Today, 2 October, in an event likely to be a defining moment in the slow evolution of the European Union, the Irish are voting in a second referendum over the fate of the Lisbon Treaty. The Treaty, which aims to transfer more power to the EU and to streamline operations to match the new challenges faced by the Union as one unity, was rejected last year in Ireland in a campaign that brought emotive issues such as abortion into a debate over a legal document riddled with Euro jargon. The ingenious motto of the ‘No’ camp was, befittingly, “If you don’t know, vote no.” It was more like, “If you don’t know- we’ll invent something for you”.
There were more than a few muted smiles around, particularly among Conservatives in neighboring England, when the Treaty was rejected. A pet project of more Eurocentric nations like France and Germany, the Treaty was received with hostility in smaller countries, and in traditionally Euroskeptic circles, where fears of political unaccountability and loss of control dominated EU-related debates.
But Europhiles persisted and pushed Ireland to think again. Bullying or not, the Irish were encouraged to reconsider and seem to have changed course. With familiarity comes acceptance and with acceptance a sense of purpose more in line with the majority of member states that have already, mostly through parliamentary ratification, accepted the Treaty’s status as the foundation of a new and improved Union.
Although much still depends on the staunchly Euroskeptic Czechs (their president more specifically) and possibly a soon-to-be Tory government in Britain (general elections there are set for the first half of 2010), a ‘Yes’ vote would mark a dramatic U-turn for the Irish in terms of the majority’s views of the EU and its future.
Europe aims to be the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy. To this end, the EU set up different framework programs (FPs) to fund research in almost all scientific fields. The budget of the current program (FP7) amounts to the remarkable sum of EUR 1.4 billion – a bunch of golden pots attracting researchers and practitioners from all over Europe.
Those working on the ‘security research‘ theme are currently in Stockholm at the SR Conference hosted by the Swedish EU Presidency. The objective of the security theme is to develop technologies and knowledge to protect citizens from threats such as terrorism, natural disasters and crime while respecting their privacy and fundamental rights. In his opening speech Vice-President of the European Commission Günter Verheugen reminded the representatives of the industries such as Boeing, Saab, Thales or EADS as well as civil servants and academics that technology alone cannot do the job pointing to the political and ethical dimension of security research. “Our security must be based on our values,” he stated.
The annual conference is the meeting place for security stakeholders to debate Europe’s research agenda. EU representatives outline the Union’s priorities and expectations to those interested in conducting the research and implementing the results. They then take the opportunity to coordinate their efforts, fine tune their proposals and find new partners to work with.
As a long-standing network for IR professionals offering information on a wide range of security related issues, the ISN is of great interest to the conference attendees. Some require to learn about a specific topic such as energy security, others are interested in joining our partner network, want to write for us or simply learn more about our activities such as e-Learning.
There are also those who know us already. Their compliments are very reassuring of the work we do and motivating to keep up our high standards. “I learnt about you at last year’s conference and am now a big fan of your Security Watch service, ” one of the visitors said.
Instead of celebrating a landslide win in the European Parliament elections last week, social democrats all over Europe see themselves confronted with one question: What went wrong? In an economic downturn, social democratic parties usually gain appeal to voters. Not so this time. The results of last weeks elections show devastating losses for social democrats, especially in Britain, France and Germany. The British Labour Party only got 16% of the vote and came in third place. In France, the Parti Socialiste returned with 16.5% of the vote (12 percentage points less than five years ago). The Social Democratic Party in Germany had its worst result since World War II with less than 21%.
With the Labour Party embroiled in an expenses scandal, their result didn’t come as much of a surprise. In France, however, the opportunity couldn’t have been any better with President Nicolas Sarkozy struggling with his reforms and dealing with an approval rating as low as 32%. But instead of taking advantage of the momentum, the Party Socialist got caught up in a nasty fight over power between Ségolène Royal and now party leader Martine Aubry. Issues were to be discussed at a later stage.
A similar thing happened in Germany. Admittedly, Chancellor Angela Merkel is not an easy adversary to take on. This is no reason, though, to get carried away with endless discussions about coalition building followed by an internal mud-slinging session. Again, policy debates had to be postponed.
It might be somewhat premature to announce the decline of social democracy, as some already do. With all this in mind, however, it should not surprise anybody that voters don’t believe the social democrats can lead Europe out of the economic slump.
After India’s elections, they are the second-largest in the world. And when it comes to the complexity degree I am not sure who would be top of the list. A case in point: Candidates being elected in 27 different voting procedures and 27 election campaigns, each taking place according to its own rules.
What is it about the elections to the European Parliament that makes them so special and yet so debatable? It’s a question I asked myself when skimming through a Spiegel photo stream on the most bizarre candidates to the EU Parliament. Models and showgirls, the owner of a football club and a former cosmonaut – why do they all want to make it to Strasbourg and Brussels?