La Treizième Étoile: 04/04/10 - 11/04/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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Van Rompuy 'the Radical' plots EU Summit venue change

Wednesday, 7 April 2010
It is still less than six months have passed since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force, but the EU’s new President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, continues to make ‘radical’ changes to EU procedure.

Herman Van RompuyAfter extraordinarily deciding to host his first summit (February 11th) in the chair at the 108-year old nearby Bibliotheque Solvay (pictured below left) instead of its normal meeting venue, the Justus Lipsius building, Mr Van Rompuy has now suggested that EU summits should also occasionally take place at venues in the member state that is holding the rotating EU presidency at the time.

His vision was made public when addressing the press in Vienna as he makes his first official visit to Austria in his new role:

It would be a good idea if at least one major event, such as the European Council, was held in the member state holding the rotating presidency,” Mr Van Rompuy said. “That would be a symbol that Europe is not just Brussels, but the 27 member states.

The Justus_Lipsius building in BrusselsConsulting the adopted Treaty, nowhere does it state where summits can be held. Instead, Article 15.3 states that "the European Council shall meet twice every six months, convened by its President" and that "when the situation so requires, the President can convene a special meeting of the European Council."

But the change is unlikely to happen for a while yet since Belgium is the next country holding the EU presidency meaning inevitably Brussels is bound to host all EU summits for the rest of this year – confirmed by Mr Van Rompuy: “The next presidency is Belgium. We will have to stay in Brussels”.

Hungary is then the next country to take over the rotating presidency, with their time in the EU hotseat beginning on 1st January 2011. This will make Budapest the most likely place for the first post Lisbon Treaty out-of-Brussels summit.

Budapest in the Spring? Sounds nice...

Have I Got News For You? Farage says 'damp rag' and 'Belgium non-country' outburst was 'quite moderate and reasonable'

Sunday, 4 April 2010
The long-running satirical news quiz Have I Got News For You arrived back on British TV screens last week for its 39th season. And never short of creating controversy, on the panel for it’s opening show of the season was outspoken UKIP MEP Nigel Farage fresh from his outburst performances at the European Parliament.

Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You? (Photo: screengrab)A “former broker, Thatcher supporter and leader of UKIP”, Mr Farage prefers his name to be pronounced poshly as “Farrrarrrrge” but was on the receiving end of gags throughout the show and was introduced as “nickel faridge”.

After not mincing his words and describing former UKIP member Robert Kilroy-Silk as “ghastly”, alas his tirade in the Parliament towards the President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy emerged as the subject of discussion.

But rather than using the opportunity to apologise for his remarks, Mr Farage restated that ‘Belgium is a non-country’ and that his outburst was in his eyes “quite moderate and reasonable”.

The audience on the other hand were left gasping after viewing a rerun of his remarks and Mr Farage came under much fire from fellow panalist Ian Hislop – the reknowned satirist and editor of Private Eye magazine - who put the MEP firmly back in his place.

For those who missed it or not able to see it, below reads the exchange between Mr Farage, Ian Hislop and Lee Mack (a stand-up comedian but guest host of this episode):

FARAGE: “I’m not very popular over in Belgium”

HISLOP: “Oh, and why is that?”

FARAGE: “I seem to have upset the former prime minister. It was just a bit of straight-talking really but they didn’t like it very much.”

HISLOP: “Well it was more rude, wasn’t it?”

[Audience laughter]

FARAGE: “Well I thought it was just normal parliamentary banter really.”

HISLOP: “Well you said that one of UKIP’s promises was that you would restore British things like politeness to debates, and then you called him a ‘damp rag’”.

[Audience laughter]

FARAGE: “Yeah yeah” [nodding his head]

HISLOP: “And then you said that Belgium was a ‘non-country’...”

FARAGE: [Interrupting] “Well that is true! Well that is true! It is a non-country.”

HISLOP: “Compared to Britain at the moment!?”

MACK: “We have a little clip of you in the Parliament addressing the Belgian in question. Would you like to see it?”

CLIP is shown then camera returns to audience gasping]

MACK: “Can I just ask, have you ever done a best man’s speech at a wedding before?"
[Audience laughter]

FARAGE: “I thought it was quite moderate and reasonable. I don’t know what the audience thinks...”

[Audience falls silent]

HISLOP: “What makes you think you can speak on behalf of the British people on the size of your vote?”

FARAGE: “Well I can say with confidence that nobody in Britain knew who he was. Did you know who he was?”

HISLOP: “Yeah, that’s Sven-Göran Eriksson!”

[Audience laughter as still photo of Herman van Rompuy is shown]

HISLOP: “No, you must not assume that the general population is as ignorant as you are.”

[Audience laughter. Farage lost for words.]

FARAGE: “Oh, I’ll remember that then!”

[Audience cheers.]

Mr Farage is standing for election as an MP in the upcoming general election – a point that was picked up by the host Lee Mack who said that he [Farage] “ticks all the boxes” since he has claimed more than £2 million in tax-payer expenses and hires a family member to work in his offices. Safe to say, Mr Farage did not approve of that joke and in his ‘right of reply’ said the money did not go to him but to the party.

But there was time for one final joke at the MEP’s expense: and that came in the form of the “Keep the Pound dressing gowns” which are being sold to raise funds for the UKIP party.

Denying he knew about them, the MEP said “I must be getting out of touch” to which host Mack sarcastically commented “UKIP [out of touch?], surely not!” before adding that they were “ideal for that hotel trip when you get upgraded to a new room with extreme views”…

If you currently reside in the UK, you can watch the show again courtesy of BBC iPlayer by clicking here. Video available until 10:29pm on Tuesday 13th April 2010.

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.