The European Union’s eastern neighbours often take the European Parliament and its election observation missions very seriously. Perhaps, though, Georgians will start taking the Parliament’s commitment to balance and impartiality a little less seriously after the presidential election on 27 October. The Parliament is sending seven of its members to observe the election. It is not hard to spot a few patterns in the observation mission. Six of its members are conservatives (three from the European People’s Party, three from the European Conservatives and Reformists), four are Poles, six are men, and all seven spent their childhoods in the former communist bloc. There is another common thread: the Parliament’s conservative groups (and, in particular, Krzysztof Lisek, the leader of the observation mission) have spent a large part of the past year attacking Bidzina Ivanishvili, Georgia’s prime minister, for the alleged application of ‘selective justice’ against his opponents – accusations that led to a former Council of Europe commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, producing a very thorough and balanced report in September. (One person accounts for two of the exceptions to these patterns – Kinga Göncz, a female socialist from Hungary.)
Another election, another observation mission: Honduras holds elections for parliament and president on 24 November. The country is deeply divided after a coup in 2009 that removed President Manuel Zelaya from office. Zelaya is standing for Congress while his wife is a candidate for president. The EU’s 80-member election observation mission, which consists of a delegation from the Parliament, eight election analysts, 22 long-term observers, and 40 short-term observers from the member states, will be headed, as is tradition, by an MEP – in this case Ulrike Lunacek, an Austrian Green. Too bad that the observers might have to skip the November plenary in Strasbourg.
The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) announced on Tuesday (8 October) that Wilfried Martens would “temporarily” step back from leading the party for health reasons and that his functions would be taken over by Joseph Daul, a French MEP who leads the EPP group in the Parliament.
Monika Hohlmeier, a centre-right German MEP, has welcomed what she called “a real-terms cut” in the Parliament’s version of the EU’s draft budget for 2014. The Parliament’s budget for next year, she explained, would increase by just 1.9% over the budget for this year, with inflation assumed at 1.7%. How this results in a real-terms cut is anyone’s guess.
MEPs may find themselves stranded in Strasbourg today (10 October) because of a strike by air-traffic controllers. A Europe-wide strike was planned by the Air Traffic Controllers European Unions Co-ordination, to protest against the European Commission’s push to force member states to make good on their commitment to create a ‘Single European Sky’. The strike was called off last week after progress was made in discussions with the Commission. However, French air-traffic controllers – never ones to pass up an opportunity to take industrial action – have ignored the postponement and will strike anyway.
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