European Union of Speculators, a pointed jibe at the bankers which many blame for the current crisis.
September 29, 2010 | Fines for deficit states more likely under EU plans
The European Commission has come forward with a major package of legislative proposals designed to keep member-state spending in check and prevent a repeat of the recent investor panic that threatened to break apart the 16-member eurozone. Key components of Wednesday's (29 September) package include plans to pay closer attention to national debt levels and losses in competitiveness, together with a new system of fines for eurozone members that fail to adhere to the bloc's budgetary rules - known as the Stability and Growth Pact.
September 28, 2010 | EU aims for budget that 'national politicians can defend'
With the economic crisis having made voters much more sensitive to how their money is being spent, Brussels is promising to craft a long-term budget that national politicians can defend. "We should structure the flows in and out in such a way that domestic politicians can defend the future budget of the European union," EU budget commissioner Janusz Lewandowski said on Tuesday (28 September). The pragmatic approach comes in the wake of a recent EU survey showing record low support for the Union in many member states and grumbling by some national politicians about how much their country has to pay into the common pool of European resources.
September 27, 2010 | EU enters crucial week for budget rules
Europe is set to enter a crucial stage in its efforts to overhaul government spending rules this week, with talks in Brussels likely to produce several clashes between member states amid growing unrest from EU citizens over recent austerity measures. Political negotiations on ways to prevent a repeat of this spring's fiscal crisis will take place on Monday (27 September) when EU finance ministers meet as part of European Council President Herman Van Rompuy's 'taskforce' on economic governance.
September 24, 2010 | Surprise Irish contraction adds to woes
New figures released by the Irish statistics office have shown a surprise contraction in the country's growth during the second quarter of this year, a further difficulty for Dublin which is already struggling to cut a large public deficit and revive an ailing banking sector. Despite a surge in exports, Thursday's (23 September) data from the Central Statistics Office indicated Irish gross domestic product (GDP) fell by 1.2 percent in the three months up to the end of June when compared to the previous quarter. This contrasts with eurozone figures which show growth as a whole of 1 percent to the end of June, with Ireland and Greece the only members recording a downturn.
September 23, 2010 | Group of 17 ex-EU-commissioners on double pay
Seventeen former members of the European Commission get at least €96,000 per year in transitional allowances, money intended to help them ease back into the labour market, despite the fact that some of them already work as politicians or lobbyists. The top earners in the group are former internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy and ex-fisheries chief Joe Borg, the Financial Times Deutschland reported on Wednesday (22 September).
September 22, 2010 | MEPs agree anti-gas-crisis package
The European Parliament by a whopping majority on Tuesday (21 September) backed measures designed to mitigate the impact of any future Russia-Ukraine-type gas cut-offs. The draft gas law was adopted by 601 votes against 27 and is to be rubber-stamped by EU countries in October. The bill foresees that by the end of 2014 member states will have to guarantee at least 30 days' worth of supplies to households under normal conditions and seven days' worth if winter temperatures fall to extreme lows.
September 21, 2010 | EU sued over lack of transparency
A group of environmental lawyers are suing the EU over alleged attempts to restrict access to information and a lack of transparency in the bloc's biofuels policy. On Monday (20 September) ClientEarth filed a lawsuit against the European Commission in the EU's General Court in Luxembourg, charging the executive body with having failed to release "documents containing previously undisclosed information on the negative climate impacts of widespread biofuels use." The case, taken jointly with Transport and Environment, the European Environmental Bureau and BirdLife International, focuses on a controversial study of biofuel use which the four groups claim was manipulated by the commission.