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Candidates for the new European Commission – where we stand 15.7.2014

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 16.56.50So Juncker is now certain. 26-2 in the Council, 422 of 751 in the European Parliament. I have analysed the High Rep and President of the European Council positions at the LSE EUROPP blog here. But who has been nominated by the 27 other countries? (Luxembourg’s Commissioner is Juncker)

Austria – Johannes Hahn (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: OK to be renominated for regional affairs, but would like something more senior. Party: EPP

Belgium – Karel De Gucht(?) (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: to fuck up complete TTIP negotiations in DG Trade. Party: ALDE

Bulgaria – Kristalina Georgieva(?) (f) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: Juncker apparently wants her for High Rep. If this is possible Bulgaria could renominate her. If not then renomination not certain. Party: EPP

Croatia – Neven Mimica (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: ? Party: PES

Cyprus - Christos Stylianides(?) (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: unknown. Status of the nomination also currently unclear. Party:

Czech Republic – Věra Jourová (f) or Pavel Mertlík (m) – Wikipedia Jourová, News story. Wants: ? Party: Jourová. [UPDATE: confirmed 21.7.14]

Denmark – not yet known. Hedegaard will not continue as the government has changed since her nomination, but candidate names are not yet known. [UPDATE: 15.7.14, 1900 - Berlingske reports, in Danish, Christine Antorini and Mette Gjerskov are in the frame - thanks @jacobchr on Twitter]

Estonia – Andrus Ansip (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something senior as he’s an ex-Prime Minister. Party: ALDE

Finland - Jyrki Katainen (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: possibly Digital Agenda? Or something senior as an ex-Prime Minister. Party: EPP

France – Pierre Moscovici (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: Economic & Financial Affairs? Something senior as it’s France. Party: PES [UPDATE: confirmed 29.7.14]

Germany – Günther Oettinger (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: probably happy to carry on the energy portfolio. Or something more senior. Party: EPP

Greece - Dimitris Avramopoulos (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: ? Senior figure, has held many foreign affairs connected posts in Greece and has been Mayor of Athens. Party: EPP [UPDATE: this was confirmed 28.7.14]

Hungary – Tibor Navracsics(?) (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: Hungary, having not backed Juncker, is not going to be in a position to make major demands. Party: EPP (somehow still)

Ireland – Phil Hogan (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: Agriculture. Party: EPP

Italy – Federica Mogherini (f) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: High Rep. Party: PES

Latvia - Valdis Dombrovskis (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something senior as an ex-PM. Party: EPP

Lithuania - Vytenis Andriukaitis (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: health. Party: PES

Malta - Karmenu Vella (m). Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: Malta is not in a strong bargaining position. Party: PES

Netherlands – Jeroen Dijsselbloem(?) (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something senior and economic. Details sketchy as to if he is indeed a nominee. Name of Timmermans also in the frame for High Rep. Party: PES

Poland – Radek Sikorski(?) (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: High Rep if the EPP gets this position. If this is unavailable a less high profile candidate may be found. Party: EPP

Portugal – no names yet known. Barroso will not continue. EPP member party will nominate.

Romania – Dacian Cioloș (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: agriculture again, but it is unsure if this will happen. Party: EPP

Slovakia – Maroš Sefčovič (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something senior, and not his current portfolio. Party: EPP

Slovenia – has just held a snap election. No names yet known.

Spain – Miguel Arias Cañete (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: agriculture, or an economic portfolio. Party: EPP

Sweden – with a Swedish general election on 14th September, the Swedish situation remains open. Renomination of Cecilia Malmström (f) (ALDE) is not out of the question.

United Kingdom – Jonathan Hill (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something Single Market. Party: ECR

At the moment there are only 4 female nominees. Kroes’s demand of 10 or more looks some way off! The entire Commission team has to be approved by the European Parliament after hearings, and by the European Council. The team should be agreed by the autumn.

How Juncker shines the light on Britain’s problematic, unitary pro-Europeanism

I am not a fan of Jean Claude Juncker, the person and the politician. I am a lefty, he is a christian democrat, and he – ideologically – stands for a future of the European Union that I, as an individual person, do not agree with. Yet I am also an advocate of EU-wide democracy, and as the European Peoples Party ended up as the largest after the European Parliament elections, Juncker ought to become President of the European Commission. In a democracy you sometimes end up on the losing side.

The problem is that the opposition to Juncker in the UK does not take this form.

