La Treizième Étoile: 25/07/10 - 01/08/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
My tweets (@SWUKinEU)
'Cost-cutting' to ward off the arrival of Ghost MEPs to the Chamber

Saturday, 31 July 2010
The presence of the 18 so-called ‘Ghost MEPs’ due to take up seats in the European Parliament as ‘observers’ will be felt even less around the corridors in Brussels and Strasbourg, as cost-cutting is being cited as the reason for the abrupt change of plan in which the MEPs will instead join as full members once the treaty change has been ratified.

As reported by European Voice, officials have said that the leaders of the political groups would discuss the matter further in September.

The Parliament had changed its procedural rules last November in order for the additional members, as outlined in the Lisbon Treaty, to sit as observers during the period between the start of the ratification process and entry into force of the treaty change.

As observers, they would not have the right to speak, vote or draft reports, only able to 'observe' Parliament in action in the plenary sessions.

The expanded Parliament will initially have 754 MEPs, but after the 2014 elections to be held in Germany, it will have three fewer MEPs and so the overall total will be 751. Some countries are set to benefit from this change, with Spain gaining four more seats, France, Austria and Sweden two more, and one more each for Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia, and lastly the UK.

While this change of plan averts any further negative publicity about MEPs claiming expenses without any legitimacy (such as this one from a predictable source), it hands a valuable lifeline to countries who have not got a mechanism in place to elect (or choose) their additional MEP(s).

Did the Icelandic EU membership talks inspire the latest viral football goal celebration?

Wednesday, 28 July 2010
The European Union officially opened membership talks with Iceland yesterday, with the EU’s common fisheries policy arguably the largest obstacle for the parties to overcome in order for the island to become a fully-fledged EU member.

Speaking to the press, the Icelandic Minister for Foreign Affairs Össur Skarphéðinsson, welcomed the opening of the negotiations proclaiming it “quite a historic day for Iceland as well as the European Union” but commented that the EU’s common fisheries policy has failed to prevent “endemic overfishing” elsewhere and so Iceland’s fishing sector “must not be undermined” if it ever joins the EU.

(He later suggested Iceland’s fishing waters should be named a “specific management area,” which would let only Iceland ‘manage’ the species there, an idea to which Enlargement Commissioner Štefan Füle responded that no “permanent” exemptions can be granted but left the door open to a temporary one being negotiated.)

But with opinion polls suggesting a declining Icelandic enthusiasm to EU membership, is the future of its vitally-important fishing industry just the tip of the iceberg where negotiators will have to tread carefully?

I believe so, and also that the importance attached to this industry inspired one of the most incredible and artistic goal celebrations ever seen on a football pitch, the clip of which is now going viral around the world.

Last weekend in the Úrvalsdeild, Iceland's Premier League, seventh-placed Stjarnan took on ninth-placed Fylkir.

After falling behind on the stroke of halftime, Stjarnan turned the match around in the second half to win 2-1 with the winning goal arriving late in injury time as striker Halldor Orri Bjornsson netted a last-gasp penalty. Cue the celebration.

Aided by defender Johann Laxdal, who took the role as the fish, the Stjarnan squad at large produced what could well win the award as the best goal celebration of the 2010/11 season.

Certainly a great celebration and certainly came at an appropriate time. Coincidence?

Labour MEPs promised voice in Shadow Cabinet under David Miliband

Sunday, 25 July 2010
Glenis Wilmott with the then-Foreign Secretary David Miliband (Photo: to Tribune Magazine Labour’s MEPs in the European Parliament have been promised a seat in the shadow cabinet if David Miliband secures the party leadership.

Throughout the leadership campaign, Mr Miliband has pledged to “bring European matters closer to our politics at home” by creating “a strong voice in Brussels inside Labour’s shadow cabinet team”, and he was the first of the candidates to pay a visit to his colleagues in Brussels. Ed Balls, Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham have all since followed suit.

While not only a potentially great opportunity for the party's leader in the Parliament Glenis Wilmott, pictured above left alongside Mr Miliband, it would be nice to see Europe have a prominent place in the political organisation of the party in Westminster. Mr Miliband, through his former role as Foreign Secretary, evidently sees the advantages of cooperating with its MEPs in Strasbourg.

Quoted in Tribune, Ms Wilmott welcomed this move saying "In the past we have been sidelined somewhat. But now the party is in opposition we have a more important role to play. People must realise that we can still push forward progressive policies through the EU. MEPs should be involved earlier in policy discussions with ministers."

It's funny how a spell in opposition can prompt a return of common-sense and genuinely good ideas...

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.