Terveisiä Jyväskylästä. Taitaa olla neljäs kerta kun kierrän Keski-Suomen keskiötä.

Jyväskylän kunnanvaltuutettu Reijo Savolin oli aamutuimaan vastassa kentällä. Yöllä oli pakkasta, kuten alla olevasta kuvasta näkee.

Suomen talvista maisemaa.

Päivän ohjelma noudatti perinteistä meppikiertuekaavaa. Aloitin Keskisuomalaisen toimituksessa. Haastattelun aiheena oli Suomen EU-strategia ja 141-maataloustuki.

Sen jälkeen vietin mukavan kaksituntisen Jyväskylän kaupunginkirjastolla. Olin puhujana kesäyliopiston ja kansalaisopiston järjestämässä tilaisuudessa. Aiheena oli eurooppalainen monikultturisuus.

Olin erittäin otettu tilaisuuden osallistujamäärästä (katso kuva). Sali oli tupasen täynnä, yli 200 kuulijaa. Piti kuulemma ihan sulkea ovet, koska enempää porukkaa ei saliin mahtunut.

Kaupunginkirjaston luentosalin tunnelmia.

Yleisössä oli myös vanhoja tuttuja, ei vähintään dynaaminen Arja Jalonen, joka yksi positiivisimmistä ihmisistä, jonka olen tavannut. Loistotyyppi.

Luennon jälkeen pikalounas ja sieltä suoraan Voionmaan lukioon. Jälleen kerran mahtava tilaisuus. Juhlasali täynnä väkeä. Fiksuja ja uteliaita oppilaita. Hyviä kysymyksiä. Voionmaa rocks!

Suurkiitos Antti Vesalalle, joka piti seuraa koko päivän ja ohjasti paikasta toiseen.

Viikonlopusta on tulossa mielenkiintoinen. Kaverini 10-vuotias Markus-poika lentää ensimmäistä kertaa yksin ulkomaille. Hän tulee meille viikonlopuksi ja me menemme huomenna katsomaan Belgian ja Suomen välistä jalkapallomaaottelua.

Käymme tänään illalla lasten kanssa moikkaamassa Suomen pelaajia. He asuvat hotellissa, joka on 5 minuutin ajomatkan päässä meiltä.

Sunnuntaina olisi sitten tarkoitus juosta Brysselin maraton. Siitä enemmän sunnuntaina.

Yesterday was not the best of days for a European idealist like myself. As a matter of fact it was probably the saddest day in my three years as an MEP (see a video clip of my speech from last night).

As a veteran of three Intergovernmental Conferences (Amsterdam, Nice and Constitution), i.e. treaty negotiations, I thought I had seen it all. But alas how wrong I was.

I had always believed, perhaps somewhat naively, that the European Parliament was different from the Council of Ministers. I believed that we were elected to drive European, as opposed national, interests. I am not saying that we don’t defend national interests at times. Of course we do. But I just wish it would not happen in the way in which it happened yesterday.

Everything was supposed to be settled. The hard work of my colleagues Alain Lamassoure and Adrian Severin was to be rewarded by an overwhelming majority in the plenary. Their proposal for the distribution of seats in the EP was fair, just, logical and realistic.

Unfortunately a number of colleagues decided to table an alternative proposal. I have no problems with alternative proposals. On the contrary. It is the democratic right, indeed duty, of every MEP to make suggestions which they believe improve a given text.

What saddened me was that the proposal pitted large states against small states. As a matter of fact the six largest states would have gained seats and the smaller ones (bar one) would have lost. A similarly provocative proposal, which would have reduced the seats of big states and increased seats for small states, was discussed in the Constitutional Committee. Both of the proposals were based on a subjective mathematical formula.

I just wonder whether it was all worth it. European integration is based on trust. The debacle of yesterday and today did nothing to strengthen that trust. I hope that the Council can now endorse our proposal on the seats. It is time to start healing some wounds.

At the end of the day today’s vote was clear: 378 for (i.e. 59% of all 641 votes), 154 against (24%) and 109 abstain (17%). I was very happy with the majority of my colleagues who voted for the proposal eventhough they disagreed with it. That was a sign of fairness and true European spirit. Now is time to move on and look forward.

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Puhe täykkärissä

Puhelin on käynyt sen verran kuumana, että päätin kirjoittaa blogimerkinnän jo nyt. Täydennän illalla.

Euroopan parlamentin paikkajaon suhteen tuli uusi käänne. Kaiken piti olla selvää valiokuntaäänestyksen jälkeen. Eli Lamassouren ja Severinin ehdotuksen piti mennä läpi lähes sellaisenaan.

