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The US Senate accuses the CIA of 'brutal' and ineffective tortureRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


By Randall Calvin

Posted 10/12/2014

As has been widely covered by the European press, the US Senate has concluded that the programme of interrogation techniques was "brutal", a violation of basic Human Rights and "wrong."

The report accuses the CIA of mass torture carried out after the 11-September 2001 attacks.

Since 2002, the intelligence agency stopped reporting to President George W. Bush.

The document consisting of 6,700 pages, of which 10% have been made public, accuses the CIA of deliberately lying to Congress and the then-President George W. Bush, regarding the use of torture of suspected members of the terrorist organization Al Qaeda. It was a programme of violation of human rights "brutal" and "deeply flawed".

That is the main conclusion of the report on the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" by the Senate Intelligence Committee.

According to first leaks, conducted by the Senate Intelligence Committee itself, the paper argues that none of the torture served to identify a threat to American Security. It also states that in 2002 the CIA did not inform George W. Bush about the interrogation programme, and that the US intelligence agency was mainly improvising on how to deal with Al Qaeda prisoners.

 

US SenateUS Senate

The White House declined on Monday to declare whether or not torture had helped to find Osama bin Laden, who was killed in Pakistan in an operation by US Special Forces (Navy Seals) in May 2011.

The US President, Barack Obama, has stated that "some of the acts performed are contrary to our values." Obama added that the programme of CIA interrogations "has caused significant damage" to the United States.

The report focuses on interviews with 119 alleged Al Qaeda members held in prisons outside the US. Its main promoter was Senator Diane Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee. The Committee has examined 6.3 million documents thus far.

 

One of the most controversial aspects is that the document does not cite any agent that was specifically involved in such acts by name, but uses pseudonyms.

The report also has a certain element of bureaucratic war in the mix: the CIA is operating in the United States almost like a state within a state, regardless of both the executive branch of government (the White House) and the Legislative (Congress). In this sense, it might seem to some that Senator Feinstein has turned the report into somewhat of a personal vendetta.

In 2013, the Senator defended to the hilt the electronic surveillance techniques used by the National Security Agency (NSA). However, later in 2014, Feinstein was herself a victim of this surveillance, when the CIA had been spying on her computers and equipment and even altering them to distort the report submitted today.

Only time will tell what will be the final outcome and impact of this saga, at least given the international media attention this subject has received.

One might say that this is the last thing that President Obama needs at this moment in time, such intense exposure- given the USA’s poor record recently on data protection, American surveillance techniques on friendly countries, including senior EU Member State leaders etc., but that is another story…or is it?

By Randall Calvin 

 


 

Living through crossed Channels: life on either side of the potential EU divide


By Sebastian Edgington-Cole

Posted on 08/12/2014

Although I am a British citizen, I wasn’t born in the UK and I didn’t grow up in the country.

I was born in China, which is where my parents met. In fact, if I ever release an autobiography, chances are I’ll call it ‘Made in China’.

When one is a few months old one doesn’t really get a say in where they grow up, so when work took them there I followed my parents to Belgium.

Growing up there allowed me to become fluent in English and French very quickly, and to be educated in the firm, but fair, Belgian education system.

I shall return to that dimension in a moment.

Through my father’s work at the European Parliament, I witnessed the glitz and glamour side of the European Union: the Christmas staff parties, the subjectively nice modern buildings, designed and constructed to reflect a spirit of transparency and political openness, to assuage any fears of the European taxpayer that their money is not being squandered on meaningless architectural statements, thus the doors are always open to the public, where they are treated to all and any form of distraction, from musical recitals, art exhibitions, lobbyists, wine-tasting, lots of wine, and cheap tapas, all bright and positive and jolly, to reassure guests that all is going swimmingly well with the grand EU project, and in the hope that they will forget the hard reality of unemployment, austerity, homelessness and other irritations in the real world outside the revolving doors of the EU institutions.

 

Then of course there are the introductions, and relentless networking, buried under a mountain of business cards, not to mention the boozy lunches and after work drinks and so on…

Returning however to the aforementioned education system, I concede that it proved too much for me. Rather than what could only be described as downgrading in the Belgian system whilst staying with it, I decided to concentrate on my family life in the UK and continue my college education there. My parents weren’t sure whether I would have to do GCSEs before A levels, but the staff at my new place of education decided I was qualified enough to start sixth form college and A Levels the next  day, literally.

