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Danish Presidency Press Trip

Sometimes unexpected doors open thanks to blogging, and next week is one of those circumstances. I am spending four days (Monday-Thursday) in Copenhagen on the Danish Presidency Press Trip.

Did you even know Presidencies organise press trips? I didn’t before getting the invite to this.

Anyway, what am I going to try to do? I have the advantage – unlike the rest of the regular journalists on the trip – that I do not have pieces to file to newspapers or radio. I can choose my take, write as little or as much as I like. I’m going to try to give an impression of how a Presidency works, my impressions of the ministers and their level of knowledge of their briefs, and try to determine some of the prospects for Denmark’s stint as Presidency for the next 6 months. The trip features – among other things – briefings with Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Foreign Minister Villy SøvndalRadikale leader Margrethe Vestager, Minister of Finance Bjarne Corydon and Europe Minister Nicolai Wammen. As well as blogging I’ll be tweeting on the hashtag #eu2012dk.

For the sake of openness: my accommodation in Copenhagen is being paid for by the Danish Presidency (and I imagine that is the case for the other journalists attending). I am covering the costs of my own travel. I am not paid to blog or report on this. I am invited to attend thanks to contacts I’ve made in the past with communications people in the Danish Presidency, both in Copenhagen and Brussels.

Comments and questions you would like me to pose are most welcome!


24 Comments

  • Nicholas Whyte |

    You’re probably planning on asking this anyway, but do the Danes have any plans to deal with the dismal performance of Ashton and the EEAS? (For instance, ECFR had a good pamphlet out last year about how to tackle Russia – but that will need leadership from somewhere in the EU.)

    Also, given the likely imminent breakdown of the Cyprus talks and Turkey’s threat to boycott the EU if (as appears inevitable) the Greek Cypriot government holds the next presidency, do the Danes have any plans for a soft landing in EU-Turkey relations?

  • Ron (Polscieu) |

    I would also keep an eye on the journalists. Do they actually care to have a critical eye on the Presidency? In other words, does the trip help to develop a critical European public, including towards the Presidencies?

    For the rest, I agree that it’s worth testing how well the interlocutors are prepared for the briefs, how much is blabla and how much is actual knowledge. I’d take a look at the agendas of the upcoming Councils to see what they should know about… ;)

  • European Citizen |

    Thanks for sharing and welcoming questions, Jon!
    It would be good to know how the Danish government intends to bring forward the discussions on the amendments of Schengen and the possibility of reinstating national borders under certain conditions, especially given Denmark’s unilateral action of a few months ago when they reinstated customs (!!!) control.
    Also, what about the completion of the common European asylum system scheduled for 2012? Given that Denmark has opted out of the relevant EU asylum legislation, can we expect any progress in the negotiations?

  • John Capper |

    Thanks for the chance to suggest questions.

    We are all aware of the Economic Meltdown and the Banking and Sovereign debt crisis. The “too big to fail” dominant Big 4 audit networks did not highlight any uncertainty in Eu banks audit reports.

    How will the Danish Presidency take forward the urgent restructuring of the Audit Market for Listed Entities so as to open up the Market to more participants, to improve quality and to help reduce the systemic risk of failure in our Public Financial Markets?

  • Catriona Robertson |

    Thanks Jon – very kind of you to invite suggestions.

    Could you find out how Denmark is planning to implement Article 17 – how it will “maintain an open, transparent and regular dialogue with religious communities and philosophical and non-confessional organisations”?

    I’m particularly interested in ordinary, local people in Europe – grassroots networks, etc – not just religious and humanist hierarchies/leaders. At the moment the EU keeps the two (religious and humanist) separate
    and has very little ‘dialogue’. In real life, we all co-exist in Europe – it’s not about lobbying or ‘winning’, it’s about living well together and protecting human rights and freedoms. Which is why the EU needs to talk to ordinary people, not just leaders (who also tend to be men).

    Understanding religious and philosophical/non-confessional traditions is important for EU foreign policy (eg Arab Spring) and development aid. It’s also crucial in having an informed approach to the ‘popular right’ across Europe.

    I blogged on this after an EU event last year http://lbfn.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/eu-dialogue-religious-philosophical-organisations/

    Have a great time – never been to Denmark and would love to get a feel of things there.

    Catriona

  • Alexander Plahr |

    Are there any plans by the Danish presidency to finally scrap the flawed data retention directive that put 500 million EU citizens under general suspicion? Which (either it’s implementation or the directive directly) has been declared unconstitutional in a number of member states and which lacks and acceptance within cicil society?

