The Parliament Magazine's week that was - BFF edition

PMHQ's take on what really mattered this week in Brussels and beyond.


27 Feb 2015

Bezzies of the week

Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Bulgarian president Rosen Plevneliev, who was on a working visit to Brussels this week. After perhaps chatting away about their favourite tactics for avoiding tax troubles - Plevneliev was investigated early last year by his country's tax authorities - the two amigos gushed about each other to members of the press.

"I was very happy to meet my friend again", said Jean-Claude with a cheeky smile. As a thank you, Rosen gave Jean-Claude a friendship bracelet, the colour of which perfectly matched the commission chief's tie - as shown above. Oh Rosen, well played, you fashionista, you!

"Reliable" sources exclusively tell PMHQ that the two cronies then skipped off arm in arm, but were rudely interrupted by commission vice-president Andrus Ansip, who in a fit of jealous rage threw his expensive electronics on the floor and vowed to delete Jean-Claude off Facebook. 


Never say die attitude of the week

Ukip MEP and tireless campaigner for the truth Janice Atkinson ensuring that taxpayers' money does not go to waste by spending €1600 worth of public cash on a question to the commission regarding the Costs of EU advertising/editorials publications aimed at MEPs.

In case you missed it before Christmas, Janice held what she considered a Bonfire of the EU Vanities by binning a pile of magazines covering the European political and policy situation. Janice believed these periodicals to be taxpayer funded, but luckily the internet quickly rode to her rescue with many helpful individuals pointing out that the Parliament Magazine, European Voice and New Europe fund themselves privately.

Janice's crusade was further undermined by the fact that she had just recently submitted an article to the Parliament Magazine itself, which can be read here, but [engage sarcasm font] gracious in defeat, she admitted that her knowledge of these magazines may have been less than complete and we were all able to move on with our lives… or so we thought.

Quite how Ukip's stated aim of promoting independence "from the EU, and from government interference" marries up with an elected official spending public money on urging an EU institution to investigate the costs of privately run publications is anyone's guess, but we await the commission's response with great interest.



Some of Janice's greatest hits:

Ukip and EFDD leader Nigel Farage forced to apologise for Janice after she refers to one of her constituents of Thai origin Fa Munday as a "ting tong". Ms Munday and her husband called for Janice's resignation. Janice to her credit said she was "incredibly sorry" and chalked the incident up to "poor judgement and naivety" on her part.

Atkinson's campaign claims of being "an ex grammar school girl and proud of that fact" are shown to be less than accurate. Her old place of education Blackheath Bluecoat School has never been a grammar school.

Back in her previous life as a Tory candidate, Janice voiced her support for the Alternative Vote system in the UK in part due to the possibility of securing second preference votes from British National Party supporters.

Janice, after criticising "feckless" families for having more children than they can afford is revealed by UK broadcaster Channel 4 to have made irregular payments towards her son's upkeep over the previous four years. Janice said she was in dispute with the child support agency (CSA) over the owed amount, but had previously been taken to court twice by the CSA following delayed payments.


Embracing the digital agenda

Commissioner for the digital economy and society Günther Oettinger took to Twitter to respond to questions on the upcoming reform of the European copyright framework.

The commissioner, who has previously outlined his hopes to introduce an EU-wide 'Google tax', wants to see territorial copyright rules replaced with Europe wide rules.

There were over 800 tweets but some had other concerns and it became apparent something was missing.




By the end of #AskOettinger, not everyone was convinced by the answers given. Even the commissioner himself didn't appear enthralled following the exercise.



Viable alternative of the week

The EU released its flagship energy union proposal this week, including plans to "use all its foreign policy instruments to establish strategic energy partnerships with increasingly important producing and transit countries" including Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Clearly European leaders have tired of engaging in energy deals with a belligerent, cronyism-ridden, mafia state with a supremely dubious human rights record in Russia and are seeking fresh alternatives.

Some of Azerbaijan's highlights from Human Rights Watch's 2014 report include:

  • A "poor record on freedom of expression, assembly and association"
  • "Arrests and intimidation of opposition political activists"
  • "A restrictive media environment"

And Turkmenistan fared little better last year, remaining:

  • "One of the world’s most repressive countries"
  • "Virtually closed to independent scrutiny"
  • With "media and religious freedoms […] subject to draconian restrictions"
  • While, "human rights defenders and other activists face the constant threat of government reprisal"

Here comes the new strategic energy partner same as the old strategic energy partner.


Questionable campaign of the week

German newspaper Bild's call on its readers to pose for selfies with their latest 'Nein' cover, in protest of the Bundestag voting in favour of Greece's bailout extension request. The tabloid has urged Berlin not to give any more money to the "greedy Greeks". 

Greece has been struggling with one of the most severe economic crises in the eurozone, with an unemployment rate of nearly 26 per cent and a soaring national debt. However, finance minister Yanis Varoufakis told his fellow eurogroup members last week that the country's deficit "is now below three per cent in nominal terms, down from 15 per cent in 2010. The primary surplus has reached 1.5 per cent at the end of last year and its structural balance, as measured by the international monetary fund, has reached a surplus of 1.6 per cent - the best performance of the EU".

Sadly, unlike Jean-Claude and Rosen, Varoufakis and his German counterpart Wolfgang Schäuble, are not on the best of terms. Schäuble has accused the Greek government of attempting to "trample all over European solidarity" by requesting a bailout extension.

Meanwhile, Varoufakis has warned, "this turning one proud nation against another has been tried and tested with abysmal effects in the mid-war period and this is something we should avoid".


Read the most recent articles written by PMHQ - The Parliament Magazine's week that was - pre-Easter edition