Going to university in the UK was something I’d wanted to do long before it was necessary for me to be educated in the country. However, I still believe doing A Levels in the UK made my application easier and more likely to be successful.

At the time of writing I am in my final year studying Journalism & Public Relations at the University of Lincoln.

I was aware of Euro-scepticism and UKIP before crossing The Channel, perhaps permanently, mostly through my father.

I didn’t know enough about or feel much towards it until the move.

Since then however I have had much more time to form a more objective view of life in the UK and contrast what the media spin was offering me, and I began to reflect more on what my dad was relating to me from back in Belgium.

His perspective, forged over many years working for the EU institutions, over different portfolios, has allowed me to form my own views of the EU and Britain’s current relationship with it, and they have turned me into a Eurosceptic.

Just on this term, the word “sceptic”, which has become so politically loaded, and hijacked by many to polarize and exclude others from the debate.

When so much is at stake, and faced with hard political realities in the pan-European area, I feel it is morally and intellectually irresponsible not to question what is proposed to you across the table.

 

We should always be sceptical, critical, and questioning, as we would regarding the merest of long-term investment deals, never mind the future welfare of the UK. Let us not forget that the opposite of scepticism and questioning, is blind political obedience, where no debate is permitted.

I don’t understand why when we unarguably need more money here in the UK, why are we sending so much to the EU?

I think the costs far outweigh the benefits. People say that if we leave the EU we will no longer trade with them. Yet they seem to forget some of the world’s other largest economies, such as the USA and China, trade huge amounts with the European Union without being part of it.

Sebastian Edgington-ColeSebastian Edgington-Cole

 

Furthermore, although I haven’t got any issues with legal migration, partly because I am the grandchild of someone that immigrated to the UK, I do think the UK’s laws are too lenient and need to be reinforced. Leaving the EU and therefore no longer being part of the free movement and work regulations could help appease my concerns on immigration.

But I am not a Eurosceptic just for my own ideals. One day I would like to raise a family in the UK, and I believe it will be better, safer and easier to do so in a country that is separated from the European Union, or at least that has had its terms and conditions reviewed.

By Sebastian Edgington-Cole - Freelance Journalist for EU Spectator

 

 


 

Ambitious investment plan for Europe announced by the European Commission


Randall CalvinRandall Calvin

By Randall Calvin

Posted on 29/11/2014

Jean-Claude Juncker this week unveiled  his promised investment plan to kick-start Europe’s economy. In principle, the plan foresees to raise investments of over € 315 billion.

Some financial media, such as - The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes, to mention but a few, have already considered the plan worthy but insufficient. Notwithstanding this consideration, it has been reported that it is a gesture to the European Investment Bank (EIB), allowing the EIB to carry out riskier investments in Europe without losing its precious triple A rating.

So, what does this plan consist of?

The three main pillars that form part of the programme are investment, structural and fiscal reforms.

 

In terms of investment, the European Union will set aside € 16 billion, complimented by another € 5 billion from the EIB. Thus far, that comes  to a grand total of € 21 billion, so what about the remaining € 294 billion? The intention of the plan is to create a European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI), which will identify strategic investments in Europe  and finance them through loans or equity participation.

 

 

The Commission is assuming that each € 1 invested from the EFSI will mobilise € 15 in investments. How? Well first by multiplying it by a factor of three through risk bearing capacity, which will allow it to multiply by a factor of five times again thanks to private investors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We should not forget that the EU already has an instrument at its disposal, the European Investment Fund (EIF) focused on supporting SMEs and private investment. The EIF, as shown in its Corporate Operational Plan, is expected  to have an overall catalytic factor in 2016 of 4.4x.

Therefore, the EFSI degree of leverage foreseen might be considered rather enthusiastic.

It is important to  consider in this regard, that the EFSI will not provide grants, but loans, first loss tranche, or equity, which means that projects should be in principle economically viable - in order to repay investors, however, the plan presumes that without the European contribution  certain projects may not be viable, respecting the outlined criteria. 

The EFSI will focus on investments with European significance in the areas of energy, transport, broadband, education and research and innovation, but also will provide credit protection for new activities of the EIF for investments in SMEs and mid-caps.

 

The criteria for eligible projects is still to be revealed, in particular on the subjects of structural and fiscal reforms conditionalities for the participation of the EFSI for particular investments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The calendar foreseen seems ambitious: by mid-January 2015 the plan should be already endorsed by the Council, the European Parliament and EIB stakeholders, together with the discussions necessary to have the new regulation approved by June 2015; by mid-2015 a transparent pipeline of projects and an advisory “Hub” will be established, as well as the EFSI being operational; and by mid-2016 the first reviews of the development of the Financial Programme are expected.

