Polish PM Donald Tusk becomes new president of the European Council

2014 - Donald Tusk (16)
Current Polish prime minister Donald Tusk has been designated as the next president of the European Council and as such tasked with chairing the meetings of the council which consists of the heads of government of the European Union member states as well as being the figurehead of the EU, a role he will officially take over from current president Herman Van Rompuy on December 1.

The selection of Tusk, an influential and high-profile liberal-conservative politician from one of the newer EU member states of central Europe could be seen as an acknowledgement of the growing importance of central and eastern Europe in European affairs, with Poland emerging as the regional heavyweight.

Ukraine’s last hope?

The agreement now on the table might be the last chance to stop the bloodshed in Ukraine and also to avoid a situation devolving into a civil war. The main question now is how much the agreement actually will be worth. The current regime in Ukraine has not shown itself to be very trustworthy when it comes to earlier agreements and at the same time the opposition, or at least its more hardcore elements, will most likely have difficulty accepting an agreement that leaves the hated president in power for maybe up to the end of the year.

It is also ominous that the special envoy of Russia unlike his EU counterparts from France, Poland and Germany apparently haven’t signed the agreement as was first intended. The Russian statement that they too want to see a stable Ukraine might not mean in their mind the same thing as it does for the EU.

(This text is also posted at Tonakai World.)

Latvia enters the eurozone

Latvian 2-euro coins
New Latvian 2-euro coins making use of the classic image of the Latvian maiden in folk costume, first used on Latvian coinage in 1929.

 

With the start of the new year Latvia have officially adopted the euro as its currency, replacing the lats which were introduced after the republic’s independence in 1991.

Hungary’s EU presidency marred by their new media law

As Hungary takes over the EU presidency for the first half of 2011, there remain a controversy over the country’s newly approved media law that will impose a rather strict government body control over both public and private media companies, as well as in theory also applying to the more informal modern forms of media outlets such as blogs. Exactly how this latter part would be feasible is on the other hand questionable. In any case such stringent overseeing by a government authority is bordering to state censorship and it is highly questionable if such a law is in correspondence with the European legal framework on the right to free speech.

Sources (selection of): http://www.eesc.europa.eu/?i=portal.en.vice-president-communication-amd-blog.13823, http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/01/07/hungary-media-law-endangers-press-freedom

European Parliament elections

The elections to the European Parliament turned out to be a success for the smaller parties in many of the member states, not the least the green parties. Among the more unexpected outcomes was also the fact that the newly founded Pirate Party of Sweden got enough votes to get a seat in the parliament.