Category Archives: EU politics

Who inventend the “Green New Deal”?

Green New Deal groupI am currently working on a meta-study about the job potential of Green policies (or a Green New Deal) in these days of economic crisis. The study should be available in a few weeks – and any input about job estimates and scenario’s is highly appreciated. But while working on this I was wondering who actually termed the phrase of a “Green New Deal”?

From my (limited) EU/German/UK perspective I have so far seen the debate and terminology taking off at different places over the past year. The first essential contribution and to my knowledge also the first mentioning of the term is in Van Jones’ great book “The Green Collar Economy” which must have been out around spring 2008. In this book he devotes a specific chapter to his idea of a Green New Deal (for the US) considering a new partnership encompassing a wide variety of different social groups who would bring about economic change and a low-carbon economy.

In July 2008 the “Green New Deal GroupContinue reading

Steuersenkung contra Mehrausgaben

Wer sich die europäischen Antworten auf die Finanzkrise anschaut, findet sich vor einem bunten Mosaik. Die (“linke”) Labour Regierung hat Banken verstaatlicht, die Mehrwertsteuer um 2,5% gesenkt und ein großes Defizitprogramm gestartet. Die (rechte) französische Regierung hat es geschafft, sich bisher bei Steuersenkungen zurückzuhalten und mit erhöhten Ausgaben (u.a. zum Autokauf) und Bankgarantien Einfluss auf eine Erholung zu nehmen. Daneben versucht Sarkozy die Finanzkrise als Entschuldigung zur Abschottung der französischen Industrie zu nutzen. Und Deutschland? Die Große Koalition will es irgendwie allen Recht machen – und macht gar nichts richtig. Das 50 Milliarden Paket (und der Mini-Vorgänger) besteht Continue reading

The EU budget in 2009

On I have published a first article with some thoughts about the main developments with regards to the EU budget in 2009. This article looks at the budget review, the possible denial or delay of discharge for the Council and the provision of new transparency data.

In a second article to be published later this week by now I will speculate on the impact of the European elections on budgetary policy in the European Parliament and the Commission – including my guess for the next Budget Commissioner.

Hungary and the loan: massive

I have written the other day about the special loan(s) offered to Hungary to fight the financial crisis. Now I finally managed to find numbers about the size of Hungary’s budget to put things into perspectve. And it made me speechless. The annual Hungarian state budget has a size of around 50 bn Euro (s. their national office of statistics). Now with a loan of around 20 bn Euro (plus the extra 5 bn from the ECB) this counts for 40% of Hungary’s budget. Have I ever seen anything like that?!!!

Hungary, you have a problem.

Financial Crisis reveals new opportunities for EU – “EU bonds” issued

The financial crisis is far from being over, but what is interesting is that governments and the EU Commission are getting more innovative in using all means at their disposal to fight back. Commission President Barroso is announcing a “comprehensive European Union recovery plan ” for 26 November. If this will go as far as the Delors plan from early 1990s is another question though.

What really surprised me, however, was the reaction to the crisis in Hungary. Undoubtedly, after the first shock wave has dealt (well…?) with by the big western member states, it became high time to turn east now. Here Hungary is worst hit so far, so a massive rescue package has been prepared over the last days (read FT). It consists of 12.2 bn Euro from the IMF, 1 bn Euro from the Worldbank (the already provided 5 bn Euro credit from the ECB) and 6.5 bn Euro from the EU. Now the latter point is really interesting because the EU is invoking article 119 to step in. Even more surprising to me is the (first ever?) issueing of “Euro bonds” to finance the EU’s side of the Hungarian rescue package. Making use of such bonds has long been the demand of UEF. But their consideration were circling more around a general infrastructure back-up and investment programme and less of a concern for crisis intervention. If the bond move works out, it could set a worthy precedence for future intervention.

