Thursday, August 27, 2009

Open Europe: 27 August 2009


Ryanair to spend €500,000 promoting Yes in Lisbon Treaty referendum
The Irish Times reports that Ryanair is to spend €500,000 on advertising and cheaper airline seats in its campaign for a Yes vote in the second Lisbon Treaty referendum. Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary said that if the campaign was left to "Brian Cowen, Micheál Martin, and all the other incompetents", there was a possibility that people could vote No again. He also added, "I can think of no better reason to vote 'Yes to Europe' than doing the opposite of that recommended by some of the headbangers who are calling for a no vote", according to online business news service Business and Leadership.

When asked if he had read the Treaty, O'Leary said "Yes I have read the treaty. It is a f***ing pain in the arse of a document. I nearly died of boredom from reading it, but yes I have read the treaty".

Meanwhile, on Conservative Home's Centre Right blog, Conservative MEP Charles Tannock looks ahead to the European Parliament's next term and writes that, if Ireland were to vote No, "the EU, equally mindful of a likely Tory [general election] victory by the middle of next year, may seek some other emergency measure to push through the treaty before mid-2010 by in particular exerting pressure on the Czechs and Poles to sign the treaty, because while Ireland can be browbeaten and coerced quite easily on account of its size and influence, the UK is another proposition entirely."

Under the headline, "People of Ireland, vote 'Yes' for sex with Eastern Europeans", European Voice reports that a comedian has launched a book "100 reasons to vote yes to Lisbon II", which includes "Carla [Bruni] wants us to. And what Carla wants, Carla gets" and "it encourages a wider gene pool".
Conservative Home: Tannock Irish Independent EUobserver Business and Leadership Irish Times RTBF European Voice Open Europe blog

Darling under pressure to follow Sarkozy's lead on bankers' bonuses
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has unveiled new rules that aim to restrict bankers' bonuses, as well as delaying them until they can be seen to have been earned in order to end the emphasis on rewarding short-term performance. The regulations, which have the strong backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, would create some of the toughest ever regulation, with banks obliged to pay bonuses over three years, with no more than 50 percent paid upfront.

The Mail reports that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alastair Darling, has come under pressure to follow France's position, which is far stronger than the current system of guidelines from the UK's Financial Services Authority. In the FT, Peggy Hollinger argues that Mr Sarkozy's plans are not as harsh as they may seem, as they do not significantly differ from current practice and he could not risk "damaging competitiveness at the very moment when Paris hopes to snatch business from London". The issue of bankers' bonuses will be high on the agenda at September's G20 summit in Pittsburgh, where Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to lobby for the wider implementation of French rules.

Meanwhile, Le Figaro reports that Sweden, the holder of the EU presidency, is considering holding a mid-September EU summit in advance of the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. It claims the reaction of member states has been 'positive'.
WSJ: Analysis Mail FT FT: Hollinger French Foreign Office Le Figaro

EU Commissioners to retire with millions
The Parliament magazine reports on Open Europe's findings that EU Commissioners retiring this year will leave with over £1 million each in pension, transition and resettlement payments. This is in addition to the salary they earn, which also tops £1 million for a five-year term, and a host of other perks that Commissioners receive during their service, such as family allowances, subsistence and entertainment allowances.

The article quotes Open Europe's Sarah Gaskell saying, "Taxpayers around Europe, whose pensions have been swallowed up in the recession, will rightly question why they are footing such an enormous bill for a handful of remote officials who they never voted for in the first place."
The Parliament Open Europe press release Open Europe blog

Wide acceptance among German parties on the law to ratify Lisbon Treaty after first reading in the Bundestag
Following weeks of intense negotiations among the various political parties in Germany, an official reading on the new law, which is required by the German Constitutional Court in order to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, took place in the Bundestag yesterday.

Except for the Left Party or Die Linke, all parties agreed to ratify the required law before the German parliament elections on 27 September. That would subsequently enable the German government to ratify the Lisbon Treaty before the Irish referendum on 2 October. Maerkische Allgemeine reports that Gregor Gysi, head of the Left Party, accused the other parties of striving for a "Europe of elites" and of ignoring the critical opinion that huge part of the population holds on the EU.

The CSU continues to demand a resolution which obliges the German government to clarify that the Lisbon Treaty is only valid within the interpretation of the Constitutional Court judgment. Unlike before however, the CSU does not require such a resolution before agreeing to the new law to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. The SPD continues its strict opposition of the resolution.

