Tuesday, 30 September 2008

European Parliament elections 2009: Overview article

UPDATE (26 April 2010): The European University Institute has published an eBook with Country Reports (~3 MB; PDF) on the European Parliament elections in all EU member states.

This article provides an overview over the more than 120 posts in the "European Parliament elections 2009" category in this blog.

For 11 months, from July 2008 to June 2009, I have been following the road to the European Parliament elections 2009, and this road was bumpy but extremely interesting.

I will continue to cover European politics and also the consequences of the elections but this special category has now ended.

For newer articles related to the elections use the tag "European Parliament elections 2009"!

Election results: BBC / European Parliament online / Wikipedia

The new MEPs by country: EP website


Link to the FINAL article: 07 June 2009

A summary and outlook, a final expression of disappointment - and my hope that we can make the European Parliament better!

Link to article N° 120: 06 June 2009

On the last day, Europe-wide interest is still low, and it looks as if the peak is already behind us.

Link to article N° 119: 06 June 2009

Why the early publishing of results in the Netherlands is right and no problem for the rest of the EU.

Link to article N° 118: 06 June 2009

On the continued ignorance of the European Parliament elections.

Link to article N° 117: 05 June 2009

EUX.TV and The European Citizen on the elections in the UK and the Netherlands.

Link to article N° 116: 04 June 2009

The media ignores the EP elections and Obama dominates the headlines with his Cairo speech.

Link to article N° 115: 04 June 2009

The elections are finally there.

Link to article N° 114: 29 May 2009

A hat tip to Charlemagne criticising the PES for criticising the wrong people.

Link to article N° 113: 27 May 2009

The end of the turnout panic. What turnout panic?

Link to article N° 112: 26 May 2009

After almost 11 month of coverage in this blog, my interest in the election campaign has hit rock bottom.

Link to an article outside the series

This blog will be archived for the online archive of the British Library.

Link to article N° 111: 21 May 2009

The EP web editors' plans to cover the election night.

Link to article N° 110: 20 May 2009

I have voted.

Link to article N° 109: 17 May 2009

It looks like the 2009 campaign analysis will not be much different to 1999 and 2004.

Link to article N° 108: 16 May 2009

Mark Mardell's (BBC) view on the disinterest in the EP elections.

Link to article N° 107: 15 May 2009

Another one on the media coverage of the election campaign.

Link to article N° 106: 15 May 2009

An EP election anecdote by famous EU scholar Andrew Moravcsik.

Link to article N° 105: 14 May 2009

A young volunteer's report from the Latvian pre-electoral campaign.

Link to article N° 104: 13 May 2009

Young Greens and Free Alliance Youth attack the other youth organisations for being conformist.

Link to article N° 103: 13 May 2009

PES leader expresses disappointment about not having a socialist candidate for the European Commission Presidency.

Link to article N° 102: 13 May 2009

On young candidates for the European Parliament: LYMEC.

Link to article N° 101: 12 May 2009

The three largest European political party youth organisations issue joint statement, together with Barroso, against youth abstention.

Link to article N° 100: 11 May 2009

The election campaign finally starts off, with articles and activities all around.

Link to article N° 99: 09 May 2009

The official EP campaign spot is a total fail!

Link to article N° 98: 07 May 2009

A could-be viral video campaign by the European Parliament is teasing for the EP elections.

Link to article N° 97: 05 May 2009

The famous American "Don't vote!" campaign has been Europeanised.

Link to the first guest post on Th!nk09

Why there are no true Europe-wide election campaigns.

Link to article N° 96: 04 May 2009

Very few EU expats are expected to vote.

Link to article N° 95: 03 May 2009

A look at party communication in Slovenia.

Link to article N° 94: 02 May 2009

Some remarks on Libertas.

Link to article N° 93: 01 May 2009

An interview with a Dutch EP candidate.

Link to article N° 92: 29 April 2009

An outlook on the EPP electoral Congress in Warsaw.

Link to article N° 91: 28 April 2009

The French justice minister ridicules the election campaign by strange behaviour.

Link to article N° 90: 27 April 2009

A youth campaign in Germany is trying to raise electoral turnout. Here: A panel discussion with EP President Pöttering.

Link to article N° 89: 25 April 2009

A funny negative campaign has started in Germany.

Link to article N° 88: 24 April 2009

My Twitter coverage of the PES campaign launch event.

Link to article N° 87: 24 April 2009

On campaign billboards in Austria (Greens and Social Democrats).

Link to article N° 86: 20 April 2009

A discussion on whether the Scottish are underrepresented in the EP.

Link to article N° 85: 19 April 2009

The deficits of the EP's information and motivation campaign in Germany.

Link to article N° 84: 18 April 2009

Why not campaigning for the tourist vote?

Link to article N° 83: 16 April 2009

An exchange of open letters between PES and ELDR

Link to article N° 82: 16 April 2009

A hint to a press review on the recent Eurobarometer results and an appraisal of eurotopics

Link to article N° 81: 15 April 2009

Some critical remarks on the open letter of PES leader Rasmussen to the ELDR and on the usage of bloggers for campaign purposes.

Link to article N° 80: 14 April 2009

How the latest results of the Eurobarometer survey and Twitter discussions relate to the European Dream.

Link to article N° 79: 10 April 2009

An opinion on the "Can You Hear Me Europe" campaign of MTV and the EU Commission.

Link to article N° 78: 09 April 2009

An appeal for more campaign exchanges of European parties' campaigners.

Link to article N° 77: 07 April 2009

A new website promises more accurate predictions of the election results.

Link to article N° 76: 07 April 2009

PES and JEF activists campaign with an open letter for a PES rival candidate against Barroso.

Link to article N° 75: 04 April 2009

Discussing the European Green Party manifesto.

Link to article N° 74: 02 April 2009

Up to 38 lists could run in Germany.

Link to article N° 73: 02 April 2009

A probable future MEP for the German Green Party reports about pre-election challenges.

Link to article N° 72: 01 April 2009

Some harsh comments from Lithuania on the EP, MEPs, and the upcoming elections.

Link to article N° 71: 31 March 2009

A Romanian newspaper remarks the national character of the European elections.

Link to article N° 70: 29 March 2009

Some interesting Polish candidates.

Link to article N° 69: 24 March 2009

On my disappointment that the EP campaign is so low-scale until now.