Die Ratsverordnung “zur Einführung einer Fazilität des mittelfristigen finanziellen Beistands zur Stützung der Zahlungsbilanzen der Mitgliedstaaten” ist hier als PDF verfügbar.

European Parliament sponsored by BMW

Hydrogen BMW entrance PHSIt must be for more than two months by now that a prominenently parked hydrogen BMW (“Clean Energy”) is standing at the main entrance of the European Parliament on Rue Wiertz. For security reasons not even bikes are allowed to be “parked” there normally, but for dear Bavarian car-maker BMW (read: Bayerische Motoren Werke) exceptions are nothing but expected. Now my first thought was that Parliament’s President “HGP” is simply keeping the new and extra car (besides his two official cars) close to his belt, but no. This BMW must be the third (car) in the fleet for our very mobile President – note his extensive travelling in the Middle East. Given the current energy price volatility the President is most likely acting in best intentions though. If he cannot broker peace in the Middle East during this summer, he might consider that future oil consumption of his car fleet could be better met by introducing a much less oil-dependent technology – such as hydrogen.

Hydrogen BMW frontal

You cannot really miss the commercial space on the bling-bling BMW’s side (see picture) indicating that this car is not only to keep pace with this other (EU) President, bling-bling Sarkozy, but might actually follow a new energy philosophy by the high house and its present ruler HGP.

Hydrogen. Hm. Sounds like renewable energies and Green and water and … Hey, but wait. The thing about hydrogen-powered Continue reading

Update: Parliament confirmed to meet in Brussels for full session

The word is out that European Parliament Secretary General Harald Romer has confirmed that the coming plenary week from 1-4 September will take place in Brussels. Now is the time to fully acknowledge that one seat will do! – Sign the petition at

Here comes the Email to all MEPs:

Subject: Parliament’s September I session to be held exceptionally in Brussels
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2008 11:55:49 +0200
Priority: Urgent
From: “ROMER Harald”

Parliament’s September I session to be held exceptionally in Brussels due to the partial collapse of the ceiling in the Hemicycle in Strasbourg – September II session to be held as foreseen in Strasbourg

Following the preliminary results of various expert enquiries that have been conducted after the partial collapse of the ceiling in the Hemicycle in Strasbourg on 7 August 2008, President Hans-Gert PÖTTERING has today, on the basis of a recommendation by the Secretary-General and after consulting Chairmen of political groups, taken the decision to exceptionally move the holding of the September I session from Strasbourg to Brussels in view of guaranteeing the absolute security and safety of Members and staff. This decision has been taken after consultation of the French Presidency, also in view of providing continuity to the legislative work of the Institution.

Members should note that it has proved impossible to find alternative solutions in Strasbourg, guaranteeing the full language regime and normal voting facilities for Members, for the holding of the September I session.

At the moment, the reconstruction of the whole ceiling of the Hemicycle is being carried out. In practical terms this means the dismantling and installation of various parts of a very complex construction. A completely new suspension technique, already approved by the experts and local construction authorities, will be used for the new ceiling. Although all the efforts are made to advance as quickly as possible on the reconstruction and assurance of the security of the ceiling, the procedure is lengthy and it will therefore not allow for all necessary legal obligations regarding security and safety of buildings to be made prior to the holding of the September I session.

On the basis of the progress of the construction works and the efforts that are made by the services and the companies involved in the works, the September II session will be held in Strasbourg as foreseen after the necessary verifications regarding security and safety have been concluded.

Preliminary cause for the collapse of the ceiling
The preliminary enquiries have revealed that the partial collapse of the ceiling results from the breaking of the parts holding the inserted ceiling which connects it with the actual structure of the ceiling. The ongoing enquiries – conducted by several impartial and international engineering companies – will further determine the details and liabilities linked to the cause of the collapse. These enquiries are being conducted in full co-operation with the local responsible authorities and with a high-level building security expert appointed by the French government.

