A brief insight into Euromyths

Maria Moroniak

The European Union as a big, diverse community struggles with numerous stereotypes and myths. Have  you ever wondered if the case of straight bananas really matters? Or have you ever stopped to think if church bells ringing on Sunday break the law? Take a look at ten incredible myths about how the EU works:

Photo by Tomek Garczyński posted on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/wyb2011/5768734085/in/photolist-ogvw5A-gbpcsh-rep5XY-sAzAXv-sMMUrW-sVekii-6T1q5G-9MLgEv-9foCBS-nhx1Ah-91Gs4H-a29tRm-6bw2g1-9wbRy

Photo by Tomek Garczyński posted on Flickr

#10 Myth: Sweets and toys commercials are banned

Fact:  The ban of advertising products for under 12-s had already come into force in Sweden, that wanted to encourage the EU to extend it to the whole community during its presidency in 2001, but didn’t succeed.

#9 Myth: The EU silences Scottish bagpipers for their own good

Fact: The EU didn’t ban national Scottish musicians to play their instruments. However, special detailed regulations preventing harm caused by noise exposure exist, but were created by the UK, not the EU.

Scotsman (Photo by Christian Holmér, posted on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/crsan/5504029710/in/photolist-9onAgY-a7HCV3-aiV4ez-82zb5n-aiV24c-8Psm6a-poonk5-cautvu-brfh4L-6Uy8zX-9ouZw4-5j6uT-cbNSLo-amfaWe-4GEE1B-4hw91P-AbAnZ-6NTtqM-78aPXA-7VcBNT-5gBTCx-aBZkdQ-8dSmaA-5JPFqt-a8aAmS-njk9om-2Tp43-5F7fsT-6MH9H5-c7hTPs-4snYwG-8ruBXU-66gGFw-31ss3Q-6XRm78-pGj5w-6RxDj2-dmC75g-nimjr-6Lb1CJ-66gqDU-7DBpxL-a888qZ-9PgRF8-8x3Due-67LVTn-oRt9nt-8esdGD-aqSn8K-fsKCi4 )

Scotsman (Photo by Christian Holmér, posted on Flickr)

#8 Myth: Children are banned from blowing up balloons and using party whistles

Fact: The EU regulations make producers place a special notes on their products to warn parents against letting too young children use this kind of toys without parental advisory, trying to protect kids from swallowing small parts.

#7 Myth: The EU bans church bells ringing

Fact: Some eager vicar was concerned that people living nearby the chapel would mind the noise of church bells and sue him to the European Court of Human Rights. In fact church bells sound doesn’t break the European law.

#6 Myth: Shops cannot sell dozens or half-dozen boxes of eggs

Fact: In 2010 the EU brought new labelling rules saying that the product containers must have also weight of the product written on them, not only number of pieces inside. That means selling eggs in dozens is still allowed.

#5 Myth: Self-employed people’s houses must have fire doors

Fact: Numerous directives protecting workers in the EU don’t apply to self employed persons working from their homes.

#4 Myth: The EU hires aristocrats to make inquiries on wine labelling

Fact: In 1993 an Italian MEP wanted his idea to be used to create an official unit taking care about proper wine labelling. His idea has never been realized.

Wine selection (Photo by Greg Pye, on Flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/gregpye/3203516653/in/photolist-5T5RTK-qpjPLd-9V2bKU-bhkreF-qgH4JR-7CefQi-5AW8Tr-e9J1QW-5hBvae-q1fVFT-6irefx-cDMdZ5-q3GoHJ-dthhKD-8UFVHW-dbN7kZ-9yb2iM-cDMe7h-8tVWMy-aGZG3z-bc1Zy6-ccyFo3-bZe1wd-qDBfSN-erKgqN-9J6Ygj-7iFqtU-6PH9nT-arTPJJ-aqsshG-cETgNq-cc2FiU-bnWx7h-7P7tCk-7tW26R-3QFzJ2-aj2B8N-4pcA9Y-2kCCK7-9AwbHz-5FTf27-cTt9aw-9DJg8G-7gwT6b-7ZCeGG-bbbR3c-5nYjX6-9M54Fi-9J7fHQ-8XPuCL)

Wine selection (Photo by Greg Pye, on Flickr)

#3 Myth: The EU officials are not allowed to fly Ryanair

Fact: Ryanair company didn’t enable their customers to book tickets through industry booking systems. This is why all the officials willing to travel with Ryanair would have to book their tickets themselves, which is just less comfortable for them.

