Wednesday 29 June 2011

European Council Res Gestae (SGP & EU2020)

The European Council 23 to 24 June 2011 was supposed to be the grand finale of the first European Semester, spiced with the Euro Plus Pact, so what did the heads of state or government leave posterity?

The 'Res Gestae' web pages record the deeds of our secular leaders with regard to economic policy:

Committed to implementing reforms

The political leaders discussed economic policy coordination; the amendment of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the ratification of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) treaty; and the situation in Greece.

Economic policy coordination

What does the summary of the European Council conclusions tell us about the road towards sustainable public finances (Stability and Growth Pact, SGP) and growth-enhancing reform policies in line with the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020)?

The leaders marked the end of the first European Semester under which the EU makes a six-monthly, simultaneous assessment of national stability and convergence programmes planned by member states.

The European Council endorsed country specific guidelines, without any watering down, and noted the determination of member states to do everything necessary to implement the Stability and Growth Pact (SCG). Targets that require additional efforts include employment, energy efficiency, R&D, poverty, and tertiary education. Member states should also give priority to ensuring a sound macroeconomic environment, restoring fiscal sustainability, correcting macroeconomic imbalances and strengthening the financial sector.

Member states are invited to take account of the guidelines when finalising their budgets for 2012, which are then decided on by the national parliaments during the autumn.

These national efforts should be supported by EU level work to enhance economic growth and job creation. In particular, the regulatory burden of SMEs should be reduced and, where appropriate, micro-enterprises should be exempted from certain future regulations, or at least subject to a lighter regime. The Commission should also provide a roadmap on the completion of the digital Single Market by 2015.

With regard to the Euro Plus Pact, the European Council concluded that the next round of commitments to a list of reforms intended to improve the fiscal strength of participants should be broader in scope, more concrete and ambitious, and should include a pragmatic coordinatinon of tax policies.
The statement seems to bear out the ”stronger sense of common responsibility”, noted by president Herman Van Rompuy, although the press release did not bother to specify which country-specific guidelines the European Council endorsed ”without any watering down”.

Usually, one or more working groups, presidency papers, Coreper meetings and Council configurations intervene between Commission recommendations and summit conclusions.

European Council conclusions

How about the Stability or Convergence Programme and the National Reform Programme (NRP) of each EU member state?

Our next step is to take a closer look at the detailed summit conclusions (available in 23 official EU languages):

European Council 23/24 June 2011: Conclusions (EUCO 23/11; 16 pages)

In paragraph 2, the European Council called the assessment provided by the Commission ”a good starting point”, but this time it does not look like an exercise in the use of weasel words, because ”additional efforts” are needed to attain some of the headline targets and goals of the Europe 2020 Strategy for jobs and sustainable growth.

The European Council specified that it endorsed the country-specific recommendations as approved by the Council (paragraph 3).

The conclusions proceed to outline coming measures to promote economic growth and job creation, as well as the next round of commitments under the Euro Plus Pact. Even the conclusion of the Doha Development Round was paid ritualistic observance.

To be continued on a few blogs near you.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Commission doesn't understand politics, wrote Ronny Patz on Polscieu (Ideas on Europe). The blog post has generated some interesting comments.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Finland in Europe: Katainen government roundup

Here are a number of blog posts I have written from a European angle about the formation of the new government in Finland. The roundup takes us up to pre-visit views ahead of the first bilateral trips of prime minister Jyrki Katainen to neighbouring Sweden and Estonia, Monday 27 June 2011.

Grahnlaw: Finland: Disparate ”six-pack” government taking form (18 June 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland: Government programme: Finland is Nordic and European (19 June 2011)

Eurooppaoikeus (in Finnish): Eurooppaministeri Alexander Stubb - merkittävä haaste (20 June 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland (in Finnish): Hallitusohjelma: Suomi mukaan EU:n keskeisiin hankkeisiin (21 June 2011)

Grahnlaw: Katainen government formation and ministers in Finland (22 June 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland: Trio failure: EU General Affairs Council (23 June 2011)

Grahnblawg (in Swedish): Finland: Jyrki Katainens regering (24 June 2011)

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland (in Swedish): Katainen besöker Reinfeldt och Ansip (25 June 2011)


A few more posts may be forthcoming on this theme.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Worden Report discusses tensions between the European Union as a political union on the empire-level and national leaders' construction of the EU as an international organisation.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Katainen government formation and ministers in Finland

This blog post is about the next prime minister of Finland, his election and government formation, as well as the ministers of the new Finnish cabinet.

