15 April 2012

Nigel Farage and next week

My favourite Member of the European Parliament, Nigel Farage, has been honoured by a special website: "Meerkats that look like Nigel Farage". I appreciate the creativity of the internet, when it concerns myself but even more when it concerns others.

On a more serious note, my next week is be packed with interesting meetings, first with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. Both of us will speak at the UN Conference "Sustainable Energy for All" but we will also have a bilateral meeting to discuss global issues such as Rio 20+.

Wednesday, I will be in Strasbourg where I will speak at the European Parliament debate on the economic crisis in the Eurozone. I will highlight the importance of the Europe 2020 strategy as well as the necessity to haven EU budget through the next Multiannual Financial Framework that clearly prioritises growth. I have made proposals such as projects bonds for measures such as the Connecting Europe Facility, which need an appropriate financial backing. I expect that member states as well as the European Parliament to support our joint efforts in order to get the European Union out of the crisis again.

You can see that after the short holiday break, the next week will be discuss important questions of future development in the European Union and beyond. If I find the time, I will keep you up to date here on the blog and on Twitter with more details during the next days.

29 March 2012

Back from South Korea

If I ignore the heavy cold I have these days and which was not the most pleasant thing to get for such a long trip, I had three good days in South Korea together with European Council President van Rompuy, starting with the Nuclear Security Summit on Monday and Tuesday followed by the EU-South Korea Summit yesterday. At the Nuclear Security Summit I especially reported about the stress tests for nuclear power plants in the European Union and the necessity for cross-border cooperation on these issues since radiation does not know borders. The bilateral meeting with President Lee Myung-bak was also very fruitful. We discussed the economic situation in the European Union, the mutual relationship between South Korea and the EU that has been re-enforced in 2010 through our free trade agreement as well as the implementation of the G20 Action Plan for Growth. At the sidelines we also met with other leaders, such as the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
In my absence, Vice President Reding chaired yesterday's Commission meeting as she usually does when I am away. So, dear Berlaymonster, I am fully aware that she took my chair! I will try to recover as much as possible from this cold today and tomorrow before I will go to Finland on Saturday where I hear we will have temperatures around 0°C, not the perfect weather in my current condition, but hopefully with good meetings.

21 March 2012

EU budget and 20 years of ECHO

Incredible how quickly the last days have passed. After some very good days in Italy this week I was busy with a lot work and preparations here in Brussels. Yesterday I had a working lunch with the Swiss President Widmer-Schlumpf, quite a difficult meeting I must admit because there are many issues to be solved to get our cooperation to a new level. In the afternoon I also met with President Salva Kiir Mayardit of the newly founded state South Sudan and Jakob Kellenberger, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Also in the afternoon, I spoke at the festivities of the 20th anniversary of DG ECHO, our Directorate General for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis response headed by Claus Sorensen, with Kristalina Georgieva as the responsible Commissioner in the College. Watch my speech from about minute 4:20:

Today we had the weekly meeting of the College in Brussels where among other things we discussed about the Commission proposal to ensure reciprocity when international bidders want to participate in EU-wide public procurement. In the afternoon I had meetings with the Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Bakir Izetbegovic, as well as with Mr Igor Luksic, Prime Minister of Montenegro. Tomorrow morning at 9.30 I will be in the Hemicycle of the European Parliament in Brussels, together with the Presidents of the Parliament and the Council, to discuss the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), the European budget for the time after 2013. Last week on Tuesday during the College meeting we already had a long debate about the last budget in this Financial Framework and we will make our Commission proposal for the 2013 budget on 25 April. It will however be crucial to think about the budget of the future, making the Union fit to get out of the crisis and to follow the road of the Europe 2020 strategy with the MFF 2014-2020. If we want to invest in the future of the European Union, we need a budget that allows to make the necessary investments, for example in energy and digital communication infrastructure under the Connection Europe Facility, and we should also consider that for these efforts the European Union needs more own resources to boost growth, make Europe safer and to make Europe count in the world. You can watch the speeches of the three presidencies and the following press conference on Europe by Satellite. It is a very important topic and I recommend everyone to listen! That is it for today from Brussels. Tomorrow evening I will be in Copenhagen and on Friday I will finally be back in Portugal. If I find the time, I will blog here again at the end of the week.

16 March 2012

My first day in Italy

It has been an exciting first day in Italy, with a lot of interesting encounters. I thank all of you who have tweeted about my visits and shared photos of me with the rest of the world. Below you can see my day in pictures.

At the Joint Research Centre in Ispra in the morning for the opening of the European Union Crisis Management Laboratory:

At the Università Cattolica in Milan in the afternoon speaking about the European Commission and the governance of the European Union:

I would like to thank all the colleagues at the Joint Research Centre for their warm welcome and the staff and students of the Catholic University for the very good colloquium. And also big thanks to my team for helping me to gather all the photos for this blog post!

Why the Berlaymonster is wrong

My team has told me that the well-known Berlaymonster believes I should not be able to react to comparisons of the EU with the USSR because I was not elected. I should remind the Berlaymonster that I am elected by the European Parliament (Article 14 of the Treaty on European Union) on a proposal by the European Council, composed of democratically elected politicians,  taking into account the elections to the European Parliament (Article 17 TEU). I should also remind the Berlaymonster that the Prime Minister of Hungary is appointed (!) by the Hungarian President, taking into account which political party has a majority or which political party is the strongest force in the Hungarian Parliament. I was the candidate of the European Peoples Party in 2009 and the European Peoples Party became the strongest force in the European Parliament, so I am as much democratically elected as the Hungarian Prime Minister.