#2 Myth: All unwanted love cards received on Valentine’s day are sexual harassment

Fact: There is no regulation or directive defying that this way. Opinion and judgment should be based on common sense. However, the EU regulations on dignity of women and men at work do exist.

#1 Myth: Bananas being sold in the European shops ought to be straight

Fact: The EU indeed takes care about size and quality of imported products to make its international trade clearer. Let’s get this straight- bananas don’t have to be uncurved, their size and quality have to correspond with the EU standards.

I also encourage you to check out my sources and take a look at the whole list of euromyths  published by the European Comission here  or read the article on them.

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Reklamy

European Youth Event 2016 #2

Kamil Augustyniak

 

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

European Youth Event was a great opportunity not only for young generation to meet and share already gained experience, but also for EU authorities to understand better what ideas, concerning European matters, are hidden in students’ and pupils’ heads. Great place, great forum, great discussion with great people – this is the essence of the mentioned event. Since all meetings were held in Strasbourg, everyone could see European Parliament from inside, try to vote, hear simultaneous translations and finally decide whether this place suits them or not. Personally I was absolutely excited about the work of interpreters. When observing how this profession is essential when talking about communication and fighting its barriers, I saw numerous advantages of being one of them in the future.

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

Two days of participation in discussions made me think about some matters in which my opinion was totally opposite. Before I came to Strasbourg I was convinced that Union should do all its best to guarantee payable apprenticeship at all steppingstones, no matter if someone is at the very beginning of its career or already has some professional experience. The issue concerning payments was raised by one of the participants who claimed that all internships should be paid in order to move to another country to intern and allow young generation to become independent. In response, experts said that such idealistic approach would have catastrophic consequences due to drastic decrease of trainings in Member States as well as in EU institutions. Such practice would scare off enterprises and it is not a point we all want to achieve. The solution was proposed by another clever participant who highlighted the necessity of cooperation among universities or even schools with companies, so that students could start their professional path in befriended firms. However, as long as this matter exceeds EU competences and concerns only MS’s internal management, the Union can only promote and encourage such cooperation. Though there were numerous panels to participate in, it was impossible to take part in every single one.

Photo: Vako Karchava

Photo: Vako Karchava

The last I have picked was about robotics and its purpose in real life. Various experts were talking about how the world is rapidly changing in the sphere of computers, robots and other electronic devices. Since the meeting was interactive, students were willing to ask different questions concerning near future scenarios. Final conclusion was that even if technological progress reduces employment in some occupations, surely it will create brand new professions we cannot currently even imagine.

Being the one who is interested in working in EU structures I appreciate the effort of European Youth Event 2016 organizers. Even if I know many issues concerning creating good CV and cover letter or the idea how Union works, the others’ opinions, points of view or their stories made distant career closer and more tangible.

Click HERE to read the first part of our coverage.

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Commission starts rule of law debate

Agnieszka S.

It seems that Poland’s actions are perceived as negative in the eyes of the Western European Member States. This time however, the case is much more serious than a missing flag. In the face of the recent developmental changes that the government of Poland had introduced, the European Commission has expressed its concerns regarding whether those changes operate in accordance with the Rule of Law or not. Since the Commission’s task is to ensure the respect of the European Union law along with safeguarding the fundamental values of the Union, some steps had to be taken in order to clarify this situation.

EC

Polish Constitutional Tribunal and the media case

The first issue is related to the composition of the Polish Constitutional Court. The European Union has started to work on that matter on the 23rd of December 2015, when Mr Timmermans wrote a request to have further information about the different Constitutional Tribunal judgements of the Polish Government. On the same day the Polish Government had requested a legal assessment from the Venice Commission (a body of the Council of Europe through which independent experts of constitutional law give advisory opinions that are not binding) as it was proposed in the letter of Mr Timmermans. However without waiting for the answer, the Polish Government began to finish the legislative process. The statement of the Polish Government concerning this matter is very simple – they are trying to clean up the mess that the previous governing party has made. Changes that were made in the Polish Constitutional Court are a fight of gaining power in this area, but what is worth considering is the fact that when the previous government in Poland was acting in the same way, nobody was interested in that and no one wanted to take a closer look on the case. However, it does not justify the actions taken by PiS because as a new governing party, they should try to rule the country in a better way than the previous one. (read more here)

