Live blogging: EU Competitiveness Council, 9-10 March 2011 [Day 2]
Yesterday and today, in a pilot project, we are covering the EU Council on Competitiveness as bloggers. In addition, there is also an informal Foreign Ministers Council on the events in Northern Africa today. As a preparation, you can read this post on how to find documents related to the meeting of the Competitiveness Council. You can also have a look into the background note prepared by the Council press team and this memo written by the EU Commission ahead of the Competitiveness Council. We’ll be live-blogging here, so feel free to use the comments to ask questions, criticise, make suggestions what we should cover, which information we should get out etc. The hashtag on Twitter is #EUpilot. Today’s coverage is by @europasionaria and @ronpatz.
[The live-blogging from yesterday can be found here.]
Thursday, 10 March 2011
18.31 Final remarks
Finishing the two days in the Council.
They have been a fascinating and quite intensive experience. I hope this will, in one way or another, make a case for granting blogger access to EU institutions and body also in the future, allowing a different look at EU politics than those of journalists, giving specialist bloggers the possibility to have a more thorough look into policy making in their areas of expertise, fostering new forms of reporting, debating and talking about a European Union that is not always fun to listen to but that still needs public debate, public control and public interest, something traditional media alone apparently have not managed over the last decades.
Having seen the hard work many journalists do over here I would not a tiny bit pretend that bloggers could replace the work of people who are paid and trusted to report about stories and news, but I think we can add to this reporting in a way that (most) traditional media do not yet offer.
Agree or disagree, but take this as my two cents for the debate, and then add your comments or ideas below to help keeping this a two-way communication – probably a core feature of social media that one should bring into the EU institutions.
Thanks a lot to the two spokespersons of the Hungarian Presidency – Gergely and Martón – for pushing forward this pilot project and thanks to the Council press team – not the least Dana who has been helping us here a lot – for making it possible!
That’s it from the blogosphere. Good night, and good luck!
The Council press room restyled for the European Council tomorrow
A Belgian journalist recording a commentary
The Council has gone into stealth mode and discusses the raw material initiative without the public. Would have been more interesting to listen to than the previous issue that was public, in particular seeing the sequence of draft conclusions on this subject. But why excite the public with catching policy areas when one can bore them with broad discussions on growth and economy?!
Press conference was foreseen for 17.30 but the Competitiveness Council goes on.
Listening to member states for 50 minutes on how they want to foster growth is quite painful. Very general statements that show that many different ways to growth are possible, and that members states agree on many things. But I don’t see the added value of telling this to each other in this way. One could make this a multiple choice test and ministers send their answers to the Council Secretariat which then would put together the national speeches based on standard phrases, translate them into 22 languages and everybody would be happy. Another 30,000 Euros saved for interpretation, and probably as much for travel costs to Brussels.
Again you hear that member states liked the discussions over lunch. It again shows that the interesting stuff happens in open discussions – why not have more of these visible to the public. Everyone may hand in an official statement that would be public to everyone, but based on that we – the public – should be able to see the real arguing and bargaining, being able to hear the nuances and to see who actually has the best arguments.
The Competitiveness Council is back online and can be followed online here.
The press conference on Libya with the Hungarian foreign minister is uploaded and can be watched here:
One great thing of heaving access to the press area of the Council is that one gets to see who is really important here. Both on the side of the journalists but in particular within the institutions. I’ve seen people here whom I’ve never even heard of speaking for or about people that one knows very well.
The press conference of the Hungarian foreign minister on Libya finally took place and I have recorded it in its integrity. After cutting out a personal comment from the minister he said he wouldn’t like to be quoted on I will now upload the video. Meanwhile there is already the background briefing for tomorrow’s European Council. As far as I can see, the Competitiveness Council is not yet back to public mode. Will keep my eye on that one.
At the lower level of the Council, all member states have their own little briefing/press conference rooms. I’m waiting in the one from Hungary where the Hungarian foreign minister is announced to speak after the informal foreign affairs Council lunch on Libya and the situation in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Let’s see if/when he comes.
I have to go now. Bye bye Council and Pilot Project: this was fun! Hope you enjoyed the blogging, tweeting and pictures. Stay tuned though, Ronny should stay a little longer. EP
Press conference with Commissioner Barnier and the Hungarian minister. Announcement that the enhanced agreement on the EU patent will come. Re-read the statement he already made this morning (see below).
The debate on the EU patent has ended. It looks like it will remain 25 against 2 (Italy, Spain) on the enhanced cooperation, with Italy & Spain probably going to the EU Court against this proposal.
Spain is going into a second round repeating its position(s). Follow our tweets live on #EUpilot.
