Sunday 28 July 2013


Some thoughts on the nature of government ... and the English Constitution.

Sunday 21 July 2013

Summer Break

The House of Commons is now on its summer recess. Washminster is also taking a break (and the weather forecast for Milton Keynes for the next weeks days is sunny & warm!!!). Washminster will therefore be taking a break until mid August.

Have a great summer.

Saturday 20 July 2013

The American Senate

An excellent C-SPAN video of an in-depth interview with Richard Baker, Historian Emeritus of the US Senate

I've downloaded the book for my summer reading. It is available in kindle and hardback versions.

Friday 19 July 2013

Making it OUR Parliament!

Avery important (and useful speech by Graham Allen) debate on UK parliamentary reform. Please share this post with fellow citizens;  and students of law and politics.

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Monday 15 July 2013

Advocate General in the Court of Justice of the EU

There is no equivalent role in English law to that of the Advocate General. It is easy to underplay or misunderstand their role through analogy with players in the English Legal System.

I found an excellent short article by Mme Laure CLEMENT-WILZ on the website of University Panthéon-Assas (Paris, France).

"Based on the French Conseil d'Etat "commissaire du gouvernement", Advocate general was created to assist the Court of Justice by making, with complete impartiality and independence, public opinion.  Advocates General have fleshed out  their role over the years on from the textbook definition. They have gradually asserted their independence. They have been closely involved in the process of shaping european jurisprudence. They helped the Court to lay the foundation of its jurisprudence and contributed to consolidating it. From the beginning of the nineties onwards the Advocates General put it to the test. In the context of increasingly complex legislation and legal structures, the Advocates General also tried to contribute to increasing the coherence of legislation and jurisprudence. Their conclusions encouraged debate and ensured the openness of the decision making process within the Court. In bringing a breath of fresh air into intellectual space of the Court of Justice, the Advocates General can be seen as vital to this institution. 

Only the Court's organisational and functional rules could make this possible as they preserve the originality of the Advocate General. With a special place within the jurisdiction, he is a thinker of the law important for the outcome of the case. He is positioned at the interface with the external world. However he is not free from all criticisms, particularly with regard to the principle of equality of arms and the right to adversarial procedure. The originality of the role of Advocate General does not release him from the principle of a fair trial in accordance with the requirements of the Court of Strasbourg. Crucially, minor changes to the role would allow the Court of Justice to comply."

The CJEU on its own website states -

"When it has been decided that an oral hearing will be held, the case is argued at a public hearing, before the bench and the Advocate General. The Judges and the Advocate General may put to the parties any questions they consider appropriate. Some weeks later, the Advocate General delivers his or her Opinion before the Court of Justice, again in open court. He or she analyses in detail the legal aspects of the case and suggests completely independently to the Court of Justice the response which he or she considers should be given to the problem raised. This marks the end of the oral stage of the proceedings. If it is decided that the case raises no new question of law, the Court may decide, after hearing the Advocate General, to give judgment without an Opinion."

Sunday 14 July 2013

Bastille Day

Today the French (and Francophiles) around the world will be celebrating 'La fete nationale', the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in the early months of the French Revolution. A symbolic reminder that government is not about the whims of those who find themselves in power - but about all the individuals who make up the people of a nation.

There will be celebrations in London today (I'm heading down there shortly). In the Borough Market a host of events - fun; games; music & food - and an evening party lie ahead. If you can make it details of location and events can be found at


The day kicks off at noon - and the programme can be found here.

In France itself, the Bastille Day parade is already underway - TV5 are broadcasting it live. I just popped into our lounge to see President Hollande waving in the sunshine.

The Tour de France continues. There has been some excellent coverage on ITV4 - I just love watching the race - lots of cycling excitement plus some beautiful countryside. Le Monde also has good updates through its website. I'm glad to see that Ian Stannard continues his ride and is helping keep Chris Froome in the yellow jersey. Ian moved to Milton Keynes and took to competitive racing at the Milton Keynes Bowl (which is very close to where I live - just across the Roman Watling Street (V4 to the locals).

Well, I'm off to catch the train  to London. Have a great Bastille Day!

Saturday 13 July 2013

What do our MPs do with their time?

When I first visited Westminster, MPS might get a few items of mail a day. Some progressive MPs would hold regular 'surgeries' where constituents could come to meet them to ask for help in solving a particular problem.

