July - December 2009

Copenhagen summit welcomes US emissions curbs
8 December 2009- BBC News
Andreas Carlgren, the Environment Minister for Sweden, who currently holds the EU presidency, welcomed the US declaration  to cub emissions during the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. The UN and EU officials have welcomed the US declaration that greenhouse gases are threatening to human health. The US delegation sent a clear signal to Congress that they want this summit to succeed and they will try to go even without the Congress help. An EU spokesman said the announcement showed "a degree of resolve" on the part of President Barack Obama to address climate change.  This is of extreme importance because, as Mr. Carlgren affirmed, the outcome of the Copenhagen summit depended mostly "on what will be delivered by the United States and China".
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EU cautious on integrating Ukraine
4 December 2009- BBC News-By Gabriel Gatehouse
In a summit in the Ukrainian capital Kiev, the EU has reviewed Ukraine's slow progress towards integration in the EU. The primary problem in the Ukrainian integration process is corruption. Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira, the EU's top official in Ukraine, said that there has not been enough progress made to solve the problem. Rocky relations with Russia, especially over gas price have also impacted on Ukraine's prospects for closer integration. 
After the war in Georgia, it was agreed that Ukraine should have an association agreement by the end of this year. While an association does not appear to be close, negotiations will continue.
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EU Treaty Could Ease U.S. Effort on Mission
December 4 2009-The Wall street journal
Richard Holbrooke, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the Lisbon Treaty could help advance cooperation between the US and the EU, especially in the mission in Afghanistan. The Lisbon Treaty will not alter the many views in Europe, but it can deliver a more united and coherent policy. The passage of the Lisbon Treaty also grants the EU a defense budget estimated to be approximately $6 billion dollars. Mr. Holbrooke indicated that the EU-US cooperation would be fruitful in the training programs for Afghan police. This is of vital importance in restoring peace to the country. Another area is aid, where coordination in Afghanistan is widely seen as lamentable.
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EU Lisbon Treaty comes into force
1 December 2009 - BBC News
The EU's Lisbon Treaty has come into force. With this enforcement the way decisions are made in the EU will change. The treaty removes unanimity on many European policies including the fight against climate change, energy security and emergency aid. The treaty makes the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding. Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy was appointed by the Council to be the first permanent European Council President. The job of foreign affairs supremo went to the EU Trade Commissioner, Baroness Ashton from the UK. Lady Ashton will command a more powerful position with a new, and eventually vast, European diplomatic service.|
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Europe’s Foreign Policy Guide Passes His Compass
30 November 2009- The New York Times
Javier Solana spent the last 10 years building the institutions of the European Union. Today, he yielded his post to the newly appointed High Representative Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton of Britain. Her first and most important task is to build a new and efficient European diplomatic service. Additionally, she will also control the European Union international aid portfolio. Mr. Solana is a very important figure for the EU. For the past ten years, he was the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. In this position, he helped shape the institution by building an inner cabinet, policy unit, an intelligence unit and an operations center, all of which employ more than 1,000 people. He strongly believes in the Union and in the cooperation with the US. As he put it, the EU must be empowered especially “in a world that has changed completely, where the West has less influence” and where Europe and the United States, whatever their differences, “need to talk about how the future will be shaped.”

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France's Barnier gets plum EU Commission post
27 November 2009- BBC News
On Friday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso named the 26 commissioners that he wants to help him drive the EU's day-to-day agenda. The commission is responsible for drafting EU legislation and acts as guardian of the EU treaties. The commission will remain in office for five years. Each member state has a commissioner. The nominations will not be confirmed until they are approved by the European Parliament at hearings in January.
The key role of Internal Market Commissioner has been entrusted to Michel Barnier, the former French Agriculture Minister. Additionally, a new fundamental position has been created: the executive in charge of climate issues, which was given to Connie Hedegaard, Denmark's Climate Minister until last week, when she was put in charge of hosting the Dec. 7-18 global UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

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Belgian PM named as EU president
19 November 2009- BBC News
Herman Van Rompuy, the Belgian Prime Minister, has been chosen by the European Council to be the first permanent European Council President. Baroness Catherine Ashton, a Trade Commissioner from the UK, will be the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, the top diplomatic position.
Known as a coalition builder and a pragmatic politician, van Rompuy's bid was supported by many countries, including Germany and France. However, he is a low-key figure, lacking charisma and popularity on the international level.
With this two choices, the EU leaders balanced the divisions within the EU that became apparent in the selection process. One is a man, from a small country and from a centre-right party. The other is a women, from a big country and a centre-left politician. Moreover the EU leader showed pragmatism that will be needed to lead the EU though the next few years and as it looks forward to the future.
