Hurting EU member states in the name of Europe

It is not exactly a secret that the whole point of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” is to serve as a PR exercise for Emmanuel Macron to be re-elected as French President next year. In effect, the “#COFOE” also ends at the time of that election.

Beyond the “pro-European” rhetoric, it really is “business as usual” for the French government. For Paris, “pro-European” means whatever is in the interest of France, even if it comes at the detriment of other EU member states.

A good example of that is an “EU minimum wage”, which would create mass unemployment if applied stringently across the EU in poorer member states where employers need to have the ability to pay lower wages so to be able to exploit their biggest asset: that people are willing to work for less.

That is of no concern at all for the French government.

At the Conference on the Future of Europe in Toulouse on Saturday, Macron’s Prime Minister blatantly stated that an EU-wide minimum wage is “necessary at all costs”, adding it is was even a “priority”.

He also said:

“I’m going to be very concrete here, on the idea of a European minimum wage because we have countries with very different labour rights. (…) We are in an open area and the countries with the most advanced social policies are penalised.”

Anyone with a slight notion of France’s social spending is aware of how bloated it is and how great the scope for efficiency savings. Obviously, Macron and his allies are very keen to avoid such reform, and if that can happen by penalising poorer EU member states, that sounds like a great deal to the current French administration.

All in the name of “Europe”, of course.

The EU variant of the French “grand débat”

“President Kagame holds bilateral talks with President of France, Emmanuel Macron | New York,18 September 2017” by Paul Kagame is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Over the weekend, 200 voters descended onto Strasbourg to join the opening panel of the so-called “Conference on the Future of Europe”, in order to take part in “citizen assemblies” to debate topics as various as climate change, migration and health policy (never mind that the EU only has very limited powers on health policy). The Financial Times reports that “after three days of consultation, participants were most interested in prioritising topics such as EU taxes, common education standards and greater access to sports.”

The idea is that this will then feed into other debates, which also involve MEPs and “civil society organisations” – or rather, supposed society organisations. This would then need to result in conclusions during the time of the French EU presidency, in Spring 2022, two months before the country’s presidential elections.

This timetable is no coincidence. The CoFoE scheme has been pushed by French president Emmanuel Macron, to “breathe new democratic life into our institutions”. The citizens’ panels are similar to Macron’s “grand débat”, whereby citizen assemblies were convened in 2018, to assist the French government in its decision-making.

The FT notes that these “ultimately ended inconclusively”, raising the question: “Whether the citizens being consulted this time around will be able to navigate the conference’s own bureaucracy — which includes a joint presidency, an executive board and a common secretariat — is another matter.”

None of that should come as a surprise. Shall the CoFoE “citizen panels” be anything different then the EU variant of the “grand débat”? There should not be a lot of doubt…

German government reveals data showing public interest for CofoE is very low

In response to a parliamentary question, the German government sheds some light on the success of the so-called “Conference on the Future of Europe”, also known as “CofoE”. And what do we learn? Surprise, surprise: “Engagement with the platform so far is low”, as a German scholar summarizes the German government’s response.

He highlights the bit that “Overall, ~170k visits were counted from Germany, the most of any country in the EU. This is less Engagement than many tweets get on here.”

Of course, low engagement by citizens is very unlikely to prevent the usual suspects from abusing the “findings” to push their agenda to grant ever more power to the EU.

Shameless bias

As the political season restarts, the so-called “Trio Presidency of the EU Council”, composed of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, has “kicked off promoting the Conference on the Future of Europe with 4 slogans on 35 trams around Helsinki”, featuring propaganda slogans like “Europe United”. The Portugese Embassy specifies the goal is to promote “”a stronger and more united European Union”.

Any doubts that the whole “#CofoE” thing was was never going to be a neutral, unbiased conversation can now be put to rest. Finnish citizens can witness first-hand “communication” schemes promoting EU centralisation, at their expense.

Will the European Parliament’s leadership allow debate on CoFoE transparency?

Earlier this month, a coalition of four prominent MEPs from various European countries has launched an initiative to demand “full transparency with regard to the expenditure of the Conference on the Future of Europe”, in a motion for a resolution submitted to the European Parliament.

This is a topic we’ve been highlighting on this blog at several occasions.

