Monthly Archives: February 2007

Participate in the EU-Africa Summit!

…ok, not physically but virtually (thanks to web 2.0)! During my work on a policy briefing I came across this page. The first impression you get (especially as a wordpress user) is that of another blog, but after a while you realise it: This is an official (online) consultation process initiated by the EU and the AU (African Union) to prepare a joint strategy to be adopted at the second Euro-Africa Summit which will take place in Lisbon at the end of 2007. Interestingly, this official consultation is designed pretty much like a blog, with a wordpress blog design, rss feeds and the possibility to comment on every part of the joint strategy (that includes shared vision, governance issues, key development issues (such as Financial and External debt, Migration, Socio-economic development and Infrastructure), trade & regional integration, peace & security).

So what can we make out of this? Of course this is an excellent idea how to involve a wide range of people and civil society organisations in a process like this. (I wonder if the EU could not introduce this model for the ‘usual’ consultation processes.) No doubt, relations between the EU and Africa need to be strengthened and a shared strategy seems to be a useful thing. But it is also true that the topic is far to broad, a shared vision of Europe and Africa is somewhat very ambitious. The organisers also present a timeline of consultations that will eventually allow people to discuss more detailed topics, so there is something to look forward to.

Nevertheless, this promise has been made:

The European and African experts will meet in an EU-Africa expert meeting on the 19-23 of February, where they will start to discuss the content of the joint strategy. Since we want to ensure an optimal linkage between the public debate and the official negotiation, we will submit the initial comments and ideas presented on the web site to the official negotiators at the end of next week. The same will be done for future official expert meetings (see calendar and timeline of the consultation for details): we will submit each time a short summary of your comments and contributions to the experts

It also remains to be seen how the comments will be used in the EU-AU negotiations and how short these ‘summaries’ will be in the end. I hope the process is that transparent that we eventually see also these summaries. But then again, the consultation does not seem to be very popular: 2060 visitors and only 35 comments during one week (which should not be too difficult to summarise …. unless some more comments are made in the next days and months!!).

Europe@50: back to the future

The EU is preparing to celebrate its 50th birthday which also means a lot of research papers… One of the first pamphlets comes from the rather good European Policy Centre, a Brussels think tank. CHALLENGE EUROPE Europe@50: back to the future tries to answer questions such as ‘Was the European Convention’s work in vain?’ ‘Would today’s leaders still sign the Treaty of Rome?’ ‘EU referenda: selective veto or inclusive consultation?’ Should be interesting…

Tower of Babel

Every now and then a little language war breaks out in the EU institutions. Spain lobbies for Spanish to become one of the official working languages (at the moment: English, French and German) because it is one of most spoken languages worldwide. Germany (sometimes together with Austria) claims that German became more popular after the EU Enlargement. Italy, a big and proud country also wants its language to be considered….Usually not much is happening after attempts like that. And normally these lobbying activities are also quite diplomatic…..

But now the French really exaggerated it. Following a translation mistake a while ago, it seems that Maurice Druon (a member of the Academie Francaise who was also awarded with a K.B.E!) is heading an emergency task force to save French as the universal language in the EU (which is to a certain extent English). And his arguments are really convincing:

“The Italian language is the language of song, German is good for philosophy and English for poetry, French is best at precision, it has a rigour to it. It is the safest language for legal purposes.” He argued that French should be “the authoritative” language as it is both related to Latin – in which Roman law was written – as well as the language of the Napoleonic code.

Obviously, there is quite an extensive list of songs, poetry, philosophy and literature written in all languages and it is really disgrace if such an educated man like Mr. Druon makes such a simplistic statement. Indeed, French is routed in Latin but this is also true for Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian. And besides Roman law and the Napoleonic code we have (fortunately) other legal traditions as well….