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Merkel attends French Armistice Day ceremony, stresses European solidarity
11 November 2009 – BBC
Angela Merkel became the first German chancellor to mark Armistice Day by attending the main French ceremony, which commemorated the end of the First World War ninety-one years ago today. Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy relit the flame on the Tomb of the Unknown Solider in Paris, in a ceremony designed to symbolize the beginning of a new era in Franco-German relations. The two leaders also played a prominent role in events marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall two days ago. Mrs. Merkel declared that the two recent anniversaries “remind us that we must always fight for the invaluable goods of peace and freedom, that we need to defend our values, of democracy and human rights, and that we keep working for European solidarity and partnership with America. That is our task.”
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Leaders' call to action in Berlin
9 November 2009- BBC News
A big celebration was held in Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The fall of the 96-mile wall in 1989 paved the way for German reunification, and perhaps more importantly pushed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Cold War's end.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel led the celebration at Brandenburg Gate with other world leaders, including Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, UK PM Gordon Brown, and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Clinton affirmed that the celebration was “a call to action.” Clinton also presented a special video address from President Barack Obama. All the leaders agreed with Chancellor Merkel's statement that the anniversary should became an opportunity to "take on the challenges of our time" - from poverty to climate change - and "the defense of human rights all over the world."
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Uniting all of the allies, some of the time
5 November 2009 – New York Times – James P. Rubin (Op-ed contributor)
In order to fulfill his promise to restore respect and support from America’s allies, US President Barack Obama has made a series of dramatic policy changes to promote international law, combat climate change, pursue diplomacy, and negotiate nuclear arms control agreements. Combined with President Obama’s international popularity, these actions have helped repair the transatlantic rift created by the Iraq war and other policies of former president George W. Bush. When European and American leaders assembled for the UN General Assembly and economic and climate summits last month, it was clear that there was fundamental transatlantic agreement on all major international challenges. However, “Western unity is not the same as Western determination,” says James P. Rubin, and sometimes it is “just not enough.”
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Klaus’ signature completes Lisbon Treaty ratification
3 November 2009 – EurActiv
Czech President Václav Klaus signed the Lisbon Treaty today, just hours after the Czech Constitutional Court ruled that the treaty is compatible with the state’s constitution. The Lisbon Treaty is now fully ratified and will most likely enter into effect on 1 December 2009. A 27-member European Commission, permanent Council president, and High Representative for Foreign Affairs will need to be selected. The Swedish EU Presidency is widely expected to call an extraordinary European summit sometime this month to determine who will hold these posts. The ratification of the EU’s reform treaty, which is the result of eight years of complex negotiations, was celebrated by many officials and politicians throughout Europe. Joseph Daul, Chairman of the EPP group in the European Parliament, declared: “Europe can now move forward…The treaty will allow effective European action in areas where solutions are urgent, such as the financial and economic crises, climate change, and energy.”
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U.S. and EU Agree on Data Protection Principles
3 November 2009- Leadership Journal
US and EU agreed on a set on important rules on data protection and data sharing. After three years of discussions the U.S. – EU Justice and Home Affairs Ministerial determine a set of common principles to protect personal data when exchanging information for law enforcement and security purposes. The agreement was reached after three years cooperation between the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State and experts from the EU Presidency and Commission.
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EU clears hurdle to Lisbon treaty
29 October 2009- BBC
Today the 27 EU leaders met in Brussels and agreed to grant the Czech Republic the opt-out for the Lisbon Treaty. Like the UK and Poland, Czech Republic will not be bound by the Charter of Fundamental Rights. It also means that the leaders took a promising and hopefully last step toward the treaty ratification. Vaclav Klaus, Czech Republic President, was satisfied with the concession. The opt-out was important because the Czech Republic worried that the thousands of ethnic Germans expelled during World War II could have asked to reclaim their land. Now, only the dismissal of the trial by the Czech Republic Supreme Court is needed for final ratification.
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Blair's Hopes of Leading E.U. Are Fading
29 October 2009- New York times

The EU leaders meeting in Brussels has greatly reduced the possibility of Tony Blair being the first President of EU. The only one to openly support Blair’s presidency was Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister. Spain's Prime Minister, Rodriguez Zapatero, affirmed that he will not support Blair's candidacy. The main opposition to a Blair presidency is from small countries, like, among others Denmark, Luxembourg, Finland and Austria, that are afraid of losing power. Moreover, many suspect Blair's participation and involvement in the Iraq War is another reason this bid is being vigorously opposed. It is believed, though that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, have agreed on a candidate, but have not formally announced it. Other candidates linked with this position include Jan Peter  Balkenende, Dutch Prime Minister; Jean-Claude Juncker, Luxembourg’s Premier; and Paavo Liponnen, former Finnish Prime Minister.