In particular, the MEPs highlight in their motion for a resolution that:

  • “promotion of the conference began before its launch and is ongoing”
  • “public data indicates the spending of substantial sums of money to promote the conference”
  • “the total impact of activities relating to the conference on the EU budget is unclear”

It may not be a surprise to see that the MEPs (Swedish MEP Charlie Weimers, Finnish MEP Laura Huhtasaari, Danish MEP Peter Kofod and Dutch MEP Michiel Hoogeveen) are coming from Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, where transparency in public policy is considered of essential democratic importance.

The MEPs also stress they consider “it of the utmost importance to the future of Europe that EU institutions live up to citizens’ expectations with regard to transparency, openness and good governance”.

Therefore, they call “on the Commission, the Council and Parliament to show their commitment to transparency without delay by publishing all calls for proposals and tenders and all grants and other funding awarded in relation to the conference, as well as publishing a full account of the total costs incurred and expected, including a breakdown of expenditure by type of activity on an easily accessible and dedicated ‘sunshine section’ of the official conference platform.”

We really cannot wait to see whether the establishment groups in the EP will endorse this initiative or at least even allow discussion about it? Their OK is needed for it go forward. One would think this matter should be pretty obvious, but make no mistake about it: in April, a majority of Members of European Parliament already shamelessly voted against financial transparency surrounding the “Conference on the Future of Europe”, with Pirate MEPs and other supposedly pro transparency types coming up with all kinds of lame excuses to justify their questionable voting behaviour.

Will leading MEPs now change tack and embrace the transparency coalition, or at least allow discussion about the problematic transparency of the Conference on the Future of Europe”? We cannot wait to find out.

Quantifying the bias of the Conference on the Future of Europe

In an analyis worth reading, German AfD MEP Gunnar Beck takes a profound look at the speakers at the “Inaugural Plenary of the Conference on the Future of Europe”, a topic we have covered earlier on this blog.

In the document, Beck discusses the “problems and possible solutions” surrounding “CoFoE”, as the farcical undertaking has come to be known.

He notes that “163 speakers took the floor” and that “40 Members of the European Parliament, 28 members of the Council of the EU, 27 citizens, representatives of national and regional parliaments, 6 representatives of civil society organisations, 5 members of the Commission, 9 members of the Committee of the Regions, 5 representatives of social partners, and 5 representatives of the European Economic and Social Committee”.

Interestingly, he has categorized each speech in one of three categories, noting that 110 were “pro EU”, only 20 were “Eurosceptic” and 33 were “neutral”.

Looking at the “citizens” in particular, he notes that 55.6% of them were “pro-EU”, only 11.1% were “eurosceptic” and 33.3% were “neutral”.

Possibly even worse is “civil society”, where 83% were “pro-EU”, 17% were “eurosceptic” and 0% were “neutral”.

This should not surprise, as in our previous blog we highlighted some of these “citizens”, revealing that pretty much all of them were EU insiders, often even on the EU’s payroll.

Beck concludes:

“If compared to the most recent data from Eurobarometer on the Future of Europe, all categories of speakers showed a clear disproportionate support for more EU integration. This means that, based on the general sentiments expressed at the Inaugural Plenary, we can expect the Conference to come forward with ambitious compromises asking for more integration at EU level. This is clearly not in line with the general views and preferences of European citizens. This risks to further alienate citizens from the European project, and deepen, rather than close the chasm between the EU institutions and European citizens.”

Exclusive: who are the “citizens” of the EU Future Conference?

The inaugural plenary of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” took place in Strasbourg, in the building of the European Parliament, which moves there every month as part of its costly “traveling circus”. During the session, a number of so-called “citizens” and members of “civil society” intervened, to contribute to the debate of what supposedly constitutes the “future of Europe”

On this blog, we can EXCLUSIVELY reveal how many of these so-called “citizens” can hardly be described as randomly chosen people. Instead, a lot of them, appear to be “EU insiders”, people deeply involved in EU policy making, and often on the EU’s payroll.