The new law is split into four different bills. The main draft law - the so called law on "integration responsibility" (IntVG) - sets out parliamentary rights in case of EU treaty changes (simplified revision procedure), extension of EU law-making competences (flexibility clause), or when new voting procedures are introduced (the 'passerelle' clause). Before the government starts such negotiations in Brussels, it requires approval by law from the Bundestag or Bundesrat. Without such a law the government must refuse to agree such changes. The government can only differ from its mandate on grounds of important integration or foreign policy reasons, which requires extensive justification to the parliament.

Two further laws will lay down the cooperation between the federal government and the Bundestag as well as between the federal government and the Bundesrat (upper house). These laws shall ensure that the government notifies the parliament as early as possible on EU legislative initiatives and that its rights to issue statements on EU legislative acts will be strengthened. The fourth law includes the implementation of an amendment of the German Basic Law which has already been adopted by the parliament. This amendment will enable the Bundestag and Bundesrat to file constitutional complaints, as soon as the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, if they consider that EU legislative acts are in breach of the principle of subsidiarity.

The four draft laws will be finally decided on 8 September in the Bundestag and on 18 September by the Bundesrat.
Maerkische Allgemeine TAZ Berliner Morgenpost Der Westen FAZ Sueddeutsche Julian Frisch Blog The four new laws

EU's REACH Directive will lead to surge in animal testing and cost €9.5bn to implement, scientists warn
Reuters reports that scientists have warned that the European Union's REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals) legislation, which came into effect two years ago, requiring companies to assess the toxicity of chemicals that date from before the era of mandatory testing, will lead to a surge in animal testing and should be urgently reviewed. Euractiv reports that researchers at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have found that the regulation may need 54 million research animals and cost €9.5 billion to implement over the next 10 years - 20 times the number of animals and six times the cost previously anticipated.
Reuters EurActiv Helsingin Sanomat

Commission to publish proposals for resettlement of asylum seekers next week
European Voice reports that the European Commission will next week publish its proposals for the resettlement and burden sharing of asylum seekers throughout the EU. The article notes that the scope of the proposed scheme is likely to disappoint the Italian government, which has been calling for more EU help in dealing with the thousands of people who each year make the journey from North Africa to Italy.
European Voice

Prospect magazine's Brussels Diary notes that the UK's EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton is fighting competition from Shriti Vadera to keep her job when the next Commission is appointed in the autumn. The article suggests Ashton's close relationship with Commission President Jose Barroso will strengthen her chances.
No link

European Voice reports that Iceland's Parliament is expected to vote today on a proposed loan agreement to reimburse Dutch and British savers who lost money in the financial collapse. The loan is considered critical to Iceland's EU membership bid.
European Voice

EUobserver reports that the United States is set to abandon plans to house anti-missile bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, according to a senior White House lobbyist.

The Irish Independent reports that the EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Maglena Kuneva is expected today to announce plans to protect consumers who book their own holidays instead of using packages from travel agents. The paper reports that the overhaul of the EU's Package Travel Directive will begin in the autumn and that there may be difficulties in avoiding unnecessary costs to industry.
Irish Independent

Der Spiegel reports that there is growing concern about a 'war of words' between Bratislava and Budapest after Slovakia told the Hungarian President not to enter the country for a statue-unveiling ceremony.

El Mundo reports that EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said that it would be difficult for the EU to accept the incorporation of new official languages such as Catalán. He has said however that "there are other ways in which we can consolidate Catalán on the European scale".
El Mundo

General Motors Europe, the owner of Vauxhall and Opel, has sought professional insolvency advice to prepare for the possibility that it may not attract a firm buyer in time to rescue the carmaker.

An article in the WSJ looks at Poland, one of just three EU countries - along with Slovakia and Greece - to avoid recession this year.

El Pais reports on the meeting between President of the Galicia region, Alberto Núñez Feijóo and the Spanish Secretary of State for the EU, Diego Lopez Garrido, in which they discussed Galicia's role during the upcomming Spanish EU Presidency. In the meeting, Feijóo emphasized the need for reform of the dairy and fishing sectors.
El Pais


The FT reports that the UK Justice Secretary Jack Straw is to amend the proposed constitutional renewal bill to prevent politicians "chamber-hopping" between the House of Lords and Commons, effectively blocking the possibility of Lord Mandelson leaving the House of Lords to stand for Parliament and potentially become Labour leader.

Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: or call us on 0207 197 2333.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 26 August 2009


Irish government urged to take independent advice and limit spending on Lisbon Treaty referendum
The Irish Times reports that the Irish government has been urged to accept a recommendation that spending limits be imposed on companies campaigning in referendums, following the news that US multinational Intel will spend several hundred thousand euros backing the Yes campaign. No campaigner Roger Cole, Chairman of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance, said it was unfair that there were no limits imposed on wealthy companies.

Ireland's Standards in Public Office Commission, the independent body which oversees spending in elections and referendums, in its annual report, has called for a redefinition of what constitutes a "third party", subject to limits on spending in a referendum campaign. It argued that the definition should not be determined on the basis of whether an individual or group had received a donation, but should focus instead on how much they spent.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent reports that Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen is planning to take a "major gamble" by letting the public know about tax reform proposals before the upcoming referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The Commission on Taxation's report is already generating opposition from farmers over proposals to increase the inheritance tax on a family farm but government sources do not believe the report will impact negatively on the Lisbon vote. However, the article notes that Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin had expressed reservations about letting the report out before the second referendum.

Writing in the Irish Independent, Fionnan Sheahan notes that, "Within political circles...there are definite concerns the referendum still hangs in the balance, with its passing by no means guaranteed at all."

The paper notes that the Irish Fishermen's Organisation (IFO) is now going to lobby for a 'No' vote after accusing the EU of undermining their livelihoods. IFO south-west Chairman Ebbie Sheehan said nothing had changed in Brussels since 2008 when fishermen first rejected the Lisbon Treaty.
Irish Independent Irish Times Irish Independent: Sheahan Irish Independent 2

Conservatives could increase Britain's EU contributions in exchange for farm subsidies reform
The Telegraph reports that Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois has said that a Conservative government would be willing to increase Britain's financial contributions to the EU, in exchange for reforms to European farm subsidies. He is quoted saying, "If we come into power, we will be in the foothills of beginning to negotiate a new financial perspective that will run from 2014. Our view is that there should be no further reduction in the British rebate unless it is accompanied by really fundamental reform...The point of principle is that we would be very reluctant to surrender anything further of the rebate unless we thought there was genuine reform available."

In 2005, the Labour Government agreed a deal to cut the British rebate from the EU budget, negotiated by Margaret Thatcher in 1984, in exchange for reform to Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) farm subsidies. The paper reports that there has since been little change in the CAP, but the cost of Britain's EU membership is still rising, with every household having to pay £257 towards the EU next year.

Meanwhile, the Economist's Charlemagne blog looks at the circumstances surrounding the cut in Britain's rebate and writes, "To cut a long story short, Mr Blair was snookered by the French, among others... The French very cleverly managed to force the British into a position where they had to choose between defending their rebate and cutting funds earmarked for the new member states from the ex-Communist block who had joined a year earlier."
Telegraph Economist: Charlemagne blog Conservative Home Open Europe research

South African Minister criticises EU's "commercial interests" in concluding EPA trade agreements
Reuters reports that the South African Trade Minister Rob Davies has said the EU is too focused on commercial interests in its Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with African countries, saying "What's clear to us is that although the stated intentions in the EPA process is to provide some legal basis to enhance access into the European Union market ... it's also overlaid with a series of trade-related obligations... And we do see those trade-related obligations as deriving from commercial ambitions of the European Union, partly in relation to the competition with China and India."

Davies also said that "There has been more of a willingness to give and take", with the current EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton, compared with the former Commissioner Peter Mandelson before her.
Reuters Open Europe research OE blog

Spain supports González EU Presidency over Blair
Euractiv France reports that the Spanish population, as well as several political leaders, are showing their support for the former Spanish Prime Minister, Felipe González to become EU President, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. The article reports on a study undertaken by the Spanish think tank Real Instituto Elcano which showed that 42% of people surveyed support González's candidacy while only 23% support Tony Blair's candidacy.
Euractiv France OE blog

UK plans to cut off file sharers' internet access could be illegal
The Government could cut off the internet access of those caught illegally downloading copyrighted music and films under controversial plans announced by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, the Mail reports. Internet service providers have expressed concern over policing their customers' internet activity.