I've seen volumes of post sky-rocket - and almost all MPs now do regular surgeries. I was pleased that after my (unsuccessful) runs for Parliament - the sitting MP upped the level of opportunities that his (sadly, not to be mine) constituents had to see him.

...and then there are emails. Free to send, and easier to send than 'snail-mail'. From zero these have become a major part of MPs' workload.

Lobbying groups make a major contribution - and the standard email about a particular campaign are easily recognised. The House of Commons this week issued a Standard Note about a particular email which keeps popping up.

"Members may be contacted by constituents complaining at the perceived contrast between generous government spending on foreign aid and inadequate domestic benefits and services, citing a forwarded chain email.
This viral email, sometimes given the title ‘Something to think about’ alleges that “We’re broke and can’t help our own Pensioners, Veterans, Orphans, Homeless, etc”. It cites figures for international aid to various countries – and also Hamas – while making claims of governmental neglect of various domestic groups.
The House of Commons Library first became aware of the email in early 2013, but it has been circulating on the internet in some form since at least 2010, and appears to have originated in the US.
The figures quoted in the email, which are often without any indication of currency, do not resemble actual UK international aid figures.
This note gives details of the email, some actual UK foreign aid figures, and information on state support available to those groups named in the email."
Interestingly the originators and re-publishers of this email don't seem to realise that dealing with and answering emails consume a lot of public money. 

Friday 12 July 2013


This Sunday will be the "La Fete nationale" in France - a day which commemorates the storming of the Bastille - an iconic event in the French Revolution.

One of the great things to come from that year of 1789 was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. It is worth reading in full. [English translation]

The representatives of the French people, organized as a National Assembly, believing that the ignorance, neglect, or contempt of the rights of man are the sole cause of public calamities and of the corruption of governments, have determined to set forth in a solemn declaration the natural, unalienable, and sacred rights of man, in order that this declaration, being constantly before all the members of the Social body, shall remind them continually of their rights and duties; in order that the acts of the legislative power, as well as those of the executive power, may be compared at any moment with the objects and purposes of all political institutions and may thus be more respected, and, lastly, in order that the grievances of the citizens, based hereafter upon simple and incontestable principles, shall tend to the maintenance of the constitution and redound to the happiness of all. Therefore the National Assembly recognizes and proclaims, in the presence and under the auspices of the Supreme Being, the following rights of man and of the citizen:


1.  Men are born and remain free and equal in rights. Social distinctions may be founded only upon the general good.

2.  The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.

3.  The principle of all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation. No body nor individual may exercise any authority which does not proceed directly from the nation.

4.  Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights. These limits can only be determined by law.

5.  Law can only prohibit such actions as are hurtful to society. Nothing may be prevented which is not forbidden by law, and no one may be forced to do anything not provided for by law.

6.  Law is the expression of the general will. Every citizen has a right to participate personally, or through his representative, in its foundation. It must be the same for all, whether it protects or punishes. All citizens, being equal in the eyes of the law, are equally eligible to all dignities and to all public positions and occupations, according to their abilities, and without distinction except that of their virtues and talents.

7.  No person shall be accused, arrested, or imprisoned except in the cases and according to the forms prescribed by law. Any one soliciting, transmitting, executing, or causing to be executed, any arbitrary order, shall be punished. But any citizen summoned or arrested in virtue of the law shall submit without delay, as resistance constitutes an offense.

8.  The law shall provide for such punishments only as are strictly and obviously necessary, and no one shall suffer punishment except it be legally inflicted in virtue of a law passed and promulgated before the commission of the offense.

9.  As all persons are held innocent until they shall have been declared guilty, if arrest shall be deemed indispensable, all harshness not essential to the securing of the prisoner's person shall be severely repressed by law.

10.  No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

11.  The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man. Every citizen may, accordingly, speak, write, and print with freedom, but shall be responsible for such abuses of this freedom as shall be defined by law.

12.  The security of the rights of man and of the citizen requires public military forces. These forces are, therefore, established for the good of all and not for the personal advantage of those to whom they shall be intrusted.

13.  A common contribution is essential for the maintenance of the public forces and for the cost of administration. This should be equitably distributed among all the citizens in proportion to their means.

