Monday, July 21, 2008

Open Europe press summary: 21 July 2008

Open Europe


Irish farmers to use Lisbon issue to force protectionist outcome in Doha talks

The Doha Round of world trade talks are close to collapse this week, with states still failing to reach an agreement. Developing nations are still pressing for the "big three" - the US, Europe and Japan - to lower farm subsidies and tariffs, whilst the industrialised states are still demanding further concessions from the developing world and more accessible markets for services and manufactured goods.

The EU Trade Commissioner, Peter Mandelson, has stressed that failure in the talks would be "a counsel of despair" for the world, adding that "If we can't, after all this time, bring these negotiations to a successful conclusion, what hope is there in coming to terms with all the other problems facing us?" Jose Manuel Barroso has called for a "balanced agreement", warning Europe's leaders that a "major contribution" would need to be made to secure agreement. However, frictions remain within Europe.

The Irish press today reports that Ireland's farmers are attempting to link the trade talks with the issue of a possible second vote on the Lisbon Treaty. Irish Farmers' Association President PƔdraig Walshe said "I will explain the Taoiseach's veto commitment to Irish farmers and I will urge him as president of the European Council to oppose Mandelson's sell-out next week in Geneva... I will also explain to President Sarkozy that if the WTO deal on the table this week were to go through, it would profoundly damage support in rural Ireland for a future Lisbon referendum."

Walshe notes that Irish farmers had largely voted in favour of Lisbon, but that "if Mandelson gets his way", this situation could be reversed: "Any survey taken has shown that in excess of two-thirds of farmers voted Yes in the treaty, far bigger than any other sector of the community. But the threat of the WTO has not gone away, and the decisions likely to be made in Geneva this coming week will have a profound effect on the attitude of rural communities across this country in regard to any future Lisbon vote," the IFA president said.

EUobserver notes that "Eoin Ryan, a member of the European Parliament and government Fianna Fail party, noted that France has been an ally of Ireland in the past and particularly now during the ongoing world trade liberalisation talks, with Paris and Dublin both forming part of a more protectionist camp."

Irish Times Irish Independent 2 The Times The Times 2 Mortishead EU referendum Observer EUobserver EUbusiness Deutsche Welle Irish Independent Charter

French EU Presidency endorses plan for University of Europe in Strasbourg

The Sunday Express reported that the French EU Presidency is planning to create a University of Europe, based in Strasbourg and funded by the taxpayer, for people wanting to understand the "history of Europe and the European spirit." On Friday Agence Europe reported that the French government was planning to endorse the project, which was drawn up by the French Foundation for Political Innovation in a working paper.

The paper says the idea is to create a place for the "study and appreciation of the spirit and values of a united Europe", which would be run by the European Commission. According to the paper plans for the University are already underway: "In late March 2008 in the lead-up to France's assumption of the European Union presidency from 1 July 2008, a group of academics, together with representatives of the French and international governments, and members of the European Parliament gathered at the Fondation pour l'Innovation Politique in Paris to discuss options for the creation of a University of Europe."

OE blog FIP working paper

Sarkozy in Dublin today amidst 'second referendum' controversy

Nicolas Sarkozy arrives in Dublin today for talks which the front page of the Irish Independent describes as a "debacle". EUobserver notes that "Most analysts suggest that if the Lisbon Treaty is still to go into force - as Germany and France are pushing for - Ireland will have to have a second referendum."

A source at the ElyseƩ is quoted in Le Figaro saying, "It isn't about putting pressure on the Irish. We well understand that they have expressed themselves democratically. But so have the other 26!" The leader of the Irish opposition Labour Party Eamon Gilmore is quoted saying, "The idea that President Sarkozy can come to Ireland to persuade us to change our minds is a bit arrogant." The Irish Times notes that "senior Government figures have privately accepted that the controversy surrounding arrangements for the visit has already caused significant damage."

Irish PM Brian Cowen has warned Sarkozy that any further interventions on behalf of the French President will risk "swelling the ranks" of the No campaign. Cowen has a comment piece in the Irish Times arguing that "I fully respect the verdict of the Irish people, and I have made that clear to my European colleagues. And I have made clear that I expect them to do likewise." However, he warned that other EU states "are entitled to remind us of their own concerns, and to ask whether the union's record of working for consensus is to be jettisoned on the back of the Irish vote".

AFP reports that demonstrators will campaign with the message "No means no". Sarkozy will attend a round table forum with representatives of the No and Yes camps. Those attending from the No camp include Libertas chairman Declan Ganley, former Green Party MEP Patricia McKenna, who played a leading role in the People's Movement campaign against the Treaty, Richard Boyd-Barrett of the People Before Profit Alliance, and UCD academic Dr Andy Storey, who will represent development organisation Afri.

In the Irish Sunday Independent Gene Kerrigan criticised Brian Cowen for going along with "the arrogance of the elites, in their attempts to sideline democracy", which, he says, "undermines the whole EU project." He notes, "He approached his fellow leaders apologetically. He stayed mute when Irish EU membership was sneered at and threatened. The reaction of Mr Cowen, Mr Sarkozy, and the rest has confirmed every democrat's worst fears about the nature and purpose of the EU elites. Then, Mr Sarkozy announced he was coming to have words. Publicly, he wanted merely to 'listen and understand'. In secret, he was laying down the law."

A leader in the Irish Sunday Independent argued that "Sarkozy should heed our verdict", arguing, "If he refuses to budge from his belief that Ireland must vote again, and again, until we give the right answer, Mr. Sarkozy will create a genuine European crisis."

Today's Irish Independent says in a leader that Sarkozy "made a crucial mistake when he said bluntly that Ireland would have to vote again on the Lisbon Treaty... he gave a strong, and apparently all too well founded, appearance of arrogance and bullying."