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Barroso faces EU “question time”
20 October 2009- BBC
Today the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, faced his first “question time.” From now on, there will be a Q&A session every month at the opening of the parliamentary meeting session in Strasbourg. The question time uses the format of the Prime Minister’s Questions in the British House of Commons.  Barroso committed himself to create this institution during his reelection campaign. The purpose is to increase accountability and eventually start to fill the democratic deficit. However, the Q&A is still far from being efficient. One big challenge regards the EU’s 22 official languages and the confusion that their use brings. Furthermore, Barroso’s answer must be no more than a minute long, certainly not enough for an exhaustive explanation.
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EU shifts towards tailor-made enlargement policy

15 October 2009 – EurActiv
With countries as diverse as Iceland, Kosovo, and Turkey hoping to one day join the EU, the European Commission’s latest enlargement strategy seems to take a step back from previous enlargement policies and closely examine each applicant nation individually. The report, published yesterday, notes that the enlargement process must be considered against the backdrop of the current economic recession, which has greatly affected the candidate countries as well as EU member states. The commission also reaffirmed that “enlargement is one of the most effective foreign policy instruments of the EU.” The report commented on the status of many EU hopefuls. It noted that Croatia is “nearing the final phase” of accession negotiations, stated that Turkey must significantly increase the pace of reforms but commended the constructive role Turkey has played in regional security, and recommended opening accession negotiations for Macedonia.
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Vote of no confidence topples Romanian government
14 October 2009 – New York Times – Dan Bilefsky
The government of Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc collapsed after a vote of no confidence yesterday, the first time a Romanian government has been dismissed since the fall of communism. The government’s fall reinforced a sense of political instability and upheaval in Central and Eastern Europe, where a succession of countries – including Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Latvia – have seen their governments collapse since the onset of the global economic crisis. The political instability in Romania threatens its already-struggling economy and makes it more difficult for the country to meet the terms of the €20 billion aid package it received this year from the EU and the International Monetary Fund.
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Czech president wants Lisbon Treaty opt-out
9 October 2009 - BBC
Czech President Václav Klaus has demanded that the Czech Republic be given an exemption from the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights before he will sign the Lisbon reform treaty. The charter covers a wide range of human rights and will become legally binding when Lisbon enters into force. Mr. Klaus wants an opt-out similar to that agreed upon for the UK and Poland, which negotiated opt-outs to ensure that the charter would not override their legal systems in certain areas. Mr. Klaus cited fears about possible property claims that might be brought by Germans expelled from the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) after World War II. This new demand threatens to further delay ratification of the treaty. Prime Minister Frederik Reinfeldt of Sweden, the current holder of the EU presidency, said that Klaus was delivering "the wrong message at the wrong time for the EU."
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Lisbon Treaty ratification remains uncertain
8 October 2009 - BBC
The chief of staff of Polish President Lech Kaczynski said the president will sign the Lisbon Treaty this Saturday, completing Poland's ratification of the treaty. Ratification by the Czech Republic, however, remains uncertain. Eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus said today that he wants a two-sentence footnote to be added to the treaty before he will sign it. This new condition was raised during a phone call between Mr. Klaus and Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, current holder of the rotating EU presidency. The footnote supposedly regards the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, which covers a wide range of human rights and will become legally binding when Lisbon enters into force.
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Czech Prime Minister says his country will back Lisbon Treaty
7 October 2009 - BBC
Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer told EU officials that he fully expects his country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty by the end of this year. The Czech Constitutional Court is currently studying a complaint against the treaty, and the Eurosceptic Czech President, Václav Klaus, has yet to sign it. Still, Stefan Fule, the Czech Republic's Europe Minister, said it was not a question of "if the treaty was signed, but when." European politicians see the treaty as critical to the EU's future success, since the current decision-making processes were designed when the EU consisted of only 15 countries and are now inefficient and cumbersome for a bloc of 27 nations. Many want the treaty to be ratified quickly so the new structures it establishes can get up and running, as well as to eliminate the possibility that a new British government might reverse the UK's ratification of the treaty next spring. Poland, the only other country that has not yet ratified Lisbon, is expected to complete the process in a few days.
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EU launches free satellite system to fine-tune GPS
1 October 2009 - Reuters
The EU has launched EGNOS, a free satellite navigation network that will improve the accuracy of the American Global Positioning System (GPS). Using three satellites and thirty-four ground stations, the system will narrow the horizontal accuracy of GPS from approximately seven to two meters and will also improve its vertical accuracy to aid pilots in landing planes. The new system could potentially benefit countless drivers, pilots, farmers, blind people, and more, as new applications of the technology are developed.
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Romanian leftists quit coalition government
1 October 2009 - Reuters - Radu Marinas
Romania's Social Democrats left the country's coalition government in protest over the firing of the interior minister. Their coalition partners, the centrist Democrat-Liberals, can govern alone for a few weeks, but their survival will depend on support for the opposition. The collapse of the governing coalition raises the risk that Romania may fail to meet the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in return for the €20 billion aid package it gave the country earlier this year.