PM Jyrki Katainen

The public broadcaster YLE reports that the leader of the National Coalition Party (NCP, EPP) and outgoing finance minister Jyrki Katainen has been officially nominated by president Tarja Halonen to become prime minister of Finland.

YLE also offers a portrait of Katainen (39), about to be elected later today.

Electing the prime minister

The election of the prime minister is on the agenda (in Finnish) of the Parliament 22 June 2011.

The main provisions of the Constitution of Finland on government formation:

Section 61 - Formation of the Government

The Parliament elects the Prime Minister, who is thereafter appointed to the office by the President of the Republic.
The President appoints the other Ministers in accordance with a proposal made by the Prime Minister.
Before the Prime Minister is elected, the groups represented in the Parliament negotiate on the political programme and composition of the Government. On the basis of the outcome of these negotiations, and after having heard the Speaker of the Parliament, the President informs the Parliament of the nominee for Prime Minister. The nominee is elected Prime Minister if his or her election has been supported by more than half of the votes cast in an open vote in the Parliament.
If the nominee does not receive the necessary majority, another nominee shall be put forward in accordance with the same procedure. If the second nominee fails to receive the support of more than half of the votes cast, the election of the Prime Minister shall be held in the Parliament by open vote. In this event, the person receiving the most votes is elected.
The Parliament shall be in session when the Government is being appointed and when the composition of the Government is being essentially altered.

Section 62 - Statement on the programme of the Government

The Government shall without delay submit its programme to the Parliament in the form of a statement. The same applies when the composition of the Government is essentially altered.

Ministers nominated

Formally, they are going to be appointed by the president, as proposed by the new prime minister. In practice the future ministers have been nominated by the political parties joining the coalition government.

The international edition of the daily Helsingin Sanomat presents the ministers of the six-party government in two instalments, first the cabinet members from the National Coalition Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Left Alliance and the Swedish People's Party.

Monday, the Green League and the Christian Democratic Party nominated their ministers, HS International reported. (By the way, there is a typo in the name of Tarja Cronberg, who is going to replace Heidi Hautala MEP in the European Parliament. Correct: Tarja, as in Tarja Halonen, the president.)

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The prize-winning euroblogger Nosemonkey has returned with a medley on the Greek drama (tradegy?) currently on stage in capitals around Europe: The euro crisis: What next? - What's your prediction?

Saturday 18 June 2011

Finland: Disparate ”six-pack” government taking form

Finland emerged from the 17 April 2011 general election split between those who want to face up to the challenges of globalisation, the increasing need for internationalism and the requirements to show European solidarity and those who want an escape route to a bygone (”golden”) era of autarky.

At the time, I discussed the difficult politics and mathematics of the election result in the blog posts: 'Finis Finlandiae?' (18 April) and 'Finland: Eurozone shockwaves' (20 April).

Including a few false starts and self-elimination by the nationalist True Finns, the formation of a majoity government proved difficult. It has taken a month two months to agree on a majority government, the so called six-pack (a term appropriated from the EU economic governance proposals).

Number of posts

Friday, the party leaders finally concluded the negotiations on a broad coalition government, ranging from right to left. A press release from the Government Communications Unit records the distribution of the ministerial posts. I added the corresponding EP groups within brackets:

On Friday, 17 June, the negotiators to form a new government reached agreement on the new Government Programme entitled An Open, Fair and Bold Finland. The distribution of ministerial posts was also agreed on. The new government will include 19 ministers: National Coalition Party [EPP] 6, the Social Democratic Party [S&D] 6, the Left Alliance [GUE-NGL] 2, the Swedish People’s Party in Finland 2 [ALDE], the Green League [Greens-EFA] 2 and the Christian Democratic Party [EPP] 1 ministers.

