Friday 12 June 2009

Parliamentary Shifts and Whatnot

A few bits of news are floating around, so I'll comment on them in one post.

First, PES is changing its name to ASDE - the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats for Europe (via Stephen Spillane and Julien Frisch). The change is due to the main Italian opposition party, the Democratic Party, committing itself to the block and swelling its numbers to 183. It may strengthen the left after a disastrous election, but the change of name is a unnecessary and idiotic decision - the PES has built itself into a kind of brand, and even if it doesn't exactly have a high name recognition among the public yet, it hardly helps to change the name (especially since some candidates pointed to their group membership in their campaigns). The new name also dilutes the credibility of the group - an "Alliance" sounds much weaker than a "Party" and Alliance is associated more with ALDE. The Lobby has speculated on the effect the PES-enlargement will have on the race for the Commission Presidency.

Sarkozy and Merkel have come out in favour of Barroso, though, just like the EP, they're also pressuring him to produce an agenda for the next 5 years. Barroso has, of course, stressed the need for a quick Commission selection, since the faster the process, the less time his opponents have to organise themselves and back an alternative; though it seems that GUE has already signalled that it would back Verhofstadt rather than Barroso.

(Interestingly, Sarkozy seems to think that the EP elections result is a kind of endorsement for a second term of European Presidency. Modest as ever, though his brand of modesty is unlikely to help the second referendum in Ireland if he ever follows up on his promise to help in person if needed).

The demand for Barroso to outline his agenda is quite reasonable - if not for the simple reason of parliamentary scrutiny, then because Barroso has himself made the acceptance of his agenda a condition for taking the job again. (He's leading a very strange campaign, demanding acceptance of an agenda he refuses to explain, while threatening to not take the job when many of us would be happy to see the back of him).

Richard Corbett has indicated to The Parliament that he would be interested in the post of the Commission's representative to the UK - something that was suggested by the Economist. It would be great to see Corbett remain active in EU affairs.

And for anyone interested, the Communications Commissioner, Margot Wallstrom will be at a "Townhall meeting" that will be streamed online by Generation Yes at 1.30pm Irish time.


  1. Eurocentric,

    If the political message of PES was too bland to impress voters, they are now deliberately spoiling their brand name as well. Not an auspicious start for the next five years.

    My impression of Merkel and Sarkozy yesterday was one of quiet determination.

    The leaders have discussed with Barroso. Their demand is a programme for the next five years, which coincides with Barroso's promise to present an 'ambitious agenda', although his demand to get it accepted sounds like a face-saving exercise.

  2. Corbett was soundly rejected by his electorate, it would be an affront to democracy and an insult to the British people if he was rewarded by becoming the Commissions UK mouthpiece.

  3. I decline to struggle to read the text on a website with a black background.

  4. Terrible move by the PES. Hugely discouraging and downheartening(is that a word?). Was this announced/planned before the election or a snap decision to just disregard and jettison everything for the sake of dilution and a few more seats?

    @#2 If he is the best candidate for the job then let him go for it. However jobs for the boys is surely not the way out of a credibility and legitimacy deficit for the Commission of all institutions, in the UK of all places.

  5. It all seems a bit topsy-turvy to me. The irony is that Barrosso's calls for 'non-partisan' politics in the EP and his failure to declare an agenda are central to the divisions that are developing.

  6. @ Grahnlaw

    I agree, though I suspect that their conditional support of Barroso has more to do with their own power play than any respect for the EP in backing its demands for a programme. I think I'm turning more anti-Barroso as this continues. I would have thought that a former PM would have more political sense than what he displays in some of his statements...

    @ Anonymous #1

    As rdlp715 says, if Corbett is the best applicant, then he should get the job. It's not as if the BNP MEP is being kicked out of the EP and then replaced with Corbett, so I don't think there's any affront to democracy there. A ban on former representatives from taking public sector jobs isn't a feature of our democracy either. As long as the application process is fair, then there shouldn't be any problem with it.

    @ rdlp715

    I'm not sure, but I only heard about it after the elections. The PES probably found it much easier to accept it after their defeat.