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Czech senators move to block Lisbon Treaty ratification
30 September 2009 - BBC
Seventeen Eurosceptic Czech senators filed a second complaint against the Lisbon Treaty in the country's constitutional court yesterday. Czech President Václav Klaus says he will refrain from signing the reform treaty, which was approved by the Czech parliament, until the court rules in the case. This could delay ratification of the treaty, even if Irish voters back it in their referendum on 2 October. It could take as long as six months for the court to reach its decision, which raises the possibility of a further threat to Lisbon-the British Conservatives are likely to win the general election in the UK next spring, and they have pledged to put the Lisbon Treaty to a referendum if it is not yet in force.
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"Make or break" week for Lisbon Treaty
25 September 2009 - EurActiv
Next week will be a "make or break" period for the Lisbon Treaty to be ratified, due to the Irish referendum scheduled for October 2 and a key Czech Senate decision due on Septebmer 29. Eurosceptic Czech president Václav Kalus and his allies in the Senate seem to be the major remaining risk factor in the long quest for the reform treaty's entry into force. If the Czech Senate decides to refer a second appeal challenging the Lisbon Treaty to the Czech Constitutional Court, Klaus will have grounds to refuse to sign the treaty until the appeal is settled. By that time, elections in the UK could bring to power David Cameron, who plans to hold a referendum on the treaty in order to defeat it. The EU does not appear to have a backup plan if ratification of the Lisbon Treaty fails.
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Germany ends Lisbon ratification saga, brings treaty one step closer
24 September 2009 - EurActiv
The final step in Germany's ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was completed when president Horst Köhler signed additional reforms to increase German politicians' involvement in EU lawmaking. The reforms, which came after high-profile petitions to the German constitutional court stalled the ratification process, received wide support in both houses of Germany's parliament earlier this month. Now that Germany has approved the treaty, only Poland, Ireland, and the Czech Republic have not ratified it. The Czech and Polish presidents have yet to sign the treaty, despite its approval by their national parliaments. Ireland will hold a second referendum on 2 October, after rejecting the treaty in a vote last year.
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Planned US entry fee meets European criticism
22 September 2009 - Der Spiegel
The American plan to introduce an entrance fee for Europeans visiting the US has been met with harsh criticism from Europe. The fee would be charged of anyone traveling to the US from a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program, which includes the majority of EU countries. Money collected from these visitors would be used to finance advertising campaigns for tourism. The European Commission described the plans as a step backward for relations between Europe and the US. Wolfgang Schäuble, the Interior Minister of Germany, noted that "financing a campaign to promote tourism by charging tourists $10 may not be logical."
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Businesses Ask Ireland to Quit Blocking EU Treaty
8 September 2009 - Wall Street Journal - Charles Forelle
Major companies, including Intel Corp. and budget airline Ryanair Holdings PLC, are putting their clout and cash behind a campaign to persuade Irish voters to approve the Lisbon Treaty on October 2nd. The businesses' message is that Ireland's economy is too damaged for it to shun Europe. This represents a marked shift from the previous Irish referendum, when businesses were generally silent in the debate. The current referendum, which is crucial to the future of the Treaty, is supported by most major Irish political parties and, according to polls, a plurality of the Irish public.
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Moldova ruling coalition, opposition edge closer on EU integration
7 September 2009 - Deutsche Presse-Agentur
Moldova's ruling coalition and the opposition Communist Party have edged toward finding common ground on EU integration. Mihai Gimpu, the newly elected parliament speaker, said that his faction's top priorities were reduction of poverty and tying Moldova's economy closer to Europe's. Eduard Mushchuk, a senior member of parliament for the opposition Communist Party, declared himself also in favor of Moldovan integration with the European economy and called for a wide-based parliament coalition to work towards that goal. This indicates that the Communist Party is moving away from its old emphasis on closer ties to Russia.
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Croatia Could Enter EU In First Half Of 2010
2 September 2009 - Dow Jones - Kristina Peterson
Croatia's entry into the European Union, which has been stalled this summer, could occur within the first half of 2010, according to statements made Wednesday by European Commission and Croatian officials. Officials cited progress on a maritime dispute with Slovenia dispute and on updating Croatia's legal framework, but said that Croatia must still improve its judiciary, cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for ex-Yugoslavia and reform its dockyards. Many Croatians have welcomed the accession process as an opportunity for Croatia to make much-needed reforms and become economically competitive with the rest of Europe.
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EU proposes accepting more refugees, common rules
31 August 2009 - Reuters - Marcin Grajewski
Hoping to fight illegal immigration, the EU Commission has drafted proposals to harmonize rules on immigration and allow more refugees to enter the bloc legally. It also wants EU members to share the burden of the influx of African and other refugees, which it says falls heaviest on southern countries like Italy, Malta and Spain. The Commission hopes that EU governments and the EU parliament will negotiate the details of this proposal in pursuit of a more transparent, unified immigration policy. The EU would play a major role in implementing this policy, with a new European Asylum Support Office setting annual priorities and member countries receiving EU funds to help with resettlement.