Considering the reception of some MEPs in the European Parliament after the announcement of the plan, the first step in the calendar might face some delay, especially because, EIB involvement may raise social actors' concerns which in turn might be voiced by MEPs.

Secondly, the establishment of a balanced pipeline might also take longer, unless projects already under the EIB’s portfolio are still up for consideration.

Thirdly, reviews of the Fund can be performed by mid-2016, however, impact assessment could only be carried out when some projects are finalised, which will be particularly longer-term for infrastructure projects.

In summary, at least on the face of it, this seems to be a positive initiative, that will, no doubt, provide incentives for investments, especially considering the risk-aversion of EIB. However, results could finally turn out to be far more modest than those predicted by the European Commission.

By Randall Calvin

 


 

Pope Francis...Radical Criticism of Europe at the EU Parliament!Randall CalvinRandall Calvin


By Randall Calvin

Posted 25/11/2014

Pope Francis, in a longer and denser than usual speech, has addressed MEPs gathered in Parliament in Strasbourg requesting that this "aging Europe" stop revolving around the economy, and asked that the dignity of man be put in the centre of concerns rather than focusing on merely economic matters. He warned MEPs of "the growing prestige" of institutions that are perceived by the public as "distant and even harmful".

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, Pope Francis, was greeted upon arrival by the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz. Pope Francis's whistle-stop visit to Strasbourg disgruntled some, who accused him of neglecting Europe. The four-hour visit - the shortest made by any Pope abroad - was his second European trip since his election last year. He travelled to Albania in September.

Many of Strasbourg's Catholics were upset that the Pope would not meet them or visit the city's cathedral. Residents in Strasbourg could watch the pontiff's speeches on a giant screen installed inside the cathedral, which is celebrating its millennial anniversary. One worshipper told Reuters: "I think there is disappointment but I think he also has reasons for making his decision.”

It is the second time a Pope has visited Strasbourg. In 1988, Pope John Paul II visited the city and addressed the European Parliament, where he was heckled by the late Northern Irish MEP the Rev Ian Paisley (6 April 1926 – 12 September 2014). On that occasion, the MEP was assaulted by other MEPs and expelled from the Chamber.

During his speech, the Pope said that "there is a general feeling of fatigue and aging of an old Europe, seen as no longer fertile and lively. As the great ideals that inspired Europe seem to have lost attraction force in favour of bureaucratic technicalities of their institutions." 

The Pope described some of the evils that, in his view, afflict the old Europe, from loneliness to indifference towards immigrants. "One of the diseases I see most widespread in Europe today," he lamented," is the loneliness of someone who has no ties. It is seen particularly in the elderly, often abandoned to their fate, as well as young people without benchmarks and opportunities for the future; it is also seen in many poor who populate our cities and the immigrants who came here in search of a better future."

Bergoglio, whose first trip as Pontiff was to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa, highlighted in Strasbourg the magnitude of the tragedy: "We cannot tolerate that the Mediterranean Sea becomes a large cemetery. Inside the barges arriving on European shores every day there are men and women who need shelter and support. Without joint support from the European Union we run the risk of encouraging ad-hoc solutions to the problem, and not taking into account the human dignity of immigrants, promoting ongoing social tensions and slave labour."

 

Pope Francis before addressing the European Parliament in StrasbourgPope Francis before addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg

For this reason, Pope Francis addressed to MEPs "a message of hope and encouragement", he said: "It is the time to build together a Europe that does not revolve around the economy, but the sacredness of the human person, of the inalienable values; a Europe that embraces courageously its past and look to the future with confidence and hope to live the present fully. It is the time to abandon the idea of a Europe that is frightened and turned in on itself, and encourage the promotion of a Europe that is its own protagonist, transmitting science, art, music, human values and faith. A Europe that contemplates the sky and pursues its ideals; a Europe that looks after, defends and protects the mankind; a Europe that walks on safe and firm land, becoming a precious reference point for all mankind ".

By Randall Calvin

 

 


 

Serbia edges ever closer to EU membershipMartin BanksMartin Banks


Posted 23/11/2014

By Martin Banks

Serbia is edging ever closer to membership of the EU but, as it prepares to open of the first negotiating chapters, the Balkan state faces "huge" challenges before it can be deemed ready to join the 28-strong club.

That was one of the messages to emerge from a high level conference assessing the state of play of Serbia's EU bid.

Several key players in the country´s EU accession bid assembled in the European Parliament for a debate on everything from Serbia's efforts to reform its economy to tackling corruption and labour laws.

The debate, on 19 November, also came on the eve of a key meeting in Brussels next week of the European Parliament's EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC).

The new European Commission, led by Jean-Claude Juncker, has said there will be no new additions to the EU for the next five years but Serbia accepts that its eventual membership is not expected until 2020.

One of the keynote addresses at the conference was given by Zeljko Sertic, Serbia's Economy Minister, who pledged to implement the "tough" measures deemed necessary for eventual EU membership.

He said Belgrade would "not compromise" on the "tough" series of policies it is putting in place, adding, "The reforms are vitally important and I can tell you there will be no compromise on this."

The 90 minute debate on Serbia's EU accession featured a number of high profile, senior speakers, including Dusko Lopandic, head of the Serbian mission to the EU, and Prof Tanja Miscevic, who is head of the negotiating team for Serbia's EU accession.

Each spoke on the challenges and opportunities facing Serbia as it moves ever closer towards EU membership.

The discussion was hosted by Slovakian MEP Eduard Kukan, who chairs Parliament's EU-Serbia Stabilisation and Association Parliamentary Committee (SAPC) and is a former UN special envoy to the Balkans.MEP Eduad KuhanMEP Eduad Kuhan

It addressed topics as wide ranging as regional security and relations and anti-corruption initiatives to investment/foreign direct investment and improving the country’s business climate.

Serbia is just one of seven countries are currently waiting to become part of the EU. The others are Macedonia, Albania, Turkey, Montenegro, Iceland, and Kosovo.

Leaders of Serbia, a nation of 7.2 million, began talks in January this year on accession to the EU, in which it agreed to gradually bring its policies into line with EU norms. Membership, however, is not expected until 2020.

A recent report by the European Commission's shows that the country is more than on track to become part of the EU and that implementing tough reforms are paying off.

 

Outlining recent economic developments in Serbia, Sertic, who is a former chair of the country´s Chamber of Commerce, pledged that the government led by Aleksandar Vucic would stick to the policies and reforms designed to strengthen the Serbian economy.

Measures include a new "flexible" labour law, a "one stop shop" for formerly hard-to-get administration permits and a revised bankruptcy code and "generous" tax exemptions for businesses hiring new workers.

Another recently introduced measure is a fund worth €1.2 billion of subsidised loans for SMEs, of which €460 billion had been loaned in recent months.

Data shows that Serbia's economy grew 2.5% in 2013 as exports rose and The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts an average annual economic growth of 3.6% in 2014 to 2018. But Serbia still has a bloated budget deficit and poor domestic demand is holding back further growth.

Sertic, though, pointed out that over the last year, the country had "radically" overhauled its economy by cracking down on corruption, tax evasion, the imbalance of the private sector, as well as cutting down public sector salaries and pensions.

Tackling the budget deficit was the "first priority", said Sertic, pointing out that the "complex" measures in order to achieve this had included cutting public sector pay and state aid.

A glossy brochure on Serbia´s accession was circulated at the event pointing out that he EU is Serbia´s biggest trading partner.Figures show that over the last two years, the EU accounted for more than 61 per cent of Serbia´s exports and imports. This,interestingly, compares with 7.3 per cent (exports) and 9.2 per cent (imports) with Russia.

On aim of the reform process, said Sertic, was to ensure that trade between the two sides continues to grow.

But he said that improving the country´s business climate and stimulating foreign investment would need "political will" and the participation of "all relevant actors."

He also said that the fight against corruption, another area of concern regarding Serbia's accession credentials, had been "at the heart" of Serbia's reform process and includes the National Anti-Corruption strategy which is designed to dictate the conduct of public officials.

In response to a question from Slovenian EPP deputy Franc Bogovic on how Serbia will convince its citizens on the need for the sometimes painful reforms, Sertic cited a recent opinion poll showing that some 64 per cent of the public supporting the government changes as well as closer EU integration.

"These reforms are vitally important and we will not compromise on them. The ambition is to change the industrial picture of Serbia," he said.

In her presentation, Miscevic accepted that Serbia faces "tough challenges" before it is ready for EU membership.