Link to article N° 68: 19 March 2009

A new platform will help EU citizens to make their choice for the elections.

Link to article N° 67: 17 March 2009

Discussions about the EP's awareness and civic education campaign for the 2009 elections.

Link to article N° 66: 16 March 2009

The daughter of Romania's president wants to become MEP.

Link to article N° 65: 16 March 2009

European Greens sponsor bloggers for their congress.

Link to article N° 64: 13 March 2009

Main European Youth organisations call for a true European election campaign.

Link to article N° 63: 12 March 2009

UK's Tories leave the EPP.

Link to article N° 62: 11 March 2009

On a sad story from Slovakia: Young MEP candidate dies in car accident.

Link to article N° 61: 10 March 2009

Czech parties use the internet more than ever, and the opposition might win the elections.

Link to article N° 60: 09 March 2009

On low turnout expectations in Romania and political parties' reactions thereto.

Link to article N° 59: 03 March 2009

Spanish newspaper El Mundo features EP elections on its website.

Link to article N° 58: 02 March 2009

Visibility problems of the elections in Latvia and funny questions from non-informed citizens.

Link to article N° 57: 27 February 2009

A link to a presentation of Slovenian candidates.

Link to article N° 56: 25 February 2009

Why Bulgarians don't vote.

Link to article N° 55: 24 February 2009

A combined poll that predicts the outcome of the EP elections: EPP + PES with majority.

Link to article N° 54: 24 February 2009

Wikipedia statistics show rising interest in EP elections.

Link to article N° 53: 23 February 2009

Low participation expected in Bulgaria.

Link to article N° 52: 18 February 2009

A French opinion poll on voters' preferences for the EP elections.

Link to article N° 51: 18 February 2009

EU Commissioner Hübner is going to fight Libertas during the EP campaign.

Link to article N° 50: 13 February 2009

Taking a look at the EPP manifesto.

Link to article N° 49: 12 February 2009

Europe Direct offers special election infos in the field.

Link to article N° 48: 12 February 2009

A reference to Grahnlaw's explanation of the legal foundations of the EP elections in EU law.

Link to article N° 47: 11 February 2009

The PES PR machine starts working, inter alia with their campaign website, which also contains the list of top candidates.

Link to article N° 46: 04 February 2009

ELDR launches new website without major innovations.

Link to article N° 45: 29 January 2009

The EPP will present its draft manifesto and its new platform DialogueTV.

Link to article N° 44: 29 January 2009

ELDR is campaigning for the EP presidency but expects just 100 seats in the new Parliament.

Link to article N° 43: 28 January 2009

French Minister Michel Barnier uses blog, Twitter, and Facebook for his online campaigning.

Link to article N° 42: 26 January 2009

The European Peoples Party (EPP) is confident to win the elections but does not seem very interested in campaigning for them.

Link to article N° 41: 21 January 2009

The EP has put up an unambitious sub-site on the European elections.

Link to article N° 40: 20 January 2009

The European Greens have started to develop their online campaign.

Link to article N° 39: 16 January 2009

I feel a raising interest in the elections; and there is still no full list of all candidates for all countries.

Link to article N° 38: 15 January 2009

The German Left spends 3 Million Euro for the EP election campaign.

Link to article N° 37: 14 January 2009

Young European conservatives seem to ignore the reality of young Europeans by letting their party ignore the internet.

Link to article N° 36: 11 January 2009

A link to the discussion of a recent UK poll for EU elections voting preferences and astonishment that Nosemonkey does not plan to vote.

Link to article N° 35: 10 January 2009

A closer look at the Party of the European Left, including the electoral manifesto.

Link to article N° 34: 08 January 2009

The Liberals in the European Parliament (ALDE) propose their leader Graham Watson (UK) as candidate for the next President of the European Parliament.

Link to article N° 33: 07 January 2009

This article contains a link list to the United Kingdom (UK) party/candidates' lists for the EP elections.

Link to article N° 32: 02 January 2009

Jon Worth predicts boringness to rule the election campaign.

Link to article N° 31: 23 December 2008

A new website managed by future journalists takes a look at the European parties.

Link to article N° 30: 15 December 2008

A comparison of the manifestos of ELDR and PES.

Link to article N° 29: 09 December 2008

The PES considers the Obama campaign as an example, but its manifesto slogan reveals old-style political thinking.

Link to article N° 28: 08 December 2008

The EU Commission expects a disaster for the 2009 elections.

Link to article N° 27: 05 December 2008

The visibility of the European Parliament elections is close to zero, and not much will happen to change this.

Link to article N° 26: 18 November 2008

A discussion about the danger of far-right parties to win considerably at the 2009 EP elections.

Link to article N° 25: 11 November 2008

Wikipedia statistics for the article on the European Elections 2009 shows rather low interest in the matter.

Link to article N° 24: 07 November 2008

Cafe Babel will soon launch a website that will follow the EP election process, while Facebook ignores the existence of these elections.

Link to article N° 23: 06 November 2008

In Finland, the electoral campaign for the European elections is too expensive for many candidates.

Link to article N° 22/2: 05 November 2008

Twitter for EU President (i.e. Parliament)! And how useless it is to use the internet for the EP elections.

Link to article N° 22: 04 November 2008

The President of the European Parliament has visions, coffee eases the vote, and the European Liberal Democrats have a manifesto as well as some encouraging words.

Link to article N° 21: 17 October 2008

The European Green Party (EGP) proves that the communication of the European parties regarding the 2009 elections is deficient. And Commissioner Wallström held a speech on communication problems ahead of the EP elections.

Link to article N° 20: 15 October 2008

Google will launch a special news service for the 2009 European Parliament elections.

Link to article N° 19: 10 October 2008

The conservative Czech Prime Minister wants a new conservative and eurosceptic political group in the European Parliament. The UK merges local and European election dates. More female candidates could lead to more women participating, and a British Liberal wants transnational lists as well as a lowered voting age.

Link to article N° 18: 03 October 2008

Anti-EU activities in Sweden and Greece, foreign voter registration in Malta, and confusion in Great Britain.

Link to article N° 17: 27 September 2008

The Party of European Socialists (PES) announces one single campaign and Commissioner Wallström reports tensions in the European Parliament.

Link to article N° 16: 25 September 2008

Summary of the Eurobarometer special report on the European elections 2009.