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EU parliament president backs Barroso second term
27 August 2009 - Parliament Magazine - Martin Banks
The European parliament's new president Jerzy Buzek has expressed a desire for the assembly to vote on José Manuel Barroso's reappointment on 16 September. Buzek called an early vote important for EU stability ahead of Ireland's 2 October referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Other groups in parliament, most notably the Greens, want to delay any vote until after the referendum.
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A decision with serious consequences: German Constitutional Court against the EU?
27 August 2009 - European Voice - Jo Leinen
The German Constitutional Court has ruled that, while the Treaty of Lisbon is compatible with Germany's Basic Law, the accompanying law defining the involvement of the Bundesrag in Germany's European policy is incompatible with it and must be amended. The Court held that the Bundesrag must be given more of a role in Germany's European decisions, basing this on the view that the European Parliament, which gives slightly disproportionate representation to the smaller EU members, is not sufficiently democratic to be trusted with decision-making power. The Court also asserted its authority to decide on European legal issues. In this article, Leinen argues that the Court's decision is a major step backward for European integration, as it could set a precedent that may paralyze the EU with vetoes from national parliaments. The decision also holds the European Parliament to an unrealistic standard of proportional representation that disregards the need to make compromises with smaller nations. Perhaps most troubling, the Constitutional Court has given itself jurisprudential powers that are meant for the European Court of Justice.
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Business groups unite to back Lisbon Yes vote
17 August 2009 - Irish Times - Stephen Collins
A number of Irish business groups have united in the "Business for Europe" campaign for the Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum. Members include employers' group Ibec, the American Chamber of Commerce, the Irish Taxation Institute, the Irish Hotels Federation, Chambers Ireland, the Irish Exporters Association and the Small Firms Association. They have aligned themselves with the Ireland for Europe campaign led by former President of the European Parliament, Pat Cox. Danny McCoy, general director of Ibec, stated that "the scale of the global economic crisis has highlighted our vulnerability and the need for a strong Europe so we can together face shared challenges," while Joe Costello, Labour's European spokesman compared the importance of the referendum to Ireland's 1973 decision to join the EEC.
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Moldova opposition parties announce pro-EU coalition
9 August 2009 - Deutsche Welle
Following the July 29 election in Moldova, the four parties that have won power announced creation of the new pro-EU coalition in the former Soviet Republic's 101-seat parliament. The new coalition, which controls 53 seats, is reported to be called "For European Integration" (FEI), and that leaders of the alliance have named fighting corruption, better relations with the EU, a free and open media, and pulling Moldova's economy out of a deep recession as top priorities. EU officials shortly after the repeat vote in late July called on the pro- and anti-Communist wings of Moldova's political arena to lay aside their differences, and form a new ruling coalition - hoping to avoid further deadlock in electing the president.
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Iceland's bid to join the EU gets off to a fast start
2 August 2009 - Washington Examiner - Tejinder Singh
Until the 2008 global financial crisis, Iceland was reluctant to join the EU. However, following the disastrous effects this crisis had on Iceland's economy, Iceland submitted its application for membership. The European Commission will now prepare a detailed study on Iceland's economic, legal, and political system, in preparation for formal negotiations expected to take a year or two - proving Iceland's strong credentials for EU membership. Iceland is already a member of the European Economic Area trade block, is integrated into the EU market, and is a part of the passport-free Schengen area. In addition, during their July 27 meeting, the foreign ministers reiterated their support for membership aspirations of Western Balkan countries.
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Communists lose in Moldova vote
31 July, 2009 - Star News Online, Michael Schwirtz
Following Moldova's July 29 parliamentary elections, the country's pro-Western opposition parties have unseated the only remaining governing Communist Party in Europe. In an attempt to defeat the Communists, who gained 45% of the vote in Parliament, several opposition parties "loosely united" and pledged to forge closer ties with the European Union. Many Moldovans realize that their future is still uncertain because of the large Communist minority remaining in government, but deputy chairman of the Democratic Party, Oazu Nantoi, put it positively saying that "the first step has been taken: Voronin's monopoly on power has been broken." In April, riots broke out after allegations of voter fraud following elections in the spring. Mr. Voronin, in line with Moldova's constitution, dissolved Parliament and called for new elections. Besides the dissatisfaction with government fraud, more people have become discontented with Mr. Voronin's increasing emphasis on a "Russian-style model of a vertical governing scheme."
