Sunday, February 12, 2006

Brussels and Stockholm and Brussels


Hopefully a somewhat less hectic week than the last one was ahead of me.

But I'm starting the week with an entire day of discussions in Brussels on what can be done to improve the external and foreign policies of the European Union.

One of the results of the discussions at the European Council meeting in Hampton Court last autumn was obviously that one wanted to look at different ways to make the foreign policy of the Union more effective.

This is also an area where it is obvious that the citizens are expecting more from all of the European Institutions.

As a result of this, there is work both within the European Commission and by High Representative Solana, both aiming at producing papers with suggestions to the June meeting of the European Council.

A part of this work is the Commission President Barroso has invited former Commissioner Chris Patten, former Foreign Minister of Greece George Papandreou and myself to an afternoon of discussions with him and those commissioners dealing with different aspects of foreign affairs. And that's what will happen tomorrow.

We'll see what comes out of it. There are certainly things that should - and could! - be done.

A lot of eyes will be on the European Union this week as the European Parliament is to take its decision on the service directiva. For reasons that are less than clear to me, the centre-right EPP-EDG group has decided to strike a deal with the Socialist group on the issue, thus significantly diluting what everyone has seen as one of the key measures needeed to get the European economy truly going in the years ahead.

There are now sharply differing opinions on the wisdom of this. For all that I know, the move was not preceded by debates of the sort that a critical decision of this sort really requires.

On Friday I will be back in Brussels for a meeting with the Governing Board of the European Policy Center, and I would certainly expect this to be one of the more debated issues at that meeting.

But there will most probably be plenty of foreign affairs issue on the agenda as well. This is the week when the new Palestine parliament convenes after the election that gave Hamas a majority among its members.

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