Tuesday 8 January 2013

"The European Citizen" - Four Today!

The European Citizen has been going for four years today! So, with the New Year just starting, what better time to have a look back at 2012? And what a year it was: fiscal treaties, continuing crisis, rows over the rule of law and national grandstanding - plus a Nobel Prize.

2012 started off with an explosion of blogging activity aimed at the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán and its constitutional changes. Later on in the year, Romania hit the headlines for its power struggle between the President and Prime Minister (though it didn't generate as much online column inches on the Euroblogosphere). The continuing problems around the rule of law in the Member States led to a Justice Scorecard being set up; hopefully 2013 won't be as contentious for the rule of law.

Last year also saw the strangest treaty detour the EU has ever undergone (and techincally hasn't, since the Fiscal Treaty is outside the EU). Not designed to solve the current problems and pretty much law already (and not exactly good for political stability either), I had many complaints about this counter-productive waste of time and political capital, though I reluctantly supported a Yes vote in the Irish referendum. The whole idea of building a grand Eurozone bargain seemed to be hinted at, but the continuing grandstanding and reversals of negotiations have poured a lot of poison into EU summitry and lost opportunities to set the Eurozone on at least the way to the right track.

It was a good year for the European Parliament, with the ACTA treaty shot down following widespread protests in Europe over the treaty. However the acceptance of the EU-US PNR agreement - followed later by the realisation that the US is not holding up its end of the bargain - has meant that it hasn't been all good for MEPs. Legislation for a European PNR regime and plans for a SWIFT system means that the EU is continuing its anti-crime and terrorism policy in an illiberal way. On the economic front the EP is trying to flex some political muscle over the 2-Pack and with some reports and proposals of its own, but it hasn't been able to build a strong public profile on the subject yet.

The Commission had a mixed year - Reding was the stand-out Commissioner, delivering a draft data protection law and pushing for gender equality quotas for boardrooms (though the latter was eventually watered down). Commissioner Dali, on the other hand, was pushed out of the Commission in controversial circumstances under allegations of awareness of dodgy deals.

On the more theoretical side of things, I've debated the European "F-word" and about the left (or UK Labour) and the EU. This has spilled over on to the UK In-or-Out-or-Renegotiate debate, with arguments that the internal market is a political project and that there's a basic social contract to the EU.

We're now 18 months away from the next European elections in 2014. We've had elections in France and the Netherlands this year, and I've covered the PES Congress as well as a Relaunching Europe event on Youth Unemployment, but I'll try to focus more on the party political bent of the Parliament as well as its legislative output in the run up to the first Europe-wide election since the Eurozone crisis really blew up in our faces.

Have a great 2013 and thanks for reading!

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