Bengt O.

Oct 062009
 

I see in the EU Observer that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is seen “as too young by some EU officials” with respect to the job as the new EU “Foreign Minister.” The guy is 60. He is also considered as too “anti-Russian”. German ex-minister Steinmeier, another candidate, is considered as too “pro-Russian.” Makes you wonder: exactly how Russian should you be for this job?

Btw: Time to revive the “Anyone But Blair” campaign?

Oct 052009
 

So the Irish have voted and agreed to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. In addition President Kaczyñski of Poland has promised to sign, maybe even this week. The reality is that the future of the Union then lies in the hand of one single man and not a very nice one at that. The tactics of President Klaus of the Czech Republic clearly are to delay his signature until after a conservative election victory in England, perhaps in April next year. A resounding “no” in a British referendum is of course a foregone conclusion.

This is of course an absurd situation. The new Treaty will, albeit to a limited extent, prevent some abuses of the veto power. That would at last be a step in the right direction.

Remains, however the problem of England. England has already opted out of central  parts of the new Treaty. Conservative sources have indicated that a new government will do everything in its power to “repatriate powers” from Brussels to London, particularly in the fields of social and employment legislation, home affairs and justice.

This will, however, not be achieved without difficulty since every change must be approved by all member states which the British may counter by hijacking other cooperation measures through a veto. England would practically withdraw from Continue reading »

Jul 052009
 

There seems to be very few Swedish Euroblogs focusing on an international audience and my own modest attempts are quite irregular and ad hoc. Only recently was  I made aware of an excellent Swedish blog in English language called Mats Engström on European politics  which it is a pleasure to recommend. Mats is a journalist with an extensive experience of European affairs and a very good insight in Swedish europolicies which will be particularly valuable during the Swedish Presidency.  I have been following Mats’ Swedish blog Europabloggen for a long time but, as I said, only recently noticed that he also publishes in English. This one is also more personal and -to be frank- more interesting than the Swedish version which is somewhat constrained by being published by the daily Aftonbladet.

In my personal blogroll of Swedish euroblogs his is the only non-Swedish language one. There may be others but they are not well known.

Jun 242009
 

Mohammad Ali Abtahi Mohammad Ali Abtahi

‘Worst than that, one of my friends who lives in Germany told me once that there they have a kind of sausage which is made of pork’s blood!! I didn’t let him continue the story since I was sure that I won’t like to hear the rest.’”

(From my Swedish blog, July 2004)

Muhammad Ali Abtahi, one of Iran’s vice-presidents under president Khatami but also a very active blogger has been arrested in Teheran. Nothing is known about his fate so far. On his bilingual site (Farsi and English) Abtahi used to provide unique inside information from Iran. But he also wrote about personal and everyday things in his own special English. I have quoted his views on “Blunz’n” or blood sausage above.

Abtahi obviously had to be very cautious and guarded in his writing. However, it was not too difficult to read between the lines. After the recent presidential elections he seems to have thrown his usual cautiousness over board and written this article from which the above heading has been taken. Obviously this was too much for the oppressive regime.

Reporters without Borders” report that at least 33 journalists and “cyber-dissidents” haven been jailed and several others warned. Media attention will probably die down in a few days but we must never forget the brutalities of the Teheran theocracy.

If the EU had had a strong common foreign and security policy, we might have been able to do something. As it is now, EU leaders have to confine themselves to “express their concern”…

Jun 082009
 

Just a quick comment to the results of yesterday’s EP election. Contrary to the general trend the participation rate in Sweden increased from 37.8 % to 43.1. In all likelihood this is mainly a result of the appearance of the Pirate Party which got 7.1 % of the vote and 1 seat (2 seats if Lisbon get in force – which of course now seems increasingly unlikely, particularly because of the disastrous results in the UK and Ireland).