The second topic of this significant attention of the EU is related to the legal changes on the Public Service Broadcasters. In another letter received by the Polish Government on the 30th of December 2015 in which, along with asking for more details on the situation, Vice-President Timmermans asked if the EU law and the need to promote media pluralism were taken into account while preparing those changes. Poland answered by denying the possible disadvantageous impact on the media pluralism claiming and that in other Member States the situation is very similar and no one is judging them for it. (read more)

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission (EPA/PATRICK SEEGER)

Frans Timmermans, First Vice-President of the European Commission (EPA/PATRICK SEEGER)

The EU has a strong interest in safeguarding and strengthening the rule of law across the Union. However, in order to take some actions, there must be some suspicions about the defect on a system that prevents the country from a well-functioning legal system. Then it has to collect some data – evidences of breaching the law, it was done in a debate that took place on the 13th of January 2016, the main officials responsible for the presentation of the EU’s point of view were: responsible for the framework of the rule of law – First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and two Commissioners – Věra Jourová responsible for justice and Günther Oettinger responsible for media policy. The debate ended with the decision of the Commission to initiate the monitoring procedure of the rule of law in Poland. Next step was the dialogue with the Member State that took place on the 19th of January 2016 in the European Parliament, where the actual Prime Minister of Poland Beata Szydło had to defend the arguments of the Polish Government concerning two mentioned cases. PM Szydło put a lot of effort to convince everyone that Poland is a democratic country and indicated that:

“our history has taught us that our Polish issues should be settle in our Polish home. Because whenever they were fixed for us by others, we ended up very badly”.

The forthcoming steps that European Commission can take are giving recommendations to Poland. In the case of ignoring Commission’s recommendations for changes by the EU member, the very last step would be to put specific sanctions on Poland. Though, voting by unanimity would have to be used in such a case.

Polish PM Beata Szydło (AP/EPA)

Polish PM Beata Szydło (AP/EPA)

Some may think that the EU should not interfere with Poland’s matters. While the whole Europe is shaken and full of fears in regard of what is happening in one of its countries, the EU should always keep the Rule of Law as a main principle. Everyone can agree that Poland has some obligations to fulfil not only as a Member State of European Union but most of all as a civilized democratic country in Europe. They should always put the Rule of Law as a main principle. Although what strikes me the most in this situation is not actually the question of a breach of law but the media influence and their actual input in the whole situation. For the past few months, in Polish newspapers, news on the television or radio we could hear more and more negative statements and criticism about the governing party, even though they have just started their cadence. It seems that the other party is mad following its loss. Unfortunately for them democracy assumes in itself that the majority has welcome PiS as the winning party. Reputation is something that each of us is building up for years and it is a real shame that Poland is losing its standing in the international arena. Thanks to the media, now everyone is scared away from Poland.

References:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-62_en.htm

http://www.tvn24.pl/wiadomosci-z-kraju,3/beata-szydlo-w-trakcie-debaty-w-parlamencie-europejskim,612106.html

Poland vs European Union

Paulina Matwiej

            We are all aware what happened on 13th of November in France. Series of attacks caused great chaos and terror inside of France, but also influenced discussion inside European countries. How European Union should behave when thousands of immigrants are coming to Europe due to the war?

Polish strong objection

            Few days after terrorist attacks in Paris new Polish minister of European Affairs, Konrad Szymański, strongly presented future plans toward refugees. After changes in Polish government we were supposed to receive 6,5 thousands of them. The Minister admitted that he cannot see possibilities to fulfill quota system imposed by EU, according to which refugees would be divided among EU Member States. On the other hand, Witold Waszczykowski (present Chief of Diplomacy) tried to smooth things over and added that Poland will accept refugees quota system, only if a special safety standards on our borders will be introduced. Such objection can bring significant consequences and legal proceedings or, consequently, charge could be brought to the European Court of Justice. Austrian chancellor proposed that countries which resigned from acceptance of immigrants should be deprived of structural funds and special sanctions should be imposed. However, the European Union has not responded to this statement.