Link to article N° 15: 20 September 2008

The European Peoples Party (EPP) agrees on a policy paper on demographic challenges. Nothing new from other European parties.

Link to article N° 14: 19 September 2008

Low expected voter turnout in Estonia and Irish local elections on same day as European Parliament elections. Online campaigning is the future - but still a distant one for the European Union.

Link to article N° 13: 17 September 2008

Italy changes its electoral law for the EP elections and the Nice Treaty is the most probable legal basis for the 2009 elections.

Link to article N° 12: 16 September 2008

French Greens and German Liberals discuss their candidates. Europe is divided in left-right as well as into pro-EU and contra-EU.

Link to article N° 11: 10 September 2008

Political parties and candidates in Estonia, Poland, Greece and the Netherlands are preparing their electoral campaigns. The Bulgarian prime minister participates in programmatic discussions and an Irish is launching a pro-EU campaign.

Link to article N° 10: 28 August 2008

Germany's Social Democrats nominate their front-runner hoping to also make him the next German commissioner.

Link to article N° 09: 18 August 2008

Hungarian preparations for the electoral campaign.

Link to article N° 08: 09 August 2008

Schedules and planned activities of the European Parties - Peoples Parties, Socialists, Liberals, Greens - for their electoral campaigns.

Link to article N° 07: 06 August 2008

Discussions in Poland, Czech Republic, Greece and Malta about the political dimension of the elections. Some Greens propose an all-European campaign and Italy will pass a new electoral law for the European Parliament elections 2009.

Link to article N° 06: 01 August 2008

Discussion about European Parties' strategies for the elections as well as about the media coverage of European politics in general and the EP elections in particular.

Link to article N° 05: 28 July 2008

Remarks on the European Socialists' discussion about having a joint European campaign.

Link to article N° 04: 23 July 2008

Estonians might be able to vote via mobile phone at the European elections.

Link to article N° 03: 17 July 2008

Short look at European parties' schedules for the EP election campaign.

Link to article N° 02: 14 July 2008

The PIRIDEU project will track the European Parliament elections scientifically.

Link to article N° 01/2: 13 July 2008

Spanish hopes for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Link to article N° 01: 08 July 2008

Introduction to the category and a look at the European parties' webpages to see their state of preparation for the European Parliament elections 2009.

German high-level diplomat becomes lobbyist

The recently retired Deputy Permanent Representative of the German Representation to the European Union in Brussels joins, three month after retirement, the lobbyist consultancy GPlus Europe.

Peter Witt, who held the rank of ambassador, will be able to use his first-hand experience to consult clients on crucial details of EU decision-making.

The press has written about GPlus Europe (which they display on their own website):
Within Brussels, one of the best-known cases of the seemingly organic ties between the EU institutions and businesses can be found in the sleek offices of GPlus Europe. Of the 49 employees listed on this public relations firm's website, 28 have worked for the European Parliament, the Commission or for the Brussels embassies of the Union's national governments.

GPlus has used the insider knowledge that its employees have of the EU institutions as a selling point, helping it to win clients as illustrious as Microsoft and Vladimir Putin; the former Russian president hired its services in an effort to improve his image in the West.
This is another example of important civil servants joining the lobbyist scene in Brussels, shortly after leaving public office. Whether this is much better than leaking secrets while being in office - I am not too sure.

via FAZ (printed version)

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe: livestream and access to official documents (updated)

This week parliamentarians from 47 European countries are meeting for the fourth session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg in 2008.

You can watch the session on livestream.

At this minute, the parliamentarians are discussing the Georgian-Russian war and the consequences the Council of Europe has to draw:

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, remained very general and the Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, concentrated on the humanitarian dimension.

Interesting to note: The leader of the Georgian delegation speaks in ... German. The head of the Russian delegation repeats - in Russian - what has been said many times before.

The PACE will also review a proposed European Convention on Access to Official Documents, which would be the first binding international document covering that issue.

Monday, 29 September 2008

EU budget committee criticises EU agencies

A rather critical text containing a draft Council resolution on the financing of the differenct decentralised agencies of the European Union has been forwarded to COREPER these days.

Following a report by the European Court of Auditors (Special Report No 5/2008) the draft COREPER resolution
NOTES WITH CONCERN the general findings of the Court that the audited decentralised agencies do not plan their activities adequately nor, for most of them, have at their disposal sound tools for monitoring their activities, and that the reporting of the activities and the evaluation of the results need to be improved.
The phrase "notes with concern" is rather alarming, and it looks as if the observed agencies are in quite some troubles.

According to the Court of Audiors' report these agencies are:
The executive summary of the 49 pages long report remarks that:
"IV. The agencies did not make ex ante evaluations of their programmes, nor did they draw up multiannual programming documents intended to enable them to set medium-term result and impact objectives together with performance indicators.

V. While the agencies all drew up annual work programmes, these provided little precise information concerning the resources to be allocated to the various actions and the results expected.

VI. Monitoring tools were still fairly rudimentary in most of the agencies. Information on the use made of the resources allocated to their activities was often scattered. It would be of benefit to promote to all agencies the best practice monitoring systems identified in certain of them. The Commission's role could be reviewed in this respect.
Both, the Auditors' report and the strength of the draft EU Council resolution show that the planning and execution of the work - and especially the financing - of the respective agencies of the European Union is inappropriate and needs revision.

In fact, these should be issues European media take more serious.
As in this case, both the Court of Auditors' report and the planned Council conclusions are public, and I would expect the mainstream journalists to follow up on this.

But I doubt that anybody cares if the European Union is poorly organising and supervising its activities -
apart from some strange Eurosceptics concentrated around a little island on the western shores of the European continent...

After the Belarus elections: 100% Lukashenko (updated)

Not surprisingly, neither for me nor for others, the elections in Belarus did not bring about any surprising results - the future parliament will be 100% Lukashenko.

European news sources report that non of the opposition parties' candidates made it into the parliament. And the opposition complains that this have not been "elections".

Taking this into acount, Lidziya Yarmoshyna, the head of the Belarussian Central Electoral Commission, made this cynical statement:
"All elections in Belarus were held democratically, but the only thing is that election processes are viewed in a different way"


The preliminary statement by the OSCE/ODIHR observers leaves no doubt about the lack of democracy displayed in yesterday's vote:
"Despite some minor improvements, the 28 September parliamentary elections in Belarus ultimately fell short of OSCE commitments for democratic elections"
So, even if if Mrs. Yarmoshyna perceives that democracy means something else in Belarus, this something else falls short of international standards and the commitments made by Belarus itself. Not surprising, but now officially put on paper by the election observers.

