5 quotes of European leaders on Charlie Hebdo attacks

Charlie Hebdo march in Paris, January 11, 2015

Charlie Hebdo march in Paris, January 11, 2015 (CC/Flickr/Laurent Tine)

Here are five quotes reacting in very different ways to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in France.

” We must in the days to come, make sure that this pain transforms itself into concrete actions, … With the pain, we have already begun to work on the response. “Frederica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (January 8, 2015)

“ If my good friend Dr Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch. It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others. ” Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church (January 15, 2015)

” Our composure is that of a country that has not faced a fundamental test of this kind yet. But when push comes to shove, we have stuck together until now. I am confident that this would also be true in the case of a terrorist attack. “ German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière (January 12, 2015)

“ I think we are at risk because there are a group of people who believe in this fanatical death cult of Islamist extremism. You can’t appease them; they hate our democracy, our freedom, our freedom of expression, our way of life. It would be wrong to think there are a set of behaviours we could adopt to make us safer.” David Cameron, British Prime Minister (January 14, 2015)

” Immigration and cultural questions related to that must be discussed in a much more open, honest and straightforward manner than until now. I hope that a composed, calm analysis of the recent events will guide European leaders and Brussels towards a tough policy restricting immigration ” Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban (January 11, 2015)

Charlie Hebdo attacks : the downfall of EU privacy ?

One minute of silence in front of the EU Parliament for the Charlie Hebdo victims. CC/Flickr/EU Parliament

One minute of silence in front of the EU Parliament for the Charlie Hebdo victims. CC/Flickr/EU Parliament

France is still licking its wounds after the end of the manhunt of the suspected perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo attack that took place on January 7. Four more people lost their lives in yesterday’s hostage takings, in addition to the deaths of the three suspects.

Meanwhile at EU-level, the reactions are already cascading, and one of the unintended victims might very well be EU privacy.

In recent years, the European Union has been the stage of a crucial debate on the importance of an individual’s privacy when confronted to national security or economic concerns. One of the most famous illustrations of this debate involved the development of a so-called right to be forgotten (or right to erasure) for European netizens, first in the upcoming Data Protection regulation, then in a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) last May.

Yet privacy is likely to become much more difficult to defend when faced with the trauma of terrorist attacks. Several prominent EU officials, such as European Council President Donald Tusk, have already asked for progress on the EU passenger and name record (PNR) draft directive, which has been on hold in the European Parliament for the last three years after being voted down by one of its commitees in 2011. The proposal would give access to the Member States’ police to the details of any passenger traveling in the European Union.

In mid-2014, the CJEU had already struck down a EU directive on data retention on the grounds that invading the privacy of people that were not suspected of any crime was in breach of the EU’s Fundamental Rights Charter.

“We need to talk about the problems investigators are having in connecting the dots and the information that is already there instead of passing new measures for the blanket collection of data from everyone,” German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht said on January 9 about the PNR draft directive to the EU Observer.

Albrecht is also one of the most prominent MEPs involved in the development of the aforementioned EU Data Protection regulation.

Some dates to watch out for in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack for further EU developments : 

* January 19, 2015 : Foreign Affairs Council

* January 28, 201 : Home Affairs Council

EU elections: why I will vote tomorrow

CC/Flickr/Rock Cohen

CC/Flickr/Rock Cohen

We are now halfway through the 2014 European elections, and no matter which way things go, we will have to own up to our choices (or the lack thereof) for the next five years. Yet on Thursday, British and Dutch citizens went to the voting booths in record-low numbers (less than 35% in the Netherlands).

The European Parliament arguably has more power than ever in influencing the workings of the Union and is the only directly-elected institution within it. Yet EU citizens care less and less at every election.

Voter turnout in the European Parliament Elections. Picture credit: Quartz

Voter turnout in the European Parliament Elections. Picture credit: Quartz

No matter whether you are pro-EU or eurosceptic, the Union and its member states are at a turning point: the aftermath of the economic crisis, the negotiations surrounding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States of America, the diplomatic crisis with Russia, the digital transition undergone by our society, and, most importantly, the repositioning of European member states within the global order…

Part of the answer will happen through the European Union. For better or worse, its institutions have changed the lives of hundreds of millions of European citizens through the internal opening of its borders, its agricultural policies, its fight for civil rights, etc. Whether it is to take apart, or to make it stronger, citizens must take it upon themselves to show up at the booth to make their preference is taken into account.

This year in particular, the votes gathered by European parties should actually impact the election of the President of the EU Commission as a result of the 2010 Lisbon Treaty. Critics pointed to statements from Angela Merkel and Herman Van Rompuy indicating the European Council may present an outside candidate for the post (such as Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde), but few have talked of the reaction of the future eurodeputies: parties such as ALDE, the EPP or the S&D indicated they would shut down the European Parliament if they were imposed an outsider, yet stressing again the growing importance of the elected body.