Polish Minister of European Affairs (Photo: Łukasz Cynalewski/ Agencja Gazeta)

Polish Minister of European Affairs (Photo: Łukasz Cynalewski/ Agencja Gazeta)

 

Criticism of Polish policy

            The strongest criticism toward this attitude came from President of European Parliament. Martin Schulz in ARD television, stated that Polish approach is at least unfair – when Poland feels threatened by Russia it asks for more funds and army, in such a case Europe is supportive. When Poland needs more funds from the European Union it gets them. In September (2015) special meeting of the Polish Parliament was held, during which Jarosław Kaczyński stated that German policy created great magnet on immigrants and this problem concerns only them. Response of EP President appeared immediately. In such situation the statement that problem of immigrants is only German concern should never appear. Solidarity is not a matter of looking for what is convenient.

Martin Schulz said:

But then you can’t come and say that the refugee problem is a German problem and we have nothing to do with it. Solidarity is a key question and (not subject to) cherry picking.

Strong answer of M. Błaszczak (present Minister of Interior and Administration of Poland):

(President) Schulz’s words are an example of German arrogance ,We’re talking in Warsaw, which was destroyed by Germans. In (Warsaw’s) Wola (district) 50,000 men, women and children were murdered by officers of the German state.

                        The President of the European Parliament in an interview for German television carried the statement that if Europe of nationalists wins, the Europe will be in their hands, not only in the matter of migration. Europe needs morale of solidarity, if it is necessary it will be imposed by using force. Does this statement shows that EU is desperate and has to impose solidarity of Member States?

Source: omon.pl

Immigration policy has been existing since the very beginning, but this time opposition has been strongly expressed by new Polish government. On the other hand new Polish Prime Minister, Beata Szydło, agreed to welcome 7,000 of immigrants. This step can slightly remove bad attitude of EU institutions toward Poland. Is it end of political differences between Polish government and authorities of the EU? We will find out in the near future.

Cultural dimension of the European integration

Emil Wojtaluk

Have you ever thought about the comprehensive analysis of political culture inside EU institutions and the cultural policy of the EU as such? The aim of last week’s conference held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin was to answer these dilemmas.

PTSE

The conference was co-organized by the Polish Society of European Studies

“Political Culture in the European Parliament”

First of all, we have to realize that political culture can be understood as a sphere of influence, the way how politicians gain its power and then how they maintain it.

From the point of view of “neutralization of ideology” we may distinguish two examples referring to this term. First is the initial assumption of the founding fathers of the European Union, where the main goal was the economic integration, which indeed is true if we look at powers of the European Parliament. At that time they were significantly limited and the institution itself had only little influence on decision-making process.

The other example is that inside the EP, each political group gets some position because of the rule of consensus and geographical balance – where there is no competition, unlike national politics.

Another thing is the way of making decisions, where there is no fight for influence on decision-making. When the European Commission proposes legislation, the matter is then governed by the so called shadow rapporteur, who is responsible for particular project. He/she collects opinions, negotiates the draft with the EP and the Council and prepares the project for voting. Rapporteurs give opinion on a project carrying about presenting the view of their own political group, which does not look so transparent.

As a word of conclusion, we should not look at the decision-making process in the EU from the perspective of national politics.

 “Political Culture in the Council of the EU”  

This time it is not about understanding political culture as a formal way of making decisions (legal procedures), but more as a real life model we observe.

Again we have two approaches. According to first the representatives of member states in the Council (both administration and at ministerial level) act by a logic of consequences – meaning what consequences of their choices will be the best from the point of view of their own country. The second approach is about the logic of appropriateness (as a consequence of socialization processes ) so the way of behavior expected by the others.

There are three functions of the Council according to political science – negotiable, representative, and social. Through all of these, the most important one is negotiable function where everyone expects something in return. To be more precise it is again divided into three types of reciprocity: specific reciprocity – concerns specific case which is during negotiation process, in short term perspective; institutional reciprocity –e.g. when each member state has its presidency on rotational basis; diffusional reciprocity – when one member state makes concessions in specific case, remembered by others and repeated in the future.

Another issue is voting by consensus, named as “shadow of the vote”, – where no voting occurs, but it is still taken into account. According to the author we have many negative consequences of consensual voting, which are: 1) inefficiency – because negotiation process is being extended until no one is against; 2) lack of transparency since it’s difficult to define member states’ preferences; 3) inequality of particular member states (it’s hard to assess the influence of each country); 4) uneven impact – larger countries have greater influence while smaller countries have smaller impact.

Finally, the type of culture in the Council can be described as “intercultural”.

The article is based on a conference entitled “Cultural dimension of the European integration” held at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin (Poland) on 9-10 November 2015. Especially based on the lectures of Marta Witkowska, PhD (The University of Warsaw) and Piotr Tosiek, PhD (Marie-Curie Skłodowska University).

