Tuesday, November 27, 2007

At last!

I was wondering when the MSM would wake up to the news of the outrage that started drifting out last Saturday – that, despite everything, the "colleagues" seem to have approved the EU's Galileo satellite navigation system, allocating €1.3 billion of unused Agriculture funds to breathe new life into the stalled project.

All we'd seen so far was a brief report in the online edition of The Guardian, which published a Reuters report, and a number of foreign media reports, including Deutsche Welle.

Now, however, The Times has stormed in with a stonking piece by Bronwen Maddox, headed, "An overpriced piece of pie in the sky", retailing that, "Europe is heading for the worst of all worlds in its high-minded determination to press ahead with Galileo …".

But, actually, the project hasn't been approved … yet. GPS World has got it right with a report that this is the outcome of a "try-on" (my words, not theirs) with the EU Parliament piling an extra €890 million at the EU's budget, during its approval process.

What has happened now is that the conciliation committee, made up of the MEPs and Council representatives, chaired by the EU commission (which has no vote) has stitched up a "compromise" solution which must now be agreed by the full Council and the Parliament as a whole.

The first hurdle in on Thursday in Brussels, when the transport council must agree. Then it must go to finance ministers on 3 December, which will formally approve the budget, and then the final agreement must come at the European Council meeting on 14 December. And, if there are any changes, this negates the whole EU parliamentary process, which must start all over again.

However, the process has got a lot further than I thought it would, and such are the arcane details of the procedures, that it is possible that the Council ministers can't actually reject the this deal, without bringing down the whole of the EU budget agreement – which none of the parties would want to do.

The "colleagues" may, therefore, have found a creative way of getting the funding through the system, in a way that side-steps any member states that might object.

But, while the methodology might come as a surprise, the fact that Galileo is going to go though is not at all surprising. Such is the determination to get this white elephant of space up and running that it was only a question of when – not whether. And even if the "colleagues" are blocked this time, they will be back.

How ironic, though, that this white elephant is being rescued by another – the Common Agricultural Policy, and in such a contemptuous way that it makes a complete mockery of the British position and points up the impotence of our own government.

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