The decision to reintroduce the idea of disconnection, which had previously been ruled out, is similar to a proposal ruled illegal by a court in France, where the court rules that any decision to disconnect a person's internet connection would have to be made by a judge with the appropriate burden of proof.

The EU's telecoms package is currently being negotiated, and contains a provision which would require a judicial decision before internet access could be cut.
Mail Sun OE blog BBC BBC blog WSJ Times: Naughton Guardian

France unveils new legislation on bankers' pay;
EU leaders will meet for extra summit ahead of the G20 to decide on common position
The FT reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has unveiled tough new legislation to regulate bankers' pay which will see banks barred from lucrative French government mandates if they fail to abide by new international guidelines on pay.

The French measures include deferring traders' bonuses over three years, paying one-third of awards in shares, and imposing strict long-term performance criteria in order to receive full payment. Top French banks including BNP Paribas, Société Générale and Crédit Agricole have signed up to the new rules.

Meanwhile, EUobserver reports that EU leaders are to gather on 17 September for an extra summit in Brussels to decide on a common European position ahead of the G20 summit. The WSJ reports that bankers' pay has become one of the most divisive issues among G20 members as they prepare for the summit, and suggests that, "it would appear European leaders may not be reading from the same script, with some pressing for tougher reforms... Even before Tuesday's deal with banks, the French government was saying the UK's code on remuneration published earlier this month didn't go far enough and wasn't appropriate as a global agreement."
WSJ Guardian FT Telegraph Welt EUobserver

Commission calls for private bodies to manage internet traffic
The European Commission is calling for international talks on managing internet traffic, which is currently managed only by the California-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN, which operates under a contract with the US government. In a paper titled "Internet governance: the next steps", the Commission proposes that ICANN should be managed by private bodies "within principles agreed upon by public authorities but without government interference in day-to-day operations".
Commission press release

EU directive on hedge fund regulation criticised by new report
The FT's FM blog reports that a report by Mercer, a consulting group, has warned that the EU's proposals for regulating the alternative investment industry could reduce choice and returns for institutional investors. The report says that, while the pensions industry supports better regulation it is concerned that "restricting the pool of alternatives managers will limit their options for achieving returns and diversifying their investment portfolios," according to Robert Howie, alternatives researcher at Mercer.

The report also warned that the EU should give greater consideration to the global nature of the industry after concerns that EU based investors could be prevented from investing outside the EU.
Hedge Funds Review FT: FM blog

German Parliament debates new law to ratify Lisbon Treaty
Today, the Bundestag is holding the first official reading on the new law required by the German Constitutional Court in order to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Various German political parties have already agreed on most points of how to strengthen the parliament's rights in EU decision-making procedures.

The final voting in the Bundestag on the new law to ratify the Lisbon Treaty is to be held on 8 September. Maerkische Allgemeine Reuters Tagesschau FAZ

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso will next week send his political programme to the political groups in the European Parliament in a bid to secure their support for a second mandate.

Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that the phasing out of incandescent light bulbs by the EU will require a significant increase in specialised waste-disposal points.
Helsingin Sanomat Express

The Swedish EU Presidency is embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with Israel over an article which appeared in Swedish paper Aftonbladet about Israeli soldiers harvesting Palestinian organs. Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz has said that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, due to visit Israel next month, is no longer welcome after refusing to condemn the story.

EUobserver reports that the EU's EULEX mission in Kosovo was the target of violent protests yesterday by those opposed to the presence of the international community in the country.

Wirtschaftsblatt reports that the Bulgarian Finance Minister Simeon Djankow wants to re-enter accession talks on the European Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II) which entails a two year practical test to introduce the euro. According to Djankow, the talks with the European Commission could start as soon as September.

The Independent has a profile of Philippe de Villiers, the only MEP elected under the Libertas banner in the European elections in June, and questions why French President Nicolas Sarkozy has brought him into his broad political coalition.

Handelsblatt reports that the European Commission will initiate legal procedures against Germany later this year due to its increased budget deficit. Deficit proceedings against the UK and Ireland are already underway.
No link

The IHT reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has received criticism in various German newspapers for coming out so strongly in favour of the Magna bid for the Opel car manufacturer.

EU health officials yesterday issued a list of people who should be the first in line for vaccinations against the H1N1, or swine flu, virus, although they said the lists should be "indicative".