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EU elections seen as irrelevant, survey finds
30 July 2009 - Euractiv
According to a European Eurobarometer survey there is positive data from the recent low turnout in national EU elections. The data shows that a third of voters who decided not to vote in the election decided this either in the last few days leading up to elections or during the voting period itself. Parliament analysts suggest that this is a substantial group who could be persuaded to vote in the future. The study also suggests that many feel they haven't been informed enough about the issues in the elections There is also evidence to suggest that the low turnout can be attributed to a lack of knowledge of what the EU Parliament does as opposed to national parliaments, and a certain lack of trust in European political parties.
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EU to renew US bank scrutiny deal
28 July, 2009 - BBC News
EU member states have agreed to let the European Commission negotiate new conditions for the renewed agreement between the bloc and the US, which would allow the latter to continue scrutinizing "European citizens' banking activities under US anti-terrorism laws." The US currently monitors all transactions handled by the inter-bank network, Swift, based in Belgium. Now, the US wants access to a new European database being set up by Swift in Switzerland. The purpose of such expansion into banking transaction observation would allow US officials to track down suspicious activity possibly linked to terrorists. The public first became aware of Swift's anti-terrorism cooperation with the US back in 2006. A data-sharing agreement was struck in 2007 only after "European data protection authorities demanded guarantees that European privacy laws would not be violated." Although some Europeans, especially German politicians, are worried over the scope of US bank scrutiny and concerned about privacy, EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot stated that "it would be extremely dangerous at this stage to stop the surveillance and the monitoring of information flow" and that it was not a "question of giving the US a blank cheque."
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EU Foreign Ministers to discuss Georgia, Iran, Iceland
27 July, 2009 - Radio Free Europe, Ahto Lobjakas
EU foreign ministers are convening for the first time this week since Sweden took over the 6-month presidency on July 1. Georgia is expected to be at the top of the agenda. EU member states have recently reached an agreement to extend the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia until September 2010. It is likely that the ministers this week will introduce Georgia's request to include US officials in the EUMM. Also on the agenda is Iran; the ministers will most likely issue a statement "expressing solidarity with those member states whose nationals or employees have been detained by Iranian authorities" following last month's violent post-election protests. Iceland's membership into the Union will also be discussed this week.
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New Bulgaria PM takes helm, vows was on corruption
27 July, 2009 - AFP, Diana Simeonova
New Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, from the centre-right Citizens for European Development party, has vowed during his term to fight corruption and overcome the economic recession. In his speech to parliament, he listed financial stability, economic development, reform of the judiciary and the fight against crime and corruption among his government's "top priorities". Nevertheless, he is leading a minority government, which could compromise his work; he "refused to form a clear coalition with the two small right-wing parties in parliament...as well as with the ultra nationalist Ataka formation." However, he has sought their support. Now Borisov's task is to "strike a careful balance between his three loose partners."
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Spanish minister to visit disputed Gibraltar
21 July, 2009 - Associated Press, Ciaran Giles
The British and the Spanish are attempting to put a historical disagreement behind them permanently: today, the Spanish minister of foreign affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos, made a trip to the disputed British colony of Gibraltar to meet with his British counterpart, David Miliband, and Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana. The dispute over possession of this territory has gone on for the last 300 years, since the Spanish ceded Gibraltar to the British in a 1713 treaty. Since then, the Spanish have persistently sought to reclaim it. During these present talks, Moratinos has not renounced Spain's claim to Gibraltar because there are many cultural similarities between the two regions as well as continuous political conflicts - residents of Gibraltar speak Spanish and own property on the coast of Spain, and their continual border and customs matters and banking practices continue to embitter both sides. Nevertheless, Moratinos did recognize that cooperation with the British was the only option to pursue in this case. He, Miliband and Caruana discussed issues that concern the colony, including fishing, fiscal control, security, environmental issues and crime. Moratinos is quoted as saying that "problems get solved through dialogue and cooperation. We must look to the future and not to the past."
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Blair's possible candidacy adds new divisive twist to EU president debate
21 July, 2009 - Deutsche Welle, Nick Amies
Now that it seems very likely that the Lisbon Treaty will be ratified by the end of this year, the role of the proposed EU President has become a topic of "fierce speculation" in recent weeks. The Treaty itself aims to give the 27-member bloc stronger leadership, fairer decision-making and more of a say on the world stage. Currently, the EU Presidency - a position under the European Council - is a 6-month position; the Lisbon Treaty would extend this timeline to 2.5 years. Some people worry that this position and other proposals will consolidate power at the top, to the detriment of individual member states. However, the position of President of the EU will be more of a symbolic position; it will give a voice and a face to Europe, especially in foreign affairs, but it's not a position of absolute power. In terms of potential candidates, speculation is surrounding former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Although he claims that "there is no campaign" for this office, he has support from many European high officials, including Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Even if he does become the leading candidate for President, his appointment will not come without many obstacles; many Europeans still view him in an unfavorable light due to his decision in 2003 to join the US-backed mission in Iraq. He would also have to contend with the Conservatives in his country and their euro-skeptic views.