Individual posts

The chairman of the National Coalition Party and the outgoing finance minister Jyrki Katainen will lead this motley crew as prime minister, representing Finland in the European Council.

Helsingin Sanomat International reports how the individual posts were allotted between the political parties and discusses some of the likely ministers. Most of the new participants in the EU Council meetings will be nominated by their parties today, Saturday.

Helsingin Sanomat reports (in Finnish) that the Swedish People's Party already nominated party chairman Stefan Wallin to become the minister of defence and the lawyer and MP Anna-Maja Henriksson to take over the Ministry of Justice. The article contains informed speculation about probable ministers.

The Government Communications Unit records the allocation of posts including details about the distribution of responsibilities (in Finnish).

Government programme

You can check the English web page of the government for possible additions.

The new government signals austerity and solidarity by cutting its pay cheques by 5 per cent, as reported by Helsingin Sanomat (in Finnish).

The Finnish News Agency STT records PM-elect Jyrki Katainen determined to reduce the country's level of government debt and highlights some of the agreed budget cuts plus main political agreements.

The Finnish public broadcaster YLE offers a quick view of some of the main measures.

YLE presents more details about added and selective social spending, 'inclusion' in EU jargon.


Despite Katainen's professed aims of sound public finances and economic reform, YLE quotes economists critical of half-hearted promises of structural reforms in the compromise programme of the new government.

The Centre Party [ALDE], led by outgoing PM Mari Kiviniemi, chose to remain outside after its election defeat, and it is in the process of transforming itself into an opposition party. Kiviniemi has criticised the new government for lacking direction, will and vision (YLE, in Finnish).

The True Finns [EFD], led by Timo Soini (ex MEP), mushroomed in opposition and ultimately decided to remain clear of government resonsibilities. Today, the chairman gets an opportunity to lambast the new government at the first party congress after the unprecedented election victory (Helsingin Sanomat, in Finnish).

Soini's seat in the European Parliament and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy group has already been taken over by Sampo Terho.

Official government programme

The official government programme reflects the disparate political base, a six-pack with half a dozen distinct beverages. Running to 89 pages, the laboriously negotiated programme could almost be called a tome. The document is still available in Finnish only.

Ralf Grahn

P.S. The Criminal Justice Careers Guide blog offers articles about the US crime scene and the criminal justice system.

Friday 17 June 2011

Europe 2020: Smart growth without intelligent debate?

The Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) aims at smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Naturally, the seven flagship initiatives of the European Commission are mutually reinforcing, but especially the Digital Agenda, the Innovation Union and the Youth on the Move initiatives are intended to promote the ideal of smart growth.

Is it sufficient if a few officials from each country are actively engaged?

No, for real progress the political spheres and the administrations from central down to local level, the media, the interest groups and the general public in the EU member states have to start showing more than desultory interest in the findings and recommendations at the European level.

Without intensive and intelligent national debate and efforts, little smart growth will materialise.

Or is Europe senescent beyond caring?

Could and should the EU blogosphere do something to awaken the semi-dead?

Ralf Grahn

Saturday 11 June 2011

Blogging about EU radio spectrum, broadband deployment and Digital Agenda

Here is a round-up of my blog posts to date about EU radio spectrum policies, broadband deployment and the Digital Agenda for Europe, including the first entries concerning IT policies in Sweden, one of the most competitive information societies.

The first thematic Grahnlaw Suomi Finland blog post highlighted the Commission web pages on radio spectrum policy at European level – a useful source - and mentioned the proposed programme for strategic planning and harmonisation: EU radio spectrum policy programme (RSPP) (31 May 2011).

The Grahnblawg entry in Swedish 'EU: Sverige om radiofrekvenser och radiospektrumpolitik' (2 June 2011) offered a few viewpoints from the government of Sweden in relation with the meeting of the ministers responsible for telecommunications (TTE Council) 27 May 2011.

