Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Pat Cox, Joseph Borrell, Hans-Gert Poettering and now Jerzy Buzek. What do they have in common ? For those outside the EU bubble in Brussels, Polish conservative Buzek was elected on Tuesday as the new president of the European Parliament, following in the footsteps of the others mentioned above.
But does anyone really care ?
I asked on Facebook if anyone could name the previous two presidents and from those of my friends who do not work in any of the European Union institutions, I received numerous responses ranging from Barack Obama to Seamus & Sheila McSpud.
In his first media interview after taking over as the head of the EU’s directly elected assembly in 2007, Poettering told me he was going to make the European Parliament one of the best-known legislatures in the world.
Poettering’s closeness to German Chancellor Angela Merkel was supposed to give him a greater voice and increase parliament’s influence over EU legislation, notably on climate change and financial regulation.
But even with greater media coverage of the EU’s co-legislature, notably of the committees responsible for these important areas of competence, June’s election still resulted in a record-low turnout and further diluted public opinion of the parliament.
But Thomas Steg’s voluntary departure in Berlin just 2 months and 2 weeks before the federal election has raised more than a few eyebrows — he is not leaving his post as deputy government spokesman to go off and write a book or study horticulture but rather he will be leading the election campaign communications efforts of the man who wants to knock Merkel out of office — SPD candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Germany’s defence minister gets his tongue in a twist every time he tries to explain why the German army is not in a “war” in Afghanistan, even though more and more German soldiers are coming home in coffins.
“If we were to speak of ‘war’ then we would only be focusing on the military aspect in the region and that would be a mistake,” Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said after three more German soldiers were killed on Tuesday, raising the total to 35.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her would-be allies, the opposition Free Democrats, did not waste any time putting their spin on the re-election of President Horst Koehler on Saturday – a razor-thin victory for the conservatives over the rival candidate put up by their coalition partners, the Social Democrats, in a vote four months before the parliamentary election.
Mere minutes after Koehler squeaked out a one-vote victory in the 1,224-seat Federal Assembly to win a second term as Germany’s ceremonial head of state, a beaming Merkel popped up on national television alongside FDP chairman Guido Westerwelle for a joint impromptu news conference rich with symbolism; it was the first time they appeared together in such a formal setting since the 2005 campaign.
A debate about whether Communist East Germany was an “Unrechtsstaat” (“unjust state”) or merely not a “Rechtsstaat” (“state based on the rule of law”) has been dividing the German political class for months — and it now has spilled onto the front pages this week as the reunited country celebrates its 60th anniversary.
What might seem like a nuance of history has turned into a full-fledged battle that is splitting many eastern and western Germans once again along the fault lines of the long since dismantled Wall that separated them during the Cold War.
Barely noticed, the United States sent a top diplomat to Europe this week to seek help on an important commitment by President Barack Obama — to close the Guantanamo Bay prison.
The trip by veteran envoy Dan Fried to Brussels and Prague is part of efforts to persuade European states to take in some of the 241 remaining detainees at the prison, synonomous for many with rights abuses in the “war on terror” under U.S. President George W. Bush.
Europe has long called for the jail to be shut down, but only a few countries — such as France, Portugal and Albania — have volunteered to resettle any inmates from third countries such as Afghanistan or China.
Time is steadily running out if Obama is to achieve his goal of clearing and closing the prison by next January. A perceived lack of European help could sour the much-vaunted new start in transatlantic ties which both sides say they want.
But many European officials are asking why they should help the United States out of a hole it dug itself into.
The main problem does not involve the small number of so-called high-value terror suspects in the camp — they will remain in detention and Washington does not seriously expect anyone to come forward and take them off its hands.
Nor does it involve the 17 detainees who have already been cleared for release. The really hot issue is the fate of the remaining detainees who are not high risk but have not been given the full all-clear.
European officials fear the affair could turn into a legal and political nightmare. Who will take which detainees? Given that much of Europe is now border-free, how will one country reassure its neighbours if it agrees to resettle inmates? And doesn’t the fact that European states have different national policies on surveillance and detention pose extra problems?
Worse still, the political fall-out could be devastating. If , for example, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner carried out an attack in Germany just before an election this year, how would Chancellor Angela Merkel explain it to voters?
Washington knows it won’t be easy to get the Europeans on board. But it says it would be hypocritical for Europe now not to help after all its criticism of Guantanamo.
Unveiling the SPD’s election campaign programme at a party conference on Sunday, Steinmeier (who is also Germany’s foreign minister) tried hard to satisfy everyone gathered at the Berlin Tempodrom – and by and large succeeded.
German Chancellor Chancellor Angela Merkel and Vice Chancellor Frank-Walter Steinmeier will battle each other in September’s federal election. But on Tuesday, it was hard to imagine the German odd couple campaigning against each other just a few months from now. The leaders of the two rival parties, locked in their loveless grand coalition since 2005, sat next to each other for 90 minutes, smiling politely as they jointly defended a new economic stimulus package their two ruling parties welded together.
“The campaign will start early enough,” said Steinmeier, who also is Germany’s foreign minister. “What we have presented here shows that the parties in this coalition act responsibly.” Merkel, nodding approvingly in response to several of Steinmeier’s “we’re-on-the-same-team” type of answers at the nationally televisioned news conference, added: “This is a good package. Everybody has made their contribution.”
Would someone please explain to Silvio Berlusconi the
meaning of a “self fulfilling prophecy.”
Italy’s billionaire prime minister loves to be entertaining
but in recent months his jocular style has got stuck on a story
he just can’t stop repeating which he describes as “what the
English call a self fulfilling prophecy”.