EuropeAdmiral insurance group expects increased profits at expense of consumers after ECJ rulingThe Telegraph reports that insurance group Admiral has said that it expects profits to rise as a result of the ECJ’s ruling to enforce unisex pricing for insurance products. Henry Engelhardt, Chief Executive, told the Evening Standard,“As an insurer I'm pleased. We will raise rates for young women, we won't bring them down much for young men. That means more profit.”
Yesterday’s Times’ leader cited extensively from Open Europe’s briefing on the potential impact of the ruling and argued, “The EU already suffers from a democratic deficit. The common sense deficit now being displayed by its principal court will make the Union even more unpopular with citizens who would like to live, and drive, without excessive and expensive interference.” Open Europe’s calculation that the ruling is expected to cost young women drivers £4,300 by the time they are 26, continues to receive coverage and is cited by NPR, Business Week, Czech television CT24 and Belgian website Express.be.
Open Europe research Open Europe press release Times: Leader NPR Business Week CT24 Express Liberty Times Telegraph Evening Standard ABC Irish Independent: Devlin
MEPs seek another office allowance increase
European Voice reports that the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgets will today assess a new request to increase MEPs’ office allowance by a monthly €1,500, which would amount to a €13.2m transfer from the Parliament’s reserve budget. The monthly office allowance covers parliamentary assistance expenses, and was already increased by €1,500 last year following MEPs’ claims that they have a heavier workload under the Lisbon Treaty. The article notes that a study showed that a total of €153m was spent on assistants last year, meaning that, on average, MEPs spent a monthly €17,320 on staffing.
EU increases aid to Libya to €10m;
Divisions between NATO members over no-fly zoneEU Commission President José Manuel Barroso yesterday announced that the EU will increase emergency aid for Libya from €3m to €10m; EU Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva will oversee spending in the region. Barroso said that a further €25m will be made available to help Italy and Malta cope with a potential wave of immigration.
El Pais reports that France and Turkey are opposed to the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya, leaving a NATO led initiative unlikely for the moment. US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates yesterday warned the US Congress that establishing a no-flight zone over Libya would have to begin with an attack on the country’s air defences, reports IHT. Al Jazeera reports that the Arab League has said it may impose a "no fly" zone on Libya in co-ordination with the African Union if fighting continues, but it dismissed plans for any direct military intervention.
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Merkel to resist Irish bailout renegotiationFollowing a meeting with the Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that it was not possible to "artificially lower" the interest rates charged to the Irish State on its bailout deal. “We can't get to a point where Ireland pays lower interest rates than Portugal," she added.
Writing in the FT today Guy Verhofstadt, Jacques Delors and Romano Prodi argue that the Franco-German pact would be ineffective due to its “one size fits all” policies and “peer pressure” approach. In an interview with the FT, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, parliamentary leader of the SPD, has criticised the ‘pact for competitiveness’ saying that “not a single element is appropriate to end this European crisis”. He argues that the focus should be on fiscal policy, such as bond buy backs and extending the bailout fund. Steinmeier also said his party would back the government if it attempted a pan-European solution to the crisis.
The Portuguese government held a successful sale of €1bn in treasury bills but at an interest rate of 4.06%. This follows estimates yesterday by Barclays Capital that the ECB bought €19.5bn of the €21.7bn Portuguese bonds sold last year.
The European Banking Authority announced yesterday that the next banking stress tests will include a baseline and an extremely negative macroeconomic situation as well as country-specific shocks on property prices, interest rates and government borrowing. Separately, EUobserver reports that the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, may push for a referendum on adopting the euro this summer.
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On his Telegraph blog, Nile Gardiner notes that in 2009 the EU subsidised several US anti-death penalty groups to the tune of €2.6m through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR). “It is bad enough that Brussels consistently interferes with the internal affairs of EU member states, but it is surely a bridge too far when it tries to intervene in the affairs of one of the world’s greatest democracies that isn’t even part of the EU,” he argues.Telegraph: Gardiner
Seven year restriction on EU migrants’ welfare entitlements to endThe Times reports that there is “nervousness in Whitehall” about a possible rise in the UK’s benefits bill as restrictions on eligibility imposed on migrants from Central and Eastern Europe in 2004 are due to expire this year under EU law. It is estimated more than 100,000 migrants will be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance, housing and council tax benefit, potentially worth up to £250 a week per person. Reactions have been mixed, with employers’ organisations saying it would reduce the amount of red tape, while the group MigrationWatch warned of potential “benefit tourism”.
Euractiv quotes Socialist MEP Stavros Lambrinidis warning that the EU-funded INDECT surveillance project could introduce “Big Brother into our lives.” Lambrinidis warned that the project aims to access "all existing feeds in cameras, in the Internet, in DNA databases and even on personal computers”. It has received nearly £10m in EU funding.Euractiv Wikinews Neoconopticon EP Written Declaration Open Europe research
EUobserver reports that yesterday the European Commission urged Croatia to “redouble” its efforts on fighting corruption, prosecuting war criminals and reforming its judicial system in order to meet a June deadline for completing EU entry negotiations.FT EUobserver Irish Times
MEPs push for a financial transaction taxIn a letter to the Guardian, six MEPs from the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group propose the introduction of a tax on financial transactions, popularly referred to as the “Robin Hood tax”, claiming that for “too long the financial sector has been undertaxed… it is time for it to contribute its fair share”. They argue the EU ought to lead in this direction, even in the absence of a global agreement. Handelsblatt reports that Germany and Austria are looking to push ahead with plans for a financial transaction tax in all 17 eurozone member states.
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The Mail reports that the British Government has formally asked the European Court of Human Rights to review its controversial ruling on prisoners’ votes, arguing that one of the court’s main objections to Britain’s blanket ban - that Parliament had not considered the issue for more than a century - had now been addressed.
The Express is backing a campaign, also supported by some MPs, to either change the planned referendum on electoral reform, due to be held on 5 May, to one on the UK’s continued membership of the EU, or at least to also include the question.Express
EUobserver reports that yesterday thousands of HIV-positive demonstrators took to the streets in New Delhi over concerns that the free trade agreement being negotiated by India with the EU will end the production of affordable life-prolonging drugs.EUobserver
The IHT reports that Thomas de Maizière – who had been serving as Interior Minister since 2009 – has been appointed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel as the new German Defence Minister.IHT El Pais
AFP reports on a new poll conducted by the STEM Institute showing that the Czechs’ trust in the EU has fallen to an all-time-low of 46%. Only 39% of respondents said they were confident in the European Parliament.AFP
ABC reports that the EU yesterday launched its new satellite navigation system for civil aviation EGNOS, a precursor to Galileo.ABC
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Ashton’s bureaucratic empireOpen Europe Blog
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