Let’s celebrate!

Magdalena Styrnik

Europe Day, in EU member states also known as Schuman Day is an annual celebration of peace and unity in Europe. Council of Europe (CoE) member states celebrate it on 5 May (since 1964) to reflect the establishment of CoE in 1949, while EU has its separate day on 9 May- formally recognized as the holiday by European Parliament in October 2008- to commemorate Schuman Declaration of 9 may 1950.

Shuman Parade organized in Warsaw, Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara

Schuman Parade organized in Warsaw, Photo: PAP/Marcin Obara

“National” day of EU

What we know now as a Schuman Declaration is French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman’s proposal of pooling French and West German coal and steel industries.

Robert Shuman (Source: chroniknet.de)

Robert Schuman (Source: chroniknet.de)

It was supposed to help maintain peaceful cooperation and development of European Countries. It is a common knowledge that European Coal and Steel Community was the very beginning of the EU, thus the Declaration is considered to be the act that created the EU. Celebrating such an important anniversary in EU member states is obvious, however it is worth to note that Europe Day is also a very special day in EU candidate countries such as Turkey. What is more, Ukraine celebrates Europe Day on the third Saturday of May, since 2003.

What is the Europe Day for?

Political nature of the day is indisputable. That is why it may be a reason for teaching people about, not only the history, but also about the importance of the EU. Also, it is a great opportunity to speak in support of European integration.

Each year’s Europe Day has a different theme. This year, the topic was Growing Stronger Together. The main idea was to promote solidarity between member states and EU’s citizens. Within the scope of 2015’ motto the EU institutions opened their doors to the public in Strasburg on 2nd May and on 9th May in Brussels and Luxemburg. Local EU offices in Europe (all over the world too!) organized a variety of events in cooperation with European Commission and European Parliament. For example in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, the Schuman Parade and Schuman City or European City are arranged annually on 9th May, however in 2015 it was also possible to visit European Parliament Information Office and buildings of Polish Parliament. Celebrating Schuman Day in Poland will last till 12th May and will end during the Museums’ Night.

Date confusion

Source: europarl.europa.eu

Source: europarl.europa.eu

Countries which are member states of CoE, but not of the EU, celebrates Europe Day little bit earlier (5th May) and it is said that date is rather connected with a promotion of human rights, while Schuman Day (9th May) is an element of EU’ image. Europe Day together with EU flag are now commonly known symbols of the EU. It seems like May is an appropriate month for international celebration of peace, if we take into consideration the fact that 8th May is a Victory Day marking the capitulation of Nazi Germany and the end of World War II in Europe in 1945.

Someone may say that any reason is good enough to celebrate. With no doubt, the anniversary of the beginning of the EU should be recognized as a holiday. Isn’t over half century of peaceful development in Europe a perfect cause to incredible happiness?

I am the European Ombudsman – how can I help?

Magdalena Styrnik

It is a common knowledge that being  a citizen of the EU’s  or any kind of legal person with a registered office in the EU may cause some problems. The complicated structure of the institutions which should be in service to all of us, may sometimes create situations exceeding our ability to solve them.In such a case European Ombudsman can support us.

Current European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reily( Source: www.ombudsman.europa.eu)

Current European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reily (Source: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu)

The history

Ombudsman is an institution created in Sweden in 1809. At that time, it’s obligation was a simple control of administration’s activity. In 20th century many European countries appointed their public advocate (for example Finland, Denmark and Poland) as an independent office, separated from the judiciary and administration.

The European Ombudsman was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.  The first one elected by Parliament in 1995, was Jacob Söderman of Finland, the next one, elected in 2003 was Nikiforos Diamanduros of Greece and currently (from 2013) Emily O’ Reily of Ireland is in charge.

Basic task of the Ombudsman is to hold EU administration to account by investigating complaints. Important issue, that we have to remember about, is that these complaints only should concern the EU administration, not national, regional or local ones even if it’s connected with EU matters.

Legal basis of election and activity of European Ombudsman

Source: lubinextra.pl

Source: lubinextra.pl

According to art. 228 of The Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) the Ombudsman is elected by European Parliament (EP), right after each election of EP for the duration of its term of office and can by elected again. The Ombudsman can be dismissed by the Court of Justice at the request of EP under particular circumstances named in para. 2 of the same article.

