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Jan 022009

Feel like a smoke? Welcome to Austria and all its famous cafés and excellent restaurants. True, there have been some restrictions imposed lately but no-one has noticed  or cared. As of Jan 1st this year a new law has entered into force prohibiting smoking on all premises to which the general public has access which includes localities where food and drink is served. Fortunately there are so many exceptions to this obligation that no change is likely. (Vienna Airport Continue reading »

Jun 232008

Mr Christopher Johnson, “former chief economic adviser to a London clearing bank” in an article in Financial Times complains about the bad exchange rates he gets when travelling to Europe or sends money to his relatives in France. It was better, he explains, in the times when “Lord Northcliffe was the proprietor (of the Times and) he ordered a man to be ready in the office with a bag of gold sovereigns for any correspondent called on to cross the Channel to cover an urgent story.”

Yes, the good old days! But here is a chief economic (and free) advice to Mr. Johnson: Have your country adopt the Euro and at least part of your problems will be solved! 

Jun 172008

It appears that the opposition leader, Ms Sahlin, has changed her mind and now feels that Sweden should continue the ratification process although there are dissenting voices in her party. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the other hand, is quite clear: Sweden should go ahead. On his blog (SW) he makes the point that whereas Ireland voted for Ireland,  Sweden should vote for Sweden. Back from Luxembourg he claims that “all others”, including Ireland, was of the same opinion.

It seems pretty obvious that the best way ahead would be ensure a ratification by the 26 and then find a solution for Ireland, with or without a new referendum. In spite of some well considered and argued comments to the contrary, I still fail to see that 862 415 Irishmen and -women should have the final say on this issue. As Mr. Bildt more or less put it the Irish voted for themselves and all others should do the same thing. The demand for “Proportionality” is normally very strong  in EU contexts: why don’t we hear it now?

Jun 142008

So 0.173175 % of the EU population has voted “No” to the Treaty of Lisbon and thereby the whole process is stopped, and the decisions (at least potential) of 26 democratically elected governments, accountable to their democratically elected Parliaments and representing 497 137 585 Europeans are nullified. Anyone else thinking this is somewhat peculiar?

Obviously, the results of a democratic referendum should be respected. Equally obvious is that it should have consequences only for Ireland. It is important now that the ratification process continues and that, when finished, a separate solution is found for Ireland.

Unfortunately, Swedish opposition leader Mona Sahlin already “scents thee morning air” and has stated that the Swedish Parliament ought “to apply the hand-break” to the ratification process in the hope of attracting eurosceptics from all parties at a moment when her comfortable lead in the opinion polls has begun to crumble.

Swedish EU-blogger and MEP Åsa Westlund approvingly quotes the comments to the Irish “no” from the Secretary General of the European Trade Union Confederation :”For far too long, Europe has paid too little attention to the expectations and rights of workers and others who feel threatened by globalisation and the pace of change.”  Fine, I agree, but fail to understand what this has to do with the ratification of the Treaty of Lisbon excepts in so far as it gives a Denkzettel  to a Government whose policies you don’t like.  Challenges such as those mentioned by the Secretary General of ETUC and others, for instance those connected with climate change, energy, food prices and geopolitical upheavals should make it all the more urgent to work for a strong and efficent European Union.

Apr 012008

Commissioner Jan Figel, in charge of Education, Training, Culture and Youth which includes the General Directorate of  Education and Culture which also comprises a Sports Unit, today in a specially convened press conference announced that the EU will participate in this year’s European Football Championship (Euro 2008) with one integrated team, instead of each member country representing only itself. The opposing teams will thus be limited to Turkey, Switzerland, Croatia and Russia.  The UK and Denmark have opted out of the participation in the common team. Sweden has not opted out but has nevertheless no intention to participate in the EU team.  Those countries, except the non-qualified UK and Denmark, may also participate on an individual basis.

Since the European Flag and Anthem have been struck from the Lisbon Treaty, the EU team will be introduced by a minute of silence.  In the event of the team winning the gold medal the national anthems of all participating member states will be played at the ceremony. Since nobody seems to know the Belgian National Anthem it will probably not be played with the others.

In a last minute compromise in the Council of Ministers, Poland agreed to join the team in exchange of a guaranteed participation of at least three Polish players in the matches. In addition Holy Mass will be said at the beginning of each match.

Mar 242008

Dagens Nyheter reports from the Emigration Fair (Emigratiebeurs) in Utrecht, the Netherlands, that 38 % of the Dutch population wants to move away from  ”urban congestion” and “racism” and, not the least, “traffic jams”. The Northern countries appear to be at the top of the wish list of the prospective emigrants. The interest and participation in the fair increases from year to year and a large number of Swedish towns and municipalities are present, mainly from rural and peripheral areas with decreasing population. Obviously, the immigration of well behaved and highly educated people with good knowledge of languages is a highly attractive perspective in contrast to…well, let’s leave that for the moment. Several municipalities also report very succesfull results, with the Dutch immigrants setting up enterprises (very often camping sites!), thus creating employment and the possibility to keep otherwise threatened schools and small shops alive.

Statistics show that 58 % of people interested in leaving  Holland would prefer to move to another EU country. Out of  15 countries, the four Scandinavian ones are at the top whereas Austria takes the 10th place. Sweden appears prominently, Continue reading »

Mar 102008

So the PSOE won the Spanish elections, probably a good thing for Spain and certainly for Europe. Next important election as far as European cooperation is concerned, will obviouly be the one in Italy.

It is moderately amusing to think that for a very long time there has always been one notorius troublemaker within the EU. With time the country in question has joined ranks on most issues and left its place as Störenfried to someone else.  First there was France, then Greece, then Spain and now Poland. (The UK, of course is in a league of its own). “E la nave va“,  as the motto for the commeration of the Treaty of Rome said

There will now be a pause of about 7 – 10 days on this blog. Meanwhile, please think about protectionism (a good thing after all?) and about euroblogging.

Feb 092008

In two countries so far the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is being held up, although in both cases there is a sound majority for the proposal.

In Slovakia the parliamentary opposition  -which supports the Treaty- refuses to vote in protest against a Government proposal for a new Press Law which is considered to constrain freedom of the press. The opposition is also generally dissatisfied with the leadership style of the Prime Minister, Mr. Foco. The vote has been postponed indefinitely.

In Denmark the matter has not yet been put to vote but the Prime Minister, Mr Fogh Rasmussen, no longer has the necessary majority since the Social Democrats and two smaller parties threaten to stop the ratification  (DK) unless they get guarantees that the so called Waxholm Case will have no impact on the Danish Labour Market Legislation, particularly Continue reading »

Feb 072008

The French National Assembly today voted for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty (“The Reform Treaty”) with 336 votes for and 52 against. The Upper House, The Senate, is expected to vote later today or tomorrow, Friday. The Treaty can thereafter be formally signed by President Sarkozy.

This would make France the fifth of the 27 member states to ratify the treaty, after  Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Malta. The French ratification takes on a special significance since the French “no” in the referendum on the original text in Continue reading »