Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
Catherine Ashton has signalled her intention of giving the European Union’s relationship with the United States more prominence in her new role as the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs.
How productive that relationship proves to be depends largely on how much Washington believes it needs the EU and how much it deals with the European Union as a whole, rather than with its member states one-to-one.
Ashton made her intentions clear by going to Washington for talks last week on one of her first trips since starting her new job on Dec. 1 last year.
“I am grateful to have such a strong, thoughtful, accomplished partner in the efforts that confront us. But I am
very confident that with the EU and the U.S. growing even more closely together, we are up to those challenges,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters after talks with Ashton that marked an encouraging start for the Briton.
Europe’s nominee to be climate chief surprised car manufacturers last week by saying she thought EU policymakers might have been too soft on them when carbon-capping rules were set in 2008.
Connie Hedegaard’s forceful intervention during hearings for the European Commission raised the possibility of a renewed push by Europe to legislate car emissions if the Dane is approved by the European Parliament for the post next month.
Euro zone finance ministers have failed to pick the next vice president of the European Central Bank, partly because they are not sure how to do it under the European Union’s new Lisbon treaty. The treaty, which came into force in December, gives the euro area finance ministers — the Eurogroup — legal status and is supposed to simplify decision-making in the 27-nation bloc. But the 16 euro zone ministers decided to ask lawyers how to choose a successor to ECB Vice-President Lucas Papademos, delaying the decision until February, one diplomat said. Vitor Constancio and Yves Mersch, central bank chiefs of Portugal and Luxembourg respectively, are running, as is Peter Praet of Belgium’s central bank.
The problem is uncertainty about how the Eurogroup should vote under the treaty.
In fact, the Eurogroup, which met on Monday as usual on the the eve of an Ecofin meeting of all of the EU’s 27 finance ministers, and is described in the EU treaty as an informal group, cannot take formal votes. But it can probably hold informal ones.
Formal votes are held at the Ecofins, but on issues concerning the euro zone only Eurogroup ministers vote. If they do, then what majority is needed? What if you have to choose from among three, not two candidates? In theory, the Eurogroup ministers could hold a vote on what voting rules to apply. But in that case, there is also no clarity on how to vote.
In the six days since a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, the world has responded with vast amounts of aid and promises of long-term reconstruction, something the Caribbean country’s creaking infrastructure desperately needs.
The World Bank and the United States pledged $100 million each, the United Nations promised $10 million and announced a “flash” appeal for $500 million more, and dozens of companies including Google, Microsoft and Bank of America committed $1 million a piece. Hollywood stars, rap singers and tennis champions all immediately raised money themselves or lent their support to encourage donations to the relief effort.
By David Brunnstrom
EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner designate Olli Rehn drew inspiration from former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a hearing in the European Parliament this week.
Each prospective commissioner has to endure a three-hour grilling to check their credentials.
Every five years, the European Parliament gets an opportunity to show its muscle as it quizzes candidates for the next European Commission, the powerful body that enforces EU laws.
But rather than a forensic examination of the 26 nominees – the sort of in-the-spotlight inquisition the U.S. Senate puts presidential appointees through — the European Parliament has a tendency just to go through the motions.
In the United States, Senate hearings to confirm presidential appointments are a Big News Story, with scores of photographers, TV cameras and journalists cramming into the committee rooms to follow the event live.
The European Union — which has 200 million more people than the United States and is a larger trading bloc — has something similar, with hearings before the European Parliament to confirm nominees to the European Commission, the 27-person body that enforces laws across the EU.
The fact that European Union leaders have not yet reached a consensus on who should become president of the 27-nation bloc, with time running out before a summit on who should be given the post, has compounded my belief that they should scrap the idea all together.
During the horse-trading of the past few weeks I have found myself asking the question: why do we need an EU president, particularly since the bloc has at least one, if not two, capable presidents already.
Europe has become increasingly selfish and materialistic in the 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the heads of the Roman Catholic bishops' conferences across Europe said at the end of their three-day annual meeting at the weekend. "The crisis sweeping Europe today is serious," they said in a statement after the session in Paris. They cited materialism, individualism and relativism as major challenges facing European society.
The bishops' sober assessment contrasted with the upbeat mood that the overwhelming "Yes" vote in Ireland's Lisbon Treaty referendum created. It must be noted they drew up their statement before they'd heard the news from Dublin on Saturday. And their statement ended with a note of Christian hopefulness. Still, their diagnosis is so fundamental it's hard to imagine they would have changed much in the text.
If this morning’s flight from Brussels to Dublin is an indication of how Irish people will vote in Friday’s referendum on the EU’s Lisbon reform treaty, then the result will be an emphatic Yes on Saturday afternoon when the final results are expected to be known.
The majority of the Aer Lingus flight packed with Irish diaspora from Brussels – some of who hold office in the EU capital – seemed set to vote Yes to the Lisbon treaty, which aims to give the 27-nation bloc greater sway in world affairs and streamline its decision-making.