The mention of the “revolving door” in Brussels does not mean the heat conserving entrance to many hotels and building.
Everyone knows it refers to the way a person can gain insight and knowledge of the most detailed workings of EU institutions, and, armed with a good, taxpayer-funded pension, use it to find a job selling such experience to the private sector.
There are rules about it but they trip up few — other than perhaps former Irish commissioner Charlie McCreevy, pictured, despite numerous complaints to the authorities.
Now the European Ombudsman has opened an inquiry into how the commission implements these rules and says it will look back on the last three years — which just may pick up on the case of McCreevy again.
Up in the clouds
A conference on data protection in the light of legislation going through the EU system at the moment revealed that US legislation gives their authorities the right to access all information stored on clouds owned by US companies.
While US citizens have some privacy protection, non-US citizens do not, and are considered fair game for political surveillance under the Foreign intelligence Amendments Act.
Former Microsoft privacy adviser Casper Bowden warned that the likes of Amazon and Google must provide all data and in total secrecy or breach the US espionage act and be in contempt of court.
There are reports the European Commission is taking an interest in this loophole, but nobody is sure what can be done.
Praise be to Ruairi
Traditionally Irish people find it difficult to take praise. And there was a good example of this from Education Minister Ruairi Quinn, pictured, when he chaired his first EU education ministers’ meeting in Brussels.
All were delighted with the innovation he introduced of two outsiders to the meeting — Open University chancellor and Chariots of Fire and Killing Fields director David Putnam and OECD deputy director Andreas Schleicher.
Despite a failure of the technology, the British minister described the format as “really inspiring”, saying: “We have never had an interactive debate like this before”.
She was cut short by Ruairi, who snapped that “praise is wasting time” — and then had trouble restoring her microphone!
The real deciders
The European Parliament has close to equal say to leaders of member states in relation to EU laws for the past three years.
But a report from NGO Privacy International found that many amendments to legislation — around 25% in some cases — put forward by MEPs are, word for word, as written and handed to them by business lobbyists.
Island has to clean up its act
Cyprus, its banks pummelled by the cuts imposed on creditors of Greek banks, needs a bailout, but is being met by a wall of indifference at EU level.
At the moment the elections are the reason for delaying any real response but there is a feeling that Germany, with its own elections looming, does not want to have to consult its parliament about funds for the island. They also want the island to clean up its banking operation as the laundry machine for dirty Russian money.
According to the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity, Cypriot banks sent about €97bn laundered funds to Russia in 2011 — five times the island’s GDP.
Energy giants flex their muscles
A massive battle is under way in Brussels, with big oil and gas concerns fighting like crazy to water down legislation dealing with how they operate in developing countries and the Arctic.
Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands are among the group standing up for the industry, and Ireland is negotiating on behalf of the member states with the European Parliament.
They want to cut out the public having any say in anything to do with offshore drilling — something Ireland has some experience of with the Shell to Sea issues in Mayo.
Warning to resist US ways
Amid all the excitement of the path being cleared to start negotiations on an EU-US free trade area, one Irish MEP is sounding a note of caution.
Dublin Socialist Paul Murphy warns that the EU will be under pressure to adopt some of the US ways, and it must be resisted.
As a member of the European Parliament’s trade committee, he said they will watch closely any watering down of labour and environmental standards and will oppose any attempt to allow genetically-modified foods into the EU.
With all the hullabaloo about pony burgers, the EU’s decision to abolish rules on fish feed could not have happened at a worse time for those involved.
After the mad cow debacle caused by feeding cow meal to cattle, feeding farmed fish with pork and chicken was banned. But now, after what the European Commission reassuringly says is years of research, they have decided that fish are omnivores and carnivores and sometimes eat one another — so feeding them pork and chicken is ok.
The Department of Education has been criticised by Children's Ombudsman Emily Logan over enrolment appeals and home tuition after a teenager missed nearly two years of full-time education when up to 30 schools refused him a place.
SINGER PAUL CLEARY doesn't have butterflies — yet. But he will. "I'm not a confident performer," say Cleary, frontman of iconic Dublin post-punk trio, The Blades. "The 20 minutes before I go on are particularly nerve-wracking. You can't function properly. You are sitting in the dressing room, not talking. You just want to get out there, on stage."
Supported by the Arts Council, Cork City Council, and the Firkin Crane, Laura Murphy is Cork's Dancer in Residence at Firkin Crane for 2013/2014. Originally from Kinsale, this highly-qualified dance artist, performer and choreographer is bubbling over with ideas.
Contrary to the minority, it was indeed a year of progress for the Cork hurlers; a first championship victory over Kilkenny since 2004, the unearthing of new talent in Séamus Harnedy and an end to their seven-year absence from the September showpiece.