Cluster bombs ignored

A meeting that has been largely ignored by the media took place last Saturday and Sunday in Oslo. 49 countries met to discuss the use of cluster bombs and 46 of them signed up to a committment to work towards an international ban on their use.

Poland, Japan and Romania voted against. Russia, China and the US were not there.

See a good summary here and the website of the event here.

Andrew Duff’s Constitution Plus

With a name borrowed from the Spanish Constitutional campaign “Referendum Plus” run by the Youth Council there, Andrew Duff launches today his “Constitution Plus” – how to and what to renegotiate (about the European Constitution). I will paste here the synopsis of what this super-productive British Liberal Member of the European Parliament will present in full today (28th) in Brussels.

The general point he makes is:

“he proposes to ring-fence Parts I and II of the 2004 treaty from being opened up”

So, keeping parts I and II intact. This is a big chunk already for many of the governments – institutional changes (which are indeed good) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights would thus be best left untouched according to Mr Duff.

He then suggests:

“small number of highly significant improvements” to Parts III and IV”

It is true that the Convention was basically left with no time to properly work on the Part III (the policies part) during its proceedings. The policies have been thus basically copy-pasted from previous Treaties and amended only slightly, linking them also to new institutional changes in the Part I and II. Continue reading

Euroblogs survey

I still wonder how Myra found me, but I got the chance to contribute to an elaboration of a questionnaire on the work of Eurobloggers (BTW, I found that this word has not yet been explained in Wikipedia). This has been prepared by the Department of Social Psychology at the University of Hamburg and explores the question “what drives people to participate in blogs on Europe and European politics“.

You’re kindly invited to fill the questionnaire here.

Portuguese Government – they could for sure get more women in…

I was doing some research of the portfolios of the Portuguese government and found out something they can really not be proud about. Yes, it’s gender balance. The current Socialist government is composed of 15 men and 2 women. And guess the portfolios the two female Ministers handle…Easy one: education and culture. Not that I question their knowledge on those two, but for sure Portugal has capable and – in this case – Socialist women that could run other areas as well…

See the glamurous composition here.

“priorité à droite” & Belgian peculiarities

There is something in this world that I have yet to understand about Belgium and makes this place difficult to grasp for regular visitors or expats.

There is the famous garbage collection in Brussels, where you basically buy special bags (and pay tax with them), separate garbage and then throw everything on the street the night designated for the area you live in. So you can be throwing it out on Monday evening, or Tuesday, or Wednesday, depending on the commune where you live.

I haven’t met anyone in Belgium that wouldn’t have a story to tell about Belgacom, the notorious telecom provider. Knowing their number by heart is the best guarantee for a permanent internet connection and fair billing. They have improved recently I heard…probably because there is more choice and their number of customers decreasing…

And then there is the registration procedure with the commune, the procedure to get a bank account, the housing mania, the…and my favourite: priorité à droite. There was a fabulous entry in the Economist newsletter, which inspired me to write about it: Continue reading

What future then for the Constitution, Mr Lamassoure?

Without going too much in detail over the current Constitutional debate (you can jump to Jon’s comment about Onesta’s proposal), I would just like to share with you some brilliant thoughts of the French Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Alain Lamassoure (thanks for the paper Peter) on the matter.

European ConstitutionAt a recent seminar organised by the European Union’s Institute for Security Studies (iss-eu) in Paris, Mr Lamassoure’s intervention is summarized as following (sorry for the long quote):

Alain Lamassoure (MEP) felt that the CT could not be rescued and strongly argued for launching a new process to produce a new Treaty. This process could only succeed on two conditions. First, failure had to be ruled out from the start. That implied that Member States agreed to exclude referenda. The probability of a negative vote in at least one country across the EU remained very high, but the EU could not afford another such blow. That also meant that the new text could not be called a Constitution. Second, one should not jeopardise the delicate balance achieved in the CT or the deal would unravel. In producing the new text one needed to use the scissors, not the pen. Only those provisions that were truly innovative, form a legal standpoint, should be preserved. It was also necessary to proceed quickly: the longer the waiting time, the older the compromise would become, and the stronger the requirement for setting up a new Convention and starting all over again. Following the ongoing bilateral ‘confessionals’, the German Presidency should be in the position to launch a new IGC at the European Council in June, with a limited mandate to save the innovations of the CT without reopening the Pandora’s box on sensitive questions. The new Treaty could be drafted and signed under the Portuguese Presidency, and ratified by national parliaments in the following 18 months, before the European elections of June 2009.

Continue reading

Getting IT stuff right, more time on my hands again: NETVIBES

asus w5fmOk, I’m back after a while. It’s not that I’ve been drawn away by something mystical. It’s all about the new laptop I got and few ideas I tried to work on in the recent days.

First, the new laptop is a beautiful piece of engineering (yes Jon, it’s better than an Apple), the small 12″ model by ASUS, the brand one could describe as my favourite when it comes to the IT. For those geeks out there: it’s the W5 12.1″ widescreen model with…Core2Duo T7200 (2.0Ghz) & 1,5GB 667Mhz of RAM & 120 GB of 5400rpm HDD & 1280×800 wide screen & Bluetooth 2.0+EDR & DVD+-RW Dual Layer & Webcam integrated…Plus I got two nice batteries in the pack, one of them keeps the machine at 1.5 kilos, the other gives 4 hours of work and brings the machine up to 1.8 kilos. With both on the road, I can work independently from a plug for over 6 hours…not bad. In both configurations is super light, super fast and oh, super good.

Ok, enough of this. There is a new web discovery to present. I’ve heard about it for a while, but it’s just perfect now that I managed to set it up well. It’s called Netvibes. For those of you that are used to have a lot of RSS feeds either in Firefox or in an independent reader (I used RSS Bandit for a long time): this is it! The ultimate place where you can link all of those, your emails, your favourite news…All on a customizable website that is basically WHATYOUSEEISWHATYOUGET. Fantastic and of course worth investigating. Continue reading

IKEA = nočna mora

Samo en razlog obstaja za daljšo odstotnost = IKEA. V soboto sva bila s Saray v slavnem Zaventemu (tudi lokacija glavnega bruseljskega letališča) in uspela v enem dnevu nakupiti več pohištva kot v preteklih 2 letih. Posledično je bila nedelja pohištveno obarvana in sedaj se komaj premikam, pa je že sreda.

Z nakupi pohištva je tako vedno smeh. V Belgiji je namreč skoraj nemogoče naročiti dostavo na dom, ker je potrebno v naprej rezervirati predel ulice za tovornjak, ki pripelje pohištvo. To v praksi pomeni, da se je treba zglasiti pri lokalni policiji in napovedati dan dostave, plačati skromnih 170 EUR takse in potem čez 3 tedne pričakati posebne oznake na ulici, ki omogočajo dostavi parkiranje. Mislim…seveda sva s Saray izbrala bolj normalno pot.
Bila sva torej prepuščena lastni inovativnosti in trem kolegom (Peter, Marko in Jure: hvala!!!), ki so izkazali usmiljenje in znosili nekje pol tone pohištva v tretje nadstropje, medtem ko sem sam preživel dan v najetem dostavniku.

No, ni mi še uspelo vsega zložiti, ampak dnevna soba že zgleda bolj normalno…

Naslednjič kaj bolj globokega.