An overview:

George Pagoulatos, Professor at Athens University of Economics and Business, as well as Visiting Professor at the College of Europe since 2006

Daniela Ioana Toutpati – academic at Brussels VUB university and “Understanding Europe Coordinator” of the “European Youth Parliament”

Silja Markkula, European Youth Forum

Gergana Passy, Founder and President of PanEuropa Bulgaria

Nikolai Boysen, European Youth Forum

Stephanie Hartung, Pulse of Europe

Francisco Aldecoa, political scientist, author of La Europa que viene: el tratado de Lisboa

Noelle O’Connell, ceo of European Movement Ireland

Martin Mrsa, Croatian Youth Association “Youth in the European Union”

Antonis Kourras, President of Cyprus Youth Council, which promotes “EU Youth Dialogue” on its website

Kristine Zonberga, European Citizens Initiative Ambassador, Latvia

Justinas Kulys, Policy Analyst at the European Economic and Social Committee

Kinga Joo, member at European Economic and Social Committee

Mandy Falzon, appointed by Maltese Europe Minister Helena Dalli as the designate Head of MEUSAC- the Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee (MEUSAC), first set up in 1999 to oversee the process of Malta’s accession to the European Union

Leverne Nijman, Dutch Youth Representative European Affairs, Dutch Youth Council

Elsie Gisslegård, an active member of the Swedish EU-federalist Centre Party

Regina Bastos, former Portugese MEP

Alina Bârgăoanu, Center for European Studies at Harvard (likely EU funded)

Ninni Norra, selected as Finland’s citizen representative, has served in the local council of the European Youth Parliament

Paola Severino, former Italian Justice Minister, serving under Italian PM Mario Monti, Italy’s favorite PM among eurocrats

Apart from these so-called “citizens”, there were also members supposedly representing “civil society”. Among these, there were representatives of the “European Movement International” and the “Union of European Federalists (UEF)”. Surely, receiving EU cash should disqualify any organisation to be presented as “civil society”, certainly in the context of an EU policy discussion.

This whole thing simply is a farce.

“An important moment”

Tomorrow morning, the inaugural plenary session will take place in Strasbourg.

The plenary is composed of 108 MEPs, 54 Council representatives (two per Member State), 3 EU Commission eurocrats and 108 representatives from national parliaments.

The Parliament Magazine reveals the agenda of the talking shop:

“The agenda, seen by this site, includes presentations and discussions on the purpose and expectations of the conference, including European citizens’ and national panels.”

You may forgiven to have missed that this event would take place, but according to Bulgarian MEP Sergei Stanishev, the President of the Party of European Socialists, “this is an important moment; our political family understands that instinctively. We have an opportunity to embed what matters for our communities into Europe’s future.”

The wife of Sergei Stanishev was once awarded a €60,000 tender European Parliament cash, at least according to the EPP, so perhaps it is not a surprise to see this Bulgarian politician hailing the conference as “an important moment”.

Before, we have recalled the lack of transparency with regards to EP tendering for the “Conference on the Future of Europe”.

Will Sergei Stanishev’s environment once again be on the receiving end? We are not saying he will, but when tenders are not published on the website of the “Conference on the Future of Europe” itself, but only in some dark corner of the European Parliament’s website, there clearly is an increased risk for insiders to get their hands on all of that CoFoE cash.

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Buying attention

In a report obtained by this blog, assessing the success of the launch of the “Conference on the Future of Europe”, eurocrats boast about the event organised on 9 May in Parliament’s hemicycle in Strasbourg. In particular on social media attention, they write:

“The reach on Facebook was of 4 million, with 6 million impressions, 13,000 interactions (reactions, comments and shares) and 2.3 million video views. The total Twitter interactions were 1,000 (likes, comments and RTs), 6,000 video views, 10,000 live viewers, 94,000 impressions and 4,000 minutes watched among the 24 language accounts. The Europarl YouTube channel garnered 100 interactions, 1.100 video views and 6.600 impressions for a total of 6,000 minutes watched.”

Anyone dealing with social media, knows of course how attention is really for sale there. We will definitely return to this, but here is some initial evidence of EU actors buying social media attention with taxpayers money. Ultimately, as we gather more information about this, it should be possible to come up with the total cost to taxpayers per social media user paying attention to the “Conference on the Future of Europe”:

Tragic news

Yesterday evening, tragic news was brokered by German green MEP Daniel Freund, who announced that the plenary meeting of 108 MEPs for the “Conference on the Future of Europe” had to be cancelled because one of the EP Groups (ID) was “not able to send as many women as men.”

Legal equality of the sexes is of course something to be supported, but this degree of obsession can surely only survive in the European Parliament bubble.

The man goes on to complain that this is testimony of “blocking progress on EU reform because of antiquated patriarchal believes. What a shame!”.

Previously, we have discussed what kind of “progress” EU centralizers have in mind: another round of transfers of power to the EU level. Behind the screams of “patriarchy”, that’s what really concerns them.