People often complain the European Union is not democratic enough, but how can we believe they really do want to participate in its decision making if they pass out on the EP elections? Go vote if you haven’t done so already.

Picture credit : European Parliament

Picture credit : European Parliament

Party candidates for the EU Commission Presidency

*EPP – center-right: Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg)
*S&D – center-left: Martin Schulz (Germany)
*ALDE – liberals: Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium)
*Greens: Ska Keller/José Bové (Germany & France)
*European Left: Alexis Tsipras (Greece)

UK & Netherlands : which way will the pendulum swing?

CC/Flickr/Jennifer Jane Mills

UKIP activists – CC/Flickr/Jennifer Jane Mills

Today, the 2014 elections for the European Parliament started in the Netherlands and the UK. Many fear that the UKIP and the PPV will swipe victory in their respective countries. What do you think? Answer this poll as we wait for preliminary results to come in. 

Victory vs. Europe in the Ukrainian crisis

CC/Flickr/Young European Federalists

CC/Flickr/Young European Federalists

PARIS – Today was May 9th, a celebration throughout Europe with varying significations. In the East, it is Victory Day, the date at which the Soviet Union defeated the Nazis to end the Second World War almost seventy years ago. In the West, it is Europe Day, the commemoration of the speech of French Foreign Minister Robert Schumann which established in 1950 the foundations of what would become the European Union. 

In a way, this day illustrates the struggles of the divided European continent, which at times seems nostalgic of the former order set up by the Cold War.

 May 9th was thus the occasion for Russian President Vladimir Putin to make a political statement by visiting Crimea for the first time since its annexation. In Russia, this day is seen as the fight of the East against fascism, which, in the eyes of the Russians and a fraction of the Ukrainian population, is the very thing infecting the new Kiev government. In a way, May 9th can be seen as a commemoration of the former glory of the Soviet Union. 

Meanwhile, the Union is preoccupied by its date with destiny at the end of the month. Will the wave of Euroscepticism engulf the European Parliament, as predicted by several European experts and media? EU citizens are hoping for change, one way or another.

The degree to which the day was celebrated has accordingly varied depending on the member state. In the Netherlands, a Green MEP called for Dutch people to come out with their love of the Union.  Here in Paris, the buses wore the French and European colors colors throughout the day, and in Strasbourg young Europeans gathered in front of the EU buildings to discuss its future.

Despite this internal questioning, the Union still tries to find its international voice.  Yet French President François Hollande is currently meeting Angela Merkel in Germany to discuss the situation in Ukraine, in the continuation of a state-oriented model that has taken away much of the credibility of Catherine Ashton over the last years.

Nevertheless, Ukraine remains a battlefield after months of internal conflict. After the Kiev demonstrators successfully obtained the resignation of the country’s president and the nomination by the Parliament of a new temporary government, armed men took over the Crimean government and military buildings before the region itself declared it would join the Russian Federation.

The separatist movement has now spread to several parts of Eastern Ukraine, leaving a trail of death in its midst. Today, over twenty people died in the attack of the police headquarters in the Eastern city of Mariupol, in the Donetsk region.

Commentary: Nobody likes the European Union

If there is one conversation killer for a regular dinner, it may well be the European Union. Or do you disagree?

The EU is perceived as this remote and complicated institution that has a say on several aspects of your everyday life, and which is so easy to blame for any problems existing at the national level. Unemployment? The result of free movement within the EU. The global crisis? The result of the limits imposed on state power by the Euro. Today, euroscepticism has never been so high in the member states of the Union.

In a way, it is interesting to hear these things from heads of states when you know that the most powerful body of the European Union is not the Parliament or the European Commission: it is the European Council, which is manned by these very same state leaders.

But it works.

Louis de Gouyon Matignon is the 22-year old leader of a new French party called the Parti Européen (European Party), which he has launched in February 2014. Why a new party? Because he thinks older generations are not doing enough with the amazing tool that is the European Union.

As the elections get closer, he often hangs out in front of universities, trying to engage fellow students in a discussion on the need for new European objectives in France. The responses of these young people often echo the eurosceptic rise present in the French society: the EU is too far from our reality, the EU costs too much money, the EU is too complicated, the EU is taking away power from France…

You always fear what you don’t understand, states a popular saying. The Union has been around for over 50 years in one form or the other, and yet it remains a mystery to most of the European population.

Maybe it is time that one way or the other, the EU makes a choice on what it intends to be. Why have a President of the European Commission, or a  high representative for the EU’s foreign and security policy, if these jobs are to fulfilled by people lacking authority and charisma?