14.  All the citizens have a right to decide, either personally or by their representatives, as to the necessity of the public contribution; to grant this freely; to know to what uses it is put; and to fix the proportion, the mode of assessment and of collection and the duration of the taxes.

15.  Society has the right to require of every public agent an account of his administration.

16.  A society in which the observance of the law is not assured, nor the separation of powers defined, has no constitution at all.

17.  Since property is an inviolable and sacred right, no one shall be deprived thereof except where public necessity, legally determined, shall clearly demand it, and then only on condition that the owner shall have been previously and equitably indemnified.

Thursday 11 July 2013

Moving and losing?

Thinking of moving to another country?

There are many advantages and disadvantages. It's easy to overlook the fact that you may have to give up your right to vote - to have a say in decision making which affects you in the new home.

For European Union citizens, freedom of movement need not necessarily mean the loss of all rights. You can vote in local elections (Click here for more details) and in European Parliament elections (Click here for more details) in the new country.

But there is no right to vote in national elections.

A campaign is underway to educate EU citizens about their rights - and to campaign for the right to vote in national elections in the place where a person lives. The website is worth visiting - at http://www.letmevote.eu/en/

You can follow 'Le Me Vote' on twitter - https://twitter.com/letmevoteEU

Wednesday 10 July 2013

EU Law - not just an academic subject!

In order to gain a "Qualifying Law Degree" in English Law, it is necessary to have a solid grounding in EU Law. Since Britain joined the EEC (now EU)  in 1973 - it has become as much a part of English law as statutes passed at Westminster and as cases decided within English Courts. [see European Communities Act 1973 s2].

There are some excellent textbooks & casebooks available. But the practical details of the law - the rights it gives to European citizens; to persons trading or working in other Member States; can be found in literature available from the EU institutions.  Sometimes these can be a lot more readable than some academic texts.

It can also be useful to consider how the rules make a difference to individuals (a useful approach for lawyers!)

So here's a short list of links:-

Free Movement of Persons

Looking for work abroad
Cross-border Commuting
Retirement - other than in one's country of origin
Free Movement for EU nationals
How to enforce your rights

Free Movement of Goods & Services


EU citizenship

There's a question and answer publication by ECAS ['50 Q & A about your rights as a citizen of the EU'] available here.
and from the London Office of the European Commission:
What's in it for me: http://ec.europa.eu/unitedkingdom/pdf/the_eu_for_me_web.pdf
Your Europe: Your Rights: http://bookshop.europa.eu/en/the-euro-area-pbKC3112553/

Tuesday 9 July 2013

What's the point of criminal law?

...is a question I'm sure many law students ask themselves.

 However, I want to pose it in the form - when should the State sanction certain behaviour? What principles should be applied? What should the criminalisation of behaviour seek to achieve?

As a general principle the State will only punish people when they have done a prohibited act (in legal language there is an "Actus Reus" [a wrongful act]) and they have the appropriate "Mens Rea" [guilty mind]. But - and here are some issues to reflect upon -

* are there any circumstances in which we should 'punish' when no act has been done?  Should we detain or even punish people who are very likely to commit a crime but have not yet done so? The issue is raised in the film "Minority Report". It also arises when the State seeks to protect its citizens by locking up those who may be trained for terrorism. What should happen when developments in technology permit actions which are outrageous but no legislation has yet been passed? In English Law there has to be "an act which is more than merely preparatory to the commission of the offence" before a person can be convicted of an Attempted Crime - but should we punish when a person decides to do something, but is thwarted in the planning stage?

* What actions should be the subject of criminal law? John Stuart Mill put forward the "harm principle" - "The only purpose for which power can be rightly exercised over any member of a civilized community against his will, is to prevent harm to others.". But should we attempt to deter self-harm by criminalising certain behaviour? (drug use? smoking? over-eating?). I am harmed by a smoker lighting up - I'm allergic to cigarette smoke - and passive smoking can kill too - it is an assault (on my lungs, on my eyes & the ash can settle in my hair) - but should I be able to call the police and get a smoker arrested? As a taxpayer I am harmed by having to pay for health services for people whose illness or injury is self-induced. Older & vulnerable people can be frightened by young, exuberant, noisy people playing near their homes. As a child I played football in the street - when I was a parliamentary candidate I often met people who wanted me to get the police to stop - with the threat of a criminal record - young people doing exactly the same thing. Should being a nuisance attract criminal sanctions (like those cold callers who ring up despite the fact that you have signed up to the Telephone Preference Service?)