The argument runs that Juncker is not in favour of British views of ‘reform’ of the EU (whatever that means), and hence should be opposed, and indeed the very future of the UK’s membership of the EU could be called into question were Juncker to succeed. This is the sort of argument, with no irony, that was defended by Adam Nathan on Twitter this afternoon and prompted this blog entry:

Essentially there is just one legitimate pro-Europeanism in the UK according to this line of argument. There is the “British national interest is in being in the EU” line, which is the very essence of the comms of British Influence, the organisation Nathan used to work for. This is also the reason why Labour’s opposition to Juncker sounds exactly the same as Cameron’s.

Basically there is only one way to be pro-EU in the UK at the moment. This is that the European Union is a battle of national interests (i.e. it is intergovernmental), and the reason to be in favour of the UK in the EU is that UK membership assists British business, and everyone ought to be in favour of that. This is the sort of line that every pro-EU British politician would make – from Chuka Umunna through the Liberal Democrats to Ken Clarke. Such a view of the European Union has no place for a difference of ideology within the European Union, and nor does it have any time or respect for the European Parliament, as that might actually take ideologically-driven rather than national-interest motivated decisions.

All of this worries me with a possible referendum on the horizon on the UK’s membership of the European Union. There must be multiple ways to be able to be a British pro-EU person – to be a social democratic European, a green European, a conservative European, a liberal European… and to be able to be a British passport holding European. To put it another way there are different, perhaps contradictory, ways to be in favour of the EU. It’s high time this was understood in the UK!

Reinfeldt, Merkel, Cameron and Rutte in a boat – a roundup

So embattled Swedish PM Reinfeldt invited Merkel, Cameron and Rutte to Harpsund and took them out in a small rowing boat (news summary here), and let photographers take pictures of this. Here’s the original:

The Junckermonster – my own effort

Putin, via @GeneralBoles

Breaking apart, via @Spacexecadet

Sinking, via @JOR_ID

Just the two of them, via @BuschEbba

[UPDATE 10.6.2014, 1220]

Two further contributions…

Beneath the lake, via @Berlaymonster

Cartoon, via @valentinapop

(note: I have no idea who posted these images first, and hence what the rights are – if you are a rights holder please contact me)

What does “EU reform” actually mean?

A tweet by Philip Oltermann caught my eye:

David Cameron is doing his best to spin himself, and his opposition to Jean Claude Juncker as Commission President, as being the ‘reformer’ versus a defender of the status quo, or the old EU, Juncker.

The problem is that no-one ever really challenges this narrative of what and how Cameron seems to want to reform the European Union.

There are at least three possible components of what reform could actually mean. It could mean political and institutional reform of the European Union, it could mean economic reform, and it could mean changes to the relationship between the EU and its Member States.

If we look at Cameron’s March piece in the Sunday Telegraph for example, we end up with a muddle of all of the above. When Cameron speaks of EU reform, it is actually his wish list for how he would like the EU to look. It is basically shorthand for the Tory EU line: less Europe.

Take Juncker’s nomination, by contrast. The fact that all major EU party families put forward candidates for Commission President prior to the 2014 EP elections is one of the most major de facto democratic reforms to the way the EU works in recent years (see this blog entry for the case). Connect the EP elections to the choice of Commission President. It is democratic or institutional reform. So the very presence of Juncker could be framed as a reform, yet all we hear is the opposite side.

Or look at what the European Greens were saying before the EP elections – theirs is a completely different notion of change and reform of the European Union. Yet some of the core vocabulary used – words about change and reform are similar.

So the next time you hear a politician trumpeting ‘EU reform’, stop to ask: what reform? Cameron’s EU reform? Juncker’s? The European Greens’? There is no one way to reform the EU, so we better stop talking as if there is, even if it suits Cameron’s aims to talk as if there is.

Democratising the EU in post democratic times


The title of this blog entry is intentionally contradictory. Yet it encompasses the central challenge the European Union in facing.

To start, what are we supposed to do about democracy in the European Union, viewing democracy in the classical post-World War II consensus kind of way, where multi party representative democracy largely works?

Here there are essentially three options as I see it.

One option is to take apart the European Union, or severely restrict its scope, and return to national democracies as far as possible. This is the line defended by the likes of UKIP and FN, and is based upon the notion that democracy beyond the nation is neither possible nor desirable.

The second option is to seek to defend the European Union as a sort of functional übertechnocracy, trying to justify that this is a good thing on the basis of output rather than input legitimacy; this is the Charles Grant line.