On the surface some tendencies in the Swedish results would look encouraging. The EU-critical, not to say hypocritical, parties faced a disaster. The ex-communists could see their share of the vote halved and the peculiar “Junilistan” lost their 3 seats and were eliminated. The most out-spoken pro-EU party, the Peoples Party, increased their share strongly and will get one additional seat. The biggest parties, both on the Government and the opposition side, which both have been Continue reading »

May 312009
 

One week before election day it may well be that previous estimates of participation rates in Sweden will turn out to have been way too low. It is true that TV-debates between party leaders mainly focus on domestic policy issues and that many people still have very vague ideas about the competences of the EP. Nevertheless, the feeling that the EP and the election are important seems to be growing. Former Minister of Justice, Thomas Bodström, writes on his blog (our translation): “In the previous election I always got the question: why should we vote in the EP-election? This time people ask: for whom should we vote in the election”. Our guess at the present moment is that we will be in for a surprise with a comparatively strong showing at the polls.

One very important factor in this context is a very strong element of personal campaigning of candidates - Continue reading »

May 132009
 

In an interview with the Swedish Daily Dagens Industri, the Swedish Prime Minister Mr. Reinfeldt says (my translation) that “the voters are rational, they realize that the EU election is not (as) decisive for their everyday life and for the future.” He continues to say that there is a “tremendous difference” between national parliamentary elections and elections to the EP since the EP “has no influence on formation of government or influence” [?]

This is a remarkable statement from the leader of the country that is next in turn for the Presidency. The Czech Presidency was an unmitigated disaster.  The statement by the Swedish Prime Minister makes us wonder if the Swedish one will be any better.  And does he really believe that the EP “is not (as) decisive for [the voters' ] everyday life and for the future”? At best this is irresponsible, at worst it reflects a tremendous lack of understanding of how the EU works.

There are well founded fears that the participation rate will be very low even if political parties Continue reading »

May 052009
 

Untergang des Abenlandes

The above is an EP election poster in Vienna for the FPÖ, the right wing party once revived by Jörg Haider, now in the hands of extremist populists, worse than Haider and not so sophisticated.  “Our course is clear: The West should stay in Christian hands” is an approximate translation. In addition the general theme of the campaign: “The Day of Reckoning.”

The poster is of course directed against Turkish membership, perhaps also against immigration from Muslim countries,  but I wonder whether it would be possible to formulate it this way in any other member country?

On a more scurrilous note: The top candidate of the conservative party, ÖVP, is former Minister of the Interior Ernst Strasser. While still Minister, Mr. Strasser once organized a Press Conference where he announced that he had just watched a documentary from Iceland called Citizen Cam. This film showed how crime and street violence had been eradicated in Reykjavik through the  setting up of 400 video cameras in the streets of the city, all sending live on Icelandic TV!  This had quickly become the most popular TV-channel in Iceland.  Because of its apparent success, Mr. Strasser proposed that the same kind of system should be introduced in Vienna.

What Mr. Strasser hadn’t understood was that the film (shown in the French/German Arte channel) was a so called “mockumentary”, that is to say entirely fictitious but pretending to be a documentary. It had been made as a contribution to the discussion of video surveillance and personal integrity.

In order to give this post a Nordic touch, please let me inform you that “Austrian Minister of the Interior” is called ”innanríkisrádherra Austurrikis” in Icelandic.

Jan 262009
 

MEPs, mainly the Socialist fraction, have responded angrily to the Commission’s rejection of the EP report on challenges to collective agreements in the EU. The MEPs had requested legislative action as a response to a number of recent rulings by the European Court of Justice, seen to threaten to system of collective agreements and the rights of trade unions to protect workers from other member countries when working in another country. (For a summary of those cases see link list at the site of the European Trade Union Conference.)

This issue has taken on a great significance in Sweden since one of the first cases related to an Latvian firm working in Sweden (“The Laval case or the Vaxholm case.”). The Parliament rapporteur on the issue was Swedish MEP Jan Andersson, chairman of the Employment Committee.

In a press release from PSE one of the group’s vice presidents is quoted Continue reading »

Jan 082009
 

This is somehow a follow-up to the previous post on smoking in Austria. Leading daily newspaper Die Presse presents a guide to restaurants and cafés where you can smoke in peace. As if that would be a problem!

Comments from readers are hilarious: to prohibit smoking is an infringement on personal liberty. “Eating, sleeping, breathing (!), smoking and drinking are thousand year old traditions.” We must be tolerant: smokers should tolerate non-smokers and vice versa.