Thursday, January 24, 2008

Open Europe - January 24, 2008

Open Europe


70,000 Nottingham voters to have their say on revised EU Constitution

The front page of the Nottingham Evening Post reports the announcement by the 'East Midlands for a Referendum' campaign that a vote on the revised EU Constitution will take place in the parliamentary constituency of Gedling. The referendum will give 70,000 residents a chance to have their say on the issue. Every voter in Gedling will receive a postal ballot and booklet explaining the issues. Home Office Minister Vernon Coaker is the local MP.

Nottingham Evening Post

Labour MPs try to limit EU's power over NHS

Amendments to the bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty are being put down by MPs. Labour MPs Jon Trickett, Colin Burgon, Jon Cruddas, and Frank Dobson are trying to block the Commission from gaining new powers over the NHS.


Open Europe in list of UK's top think tanks

We are featured in a list in the Telegraph of the UK's top dozen think tanks.


LibDem bloggers turn on Clegg over EU referendum

Iain Dale notes that "There seems to be some disquiet in the LibDems about their line on a European referendum." Norfolk Blogger argues "I do think we are as a party being led by the nose because of a clique of people, on high, who are so in love with the EU that they cannot bare to see it questioned... I think we, the Lib Dems, have a chance to prove we truly listen to the public on issues here, and we are gifting the opportunity to the Tories... Come on Nick Clegg, prove that the Lib Dems trust the public and let's not appear to be running scared."

Stephen Tall on Lib Dem Voice notes "It does not sit well with the widely-proclaimed belief of both candidates during the leadership contest that the party needed to become more spiky, anti-establishment, and to put the people - not politicians - in control of their own lives... On principle, and in campaigning terms, I think the party has made a mistake."
Norfolk Blogger Quaequam Stephen Tall Gavin Whenman Paul Walter
Iain Dale

EU renewable energy targets to cost family of four in UK up to £730 a year

Open Europe's findings that the EU's plans for renewable targets would cost the average family of four in the UK up to £730 a year are reported in the Mail, Telegraph, Sun, Express and Evening Standard. The Express reported on Open Europe's estimate that EU biofuel targets would push 60 million people in the developing world into food insecurity and increase family food bills in the UK by £50 - £65 a year. Open Europe's Hugo Robinson was quoted in the Telegraph arguing against binding targets for renewables and biofuels: "Everyone agrees that we need big cuts in our emissions. But this is not the most cost effective way to do it. The European Commission's proposal would lead to unnecessarily high costs, particularly for poor pensioners. Biofuels targets have got almost nothing to do with helping the environment, and a lot to do with bolstering the CAP. Targets for biofuels should be dropped immediately."

A leader in the FT takes a similar line, backing EU targets for absolute emissions reductions, but arguing that it is wrong to favour renewables over more cost effective means of carbon reduction: "Most damagingly, the privileged status of renewables takes the focus away from energy efficiency, by far the lowest-cost means of reducing emissions... the framework should be technology blind. Brussels should not be in the business of picking winners." The Times agrees, arguing that "Renewables have their place in any energy policy, and it must grow fast, but it should be for member states to decide how fast. Instead, over-investment in unproven or inappropriate technologies is now a racing certainty, as is a wholly ill-advised biofuels bonanza. As the Commission's own advisers have noted, biofuels drive up the price of food, guarantee no net carbon reduction and carry the risk of significant carbon increase if grown at the expense of grassland or forest." The Guardian argues that "bits of the plan are disappointing. Why does the EU insist on wasteful biofuels being used for road transport? It is hard to see it as anything other than yet another sop to European farmers."

The EU's 10% biofuel target has been heavily criticised by various NGOs, quoted on EUobserver. "Most biofuels now appear to be worse for the climate than oil," said Friends of the Earth Europe's Sonja Meister. "The sustainability criteria proposed by the European Commission... can't deal with macro-level impacts such as displacement and increased food prices," said Stella Semino of Argentina's Grupo de Reflexión Rural. "The European Commission's failure to act on the many warnings is shockingly irresponsible," said Corporate Europe Observatory spokesperson Nina Holland.

