Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 22 July 2009


William Hague: "Institutional centralisation will not supply what Europe really needs to develop in world affairs"
The FT reports that a speech given yesterday by Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, entitled "The future of British foreign policy under a Conservative government", was greeted with "dismay" by European diplomats as they warned that the Conservative vision would downgrade Britain's relations with Europe.

Hague said: "This is not a speech about European policy: our belief that the European Union needs to focus on the issues of global competitiveness, global poverty and climate change is well-known, as is our opposition to the greater centralisation of power in the EU, as embodied in the Lisbon Treaty."

He said: "We see that Treaty as leading to institutional conflict within the EU, for instance, between the President and the High Representative on Foreign Policy, and a loss of democratic decision-making in nation states, a profound problem that the German Constitutional Court raised in its recent decision on the Lisbon Treaty. Institutional centralisation will not supply, and is even displacement activity for, what Europe really needs to develop in world affairs, which is the political will to use its collective weight effectively and a focus on practical results."

He described the Commonwealth as "an organisation which in our view has been neglected and undervalued under the Labour government in Britain", suggesting that Britain should strengthen its alliance with Commonwealth allies such as India.

Hague also said a Conservative government would target relations with the Balkans as a top priority. "It is vital too that the EU does not give up on enlargement. A European Union without the Western Balkans would forever have a disillusioned and disenchanted hole near its centre," he said.

The FT notes that after the speech, a "senior diplomat from a European Union nation" said "if this is really how they view things, then there is going to be a very difficult relationship between Britain and the EU if the Conservatives win."

Another senior diplomat from a leading EU state said: "I'm fairly relaxed because I don't think this stance on the EU will meet with approval in the US. I think the Obama people will tell a Conservative government that Washington wants full UK engagement in Europe to continue. I don't think the Conservatives will ignore that."

In the Times, Brownen Maddox describes Hague's speech as "his best speech to date on the Conservatives' foreign policy" but notes that it didn't "fill in the gaps about the Tories' views on Europe, over which the party continues to show as much capacity for internal conflict as does the EU itself."
Times: Maddox Conservative Home Comment is Free: MacShane FT EurActiv Comment is Free: Kettle William Hague's speech

On his Telegraph blog, Dan Hannan hat-tips Open Europe for Irish Foreign Minister Minister Micheál Martin's comments to German daily FAZ: "democracies are complex...Wouldn't a dictatorship be delightfully simple?" Hannan argues, "the fact is that he's on to something. Democracy and the EU sit uneasily together."
Telegraph: Hannan blog OE press summary

Daniel Kawczynski: Foreign officials say Gordon Brown looks "bored" at EU meetings
During a debate in Parliament yesterday about Britain's relations with the EU, Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois argued "The post of EU President does not exist at present, but the creation of the post by the Lisbon treaty and now the former Prime Minister's candidature have huge potential consequences for the way in which the EU is run, for our relationship with the EU and, given Tony Blair's relationship with the present Prime Minister, for British domestic politics as well. Of course, we are opposed to the Lisbon treaty, so we do not want the post to be created at all. It is particularly presumptuous of the Labour party to raise the prospect of his having the job before the treaty is even ratified."

He said: "The post of EU President, were it ever to come about, would, particularly in the hands of a well known and ambitious politician such as Mr. Blair, have the potential to become a very powerful yet, importantly, unelected office. That raises real concerns."

Meanwhile, Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski said of Gordon Brown: "I have spoken to many foreign officials who say that he looks bored at European Union meetings, treats Heads of State with disdain and does not follow basic diplomatic protocol".

British student to be extradited to Greece after controversial investigation
The BBC reports that Andrew Symeou, a London student will be extradited to Greece under the European Arrest Warrant to face a manslaughter trial after the House of Lords refused to hear his extradition appeal. Jago Russell of Fair Trials International is quoted saying: "The case against Andrew Symeou is built on mistaken identity, conflicting evidence and a flawed police investigation. It is a tragedy that, despite this, the British courts have ordered this young man's extradition to Greece where he could spend months in jail before his case is even heard by a court."BBC Justice for Symeou Fair Trials International Open Europe Research OE blog

Hedge fund industry remains hopeful that EU Directive can be altered
The Guardian reports that representatives of the hedge fund industry are expected to talk to EU officials in September after the summer break regarding the EU's proposed directive on the regulation of hedge funds. Doug Shaw, Managing Director at BlackRock, is quoted saying, "I think there's a good chance that the directive will be re-drafted once we've had the opportunity to make our points". The paper reports that the industry remains hopeful that change to the Directive are possible.

