Tuesday, June 19, 2007

First draft - key points

Feral media? Feral media????

We wish it was. The reality of the media in Brussels is that the politicians have journos over a barrel.

The EU is like one of its own buildings: huge, monolithic and mirror-surfaced. Unlike in national politics you don't have so many of the internal political rivalries that lead to lovely leaks. Most people in the system tend to believe in what the EU is doing.

The EU is also very keen to try and squeeze out independent platforms. So it funds "Eur-activ" to compete with the independent EU Observer. It funds the ludicrous "Euronews" to compete (ha ha) with BBC News 24 and CNN.

There is no "official opposition", and the EU institutions have all the information - so they are the ones you need to cultivate to get ahead. We recall that one senior member of Brussels press core once wrote a ludicrously fawning piece off the back of a commission briefing. Speaking to him the next day he explained: "well, if you don't give them a good plug once in a while you just don't get anything."

So it is this evening. Journos have been waiting to pounce on the first draft of an agreement, circulated by Angela Merkel. But it is being held back. So print journalists have had to rely on bits and pieces read out to them by various sources - which is far from ideal. That gives them a horrible choice between being left behind or having to rely on official sources.

The draft sounds interesting to say the least. But not something that the UK Government would realistically sign up to. Proposals (apparently) include:

* Making the Charter of Fundamental Rights legally binding by means of a reference to it in the text, and giving the UK a face-saving compromise in the form of some words about restricting its scope.

* Some people say legal personality is in, others seem to think its out.

* Having the supremacy of EU law in a protocol (surely this is just being thrown up to be shot down by Brown?)

* Using a new form of enhanced cooperation to smooth the giving up of lots of vetoes. So members wouldn't have to take part, but could not stop decisions being made.

* Keeping "the specificity of CFSP decisions" but merging the Council and Commission roles in to a single EU Foreign Minister. Changing the name of the Foreign Minister to... well, it just says "XXX" in the current text.

* Not collapsing the pillars, but perhaps fudging the issue by moving some of the third pillar into the first, so that for example the Foreign Minister might gain some right of initiative, even if the court does not get jurisdiction.

Many of these things - Charter, Legal Personality, etc - would be a disaster for Brown. We don't believe he will accept them.

The devil will be in the detail. And we’ll only find that out once our “feral” politicians stop negotiating in secret and give us a text.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Merkel's 11-pager: http://www.nrc.nl/redactie/Europa/voorstelduitsers.pdf