Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Same old pork barrel politics

Remember those heady days at the beginning of May when we were told rapturously that the “new Europe” will re-energize the old? Well, the notion has collapsed at the first test.
What better way to welcome the dawning of the new, 25 member Europe, than to have somebody from the recently joined states as the President of the newly elected European Parliament? In fact, there was an excellent candidate: Bronislav Geremek, a well-known, highly respected Polish dissident and historian, a man who had actually fought and suffered for those European values of freedom, democracy and human rights that the eurocracy keeps talking about.
Geremek won 208 votes against the victorious Spanish socialist Josep Borrell, who received 388 votes. Hardly a problem, one might say. Somebody has to lose. The trouble is that Borrell’s victory was assured by a deal done by the two largest groups the right of centre federalist European People’s Party (EPP-ED) and the left of centre federalist Socialist group (PS).
Borrell will be President for the first half of the five-year term and will, then, step down in favour of a conservative candidate, probably the leader of the EPP group, Hans-Gert Pöttering.
According to the BBC World Service website:

William Horsley [the BBC correspondent] in Strasbourg says there is a sense of history as the politicians from 25 European countries, including the 10 new member states, hold their inaugural three-day meeting.
How very peculiar. After all, there is little of any historical importance in the rather murky deal that was done between the two groups or in Graham Watson, the leader of the Liberal group announcing that:

I believe the citizens of the European Union are fed up with back-room deals.
The only exciting development was that the eurosceptic parties, who have formed a new anti-constitution group, Independence and Democracy (ID), refused to vote for any of the candidates, unlike the Liberals who huffed and puffed and cast their votes. The leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, ceremonially tore up the ballot paper at a press conference.

Some of the former East European dissidents, who are now in the European Parliament may well have approved of the gesture.

The new President has immediately announced that he will speak for all the members of the European Parliament, that he will try to make the people of Europe understand that the Parliament has an important role to play, that he will do his best to get the Constitution implemented, particularly in countries that are to have referendums and, oh yes, he will also attempt to carry through a reform of the Parliament, especially its rather dubious payment and expenses system.

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