Members are also informed that the costs relating to the repair construction will be covered by the insurance of the LOW building, not by Parliament’s budgetary provisions. Following the final result of the enquiries, the liabilities will be established between different actors of the time of constructing the original ceiling.

Practical arrangement for the transfer of the session from Strasbourg to Brussels
An inter-service group will start meeting today in order to deal with all practical and logistical questions in relation to holding of the session in Brussels. Members are invited to rearrange their travel and hotel accommodation the earliest possible.

For the visitors’ groups invited by Members, the Visitors’ Service will apply the maximum amount of flexibility: For those visitors’ groups that are able to redirect their visit to Brussels, the Service will do their utmost to put up a programme. For the visitors’ groups who wish to maintain their planned visit to Parliament’s premises in Strasbourg (without guaranteeing the possibility of seeing the Hemicycle), the Service will assure a shorter programme. Furthermore, for the groups of visitors who would wish to postpone their visit to a later occasion, a rescheduling will be guaranteed. Members are invited to take contact with the Visitors’ Service with a view to defining the appropriate arrangements.

With any other questions related to the holding of the session in Brussels, Members can address their queries directly to the private office of the Secretary-General either by email or by phone. My office will inform the Members on any other practicalities in the near future.

Harald RØMER

Update: Parliament’s roof crashing in Strasbourg

Gerard Onesta, Vice-President of the European Parliament and in this capacity resonsible for the building/infrastructure management has clarified the following points (excerpts, quoted, bold from me):

1.  About 250 square metres of the plaster ceiling lining have come off in two phases on Thursday, 7th of August, one at the end of the afternoon and the other during the evening.
This represents 10 tons of material and 10% of the surface of the ceiling. Luckily the hemicycle was deserted. … Accordingly, if this accident would have happened during one of our sessions, this would have hit the representatives of the European Commission, a part of the EPP party and all non-attached members, as this are the parts of the hemicycle that is concerned.

If the whole hemicycle would not be covered with dust, the desks, seats and the voting system are only marginally affected.

2. All experts have clearly identified – without any doubt – the reason of the damage. It has to be noted that numerous international engineering companies (charged by the insurances, the public powers and the Parliament itself) have intervened immediately in the presence of the architects. To avoid a conflict of interests, the engineering company being the initiator of the project (OTE) has been excluded and the international engineering bureau charged by the Parliament – which was complemented with our habitual control body – is “not French”.

The French government itself has immediately sent the Director of the National Building Technology Centre to the place; this means the highest authority possible.

The fall of the inserted ceiling comes from the breaking of the flexible parts of the overhead suspension, which connects it with the steel girder of the structure. Effectively, to allow the acoustic for a room of this big seize being adequate, the architects had chosen to avoid rigid fixings so that the inserted ceiling could absorb sound waves. This is a quite common operation. The inquiry will determine if the overhead suspension from caoutchouc have been badly calibrated by the engineering company OTE, or if it has been wrongly placed by the construction companies, or if the chemical composition of the product has deteriorated over time.

It was also possible to note that the rubble of the initial works have been deplorably abandoned on the inserted ceiling, which could have caused a punctual overload. All this conclusions have of cause been made in the presence of the ushers (several hours of investigation with a multitude of photographic overviews).

During the incident, the breaking of one of the flexible overhead suspensions has surely lead to a higher weight to be born by the neighbouring overhead suspensions which then lead this to break off and hence starting a “snowball-effect”. There was neither a safety mechanism to halt the deterioration of the caoutchouc nor a warning system to announce the immediate danger.

It has to be noted that the hemicycle is the only room that has been constructed in this way in Strasbourg (for the reason of it’s seize), and that I have requested to immediately verify the ceiling structure of the hemicycle in Brussels. According to the first results of the investigation, it seems as if the inserted ceilings in Brussels have been constructed differently.