If you want to read the full OSCE statement, you can do it here.

Read also:

- Douglas' article
- Dániel's article

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XVII)

The Party of European Socialists (PES) will run a joint campaign for the European Parliament elections, as Tomasz Kalita from the Polish Social democrats has informed the press.

On 1 December 2008, PES leaders will aprove in Madrid the joint programme of all socialist and social-democratic parties united in the PES, as well as the campaign plan. The leaders will also "pick five European cities as the venues for high-profile PSE election rallies".

This will be another step in the interestingly united and open process the European socialist have started with their manifesto consultations.

Talking about European politics and European elections:

I also recommend reading the remarks by Commissioner Wallström concerning growing political tensions in the European Parliament.

Under the category "Tracking: European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Belarus: "Elections" on Sunday


Read now the follow-up on the elections in Belarus after the vote.


There is almost no need to say that the parliamentary elections in Belarus this Sunday, 28 September, will not be free and fair.

But there is still quite something to tell about these elections:

In an excellent and comprehensive article on Transitions Online, Rodger Potocki from the US-American National Endowment for Democracy (NED) points out that although there will be quite some cosmetic ameliorations in the electoral process, the overall situation and the direction of the country have not changed. He concludes:
During Soviet times, Belarus was known as “the Quiet Republic.” The regime is doing all it can to make this a “quiet election,” palatable to the West. But “the sounds of silence” emanating from Minsk ensure that this will not be a free and fair election. It is not business as usual in Belarus this fall, but the same old scam is still in the works.
There is not much to doubt about these final words of his article titled "Shhh! Elections in Progress". The outcome of the elections will not be surprising, and Belarus will remain on the track of being the last dictatorship on the European continent.

And almost nobody will notice... Shhh!

Shut up, critics!

R.I.P, England Expects blog. This blog by an EP employee has been forbidden by the European Parliament's Secretary General Harald Rømer.

And while Nosemonkey and Jon have found enough reasonable and correct words, I would just like to add that such kind of threats by a parliamentary administration are disgusting, shamefull, and against every basis of democractic discourse. Marianne Mikko just wanted to "register" blogs, but forbidding them is just sad and horrible.

The European Union and its member states keep their officials travelling around the globe to foster democracy and human rights, but their incapability of respecting a basic norm of democracy - the freedom of expression - will make all their efforts remain in vain.

Excuse me, I have to go vomiting!

Via openeurope blog.

European Parliament buries Mikko's anti-blogger initiative

Relief. Happiness. Bliss. Felicity. Time for a coffee.

Yesterday, the European Parliament - this is the one that has a broken ceiling in Strasbourg - has managed not to break another ceiling. The Estionian fear initiative - sponsored by social democrat and PES member Marianne Mikko - to make the blogosphere more "transparent" (cf.: "glas ceiling") has been watered down to a level where the text of the resolution says:
25. Encourages an open discussion on all issues relating to the status of weblogs;
I think that is appropriate and I can only encourage parliamentarians to discuss openly the status of weblogs, especially considering their brilliant acknowledgement also to be found in the resolution:
[W]eblogs represent an important new contribution to freedom of expression and are increasingly used by media professionals as well as by private persons.
Brilliant. Amazing. Lovable. Cute. Substantial.

And actually, these sentences are the only two references to blogs in the whole resolution. After the huge discussions around the subject, it almost seems as if the parliamentarians have decided to ignore us as much as possible instead of bothering us with useless initiatives. Why not?!

There is some hope for the European Parliament, I suppose. Sometimes, a broken ceiling might be helpful to see the sun and to feel some fresh air. Very helpful for the brain, from time to time...

In this sense: Let's go outside and have a coffee, fellow bloggers!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XVI)

Upon a request from the European Parliament, Eurobarometer has published a 93 pages long special report on the upcoming European elections.

And while Euractiv focuses on the finding that European Union citizens expect the next EP elections to be about the economy, there is much more in the report.

The field operation was done during this spring, so the findings are already six month old. Nevertheless, they are very interesting. The main quotation (p. 14) and main summary might be: "[A]t the current time the 2009 European elections are not a central issue."

When we look at the report, we see that this is actually true. Therefore some more extracts from the survey:
  • Only 16% of respondents knew that the elections will be in 2009, an improvement of 6% to the last survey 6 month before. About 75% have no clue at all. People from Luxemburg and Greece were best informed (43% and 36% knew that the EP elections are in 2009), Finnish and British the least (both 3%).
  • 8% are very interested while 22% are very desinterested in these elections. The highest interest in the EP elections can be found among Romanians, Maltese, Irish, and Cypriots (all above 60%), the least interested are Latvians, Czeques, Slovaks, and British (all below 40%). Young people are the least interested (Remark: This is a general trend in elections.), and those who trust the EU are much more interested than those who don't trust.
  • The group most unlikely to vote are the students. 22% definitely do not want to vote (average: 14%).
  • Those who do not want to vote think that they cannot change anything (68% of non-voters), do not know enough about the European Parliament in general (60%) or about the vote in particular (58%) or they are just not interested in the European elections (59%). Being against the EU, Europe or the European constitution is no sufficient reason not to vote (only 22% affirm this as reason not to vote).
  • Regarding choice for particular candidates, the position on national issues is only minimally more important (somewhat exagerated by the headline Brussels Blogger has chosen) than the position on European issues (37% compared to 36%). However, this shows that national and European issues have an equal weight for voters , even though the elections are European.
  • The most important topics are unemployment, economic growth, and inflation. The least important topics are the powers and competences of European institutions, European values and identity, and the preservation of the European social model. Immigration is most important in Spain, Malta, Austria and Great Britain (more than 50% of respondents rank this issue important), the least important for Poland and Bulgaria.
After presenting and interpreting all the data, the authors finish and conclude from their report that
"The two main challenges of the 2009 European elections will be to inform European citizens about the European Parliament’s role and the ability of candidates to offer practical solutions at European level to the economic crisis."
This is not very spectacular, if I might be very direct.

My conclusions are: National media need to give much more attention to the whole process and its political dimensions. Sure, there is a need to better explain the role of the European Parliament and yes, it will be nice if the election campaign will tackle issues that actually interest European citizens, but in the end it is much about the visibility of the process as such.