* How many "Strict Liability" offences should there be? If I drive above 70 miles per hour on a dual carriageway, the law will still hold me guilty, even if I neither intended to drive above the limit nor was aware that my speedometer is faulty. In what circumstances should there be strict liability?

* If criminalising particular behaviour doesn't deter, should we remove the offence from the statute book?

* Should retribution [harming someone for the harm they have done to another] alone be a justification for punishment?

* Should punishment be related to the amount of money involved, or the injury caused to the victim? This issue is the subject of a current consultation on Fraud - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23073410

Questions worth reflecting on?

Monday 8 July 2013

Sport (and Law)

What a fine weekend this has been for British sport. The Wimbledon Champion (Gentlemen's Championship) is a Brit (for the first time since 1936) - and what an exciting series of games that led up to Andy Murray's victory! On Saturday Chris Froome took the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, and the British and Irish Lions won the series against Australia.

So what has sport got to do with Law? Well, for one thing there are specialists in sports law (but I am not one of them!) All sports have rules. "Law" is the name we give to rules which are created by a state and which govern many areas of life. I may choose to play tennis, but am only governed by the rules of a particular Association if I participate in one of their competitions. As a citizen (or even as a visitor to a country), I am bound to follow certain of its rules [Laws] - or risk criminal sanctions.

In the United Kingdom we don't have a single set of rules - Unlike the NFL (American Football) there isn't a single rule book, and in contrast with the United States, there isn't a single document containing the key constitutional rules. (see US Constitution). British laws can be found in the form of legislation ('Acts of Parliament' - also known as 'Statutes' which are Primary Legislation - and rules made under the authority, though not by Parliament itself, are known as 'Secondary Legislation' - one form of these are 'Statutory Instruments'.) Other law has been developed by the Courts - and it is necessary to read the law reports to discover what the law is (though there are many books which summarise this law).

In sports there are 'umpires' and 'referees'. Judges sit in Courts and decide in cases where there are disputes. Sometimes the issue is a question of fact (did he or didn't he commit the crime? - akin to the decision in tennis about whether the ball was in or out.) Sometimes it is about the interpretation of the 'rule'.

Some people think that following sport is open to anybody - but "the Law" is too complex for most people to follow. Perhaps the intricacies of tax law may require specialist skills and knowledge, but the principles of law can be easily learnt. I know some people who say law would be too hard for them - yet they are masters at the intricacies of the rules of Cricket or American Football!

Sunday 7 July 2013

Norwich (and spying)

I've been away in Norwich this weekend, so haven't been able to post today - so just a little something until tomorrow.

Norwich is a fine city, with lots of history (see a previous post). This weekend was the Lord Mayor's Parade with lots of celebrations around the city. The weather was wonderful. We just caught the end of the parade - and enjoyed all the street entertainment and the "extra" markets around the city  (it has an excellent permanent outside market in front of the City Hall). If you ever get the chance - do visit Norwich - the canalised River Wensum is lovely to walk along; the Cathedral and its surroundings are beautiful; and the Castle is magnificent and contains a superb museum. There are lots of old churches and other historic buildings.

On the 'friends who spy on friends' issue. The European Parliament has posted this video.

Saturday 6 July 2013

Freedom of the Press

Of late, freedom FROM the Press, has become an important issue. Over-powerful media figures have, it is alleged, abused their positions of power - and ridden roughshod over the privacy rights of others; used their priviliged position to dictate to elected Governments; and misrepresented the truth to advance their own political agenda.


while "power tends to corrupt", we should be wary of rushing to shackle the Press. It can play a very important role in uncovering what "governments" (be they of Kings; Dictators or elected politicians) wish keep from us. There is an honourable history of the press standing up to the powerful (I continue to be inspired by the work of the Washington Post and other papers in uncovering Watergate). In Britain John Wilkes was an important 'hero' in the fight for freedom of the press. I've posted a few articles about him in the past - worth reading (IMHO)


This comment appeared in the Australian Financial Review (though about Britain) -

"We have far too many laws in this area circumscribing free speech – not just Labour’s hate crimes legislation, or the Public Order Act, but also the Communications Act 2003 and the Malicious Communications Act 1988.