Although Ombudsman is completely independent while performing its duties, which means that he cannot seek for any instructions, for example from the government and that he should not be engaged in any other occupation during his term of office, he has to submit an annual report to EP.

European Ombudsman may conduct inquiries in two different ways : on his own initiative or on the basis of complaints submitted directly to him or through a Member of EP. If the Ombudsman decides that any case is a maladministration, he gives an institution in question, or any other named in art. 228 of TFEU three months’ period to inform about its standpoint. The next step is  sending Ombudsman’s report to both EP and institution concerned. Person who filed  the  complaint is also informed of the outcome of the inquiries.

It’s also worth to note that the Ombudsman is not on his own in fulfilling obligations. Together with European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions, European Ombudsman forms the European Network of Ombudsmen.

Need help? Make a complaint to European Ombudsman

Basing on art. 20 para. 2 point d of TFEU, citizens of the EU have a right to apply to the Ombudsman. That right is also confirmed by art. 24 of TFEU.

If you happen to perform this right you should be aware of many important issues:

1)      The Ombudsman may find maladministration if an institution fails to respect fundamental rights, legal rules or principles, or the principles of good administration, which means that the ECJ acting in its judicial capacity, falls outside Ombudsman’ s mandate

2)      Complaints shall cover for example : administrative irregularities, unfairness, discrimination, abuse of power, failure to reply, refusal of information and unnecessary delay

3)      You do not have to bepersonally affected by the EU’s institution wrongdoing to make a complaint

4)   Time is also very important- you should submit your complaint within two years of becoming aware of the facts on which your complaint is based, after having first contacted the EU institution concerned to help you.

5)   If you only speak or write in your native language, don’t worry. You can submit your complaint (by e-mail or post) in any of the 23 official languages of the EU.

Even though EU is not inexperienced organization any more, its institutions may still make some mistakes that can affect our fundamental rights. If so, the most important matter is not to be afraid of making a complaint and performing our right to petition. You can find further information here: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu.

If you still hesitate, please remember current Ombudsman’s, E. O’Reilly motto : “My ambition is to support the EU institutions in becoming more effective, transparent and accountable by strategically increasing the visibility and impact of the work of the European Ombudsman”.

Foreign Policy of the EU – who’s in charge?

Emil Wojtaluk

 

The representation of 28 member states of the European Union has to be properly organized not to create tensions between countries and to be coherent. But is this possible to achieve? Have you ever wondered about the external representation of the European Union? Is there one person for the whole Union to represent the organization to the outside world like “EU’s Secretary of State”? Let’s find the answers…

Who will be the brightest point in EU Foreign Policy?

Who will be the brightest point in EU Foreign Policy?

 

High Representative of the Union and her diplomatic arm

The current shape of EU External Policy is existing thanks to The Lisbon Treaty, which modified Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) – that’s the official name of the above mentioned external policy of the Union. The most important change was an introduction of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. The procedure of appointing a person for this important position lays in the competence of the European Council’s vote, acting by qualified majority with necessary consent of the President of the European Commission. The first person to hold this office was appointed since 1 December 2009, Catherine Ashton. She will be replaced exactly this Saturday by Federica Mogherini, former Italian FM. The term of office of the High Representative is accurately the same as the European Commission, so five year term. In theory, holding this office means you are the main person to whom outside leaders should call when they want to “talk with the EU”. The position itself is not as autonomous as we may think, because it’s closely connected with EU institutions such as: the European Commission, European Council and the Council of the EU. First point is that High Representative is at the same time the Vice-President of the European Commission, second that he or she participates in European Council, and finally chairs the Foreign Affairs Council. The main task of the High Representative is to carry out and coordinate CFSP. A person holding this office should exercise foreign policy on behalf of the EU, coordinate tools of EU foreign policy, building consensus between 28 EU members, represent the EU internationally, ensure coordination of EU peacekeeping operations, supervise EU Delegations or ensure the unity and effectiveness in the field of CFSP.