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Tasks of the new European Commission
21 July, 2009 - Social Europe Journal
The Study Group Europe of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung has come up with a list of proposed tasks that should be included in the new EU Commission over the next several years. The authors - participants from the German parliament, political parties, federal ministries, Lander representatives, and association and research institutions - see it as a "blueprint for future political decision-making"; they also see the financial and economic crises as a window of opportunity for great reform rather than simple management of the situation. Their study focuses on the following topics: social policies; economic policy; taxation; financial markets; public service provision; energy and climate; culture of civil rights, security and freedom; migration and integration; a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP); and European Neighborhood Policy (ENP).
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Read the full report here.

Saakashvili proposes democratic reforms
21 July, 2009 - Washington Post, Philip P. Pan
Ahead of Vice President Biden's visit to the country this week, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has proposed a series of democratic reforms, including the promise to hold direct mayoral elections for the first time next year and to help an opposition cable channel project its signal nationally. With these and other changes, he hopes to put to rest the complaints of the media's pro-government bias as well as to open politics to more opposition groups. He also intends to put limits on presidential powers and to strengthen the courts. Many people see Saakashvili's willingness to reform the Caucasus nation as an attempt to repair his reputation before sitting down for talks with Biden, which are supposed to include discussion of the US' concerns about democratic backsliding in Georgia.
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Lithuania - Key Points on the Transatlantic Agenda and Issues of the European Security were Discussed in the Netherlands
20 July, 2009 - Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release
Lithuania's acting foreign minister, Vygaudas Ušackas, and Dutch foreign minister, Maxime Verhagen, met in the Netherlands to discuss the transatlantic agenda and issues of European security. Currently, Lithuania holds the chairmanship over the Baltic Council of Ministers and the Netherlands holds a similar position over the Benelux countries. During their meeting, the two leaders emphasized the importance of a US-European partnership; they are "historically interconnected by transatlantic links in NATO." They discussed a host of issues including the economy, climate change and security in Afghanistan, problems which "would be successfully solved only when the US and Europe act together and, thus, demonstrate an example to other countries." Minister Ušackas and Minister Verhagen also discussed the upcoming meeting between the Baltic States and the Benelux countries, which will be taking place October 13 of this year in Lithuania.
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Biden in Ukraine to assure leaders of US backing
20 July, 2009 - Washington Post, Sabina Zawadzki
Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Kiev, Ukraine today for a meeting with its leaders to reassure them that Washington has not forgotten them despite separate attempts by the US to strengthen relations with Russia. Biden is seen as making a "balancing trip", trying to offset President Obama's recent trip to Moscow. The most likely topics of discussion will include Ukraine's security, the resolve of future US-Ukraine cooperation on defense, and also the US' continued support of Ukraine's possible NATO accession. Current Ukrainian president, Viktor Yushchenko, has angered many people and those in Moscow for his pro-NATO agenda, therefore making Biden's "balancing act" even more delicate. He is expected to "signal support for Ukraine", the Obama Administration will be much less vociferous in their support than the Bush Administration.
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EU, US may join ASEAN treaty at regional forum
17 July, 2009 - Yonhap News, Lee Chi-dong
During a major security forum to be held in Thailand this week, the US and the EU may sign a cooperation and non-aggression treaty with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This treaty, known as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC), "calls for signatories to renounce the use or threat of force and requires peaceful settlement of conflicts." Fifteen other non-ASEAN nations including China and South Korea have previously signed as well.
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Euro parliament elects new leader
14 July, 2009 - BBC News
During its first plenary session, the EU Parliament elected former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek as the chamber's president. As Prime Minister, he led a coalition government in Poland from 1997-2001. In 2004, he joined the European Parliament, the same year of Poland's accession. Notably, Mr. Buzek is the first politician from a former Communist country to chair this position. He was also elected by an overwhelming majority, 555 votes of 736. Eva-Britt Svensson, a Swedish leftist, came in second with 89 votes. Mr. Buzek succeeds Hans-Gert Poettering of Germany for this two-and-a-half year mandate, half of the parliament's five-year mandate. Recognizing the need for European unity, he stressed that "there is now no ‘you' and ‘us' - we live in a shared Europe."
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Newly elected assembly to meet in plenary session
13 July, 2009 - AFP
The 736 newly elected EU MP's (members of parliament) will convene for their first plenary session since elections several weeks ago. During this short initial meeting, the body will elect its president. The EU Parliamentarians are eager to "test the new political muscle" it will gain once the Lisbon Treaty goes into effect. Already, the EU Parliament is showing its strength by taking a stand against voting on a European Commission president, waiting until the autumn before making any endorsements. Current Commission president, Manuel Barroso of Portugal, was already formally endorsed by the EU member nations, but some Europeans feel that by rushing the process of appointing a Commission president, the newly elected European parliament's "credibility and standing" would not be upheld. It is determined that Ireland, the only nation yet to hold a successful Lisbon Treaty referendum, will vote ‘yes' this time. When the Treaty goes into effect, Parliament will have increased powers, including the right to appoint a Commission president.