As long as around 75% of respondents are not aware that in 2009 there will be European Parliament elections while political parties are already preparing their candidate lists, how can we expect any interest in the matter...?!

Under the category "European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009.

For an overview over all articles in this category have a look at the overview article.

For the five newest post see also the sidebar.

European Union demands more daylight (updated)

From 2011, all newly registered cars have to have an obligatory daylight - to make our streets more secure, as the Commission tells.

Several news sources report about this nice little EU decision. This is why we need the European Union - to demand more daylight.

Daylight is also very important for the agriculture, and as everybody knows, agriculture is in the centre of our Union. Maybe, this decision on cars is a hidden agricultural subsidy, yet another one.

But if you want to read some counterarguments against this decision - please use the opportunity to consult the The Association of Drivers Against Daytime Running Lights (United Kingdom).

This is also what the EU is all about: For every piece of legislation, for every initiative, for every little detail, there is a funny counter-initiative.

I love the European Union, it is my daily bread, my daily absurdity. What would I do without her?!


For the full story - i.e. the history of the proposal - read the excellent article by EUreferendum (found via Publius).

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Corruption in European Union countries

Corruption is once again on the agenda these days. And yes, there is corruption within the European Union.

That there is even corruption or related practices within the institutions of the European Union has been discussed quite recently, not for the first time.

But while for anyone working on Central and Eastern European countries it is not really surprising to hear that Romania and Bulgaria have the highest perceived corruption in the European Union, reading from the EUobserver that populations in Finland, Portugal, Italy, France, and Great Britain have the feeling that corruption is not fought appropriately in their countries is rather discouraging.

The EUobserver article is based on the Corruption Perception Index Report published by Transparency International yesterday.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Hansjoerg Haber leading EU mission in Georgia

The German Diplomat Hansjörg Haber (photo) has arrived in Tbilisi/Georgia to lead the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in the country.

From his CV, published by the Council of the European Union last week, it can be seen that he has served twice in Moscow, the last time from 1999-2002 as the Head of the Press and Information office, and that from 2007 until now he has been the German ambassador in Beirut/Lebanon.

Javier Solana, the European Union's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, is quoted:
"Hansjörg Haber will have a crucial role in putting together and launching the mission as a key part of the EU's efforts to address the crisis in Georgia and enhance stability in the region. His range of skills and experience in diplomacy and crisis management will be assets for the mission. He has my full trust and support and I look forward to working with him."
Haber told the media yesterday that most of his team is expected to come during this week.

The final mission will start on 01 October 2008 and will involve between 200 and 350 observers. For more details you can read the fact sheet published by the EU Council.

By the way: You want to work with the EUMM? Have a look at the job offers...

Monday, 22 September 2008

Interlude (III): European blog = European blogger?

My third month of European blogging is approaching its end. And while the European blogosphere remains interesting, I am still not sure whether having a European blog is the same as being a European blogger.

Why is that relevant?

It is relevant, because although there are quite some blogs dealing with European issues, the number of European bloggers - that is, bloggers writing from an all-European perspective - is quite limited. It is relevant because this discrepancy has an impact on the quality and content of intra-European debates.

In fact, the result is that most of us are discussing European questions from a rather national perspective (and I don't exclude myself) - not necessarily from our own national perspective but at least involving one national perspective.

This is not wrong and reflects a certain reality. However, the result is a rather limited possibility for blogosphere interaction, and while some topics (e.g. the Lisbon Treaty or the the Russian-Georgian war) are able to move many people and many bloggers alike - but even then rather in connexion to national specialities (the Irish "No") than with respect to the substance of European politics - many other European issues only seem to be interesting from specific national angles.

What I want to say is the following: I will continue Euroblogging and reading Euroblogs, but rather in the hope of seeing and achieving more intense European debates in the future, debates that have an all-European dimension. Something, where mentioning an individual country is not really necessary, because it affects citizens and people all over the continent alike. Blogs and articles that are not only about Europe but also from Europe.

But this effort seems not as easy as I have thought when starting to blog. Not least because it is much harder to be a European blogger than just to have a European blog. I think I have to reflect more on the things I am writing about, be more self-critical to the perspectives taken, and should try harder to identify exactly those topics that have this all-European dimension I am looking for. The best thing that came to my mind so far is the "Tracking: European Parliament Elections 2009" category, but it remains a limited subject with a forseable peak in the spring of 2009.

But it needs some more ideas to initiate European debates before they are initiated by the national media. And the question that I keep asking myself is:
Can the blogosphere be a facilitator for "true" European debates - or can we just join them when they have already evolved in the mainstream media?
Today, I would answer this question less optimistic than three month ago.

European communication (III): Euro-speak

Through Euractiv I have found a new European initiative called "The Simple Language Campaign", which aims at reducing "Euro-speak" in favour of a more understandable European administrative language.

The campaign has been launched by the the Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) in the Committee of the Regions of the European Union. On the campaign's website you can fill in a phrase in Euro-speak and below enter the same sentence/phrase in a citizen-friendly version.

It's a nice little toy, but I suppose that the results will contain as much nonsense as we can find in the European Union's language. The number of results is still limited, but as soon as "some" people will have discovered the page, it will be spammed as so many sites before.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XV)

The Bureau of the European Peoples Party (EPP), "ahead of the European elections", has approved a paper (PDF) titled "Tackling the Demographic Challenge – Solutions for the Ageing of our Societies". Some measures proposed are a better work-life-balance, flexible retirement schemes, life-long learning, national pension reforms. An interesting paragraph is the following:
"Immigration from outside the EU, provided that regional needs and the particular situation concerning skill shortages in different sectors are taken into account, could help to mitigate the efforts of the falling population between now and 2025, although it will not be enough on its own to solve all the problems associated with ageing and it is no substitute for economic reforms. However, immigration enables us to meet the need for labour and safeguard Europe’s prosperity. Decisions on immigration should always be closely linked to essential efforts in the field of integration."
Altogether, this is a quite general paper and I don't think any national party will be able to build its electoral campaign on its content. It is more a stock-taking than a really inspiring paper.

The European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) do not have anything new concerning the 2009 elections, at least not on their front-page.

The same is valid for the European Green Party (EGP). Nothing new on their main webpage.

