Coming Week beginning 24 January 2011

A round-up of UK-focused European Commission events and activities for the next week:

Monday 24 January

Fisheries Council being held in Brussels

Committee stage of the European Union Bill (also 25 January) in House of Commons

Tuesday 25 January

Harriet Harman, deputy leader of the Labour Party and shadow Secretary for International Development is due to meet Commissioner Piebalgs in Brussels.

Wednesday 26 January

Commission is expected to adopt policy papers on resource efficiency and raw materials.

High Representative/Vice-President Ashton meets the Foreign Minister of Brazil in Brussels.

Oral question on the European Arrest Warrant in the House of Lords

Thursday 27 January

Commission launches a consultation on modernising public procurement.

Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik visits London. He will make a speech at Chatham House, have meetings with ministers and NGOs and visit the International Maritime Organisation.

The David and Maros show

One of the things we do a lot of in this office, and more so since the new government came into power, is talking to people about what they could expect from a career working for an EU organisation. I’ve written about some recent events such as the FCO’s launch event in October last year, our Q&A webchat on the Guardian site, the language careers event in June 2010, and a week of several events in March. Last week I was filmed for a site that the FCO are creating and will be launched in early February – I’ll blog about that when it goes live. Now Boris Johnson’s economics adviser, who I knew when he was a correspondent in Brussels, plows in to the debate with a piece in City AM. And then I come across this from the Europe Minister and European Commissioner Sefcovic, which I do like. 

Turning virtual friendships into real ones

I was in Brussels for the last two days, and very nice it was too. On Wednesday I was speaking at an event on the use of social media in a European context, called Butterfly Europe. A video of the event is online, and Europasionaria has written about it. I have a slightly different take on it to her, because although I am a card-carrying EU GirlGeek, my geographical position means that I have connected with these people via Twitter, blogs and so on but I’ve never met some of them. So my trip to Brussels was a great opportunity to get to know them in real life. And what a pleasure it was! From the EU Girl Geeks for lunch that day, to the many people at the Butterfly Europe event, to the commission’s internal Geek network on Thursday morning, I had a lovely time taking my online personal relationships offline. It’s too easy to caricaturise people who use digital media as lonely geeks sat behind their keyboards in their underpants, but speaking for myself, it has introduced me to a huge range of interesting people, some of whom I’m proud to call my friends.

Update, midday 20 August

Toute L’Europe [FR] and Les Euros du Village[FR] have also covered the Butterfly Europe Event

The European Court of Human Rights is NOT an EU institution

Here’s the text of a note we sent to newsdesks at the end of last year, which bears repeating:

Information note to Newsdesks: European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) is not part of the European Union (EU)

Newsdesks and subeditors are asked to note that decisions of the European Court of Human Rights should not be referred to as EU decisions, and the judgements should not be attributed to “EU judges”, or any similar language. The European Court of Human Rights is part of the Council of Europe, a completely separate organisation to the European Union. The UK is a founding member of the Council of Europe, which was created in 1949 by the Treaty of London.

Council of Europe website: http://www.coe.int

Membership of the Council of Europe is now a precondition of EU membership, but the UK was a member of the CoE long before it joined the Common Market/ECC/EU and if it left the EU, I very very much doubt it would leave the CoE, and certainly wouldn’t do so automatically.

Why the UK is in the EU

Our monitoring of Parliamentary Questions spat this one up today. Self-explanatory really.

Mr Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs with reference to the letter from the Minister for Europe of 11 November 2010, on the European Union Bill, for what reasons his Department believes that the present terms of UK membership of the EU are in the national interest. [32632]
Mr Lidington: There are many things about the EU we would like to change. However, membership of the EU gives UK business full access to the world’s most important trading zone, comprising 500 million consumers without the barriers of customs or tariffs. This is of great importance to the UK’s prosperity. 10% (3.5 million) of UK jobs are reliant on exports to EU member states, the beneficial effect of EU trade on UK households is estimated at between £1,100 and £3,300 per year, UK exports to member states are worth more than £200 billion, and EU Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) comprises 49% of overall FDI to the UK. Under the present terms of membership the UK plays a strong and active role in influencing and shaping developments within the EU, allowing us to further goals essential to the national interest, such as strengthening and expanding the single market, delivering growth, and promoting a resource efficient, low carbon EU economy. The European economic area (EEA) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) members, in contrast, have to contribute to the EU budget without being able to negotiate the detail and content of EU legislation, and without receiving benefits such as the exemption from customs requirements and costs.
In addition, EU membership gives the UK better leverage and negotiating power on the global stage, allowing us to better achieve our international objectives on issues such as freer international trade, conflict prevention, stabilisation, climate change, human rights and development. There are also wide-ranging benefits for UK individuals, such as the right to study and work within the EU, and to receive free or reduced cost health care on temporary visits within EU member states.


Onward and upward in 2011

First off, a Happy New Year to all my readers (both of you…)

I was looking back through the blog today looking for a specific post, and it’s obvious that I write much less than I did when I first arrived. Some of that might be personal – less enthusiasm, more of other stuff that gets in the way. But I think to some extent it’s because we’ve developed other digital media channels which do (much better) what this blog was trying to do. The “in the press” section of our Rep website addresses the Euromyths that were a lot of what I did at the beginning. The Facebook page does the more fun stories. The EU and me site has the info about what’s going on, and links to practical sources of information. And I can interact with people via Twitter. So that doesn’t leave me a lot to talk about  here :) I will of course keep writing, and certainly will try to keep up with the Coming Week information about events of specific UK interest. And I will take a particular interest in the European Year of Volunteering and hope to write quite a bit about that.

Have a great 2011!

Update, 17.15 Nice irony that today’s WordPress announcement was about their challenge to blog more often in 2011

2010 in review

WordPress have provided me with a helpful little summary of my blog in 2010, so I thought I would share it with you:

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2010. That’s about 26 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 74 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 198 posts. There were 7 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 3mb.

The busiest day of the year was January 21st with 159 views. The most popular post that day was Moving on up.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were blogs.ec.europa.eu, twitter.com, ec.europa.eu, facebook.com, and jonworth.eu.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for antonia mochan, beagledor, seal bomb, le plat pays, and svalbard.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Moving on up January 2010
23 comments

2

About me June 2008
15 comments

3

Commission statement:air passenger rights apply in light of volcanic ash cloud April 2010

4

Est-ce qu’il faut parler les langues? August 2010
3 comments

5

Bloggez-vous? August 2010
13 comments