3. The works are not extremely complicated from the technical side, but they are lengthy because they are carried out on a huge surface and need rigidity and thoroughness. … If it becomes clear that we do not rapidly have the ABSOLUTE certainty that everything can be finished on time under the strictest respect of safety, the President of the Parliament and the Secretary General (the only ones competent for questions relating to safety) will decide – according to the evidence – that the first plenary session of September (01-04 September) will exceptionally be held in Brussels.

This is also the position that I am defending from the first day on: The respect of the Treaty that contains the obligation to hold 12 sessions per year in Strasbourg, outweighs no security imperatives

In order to allow the preparation of this session under the best conditions (reservations of flights, hotels) for deputies, functionaries and assistants the Secretary General must officially communicate the venue of the first session as from the end of the present week (at latest on Monday, the 25th of August).

4.  The costs of the works are not yet known – probably several millions of Euros – but the LOW building is covered by its 10 years insurance until December 2008. The whole costs will be hence born by the insurance of the works (the experts will distribute the responsibilities between architects, engineering companies, producers and companies). The European tax payer will hence have nothing to pay.

Parliament finally informs Members about ceiling incident

7 days after the incident of the roof falling down in the Strasbourg chamber (see my post here), Parliament’s secretary general informs members about the incident. – It is also worth noting that you do not find any comment/information about the accident on the press pages of the Parliament as Eubloggen points out.

Harald RømerFrom: ROMER Harald
Sent: Thu 8/14/2008 10:59
Subject: Partial collapse of the ceiling in the Hemicycle in Strasbourg – Effondrement partiel du plafond de l’Hémicycle à Strasbourg

Communication to the Members:
Partial collapse of the ceiling in the Hemicycle in Strasbourg

Last Thursday evening, 7 August 2008, a part of the ceiling (less than 10 % of the total surface area of the ceiling) of the Hemicycle in Strasbourg collapsed causing serious material damage to the Hemicycle, with construction material falling down to the Hemicycle. Fortunately, the incident caused no human damage.

Following an immediate closure of the whole area surrounding the Hemicycle, the responsible services of Parliament’s administration, in close co-operation with the local authorities and a number of external experts, started an urgent evaluation of the situation.

I have instructed the services to take all necessary measures to make the Hemicycle ready and available for the session at the beginning of September, naturally under the absolute condition that the security and safety as well as the technical functioning of the whole Hemicycle can be guaranteed. The necessary repair works of the Hemicycle ceiling have already started.

At this stage, the reasons for the collapse are not yet known. An external study is currently being conducted with a view to establishing the cause of the incident.

I shall keep you informed of all developments of this matter the earliest possible. As you can understand, the objective is to maintain the September I plenary session in Strasbourg as foreseen, of course under the strict condition that the security and safety and the technical functioning of the Hemicycle is assured.

Harald RØMER

(Picture taken from EP website)

Decke im Europäischen Parlament eingestürzt

Einem Bericht des Internet-Programms StrasTV zufolge ist die Decke des Plenums im Europäischen Parlament in Strasbourg eingestürzt. – Nun könnte man denken, dass die Sache nur ein guter Promotion-Witz ist, aber auch bringt die Story und hat sich bei einem Sprecher des EPs zurückversichert.

Plenum Europäisches Parlament in Strasbourg kaputt

Und was lernen wir daraus? Nach Asbest und anderen merkwürdigen Immobiliendeals der Stadt Strasbourg könnte man den Sitz doch am besten auch einfach aufgeben. – Das beste wäre nun, wenn die Sache nicht vor dem 1. September repariert ist, weil man dann die ganze Plenumswoche endlich mal in Brüssel abhalten könnte! – Und alle würden sich freuen (außer vielleicht einigen in Strasbourg). Wenn die Verwaltung bei der Behebung dieses Vorfalls ihr normales Temp an den Tag legt, kann man sich sicher sein, dass bis September gar nichts repariert ist. (Nur komisch, dass die Verwaltung immer “fliegt” sobald es um den Zweitsitz in Frankreich geht…)