Levante reports that Spanish PM Jose Luis Zapatero, is to begin an intense international agenda next week in Sweden, which amongst other things, will serve to prepare the Spanish EU Presidency.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has called on European governments to end backing for the Israeli army veterans group, Breaking the Silence, which published a study about alleged abuses by soldiers in Gaza in January, reports EUobserver.

The Express reports that John Prescott, the climate change 'rapporteur' for the Council of Europe, has said that securing a new climate deal at Copenhagen later this year "will be 10 times more difficult than Kyoto".
Express BBC Today programme

Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: or call us on 0207 197 2333.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CFR Tool Netanyahu off to Europe

Netanyahu: Jerusalem is ours, deal with it

Israeli PM to carry firm message on control of Jerusalem to European leaders, but offer to freeze Jewish settlements more»


The CFR tool Benjamin Netanyahu can talk tough all he wants, but as long as he enables the Temple Mount to remain under Nazi Muslim occupation, failing to respect the religious rights of Jews and Christians, his words ring hollow.

Benjamin Netanyahu: CFR Member

Who is Bibi Netanyahu working for?

CFR Netanyahu is all talk and no action when it comes to loving and preserving the Jewish homeland. He cannot be trusted! He’s proven it. Bibi failed to make Oslo null and void, Bibi surrendered Hevron, and most wickedly - Bibi failed to open the Temple Mount to *Jewish worship as he said he would!

*Benjamin Netanyahu: “The right of the Jewish people to its holy place - the Temple Mount - cannot be questioned…I believe it is necessary to arrange for Jewish prayer on the site, especially given that we permit freedom of worship to all the religions in Jerusalem…”. And his office charged Palestinian officials with “disparaging Jewish holy sites and threatening potential worshippers” (in flagrant violation of Israel’s 1967 Law for the Protection of the Holy Places and the Oslo Accords). His deputy director of communications, Michael Freund, responded to the PA mufti’s declaration of war (that Jews “…must absolutely forget about having any rights over the Temple Mount…the Western Wall is just a fence belonging to a Muslim holy site”) by saying “these statements are repugnant and they betray a contempt for Judaism’s most sacred sites and beliefs. They are an affront to history and insulting to Jews everywhere.”

Dangerous Ideas?
EU to Conquer Anglo-Saxons and Jews
Israel’s Only Way Out: Follow Kahane!

Open Europe press summary: 25 August 2009


Rise in EU budget equivalent to £260 per household
The BBC reports that the net cost of the UK's EU membership will rise by 60 percent to £6.4bn - equivalent to about £260 per UK household - from £4.1bn in 2009/10. On his Telegraph blog Dan Hannan hat-tips Open Europe for the story and argues, "why should we look at the net rather than the gross contribution? In what other field of politics do we do so? Does anyone argue that income tax, rather than being 22 per cent, is in fact zero, because the whole sum is 'given back' in roads, schools and hospitals? What matters is what we hand over."

Hannan adds that, with the UK's gross EU budget contribution, Philip Hammond, the Shadow Chief Secretary, "could cut council tax by 45 percent; he could build 50 new hospitals every year; he could take nearly 4 pence off income tax; or he could pay off our Olympic debt in just one year."

On the BBC Today Programme Conservative MP John Redwood described the increase in the UK's budget contribution as "money we can't afford being very badly spent". Similarly to Hannan, he added that "I don't think it's right just to concentrate on the £6.4bn net cost...the money we don't get back. We also need to look at all the money we do get back which is often spent in ways that we wouldn't choose to spend it."

Sun columnist Fergus Shanahan criticises David Cameron's policy on Europe, claiming he is refusing to address the issue as it divides his party and risks losing a significant amount of votes to UKIP. He concludes that Cameron "can't fudge much longer when we see how we are being robbed by Brussels and getting nothing in return."
BBC Today Programme Telegraph: Hannan blog BBC Treasury Statement on EC finances Open Europe research Open Europe press summary

Irish Finance Minister delays vote on bad bank in order not to "disrupt" Lisbon debate
Bloomberg reports that Ireland's Finance Minister Brian Lenihan signalled the Irish parliament won't vote on proposed 'bad bank' regulations until October, saying he doesn't want to "disrupt" the second Lisbon Treaty referendum. He told RTE radio that "I certainly don't want NAMA to disrupt the Lisbon debate." Lenihan is creating the National Asset Management Agency to cleanse Ireland's banks of 'toxic assets' after the country's decade-long property boom ended.

