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Albert or Javier? that was the question…

We had it again, our weekly editorial meeting, where the sharp WebComm brains put together examine a mass of ingredients and try to make the best of the coming week’s offer. As usual, the plate is more than full. The menu on the whole is not always that exiting… but we’re there to make something tasty out of even the less juicy Joint Parliamentary Meetings with National Parliaments!

Starting from health and environment, going through economic and monetary affairs, fisheries and agriculture…we finally got to my field: justice, home affairs and citizenship issues. I share this subject with my colleague the Tapas Chef (because he likes to keep it short), but he was on holiday, so I presented the upcoming offer.

Given the choice, my main course would definitely have been the protection of EU citizens’ personal data subpoenaed by SWIFT within the US for counter terrorism purposes. We already wrote about the Belgian based company’s transfers of financial data to the US (in order to trace financial transactions of suspected terrorists) and the data protection and privacy issues these transfers raised.

Jade Spence going after an all-time scoopJade Spence going after an all-time scoop

But that was some two years ago. I would have loved to come back to it – if only the meeting of MEPs, Commissioner Barrot and the expert, “European eminent person” and former prosecutor Jean-Louis Bruguière was not going to be held closed doors. Even in the most open and accessible EU house, confidentiality is sometimes an issue.

So move on. Parliament adopted during its February Strasbourg session a report on the findings of Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) MEPs who during the past three years visited a number of detention centres for asylum seekers and refugees in the member states. Their aim was to see with their own eyes whether minimum standards for asylum seekers were being applied. A WebComm colleague was by the way “dispatched” to Denmark along with the MEP delegation last April.

According to this “Roure” report (named according to the French Socialist Rapporteur), adopted by a large majority of MEPs, the detention centres for asylum seekers are “intolerable” – especially when it comes to reception conditions (hygiene, overcrowding) and the legal aid available (or not). Well, not exactly a scoop, no (and am not Jade Spence either), but an important topic well worth coming back to (that’s what we often do after plenary sessions, as the schedules are simply too loaded during those weeks). Furthermore, immigration issues are one of our priorities. So Roure will be the starter of our week, normalement.

Know your rights! – this will be my main course – provided that the bosses in their editorial committee approve our weekly suggestions. Why? Because only 31 % of the participants of a 2007 Eurobarometer survey regard themselves as well informed about their rights as European citizens. Less than a third… and we do hope that they will know by June 2009 at least about their right to vote in European elections! On Monday LIBE members will discuss what to do about it and how to inform them better. That’s where you’ll find me, in the committee.

But the question of the day was definitely: Albert or Javier? Monaco’s Prince was going to be in Brussels to talk about peace and water. A man with – at least some level of – environmental commitment. That’s what I like, and will eagerly forgive him the playboy past. 

What else? I did have some other ingredients such as CIA prisoner flights, access to documents and Internet security… but these will have to wait.

But the question of the day was definitely: Albert or Javier? Monaco’s Prince was going to be in Brussels to talk about peace and water. A man with – at least some level of – environmental commitment. That’s what I like, and will eagerly forgive him the playboy past.  And: I missed Haakon of Norway just a few weeks ago! and we have no royals in my country! Not enough arguments?! Could we maybe do an interview with him?

Then again, Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, will be addressing the Parliament (in Brussels “mini-plenary”) next Wednesday, February 18… and the topic, among others, will be the EU’s role in the Middle East. I think of Gaza. I think of Hamas. And all that suffering. Hmm. Despite the female majority present around the table, we decided to go for Javier. C’est la vie… They say Javier is not easy to get, but who says it’s not worth trying?

…As usual, the late morning Friday stand-up (baptised by Tibo who says they call it so in the real world of French quality journalism) will confirm who and what it will be, as far as it depends on us…

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