Tag Archives: European Commission

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The Romanian face of justice

In the aftermath of the report issued by the European Commission on the Romanian justice system and fight against corruption, many comments and interpretations have emerged in the Romanian press . This was to be expected. One of the most prominent debates stirred by the report these days is about the re-confirmation of Daniel Morar as Chief Attorney of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA). (more here, here and here)

His mandate is due to expire on August 12 and various scenarios have been voiced in the media that all aim at Morar’s replacement.  The Social- Democrats (PSD) want to change the procedural rules that regulate the appointment of the head of DNA. The Liberals, that for a while now have, more openly than not, sided with the Social-Democrats (yes, Romania is definitely not a good case study of political doctrines!), are also opposing Morar’s second term. Fears of being prosecuted for corruption, as well as the quasi-paranoid assumption that the DNA (and implicitly its leader) is a political tool of President Basescu can be traced as the main roots of these positions.

One should not forget that this discussion takes place only few days after the Commission harshly criticized Romania precisely for the politicization of the justice system and fight against corruption. So, as could be imagined, all this political maneuvering is not at all well seen in Brussels. The Commission is probably remembering the case of Monica Macovei, former Minister of Justice, who was also becoming “uncomfortable” for some parts of the political arena, and therefore had to leave her position, notwithstanding the great appreciation and support she had in Brussels.

A clear sign that the Commission has had enough is the declaration made by the EC spokesman Mark Gray on the topic:

We have seen the comments published by the Romanian media, quoting so-called sources in Brussels, referring to the reconfirmation of Morar as head of DNA. Our position is very clear. We expect the reform process to go forwards, not backwards. We constantly emphasized the good DNA results and the importance of institutional stability in investigating files and in initiating investigations in high-level corruption cases. Reconfirming the chief prosecutor will be a test for the renewed commitments of Romanian authorities

Usually the European Commission does not interfere in questions regarding the staffing policy of Romanian institutions. But they do it in cases where they see that there is a real danger of a deterioration. The intervention will, surely, be criticized by the Social- Democrats and Liberals, as biased and outside the scope of the Commission’s mandate. But the Commission probably realised that its neutral approach leaves too much room for interpretation to Romanian politicians.  By putting aside the diplomacy for a moment and calling the facts by their name, the Commission is increasing the pressure on Romania. Controversial as it may seem, this attitude might prove to be the only “mild” weapon the Commission has left before it starts deploying its artillery of sanctions and safeguard clauses.

Written by Anda

Latest monitoring report on Romania- definitely not the last

Today the European Commission released the monitoring reports on Romania and Bulgaria, foreseen by the “cooperation and verification mechanism”.

On the whole, not many surprises: the rough tone that was expected, telling off the two countries for the very small (if existing) progress regarding judicial reform and fight against corruption. This time, Bulgaria is more severely punished, with part of its funds being suspended. Romania receives yet another warning but still no decisive measure such as the activation of the safeguard clause or retention of European funds.

What is the Commission’s assessment of Romania? In the usual diplomatic slang, the report notes that Romania presents a “mixed picture”. However, it does not take great further reading to realize which are the predominant shades in this “mixed picture”: although Romania seems to have re-established its commitment to judicial reform and the fight against corruption, the “legal and institutional framework is still fragile” and decisions on (especially high level) corruption are highly politicized. Some progress is acknowledged, but so is the lack of political consensus regarding justice reforms.

In conclusion, Romania still has a (rather long) way to go in fulfilling all the benchmarks set at the time of accession and will continue to be closely monitored by the Commission. A crucial element is the political will to fully implement all the commitments made by Romania when joining the EU; and looking at the Romanian political arena at the moment, this does not seem to be a safe bet.

One can almost hear the sigh of relief in the high governmental offices in Bucharest, at the confirmation of the fact that (1) no safeguard clause will be activated, (2) no funds will be suspended, (3) Bulgaria is considered to do worse and is more harshly sanctioned. ‘Schadenfreude’ and relief, that’s all.