  • CEJA |

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for the request for suggestions/questions and congratulations on your invitation!

    On behalf of European young farmers, CEJA (European Council of Young Farmers) would like to ask the Danish Presidency where it stands on the coming CAP reform, particularly in relation to greening of the CAP and the need to prioritise generational renewal in European agriculture in both Pillars, in light of the current age crisis in the sector.

    You can find more info on CEJA’s position here: http://ceja.eu/en/policy-and-publications/cap-reform

    Good luck with your trip!

    Best regards,
    Jess Fitch

  • Daniel Prior |

    Hi Jon!

    Congrats, I think its excellent to see a concerted effort made to introduce new voices into the occasionally narrow Brussels press-pack (though they do a great job!).

    I would love to know how the Danish presidency see the role of their presidency? Given that post-Lisbon the parameters of the presidency have been seen as up in the air, I would wonder if they have given any consideration to fundamentally re-orienting it, for instance by focussing primarily on reaching out to citizens of Europe alienated by the EU in recent years.

    Also in a more concrete way, how confident they really are about reconciling the different sides of the Energy Efficiency debate. They’ve flagged it as a priority but could find themselves on a hiding to nothing.

    Cheers and safe travels!

    Daniel

  • Thomas Lieven |

    Support question of John Capper – a key to recovery is restoring good + transparent management.

  • Jon |

    @Nicholas – I’ll ask Villy Søvndal about this if I can. I am sure others will as well.

    @Ron – agree re. the journos. See this about who is attending.

    @European Citizen – on Schengen: the new coalition in Denmark since the 15 Sept 2011, and they do not call Schegen into question. Or is there more to your Q that I haven’t understood?

    @John Capper – I will have a go, but I am not sure I will understand the answer on that! Not my area at all. I’ve tweeted Peter Spiegel from the FT about this.

    @Catriona – in principle OK to ask about it, but how would it work? Wouldn’t the Commission have to bring forward some sort of implementation guidelines?

    @Alexander – give me a little more detail here. I know of the controversy of the Data Retention Directive, but wouldn’t it be the Commission (Kroes?) who would need to move on this? Also there is no mention of it in the DK Pres Priorities (at least the short version).

    @CEJA / Jess – Already some discussion about budget priorities on the first day, more tomorrow. That will encompass CAP. I’ll report back.

    @Daniel – strikes me there is no deep thinking on the role of a Presidency here. It’s doing all the basics, it’s simple and low key. No major citizen outreach as far as I can see. There’s a session on energy tomorrow – will see what they think. Are they trying to conclude a Directive this Presidency?

  • Jon |

    @European Citizen – Europe Minister Wammen was just asked about Schengen, and the answer was v vague, and I don’t know what he said exactly. I’ll see what else I hear on this.

  • Daniel Prior |

    They flagged Energy Efficiency a month or so ago as a major priority and thought they could probably get an agreement (despite the various actors being poles apart) under their Presidency. This looks like it will be very difficult as the vote in the lead ITRE Committee has been postponed until end Feb at the earliest due to the colossal number of amendments: >1800. So trialogues will not be able to start until at least March.

    Might be worth asking if they are going to have to re-jig the priorities as a result.

  • European Citizen |

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks :) Perhaps this would help:
    http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/11/1036
    The Commission proposed that:
    In case of serious deficiencies in the application of the Schengen rules, such as if a Member State fails to adequately protect a part of the EU’s external border, support measures including technical and financial support from the Commission, from Member States, from FRONTEX or other agencies like Europol or the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), can be taken. If, however, notwithstanding these support measures, serious deficiencies persist, a decision to allow a temporary reintroduction of internal border controls can be taken. Any such last resort measure would be taken at the EU level, thereby avoiding unilateral decisions by individual Member States and establishing a collective approach to protect our common interests.

    Does Denmark agree such decision should only be possible at EU level?
    also, I would be interested in how they plan to help complete the common European asylum system is completed in 2012.

  • Catriona Robertson |

    Thanks Jon

    Not sure who is the chicken & who the egg here – Commission or Presidency – but it must be someone’s responsibility to start implementing a Lisbon Article :)

    Re how would it work – for racism, they don’t just talk to a dozen BAME people once a year and call it a day, they are in touch with the European Network Against Racism (700 member organisations) in order to get a better idea of what’s really happening out on the streets, at work, etc.

