:::: MENU ::::
Browsing posts in: EU Politics

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.

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.

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.

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

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. Party: EPP [UPDATE: nomination confirmed 5.8.14 - news story here]

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, or possibly another portfolio. Party: PES [UPDATE: further info 1.8.14]

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 - Carlos Moedas (m) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something economic probably. Party: EPP. [UPDATE: this was confirmed 1.8.14]

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: S&D (corrected – initially said EPP)

Slovenia – has just held a snap election. No names yet known, but Alenka Bratušek (ALDE), Tanja Falon (PES) and outgoing Commissioner Janez Potočnik (non-aligned) are rumoured candidates – news story here [UPDATED 6.8.14].

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

Sweden – Cecilia Malmström (f) – Wikipedia, News Story. Wants: something more senior, and more politically interesting, than Home Affairs. Party: ALDE [UPDATE: confirmed 30.7.14]

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.