Viikonlopun aikana 69 saksalaista, espanjalaista ja puolalaista konservatiivisryhmän meppiä allekirjoitti kuitenkin muutosehdotuksen, joka korottaisi huimasti isojen maiden paikkamäärää ja vastaavasti vähentäisi paikkoja meiltä pieniltä. Tämä ehdotus menee äänestykseen huomenna ja siitä käydään vielä tänään illalla kiivasta keskustelua täysistuntosalissa.

Tässä vaiheessa on jo selvää, että vuoden 2009-14 paikkamäärät eivät muutu siitä, mistä ollaan jo sovittu. Suomella on siis 13 paikkaa. Saksalais-espanjalais-puolalais-aloitteen tavoitteena on ennakoida tilannetta vuodesta 2014 eteenpäin.

Mielestäni ehdotus on täysin epärealistinen ja se ei mene läpi huomenna. Ja vaikka se menisi läpi niin sitä ei koskaan hyväksyttäisi neuvostossa. Jäsenmailla on lopullinen päätösvalta tässä kysymyksessä.

Myönnän, että eurooppalaisen idealistin sydän vuotaa vertaa. Tämän tyyppiset provokaatiot aiheuttavat paljon hallaa vaikka ne eivät läpi menisikään. Ehdotus osoittaa mihin kapeiden kansallisten intressien ajaminen johtaa pahimmillaan.

We held an open workshop on lobbying yesterday. I think it was a great event.

The meeting room was packed. Someone said that there were some 400 people participating. Well, I don’t know the exact figure, but over 200 did sign in. Everything from NGOs to private companies, MEPs to assistants and civil servants. Even the Vatican was there!

We had a number of experts and professional lobbyists giving their views on how lobbying works in the EU and the US. You can find the list of speakers in yesterday’s blog entry, albeit in Finnish.

I won’t go into all the details of the debate, but I thoght it might be useful to set out some ideas from workshop. I am sure we will produce a report from the event. I will post it in the blog as soon as I can get my hands on it. My 14-page handwritten scribbles would not be of much use to the casual reader.

An interview with Estonian TV.

In the beginning of the workshop I posed six questions relating the whole lobbying package. I will try to give my very preliminary views on those six questions, in light of yesterday’s debate. I want to stress the word ”preliminary” because my role as raporteur is to gather as much info as possible, listen to my colleagues and make a proposal which has a realistic chance to pass the house.

1. Should the lobbyregister voluntary or mandatory? I am open on this one. Yesterday we heard good arguments for and against. I sympathise with a mandatory register, but I am just not sure whether it will work in practice.

2. Should the European Parliament have a common register with the Commission? In the beginning I was sceptical about the administrative feasability of this proposal. Having thought about it long and hard, I do think it is such a bad idea after all. Nevertheless, I would again want to see how we can do it practice.

3. Should there be financial disclosure? Again, in the beginning I was sceptical, but I have certainly warmed up to the idea. I do not think that money should be the only criteria, but I am sure we can come up with something broader and useful.

4. How should we define a lobbyist? I do not have exact wording yet, but I believe in a broad definition of lobbyists. I also believe that ”all lobbyist were created equal”. For me it does not matter whether you represent a trade union or the industry, a company or an NGO, a think-tank or a consultancy. When you come to my office or when you send me information with the intent of influencing my position on a piece of legislation, then you are a lobbyist. And this goes for lawyers and lawfirms as well. If you play ball, you need to stick to the same rules with everyone else.

5. How about scrutiny and punishment for those who violate the code of conduct established in the register? No definite answer on this one yet, but I do feel that we need something more than just ”naming and shaming”. Being kicked off the register is naturally a severe punishment, but perhaps we can look at other possibilities as well.

6. Then there are a few special cases, such as the transparency of intergroups. The 25 registered intergroups in the EP are not a major problem. They are regulated and transparent. But at the same time there are other intergroups which have not been able to get an official status. Perhaps we could have a look at how to make them more official.

I also feel that transparency is a two-way street. If we require transparency from lobbyists, then we should be more transparent ourselves. Yesterday I made a proposal which I called a ”legal footprint”. (A ”legal fingerprint” might actually be a better description of the proposal, as my colleague Richard Corbett pointed out).

I proposed that each piece of legislation should include a footnote with all the different organisations and experts that the raporteur heard or saw in the process of preparing the law. It would be a simple gesture which would make the whole process more transparent. A good legislator listens to everyone and draws his or her own conclusions.

At the same time the raporteur should register all the documents (directly linked to the legislation) which he or she receives from outside sources. The proposal got unanimous support and I am looking forward to hearing what my colleagues in the Constitutional Committee think about it.

All in all I am really excited about this whole lobby-dossier. Lobbying is often seen as something negative. I want change that myth. Lobbying, when done properly, is an essential part of a parliamentary process. The more transparent the system, the better. The clearer the rules, the less room there is for misunderstanding and populistic anti-EU cheap shots.