Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Euro News Update

A bit too much focus on the US and Russia for the last few days means I’ve neglected to mention that:

The EU has appointed a new ambassador to the US, the former Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) John Bruton. He will have a staff of 80, and his appointment apparently “reflects the joint wish of the Commission and the Member States to raise the profile of the European Union in the United States.” This is as the EU/US battle over the Byrd Amendment looks set to get nasty, possibly making the EU a bone of contention in the US elections, and as the Coca-Cola Corporation tries to get out of EU-based trouble.

Britain’s finally had a cabinet reshuffle which sees the return of key Blair ally Alan Milburn. “If Mr Milburn is identified with a poor campaign in which Labour loses much of its huge majority – outright defeat is barely conceivable – Mr Brown can expect to rapidly move next door.” – more on the significance of this later, probably…

Tony Blair claims that opting out of EU Workers’ Rights legislation is to save the NHS. “The working time directive set out rules for a maximum working week of 48 hours for employees across Europe – rules that have been championed by former EU employment chief Anna Diamantopoulou. But Britain has been singled out for its ‘abusive’ interpretation of the opt-out clause- negotiated in 1993 – which allows workers to opt-out of the law and work longer hours.”

This is as various fiscal regulations are slackened in the wake of Germany’s budget difficulties. “Prodi said the proposed reforms were intended to ‘make the pact more intelligent.’ And the Brussels chief, who famously denounced the stability pact�s rules as �stupid� in 2002, appeared to accept a political reality where national government�s ignores Brussels budget edicts.”

After all the fuss about Britain losing its EU rebate earlier this summer, now the actual figures have been released so we can all make proper comparisons. “Four countries – Ireland, Portugal, Greece and Spain – were revealed to receive more money from the EU pot than they pay in… At the other end of the scale, Dutch citizens each paid in 120 euro to the EU coffers. Other net contributors were Sweden (106 euro per citizen), Germany (93 euro), Belgium (75 euro) and the UK (46.5 euro). The French pay 32 euro each.”

We’ve also got the latest EU fraud league table, which is topped by Belgium…

Thanks to my sideline as a film journalist (plug, plug, plug), I found this encouraging. The plans to double the EU’s financial aid to the European film industry to nearly a billion euros per year can only be a good thing – the EU currently doesn’t do anywhere near enough high-profile funding of cultural projects, which I’m convinced could help raise the profile and spread knowledge of the benefits.

France casts aside party politics to ensure a “yes” vote on the planned EU Constitution – a good thing, considering how divided the country is: “France’s last European referendum on the Maastricht treaty in 1992 saw voters split by the narrowest of margins, with 51% voting for the text and 48% against.” However, according to some sources there’s not as much unity as all that…

And in Britain, yet another anti-Europe think tank launches, this time a centre-left one, the “Centre for a Social Europe”. They have some good points, so probably more on them later as well…

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