Also in Swedish, 'Radiospektrumpolitiken i EU:s telekområd den 27 maj 2011' (2 June 2011) on Grahnlaw Suomi Finland presented the conclusions of the TTE Council in English and offered a link to the Hungarian progress report in Swedish.

The Grahnlaw blog post 'EU Commission: Radio spectrum policy programme (RSPP) proposal' (3 June 2011) presented some general aims, as well as the provisions on the aim (Article 1) and the application and general regulatory principles (Article 2).

The Grahnlaw Suomi Finland blog entry 'EU radio spectrum policy aims (RSPP proposal)' (4 June 2011) offered a further presentation of the principal aims and policy objectives of the radio spectrum policy programme proposal.

Since radio spectrum is a finite resource, much in demand, the blog post on Eurooppaoikeus 'EU ja kilpailu radiotaajuuksista' (5 June 2011) highlighted the competition objectives of the Commission's RSPP proposal in Finnish.

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland continued the discussion in Finnish about the aims of the European Commission to accelerate the roll-out of high-speed (wireless) broadband in the European Union: EU: Radiotaajuudet ja langaton laajakaista (5 June 2011).

Grahnlaw guided to relevant RSPP sources, namely the English impact assessment and the summary of the IA, available in 22 official EU languages: EU radio spectrum impact assessment (6 June 2011).

Grahnlaw Suomi Finland presented the RSPP objectives, as stated in the summary of the impact assessment: Objectives and impact of EU radio spectrum proposal (7 June 2011).

Grahnblawg presented the RSPP impact assessment and summary in Swedish: Radiospektrumpolitiken i EU: Konsekvensanalysen (8 June 2011).

In Swedish, Grahnlaw Suomi Finland presented the initial response of the Swedish government to the RSPP proposal, cited the 2009 national Broadband strategy for Sweden and mentioned the recent progress reports: Bredband: Sverige om EU:s radiospektrumpolitik (9 June 2011).

Grahnlaw mentioned Sweden as an inspiring example for other EU member states with regard to both competitiveness and broadband roll-out. Without discarding the ongoing IT strategies for various issues, the Swedish government is working on an umbrella Digital agenda, modeled on the Digital Agenda for Europe: EU2020: Sweden from Broadband strategy to Digital agenda (10 June 2011).


Future blog posts will discuss the interplay between the EU institutions and some of the more competitive member states with regard to economic reform policies (Europe 2020 strategy), especially the Digital Agenda.

Ralf Grahn

Friday 10 June 2011

EU2020: Sweden from Broadband strategy to Digital agenda

If the European Union wants the Europe 2020 (EU 2020) growth strategy to counter the decline in competitiveness, one of the places to look is Sweden, which successfully combines economic progress and social inclusion.

One of the seven flagship initiatives of the EU2020 strategy is the Digital Agenda for Europe.

The first Digital Agenda Scoreboard SEC(2011) 708 and the country-specific data show that Sweden is one of the leading European countries with regard to broadband, Internet usage and eGovernment, as well as the adoption of EU legislation and progress on regulatory issues.

Broadband strategy

Previously, the Swedish government took strategic initiatives to support digitalisation in several key policy areas via an eGovernment action plan, a broadband strategy for Sweden and a national IT strategy for health care and social services.

For instance, in November 2009 the government of Sweden published a national strategy for broadband development, including an English version:

Broadband strategy for Sweden (Government Offices of Sweden, Ministry of Enterprise Energy and Communications; 36 pages)

The Swedish Post and Telecom Agency PTS has just reported on the follow-up of the government's broadband strategy, the roll-out of broadband infrastructure and the Swedish telecom market (links under Latest documents).

Digital agenda

Without discarding the ongoing strategies, in the footsteps of the EU Digital Agenda the Swedish government is now broadening its IT policy work by preparing its national Digital agenda:

The digital agenda will supplement ongoing initiatives. It will coordinate IT measures in areas such as security, infrastructure, skills provision, trust, accessibility, functionality, standards, entrepreneurship and innovation.