On the site of the Party of European Socialists (PES) there is still the link to the Manifesto 2009 page. There, however, not much news with regard to the upcoming European elections.

Under the category "Tracking: European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (14), (13), (12), (11), (10), (9), (8), (7), (6), (5), (4), (3), (2), (1).

Friday, 19 September 2008

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XIV)

Only every third Estonian plans to take part in the next European Parliament elections.

And what to do about it? Well, Euractive has discovered the wonderful possibility of the... internet. Wow! The internet! For an election campaign! I definitely like the comment of Clinton's former campaign manager Mark Penn, who tells Euractiv:
"I have no doubt that ten years from now campaigns in Europe will be so much more online and in many ways the internet campaigns will become a lot more of an extension of the EU."
That is the perspective for the EU online election campaign - in 10 years, we might have it.

Maybe more efficient to get more voters to the polling stations is the Irish strategy of holding European and local elections on the same day, on 11 June 2009, almost exactly one year after the "No" to the Lisbon Treaty (12 June 2008).

Under the category "Tracking: European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (13), (12), (11), (10), (9), (8), (7), (6), (5), (4), (3), (2), (1).

EU ministers for agriculture agree to terror list (updated)

German news source Spiegel.de reports that during the EU Council meeting on 15 July 2008, the ministers for agriculture agreed on a new terror list.

The item was not for discussion or for vote and was just passed silently by the ministers. I was trying to find the agenda, but since the EU Council document search is very impractical, I was unable to find something useful.

The new list includes, acording to Spiegel.de, the Iranian resistance groups PMOI, for which there are no official proves of actually being a terrorist organisation.

But luckily for all humans affected by the list, it were the ministers for agriculture who decided on the future of their lives...


Please look into the comments to this article to get the hints to the respective documents. Brussels Blogger informed about the official publication of that list and I could, with some more digging, find the respective draft agenda - and the "A" items (those without discussion) - of the 15 July Council meeting where the decisions were foreseen.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

European Parliament web TV: Critics speaking (updated)

After two days of broadcasting, the European Parliament web TV is receiving respect but also critique.
One Brussels journalist, who did not wish to be named, said that he was worried that the company responsible for the content, Brussels-based Mostra, was the same company that produces much of the European Commission's multimedia promotional material.
I share this view, but I think that it should be the task of the Parliament, and especially its members, to closely follow the reporting of "their" web television. They are democratically elected, and they should be aware of the messages that are spread in their names.
To ensure that Europarl TV serves "public rather than state propaganda interests," said Mr White [that is, Aidan White, the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists; JF], the channel should mirror the oversight structure of other government-funded public television services such as the BBC and institute independent administration of Europarl TV "to stop there from being political interference with news gathering."
For me, this is a contradiction. Having a parliament television provided by the parliament itself that functions without political interference is completely irrealistic. I would rather expect them to highlighten the political interference that this "television" is confronted with instead of hiding it behind self-proclaimed objectivity.

The "real" media should use the material provided by the parliament TV, analyse it and present it to the public in a balanced, evaluated and more generalised manner. This is their task, and this is what I expect from them. And if this worked, we would be quite well off, I suppose.

Read also:

- Nosemonkey's article
- Jon Worth's article
- Brussels Media's article

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XIII)

For the most recent articles in this series, see the sidebar category "Road to the European Parliament Elections 2009"!

In Italy, official discussions about the electoral law and its provisions for the upcoming European Parliament elections have started yesterday.

The issues at stake are the threshold, and the ability of voters to express preferences (source linked above):
[T]he ruling coalition top exponents ... decided for an electoral system firmly based on a minimum five per cent of the votes as a threshold and a blocked candidates list, which means no possibility of expressing preferences in the ballot: a format less desirable for the opposition than the previous majority proposal originally presented by Minister Roberto Calderoli.

That system, contemplating a four per cent limit and the expression of one preference by the elector, was closer to the format considered as ideal by the opposition, which would provide for a three per cent threshold and the possibility of expressing two preferences by the elector.
The system proposed by the coalition leaders resembles very much (in fact, exactly) the basic principles of the German electoral law. Obviously, smaller opposition but even coalition parties are not amused with the threshold limiting their chances to get one of the 78 seats Italy possesses according to the provisions of the Nice Treaty.

And concerning the Nice Treaty, Forbes remarks that
"in the ... European Commission, the European Parliament and among EU governments, the realisation is setting in that next year's European elections and appointment of the next Commission will take place under the existing Nice treaty."
I think that there are few doubts about this question, and anyone telling that we might get elections under the Lisbon provisions is either overly optimistic or quite far away from the scheduling realities of European politics. No offence intended...

Under the category "Tracking: European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (12), (11), (10), (9), (8), (7), (6), (5), (4), (3), (2), (1).

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

European Parliament web TV from tomorrow

From tomorrow, the European Parliament will have its own web TV.

The site will be http://www.europarltv.europa.eu/.

It is not accessible by now. Let's see from tomorrow, what we will get. I am looking forward for live coverages of the ceiling falling down, background information on lobbyist talks, familiy members of parliamentarians employed in the EP reporting about their salaries, and travel experiences between Bruxelles and Strasbourg.

And, what kind of advertising we will see? German car companies, French farmers, the Catholic Church of Poland, and Finnish public schools attracting British bording school pupils? In 21 languages and two alphabets.

Oh yeah, I am looking forward to the EU parliament web TV.


- European Parliament web TV: First critics

Tracking: European parliament elections 2009 (XII)

French Greens are considering the French-Norwegian Eva Joly as top candidate for their European Parliament list.

German Liberals (FDP) will most probably nominate MEP and Vice-Chairwoman of the ALDE group in the European Parliament, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, as their front-runner for the next EP elections.

And French academic Jean-Philippe Roy of Tours notes a "new" devide, the pro- and contra-EU devide, "which transcents the traditional left-right gap".

Under the category "Tracking: European parliament elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (11), (10), (9), (8), (7), (6), (5), (4), (3), (2), (1).

Dutch make EU reject Serbia

The Netherlands have blocked an EU trade deal with Serbia during the EU Council meeting yesterday.

A Serbian colleague of mine is furious, and I should not quote him because it wouldn't make things better. He's seeing yesterday's result from the side of Serbian citizens, and the rejected deal leaves them behind due to EU internal problems (which is the case if just one country opposes), something hardly understandable outside the Union's borders.

