Thursday

18th Jan 2018

EUobserved

Beloved Ashton

It looked like it would be another humdrum year for Catherine Ashton. Full of: Where is she? What is she doing? Why does she never talk to press?

Then she pulled the Kosovo-Serbia deal out of the hat. It passed under the general radar, though. One country in the Balkans heading towards normalised - but still thoroughly complex - relations with its break-away statelet was not feel-good enough.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

So the foreign policy chief continued in obscurity.

Until this week and that hug from US Secretary of State John Kerry.

It turns out Ashton - chosen due to tick-box criteria for the job in 2009 - had played no small part in the deal on Iran's nuclear programme.

Suddenly it was all about her diligence, graft and emotional intelligence. Several ceilings were shattered. 1) French diplomats - whose main bugbear when she got the job appeared to be that she wasn't French - were said to be praising her. 2) The Daily Telegraph, denigrator par excellence of "Lady Ashton," was also unable to deny that the hour was hers. 3) No one mentioned what she was wearing.

In our world of black or white, brilliant or dud, she is clearly on the up.

It won't last long though.

What about Russia? Just look at what happened while she was focused on all that other stuff.

(And she is still dodging the press).

Immigration

Normally something is free. Or it is not free. So the title of UK Prime Minister David Cameron's FT piece "Free movement within Europe needs to be less free" was a fuzzy start at best. And fuzzy it remained.

Cameron penned a piece that managed to make it sound like there will be a Bulgarian and Romanian stampede to the Cliffs of Dover on 1 January.

Who knows what "impact" lifting the restriction will have. Not Cameron in any case. The government has no idea how many EU migrants currently claim benefits.

But, still, you’re right to be worried.

All in all, it stirred up the UK immigration debate without managing to inject a solitary fact into the whole discussion. A remarkable achievement.

After that it was a free-for-all. Even mild-mannered Laszlo Andor got caught up in the fray. Turns out he has merely been masquerading as a left-wing EU commissioner. He is, in fact, a member of an extreme right-wing party. And ordering Roma out of his country to boot.

Still, what's a little inaccuracy here and there. All’s fair in love and immigration.

Fail once. Try again and fail better. Yes, Guy Verhofstadt, erstwhile Belgian PM, is throwing his hat into the ring for the post of commission president.

Who wouldn't want the job, he asked. Presumably rhetorically. As he ought to know better than most that whether you want the job is immaterial. It's whether others want you to have the job. And they did not in 2004. Plus it's a moot point whether Verhofstadt's no-holds-barred federalism fits any better in the rather grumpy, clawing-back-powers Europe of today. Political masochism?

Independence

Ah Scotland. Your aspirations for independence and the brazen pretence that the question of future EU membership is simply a legal issue. Brussels is wrapping itself up in ever greater knots trying to say nothing at all. While still putting words out there of course.

Your independence from the rest of the UK would "not be neutral as regards the EU treaties." But there is to be no more clarity on the putative terms of your membership until somebody else - not you though - asks (properly).

"We would only express such an opinion on the legal consequences of such a development under EU law on a request from a member state, detailing a precise scenario," says European Commission spokesperson Pia Ahrenkilde.

Clear as mud. So stop asking.

Waiting

Meanwhile, all that waiting for Germany.

Before the rhombus lady was voted back queen of Europe, and then afterwards as she and others coalitioned.

Everything on hold. And what do we get for our pains? The same. Germany's eurozone course will continue as before. Muddle on through. Don't act before it's completely necessary. Remain non-committal on banking union.

When will we learn not to seek clarity?

EUobserved

When Barroso dared to take on Berlin

Barroso gave up any hope for a third term as EU commission chief this week, while daring to challenge Berlin on economic policy.

EUobserved

Self-determined MEPs

This EU week shall be remembered for bringing us closer to imagining a day where the phrase ‘travelling circus’ can be consigned to a bin.

EUobserved

On blustering and finger-wagging

It has all the feeling of one of those long-running musicals. The audience is dwindling, the actors are jaded, but the show must go on.

EUobserved

On being 'Obama-ed'

Well, he finally made it to the EU capital. There was much anticipation. And quite considerable upheaval.

EU 'hypocrisy' condemns people to Libya, says NGO

Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, says the EU's key policy on returning migrants to Libya is condemning them to "nightmarish conditions", and is a hypocritical use of the Libyan coastguard to avoid direct responsibility.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia
  2. Taking full benefit of supercomputers in Europe
  3. Spitzenkandidat system 'difficult to get rid of', hopes lead MEP
  4. Rights NGOs face fresh threats across the EU, agency says
  5. EIB 'more sensitive' to fraud after Dieselgate, chief insists
  6. EU 'hypocrisy' condemns people to Libya, says NGO
  7. Next year's EU election at risk of Russian meddling
  8. Hungary to tax NGOs that 'help' migration

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap