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Malmström, TTIP, ISDS and disappearing tweets

This tweet by @BenC42, at 2110 this evening, alerted me to a potentially interesting development in the negotiation of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP):

This pointed me to a press release from the S&D Group in the EP, dated today but not timed, where David Martin MEP welcomes words by Trade Commissioner nominate Cecilia Malmström that she is willing to remove investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) from TTIP (one of the most controversial aspects of the proposed trade deal).

Then at 2217 comes this tweet from Malmström:

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 22.35.30

This is however only a screenshot (from Tweetbot, my Twitter app, hence why it looks different to the tweet above from @BenC42), because the tweet was deleted within minutes. This was the original URL of it.

Malmström then followed up with this reply to me:

I am trying to get to the bottom of this, because the document that seems to have been the basis of the S&D Group’s Press Release – be that the right version or the wrong version – does not seem to be available in public.

Even if the wrong version of a document ended up going to the EP from the Commission it’s nevertheless interesting that ISDS was potentially going to be dropped in an initial draft, and at the very least this is administratively embarrassing to the Commission.

If I get more background information about this case I will update the post accordingly. Thanks so far to @BenC42, @GlynMoody, @ibuscke and @MalmstromEU herself for the clarification.

[UPDATE - 26.9.14, 2256]
Turns out that what Malmström would claim is the wrong version of the document – which is actually her written answers to the EP before her hearing next week – has been put up on his website by the Green MEP Sven Giegold here. The text that’s caused the fuss is this (my emphasis):

As the President-elect Juncker has committed himself to in his Political Guidelines – and I quote –, “the Commission will negotiate a reasonable and balanced trade agreement with the United States of America, in a spirit of mutual and reciprocal benefits and transparency. Europe’s safety, health, social and data protection standards or our cultural diversity will not be sacrificed on the altar of free trade. No limitation of the jurisdiction of courts in the EU Member States will be accepted in this context; this clearly means that no investor-State dispute settlement mechanism will be part of that agreement.” I fully support this approach of the President-elect and will work in this sense in the negotiations, which are ongoing and where this issue is on the table.

[UPDATE - 28.9.14, 1600]
I have had a crazy schedule the last few days, so haven’t updated this until now, but a few things have happened in the last 36 hours…

This tweet by Nicholas Whyte on Saturday afternoon

examines Juncker’s statement on this issue, that are rather similar to the words used by Malmström, and that statement from Juncker is dated 15th July, confirmed here by Juncker’s Chef de Cabinet Selmayr. So, is this whole thing a storm in a tea cup?

On Sunday Tagesschau in Germany have started reporting on this (text of the news story in German here – and better late than never, only 36 hours after this blog entry first went up!), and that Malmström has sent a re-drafted version of the document in question to the EP. Tagesschau says it has the document, but does not link to it, and Giegold has not published it either. The document should be available tomorrow (Monday) in any case.

Lastly, and slightly tangentially, David Meyer has written a piece about letters from Malmström obtained by a Freedom of Information Request in the USA regarding data protection, seeming to indicate she was undermining Viviane Reding on this issue. While not directly related to TTIP, looking to be too close to the USA might make Malmström’s hearing in the EP next week extra bumpy.

[UPDATE 29.9.14, 1015]
Euraffex has more on the story here. The section of their piece entitled “A new version – the mystery continues” is the crucial one. The new version of the document sent to the EP now makes no commitment from Malmström herself to get rid of ISDS, but lays this firmly with Juncker’s earlier statements, as explained above.

[UPDATE 29.9.14, 1535]
So perhaps it wasn’t just an administrative error of the “wrong version” after all. From Malmström’s hearing:


David Cameron EU Referendum Speech 2017 (find-replace from Aberdeen 2014)

CameronClactonMockupFast forward to 2017, and somehow David Cameron is still Prime Minister, and the UK (or rUK?) is facing its referendum on remaining in the EU. The polls show a clear lead for keeping the UK in the EU (the NO side), led by Cameron, until Nigel Farage calls upon Alex Salmond style tactics, the polls narrow, and in the last week the Westminster political class panics. YES to leave the EU could win. Cameron dusts down his speech made on 15th September 2014 in Aberdeen, runs a find and replace, and gives it again, this time about the European Union, at Clacton-on-Sea in Essex.

The find-replace was run as follows:

“country” replaced with “continent”
“United Kingdom” replaced with “European Union”
“UK” replaced with “EU”
“Scotland” replaced with “United Kingdom”
“Scots” replaced with “British”
“Scottish” replaced with “British”
“Brit” replaced with “European”
“Edinburgh” replaced with “London”
“London” replaced with “Brussels”
“British Parliament” replaced with “Westminster”

So here’s the speech. The Aberdeen original is here. The idea to do this came from tweets between @alberto_cottica @adrianshort @dominiccampbell @svaroschi and I.

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Rehn is more than an “expert”, and Tusk and Mogherini are not “diplomats”

guardian-euwords

When Blair was rumoured to want the job, the President of the European Council position was branded President of the EU by the British Press. Now Donald Tusk has been appointed to the position The Guardian went the other way, running a story on Saturday entitled “EU leaders pick new top diplomats”, referring to Tusk and the new High Representative for Foreign Policy, Federica Mogherini.

