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May 192008

Swedish website Europa-Nytt in a laconic statement  (SW) informs its 20000 readers that it is closing down. This site with daily EU-news has rapidly developed into the best source for Swedish language news about Europe. All articles have been categorized so that it has been very easy to check up on what has been happening within a special policy area. In addition, Chief Editor Ylva Nilsson has written longer analytical pieces from time to time , often spiced up with a pinch of sardonic humor – a rare thing in the political discourse.

To publish and manage such an ambitious site is a full time job. After an  attempt, apparently unsuccessful, to finance the site through subscriptions it is now being closed down.  We have written earlier (SW) about the deplorable state of EU coverage in Swedish mainstream media. There is a certain number of Euroblogs, several of them well worth reading, but most of them written from various political points-of-view. Europaportalen is good but remains a forum for debate and discussion rather than for factual information. The disappearance of Europa-Nytt leaves a huge gap in the Swedish EU coverage.

We see a problem of a  democratic deficit here.  To leave the EU coverage to commercialized mass media (reporting whatever sells, preferably negative things or scandals) or to representatives of political parties or organizations is not only dangerous but will invariably lead to a fatigue and alienation of the general public. The disappearance of Europa-Nytt must unfortunately also be seen in such a perspective. It would be, however, unrealistic, not to say unfair, to expect bloggers or journalists to remedy this in a broad and systematic way, solely driven by idealistic motives. But who would be prepared shoulder the financial responsibility?

May 062008

The Lone Star

The site Europa-Nytt, which has rapidly developed into the best and quickest Swedish source for day-to-day news from or concerning the EU, draws our attention to the Swedish celebration of the Europe Day on May 9. The heading reads (SW): “Sweden celebrates Europe without troublesome Europeans.” And indeed, when we look at the official program for the celebrations we notice that the ambitious seminar program announces 32 speakers of which 1 (one) non-Swedish, namely Danish Agricultural Commissioneer Mariann Fischer Boel.  We note the title of one of the seminars: “How do we create conditions for growth, jobs and regional development in Europe?” Another seminar will discuss the Euro and participants are explicitly admonished to stick to the issue, whatever that might mean.

The logo, which we file-share above, says perhaps much more than any comments that we might make.

May 052008

In our previous posting we reported on the rather gloomy outlook of Swedish researchers on the possibility of fundemental reform of the way the EU budget is financed.  The present post will review a contribution to the Budget Review from the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies where researcher Sándor Richter not only reviews the development of the infamous net financial positions as well as the various reform proposals that have been tabled but also presents a radical proposal of his own. In contrast to the attitudes displayed in the surveys undertaken by Swedish Sieps, Richter neither joins those who pretend that the problem will go away of its own nor those who, shrugging their shoulders accept the impossibility of changing the attitudes of the member states.

The study “Facing the Monster of ‘Fair Return’” starts by a review of the actual development of the “net positions” over the period 1997 - 2006. The so called major net payers (Netherlands, Germany, Sweden and Austria) achieved a relief in their negative net position as of 2002 through an ad hoc decision that they only would have to pay 25 % of their share of financing the budget shortfall caused by the British Budget Rebate. Whereas this led only to minor positive adjustments for the Netherlands and Germany, Sweden and above all Austria could enjoy substantial reductions in their deficits: the net position of Sweden improved from -0.40 % of GNI in 2001 to -0.28 % in 2006 and that of Austria went from -o.21 to -0.12 % of GNI over the same period. Since the budget shortfalls created by these adjustments had to be covered by other member states, the net positions of Denmark, France, Finland and Italy deteriorated correspondingly. The British net position, which amazingly was positive in 2001 fell to -0.11 % of GNI in 2006. Continue reading »