Monthly Archives: March 2007

Berlin declaration online

Thanks to Jan’s EU Blog the German version of the Berlin declaration is online! As expected, it is a rather non-binding document which also sounds a bit pathetic. References to more controversial issues such as the “Euro”, “open frontiers” and the “European social model” have also been included. References to “further enlargement” and “Christian heritage” do not appear in the text. The short document is supposed to kick-start a discussion on the future of Europe and the development of “renewed common foundation of the EU” (instead of the word ‘constitution’) . It also contains a commitment to agree on a institutional reform until the European Parliament election in 2009. However, the success of this whole initiative depends a lot on the follow-up discussions during the next months and, of course the outcome of the French presidential elections (and we should not forget Gordon Brown).

The drafting process was heavily criticised because of its rather closed and diplomatic character. The declaration will be signed during the informal EU summit in Berlin this weekend. In order to emphasise the importance of the EU institutions only the three EU presidents (Commission, Council, Parliament) are going to sign the document. One could also argue that not every member state supports wholeheartedly the declaration… But according to Spiegel online Angela Merkel managed, during a last minute telephone call, to convince the Czech government to support the document.

Declaration on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the signature of the Treaties of Rome (offical version)

For centuries Europe has been an idea, holding out hope of peace and understanding. That hope has been fulfilled. European unification has made peace and prosperity possible. It has brought about a sense of community and overcome differences. Each Member State has helped to unite Europe and to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Thanks to the yearning for freedom of the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe the unnatural division of Europe is now consigned to the past. European integration shows that we have learnt the painful lessons of a history marked by bloody conflict. Today we live together as was never possible before. We, the citizens of the European Union, have united for the better.

I.

In the European Union, we are turning our common ideals into reality: for us, the individual is paramount. His dignity is inviolable. His rights are inalienable. Women and men enjoy equal rights. We are striving for peace and freedom, for democracy and the rule of law, for mutual respect and shared responsibility, for prosperity and security, for tolerance and participation, for justice and solidarity.

We have a unique way of living and working together in the European Union. This is expressed through the democratic interaction of the Member States and the European institutions. The European Union is founded on equal rights and mutually supportive cooperation. This enables us to strike a fair balance between Member States’ interests. We preserve in the European Union the identities and diverse traditions of its Member States. We are enriched by open borders and a lively variety of languages, cultures and regions. There are many goals which we cannot achieve on our own, but only in concert. Tasks are shared between the European Union, the Member States and their regions and local authorities.

II.

We are facing major challenges which do not stop at national borders. The European Union is our response to these challenges. Only together can we continue to preserve our ideal of European society in future for the good of all European Union citizens. This European model combines economic success and social responsibility. The common market and the euro make us strong. We can thus shape the increasing interdependence of the global economy and evergrowing competition on international markets according to our values. Europe’s wealth lies in the knowledge and ability of its people; that is the key to growth, employment and social cohesion.

We will fight terrorism, organised crime and illegal immigration together. We stand up for liberties and civil rights also in the struggle against those who oppose them. Racism and xenophobia must never again be given any rein.

We are committed to the peaceful resolution of conflicts in the world and to ensuring that people do not become victims of war, terrorism and violence. The European Union wants to promote freedom and development in the world. We want to drive back poverty, hunger and disease. We want to continue to take a leading role in that fight. We intend jointly to lead the way in energy policy and climate protection and make our contribution to averting the global threat of climate change.

III.

The European Union will continue to thrive both on openness and on the will of its Member States to consolidate the Union’s internal development. The European Union will continue to promote democracy, stability and prosperity beyond its borders. With European unification a dream of earlier generations has become a reality. Our history reminds us that we must protect this for the good of future generations. For that reason we must always renew the political shape of Europe in keeping with the times. That is why today, 50 years after the signing of the Treaties of Rome, we are united in our aim of placing the European Union on a renewed common basis before the European Parliament elections in 2009.

For we know, Europe is our common future.

EU achievements

As the weekend comes closer, the media is getting more and more enthusiastic about the achievements of the EU (for a change). The BBC came up with Ten things the EU has done for you (somehow inspired by the popular What has Europe ever done for us? -video) and a guide to the best euromyths.

Unsurprisingly, the EU institutions also want to communicate the success stories. 50 ways forward – Europe’s best successes is the official website of the EU. And the German EU Presidency also celebrates the ‘unprecedented success story‘.

The Independent has a rather entertaining list of 50 reasons to love the EU and a nice comment by Denis MacShane. And because “Lists like this drive the Eurosceptics mad”(Reason Nr. 50!) here is the front page:

50 reasons to love the EU

A view from the outside

Sometimes it is quite revealing to change perspective. Andrew Moravcsik comments in Newsweek on the upcoming 50th birthday of the EU and comes to this conclusion:

… it’s significant that 50 years after the EU’s march to unity began, it is now Europe, not the United States, that’s held up as a new lamp unto nations.