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Europe gas pipeline deal agreed
13 July, 2009 - BBC News
Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Austria recently signed an agreement authorizing the construction of the long-planned 3,300km Nabucco natural gas pipeline. There are still many issues to work out, including how much gas Turkey would be able to take from the pipeline as well as which countries would contribute gas supplies, which is why this agreement has come as such a surprise. More than likely, supplies will come from Central Asian and Middle Eastern nations. But once completed, the Nabucco pipeline will give an important alternative to the Russian energy supply.
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Icelandic parliament continues debate on EU membership
11 July, 2009 - Deutsche Welle, Kyle James
Iceland's parliament, the Althingi, is currently ending its debate over whether it will apply to become a member of the European Union. The government's goal is to have an application submitted to Brussels by 27 July in order "to have an answer by the end of the year." Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir maintains that the country would have been better off in the financial crisis had it been an EU member before it hit. Overall, many EU officials are positive toward the pending Icelandic application. Within the country, however, the prospect of EU accession is still a point of contention between the coalition of pro-EU Social Democrats and the EU-skeptic Left-Greens. When this coalition first formed, both sides had "agreed to disagree" on the issue. The current motion on the table whether or not to apply for membership requires at least 32 votes to pass; the Social Democrats have 20 seats in parliament and can probably obtain support from two other pro-European parties, the Citizen Movement and the Progressive Party.
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Lithuania: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopts Vilnius Declaration
6 July, 2009 - Baltic Review
At the end of its 18th Annual Session, the members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly adopted a concluding document known as the Vilnius Declaration, which outlines a set of policy recommendations to the governments of the member states. 213 Parliamentarians from 50 OSCE nations voted on the 28 adopted resolutions, which included provisions to strengthen the organization, election observation, food security in the OSCE area, consequences of the financial crisis, Iran and Afghanistan, and climate change. With regards to the financial crisis, the Declaration calls for the development of a more coordinated response between OSCE members. In addition, the Declaration seeks to strengthen cooperation between countries that produce, consume or transport energy and also that climate change should still be considered a top priority issue, despite the current global financial situation. Finally, this Annual Session also witnessed the re-election of the Assembly president, Joao Soares of Portugal, to a second one-year term. Ben Cardin of the United States was re-elected as Vice President, along with three new VP's: Petros Efthymiou of Greece, Jean-Charles Gardetto of Monaco, and Isabel Pozuelo of Spain.
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Obama and Russian leader announce nuclear deal
6, July 2009 - International Herald Tribune, Clifford J. Levy and Peter Baker
After the first day of a two-day summit in Moscow between President Obama and Dmitri Medvedev, a preliminary agreement on nuclear weapons reduction has already been reached. The framework agreement was put together just as Mr. Obama arrived in Moscow and it was approved by him and Mr. Medvedev during their meeting Monday afternoon. The agreement commits both countries to modest reductions in their nuclear arsenals. Both leaders hope that this new nuclear agreement will provide a strong foundation for a successor to the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire in December. Negotiators were told to construct a treaty which would cut strategic warheads on each side to between 1,500 and 1,675, down from 2,200 scheduled to take effect in 2012 under the Treaty of Moscow signed by George W. Bush. The past few weeks included arduous negotiating, but in the end, both sides wanted to produce something constructive so they could call the summit a success and to improve relations. Both leaders mentioned that they would like to see better relations between Russia and the United States, but that differences still persist, including the US missile defense system in Eastern Europe. However, in the interests of peace and security, both leaders appear committed to establishing a stronger working relationship.
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German court ruling aims to lessen Lisbon confusion
2 July, 2009 - Irish Times, Derek Scally
Last week, after much debate, the German Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe announced their "landmark Yes, but" ruling with regards to six challenges to the Lisbon Treaty. Although Germany already had a successful nation-wide Lisbon Treaty referendum, the EU was still waiting - until this ruling - for the German court to ratify it. The court justices unanimously ruled that the Lisbon Treaty "is compatible with Germany's post-war Basic Law" and essentially with the German constitution. Among such findings that support this ruling, the Lisbon Treaty does not transform the EU into a federal state nor does it create an EU citizenship "to supersede a national one." The "but" part of this ruling states that the ratification bill will be signed into law only after the amendment accompanying this bill is put into place. The amendment in question would give Germany bicameral legislature more say over the future transfer of power to Brussels. This ruling also sets an important precedent because it suggests that more EU member nations will keep a closer eye on the EU bureaucracy in order to protect democracy as well as the sovereign power of the individual nation. Europeans are ready for a stronger EU, but they are still weary of giving up too much national power.
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