European communication (II)

On Friday, I remarked that European communication can still be improved.

Today, EUobserver reports that the Dutch social scientist Abram de Swaan is calling the EU's multilingualism policy "a pain in the neck". These remarks come on the eve of the presentation of the multilingualism policy by EU Commissioner Leonard Orban.

Actually, I am surprised that this comes up only now. During a conference in Summer 2007, I have already been discussing with Mr. Orban about the multilingualism strategy. At the time, I was critising especially the strong weight of economic considerations for multilingualism, which Orban rejected.

However, multilingualism is not a pain in the neck (or in other parts of the body). It is a pain in the neck in administrative terms, but the ability of eurocrats and transnational bureaucrats and politicians to communicate directly with non-multilingual populations is the only possibility for a European democracy to evolve.

English should become the sole language of inter-administrative communication, but remaining on such a self-referencial level is exactly the problem of Europe today. If I cannot communicate with my Polish neighbour about her problems, how can I work on improving her living conditions? If I want to implement a human rights policy, how do I explain it to a local Spanish police officer?

Multilingualism might be a pain in the neck, but it is a necessary pain for everyone taking the European project seriously. Let's not opt for seemingly simple solutions when complexity demands much more!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Lithuania's president Adamkus on World War III

In the second big quality newspaper in Germany, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Lithuanian president Adamkus presents his perspective on the recent developments, of which I have just translated a short extract:

Sueddeutsche asks, why Moscow risks to provoque the international community for two little provinces:
Adamkus:If you have long-term plans, you have to start somewhere.

sueddeutsche.de:What kind of plans?

Adamkus:In my imagination Crimea will be first, and then the Baltic countries as part of the former sphere of interest will follow, and then the Southern Caucausus.

sueddeutsche.de:With your horror imagination you are describing a scenario that would start the Third World War. How realistic is this?

Adamkus:The tendencies are going into this directions, but I hope that the world will oppose and prevent its self-annihilation. If crazy people in Russia were planning an intervention into our country, they could overrun us within minutes. But everyone imagening this horror scenario would back off, and maybe this will keep us alive.
That's pretty tough words, and had I not live in the Baltics, I would have problems to follow.

However, although I understand the strength of Adamkus' words, they are part of an unnecessarily extreme rhethoric on both sides of the conflict, not helpful, and divisive. Old men's rhethoric, altoghether.

This is not how we will prevent a "World War III"...

Lavrov on Ukraine

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), one of the two largest quality newspapers in Germany, has published a letter by Sergey Lavrov in today's edition.

While most of the content is known to everyone who has followed the recent Georgian crisis, I would like to quote some words concerning Ukraine:
It is also on the West to make a strategic choice. Forcing Ukraine into the role of a buffer zone between Europe and Russia would mean to downgrade Ukraine. Instead, we should jointly design our relations to the world, in particular because Russia as well as Ukraine are an inseperable element of Europe, its culture, politics, and economy.
I don't agree with many things in this letter, but I at least agree with these lines.

If they would stand alone, they could sound reasonable. However, they are connected to much more confrontational rhethoric, which - not surprisingly - raises doubts over their honesty.

Friday, 12 September 2008

European communication

This is one of those days where I realise that European communication can still be improved.

Having used the fourth language today (plus some words of politeness in a fifth) to communicate with people of about six or seven nationalities in order to get my private and work communication done, I feel quite exhausted. Not so much because of the different languages, but also because of the different levels of communication and the number of issues involved. And yes, it's also Friday.

Additionally, since the understanding of time and deadlines by some of the partners is also quite different from my own, issues that could have been solved 10 days ago will have to be solved today, no matter how long it will take. We might even have to extend the usage of the fifth language to do so - but why not.

That is also Europe: Many languages working on the same questions and on different questions at the same time, with a lot of room for misunderstanding and delay. Most of the time it is a lot of fun, but sometimes, when several issues in several languages need equal attention, it can get confusing. My favourite mistake today: "Englais" (for those speaking French, you will understand what I mean...).

With these remarks I wish you all a pleasant weekend; I won't probably have the time to blog until Monday, especially if today will be longer than expected.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

German eurocrat leaks trade secrets

The Sunday Times has revealed that the German high-level European Commission official Fritz Harald Wenig, director for trade defence, divulged secrets worth several millions after having been invited to fency lobbyist lunches.

The two Times journalists investigating in this case disguised as British lobbyists working for a Chinese company, and Mr. Wenig followed their invitation to a fency restaurant to talk:
Within weeks Wenig was prepared to listen to suggestions of backhand payments and a proposal to take up a lucrative role with the fake lobbyists’ Chinese client.

It was no longer a joke. He passed on details about two Chinese companies which could not be obtained outside the commission and could have been commercially valuable – had he not been dealing with reporters.

Last week he also told the fake lobbyists about a crucial decision on footwear tariffs in advance of an expected decision on the subject this week by Peter Mandelson, the trade commissioner.
Trade Commissioner Mandelson has informed that an investigation is on its way.


I just saw that Vitalij was already dealing with the subject yesterday.

South Ossetia wants to join Russia (updated)

German news source Spiegel.de reports that South Ossetian "president" Eduard Kokoity has proclaimed his "country" wants to join Russia.

Why am I not surprised...?


Now he has denied having said that, telling he was misunderstood since he doesn't want South Ossetia to lose its "independence". Okay...

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Warning: Slow down at the border!

The European Parliament transport committee supports transnational enforcement of penalties for offences committed on the streets of another EU country.

So please, slow down from 250 km/h when leaving German motorways towards France and stop parking wherever you want when leaving France towards Germany!

Tracking: EP elections (XI) - supplemented

In Estonia, several high political figures are planning to run for the European elections in 2009 (or at least they are considering it). The names mentioned are Edgar Savisaar, former Prime Minister and controversial Center Party leader, Andrus Ansip, current Prime Minister of Estonia, and Siim Kallas, current EU Commissioner.

In Poland, political parties also get ready for next year's elections.

The Bulgarian Prime Minister and member of the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP) has participated in the PES (Party of European Socialists) manifesto discussion.

An Irish businessman and Labour member launched a pro-European group to inform about the EU's work ahead of the upcoming elections.

And the Greek opposition leader Papandreou confirms that the stupidities of the past will be continued in the future saying "the Euroelections will not only be a vote on the course of Europe, but they will have the character of a referendum for the government and its policies to which an end must be put".

