Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Deutsche Welle Radio quit Euranet consortium

In 2007, the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle and the French counterpart Radio France International launched "Euranet", a consortium of European radio stations. The cooperation gives national radio stations access to valuable information about other countries and makes joint radio productions about European topics possible.
I was shocked to learn that Deutsche Welle quit the consortium only two years after it came into existence. I love to listen to the German language podcast "Treffpunkt Europa", a weekly 25-minute radio show about European cultural life. Now it's cancelled, without any explation in the podcast or on the Deutsche Welle website.

In a document of the German Bundestag (the radio is publicly funded), I learned that Deutsche Welle quit the radio network on 30 June 2009 because Euranet had turned into the legal form of a European Economic Interest Grouping (EEIG), which can directly accept commissions by the European Commission. In other words, the network has moved from an independent news provider to a client of the European Commission. On the Euranet website, I only find a short article commenting on the decision (in Spanish, all others seem to have been removed from the cache), which doesn't really explain anything. Apparently, the EEIG was established in the so-called "Warsaw Declaration on Pan-European Cooperation and Communication", but a short notice on a Polish radio station website is all I can find about it.

I saw that Thierry Vissol, advisor of the DG Communication in multimedia communication, had also been present at the meeting, but I couldn't find any information about the meeting neither in Commission documents, nor in enquiries of the European Parliament Education and Culture Committee (of which I doubt whether it has any rights whatsoever to enquire actions of Euranet as a non-EU body).

So in the end, the degree to which the Commission may influence Euranet productions remains vague. We should probably be more cautious in using Euranet now. I'll rely more on EUX.TV; there I'm absolutely positive that it's an independent news provider and that it will remain like this for a while.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A German commissioner Peer Steinbrück would be a wise decision

After the German elections are over, the question is on the table who will be the German commissioner for the next Commission. The names put forward in the press have not been very convincing. They include
  • neo-liberal finance expert Friedrich Merz (CDU, without support in his own party),
  • MEP Elmar Brok (CDU, little known to the public),
  • MEP Martin Schulz (SPD, unlikely after losing the European Elections),
  • interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble (with no interest to go to Brussels)
  • economic sherpa Peter Hinze (CDU, little known to the public).

All of these candidates would not find a lot of support by the public and cause a further distance of the citizens towards the European institutions. And I doubt whether they could negotiate with a Baroness Ashton on the same level.

The idea to nominate former finance minister Peer Steinbrück (SPD), put forward by MEP Jo Leinen (SPD), is a good option for both political competence and public acceptancy. Steinbrück has been on of the central figures in the financial crisis and earned respect of politicians all over Europe for his far-sighted positions. In Germany itself, Steinbrück was probably the SPD minister closest to Angela Merkel. The finance expert would be one of the first to hope for a nomination by the chancellor. And he is not only respected in politics but also viewed as an honest broker by the German public. Steinbrück speaks out what he thinks and I perceive him to care about future generations as much as for current unemployment figures.

The Commission post would fit Steinbrück's CV pretty well. He was economy and finance minister in several German states, then became minister president for the state of North-Rhine Westfalia in 2002. When his state government was voted out of office in 2005, Steinbrück didn't have to wait long to get his next job. The national elections in the same year brought him to the post of finance minister in Germany. Becoming European commissioner now seems like the next possible step in a steep political career.

The question remains, what portfolio Steinbrück would get. A major industrial country, Germany is pressing for the portfolios industry, economics and finance, monetary affairs or trade. But I could also imagine him being the head of the common market portfolio and of competition policy - it fits very well given his watchdog role as a finance minister in Germany.