Brussels briefing

Workers get a lesson in how money talks

Ex-Talk Talk workers here may just have got an application for EU funds in on time for a €5.4m retraining programme that can help them set up their own businesses. But a word to the wise — they might talk to Dell workers who struggled every inch of the way to force the Government to agree to release the €15m they got from Europe.

A drawn-out process meant not all the funding was spent by the Government, which is why Brussels is expecting about €6m of it back on the basis it wasn’t spent in time.

In total, the EU doled out over €61m to Ireland to help create jobs for workers from six industries that closed here. Talk Talk makes it seven.

2.4m signatures urge vote against treaty

The European Parliament got a taste of global democracy this week with the delivery of 2.4 million signatures urging them to vote against the ACTA treaty on intellectual property copyright.

European parliamentarians are the last chance to defeat a global treaty that protects the rights of big business and censors ordinary folk, says opponents.

However MEPs and the Commission have kicked the can along the road to Luxembourg where the European Court of Justice will decide.

Girl power or else

Big business has 12 months to start putting women on their boards. In Ireland, less than 7% of directors are women — that compares to 40% in Norway.

Viviane Reding, the justice commissioner, has warned countries they must agree to do it themselves by International Women’s Day on Mar 8 next year or she will make them.

She wants 30% of the chairs around that boardroom table filled with women by 2015 and 40% by 2020.

Women who believe they have shattered the glass ceiling can think again — boardroom progress has been glacially slow, with an annual increase of just 0.5% over the last seven years.

Goldman Sachs says closing the gender gap would boost GDP by 13%.

Other studies have shown that profits are 56% higher in companies where women run the board.

The ‘little grey mouse’ returns

The man who referred to himself as a “little grey mouse” is back for a second term as EU Council president.

Herman Van Rompuy’s job is to whip EU leaders into shape before, during and after meetings. No easy job dealing with all those egos. Often when HvR manages to get warring factions into the same room, the first thing they agree on is to kick him out.!

Kingdom readies for European invasion

The man who opened up Croke Park to other sports has moved another mountain — he is bringing more than 100 of his fellow MEPs to a knees-up in Kerry.

Seán Kelly outbid his Fine Gael colleague Jim Higgins, who was pushing for Galway to host the European People’s Party when they hold their group bureau meeting.

It will be a welcome and early boost to the tourist industry in the Kingdom. The European People’s Party delegation, which forms the parliament’s largest group, will stay at Killarney’s Hotel Europe.

Where else?

MEP elections threatened with the knife

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, right, wonders if Ireland should have just three European constituencies rather than four in the next elections in 2014.

Easy to understand his logic — it’s easier for smaller parties to win a seat.

Meanwhile, ardent federalist and British MEP Andrew Duff is planning the biggest constituency of them all — covering all of the EU countries in the next election.

He wants 25 MEPs elected from a pan-European constituency.

They would be on a list identified according to the EU political group they represent and be drawn from at least nine countries.

Whether they would be in addition to the 751 existing seats or not will be debated by the parliament later this month.

However, member states must also agree — and they tend to be less European about these things.

Commemorative GAA meal for €18.84

Thurles, Co Tipperary, is the European Town of Sport for 2012, and a leading hotel with strong GAA links is celebrating the achievement.

Located in Liberty Square, Hayes Hotel, where the GAA was founded in 1884, for the month of March is offering a three-course meal, including tea and coffee, for €18.84 in a salute to the commemorative year.

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