But the official, a former head of Serbia's European Integration Office, also promised that Serbia would be a "good student" in meeting the strict conditions for EU accession.

She said, "Not only will Serbia be the best student in school but I want us to be an `over achiever´ in meeting the membership criteria."

Reforms which need to be implemented presented a "demanding" challenge for Serbia and its people but that there was a "great preparedness" for this, she said.

While overhauling its economy was the biggest challenge, she said there are other key issues, such as the rule of law, including the judiciary, police and public administration.

Aligning Serbian legislation in these and other areas with the EU´s acquis communautaire was necessary not only for eventual EU membership but also for the "development" of Serbia itself, she told the packed audience.

"The reform process started back in 2004 and is designed to build a strong Serbia," she declared.

Further contribution came from Kukan, a centre right MEP who has twice served as foreign minister of Slovakia.

He said, "Serbian people have confirmed their support for a pro-European course for the country. Thus, in facing this new reality, we have a responsibility to deliver. We have a same goal and I hope we also share the same determination to fulfil the promise."

Kukan, a former Permanent Representative to the UN and an MEP since 2009,said the launch of Serbia's accession negotiations had marked a "turning point" in the EU´s relations with the Balkan state.

"At the same time this is the road where Serbia will have to deal with new responsibilities. Starting the negotiating process needs vast preparations, commitment to reforms and delivering."

He went on, "Therefore, we expect that Serbia will continue delivering on its reform priorities such as the rule of law and economic governance."

With an eye on the country´s relations with Kosovo, Kukan told the Serbian representatives that it "will be equally important (for Serbia) to continue its commitment to regional cooperation and normalisation of relations with Kosovo."

He said, "Once Serbia has chosen to proceed on its European path it will have to also align with our policies and values in external relations."

His comments were largely echoed by Lopandic, Serbia's experienced ambassador to the EU, who told the 90-minute conference that his country "shares the same values and objectives" as the EU and the large turnout at the conference "shows the constant interest in Serbia and the EU enlargement process."

Stating that Serbia’s passage towards EU membership was generally on track, he aptly summed up the consensus when he declared, "My fervent hope is that we will eventually become a fully-fledged EU member."

For Serbia, the EU remains a dream but, with the reform process well underway, that membership target of 2020 is becoming more and more a reality.

By Martin Banks for EU Spectator 

 


 

Still no agreement on the EU Budget 2015, Commission to present a new proposal 


Posted on 20/11/2014

The EU Council and the European Parliament failed to reach an agreement on the European Union’s 2015 € 140 billion budget as well as on the 2014 amended budget, thus increasing risks of a “shutdown” of EU spending programmes as time for reaching an agreement by the end of the year is running out.

Kristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for Budget, Human Resources and SecurityKristalina Georgieva, European Commissioner for Budget, Human Resources and SecurityThe process for approval of the annual EU budget is follows: a first draft is proposed by the European Commission and decided upon by the European Parliament and the Council in negotiations lasting 21 days. The outcome must be approved by both institutions before the Parliament’s President can sign the budget.

The distance that separates the EU Council and the European Parliament is too big, especially regarding the unwillingness of the EU partners to cover with additional funds the obligations of the EU for the previous years, which amount to about € 30 billion. Disagreements reach also member states, in particular, the net-payers on one side – including the Netherlands and Germany – and countries like Poland, Romania, and Bulgaria, who are the real victims of the current disagreement, on the other.

 

Referring to the outcome of Council's 7 November meeting, EP Budgets Committee Chair Jean Arthuis (ALDE, FR) said "It is shocking that Council has devoted no time to discussing how outstanding bills for this year should be paid or how next year’s budget should look, given that citizens are increasingly disillusioned with how Europe manages its affairs. It has only discussed the GNI issue, which does not affect the budget."

He also criticised the EU for urging member states to control their own spending, while creating difficulties for businessmen, Erasmus students, and researchers, by not fully comply with its commitments.

On the other side, European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Budget Kristalina Georgieva admitted that the negotiations are revealing themselves hard to close, but reaffirmed the objective of an agreement in the short run. She said that a new budget proposal will be presented in the next few days. In case the new plan is not approved by the two institutions and then by the EP in plenary session on 17 December, as occurred in 2014, the EU will operate with a budget that will be approved every month based on the expenses of the previous years.

How the EU Budget is adopted?

Based on the multiannual financial framework in force and the budget guidelines for the coming year, the European Commission prepares the draft budget, and submits it to the Council and Parliament. The budgetary authority, comprised of the Council and the Parliament, amends and adopts the draft budget.

