Eurozone: Agreement with Greece first step to overcome austerity

Greece has experienced painful years. The crisis has basically turned around Greek society during the past seven years. With the early Greek elections on 25 January 2015, the “radical” left-wing party Syriza triumphed with 36.3% while the established parties had to face huge losses. Greeks have enough of austerity policies; they want to regain some hope – and particularly change. Continue reading “Eurozone: Agreement with Greece first step to overcome austerity”

Albania rewarded with EU Candidate Status

Albania received the official candidate status of the EU. The country in the Western Balkans has a population of three million people, 17% unemployment and is known for its endemic organized crime but also its beautiful beaches. It is likely that the talks for Tirana will last for many years. It will depend on the speed of reform and the political will and consensus how long Albania’s road to membership will take. Continue reading “Albania rewarded with EU Candidate Status”

The Formation of Three Right-Wing Alliances in the European Parliament

The EU-skeptical, ultra right-wing and right-wing populist parties in the European Parliament try to get themselves organized. Most likely there will be three EU-skeptical party families and one of them might be the third biggest faction. The project for a far-right party led by Marine Le Pen’s Front National will come into existence and also the future of Nigel Farage’s EFD seems to be now secured. All of these EU-skeptic parties have different aims, from leaving the Euro to abandoning the union. All three parties are not characterized by strength but rather weakness looking at their party programs. Continue reading “The Formation of Three Right-Wing Alliances in the European Parliament”

“I want the United States of Europe”

Stefan Windberger in a discussion on science and research in Vienna (c) EFP/APA/Preiss
stefan profilfoto
Stefan Windberger from NEOS is running as a Member of European Parliament

The youngest Austrian candidate with a realistic chance to be elected into the European Parliament is Stefan Windberger. The 25-year-old has studied international affairs and international political economy at the London School of Economics and Sciences Po in Paris and has started recently his own consulting firm in Vienna. In February, he was officially selected as the number two candidate for NEOS, a newly established liberal movement. The polls suggest that NEOS will get some 12% at the European Parliament elections on 25 May 2014 whereby about 10% would be necessary for Stefan to become a Member of European Parliament (MEP). Standing up against youth unemployment, calling for educational reform and establishing easier ways to start new businesses for young people are his main priorities. In addition, he presents his ideas about Europe that are based on a call for a federal Europe. This Skype interview was conducted on 12 April 2014. Continue reading ““I want the United States of Europe””

Any hope left in the UK for pro-European minds?

Nigel Farage in the European Parliament. He is infamous for his speeches. (c) Flickr

The UK experienced a show-down on the EU during the past two weeks. Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lib-Dems, debated against the Europhobic Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). The UK is known for its anti-European sentiments and Eurobarometer polls show the UK consistently on the last places in any kind of enthusiasm for the EU, only sometimes topped now by countries that have to implement austerity measures. The two debates demonstrated another time why the UK is very much at the edge of EU. The only leader of an established political party who declares himself openly as pro-EU failed to demonstrate why the EU matters. Continue reading “Any hope left in the UK for pro-European minds?”

Democracy in the EU: The ECI is not quite there yet

Water is precious and EU citizens fear that it might be privatized. (c) pixabay.com

The European Commission (EC) published a 17-page communication on 19 March 2014 to give its response to the first successful European Citizens Initiative (ECI). An ECI is an instrument of direct democracy that was introduced thanks to the Lisbon Treaty. It allows EU citizens to collect one million signatures in at least seven member states on an issue during a certain time period and when successful to propose new legislation. ECI’s should be one mean to fill the gap of the “democratic deficit” in the EU. The first successful ECI called Right2Water was officially submitted to the EC by its organizers on 20 December 2013 and the Commission had three months to respond to the 1.66 million people who signed the initiative. Continue reading “Democracy in the EU: The ECI is not quite there yet”

Serbian “savior” won elections but difficult times ahead

The big winner: Aleksandar Vucic is the new prime minister of Serbia after gaining a majority in the parliament elections. (c) Wikipedia

It did not come as a surprise. The new prime minister of Serbia is popular, smart and charismatic. Aleksander Vucic, the new superhero of Serbian politics, received some 49% in the parliament elections on Sunday. His center-right progressive party (SNS) won thereby a majority in parliament with 158 seats (and more than doubled its representation up from 73) in Serbia’s 10th elections after the re-introduction of multiparty introduction in Serbia in 1990. Continue reading “Serbian “savior” won elections but difficult times ahead”

More democracy in Germany for European Parliament elections

What kind of chance should small parties have at the European Parliament elections? (c) Flickr/European Parliament

“Every eligible voter’s vote must have the same value and the same legitimate chance of success.” Germany’s constitutional court decided on Wednesday (26 February 2014) that the 3% hurdle for political parties in Germany for the European Parliament (EP) is unconstitutional. The ruling will come into effect immediately and apply to the EP elections in May 2014. Germany has by far the biggest population in the European Union with some 82 million people out of the total of 503 million EU citizens and its citizens can vote for 96 out of 751 members of European Parliament. Continue reading “More democracy in Germany for European Parliament elections”

The Economist is wrong: More instead of less democracy in the EU

Christine Lagarde could be a candidate for the EU Commission, as long as she is elected by the Parliament (c) Wikipedia

In an act of masochism, everyone in Brussels and who is working for the EU institutions, particularly, the EU Commission, reads it. It could not be more critical of the EU and its policies. Although it is a weekly that I truly enjoy reading in general, I have huge challenges when it comes to their reporting about the EU (like in any British media as anything what is coming out of the EU is bad – with the noble exceptions of the BBC and the Guardian). Continue reading “The Economist is wrong: More instead of less democracy in the EU”

The Negotiations are On: Serbia into the EU until 2020

The negotiations for EU membership might take years, but the process in itself is important for Serbia (c) commons.wikimedia.org
The negotiations for EU membership might take years, but the process in itself is important for Serbia (c) commons.wikimedia.org

I still very much remember the words of a high level nationalist politician from the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), a national conservative party, when I got a tour in the Serbian parliament in Belgrade back in spring 2007. I asked him when Serbia would join the EU. He just laughed and responded that this will not be necessary because the EU will fall apart soon anyways. Well, although the crisis was afterwards hitting the EU hard, the union certainly did not fall; on the opposite, it even strengthened. On Tuesday, the 21 January 2014 the first conference for accession negotiations with the EU means that Belgrade is at the start of a historic path towards European integration. Or, as a Serbian journalist put it, “the bad guy is knocking on the door.” Continue reading “The Negotiations are On: Serbia into the EU until 2020”