According to EU sources, the rapporteur for the EU's proposed directive on hedge funds will be Austrian MEP Othmar Karas, a member of the EPP grouping in the European Parliament.
Guardian CityAM

Commission promises financial help for milk farmers
As farmers protest in Brussels today in favour of a freeze or even a reduction of milk quotas in order to stop falling prices, the European Commission has promised further financial help to farmers in order to stabilise the milk market, reports FAZ.

Sueddeutsche writes that a 5 percent decrease in the number of cows on the market would improve the farmers' situation. Helmut Born of the German farmers' association supports the idea, saying "if we get rid of about 1.5 million cows in Europe, the price of milk would remain higher". He added that "for every slaughtered cow the farmer would receive 400 to 500 Euros in EU money."

Meanwhile Vox reports that Spain and Finland would gain from CAP reform despite the fact that they oppose it.
Sueddeutsche 1 Sueddeutsche 2 DNA Euronews Expansion EUobserver

EU to issue guidance on bank restructuring
The Guardian reports that the EU is to issue new guidance tomorrow requiring banks which have been bailed out by European governments to sell off certain assets and shrink their businesses. The EU is not expected to give specific guidance on each of the 70 banks which have received taxpayer handouts, but will set out broad guidelines, giving banks up to five years to complete any restructuring.

Verhofstadt: The Commission is the centre of the EU's "power-making machine"
In an interview with the FT, ALDE group leader in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, says, "In my opinion - and in the opinion of the founding fathers of the European Union - the Commission is really the centre of the power-making machine of the European Union. It is the only institution that has the right of initiative".

Swedish Daily DN writes that EU ministers for the environment will meet in Are, Sweden this weekend to discuss policy ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit.

EU visa plans criticised by Balkan media
TAZ reports that the citizens of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro should be allowed to travel visa-free to the EU's borderless Schengen area by January 2010; however Albania, Bosnia and Kosovo are excluded from this decision. Protesting against this plan, the Heinz-Schwarzkopf-Stiftung and TAZ have initiated a petition demanding a just visa policy by the EU.

Meanwhile, in a interview with the General-Anzeiger Bonn, the President of Kosovo, Fatmir Sejdiu, stressed that it is very unfortunate that his country is excluded from the EU plans to grant visa-free travel within EU's Schengen area to several countries.
Taz Petition

The Irish Times reports that the Irish Farmers' Association is to campaign in favour of a Yes vote in the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in October, and is asking farmers not to use the referendum as a protest vote against the Irish government.
Irish Independent Irish Times OE blog Open Europe press release

The BBC reports that the European Space Agency will officially open its new research centre in Britain today. It will focus on science and exploration, and will be particularly aimed at robotics and climate change. Most of the £250m a year spent by Britain on space activity is channelled through ESA.

Euractiv reports that UK hauliers will today make a formal complaint to the EU Commission against the French government for failing to prevent port blockades in France. The Federation of Small Businesses commented, "The free movement of goods, freedom of establishment and freedom to provide services are the cornerstones of the internal market. Member states act contrary to the Treaty if they fail to secure these freedoms within their territory."
Euractiv FT

Le Temps states that if Tony Blair becomes President of the European Council, "the EU would probably gain a face, but many would have the impression of losing part of their soul."
Courrier International

Former Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen has reportedly received support for the post of EU President. Lipponen called such support "interesting" but it is still unclear if he will run for the post that will be created if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified.
NewsRoom Finland

Sweden's Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt has said that Iceland is likely to table its EU membership application this week. He said that Iceland's accession would "bring the EU into direct contact with the environmentally important arctic region, with its new shipping routes".
EP press release EUobserver

The FT writes that car part suppliers are pressuring the EU to support a €3bn loan facility which would help protect against bankruptcies. Ivan Hodac, Chief Executive of the European carmakers' association has said: "We need a pan-European guarantee. This would show the EU really exists".

The IHT writes that US Vice President Joseph Biden said yesterday that the United States would continue to support Ukraine's bid to join NATO despite Russia's objections.

EUobserver reports that the European Commission is divided over a free trade deal with South Korea, with further discussions being postponed until September.

Daily Nation reports that Zimbabwe and the EU are set to begin formal talks this week, a decade after the EU imposed sanctions against President Mugabe for human rights violations.
Daily Nation

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