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Apr 162008

In the previous post we presented 5 recent studies by the Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies. In this posting we will have a closer look at document 2008:02 The EU Budget Review: Mapping the Positions of Member States.

The study basically consists of two parts, the first one based on a survey with responses from 167 experts, decision makers and business persons in 23 Member States, the other on country papers, reviewing more or less official positions of 8 member states.

The authors are, of course, very well aware of the lack of representativity and other statistical fallacies of the sample survey. Nevertheless, some very interesting information can be gleaned from the results.

To start with, dissatisfaction was great with present System of Own Resources (the way in which the EU budget is financed). Transparency, autonomy, fairness and efficiency were rated as poor – only “sufficiency” received a somewhat higher rating. The expenditure structure was rated even more harshly.

Interestingly enough, more than 20 % of the respondents would prefer a considerably larger EU budget than 1.5 % of the GNI (the present ceiling is 1.24 % – the actual budgets are as a rule lower than 1 %). Figures in a range of 2 to 15 (!) % Continue reading »

Apr 142008

The Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies (SIEPS) two days ago published no less than 5 different studies as a contribution to the ongoing EU budget review. It is a truly European undertaking with contributions by experts from several countries. The project leader was Mr. Jonas Eriksson, M.Sc.Econ. of SIEPS.

SIEPS has the good sense to publish their reports on-line. Titles and links are given below and we will revert in the coming days to some of the studies, in particular, “The EU Budget Review: Mapping the Position of Member States“, a report which is based on a unique enquête of experts as well as country papers.

2008:01 The Purse of the European Union: Setting Priorities for the Future.

2008:02 The EU Budget Review: Mapping the Positions of Member States

2008:03 Can Reforming Own Resources Foster Policy Quality?

2008:04 Turning the EU Budget into an Instrument to Support the Fight against Climate Change.

2008:2epa A Better Budget for Europe: Economically Efficient,
Politically Realistic

(Full disclosure: Your blogger has worked with SIEPS latest with the study From Policy Takers to Policy Makers.)

Apr 092008

A few hours ago, the Austrian Parliament, ratified the Lisbon Treaty as the 8th member state of the Union.  The 155 votes of  Social Democrats, Conservative/Liberals and Greens stood against the 28 votes of the post-fascist FPÖ and BZÖ. The leader of the non-voters ended his speech with the words “Gott schütze Österreich” (God save Austria) which was a direct quotation from Chancellor Schuschnigg’s speech in 1938 when he cancelled a referendum on the national independence of Austria and left the  doors open for the German army which marched into Austria two days later, the beginning of a 7 year Nazi rule of the country.

Needless to say both the leaders of the Social Democrats and the Conservatives were very upset by this allusion. The most forceful rebuttal, however, came from the leader of the Green Party. This Party without hesitation endorsed the Treaty but at the same time made it very clear what kind of changes in Europe they were going to work for.

Even the extra-parliamentarian  and activist group “Attack”  presented an alternative policy for Europe but did in no way demand that Austria should leave the Union.

All this throws a sharp light on the policy of the Swedish Green  Party. As we have reported before, the two spokespersons (they are “chairmen” really) are advocating a change in the EU-policy of the party in order to be able to use the EU cooperation and institutions as a platform for their policy. They are not likely, however, to get the support of the upcoming Party Congress (the official name is more “grass-root” like, but for the moment we have forgotten what it is).  The Steadfast Tin Soldier of this blog (SW) still represents the silent majority of the party. It’s a pity since Sweden would need a modern European friendly party, basically endorsing free markets and in particular small enterprise but with a strong social engagement and, of course, an emphasis on environment and climate change. There would be a great voter potential for such a party, like for instance for the Austrian Greens, whereas the sectarian tendencies of the Swedish party only will marginalize them even further.

(Also, it is an irony, that those who want Sweden to leave the EU, would vote against a Treaty that for the first time would include a procedure for exit.)

Apr 032008

Today’s ruling of the European Court of Justice in the case Dirk Rüffert v. Land Niedersachsen has already led to strong reactions in Sweden and Denmark. The Chair of the EP:s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs, Mr. Jan Andersson, calls the ruling (SW) “unfortunate” and “a deafeat for Europe’s wage earners.” Swedish MEP Åsa Westlund (SW) calls the ruling a   “set-back for the Swedish model” and argues that it is wrong in principle that the Court makes political decisions. According to Europa-Nytt, (SW) Swedish and Danish Trade Union representatives find the ruling unwelcome but are of the opinion that it will not affect the situation in Denmark or Sweden.  Predictably, the Swedish Employers Association welcomes the Court’s ruling.

The ruling of the Court (EN) can be read here. An angry reaction from the European Trade Union Confederation (EN) calls the ruling “destructive and damaging.” A quick analysis of the consequences from a Swedish point of view is given by Europa-Nytt (SW).

It would be a daring undertaking to summarize the ruling in a few words but, as far as we understand, the main point is that Trade Unions can only demand that workers from other member states are paid according to the national minimum wage or a national collective agreement but not according to local conditions which may grant workers higher wages in a Continue reading »

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.