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Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

France breaks ranks on Libya, dwarfs EU's Ashton | EurActiv - 0 views

  • France broke ranks with its European partners yesterday (10 March) by becoming the first country to recognise Libya's opposition and by deciding to "explore the possibility" of carrying out targeted bombings in the civil war-torn country. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton finds herself pushed onto the sidelines as EU leaders flock to Brussels for a crisis summit.
  • According to the EU Treaties, the bloc's Common Foreign and Security Policy is an area of "shared competence" between member countries and the Union. In an effort to ensure greater coordination and consistency in EU foreign policy, the Treaty of Lisbon created Catherine Ashton's post.

    Ashton is in charge of implementing the agreed common positions of the EU. It appears, however, that there is no obstacle preventing one member country from breaking free from positions that have already been agreed, as illustrated by France in the Libya case.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

17.12.10: European Parliament condems the outcome of the European Council - 0 views

  • The centre and left of the European Parliament have robustly condemned the outcome of the European Council, complaining that the interest of the bloc as a whole has been sidelined in favour of national interests.

    It is common for the groups in the parliament to criticise the results of European summits, but the missives issued the afternoon following the meeting were abnormally trenchant.

  • The Party of European Socialists "condemned" the result, attacking the "conservative leaders" who hold a majority in the Council.

    "The Conservative leaders are fundamentally mistaken. Yet again they have failed to take control of the crisis," said Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the former Danish prime minister and leader of the PES. "The reaction of the Markets illustrates this clearly."

    Mr Rasmussen pointed to the overnight downgrading of Irish bonds by the Moody's credit agency as signifying that the investors were unconvinced by the council's plan. He warned that the EU Council had put itself in "direct conflict" with the parliament over its refusal to countenance any move towards debt issuance at the EU level.

    "The German, British, Swedish and Dutch Governments formed a roadblock to progress on the eurobonds issue. So blatantly putting national interest before European recovery is short-termist and lacking in leadership," he said.

  • The European Parliament must be consulted on the treaty change, but it has no co-decision power under the 'simplified revision procedure' - the new method the EU leaders are using to deliver the limited treaty change while avoiding any national referendums.

    But, depending on the fine print of how the permanent bail-out fund is constructed, it may have approval powers.

    The EU prime ministers and presidents at the summit did not take any decisions on the details of the fund.

    According to a parliamentary legal expert, if the European Council itself develops the mechanism on an 'intergovernmental' basis, and the fund is similar to the existing €440 billion rescue mechanism, which involves a series of loan guarantees by member states, then the chamber will only be consulted, as with the treaty change.

    But if the EU is asked to develop and present a proposal, or if it involves any direct EU funds as well as national loan guarantees, then "this is part of the community method, and the parliament has co-decision powers".

    The Greens also said that the permanent crisis mechanism "will not be enough to get Europe out of the crisis."

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

26.11.10: Progress in talks about EU budget - 0 views

  • A series of compromises and a new draft of next year's EU budget has increased optimism that member states and the European Parliament can reach a deal on the 2011 spending plan before Christmas. But parliament's call for a role in discussions over the bloc's next multi-annual budget (post 2013) could still scupper a final accord.
  • A day earlier, member-state diplomats agreed to drop previous calls for unanimity voting on decisions to transfer money between EU budget headlines. Parliament has made the greater level of spending flexibility, provided by member state qualified majority voting, a key demand in the ongoing battle over the 2011 EU budget.
  • Officials from all sides will next meet on 7 December to discuss the budget draft, in a bid to enable a parliamentary vote on the final version at its 15 December plenary session, the last of the year.

    Sources say Mr Barroso's announcement this week to come forward with proposals on EU 'own resources' in June 2011 has enabled both parliament and member states to claim victory on the controversial issue by breaking the link with the 2011 budget debate but ensuring future discussion on the subject.

    Now the parliament's demand for a role in discussions over the EU's post-2013 multi-annual budget remains the main outstanding stumbling block.

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  • MEPs insist they are allowed a greater say under the Lisbon Treaty, while national capitals have appeared reluctant to hand the legislature a greater role in the already complex negotiations.

    If decision on this issue is left to European leaders meeting in Brussels for a summit on 16-17 December, parliamentary approval could be kicked to an extraordinary session just days before Christmas. Total failure to reach a deal between the two sides will see this year's EU budget rolled over into 2011 on a month-by-month basis.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

25.11.10: Tough problems for the Hungarian presidency - 0 views

  • The incoming Hungarian presidency of the European Union is bracing itself for an unexpectedly difficult six months (Jan-June 2011) at the helm, likely to test the diplomatic skills of the presidency first-timers to the full.

    The ongoing fight to shore up eurozone stability, together with calls for EU treaty change and acrimonious EU budget talks are among the prickly issues on the packed agenda, with Turkish accession talks and the Roma ethnic question also potential flashpoints.

  • Some EU and member state officials have been alarmed at what they perceive as a concentration of power under Herman Van Rompuy, the bloc's first president of the European Council, the body representing EU leaders.

    "Mr Van Rompuy has taken on a number of issues that should instead be run by the rotating presidency, helped by the current political limbo surrounding the Belgian government," one Polish official said earlier this month.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

24.11.10: EU-Commission will put forward proposals as to own resources - strongly oppos... - 0 views

  • European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was cheered in the European Parliament on Tuesday (23 November) when he outlined plans to publish an official proposal on EU self-funding before the end of June 2011. A fresh draft of next year's budget is also expected before 1 December.
  • Parliament has said debate on the controversial 'own resources' issue is a key demand in the ongoing battle over next year's annual EU budget, but France, Germany and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy have all indicated they oppose the idea of an EU tax.

    "We will use our right of initiative to put forward formal proposals as to own resources before the end of next June," Mr Barroso told MEPs in the Strasbourg plenary chamber. "The proposals ... will make large endeavours to achieving a consensus in the future. We're open to any ideas," he added.

  • "I am against the introduction of an EU tax," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this month. "I do not think that redesigning the way the EU get its revenue is a top priority," Mr Van Rompuy said a week later.

    Reacting to Mr Barroso's announcement, non-attached UK MEP Diane Dodds called on British Prime Minister David Cameron to clearly state that proposals for an EU tax would trigger a referendum in the country.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

18.11.10: Ashton and not the European Parliament to appoint EU envoys - 0 views

  • EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has won a minor battle with the European Parliament over the issue of whether MEPs' hearings with new EU ambassadors should be held in public or behind closed doors.

    "Mr Albertini has agreed that all the hearings will be in camera. We are now working out the timing with the Afet committee and we hope that these hearings will take place as soon as possible," Ms Ashton's spokesman, Darren Ennis, told EUobserver on Thursday (18 November), referring to Italian centre-right MEP Gabriele Albertini, who heads-up the assembly's foreign affairs body.

  • "We hope obviously the members of the committee respect the rules that have been agreed. These are not Congressional-style hearings. She is the appointing authority. These people have been appointed by the high representative/vice president [Ms Ashton] and they will take up their posts - that is not in question," he added.

    EUobserver understands that the hearings are to take place in late November and early December and are to involve the new EU envoys to China, Georgia, Japan, Lebanon and Pakistan. Any hearings with future EEAS envoys are to follow the same format.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

16.11.10: EU budget talks collapse after MEPs seek new powers - 0 views

  • A last attempt to reach an agreement for the 2011 EU budget failed on Monday (15 November) due to reluctance by member states to grant MEPs extra powers in future multi-annual budget negotiations. The EU commission will now have to draft a new proposal, while the first months of next year will be funded on the basis of the 2010 budget.
  • The final collapse was mainly due to disagreements over procedures and extra powers granted to MEPs under the Lisbon Treaty, the EU's new rulebook.

    Junior ministers from Britain and the Netherlands insisted that the only issue on the table was the budget for 2011 and declined to discuss contentious issues for the long-term budgetary perspective, such as raising more EU "own resources" through supplementary taxes or the "flexibility" of the budget when unexpected expenses arise.

    Shortly after announcing €95 billion in domestic budget cuts, Britain has spearheaded demands for next year's EU budget to stay frozen at 2010 levels or go up by a mere 2.9 percent, or less than half the MEPs' original request.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

03.11.10: EU leaders back 'limited' treaty change, budget cap - 0 views

  • Britain and other European Union countries put their weight behind Franco-German calls for tougher eurozone rules at a summit today (29 October), agreeing on "limited" changes to the EU's main treaty in return for a cap on the EU budget.
  • Officials struggled to deliver the message that legal tricks could accommodate both Germany's push for treaty change and conflicting calls from several other countries which had rejected the idea.

    Regarding treaty change, the key word is "simplified", officials explained. A simplified provision, enshrined in Article 48, Section 6 of the Lisbon Treaty, allows member countries to unanimously adopt a decision amending all or part of the main elements of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which governs how the Union carries out its work.

    Such a procedure would avoid the need to call a constitutional convention, experts explained. In addition, the European Parliament would only be "consulted" instead of enjoying full voting rights as part of the normal co-decision procedure.

    The changes to the treaty are to be settled by mid-2013, before the expiry of the present emergency fund agreed earlier this year to deal with crises such as the one that hit Greece. The objective is to replace that with a permanent mechanism.

    The simplified treaty change procedure will not enter into force until it is approved by member states in accordance with their constitutions.

    Most EU countries are expected to ratify the decision by a simplified procedure in their parliaments. As for Ireland, it remains unclear whether a change effected in this way would require another referendum.

  • UK Prime Minister David Cameron appears to have been instrumental in forging a deal, lending his backing to Franco-German calls for treaty change in return for keeping a lid on the EU's 2011 budget.

    11 member states, including Britain, France and Germany, will send a letter to the European Commission and Parliament today saying that their plans to increase the EU budget by 5.9% in 2011 are "especially unacceptable at a time when we are having to take difficult decisions at national level to control public expenditure".

    The letter was signed by the leaders of the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Slovenia and Estonia.

    The bloc's finance ministers had earlier voted for a limited increase in the EU budget of 2.9%. "We are clear that we cannot accept any more than the 2.9% increase proposed by the finance ministers," the leaders say in the letter.

    Cameron argued that a planned increase in the EU budget would cost his country's taxpayers the equivalent of one billion euros. The 2.9% rise would still cost them £435m (500m euros).

    Parliament to fight back

    By agreeing to cap the budget, EU leaders set themselves on a collision course with the European parliament, which has the power to approve or reject the proposed budget.

    Negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council, which represents the 27 member countries, over the EU's 2011 budget kicked off on 27 October (see 'Background').

    "If Cameron is prepared to give up the British rebate [...] then we can for sure discuss a reduction of the budget," said Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialist & Democrats group in the European Parliament, speaking to EUX.TV, the European policy news channel powered by EurActiv.

    "The European budget is not to be compared with national budgets," said Schulz. "There are no own resources. We have no European taxes. We have no own money. It is money coming from the member states. We can make no debts. The British budget must be reduced because there is enormous debt. Europe has no debts," he said.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

28.10.10: Buzek clashes with EU leaders over 'un-European' budget - 0 views

  • A compromise on the 2011 EU budget is likely to coalesce around a three-percent increase compared to this year's spending after a vivid discussion among EU leaders and the European Parliament's chief about the rationale of raising the figure when most capitals are being forced to cut their own budgets.
  • The meeting, which usually consists of EU Parliament chief Jerzy Buzek reading out a statement and then leaving, took an extra hour to wrap up, as British Prime Minister David Cameron intervened to counter the parliament's plea for a six percent increase in the EU budget. Roughly a dozen other leaders then intervened as well, mostly backing the British premier. The Belgian and the Greek prime ministers were among the few who supported Mr Buzek's plea.
  • He also underlined that the parliament is willing to compromise on the six-percent figure, as long as there is "serious talk" about ensuring future funding for the EU's old and new policies.

    The Lisbon Treaty, he argued, had created new tasks for the EU: "More responsibilities means more funds."

    "It is absolutely necessary to have a compromise and finish [budget talks] in three weeks and then we want to start a serious discussion about future funding of EU policies. This is about the future of the EU itself. When we talk about cuts, we also have to think about the cost of non-Europe, of not having the added value of the EU."

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

Parliament warns EU summit against backroom deals - 0 views

  • Ahead of an EU summit opening today (28 October), Liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt warned that the European Parliament was determined to use its new powers under the Lisbon Treaty and would not let economic governance plans be "diluted" by Germany and France.
  • But Verhofstadt, who leads the Parliament's Liberal group, warned that such backroom deals were now over.

    The European Parliament, he said, would have full co-decision powers on legislative proposals that will come out later in the year to flesh out the EU's new economic governance.

    His warnings were echoed by other political groups in Parliament, including the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), which commands the largest number of seats in the Strasbourg assembly.

    Iñigo Mendez De Vigo, a Spanish MEP in charge of institutional issues at the EPP, said he welcomed the Task Force's proposals. But he added that "they should take into account that the European Parliament is now co-legislator and will play its full part in defining the reforms to come". 

    "I regret that the French-German proposal does not even mention the European Commission, which also has a say on this issue," De Vigo said, adding the Parliament should also be more involved.

    The Greens, the fourth largest group in Parliament, also backed the Liberals and the EPP, in a move which could herald a long battle with member states over the economic reform plans.

    The Parliament "will be a co-legislator on four of the six legislative proposals" on economic governance, said Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts, saying his group was "in favour of a more ambitious and broader economic framework than the Commission and Council".

    Verhofstadt said he hoped this new battle would not take nine months, referring to the time it took to pass a recent package of financial supervision laws through the assembly.

  • In a statement, Verhofstadt detailed the three key areas where the Task Force had diluted the Commission's initial proposal and on which he said Parliament was ready to pick a fight.

    First, the Commission had proposed to impose sanctions on member countries with excessive deficits or severe imbalances at an earlier stage, without delay. By contrast, the Task Force argues that a political decision should be taken on the proposed sanctions, meaning that they could be blocked by a country capable of putting together a blocking minority. The result is that there will be no preventive procedure and therefore no sanctions, the liberal group leader warned.

    Second, the Task Force foresees a "double filter" for decision-making, involving a political recommendation by the Council before the Commission can take action. In practice, this means the Commission will be allowed to take sanctions only after a certain period, Verhofstadt said.

    Finally, while the EU executive had proposed that corrective action or sanctions be initiated directly by its own services, the Task Force called instead for a recommendation that would need subsequent backing by the bloc's 27 finance ministers.

    "It's easy to change a recommendation, and far more difficult to change a proposal by the Commission, because in that case you need unanimity," Verhofstadt explained.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

20.10.10: Full speed ahead on EU diplomatic corps after Strasbourg vote - 0 views

  • The European Parliament on Wednesday (20 October) adopted by a crushing majority new budgetary and staff regulations for the European External Action Service (EEAS), clearing the last legal hurdle for the launch of the new institution.

    "It's a historic vote. We're all one happy family now," an official in the entourage of EEAS chief Catherine Ashton told EUobserver.

  • Ms Ashton is also close to a compromise with the parliament's foreign affairs committee on hearings for new EEAS ambassadors. The diplomats are likely to face parliament questions in early December, after receiving full accreditation from their host countries.

    Ms Ashton wants the hearings to be held for the most part behind closed doors. Following the vote on Wednesday, the foreign affairs MEPs have little leverage to use against her.

    Details of the parliament vote on three separate EEAS reports saw the compromise deal get through by over 500 votes in each case against no more than 51.

    The budget-and-staff package envisages detailed parliamentary oversight on EEAS hiring and firing of diplomats in foreign missions but not on EU member states' spending of the €3-billion-a-year European Development Fund or on military missions.

    It stipulates an "appropriate and meaningful presence of nationals from all the member states" but not quota-type targets for nationals from new EU countries, as called for by Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, who tried to put a positive spin on developments in an emailed statement on the day.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

14.10.10: EU states and MEPs clash over international talks - 0 views

  • Member states are considering taking the EU Parliament to court if it does not back down on demands for new powers on EU foreign policy and international agreements, EUobserver has learnt.

    Ambassadors representing member states at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (13 October) signaled their discontent over an inter-institutional agreement between the European Commission and the EU legislature which may give fresh powers to euro-deputies, especially when it comes to international negotiations on behalf of the EU.

  • The draft report, according to an analysis by the council of ministers' legal services, could lead to a stand-off between EU institutions if adopted as such next week in Strasbourg.

    "The court option is not off the table," one EU source said.

    Ambassadors will come back to the matter in their meeting next Wednesday, following the MEP's vote in the plenary.

    The crux of the matter is to what extent MEPs can be part of EU delegations to multilateral and bilateral meetings and negotiations with other countries. According to the draft, the Parliament wants to have its representatives guaranteed participation in all multilateral, but also bilateral agreements "of particular political importance" - for instance on trade or fisheries.

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