The third option is to improve representative democracy at EU level, a process that started with election of the European Parliament in 1979 and has slowly proceeded since then, with the Spitzenkandidat process this year a step in this direction.

Each of those options of course has advantages and disadvantages. Regular readers of this blog will know that I personally favour the third option, and I actually have more sympathy for the first option than I do for the second as I believe in representative democracy and not technocracy, and that the European Union already does so much more than a classic international organisation that the point of possible return to technocracy has already passed. However anyone trying to work out where they stand on questions of the future of the European Union has to judge which of these camps they fall into.

The problem with all of the above then comes when we look at the everyday political situation in which we find ourselves. At the very least representative democracy, nationally, is suffering – turnouts are down, trust is down, party political membership is down (stats here). Colin Crouch’s post democracy thesis seems to fit this rather neatly (PDF here). It is also fair to argue that the very existence of the European Union is such a constraint on national political action that it hastens national post democracy, but conversely taking the example of a non-EU country  like Norway seems to demonstrate that the scope for action as a small independent state in a globalised world is not of much help either.

As Castells argues compellingly in Communication Power, increasing globalisation – especially of capital – is a major constraint on political action, and when this is coupled with post democracy and hollowed out political parties you end up with something approaching oligarchy politics. Add in Fukuyama’s end of history (i.e. the market won) and hence the de-ideologisation of politics, Piketty on the inexorable rise of inequality, and the rise of the internet and the ability of online politics to shine the light on the malevolence of political classes but not really yet build alternatives, and you have a perfect storm.

So then comes the issue: what is to be done?

Efforts to improve representative democracy at EU level must continue to be pursued, even if they deliver flawed results. To bemoan Juncker, or to replace him with someone with even less legitimacy than the little he enjoys from the Spitzenkandidat process, takes us towards option two above rather than option three. Representative politics ends up with parties or groupings within a parliament whether we like it or not, and group dynamics often mean ending up with undesirable individuals, but as Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government except all others yet invented. We should not judge representative politics at EU level according to standards that the national level cannot achieve.

The plight of parties themselves needs more attention, with the emphasis being on improving openness of decision making and participation in the future. The Greens showed what can be done with an open primary to choose their Commission President candidates – all political parties need to do this in future, and to do this EU-wide. The internet means we can participate in more organisations, but less often and and less intensively; pressure groups have begun to understand this, but few classical political parties have begun the process of opening up. I would also like to see EU-wide election lists for the European Parliament although I remain cautious about a direct election of the Commission President (do we want an EU equivalent of Hollande or Obama?)

What needs doing at what level also needs to be assessed, and this assessment needs to encompass both the EU level, and states, and this question is political as much as it is constitutional. This is the reason I favour independence for Scotland and for Catalonia, and – in principle – I am fine with it for any region where there is a clear rationale and clear advantages. As finance and business are increasingly global, this can in part be balanced by radical decentralisation of the things that politics can still decisively control (education, health, social security), and if that means the end of states as we know them, so be it.

As Angela Merkel so often says, the EU is 8% of the world’s population, 25% of world GDP, and yet has 50% of the world’s social spending. If Europeans are to shape how globalisation works, and to defend the social market economy that is so central to how Europeans live, the choice, as I see it, is stark – make sure that view of the world can be defended. Because there is no hope that individual European countries, without the EU, can possibly manage that.

In short, it is a matter of democratising and legitimising the EU, or face inexorable decline.

Non-Schengen (and non-French law?) compliant border control at Perpignan, 31st May, 1106


Three officers of the French Police Nationale boarded TGV 9702 at Perpignan at around 11am on 31st May, reaching my seat at 1106. The TGV was still stationary in Perpignan at this time, due to an obstacle on the tracks further north that held the train in the station approximately 30 minutes after its scheduled 1051 departure time.

In Perpignan two TGV sets are coupled together – the one in which I was travelling had arrived from Barcelona, and another empty set is added at Perpignan. The doors of my set had nevertheless been opened for passengers to disembark and, importantly, embark (at least 4 passengers came and took their places in my carriage), meaning not all passengers on the train were arriving from Spain. I cannot vouch for other carriages, but all passengers in my carriage (number 16, upper floor) were controlled, and the police had boarded the train more than 5 minutes before they controlled me as I had seen them on the platform. On this, once more, we are back to the headache of what is systematic, or not.

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