EEAS building in Brussels

EEAS building in Brussels

A very significant and necessary tool to fulfill the mandate for the High Representative is the European External Action Service (EEAS), existing since 1st January 2011. If we could compare it to national conditions, it’s like one big Foreign Ministry for the whole Union. It consists of individuals delegated by its national diplomatic services, officials from the General Secretariat of the Council and the Commission. The task of this diplomatic service is to support the High Representative of the Union, in particular with regards to: monitoring the consistency of the Union’s external actions, assisting in chairing the Foreign Affairs Council and exercising the office of Vice-President of the Commission. The European External Actions service supports national diplomatic services and other EU institutions and bodies, cooperating with the European Parliament. At least twice a year the High Representative reports on foreign policy achievements and plans to the EP, also being questioned by MEP’s – the EEAS assists the High Representative with this task.

What about EU Presidents?

Ambiguities start when we look at the competences of other EU Institutions. Each of the Presidents of the European Union has the representative function! The European Commission together with its President represents the Union in all areas of EU competence outside foreign and security policy but the President can represent his/her institution and the whole Union, unfortunately it’s still not over…

At the level of Heads of States or Government, the Union is represented by the President of the European Council. For instance, on September 25, European Council President – Herman Van Rompuy represented the EU at the UN General Assembly. The case of the EU at the United Nations is valid since the European Union has been granted an enhanced observer status at the UN on 3 May 2011 – meaning it has the right to speak but not to vote. During all General Assemblies the EU can be also represented by the High Representative (it happens rather rarely) , the European Commission and EU Delegations. Another confusing fact is that the President of the European Council is conferred to represent the Union on issues related to Common Foreign and Security Policy, as it’s written in the Treaties. As a consequence, the High Representative should consult foreign policy priorities and directions with the European Council President since the role of the European Council is to define political directions and priorities.

And finally, the President of the European Parliament represents the Parliament to the other EU institutions …as well as to the outside world.

 EU Foreign Policy…a complicated matter

As you see, Common Foreign and Security Policy of the EU is too fragmented, which means too many entities takes part is the representative functions. Current state of actions could lead to unnecessary tensions between EU institutions, its Presidents and bodies and as a consequence between EU member states. Don’t you think it would be absolutely enough to have the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy assisted by European External Action Service?

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Coming back to the European Parliament #2

Ewa Krakowska and Emil Wojtaluk talk with Professor Zbigniew Zaleski, Polish psychologist and Member of the European Parliament in years 2004- 2009.

Ewa Krakowska: Before the adventure in Brussels, you were successful scholar and lecturer at the Catholic University of Lublin (the job that you currently continue). Which occupation do you find more fulfilling?

Zbigniew Zaleski: Tough question. With the first one I feel stronger connection. I worked hard and I did all I could in this field. But it was pleasure, because I met many people posing questions. The essence of science is asking questions, those that are most basic and valid- they are still deep if we look at my profession, psychology. It interests me, I would not change my job. Throughout five years of working in European Parliament I slightly gave up my academic work, although I managed to write a book called: „Psychology of support for New Europe”.

Answering the question, what I value more I would say that science is deep, rich and also occupies our minds. Many generations add something to its development, especially in psychology. For many years it was my way and identity. I identify myself with work at the University, with students. It keeps me still so alive. I highly value this way of life.

It’s not bad to be politician. You became so called VIP, it’s really comfortable. This occupation is easier than being a scholar. You may fail. In the world of science you must confirm your talent and knowledge. Political world functions other way. But I remember the times when I took advantage of being Professor in European Parliament where there are many other professors. I got along with them. As the scholar I was asked to share my opinion on issues like: abortion, circumcision of girls or adoption by homosexual marriages. As we can see my academic formation was not abandoned at that time. Sometimes I could even gain something because of it.

Emil Wojtaluk: Do you observe the work of Polish representatives in the European Parliament Mr Professor? If yes, how you can assess it?

ZZ: If you are inside you live it. After the loss I have been replaced by Professor Kolarska-Bobińska. I do not know what duty she fulfilled there, I must just see it. When I will enter there, I will quickly learn what is the status quo and I will participate in this Parliament as before. For the moment I observe it from outside like every citizen through the lens of hits: “What will happen?”, “important voting, speech”. I am interested in speeches of people that I know, for example the President Shultz – is he still a tough guy. I noticed that the role of Nigel Farage – critic of the Union, has grown up. His presence is necessary, because he sharpens the feeling in the others. And because I was there, I feel the spirit of time, I know what values are important and who is with who. Recently I was delighted with the news how much money we will get from EU budget for our Polish affairs. It was a satisfaction, thanks to this support we can develop continually. For now, I cannot imagine ourselves not to be in the European Union, even though I know the Union is not easy. It is good that we are there and we have our say.

