The week that was - Saint Patrick's day edition

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


13 Mar 2015


Luck of the Irish!

It's not unusual for attention to turn to Ireland in mid-March each year as world landmarks turn green and everyone gets into the Saint Patrick's day spirit but this year the emerald isle has attracted attention a little earlier than usual.

Just days ahead of the Saint Patrick's weekend festivities, a range of drugs, including ecstasy and magic mushrooms, were accidently legalised following a high court ruling (insert your own joke) that the country's misuse of drugs act was unconstitutional.

Never fear though, Irish parliamentarians did an all-nighter to ensure the legal loophole was closed in about 24 hours.

Reports that MEP Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, who has long campaigned for the legalisation of drugs, was seen to be rushing for the first available flight to Dublin are considered false.


The bad week for legislators then continued when questions were raised about the text of Ireland's forthcoming referendum on same sex marriage.

The Irish language version of text came under the spotlight. Irish, although the first language of a minority of the population, is constitutionally the country's first national language but does share official status with English. Therefore, should a dispute arise, the Irish language text takes precedence.

Certain legal eagles highlighted that the version of the text proposed might have "unintended consequences".

Some were of the view that the passing of the referendum could inadvertently result in heterosexual marriage becoming unconstitutional.

Although the interpretation was disputed, the Irish prime minister Enda Kenny announced a new wording offering "better clarity" and conceded that "there is probably a lesson to be learned from this".

Ireland will become the first country in the world to put the issue of legalising same sex marriage to a popular vote on 22 May.


Bezzies of the week - part deux

Russian emperor Vladimir Putin and North Korean teddy bear Kim Jong-un, have been downing shots of vodka and comparing nuclear capabilities as they excitedly declared 2015 the 'year of friendship'.

"Of all the despotic, human rights violating, warmongering dictatorships in the world, he rides a horse topless into mine", Kim was reported to have said upon news of Putin's arrival.

The Russian foreign ministry said the new bezzidom will enable Moscow and Pyongyang to strengthen ties "in the political, economic and humanitarian" arenas.

As most of you are probably aware, both men are known for their excellent relationships with other political leaders and extensive philanthropic work… NOT.

Last year, the united nations general assembly endorsed a commission of inquiry report detailing crimes against humanity committed in North Korea, such as "deliberate starvation, forced labour, executions, torture, rape and infanticide, among other crimes - most of them committed in North Korea's political prison camp systems".

Meanwhile, Putin is widely assumed to have played a part in the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, and has been carrying out extensive military operations throughout Ukraine as tensions in the eastern state continue to escalate.

Two of the world's most emotionally stable, beloved and sane leaders joining forces - this surely is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Fraud National

This week parliament president Martin Schulz informed the European anti-fraud office (Olaf) that 20 Front National assistants were being paid from the EU budget, without actually doing any work related to Brussels or Strasbourg.

The fraud is estimated to have cost the EU a total of €7.5m.

This is not the first time the far-right party has wasted EU money, as its 24 MEPs - who do not belong to any group - are known for rarely turning up to committees and plenary sessions. Rather ironic for a party that claims to want to stop squandering taxpayer funds, and has accused France's socialist party of robbing the country's citizens.

This is also not the first time the front national has been in trouble with the law. Its founder, Jean-Marie Le Pen, has been fined numerous times for making racist comments.

The party - France's biggest within the European parliament - has denied any wrongdoing, but Florian Philippot, one of its vice-presidents, tweeted "Martin Schulz is right - our assistants don't work for the EU, they work against it".


Sad reflection on humanity of the week

This week Jeremy Clarkson, presenter of the worldwide hit TV show Top Gear, was suspended by the BBC following what was described as a 'fracas' with a colleague. A petition to reinstate the motormouth host quickly amassed hundreds of thousands of signatures and in a few hours had amassed more signatures than a petition to end female genital mutilation.



You can't fire us / delay our accession process, we quit

Despite commission president Jean-Claude Junker's assertion that there would be no EU enlargement for five years, Iceland has dropped its bid for EU membership. Iceland's foreign minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson informed the commission and the Latvian presidency of Reykjavík's withdrawal, saying his country's interests "are better served outside the European Union".

One can only imagine what finally drove the Icelandics over the edge, but Greek defence minister Panos Kammenos must have caught wind of their planned exit as attempted to make them reconsider by showcasing the very best of the solidarity and diplomacy that forms the bedrock of the European project in a bid to make EU membership as attractive as possible.

"If Europe leaves us in the crisis," he said, "we will flood it with migrants, and it will be even worse for Berlin if in that wave of millions of economic migrants there will be some jihadists of the Islamic State too."

We'll be awaiting the drunk 3am phone call from Iceland begging to be taken back into consideration for this 'ever closer union' with bated breath.


Photo opportunity of the week

Restless economic gadabout Yanis Varoufakis has posed for an inspiring and inspired photoshoot, in what certainly won't prove fuel to the fire for his critics, nor bring embarrassment to his prime minister Alexis Tsipras following his urging of his finance minister to "talk less and do more".

PMHQ doesn't have Varoufakis' gift for numbers, but if a picture is worth a thousand words then what is a Paris Match photo spread worth?


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