These terms actually matter. For me “top diplomats” implies Ambassadors – i.e. administrative people representing a country outside its borders. That is clearly not what Tusk and Mogherini are, although granted they do both play some foreign policy role. Just reverse the scenario though – would Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary, ever be referred to as Britain’s “top diplomat” by The Guardian? I rather doubt it, so neither should Tusk or Mogherini.

The Guardian then followed up yesterday, calling ex-Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and current MEP, Olli Rehn, an “expert”. Yes, he is that, but his particular role is explicitly as a politician, and his views on Scotland were especially relevant due to his previous role as a Commissoner. He’s more than just an expert.

I do not quite know what is going on here. It could be that The Guardian’s journalists do not actually know what these posts do, and hence go for a kind of fudge headline instead (along the lines of Kosmopolit’s rules of lazy EU journalism). I nevertheless fear it is something deeper, and more patronising, and insipidly EU-critical – a kind of assumption that the readers are never going to know what happens in the EU’s corridors of power, and that they are all bureaucrats of some sort there, so just stick in some sort of bland word.

How, I must ask myself, can even politically astute people (The Guardian’s readers are not the same as the Daily Mail’s after all) possibly hope to understand what actually happens politically in Brussels if even The Guardian cannot correctly separate politics from administration in the EU?


Live stream: So was anything different? Europa-Nævnet København

Today I’m speaking at Europa-Nævnet in Copenhagen at their conference entitled “Is it any different?” (programme here) that looks at what happened in the 2014 EP elections in Denmark and more widely. The slides I am using are below, and can be downloaded here. If the wifi holds I will also be live streaming my speech – this will also be embedded below, streaming from my Bambuser channel.


Vacuum cleaners: EU law to solve a market failure so as to use less energy. What’s wrong with that?

Screen Shot 2013-11-15 at 14.25.53So the British tabloids, and plenty of folks on Twitter, have been having a rant about vacuum cleaners, and the EU EcoDesign rules that came into force this week banning the sale of vacuum cleaners rated at more than 1600W. A further round of changes will come into force in 2017, reducing this still further to 900W. I wrote about this issue back in November, and you can find some of the UK press reaction here and here (blow to our freedoms FTW!). Dutch supposedly Social Democrat European Commission nominee Timmermans has also weighed into this debate, saying the EU should be less paternalistic about such things, ignoring of course that Netherlands approved the original law (as Dick points out).

I think the basic point here is clear enough – it should generally be a good thing that vacuum cleaners, and indeed all electric goods, should use less electricity and, in the case of vacuum cleaners, this should not result in a loss of suction power. As UK inventor James Dyson has pointed out, the design of the cleaner is more important than the motor power anyway.

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EU enlargement, the UK and immigration – a recap, and a call to move on

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 09.11.12Nick Clegg has today joined the race among UK political parties to sound tough on immigration to the UK from the EU, and Mark Leonard (someone who ought to know better) has written a piece for the Fabian Society advocating that Labour ought to be tough too.

Let’s just quickly recap what happened with EU enlargement, and what it meant for immigration to the UK.

2004
Number of countries joining the EU: 10 (8 Central & Eastern Europe, and Malta and Cyprus)
Population of these countries: 75 million
Old EU Member States that allowed freedom of movement of citizens from these countries: UK, Sweden, Ireland
State of the UK economy then: relatively good
Result: a lot of people move to the UK from the new countries as a result.

2007
Number of countries joining the EU: 2 (RO, BG)
Population of these countries: 27 million
Old EU Member States that allowed freedom of movement of citizens from these countries: none (i.e. all of the old EU-15 Member States imposed transition periods)
State of the UK economy then: less good than in 2004, and by the end of the transition periods in 2014, bad
Result: 60000 move to the UK. Hardly a crisis.

2013-2020
Number of countries joining the EU: 1 (Croatia)
Population of that country: 4.5 million
Old EU Member States that allowed freedom of movement of citizens from these countries: none as far as I am aware, but Croatia is so small I’m not sure anyone is bothered
State of the UK economy then: transition periods end in 2020. We do not know what the UK economy will look like then.
Result: Croatia is so small, and 27 countries will open their borders in 2020, so the UK will not be flooded with Croats.

2020 onwards
Beyond 2020 we do not really know which countries will join when. The countries of the Western Balkans, and Iceland, could join – Serbia (7.1 million), Bosnia (3.8 million), Albania (3 million), Kosovo (1.7 million), Montenegro (0.6 million), Iceland (0.4 million) – that’s a total of 16.6 million. These countries are not going to join en masse, and transition periods of up to 7 years will be imposed by the whole EU-27. So floods of people from this region are unlikely. Turkey is currently going backwards in its efforts to join the EU due to the authoritarianism of Erdoğan, so is out of the picture for a long, long time.

So, here’s an idea for UK politicians: due to the fact that the major reunification of the Europe – the 2004 enlargement – is now complete, the problem of EU migration has largely passed (if indeed it was really ever a problem).

So why not just shut up about it, and just explain that things have moved on?


What does it take for the Commission to take a Schengen complaint seriously?

Back in May I was subjected to the most extraordinary border control identity check at Perpignan station. I have blogged the transcript of the encounter here, and sent this to the European Commission, hoping they see this as non-Schengen compliant. The redacted letter of response from the Commission is here:

schengen-perpignan2Reading this I now come to the conclusion that I do not know what I have to do to make the European Commission take any such complaint seriously. Continue Reading



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