Mail Sun Telegraph Express Evening Standard FT leader Times Times leader El País BBC BBC BBC EUobserver Guardian Guardian leader IHT Independent Independent leader Guardian Comment Telegraph Open Europe blog EUobserver

Click here for Open Europe's briefing note on the EU renewable energy and biofuel targets, and here for the press release.

Belgian steelworkers strike against EU climate change plans

The IHT reports that for the first time in Europe thousands of steel workers at ArcelorMittal factories in Belgium walked off the job this week in protest against EU policies to combat climate change. "You could call this the first carbon dioxide industrial action," said Fabrice Jacquemart, a spokesman for the FGTB union. "There is something utterly absurd about a policy that creates more unemployment in Europe."

The Independent reports that the Drax power station in the UK expects to have to drop power output dramatically, and will eventually be taken over by a large integrated power company.

IHT Independent

The BBC notes that the UK is planning 'to ignore' suggestions from the EU Commission that revenues from auctioning of permits under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme should be ring-fenced for investment in low carbon generation - proceeds would instead go into the general Treasury budget.


Lawyers and officials warn of trade war over green tariffs

The FT reports that plans being floated by the US Senate and the European Commission to force importers to pay the same greenhouse gas emission charges as domestic producers could provoke a trade war of retaliation and litigation, officials and lawyers have warned. The plans are intended to prevent production shifting to laxer regimes abroad after countries impose carbon controls. But although supporters argue they will comply with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt), the treaty that underlies the World Trade Organisation, officials and lawyers say that affected countries such as China and India are likely to resort to litigation or retaliation. Ujal Singh Bhatia, India's ambassador to the WTO, said: "If the countries imposing such measures invoke Gatt provisions to justify them, the dispute settlement mechanism in [the] WTO would face serious challenges and create divisions along North-South lines." An analysis piece argues, "The new debate over carbon border taxes adds new tension to a trade system already struggling with faltering negotiations in the so-called 'Doha round' of trade talks and the outbreak of protectionist rhetoric across the US and Europe."

FT FT Analysis

VAT ruling to cost Treasury £1 billion after Government found to be in breach of EU law

According to PA, the Treasury is facing a flood of claims by UK businesses seeking to recover up to £1 billion in overpaid VAT after the Court of Appeal ruled that the Government's introduction of a time limit imposed on business making claims for overpaid tax in 1997 was unlawful under EU law. The House of Lords upheld the appeal judges' ruling that the law was in breach of EU law principles of "effectiveness and legal certainty" and must therefore be disapplied. "To be compatible with EU law, taxpayers were entitled to be told in advance of transitional arrangements that would enable them to submit late accrued claims for the deduction of input tax despite the introduction of the time limit," said Lord Hope.

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AFP reports that according to French Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeux, the European pact on immigration which France plans to propose during its EU Presidency will include "a refusal of mass regulariations of illegals."

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The Council of Europe has backed a report saying the use of terrorist black-lists by the UN and the EU violate fundamental rights.


EU slams UK over deteriorating state of budget

The European Commission has criticised the UK in its annual report card on public finances, warning that the budget deficit has deteriorated badly over the last year and may soon breach the legal requirements of the Maastricht Treaty.


Hungary calls for CAP to be cut

The Hungarian Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsany, has questioned the need for agricultural subsidies. "We have to put this question very openly on the table", he said, "We have to revise the CAP not just because Britain or Germany are fed up with parts of it, but because the situation has changed globally and the market has changed globally."

IHT - no link


Migrants add to pressure as council tax soars

Appearing before MPs in Parliament yesterday, council leaders said a sharp rise in the number of immigrants had put strains on public services, leading to a rise in council tax bills. Sir Simon Milton, the chairman of the Local Government Association and leader of Westminster council, said last night: "Some areas have found themselves short-changed because flows of migration have been underestimated, leaving them poorly equipped to deal with significant numbers of migrants."


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