La Treizième Étoile: 08/11/09 - 15/11/09 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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European Council President: What do the MEPs want?

Friday, 13 November 2009
Remember, remember the 19th of November...

In the same week the fall of the Berlin Wall was commemorated, came the announcement of another important event in the history of Europe - the unveiling of the identities of those to fill the roles created by the Lisbon Treaty.

MEPs at Strasbourg (Photo: BBC/AFP)

Making the announcement, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, whose country currently occupies the rotating presidency, said the exceptional summit in Brussels will be in the format of an EU leaders' dinner in Brussels and will come after two weeks of consultations between Stockholm and the other EU capitals.

To be decided are the positions of the new president of the European Council and EU foreign relations chief, as well as the appointment of a new secretary general of the Council, the Brussels-based institution which prepares member states' day-to-day meetings.

In plenary in Brussels on Wednesday (11th), MEPs and group leaders had their change to say what they wanted from these appointments. In the debate, concerns were voiced about the timetable for appointing candidates, their qualifications, and issues gender equality. Here are some of the highlights:

Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE, BE) spoke most openly about the appointments stating his belief that the position of the President of Council should be filled by "somebody who believes in EU integration, is not a eurosceptic, and believes in the community method which takes Europe forward."

"If you want to appoint a Pope, you choose a Catholic", he jovially remarked.

Hannes Swoboda (AT), on behalf of the S&D group, was concerned with the gender question and asked "are you ready to talk to the Heads of State to ensure that we have a gender and a geographical balance [in the Commission] and are you prepared to ensure that there are powerful ladies involved?"

Joseph Daul (EPP, FR) also spoke on this issue, strongly advising Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that "once the Member States have designated their candidates [for Commissioners posts] you should move as quickly as possible to establish their portfolios, so that they can be heard by the EP in hearings which we want to be as in-depth as possible."

Rebecca Harms (Greens/EFA, DE) lamented the fact there "is as yet no sign of any strong men or women coming forward", while Timothy Kirkhope (ECR, UK) used his allotted time to suggest that "some [government leaders] are even trying to divide the European Union into two classes of citizens, by saying that only individuals coming from Member States in the Schengen area and the Eurozone should be eligible."

Dismissing the summit's objectives all-together, Lothar Bisky (GUE/NGL, DE) argued "it would be a good idea if the Heads of State and Governments were to use the summit for [rather] more practical and concrete politics."

With so much for the heads of State and Government leaders to discuss and decide, one wonders whether they will have time to eat. But regardless of the names that emerge from the meeting, it will be another significant day in the history of the European Union.

Remember, remember the 19th of November...

Lost, Late and Disrespectful: ominous early signs for new BNP-FN alliance

Thursday, 12 November 2009
"Even though we were lost and couldn't find this room, we have not lost the support and view of the desire of the people", announced Hungarian right-wing MEP Zoltan Balczo ahead of this morning's late-starting press conference. I narrowly avoided choking on my freshly-purchased coffee.

The mobile of French MEP Bruno Golllnisch then rang - it was Nick Griffin, the infamous leader of the British National Party. He was lost and couldn't find the press room.

"You'll have to excuse him", Mr Gollnisch explained, "he's new here."

(L-R) Zoltan Balczo, Bruno Golllnisch, Nick Griffin, Jean- Marie Le Pen and Andrew Brons (Photo: GEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images)When he did finally arrive in the press room, wearing an extremely bad pink shirt, pink tie combination and NO poppy, he greeted the rest of the panel and firmly shook the hand of the frail 81-year-old Jean-Marie Le Pen, the controversial French leader of the Front National right-wing party before taking his seat.

Andrew Brons, the other BNP MEP, joined proceedings even later, strolling through the chamber with his white shirt scruffily hanging out at the back. He too was poppy-less. (Clearly, these people have a lot of respect)

Anyway the press conference proceeded and was called to officially announce the formation of the European Alliance of National Movements, whose formation I previously blogged on 26th October (see article), and also to set out the Alliance's "manifesto".

On a single sheet of plain-printed A4 paper, the "political declaration" of the Alliance declared them to be "mindful of the inalienable values of Christianity, natural law, peace and freedom in Europe", demands the creation of "a Europe of free, independent and equal nations in the framework of a confederation of sovereign nation states, refraining from taking decisions on matters properly taken by the states themselves," and also calls for "the effective protection of Europe against new threats, such as terrorism and religious, political, economic or financial imperialism".

Griffin, it has to be said, was not as controversial as normal - largely because he passed the buck to others to respond to the press questions. Saying that, the 'Holocaust denial' was refuted; although I have no recollection of anyone actually asking him about that, I thought the question he was asked was about the funding the Alliance is hoping to get from the EU...

The most striking part of the conference though was a quite frankly remarkable comment made by French Front National vice-president Bruno Golllnisch who likened the significance of the founding of this new Alliance to the significance of the fall of the Berlin Wall in the context of European history.

Now that time I did choke on my coffee, I even shook my head in disbelief. It was clear that not only had they difficulty in finding the room, but they had difficulty in understanding how wrong they are.

It was a shame that there was no translation available, as although the conference was delivered in English and French, we could all have done with someone translating their ideas into something more European...

Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the fall of Berlin Wall

Monday, 9 November 2009
No surprise what story dominated the headlines today: 9th November 2009. 20 Years today saw the falling of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Communism in Europe.

It was that monumental moment in the history of Europe that was celebrated in Brussels today with the recreation of Checkpoint Charlie and remnants of the Wall on display around the Place du Luxembourg.

Here are some photos:

Segments of the Berlin Wall

Segment of the Berlin Wall

Kennedy on the Berlin Wall

Checkpoint Charlie

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.