Unfortunately. Now they can happily continue their holidays. They “escaped” this time again. This makes me doubt the effects of such a neutral report. Maybe next time the Commission can act more severely. It is sad, but only a “shock therapy” might make the Romanian political class aware of the importance of fulfilling its commitments and not just indulging in the mere satisfaction of doing slightly better than the neighboring country.

Written by Anda

Who’s your candidate?

Here we go again, with another campaign… this time about the President of the European Commission, no doubt the most powerful person in European politics. The Who’s your Candidate? campaign calls for a transparent and democratically elected President of the European Commission. The term “presidential elections” (see logo) is somewhat misleading since the new European Council President is commonly and wrongly (!) referred to as the “president of the EU”. But however, this confusion is due to the rather unnecessary post of a European Council President… Another small mistake is connected with the second point (see below): Legally there are no Lisbon treaty articles but only amendments to TEU and TFEU articles.

Anyway, the aims of the campaign are worth supporting: Linking the EP elections to the most powerful position in the EU could turn the European Parliament elections into a truly European event with European issues and European debates. This would stop the current situation where voters use EP elections to vote on national issues. At the same time, it might help EP elections to get into the spotlight and thus result in higher turnouts.

Here is the short campaign description:

1. The President of the European Commission should no longer be chosen behind closed doors in the European Council.

2.Instead, the President of the European Commission should be chosen by the European Parliament, and, by implication, us the voters, as hinted in articles 9A and 9D of the Lisbon Treaty.

3.Therefore, the political parties in the European Parliament should, in good time before the June 2009 parliament elections, answer the question: Who’s Your Candidate?

You can sign the petition here!

One President of the EU

It is campaign time again! (the euro-blogoshpere seems to get into online campaigns…) “Who do I call if I want to call Europe?” is one of the best known quotes by Henri Kissinger. Now Jon Worth and Jan Seifert want to answer this question and launched the whodoicall.eu campaign that calls for one president of the EU.whodoicall The idea is that one person should be President of the European Commission and, at the same time, President of the European Council (the position which is newly created under the Lisbon treaty). Read the arguments here.

Although I am not completely convinced about this idea, I signed the petition because I think that this new position of a European Council president is somewhat unnecessary. It will only create more confusion among citizens that already today are not too familiar with EU institutions. I am also not too convinced that EU policy making becomes more coherent with a permanent European Council president as well as rotating presidencies in the Council of Ministers. It just makes things more complicated!

But one critical remark regarding Kissinger’s quote. He was Secretary of State so his “natural” EU counterpart is actually the High Representative of Foreign Affairs. So he should call Mr Solana and none of the presidents! So, instead of talking about the presidents, one should rather give the High Representative more power (or introduce more QMV in EU foreign policy) to ‘please’ Mr Kissinger.

(I don’t know if I want to please Mr Kissinger though, and anyway I doubt that Kissinger would ever refrain from negotiating with national counterparts…but that is a different story…)

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Kosmolinks #11

Today’s main topic is of course Kosovo, the World’s Newest Country. DJ Nozem sums it up with a ‘pinch’ of sarcasm: Another Show of Unity

I have been looking at some EU news services lately and as a result I created a EU universe (www.netvibes.com/eu) which brings together most of the available official EU – RSS feeds. So please tell me what you think about it! Although there are numerous (but quite hidden!) feeds on the europa.eu page, I still wonder whether the Commission has realised its potential here. Most of the times, traditional press releases are put into the feeds. But RSS could be used to track policy proposals within the Commission (green paper- consultation-white paper). Anyway, I will cover this topic more extensively in another post later this week!

Now there is also a social bookmarking service for EU related news and blogs: Eurovalley, give it a try, of course everything is still in beta! eufeeds has a collection of over 300 newspapers and it is updated every 20 minutes: interesting idea but unfortunately there seems to be no easy option to export an individual feed or a selection of feeds. Have you ever heard of the Europe Media Monitor? It seems to be one of these hidden Commission projects but I must say it looks quite promising especially when you need to monitor EU news.