    The network I and others across Europe are working towards is beginning to do the same for non-confessional and religious groups – bringing intercultural and anti-discrimination groups together as a network to support human rights, oppose EDL/SIOE-type arguments.

    It’s good to share expertise & experience and to support each other, but the network (like ENAR) could also be one of the sounding boards and sources of information for EU institutions. They already admit they need greater competency in this area.

    Hope it all goes well – Catriona

  • Anna |

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for this opportunity – we wondered about this . . .

    From the concluding publication of the 2002 Danish Presidency, ‘One Europe: From Copenhagen to Copenhagen’ – the Danish Presidency boasted that they had created ‘One Europe’. In the 10 years that have passed since this moment, many things have changed. However, an area that has yet to see enough promised change is the area of violence against women, which was a key priority area in 2002. The Belgian and Swedish Presidencies saw lots of work on VAW, but the area has received scant attention in the Presidencies since then. What does the Danish presidency plan to do to ensure concrete progress on combating violence against women, given the apparent lack of leadership from the Council? In view of what the Danish Presidency achieved last time, and the legacy that they bequeathed, what concrete steps will the Presidency take to make Europe safe for all of its citizens?

    The Danish Presidency has declared that one of their key priorities for the Presidency will be a ‘Safe Europe’ (p. 7, Programme of the Danish Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2012: 1 January – 30 June 2012). But this concept of safety fails to address violence against women, a daily reality for one in five women that costs 34 billion Euros to each state (according to the Council of Europe)? The Presidency’s programme document acknowledges that the crisis must not be allowed to overshadow needed developments. What actions will the Danes take to end violence against women, including harmful practices such as female genital mutilation in the EU and in the world?

    Thanks again Jon,

    Best,

    Anna

  • Jon |

    @Daniel – Energy Minister saying the Energy Efficiency Directive the “major priority” for him in the DK Pres. But in his initial statement no commitment on whether it will be achieved. I’ll try to ask a question in a moment.

  • Jon |

    @Daniel – Energy Minister Østergaard replies to question on energy efficiency directive – reply was that a binding target of 20% on energy efficiency is unviable, as Member States are entrenched in their positions on that. The DK Presidency will instead seek to maintain the wording that says ‘binding measures’ instead.

  • Jon |

    @Daniel – apologies – previous comment should read Lidegaard and not Østergaard. I was getting my ministers confused. And Lidegaard was rather stern in his tone about the 1800 EP amendments, but the directive is still the number 1 priority.

  • Jon |

    @Nicholas – OK, here are the answers on the EEAS issue, from the briefing today from Søvndal. He said that Denmark did not sign the letter of the 12 “because we are the Presidency”, leaving it open as to whether they would have signed were they not the Presidency! He had some vague words of support for Ashton, saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.

    He was also asked about the UK’s obstructive approach to allowing the EU to speak with one voice in international bodies (more on that from CER yesterday here) and said it was “not very clever” for the EU to not be able to speak with one voice. We are a small country he said, and we need the EU to work together.

  • Jon |

    @European Citizen – Bødskov on Schengen enlargement to BG, RO: “We hope that a solution will be found as soon as possible. All states should be measured according to the same standards.” He says Presidency will endeavour to “find a solution everyone can accept.”

    Bødskov also confirms he wants a referendum on the two Danish opt-outs – the defence opt-out and the JHA opt out. Wants to move to an opt-in model in these areas. No commitment on when such a referendum might take place.

  • Jon |

    @Anna – I have been able to ask Justice Minister Bødskov about this, at the end of his briefing, asking why dealing with the issue of violence against women is not an issue for the Presidency this time. He claims is quite the contrary – that the Victim Rights Package is a priority for the Presidency, and – EP permitting – he hopes to make progress on this. I’m not altogether convinced by this answer. You?

  • Anna |

    Hi Jon,

    Thanks for this – we’re not convinced either – like an earlier commenter, not sure whose deciding to be the chicken or the egg.

    The victim’s rights package will fail to prevent women from becoming victims as it only focuses on the rights and protections of individuals only *after* they become victims. How can we prevent women from being subjected to violence? The European Parliament is continuing to demand that the EU develop a strategy on violence against women, including female genital mutilation. Why is the Council not responding to this demand?

    Also, by signing the newly adopted Council of Europe Convention on violence against women (which 18 countries have signed; Denmark is yet to sign), the EU can ensure it prevents and protects women and girls from all forms of violence. Will the Danish Presidency ensure the EU and it’s own government sign the Convention?

    Thanks again,

    Anna

So, what do you think ?