ANN CAHILL: Brussels Briefing

Get a taste of some of the interesting and quirky happenings in Europe from our Europe correspondent, Ann Cahill.

Ukip struggles to make friends

Despite being the most popular party in Britain, Ukip — the UK independence party — had problems putting together the requisite MEPs from seven countries to form its own eurosceptic group in the European Parliament.

It shunned France’s National Front despite it sharing a policy of “death to the Union” and rejected other grips considered to verge on fascism. In the end it managed to put together a group that as a result is entitled to chair committees, extra staff, speaking time and funding.

But its lone Latvian MEP deserted it during the week, becoming an unattached member. Ukip leader Nigel Farage, pictured, claimed the Parliament president Martin Schulz, also a Socialist, told her it was the only way she could chair the Parliament’s delegation to Kazakhstan.

The Socialists hit back accusing Farage of looking for a scapegoat.

Police round-up of ‘irregular migrants’

A two-week EU-wide police operation under way to detect, detain, and possibly deport people described as irregular migrants is underway.

It has been condemned by the European Network Against Racism saying it is fuelling xenophobia in Europe by reinforcing the myth of a criminal invasion and further stigmatising and criminalising migrants.

Most migrants without documents in Europe are from war-torn countries — a similar operation last year showed that a third of those apprehended were Syrians, while the next largest groups were from Eritrea and Afghanistan.

Good-time budget

Usually politicians produce good-time budgets in the run-up to an election, but the newly elected European Parliament is planning one as its first step after May’s vote.

It plans to reverse all the cuts made by the Council representing the member states to the EU draft budget for 2015, and it will even add in sums originally proposed by the Commission for areas the member states wanted covered — but refused to pay for.

Easy to become yesterday’s people

Transition can be a very undignified experience when you are the person transitioning out. Just ask the people in the EU institutions, especially the Commission and the Council.

From the very top to the very bottom, suddenly they are no longer in demand. Letters go unanswered, doors are shut, obsequiousness disappears.

And then there are the details that confirm the new, lowly status — the demand to show up in person with your mobile phone, to return it, intact. It’s a cruel world.

Cameron hoping to limit access

British prime minister David Cameron is expected to begin his campaign to limit the numbers of EU workers that can come to Britain, which would change the concept of free movement of workers in the EU.

This could affect Ireland because the Government might want to introduce similar changes here. It could also affect the status of Irish people working and living in Britain.

For instance, refusing to pay child allowances to workers from other EU countries if their children do not live in the UK. Or denying them welfare benefits and tax credits available to low-paid British workers until they have been working for a period of time.

According to the think-tank Open Europe the likelihood of him achieving this is high, as his demand that any new members of the EU would have to be rich, or wait until the average income per person would reach a certain figure before they had movement.

Trade agreement negotiations cleared-up

EU countries have agreed to publish the negotiating mandate for the trade agreement that it is negotiating with the US during the week after many demands.

However, this is not the only agreement being negotiated in secret by the EU. The global Trade in Services Agreement talks are well underway with potentially huge consequences for citizens.

According to the European Federation of Public Service unions that helped organise a conference in Geneva during the week, this treaty would foster and lock-in privatisation of all kinds of public services and prevent governments from nationalising them again.

It would also continue deregulation despite the example of how exposed citizens are when financial bodies and banks are left unfettered to pursue their own interests, said the federation.

Commissioner has days to learn role

Violeta Bulc is the new commissioner-designate for transport in the EU, but she has had only days to learn the policy and principles of the portfolio.

A newbie to politics, Ms Bulc was recently elected as a first-time politician to the Slovenian parliament, and has no background in transport.

But when the previous prime minister, who had awarded herself the country’s commissionership, was found wanting by the European Parliament, Ms Bulc was sent to Brussels and will now be quizzed by MEPs this evening before getting the post.

If she does not pass after her four days’ cramming, it will delay the coming into office of the new Commission as the parliament is due to vote on them this Wednesday.

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