14 March 2012

Funny Youtube video of me

I do not know how the idea was born to compare me with Igglepiggle, but I believe it is not so bad when some people seem to see me as "physical and energetic", "a well-loved teddy that is always jumping and bouncing" who "is curious and adventurous, but also modest.". This is how Igglepiggle is described. In any way, it is good to see creative people on the internet, creativity and the digital economy are the future for European Union!

13 March 2012

En forme à Strasbourg

I have spent the day in Strasbourg, speaking at the European Parliament in the morning session that I attended for two hours together with Maros Sefcovic, the Commissioner responsible for interinstitutional relations. I reported to the Members of the European Parliament my views on the last European Council, finally one without the drama that the public became used to see in many European Council meetings throughout the last two years. If you want to watch my speech it is on video below (thanks for my team who sent me the correct link):

I think I was particularly "en forme" in my replies to the interventions of the distinguished MEPs at the end of the debate. You can see that especially the letter that I received from certain heads of state and government has surprised me as many of the measures they propose are in fact blocked by the member states, the same that sent this letter. And sending me a letter that does not even mention once the Europe 2020 strategy, our common European strategy for growth, did show that we still have some way to go in our common approach. Maybe I even let myself go a little too far with certain remarks, yet some things need to said! But see for yourself:

At 13h00, we had our weekly College meeting and in the evening, I participated in the meeting of the EPP group, my political family in the European Parliament. Thanks to Austrian MEP Elisabeth Koestinger there is even a photo of me at this meeting (to my right Joseph Daul, the EPP group chairman and Martin Kamp, EPP group secretary general):

One of the things I have made clear during that meeting was that I strongly condemn the anti-immigration websites in the Netherlands. This kind of discrimination should not take place in our common European Union. Tomorrow, I will meet with the Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee of the European Parliament. That is it for today, good night to all of you!

09 March 2012

Wake up next door to Barroso

Many important issues are discussed in Brussels, and after several weeks on Twitter I feel that even in this very short message medium many people are involved in European topics, which I find very positive. But during the last days one topic concerning me is high on the agenda on Twitter it seems: A new hotel in Brussels advertises "Wake up next door to Barroso". The first one to mention it was Matina on Monday, but since then several people on Twitter have tweeted photos of the ad, for instance Vanessa on a bus, Bruselka spojka on a poster or in a magazine, Jaume in the metro, and Valentina in the metro, too. It is an interesting idea from the hotel, and I welcome creativity of our businesses, but I am surprised that this is such an interesting topic to discuss. Many find it absurd and many do not seem to be particularly interested in waking up next (door) to me – although I usually do not sleep in the Berlaymont building. One person even felt compelled to state as a reaction: "In 2005, I asked some BXL folk, who would u rather have dinner with...Tom Cruise or Barroso? Nearly everyone said Barroso..!" Very funny to read, I must admit, but difficult to understand for someone new to the world of Twitter.

06 March 2012

My trip to Austria and back to Brussels

I have had two very good days in Austria with many constructive discussions. The Austrian Chancellor Faymann and Social Minister Hundstorfer yesterday morning showed me a very interesting project called "Jugend am Werk" (which means Youth in Action like the EU program with the same name) and helps disadvantaged young people to learn a craft.  Youth unemployment is one of the big issues we have to deal with in Europe and best practice examples like the one we visited are very important to learn how we can give young people a new perspective. During the day I had very good meetings not just with Werner Faymann but also with Austrian President Fischer and others. In the afternoon, I recorded an interview with ZIB2 presenter Armin Wolf who had the excellent idea to ask his Twitter followers to submit questions that he could ask to me although I do not know whether he asked one of these. Thanks to Mr Wolf I also received many new Twitter followers from Austria yesterday, so if you understand German you might want to watch the interview or follow him on Twitter (@ArminWolf).

This morning I had a working breakfast with Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Spindelegger and his state secretary Mr Waldner with another round of interesting discussions. Then it was soon time to return to Brussels, meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan and the Hungarian President Pál Schmitt in the afternoon. Together with my team we also had to prepare tomorrow's weekly meeting of the College of Commissioners (agenda). I will for instance report to my fellow Commissioners about the trip to Austria and also about last week's European Council meeting. This is why now it is time to stop blogging - the meeting starts at 9 am tomorrow morning and I need some rest!

04 March 2012

Social media and positive interaction

I do not have enough time and skills to use Twitter as much as I should, but this week I was glad to get the following reaction from Federiga Bindi after I reacted to a little sarcastic tweet that she wrote about my appraisal of European Council President van Rompuy's re-election:
"your immediate response actually shows at least responsiveness to citizens' comments! Chapeu e obrigada!"
This shows we can disagree, but it is important to search the direct interaction with the public to build trust and understanding of what we do and why we do the this. Tomorrow I will meet with the Austrian Chancellor Faymann and he too was once very critical about the European Union but now has understood how important it is to work together constructively in the spirit of a common Union. When we are able to translate this understanding to all our citizens, we can be very optimistic about the future.