As a result, the police and prosecutors are able to move from one to the other to close down views deemed to be unacceptable. The fault here lies with the foe that Wilkes fought, even though he was a member of it: Parliament… We do not have a written constitution – or rather we do not have a constitution that is codified. But as Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said in an important and insightful speech shortly before the Leveson Inquiry began its work, “the fact that there is nothing in statute which states expressly that the independence of the press is a constitutional principle does not diminish the principle”. Lord Judge also quoted Wilkes: “The liberty of the press is the birthright of a Briton and is justly esteemed the firmest bulwark of the liberties of this country.”

Friday 5 July 2013

The implications of withdrawal

One of my OU students joked at a recent tutorial that he now hoped Britain would leave the EU - since that would remove half the work for the W200 course.

Alas, that's not on the cards. For him, the exam will be on the 8th October - and withdrawal won't have happened by then.

But even if Britain were to withdraw - we couldn't ignore EU Law. It will continue to impact on our trading with other EU countries (which makes up a large majority of our trade). Norway has never joined - but is greatly affected - and must abide by EU law - though it has no say in the making of EU Law.

This week the House of Commons Library (which is an excellent, independent, research body) published a paper about leaving the EU. http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/RP13-42.pdf. It's well worth reading. The Times wrote "Britain would face a huge bill from the EU and may still have to obey many of its rules should voters opt to leave Europe, an independent analysis has warned."

The summary states -

"The Treaty on European Union provides for a Member State to leave the EU, either on the basis of a negotiated withdrawal agreement or without one. If the UK were to leave the EU following a referendum, it is likely that the Government would negotiate an agreement with the EU, which would probably contain transitional arrangements as well as provide for the UK’s long-term future relations with the EU. There is no precedent for such an agreement, but it would in all likelihood come at the end of complex and lengthy negotiations.

The full impact of a UK withdrawal is impossible to predict, but from an assessment of the current EU role in a range of policy areas, it is possible to identify issues and estimate some of the impacts of removing the EU role in these areas. The implications would be greater in areas such as agriculture, trade and employment than they would in, say, education or culture.

As to whether UK citizens would benefit from leaving the EU, this would depend on how the UK Government of the day filled the policy gaps left by withdrawal from the EU. In some areas, the environment, for example, where the UK is bound by other international agreements, much of the content of EU law would probably remain. In others, it might be expedient for the UK to retain the substance of EU law, or for the Government to remove EU obligations from UK statutes.

Much would depend on whether the UK sought to remain in the European Economic Area (EEA) and therefore continue to have access to the single market, or preferred to go it alone and negotiate bilateral agreements with the EU."

Thursday 4 July 2013

Independence Day

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

My great fear is that this sacred day has become, for some, a day of mindless flag waving - the celebration of a secular cult of "America". As the famous words quoted above make clear - it should be about the revolutionary ideas which led to the establishment of the United States.

"All men are created equal" - an idea which was revolutionary. The Romans had their slaves. In the Middle Ages feudalism was based on a hierarchy with Monarchs at the top and unfree people at the base. The British Parliament was divided into two Chambers - one for the Lords and one for the representatives of the "Commons" - but only a tiny proportion of the people had a vote.

Of course, the implications of this revolutionary idea were resisted. The USA retained slaves - and the last few days have just seen the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg - afterwards on the site of the battle, Lincoln spoke of "the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.". Today, slavery continues to exist. Inequality has increased - while a very rich, very powerful elite grow ever richer and are able to "buy" political influence (and avoid contributing to the 'common wealth') - the rest of us have to work harder, for longer (if we can get a job in the mess that has been left after the (predictable) failure of neo-liberal economic theories). There are unforgiveable disparities between the life expectancies of the rich and the poor - even within the "wealthy" countries. It is time to renew again the fight for "equality".

I have to admit to being angered by those who boast of their 'conservatism' and claim to be the inheritors of the spirit (and Constitution) of the Founding Fathers. They mouth the words, but deny its application. America was founded on the principle of "Equality". I was so pleased to hear the rationale given in US v Windsor.

"DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect. By doing so it violates basic due process and equal protection principles applicable to the Federal Government. See U. S. Const., Amdt. 5; Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U. S. 497 (1954).  The Constitution’s guarantee of equality “must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot” justify disparate treatment of that group. Depart­ment of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U. S. 528, 534–535 (1973). In determining whether a law is motived by an improper animus or purpose, “‘[d]iscriminations of an unusual character’” especially require careful consideration. Supra, at 19 (quoting Romer, supra, at 633).  DOMA cannot survive under these principles."

We need to face down those who claim to be constitutionalists, who actually reject the principles which motivated the founding fathers.

The other principle central to the Founding Fathers' thought (also rejected by these people) is the idea of the positive value of 'government'.  The Declaration of Independence puts at the heart of its argument the idea that "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men" - and the Constitution's preamble states "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America"

Happy Independence Day!

Wednesday 3 July 2013

The Glorious Revolution

A century before the American and French revolutions that will be celebrated this month, we in Britain had our own - very British - revolution. To paraphrase - James II got too big for his boots and tried, like his father, to push Parliament around. He was run out of town. William and Mary were invited to become the new monarchs - but with strictly limited powers. If there had been any doubt before, it was expressly resolved - that the Sovereign [the ultimate source of power within the State] was no longer the monarch, but Parliament.

The "Bill of Rights" 1689 is not a charter of individual rights (as the first 10 amendments to the US Constitution are), but a clear statement of the rights of Parliament. Like the Magna Carta, it is an important statute within UK Constitutional Law.

It can be read here and its significance explained here.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Magna Carta

"The Great Charter" is the name (in Latin), given to the document agreed to by King John at Runnymede. It's a document worth reading every so often.- - the foundation of our liberties.

The principle of proportionality can be found - "For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood..... in proportion to the gravity of their offence."

+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

+ (40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.

(these two sections remain the law of the land)

This blog has frequently revisited the subject of "Magna Carta" - just type the phrase in the search engine on the right of this page.

Monday 1 July 2013

Croatia's accession to the European Union

Explanatory Press Release from the European Commission
Croatia's accession to the European Union on 1 July will mark another milestone in completing the construction of the EU. It provides fresh evidence of the transformative power of EU enlargement policy: torn by conflict only two decades ago, the country is now a stable democracy, capable of taking on the obligations of EU membership and of adhering to EU standards. This is a powerful signal for the whole Western Balkans and also a proof of the credibility of the EU enlargement policy .
This document outlines the institutional implications of the accession of Croatia to the European Union as it becomes its 28th Member State.
European Commission: appointment of new Commissioner
Mr Neven Mimica was named by Croatia as Commissioner-designate on 25 April 2013. President Barroso has indicated his intention to assign to Mr Mimica the portfolio of consumer protection.
After the necessary consultation of the European Parliament earlier in June, the Council will now appoint, by common accord with the President of the Commission, the new Commissioner, so as to allow him to take up his post on 1 July 2013.
Mr Neven Mimica is currently the Deputy Prime Minister for Home, Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia. He has a long-standing commitment to European integration with extensive experience as a Minister and diplomatic adviser.
Seats in the European Parliament
Croatia will hold 12 seats in the European Parliament. The first elections for Members of the European Parliament took place in Croatia on 14 April. In accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the number of Members of the European Parliament must be reduced from 766 after Croatia's accession to 751 – this will be applicable for the elections in 2014.
European Council
Croatia will have 7 votes. The qualified majority threshold will raise to 260 (out of a total of 352 votes).

Washminster is back!

Finally, Washminster returns. My apologies for the delayed return. The demands on my time in June were greater than expected.

This month contains two important national days - those of France and the United States. Both celebrate a common theme - Liberty. Government's which lacked the consent of the people were ultimately removed. In both cases this involved the use of force. The Americans resisted the forces of the British Crown and eventually won the right to select their own government. In France the King resisted the will of the people - and was removed. Now both countries have systems which allow for the peaceful transfer of power. The people are regarded as sovereign.

In Britain, we have no national day - but instead enjoy the fruits of centuries of struggle for our rights. Parliament, not the Monarch is sovereign. (Recommended reading for any students of constitutional law is the book below -)

There is universal suffrage, and our liberties are now protected by the Human Rights Act 1998. Attempts by the authorities to search property or detain individuals without lawful cause were resisted by the Courts. Freedom of speech was upheld. But new challenges arise! In coming weeks this blog will consider the milestones in the histories of our shared Liberties - and the current challenges.

Welcome back!