Meanwhile, in the National Interest, Doug Bandow looks at Ireland's upcoming referendum and notes that the "German Constitutional Court recently voted to uphold the Lisbon Treaty only if the German parliament approved legislation ensuring the latter's continuing role in making decisions on core national issues". He quotes Open Europe, saying, "British MPs need to wake up-and demand the same power" and notes that similar rumblings have been heard in France and the Netherlands.

Bandow adds that European governments "are badly divided over everything from economic stimulus to financial regulation". He notes that a recent Open Europe poll found that 70 percent of Germans, with the largest economy on the Continent, oppose bailing out other nations.
National Interest Bloomberg FAZ Open Europe research

Commission to present controversial asylum proposals in September
EUobserver reports that EU justice and home affairs ministers are finalising fresh proposals on EU immigration policy, including a potentially controversial system of re-distributing refugees and asylum seekers among the 27 member states to lighten the workload of border countries.

Both the re-location policy, which could see the transfer of asylum seekers from one EU state to another, and asylum policy proposals, which could set quotas on the number of refugees for member states, are to be presented by the Commission in September, Swedish Immigration Minister Tobias Billstroem said. The application of the proposed policies would be voluntary, the Swedish minister added.
Elsevier AFP EUobserver

Commissioner McCreevey to receive €400,000 to help with "re-entry into non-EU world"
The Irish Independent reports that EU Commissioner Charlie Mc Creevey is set to receive almost €400,000 to resettle in Ireland, after leaving his post this autumn, on top of his annual pension. This transitional allowance, to which Mr McCreevy is entitled to for a total of 3 years after leaving the EU, is calculated as 50% of his yearly pension, and is designed to help with "re-entry into the non-EU world."
Irish Independent Open Europe research

Hedge fund managers quit the UK amid concerns of higher taxes and tighter EU regulation
The WSJ reports that a stream of hedge-fund managers and other financial-services professionals are quitting the UK due to increased taxes and concern about tighter European Union regulations, in the form of the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive.

Jon Moulton, founder of private-equity firm Alchemy Partners, said he had no plans to leave his home in Kent, but confirmed that he owned a house in Guernsey and that he "may very well one day retreat to an environment of lower taxes, no [members of European Parliament] and where the most powerful posts in government are filled by election."

Failure to inform EU of UK law on banned films makes legislation unenforceable
The Times reports that people selling unauthorised DVDs and video games, including banned films and pornography, to anyone, including children, cannot be prosecuted due to an administrative error made under the Thatcher government, it has emerged. The government did not notify the European Union of the Video Games Recordings Act when it was passed in 1984, as required under an EU directive, meaning it is no longer enforceable in the UK.

Don Foster, a Liberal Democrat MP, noted that David Cameron was special advisor to Michael Howard when a 1993 revision to the legislation was created and also failed to notice the omission. Although the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has said it will act to close the loophole "as quickly as possible" those caught selling banned video games and DVDs are likely to escape prosecution for around three months.
Times FT

European rules on medical research are "putting the brakes on science in Europe"
Euractiv looks at the EU's Clinical Trials Directive, which aims to improve research standards and protect patients. It quotes Professor Dietger Niederwieser from the University of Leipzig, who argues that this directive has greatly deteriorated academic studies, as lawmakers have focused on the pharmaceutical industry and forgotten academia. He said, "Academic trials are down dramatically. There were ten times as many research trials taking place in academia before the directive came into force... The directive is putting the brakes on science in Europe."

Independent: "Should Africa be generating much of Europe's power?"
The Independent questions the role that Africa should play in generating Europe's power following controversy over EU-backed renewable energy projects in Morocco and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It claims that Europe is eager to reduce its dependence on Russia and that a proposed dam could power up to 500 million homes in Africa, but warns that an open energy market would see Africans competing with far richer Europeans for electricity generated from their natural resources.

The WSJ reports that as French President Nicolas Sarkozy prepares to meet with executives of the country's largest banks today, bankers are worried that fresh rules to curb their pay packages would put them at a disadvantage with foreign competitors.

In the feature section of the Telegraph, Max Davidson looks at the new EU ban on light bulbs and argues that it will cause a "headache", saying, "How many people know about the ban? And will all shopkeepers apply it with equal rigour? We are in for one of those periods of retail chaos that seem to originate in Brussels."

