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
Swedish MEP Lars Wohlin, first founding member of the anti-EU “June List”, then “Christian Democrat”, now “Conservative” (?) in an advertising campaign in the leading Swedish newspapers, today (22/11), urges us not to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Sorry Lars, a waste of money, it’s already done.
Lars’ speciality is the difference between the short and long-term interest rates which, as we all know, is the source of all sorts of evil. Also he is of the opinion that the EU should not bother about various things. In most of his speeches in the Parliament he is trying to explain why he doesn’t want to vote. Unfortunately it is not very likely that the next EP will provide a platform for this profund wisdom since no party is likely to include Lars on their list. A pity, really, since it might mean his return to domestic politics.
Against our expectations the Parliament approved the proposal to ratify the Treaty with 243 yes, 39 against, 13 abstentions and 54 absent (!). We will come back to some very interesting results of the voting. (For Swedish speaking readers information on the voting of the individual parliamentarians is available here. Point 9, click on “Visa ledamöternas röster”.) There will be reasons for coming back to this, for the moment we only note that those members of the government parties who had announced their opposition to the proposal apparently lost their courage since only one of them actually voted “no” whereas others abstained or were conveniently absent. With a somewhat wry smile we note that Marita Ulvskog, designated top
Tomorrow (19/11) On Thursday (20/11) the Swedish Parliament will vote on the Treaty of Lisbon. In our previous post we have expressed some doubt as to the outcome, everyone else, however, seems to regard the approval as a foregone conclusion.
We have seen many articles and blog posts lately about how the financial crisis tends to rally countries -members or not- to the EU and the Euro. Ironically, in cases such as Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and Iceland this comes at a time when they are further from meeting the criteria of eligibility to the Eurozone than in a long time. Leading Austrian newspaper Die Presse carries an article with a heading that can be translated as The Crisis Forces Sceptics to the EU (DE). According to the article, Ireland may say “yes” in a new referendum provided they are guaranteed a Commissioner. Iceland, still according to Die Presse, will apply for membership in 2009 with the aim of becoming a member in 2011. The Danish Premier has
Sweden is one of the very few countries which have not yet ratified the Treaty of Lisbon. It is debatable how many there are with Poland’s obstructing -but basically powerless- President and the decision of the German Constitutional Court still outstanding. But it seems reasonable to conclude that Sweden and the Czech Republic are the only real laggards – Ireland obviously always excepted. Unfortunately those are also the two countries that will assume the EU Presidency in 2009. Difficulties are compounded by the fact that neither country belongs to the Eurozone.
Normally the Swedish Parliament would vote on the Treaty on November 20. The Treaty has already been approved by the Foreign Policy Committee. On paper, there would be a solid majority with the four Government parties and the Social Democratic opposition in favor of the ratification. However, things are not that simple, by far (SW).
First, 41 members of the Green and the Left Party will vote against ratification. In addition a mini-rebellion has broken
EU Observers reports that the famous, or rather infamous and certainly badly understood, proposal by the Committee on Culture and Education concerning blogs and bloggers “died on the floor of the European Parliament on Thursday 25 September.” What remains, according to the EU Observer, is a call for “an open discussion on all issues relating to the status of weblogs.” The Legislative Observatory, unfortunately, has not yet put the decision on line so non-MEPS will have to wait and see the details of the decision.
In Sweden, but hardly in any other member country, there was a furore against what was seen as an attempt by the “EU” to limit the freedom of expression by bloggers. (See our previous posting on the Swedish interpretation of the proposal and the reactions.) This has to be seen against the backdrop of euphoria in the Swedish blogosphere over a perceived victory
According to the recent outcry in the Swedish blogosphere and some “liberal” MSM, the European Parliament (or “the EU”?) is going to enforce legislation forcing bloggers to register, publish their photo and name and pay a fee all in order to prevent wrong or dangerous ideas being spread in an uncontrolled fashion. The initiative comes from an Estonian MEP, Marianne Mikko, who according to Swedish media has not been able to rid her self of her communist background and, according to freedom fighter Christopher Fjellner (conservative MEP), has “a hole in her head.”
EU Observer carries an article which puts things in the right perspective and so does Europaportalen (SW). It may be significant that we have only found one blogger with a knowledge of the facts and a cool head. We have to admit, however, that various statements to the press by Ms. Mikko, an individual MEP, have been considerably less than helpful to the sake of common sense.
This is not the first Swedish media storm over alleged EU attacks on personal freedom: News of an EU-tax on SMS and email as well as of a prohibition to sell home-baked cookies at charity events are other recent examples. A combination of a lack knowledge of how the EU works, British type tabloid sensationalism and the hidden agenda of a certain group of so-called liberals can make wonders in influencing the public opinion, a very useful thing in these days when the future of the Union is very much at stake.
As far as we can see there has not been any similar discussion in other member states. They are probably more inclined to accept Ceausesculike regulations to use a phrase from a leading Swedish newspaper.
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!
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?