John Lichfield in a comment piece in the Independent on Sunday described the Irish no vote was "a very shabby and foolish act".

Sunday Independent leader Gene Kerrigan Telegraph Fist Full of Euros The Times Irish Times Irish Times Cowen Irish Times EUobserver EUbusiness Die Presse BBC Irish Independent Irish Independent leader Irish Independent Kerr Le Figaro AFP

Independent on Sunday Irish Times

Ganley to put forward anti-Lisbon candidates in European elections

Declan Ganley, head of the anti-treaty group Libertas, has promised to put forward candidates in every country in the European elections next summer, in order to give Europeans an effective referendum on Lisbon. Ganley told the BBC Today programme: "The sentiment is even stronger now, I would say, for a 'no' than it was previously because President Sarkozy last week seemed to be issuing orders from Paris that the Irish people would have to vote again... Of course we've had our vote, the debate is over in Ireland, we're not going to be debating the Lisbon Treaty anymore... The Lisbon Treaty is dead". He argued that "All the people in Europe should have their say" on any proposed constitution.

"If those governments won't give us a referendum then perhaps we should be giving them one by using the 2009 European elections in June as a proxy referendum opportunity to make sure that the Lisbon Treaty is not dug up out of the grave which the Irish people have put it in".

BBC - Today Programme Sunday Telegraph

Credit risk divergence in Eurozone exposes tensions in currency area

The FT reports on growing fears among investors over the divergence of credit risk across eurozone countries. Traditional indicators of risk in debt markets, such as the price of credit default swaps (CDS) and 10 year bond yields, have all risen significantly in Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. In contrast, however, these indicators have faired relatively well in Germany and France, suggesting the two biggest economies in the eurozone are holding up better in the bleak economic climate.

Bankers expressed their concern over having to set a 'one size fits all' interest rate for 15 countries with economies that are diverging in terms of growth, public finances and credit worthiness. In both cases the forecast is worrying; with such huge variations it is unlikely that the ECB will be able to tailor monetary policy to everyone's needs.


The News of the World reported that UKIP MEP Jeffrey Titford and his chief political adviser are being questioned by police over an allegation of "financial irregularities", following a complaint by UKIP's Chairman in Ipswich and East Suffolk.

No link

The Economist's Europe blog has commented on the "hysteria" in the European press over the upcoming visit of US Presidential candidate Barack Obama. The paper warns that too much acclaim in Europe could hurt Mr Obama's election chances, "just ask John Kerry".

Economist: Certain ideas of Europe

Member states query 'Barroso's billion' for third world farmers

EUobserver reports that the European Commission on Friday proposed to deliver 1 billion euros in emergency funding over the next two years to the developing world. A number of member states however are critical of the plan, saying that while something must be done to deal with the crisis, "Barroso's billion" - as one diplomat called the emergency fund - is not the way to go about it. Open Europe's Hugo Robinson was quoted in the Express on Saturday questioning the effectiveness of the plan.

EUobserver Express

The WSJ reports that European space programs are resurgent, being linked with broader foreign policy goals for the first time.


Sarkozy has renewed his calls for more political control of the European Central Bank.


Le Figaro reports that EU Commission President Jose Barroso wants a second mandate. He told Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad, "If I had to take a decision today, I would say yes."


Belgian woes continue - a lesson for the EU?

The Observer reported on the possible collapse of the Belgian state. Ahead of Belgium's National Day today, the paper suggested relations between the two main communities "appear close to irrevocable breakdown". Embattled Prime Minister Yves Leterme sees greater devolution in what is already Europe's most federalised state as the solution.

However the Francophone Walloon community is economically worse off than their Flemish counterparts and rely on generous state-subsidies; they would reject any proposed breaking up of an already weak central government. The Flemish community are "enraged" by perceived Walloon opposition to reform and many are becoming "resentful" at the level of tax revenue which leaves the rich north for the south. Any collapse of Belgium could see EU institutions fleeing the disputed capital, Brussels.

Meanwhile, on his FT blog, Gideon Rachmann draws parallels between Belgium and the EU.

Observer Gideon Rachmann's FT blog

EU green targets led to "fantasy" turbine plans

Writing in the Sunday Telegraph Christopher Booker criticised Gordon Brown's plans to build 3,000 giant wind turbines in British coastal waters. Mr Brown believes the wind turbines are necessary in order to meet Britain's EU target of 32% of electricity coming from "renewables" by 2020. Booker points out that the plan is almost physically impossible, illogical (the number of turbines would require numerous gas-fired back-up plants) and economically unsound with nuclear power far cheaper and more efficient.

No link

Commission admits vegetable standard rules make no sense

The Sunday Times reported on the EU's plans to reform the rules governing the size and shape of fruit and vegetables in the EU, which are often so strict that thousands of tonnes of fruit and vegetables are discarded each year because of their size or appearance. A spokesperson for the Commission said: "In these days of high food prices it's silly to throw stuff away. It doesn't make sense". The plans are likely to be supported by Britain, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, but France, Spain, Italy and other countries are expected to oppose the plan, claiming that the standards "play an important role in market operations while protecting consumers". Critics suspect they are just protecting their vested interests.

Sunday Times

Reports over the weekend suggest that Peking duck faces extinction due to EU regulations. Eleven restaurants have already had their ovens shutdown in London alone.

Mail on Sunday

From January 1 2010 it will be illegal for Britain to use the acre as an official unit of measurement.

Daily Express The Sun


The Mail on Sunday reported that Gordon Brown's own Cabinet is plotting to challenge his leadership within months, according to Graham Stringer MP.

No link

There was wide reporting on Sunday that Brown has backed a plan to withdraw troops from Iraq before the next General Election.

Independent on Sunday

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