FAZ reports that one in five citizens under 25 years is unemployed in Europe.

Animal welfare groups have criticised new EU legislation that will reduce the amount of space that must be allocated to factory chickens, which is already less than one sheet of A4 paper.

Tagesspiegel reports that the German environment organisation "Deutsche Umwelthilfe" has filed a complaint with the EU Commission directed at the German government for not sufficiently implementing the EU directive requiring each new car to display a label showing its fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Le Figaro reports that the recent economic growth seen in France and Germany is not being repeated in Eastern Europe, where all EU members except Poland saw significant contractions in the last quarter.
No link

In the WSJ, Tomas Valasek argues "EU pressure on Ukraine to reform its gas laws to fight corruption and cut consumption would be more constructive than its direct involvement... a failure to reform could otherwise set up Kiev and Brussels for a serious showdown during the next gas spat and sink Ukraine's EU membership plans."
WSJ: Valasek


A Guardian/ICM poll puts the Conservatives on 41 percent, Labour on 25 percent, and the Lib Dems on 19 percent.

Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: or call us on 0207 197 2333.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Open Europe Press Summary: 24 August 2009


EU Commission attacked for intervention in Irish Lisbon debate;
Church of Ireland Gazette blasts "moral blackmail" of claims that the vote is about being at the heart of Europe
Saturday's Irish Times reported that the European Commission has intervened in Ireland's Lisbon Treaty referendum debate to rebuff specific claims of the 'Farmers For No' campaign group. The group maintains that a Yes vote in the referendum would jeopardise farm succession rights, remove Ireland's World Trade Organisation (WTO) veto, and reduce Ireland's overall EU voting weight.

According to the paper, the Commission "vigorously rejected each of the groups' claims, which it says are all factually incorrect." In particular, the Commission claimed that Ireland's voting weight remains "as strong as ever" and "was emphatic in saying that the treaty did not promote Turkey's application to join the union 'in any way'." However, Farmers for No spokesman David Thompson responded pointing out that: "Senior EU leaders have stated clearly that Lisbon is necessary for more enlargement."

Anthony Coughlan, Director of the National Platform on EU Research and Information, said that the Commission's intervention is "the Brussels commission behaving as a political party and engaging directly in the Irish referendum campaign". He added, "The commission is using the EU taxpayers' money, partly financed by Irish taxpayers, through the medium of its website to help support the Yes campaign."

In a press release, Canon Ian Ellis, Editor of the Church of Ireland Gazette, said: "I was surprised that the European Commission entered the Irish debate on Saturday, commenting on the Farmers For No group's understanding of the treaty. Challenges made to whatever groups in the referendum run-up should be made by the Irish parties involved and should not eminate from the European institutions. Inevitably, there will be differences over the interpretation of the treaty, but it is not for the EU itself, or any of its institutions, to enter into what must now be an Irish discussion. Because the debate is about the nature of the EU, the EU must 'leave the room'."

Calling for a "clean" debate on the Lisbon Treaty, Canon Ellis added: "It is not fair to suggest that the Lisbon vote is about being at the heart of Europe or about being good Europeans. That kind of moral blackmail is not 'fair play'. The referendum is only about the Lisbon Treaty and its provisions for the EU. Is this how the EU should be? That is the question for voters."

Meanwhile, speaking at a farmers' fair, Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness called on farmers to vote Yes, adding that, "I would ask you to give the vote serious thought and perhaps to turn the radio off and not listen to all the argey bargey that is being said." In Saturday's Irish Independent, Bruce Arnold criticised the Irish government's campaign strategy, arguing that the "biggest misrepresentation of facts about Lisbon is contained in the Government White Paper."
Irish Times Irish Times 2 EUobserver Irish Independent Irish Independent 2 Irish Times: Letters Irish Times 3 Irish Times: Kinsella

Yes side to outspend No side by 10-1
The Irish edition of the Sunday Times reported that supporters of the Lisbon Treaty are set to out-spend the No side by 10 to 1 in the referendum campaign. An estimate of the budgets for the Yes side indicates it will spend at least €2.4m, compared with the No campaigners' €270,000.
Sunday Times

Irish MEPs to receive two EU pensions on top of two national pensions
The Irish edition of the Sunday Times reported that Irish MPs Jim Higgins and Liam Aylward, who were criticised last week for picking up parliamentary and ministerial pensions while earning €91,984-a-year salaries as MEPs, will also benefit from two European pensions. The politicians will receive a total of four pensions each because they, like most Irish MEPs, are using a bonus retirement scheme run by the European Parliament. The article noted that Open Europe has criticised this voluntary additional pension scheme as unacceptable because there are no checks to ensure the MEPs repay the contributions made towards their pension, which Is two-thirds funded by taxpayers.
Sunday Times OE research

UK's contribution to EU budget soars by 60%
The front page of the Express reports that official figures show that the UK's share of the EU budget is to soar by almost 60%, meaning that every household will have to pay £257 towards the EU next year. This increase is detailed in a Treasury document which was quietly released by the Government just before the summer break.

Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally was quoted in the News of the World and the Express saying "With the popularity of the EU at an all-time low in Britain, it is ­complete madness that we are paying more than ever into its coffers. The EU budget is riddled with fraud and waste - it hasn't had its accounts signed off in 14 years. And despite this British taxpayers are being asked to cough up more and more every single year. The full impact of Tony Blair's amazingly bad deal is still to come, as our contributions are set to increase even more in the coming years. Meanwhile, we continue to get less back in EU funds per head than any other country. Let's hope the next British government talks a tougher game in Brussels and gets us a fairer deal." Lorraine also appeared on Suntalk radio, speaking on the subject.

Meanwhile, a leader in the Sunday Telegraph argued that, "The EU is hardly value for money" and that the "increase in our contribution to the EU's coffers comes at the worst possible time, when tax receipts are falling and Government spending is increasing."
Daily Mail News of the World Express OE Research

The Editor of New Europe magazine looks at the "EU communication 'propaganda' debate" and cites from Open Europe Director Lorraine Mullally's recent article on the subject.
New Europe Open Europe article

Swiss Funds Association (SFA) concerned about protectionism of the Commission's proposal on hedge-fund directive
Swiss newspaper NZZ reports that the Swiss Funds Association (SFA) is concerned about the protectionism contrived in the EU's proposed directive on private equity and hedge funds. According to the Director of SFA, Matthäus Den Otter, the implementation of the Commission's draft Directive would lead to an exclusion of AIFMs from non-EU countries such as the U.S. and Switzerland, more legal uncertainty as well as higher costs for the AIF sector eventually passed on to investors.

German CDU/CSU faction reaches compromise on Lisbon ratification law
After German media reported last week that the CSU party was continuing to press for two specific demands before giving its agreement to the Lisbon ratification law (see here), the Tagesspiegel reports that the CDU/CSU faction has reached a compromise on the CSU demands.

It is reported that they agreed to a resolution requiring the German government to clarify to the EU that the Lisbon Treaty is only valid within the framework of the judgment of the German Constitutional Court. The second demand the CSU wanted to include in the resolution is an official procedure that allows the German Constitutional Court to check EU legislative acts and which could be invoked by the parliament. However the CDU only agreed to pass this issue to the next parliamentary session for consideration.

Meanwhile, Welt reports that the Bavarian Minster for Europe, Emilia Müller, has rejected the criticism: "only the lack of knowledge of the actual legal status can stand behind a criticism of the resolution [...]". She underlined that "the judgment [of the Constitutional Court] is binding for everyone. However that is often not known by our partners in Europe."
Welt Tagesspiegel Spiegel

GMC calls for EU rules on doctors' qualifications to be rewritten
Finlay Scott, Chief Executive of the General Medical Council, which regulates doctors in the UK, and Steve Field, Chairman of the professional body the Royal College of General Practitioners, have told the Guardian they want a rewriting of the rules for recognising medical qualifications across the EU. They say all doctors from the EU and other European countries must face tests on their knowledge and skills before working in Britain, just like doctors from other parts of the world.

The incident in which German doctor Daniel Ubani killed David Gray, 70, by giving him an overdose of a painkiller in February last year is seen by critics of the present system as strengthening the GMC's argument for change.

EU names airlines that must join emissions trading plan by 2012
The EU has published a list of almost 4,000 airlines and air forces from around the world that will have to join the EU's emission trading plan by 2012 in order to avoid penalties when flying to Europe. The list includes airlines such as Lufthansa, Emirates and United Airlines as well as military operators such as the US Navy and the Russian air force. