La Treizième Étoile: 02/05/10 - 09/05/10 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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The UK MEPs hoping to become MPs: the results - how well did they do?

Saturday, 8 May 2010
As a follow-up to my piece last week profiling the British members of the European Parliament who were hoping to become MPs and an overview of their chances on May 6th, here is an overview of how they performed in Thursday's polls:

Caroline Lucas MPThe headlines were made, as I predicted back then, by Caroline Lucas, left, who became the Green party’s first MP in the House of Commons winning the hotly-contested seat of Brighton Pavilion. She will now leave her position in Strasbourg to take her place on the green benches of the UK’s second chamber.

Nigel Farage, the former leader of the UKIP party famed for his ‘wet rag’ speech here in the UK, also made headlines albeit not for reasons he had hoped. At 8am on the morning the polls opened, he was involved in a light-aircraft crash which left him in hospital for two days whilst treated for broken ribs, bruised lungs and a chipped spine.

Nigel Farage pictured as he left the crashed plane (Photo: Mirror)Upon leaving hospital earlier today he said he “must be the luckiest man alive” revealing he knew his plane was going to crash five minutes before it hit the ground. His plane crashed spectacularly on Thursday morning as a UKIP banner it was displaying became wrapped around the rudder.

You have to take off, and then you have to pick up the banner, but something went wrong,” he said. “Basically the banner hooked around the tail of the plane which meant that whenever he came in to land, it would be a nose-dive landing. So we spent five minutes knowing we were in for a crash landing and the question was just how big and bad it was going to be … I could feel petrol in my hair, we thought we were we going to burn to death. Yeah, that's pretty scary.

The accident meant he was unable to attend the count in which he had hoped to unseat the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow. The attempt failed, as Mr Bercow kept his seat with 22,860 votes. Mr Farage finished third with 8,410 behind independent candidate John Stevens on 10,331.

But Mr Farage remained upbeat and sent a message to those in Brussels who might be ‘missing his presence’: “I'm going to be better in three weeks' time. I'm going to go back to Brussels and annoy everybody, so I have been incredibly lucky. It's a real escape.

Nick Griffin canvassing in BarkingAs for Nick Griffin, the leader of the right-wing BNP pictured left whilst out canvassing in Barking, well, he had a terrible night. Not only did he badly fail in his attempt to defeat Labour’s Margaret Hodge, his party lost all 12 of its council seats in the local election held the same day. The BNP’s two seats in Strasbourg are all it now has to show and as a result a group has been set up on Facebook humorously called ‘What's the difference between Nick Griffin and a bus? The bus has seats’.

Fellow MEP Andrew Brons had a similarly disappointing night in the Yorkshire seat of Keighley in which his vote fell to 4% meaning he lost his £500 election deposit.

Overall, it was a positive night for the UK Independence Party with many of their MEP candidates increasing their vote from 2005, although none polling anywhere near enough to gain a seat in Westminster.

Stuart Agnew (Broadland), Gerard Batten (Romford), David Campbell Bannerman (Suffolk South), Derek Clark (Northampton South) and Paul Nuttall (Bootle) all increased there vote share although all but the latter losing their deposits with Mr Nuttall providing the strongest UKIP MEP showing with 6% of the vote and finishing only 1,000 votes behind the Conservative candidate in fourth place.

However it was not all good news for UKIP, with Mike Nattrass in Staffordshire South seeing his vote share plummet nearly 5% but still still enough to retain his deposit.

Finally on our round-up: the independent candidate Nikki Sinclaire who was standing in the Meriden constituency for the Solihull and Meriden Residents Association. She polled just 658 votes and finished last in the poll.

And so Ms Sinclaire, along with 10 of the 11 MEPs who sought election to the UK Parliament, will now return to Strasbourg and Brussels, while Green MEP now MP Caroline Lucas will begin to plan her new political life between Westminster and her new constituency office in Brighton.

History made as Caroline Lucas becomes first UK Green MP

Friday, 7 May 2010
Caroline Lucas MPHistory was made in the early hours of Friday morning as Caroline Lucas became the first Green Member of Parliament after winning the seat of Brighton Pavilion.

Ms Lucas, the leader of the Green party of England and Wales and a current MEP serving the South-East, said voters had made history by electing her to Parliament on a swing of 8.4%, amounting a majority of 1,252 ahead of Labour's Nancy Platts in second place.

Click to continue reading...

June 13th election date set as Belgium faces leadership crisis

Thursday, 6 May 2010
Belgian lawmakers have today voted to dissolve parliament in order to pave the way for new parliamentary elections on June 13th, just two weeks before the country takes on the rotating presidency of the European Union.

The move came after the former government collapsed when the Flemish liberal Open VLD party pulled out of the Prime Minister Yves Leterme’s five-party coalition, and threatened to force a parliamentary vote to split the Brussels-Halle-Vilvoorde (BHV) voting district, Belgium’s only bilingual constituency.

The country has been torn by political infighting between the parties of the Dutch-speaking majority and French-speaking minority over their respective rights in the Brussels electoral district ever since elections in 2007.

Flemish parties, including Mr Leterme’s own Christian democrat CD&V, want to split the three BHV districts along language lines, which would end the deal now whereby French-speakers in the Flemish districts can vote for both Dutch and French-speaking parties, while Dutch-speakers in Wallonia have no such rights.

The crisis comes just two months before Belgium takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union, and they are keen to avoid the crisis running into Belgium’s EU presidency, it could be acutely embarrassing for the country.

In a joint statement issued following the coalition’s collapse, the King and the Prime Minister said that “a political crisis would be inopportune in the current circumstances as it would seriously damage Belgians’ social and economic welfare as well as undermining Belgium’s role in Europe.

Former Belgian Prime Minister Wilfried Martens told Flemish television that the prestige of the country had risen enormously since the appointment of Herman Van Rompuy as president of the European Council. “But if the government falls and the country lands in crisis in the run-up to July 1, that would be quite dramatic for us in a wider European context,” he said.

Outgoing Belgian PM Yves Leterme (Photo: it or not, this is actually Mr Leterme’s third resignation.

In July 2008, he first offered his resignation after failing to patch up the rift between the Dutch-speaking Flemish and French-speaking Walloons. Back then, the King refused to accept his resignation – but accepted it in December the same year, amid allegations that the government had interfered with the courts.

In theory, the June 13th date would allow a government to form before the presidency begins. But remember it took Mr Leterme nine months to build the eventual five-party coalition after the last election, raising the question of whether his successor will manage a swifter transition this time round…

'The Greek financial crisis has revealed a two-speed Eurozone'

Translation as published on Cafebabel.comThe Greek financial crisis, and the decision of the financial ministers of Eurozone member states to shore up the Hellenic states to the degree of €110 billion over three years, underlines the importance of European economic solidarity whilst also revealing its limits.

What happened to Super-Euro? (Photo: Estonian Foreign Ministry/Flickr)For many, behind economic solidarity, the overall concept of Europe is at stake: on one hand, Angela Merkel has announced she would like to see countries sanctioned in the future for failing to respect the Stability and Growth Pact, whilst on the other hand, the anti-globalisation militants of ATTAC are calling on the ECB to buy the Greek public debt in an act of solidarity.

Céline Antonin is an economist and Eurozone specialist at the OFCE. Ahead of the Eurogroup summit on the 7th May, where the attendees should confirm their €110 billion financial aid package to Greece, she reflects on the three burning questions to arise from the crisis which apply also to the European Union:

Author: Are the credit-rating agencies responsible for the crisis and the Greek debt?

Céline Antonin: The credit-rating agencies are there to advice on the insolvency risk of a country or a state, in other words the probability that they will default of the debt repayments that it has accrued. The three main agencies (which represent nearly 90% of the market) are the American agencies Standard and Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch. They were singled out during the subprime crisis partly because of the possible conflict of interest that exists between their credit-rating business and the consulting activities they all carry out with banks (a situation to be resolved by the European rules of November 7th 2009 which should come into force in 2010 in France that will prohibits credit-rating agencies to combine both these two functions).

When speaking not of the private debt, but of the sovereign debt of the state, it is difficult to make the credit-rating agencies directly responsible for the current situation. They are not in effect responsible for the situation of the Greek public finances. However, they could well be accused of having added “fuel to the fire”.

Indeed by downgrading the rating of Greece, they have contributed to increasing the risk premium demanded by investors, and therefore have increased the burden of debt, fuelling a vicious cycle. We therefore cannot say that they are solely responsible for the Greek situation, even if they have done nothing to calm things down.

Author: Is Germany to blame for having dragged its heels before helping Greece?

CA: I don’t want to be made the defender of Germany, but you have to say it faced with numerous constraints in this affair. In the financial aid package of €110 billion, 80 billion is to be put up by the Eurozone states at a rate of interest of 5%. The share issued in turn to each country will be calculated in proportion to their capital at the ECB. Germany is therefore the main creditor of the Greek rescue: without her there would be no programme.

Two phenomena are blocking the Chancellor Angela Merkel. Firstly, the German constitution is very restrictive when it comes to the federal state being able to grant financial assistance to any member state of the EU. It is therefore necessary to amend it in order to participate in the bailout plan negotiated between the EU and the IMF.

Secondly, the German regional elections are taking place on May 9th, and according to a survey conducted by France 24 and Die Welt (in which 1009 German citizens were sampled), 57% were opposed to a Greek financial bailout plan, which does not encourage Germany to be overly cooperative.

The Germans also envisage that in accepting to help Greece without flinching, other fragile member states such as Portugal or Spain could be the next on the list to seek financial assistance. Our German neighbours do not want to be in a bottomless barrel. At the same time, this procrastination is not related to the deterioration in the repayment obligations of the Greek debt. One could say that the time required by Angela Merkel to enter back into the dialogue of economic solidarity has not calmed Greek tensions.

Author: Could the Euro area really be dissolved? What does this crisis tell you about the economic union in Europe?

CA: Kicking Greece out of the Eurozone would not resolve this situation. Firstly, because the treaties do not foresee it. Next, because its debt would remain denominated in Euros while its currency would be devalued and this would render its debt burden all the more heavier to shoulder. Instead, the Euro is today an opportunity for Greece. This economic crisis is one of the worst storms that Europe has had to face in its recent history, but the bad weather has recently been more in the political arena (the Bolkenstein directive, Lisbon Treaty, etc…)

It all depends on the consensus that will be found in the May 7th meeting: if the Eurozone countries are able to find a quick consensus the Eurozone will be able to come away stronger, having avoided the worst, but the diplomatic procrastination of these past few weeks have undeniably served as a blow to the Eurozone and to the European Union, even a rejection.

The Greek crisis has revealed the deep divisions that exist: Germany has still not renounced the policy of the strong Euro and the differences are very distinct between the states which respect the Stability Pact and those which are not. In short, what has been left viable by the chain reaction started by the Greek crisis is the existence of a Eurozone at many speeds.

Interview conducted by Emmanuel Haddad.
My translation from the original French.

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.