Supplement: Dutch right-wing liberals from VVD will rally against Turkish EU membership during the 2009 EU parliament election campaign, demanding a 10-year moratorium on the issue

Under the category "Tracking: EP elections 2009" I am following up national and European activities on the path to the European Parliament elections 2009. So far: (10), (9), (8), (7), (6), (5), (4), (3), (2), (1).

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Ukraine gets "association" agreement from EU

According to several sources, during today's EU-Ukraine summit in Evian, officials from both sides will discuss a closer political and economic cooperation in the form of an offical agreement.

On the demand of Ukraine, the new agreement to be signed will be called "association agreement" which is close to the pre-accession terminology ("Stabilisation and Association Agreement") of the European Union, although legally it still sounds weaker.

Reuter reports about the possible outcome of today's summit:
A draft summit text acknowledges Ukraine's European aspirations and adds "that gradual convergence of Ukraine with the EU in political, economic and legal areas will contribute to further progress in EU-Ukraine relations".

It describes a broad bilateral pact under negotiation as an "association agreement", wording that can imply the possibility of future membership, and the leaders will announce the launch of a dialogue towards an eventual visa-free regime.
Yet another valuable step towards greater unity in Europe, although in the light of the Ukrainian political crisis one might have doubts how far Ukraine can go beyond empty promises...

Monday, 8 September 2008

The Thaw II

Global warming leads to melting glaciers. The heat of the Georgian conflict has provided a window of opportunity for a political thaw - not as big as The Thaw in the late 1980s, but still remarkable.

The first positive development is the meeting of the Armenian president Serzh Sarkisian with his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gül at the sidelines of the World Cup qualification match between both countries. It was the first official meeting between politicians of the countries for decades.

This is a marvellous move by both politicians, and I commend them for their remarks (quoted in a German newspaper) that as politicians they have the responsibility not to pass problems to the next generation but to try to solve them now (which might bring us back to global warming).

The football game between Armenia and Turkey was won by Turkey. Nevertheless, further meetings at high level are planned. The French EU Council President Sarkozy welcomed the step by both countries.

The second positive development we can observe is a thaw in EU-Belarussian relations. The EU Commissioner for external relations, Benita Ferrero-Waldner has mentioned the possibility of a high-level meeting between the EU Troika (Presidency, Commission, Solana) and Belarussian officials. This move is the result of the release of three political prisioners by the authorities. This happened while Russia and Georgia were fighting in the Caucasus.

These are still small steps, but its good to see that tensions between European countries are not only raising but that even in times of conflict it is possible to make some progress in the strive for a more peaceful contintent.

I am not having illusions, but I still prefer little moves in the right direction to those massive stupidities Russia and Georgia have made in the last month.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Serbia EU candidate in 2009?

At a press conference on Wednesday, EU Commission president Barroso told that Serbia "could" become an EU candidate country in 2009, without making a clear timing commitment.

However, when you read Barroso's speaking points for the press conference (video extract), there is no date mentioned - which in fact is a definite sign that 2009 remains very hypothetical.

Without a consensual agreement on the Kosovo question, I do not see this coming, and I do not see a consensual agreement coming either...

Powerful women (III): Benita Ferrero-Waldner

Mostly in the shadow of Mr Solana, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, is the number two diplomat of the European Union - and today she has turned 60 years old.

I won't go through her CV, Wikipedia and the website of the European Commission provide quite some information. But its worth noting that although Ms Ferrero-Waldner is rather low profile compared to other figures more prominently present in European foreign relations (i.e. the Presidency), considering the recent developments, the European Neighbourghood Policy will become more relevant for Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, which, in case Javier Solana doesn't capture it, will make Ms Ferrero-Waldner more important in the upcoming future.

I don't know whether the Commissioner is considered to remain in office after the next European Parliament elections in 2009, but at least until then we might hear more often from her than we have so far.

In any case: I wish you a happy birthday, Ms Ferrero-Waldner, and the right touch in dealing with the European Union's neighbours!

The category "Powerful Women" is dedicated to European women with influence on the national or supranational level but with relevance for both. It has been inspired by the initiative "Females in Front".

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Analysing the European Council conclusions

Last week I was asking what to expect from the European Council. Now we can see what we got.

Looking at the text of the final declaration from a diplomatic angle, it starts pretty tough:
The European Council is gravely concerned by the open conflict which has broken out in Georgia, by the resulting violence and by the disproportionate reaction of Russia.
"Gravely concerned" in connexion with a "disproportionate reaction of Russia" in the very first sentence of a declaration by the heads of state and government is considerable.

Similar things could be said about the beginning of the second paragraph:
The European Council strongly condemns Russia's unilateral decision to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The addition "strongly" is a clear sign of a general agreement on the evaluation of the situation within the European Union.

The next paragraphs are rather empty and not really worth noting, most of the issues have been reported in the news. But I found an interesting indication for further policy work of the Union in the upcoming month:
The European Union considers that it is more necessary than ever to support regional cooperation and step up its relations with its eastern neighbours, in particular through its neighbourhood policy, the development of the "Black Sea Synergy" initiative and an "Eastern Partnership" which the European Council wishes to adopt in March 2009; to this end it invites the Commission to submit proposals in December 2008. In this context the European Council stresses the importance of the forthcoming summit between the European Union and Ukraine on 9 September.
It seems as if the crisis will speed up some of the political developments in the cooperation with the eastern neighbourhood of the European Union, and I think that this actually positive. Some western countries might not have felt the pressure to get towards a new phasis of cooperation without the events in the Caucasus, so at least some little developments in this area are now coming up quicker than expected.

The text concludes noting that
With the crisis in Georgia, relations between the EU and Russia have reached a crossroads. The European Council considers that given the interdependence between the European Union and Russia, and the global problems they are facing, there is no desirable alternative to a strong relationship [...].
From my point of view, this is a realistic conclusion, and the fact that no sanctions are to be applied on Russia is the only reaction that makes sense seeing the kind of interrelation that we face on this continent.

However, I am sure that this summit has proven that the relations of the European Union to Russia have changed considerably after the Caucasian crisis. But I also think that with a view to working for a less conflictual situation between the countries and peoples of our continent, some intelligent restraint from the side of the EU is in the end a rather positive sign than actually a sign of weakness.