So lets turn to our “favourite” treaty….Nicolas Whyte writes about the Lisbon Treaty here and the ISN wonders whether the Lisbon treaty makes the ESDP more Coherent and Capable? Stanley’s blog asks: EU Foreign Ministers: an endangered species?

Two interesting articles regarding EU funds and budget: Fraud and responsibility for EU funds on Jan’s EUblog and EuropesWorld: Why the EU may never get its accounts straight

What is a “Societas Europaea (SE)” ? It took the EU 30 years to decide on it…and now, there are only around 150 SE in total (EU-wide). But things might improve as local businesses becoming more ‘European’, well at least in the Czech Republic.

Richard Lewis blogs about Frattini’s proposals regarding tougher EU immigration rules. America plays divide and rule is a fascinating article on a diplomatic fight. And the “quote of the month” award goes to Jonathan Faull, a European Commission director general:

“We don’t negotiate matters that are dealt with in Washington with the state of California. That would be disrespectful and we expect the United States to be similarly respectful of our law and system.”

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Communicating the Lisbon Treaty…

… to the citizens seems to be a huge problem.

Seals of signatures of the Treaty of LisbonOne could assume that at least in Ireland, the only country that will hold a referendum on the Treaty, things are slightly different. But apparently this is not true! This article (What exactly are we reforming in this treaty?) shows us all the problems of the Treaty /EU in a nutshell: Lack of a professional communication strategy, arrogance of EU officials, no consolidated version of the rather complicated Treaty and journalists that are not doing their job properly!

– Problem No.1:The European Commission Representation in Dublin clearly fails in explaining the Treaty. Not only were they not able to answer some of the questions, but they also showed a degree of arrogance that makes it hard to become a supporter of the Treaty (and eventually the EU)! It is another proof that the Commission does not have the slightest idea how to communicate professionally. Commission Representations in the member states are seen as ‘official embassies’ of the EU! Therefore, it should be in the interest of the European Commission to make the case for the EU and the Treaty in a convincing way. The upcoming referendum in Ireland should make training of the Commission staff in Dublin a priority! Or to put it more dramatically: Dublin might be the only place in the EU where people actually want to know details about the Lisbon Treaty!

– Problem No.2 is of course the complicated nature of the Lisbon Treaty which also makes it more difficult to explain (but that should not be understood as an excuse!). Of course the reason for this is the failed constitutional treaty and the problematic idea that the new treaty should be similar in content but with a different form. It is believed that only a stripped down treaty that looks very technical and incomprehensible (= “non constitutional”) can win the support of all member states and, at the same time, prevent as many referenda as possible.

– Problem No. 3: The missing consolidated version of the Lisbon Treaty. Ralf Grahn put together a list of existing consolidated versions of the Treaty which is probably the most comprehensive list to date. I guess there are three reasons why the EU has not published consolidated versions: firstly, a lot of legal details have to be clarified, secondly, a translation in all languages takes quite a while and, thirdly, I think the EU institutions have an interest to preserve the “technical look” (see above) as long as possible.

– And problem No. 4: Journalists that are unable to find facts. Of course I understand the point Vincente Brown wants to make in his article. But in a way he is doing it in such a typical manner. I agree that the Commission Representation behaved in a very unhelpful way, but why is it not possible for journalists to distinguish between the Commission in Brussels and Dublin? Why did he not phone the various information services of the Commission? What about the journalistic principle to check more sources? Maybe he would have found that website! Somehow I am sure that he just wanted to “test” the knowledge of the Dublin Representation so why does he not say that clearly in the article? I also agree that the treaty is not easy to understand: the language of the treaty is very legal and compared with other treaties also the structure is confusing and complicated. But can we not expect from journalists to read the treaty a bit more carefully? Because he would have found the following article (admittedly very hidden in the treaty!):

Article 2
The Treaty establishing the European Community shall be amended in accordance with the provisions of this Article.
1) The title of the Treaty shall be replaced by “Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union”.

Anyway, if he still has problems with the TFEU he should start reading EU blogs!

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