The government clearly wants Sweden to stay on the top in the digital world:

The digital agenda will be a cross-cutting, coherent strategy for the whole of Sweden that aims to make full use of the benefits of information technology. The digital agenda will set clear objectives for all relevant areas so that Sweden can continue to be the most successful digital economy.

The Government's ambition is for Sweden to be at the forefront in using IT to achieve growth, welfare, democratic and climate objectives. The role of the Government is to direct and create an appropriate regulatory framework, and in other ways give the market good prospects of offering solutions.

Visit Sweden and the other Nordic countries – at least digitally – for hope-inspiring views for an old and sometimes ailing Continent.

Ralf Grahn

Monday 6 June 2011

EU radio spectrum impact assessment

In line with EU regulation policies and for the benefit of the national governments, parliaments and the public, as well as the European Parliament, the Commission proposal to establish the first radio spectrum programme (RSPP) for the European Union COM(2010) 471 was accompanied by two Commission Staff Working documents.

A summary of the impact assessment was published in 22 official EU languages.

The English version of the IA summary:

SUMMARY OF THE IMPACT ASSESSMENT Accompanying document to the Proposal for a DECISION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the first radio spectrum policy programme; Brussels, 20.9.2010 SEC(2010) 1035 final (9 pages)

According to the bibliographic notice on Eur-Lex, the full impact assessment has been published published only in English:

IMPACT ASSESSMENT Accompanying document to the Proposal for a DECISION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the first radio spectrum policy programme; Brussels, 20.9.2010 SEC(2010) 1034 final (78 pages)

Ralf Grahn

Friday 3 June 2011

EU Commission: Radio spectrum policy programme (RSPP) proposal

In September 2010 the Commission proposed the first Radio Spectrum Policy Programme (RSPP) for the European Union. The RSPP proposal is available in 22 official EU languages.

The English pdf version of the proposed radio spectrum decision, based on Article 114 TFEU on approximation (harmonisation) of laws:

Proposal for a DECISION OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL establishing the first radio spectrum policy programme; Brussels, 20.9.2010 COM(2010) 471 final (20 pages)

Wireless single market etc.

Improved use of scarce radio frequencies is key to new and better wireless broadband services, in line with the growth, competitivensess and employment objectives of the Europe 2020 strategy (EU2020) and the Digital Agenda for Europe.

According to the Commission the first multiannual RSPP runs until 2015 and it is intended to serve a number of aims, among which:

The strategic planning and harmonisation of spectrum use at Union level should enhance the single market for wireless electronic communications services and equipment as well as other Union policies requiring spectrum use, thus creating new opportunities for innovation and contributing to economic recovery and social integration across the Union, while at the same time respecting the important social, cultural and economic value of spectrum. To this end, the Union therefore needs a policy programme that covers the internal market in all Union policy areas involving the use of spectrum such as electronic communications, research and development, transport and energy.

Aim and main principles

The first two Articles of the proposed decision express the Commission's view of the aim and the guiding principles:

Article 1

This Decision establishes a radio spectrum policy programme for the strategic planning and harmonisation of the use of spectrum to ensure the functioning of the internal market.

Article 2
Application of general regulatory principles

Member States shall cooperate with each other and with the Commission in a transparent manner, in order to ensure the consistent application of the following general regulatory principles across the Union:

(a) encouraging efficient use of spectrum to best meet the increasing demand for use of frequencies;

(b) applying technology and service neutrality in the use of spectrum for electronic communications networks and services, in accordance with Article 9 of Directive 2002/21/EC (Framework Directive), and where possible for other sectors and applications, in such a way as to promote efficiency of spectrum use, in particular by fostering flexibility, and to promote innovation;

(c) applying the least onerous authorisation system possible in such a way as to maximise flexibility and efficiency in spectrum usage;

(d) guaranteeing the functioning of the internal market, in particular by ensuring effective competition.
These Articles are followed by provisions about specific policy objectives.

Ralf Grahn