Who is afraid of immigrants?

Everything you ever wanted to know about minorities, xenophobia and racism:”Who’s afraid of the Pirese?” via eurotopics:

According to recent surveys, an increasing number of Hungarians oppose the immigration of Pirese to their country. Never heard of them? The Pirese were invented by a research institute to compare the attitude of Hungarians towards existent minorities – Roma, Germans, Slovaks, Serbs – with their feelings towards a fictitious group. Gusztav Megyesi comments with sarcasm: “Surprisingly, the Pirese are most hated by the left and the prosperous inhabitants of western Hungary. They hate the Pirese mainly because they’ve never met one. Personal contact would perhaps help to reduce prejudices… Why hasn’t a politician come up with the idea of making his career by saving our country from the Pirese? ‘I have had all Pirese deported. I am the Hungarian people’s best hope. I want to rule,’ he could proclaim. And his political opponents wouldn’t be able to produce a single Pirese to refute these claims.”

I would really like to get hold of this survey!!! If anyone knows more about this please leave a comment or email me!

An introduction to Romanian Politics

Romania joined the EU a few months ago but not too much is known of Romanian politics in the rest of Europe. Only Vadim Tudor managed to get some press coverage in Brussels by helping to set up the Independent Tradition Sovereignty (ITS) group in the European Parliament. But nobody seems to care about what has been happening in Romanian politics in the last weeks. And important events are coming up: elections for the European Parliament are scheduled for 13 May. A good overview on Romanian political forces can also be found here.

To become familiar with politics in Romania everybody should know the three basic features: (1) Romanian politics is a rather complicated and messy business and a ‘liberal’, ‘conservative’ or ‘socialist’ name tag does not mean too much to the parties. (2) Personal fights mixed with populism and corruption are at the centre of all debates. Political debates are often generated by the press and covered by various TV channels quite extensively. (3) Political parties always act somewhat detached from the public.

Undoubtedly the most important ‘personal fight’ is the one between PM Tariceanu and President Basescu. It started just after the last national election in late 2004 and has been going on ever since. (with debates on: “Basescu: a member of Securitatea?” or “Tariceanu involved in dubious Rompetrol transactions?”) The highlight was the resignation of Tariceanu after the floods in 2005 and the immediate withdrawal from it. President Basescu always wanted early elections, first to secure a broad majority for his D.A. Alliance in Parliament, later just to get rid of Tariceanu.

Recently, the fight heated up again with a (private) letter sent by Tariceanu to Basescu asking for support for one of his friends in court. In case Basescu had interfered, this would have constituted a clear case of political corruption. But since this is Romania, it is not as easy as it appears. The letter was sent nearly a year ago, but only in January it got revealed by the press. Basescu claims that he did not interfere, but his silence about the letter that could have helped him to oust his opponent is striking. Of course, this caused a major crisis in Romanian politics, with the main opposition party PSD officially launching an impeachment procedure against the President. After a recent procedural change, a referendum needs to be held in case of an impeachment. But the always outspoken Basescu enjoys a comfortable 50% approval in the latest polls. At the same time, Basescu opens another battlefield in proposing to change the existing proportional voting system into a majoritarian voting system.

EU accession definitely had its impact on Romanian ministers:

The first victim was foreign minister Ungureanu who had to resign after he failed to report to the PM about the situation of 2 Romanian workers held in custody at a US military base in Iraq, accused of taking pictures of military equipment.

The second victim was the well-known minister of justice Macovei who pushed through painful reforms in the Romanian justice system in order to secure the EU accession of the country. Obviously she became the most appreciated Romanian politician in Brussels but, at the same time and for the same reasons, disliked by many political actors across all parties. This resulted in a motion adopted by the Romanian Senate, calling for the immediate resignation of Macovei. Finally, she did not have to resign, thanks to the lack of consistency of the internal Senate procedures and the Romanian Constitution.

The big showdown was initially planned for 13 May 2007, the day of the scheduled elections for the European Parliament. The PSD thinks that this was a good date for the referendum on the impeachment of the president. President Basescu thinks that it would also be a good date to hold a referendum on his proposals to change the Constitution. Faced with these ideas, PM Tariceanu prefers to postpone the EP elections because he thinks that the other issues might influence the outcome of the EP election (also taking into account possible party losses!). Naturally, the political elite is divided on the issue.

Nevertheless the government decided on Monday due to the “inappropriate political climate” to postpone the European elections until the second half of 2007, without having a consensus in the cabinet (vetoed by the minister of justice and the interior minister).

But since this is still Romania, I do not believe that this decision is carved in stone.