Brussels briefing

Another change on cards for Childers

Having left the Labour party for the second time, MEP Nessa Childers is now an independent representative for Ireland East. But her hopes of remaining in the Socialist group in the European Parliament are running into trouble. She has been asked to resign from the group as apparently there is a rule against parallel national delegations. Towards the end of July she announced she would stand again in May’s elections for the Parliament, but this time as an independent within the Socialist group, as a protest against Labour’s collusion with austerity.

This comes on top of losing her assistant and senior Labour party official in Brussels, Aidan O’Sullivan, who is going to the cabinet of the newly elected EU ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly.

Putting jam on it

Top marks to Labour MEP Phil Prendergast for finding so many occasions to use the word “jam” in her press release on new rules for making conserves.

“The vote today represents a jammy result for producers in Ireland and across the European Union. The previous rules created a logjam for producers whose sugar content was less than 60%. The new rules introduce flexibility to help conserve jam production all over the country.”

A recipe for success, Prendergast concluded.

Barroso shows off rare wit

CUTTING EDGE: Rarely are insults traded in the European Parliament and they never come from the European Commission, but president Jose Manuel Barroso, pictured, displayed rare wit when taking questions after his state of the EU address.

Having taken a barrage of abuse from the British Tory members, he told them that they were now as bad as their EU-sceptic UKIP brothers.

But he warned that this would not win them votes in next May’s elections as “voters will prefer the original”, and vote for UKIP candidates instead.

Someone is no longer afraid of British prime minister David Cameron, obviously.

Three British hits

Britain notched up three wins during the week against Brussels on money matters. The first was when the advocate-general of the European Court of Justice advised that the European Securities and Markets Authority could not ban short selling.

Then the council’s lawyers said parts of the financial transaction tax plan being adopted by 11 countries was illegal.

Finally the Commission is getting cold feet over its plan to hand oversight of the Libor lending rate to the ESMA body in Paris following the scandal of rigging interest rates.

Tough tobacco legislation a slow-burner

No less than 12 PR companies and 22 tobacco industry lobby groups are being paid by tobacco firms to fight against tougher EU legislation, with Philip Morris alone employing 161 people in Brussels.

They met about a third of the members of the European Parliament — and are credited with swinging an important vote during the week, that is expected to push any decision on the draft law into next year. That will mean Greece plays an important role in its eventual shape as not only does the country grow tobacco, but Philip Morris is opening a new distribution facility there.

Ireland is the only country that ensures the industry gets a minimum price for its products.

The taxing issue of taxing speculators

Lawyers working for the European Council picked holes in the attempt by 11 countries to impose a tax on financial transactions that would include derivatives for the first time.

The fact that they didn’t find against the whole idea, and that this is just one legal opinion, was drowned out by the triumphant response of the financial industry to the report.

The European Trade Union Confederation was one of the few to sling mud at the council’s lawyers, saying it illustrated how strong the forces against the FTT are, with repeated attempts to discredit the tax, and water down the proposal.

“It would be better if the council legal services focused their attention on the legality of the austerity measures imposed by the Troika in the bail-out countries,” said Veronica Nilsson of ETUC. Fat chance.

Fears visa move could lead to intolerance

The EU has built many alliances by allowing people from friendly countries to enter the bloc without a visa. Ireland and Britain remain largely outside this. MEPs voted to allow a country to temporarily reintroduce a visa if threatened with an influx of illegal immigrants.

Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said it would only be used in emergencies, but Socialist Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon insisted it will encourage intolerance.

It was also suggested that this could be used to exert pressure on the USA that still requires visas for EU citizens from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania and Poland while Canada requires them from Czechs, Bulgarians and Romanians.

Anti-austerity lobby building evidence

It has taken a long time but the anti-austerity voices are collecting the evidence and showing that nothing has been learned since the Lehman days.

Forty civil society groups added their voice to the demand for a more sensible response to the on-going crisis. If you hand about a third of your total GDP over to a single sector you also hand them power.

A very clear analyses comes from the Socialist Hungarian economist and Employment Commissioner, László Andor explaining why the current design of the euro condemns countries to repeated crisis. *

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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