EK: Are you going to continue the work of Professor Lena Kolarska-Bobińska or to propose your own initiatives?

ZZ: I am going to find out what she has done in our region. Good practices I will eagerly continue. For me, as a scholar, especially appealing is activity connected with youth. It’s not my desire to overwhelm them with EU, but just showing how to exploit all the possibilities they have in offer from the institution. I want to promote communication, direct contacts, languages. Previously I organised the project „Englishman in the family”. Somebody from Great Britain was going to Poland and was living with the family, so the kids could pick up some language skills. Then such a person was like Polish ambassador in homeland. So I guess I will think of the activities I like, in which I have the experience and some successes.

Coming back to the European Parliament #1

Ewa Krakowska and Emil Wojtaluk talk with Professor Zbigniew Zaleski, Polish psychologist and Member of the European Parliament in years 2004- 2009.

Emil Wojtaluk: According to the latest news we know that you will replace Mrs Lena Kolarska-Bobińska, MEP from this region. Is it confirmed fact?

Zbigniew Zaleski: There are some formal procedures connected with this. Either Mrs Kolarska-Bobińska will renounce her mandate or The European Parliament will make such decision. Then it goes to the Electoral Commission that confirms who is next from the last election results. Afterwards it goes through the Marshal of the Sejm. The procedure will last some time, approximately one month. Probably it can start to function from January. It may happen, that the candidate will reject the proposition, I agreed on this stage.

Ewa Krakowska: The situation is rather unexpected. Did you think about such coming back?

ZZ: I didn’t have that attitude. Five years of mandate is not long time. We could expect that Mrs Kolarska-Bobińska will finish normally her tenure.

And in time I became lukewarm towards the institution that once I had very strong connection. The emotions are less intense. Now I know how things work there. For somebody who is there for the first time it must be a significant experience. This time I will find my place in European Parliament quickly, because I know to which party I will join.

EW: There are several months left till the next European Parliament election, have you ever contemplated to be a candidate Mr Professor?

ZZ: No, I did not have such thoughts especially. I was there already, I was happy to function inside this body for a five years, to get to know Europe and the possibilities of the European Union. According to my own assessment I was working intensively. But now it does not depends only on me but on Party chiefs, because they are decision-makers, they are deciding who will be put up to run for election, who deserves it. I do not have expectations to bet on me, not particularly. The future will show.

EW: You have been chosen the MEP during the first election to the European Parliament conducted in Poland – new Member State of the EU at that time. What you remember the best from that experience?

ZZ: It was essential for me that we are in the Union and we are entering as the Members of the European Parliament. There were different MEP’s in the first “toss”. From that time some attitudes has changed, healthy Euro-criticism appears.

The first thing that I remember concerns languages, that people did not speak any foreign language but they claimed that they do. They stayed only in their groups. It was sad for me. Maybe they could create something new if they could communicate with the others. The situation was that nobody knew them, let alone they did not know anyone. If I could decide on appointing such person for the office, I would do a test, to assess if a particular person communicates in any foreign language. It is very important.

The next issue has historical character, for I read Norman Davies’ book White Eagle, Red Star about Polish-Soviet War 1919-1920. In 2005 fell the anniversary of Katyń massacre, being the fresh MEP I tried along with deputy Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski from PIS to commemorate that fact by the minute of silence during the session. We arranged copies of the letter containing death sentence for Polish officers – signed by Stalin by his famous blue pencil. To my surprise, the President Josep Borrell decided that there will be no commemorating. This decision came to me earlier. I regarded this as a fiasco. However people made a fuss of it – in a positive sense that journalists from France and Germany started to question me about this. I explained that to them and many articles were published. It became quite famous case in Europe, in some circles. I cared about it so that the other people, elites in the West could find out about this.

The other experience is connected with South America. I have been frequently asked to fly on a missions, the electoral mission for example. Maybe because I did not need any translator. Once on such visit, “I did cost” almost 10 million. In Bogota, during the break of working as an observer I went for a walk, to talk with the local people. It turned out later on that in existing conditions it was risky, it is very easy to kidnap anyone. It is how the people earns money there. One of our guards terrified after that event, followed me around until I went on a plane back to Europe. As I found out later, in the case of kidnapping I would cost 10 million dollars. Maybe I was ill-advised that I did not tell I am going out. The fact that I could jeopardize the European Parliament really moved me.   

(To be continued…)