In case of disagreement between Parliament and Council a specific Conciliation Committee is convened with the task of reaching agreement on a joint text within a period of 21 days, subject to the approval of both arms of the budgetary authority. If the joint text is rejected by the Council, the European Parliament has the right to ultimately approve the budget.

 

Draft Budget 2015

 Draft Budget 2015Draft Budget 2015

 

 

In response, the European Commission said it has consistently stressed that freedom of movement is about the right of circulation, not about an unrestricted right to claim benefits - and the European Court has confirmed this.

But ironically this ruling could make it more difficult for David Cameron to renegotiate Britain's ability to exclude some EU migrants from parts of the benefit system.

Other EU leaders could turn round and say that the Court has now made it clear that the UK (and others, including the Republic of Ireland, also outside the Schengen agreement ) can already do that under existing rules.


 

EU Court of Justice ruling on ‘benefit tourism’

 


Freedom of movement?

Posted 11/11/2014

The BBC reports that the European Court of Justice has said member states are within their rights to refuse to give financial help to unemployed EU citizens who move to that country just to claim benefits.

European Court of Justice in LuxembourgEuropean Court of Justice in LuxembourgThe ruling on so-called "benefit tourism", relating to a case in Germany, could set an important legal precedent for the rest of the EU.

It could allow the UK to exclude some migrants from specific benefits.

PM David Cameron welcomed the ruling, describing it as "simple common sense".

Tuesday's ruling from the Luxembourg-based court relates to a case involving a Romanian woman and her son living in Germany who had been denied access to a non-contributory subsistence allowance from its social security system.

It said the defendant did not have sufficient financial resources to claim residency in Germany after an initial three months and therefore could not claim that the rules excluding her from certain benefits were discriminatory.

More broadly, it said the right of EU citizens to live and work in other member states - the principle of freedom of movement - did not stop states passing legislation of their own excluding migrants from some non-contributory benefits open to their citizens.

This isn't a blanket ban on EU migrants claiming benefits-nothing like it.

The woman involved in this case, Elisabeta Dano, already receives child benefit in Germany.

But the European Court agreed that she could be denied access to a subsistence allowance available to jobseekers because she isn't actively seeking work.

The Court also said Ms Dano and her son could not claim a right of residence in Germany because they do not have sufficient resources to support themselves.

In response, the European Commission said it has consistently stressed that freedom of movement is about the right of circulation, not about an unrestricted right to claim benefits - and the European Court has confirmed this.

But ironically this ruling could make it more difficult for David Cameron to renegotiate Britain's ability to exclude some EU migrants from parts of the benefit system.

Other EU leaders could turn round and say that the Court has now made it clear that the UK (and others, including the Republic of Ireland, also outside the Schengen agreement ) can already do that under existing rules.

Related for further info:

 Schengen Area

 

The free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU to its citizens. It entitles every EU citizen to travel, work and live in any EU country without special formalities. Schengen cooperation enhances this freedom by enabling citizens to cross internal borders without being subjected to border checks. The border-free Schengen Area guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, as well as to many non-EU nationals, businessmen, tourists or other persons legally present on the EU territory.

 

Schengen Area as of 1/7/2013

Schengen AreaSchengen Area

 

Note: Since the 1st of January 2014, Romania and Bulgaria are members of the Schengen Area

 


 

 Andrew Neil addresses fellow journalists at the European Parliament


Veteran British journalist & broadcaster Andrew Neil from the BBC, came to Brussels to give a short presentation on EU press journalism and deadlines, but focused particularly on the changing geo-political changes regarding the relationship between the USA & Europe in terms of the actions of the Obama administration and her new global interests & priorities!

Andrew Ferguson Neil (born 21 May 1949) is a British journalist and broadcaster from Scotland.

Neil currently works for the BBC, presenting the live political programmes, Daily Politics and Newsnight on BBC Two, Sunday Politics and This Week on BBC One. He also anchors BBC's Straight Talk With Andrew Neil and makes documentaries.

 

Neil is Chairman of Spectator Magazines (London), Chairman of ITP Magazines (Dubai), and Chairman of World Media Rights (New York).

Neil made his name at The Sunday Times where he was editor for 11 years. In 1995, he was made editor-in-chief of the Press Holdings group of newspapers, owner of The Business, and (from 2005) The Spectator, moving up to become chairman in July 2008.