If I understood correctly, Commissioner Barnier said during the Council meeting he will present concrete proposals on the EU patent on 30 March 2011. This will be two different pieces of legislation, one on the patent and on the language issues. RP
The Council’s press room is decorated by posters of old editions of major national newspapers such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung or Le Monde. Cute. Overall I get a feeling here as if I went back in time somehow – despite the dozens of laptops surrounded us and perfect wifi connection. I was surprised to see smoking cabins at different places in the Council. Funny to see that, while at the same time the Commission is supporting smoking bans throughout Europe. The EU’s motto, united in diversity, seems to be true not only for Member States but for EU institutions also! EP
12.46 [added on 11 March]
A walk through a part of the press centre
Italy joins Spain threatening to appeal against the enhanced cooperation at the Court. RP
Spain intends to go against the EU patent enhanced cooperation decision at the EU Court of Justice. RP
Now about 10 Italian journalists have gathered in front of us around what looks like a diplomat. They are listening with attention… Is he talking about the refusal of Italy to take part in the EU-wide patent project? Wish I spoke Italian now…
Ronny is tweeting the competitiveness Council now with the #EUpilot hashtag. EP
We’re now following the Council images online. But as the sound there is only available in Hungarian we are listening to the interpretation via the press room headphones. As a consequence we get a few minutes difference between image and sound… Or is it that we are such newbies we haven’t yet understood have things work? Journalists around us look blasé. Oh well, it was fun to listen to Barnier speak in Hungarian EP
The doorsteps video of Finnish Foreign Minister Alex Stubb will be online on Vimeo in some minutes. Check here if the embedded version below doesn’t work.
Update (11 March 2011): Here are also some remarks of the Dutch foreign minister Uri Rosenthal from yesterday on how the EU should work with the “Arab world” in the current situation.
The public debate of the Council has started now. You can watch it online here. Strangely, it is not yet broadcasted in the journalists room.
Strangely enough we’re surrounded by Italian journalists. A huge delegation of them is here. Is it that Italian papers cover EU news more than others? Or would it be Tajani’s presence perhaps? Barnier is here too but I don’t see that many French journos. EP
Ministers arrive for the informal foreign affairs Council. Westerwelle just said that they have to make sure “the dictator” doesn’t get more money to buy mercenaries. Didn’t catch the whole remarks; doorsteps crowded with journalists. RP
While waiting for the public session: Watch here what the Hungarian minister said in free speech to the cameras regarding the EU Patent. And below you find what was written on his paper. He almost followed the words. Well done!
And here’s the statement by the German parliamentary secretary of state Peter Hintze (EPP Vice President, if I’m not mistaken) on the EU Patent and raw material commodity markets (in German): self-made on Vimeo (if embed below doesn’t work). The interview is also in the audiovisuals section of the Council website (i.e. here).
Working on photos, videos while waiting for the Council to enter into the public session so we can follow the discussions. Below the photo of the truck than Europasionaria has already talked about on Twitter.
We thought the internet market Council would start at 9.30… we’ve just found out -on the Council website- that it won’t be before 11.00. Patience, patience… More and more journalists join us in the press/viewing room. Some prefer to stay alone, eyes focused on their laptop, while others enjoy sharing the latest rumours with their peers. EP
UPDATE: Dana has just told me in a tweet that the Council has already started, it’s only the visible part of it that will be able at 11.00. Yes… right.
Ron and I are sitting in the press room now. Dana has just showed us the Council meeting room, yes the one you usually see in the news with Merkel, Sarkozy and Berlusconi chatting together. It was quite fun to be there! Barnier, EU Commissioner for the internet market has arrived. EP
The Italian representative passed earlier without giving interviews. The Spanish minister State Secretary for European Affairs just tells the Spanish cameras he will fight against an enhanced agreement. He says an EU patent that doesn’t have the second largest language of the world in it is not possible and goes against the principle of the internal market. However, he also said he will defend the interests of the Spanish industry. Is he for Spain or for Europe, then?
The Hungarian Presidency remains confident that (the enhanced agreement on) the EU patent will come today. The Germans (State secretaries Hintze and Stadler) were confident, too. Stadler said the EU patent will come within monts.
Quiet press centre in the Justus Lipsius building.
metro, the free newspaper you can get at Metro stations here in Brussels (and in many other cities) has EU foreign minister Ashton on its frontpage, titling: “Ashton deceives the EU“. She’s again very hesitant, this time on Libya – and this despite the debates in the European Parliament that pushes her to recognise the Libyan opposition.
For those of you interest in the EU patent issue on the Competitiveness Council agenda, I recommend reading this blog post, this background document [update: and this one] from the Council and the draft decision on the enhanced agreement that is likely to pass today against the will of Italy and Spain.
It’s the second day of our live-blogging from the EU Council. Actually, there are two Council meetings today, the one on Competitiveness that we’ve started covering yesterday as well as an informal foreign ministers meeting (in the form of a lunch) on Libya and the events in Northern Africa.
The agenda of the Competitiveness Council (today: industry part) is here. The main issue probably is the EU Patent (see euroblog posts on this matter) Background information on the EU and Libya have been summarised here (plus: short background note).
Swedish foreign minister tweeted at about 6 am: “Early start for Brussels. EU FM’s lunch. Three other Cabinet members also in Brussels today. That’s Europe.” Similarly, Finnish foreign minister and former Member of the European Parliament Alex Stubb tweeted at the same time: “Early mornibg. Catching a flight to Brussels for EU Foreign Minister’s meeting. From there to Budapest.”
Our live coverage will start in about an hour.