    @ NewsMonitor

    For a former PM, Barroso shows an amazing lack of political sense sometimes. The PES and Greens were always going to oppose him, and since Barroso is the most right-wing of any Commission President (all of the others were quite centrist) he was always going to be a divisive figure. The Comm. Pres. is becoming a more political post. Still, he is likely alienating the Liberals and some backbench EPP MEPs (if there's such a thing as "backbench" in the EP) by not setting out his agenda.

    It shows a lack of respect for the EP, if nothing else, and MEPs must be wondering why they should support someone for a job if he won't even tell them what kind of job he'll do.

  7. You couldn't be further from the truth concerning Corbett, Eurocentric.

    The EU is continually whining about the democratic deficit and asking why the people of the EU can not be bothered to vote. This situation explains exactly why the EU is so terrible.

    We in the UK have elected a person to represent us in the EU (Corbett)

    He is a rabid EUphile and seeks not to represent the people in his region but seeks to impose the will of the EU on to the people of Britain.

    The people reject him and vote in someone else and they are kicked in the teeth by having a man who they rejected placed in a position of power over them.

    I'm afraid it is a matter of "Don't worry about those idiots back home, if they reject you we'll look after you"

    What a truly inspirational view of democracy you have.

  8. @ Anonymous

    I don't think that the job in question is a position in power at all - it seems to be a PR post. If he got the job, he would have no say on policy, and no vote in any EU institution; in other words, there' no power he would have "over" anybody, except perhaps junior employees.

    I'm sorry if my view that public sector jobs should be awarded to the most qualified person after an open and fair selection process offends your view of democracy. I don't see why former elected representatives should be excluded from the public sector. For clarity, do you believe that all former MEPs should be excluded from consideration from this post if they apply, no matter what their political views?

    I don't think there should be such a ban.

    And I'm not advocating that he should simply be installed because he's pro-Europe either (I don't know where you got the impression that I am); I think there should be an open and fair selection process. I would agree that if he's simply appointed due to some patronage, then that would be wrong. But there's no indication of that.

    I'm afraid I also disagree with your view on the EU. It's true that the EU is distant and that needs to change, but the idea that there's one EU will or plan that's "imposed" on anyone is a bit of a stretch into conspiracy. For instance, the EP has no power to change the constitution of the EU, so it cannot increase its power.

    It also ignores that most of what the EP/EU does and debates is a left-right matter on issues such as market liberalisation and workers rights, as well as environmental protection. For the last 5 years, all 3 political institutions of the EU were dominated by the right (and will be for the next 5 years).

    Policies and ideas are contested and debated, like in any political organisation. There's no single will or vision. Political coalitions are built on an issue-by-issue basis, and if a proposal has even support, it's passed.

  9. Eurocentric wrote: "I don't think that the job in question is a position in power at all".

    The Head of the EU Commission in the UK isn't a powerful position???
    Come off it!

    Surely all politics is about 'perceptions', and however you spin it Corbetts appointment would be a slap in the face for democracy.

    You also wrote: "There's no single will or vision".

    Yes there is. Apart from a smattering of so-called 'withdrawlists' like UKIP, to a man and woman MEP's of all groupings are united in the vision of a Political Europe. It is only how that will be achieved which is up for discussion. There is no debate on the direction in which the EU is heading. There is no 'official opposition' to the 'EU ideal' itself!

  10. Look, the position is a sort of ambassador for the Commission to the UK. It's an information service. There's no power over anyone (except perhaps junior employees). Power in the sense that decisions are made or enforced, or of policy being set or formulated just isn't part of the job.

    As for official opposition to the EU itself, the EP is elected proportionately. There are some withdrawalist parties, but if they don't do well enough to form the biggest or second biggest group, then that's nobody's fault but their own for not attracting more votes. I disagree that all other MEPs are integrationist.

  11. How can you think in your wildest imagination that the EU elections were in any way 'democratic' when OVER HALF of those who turned out to vote in Britain, put their cross against a eurosceptic party?
    How can any MEP 'speak for us' when as a nation we have given them no mandate?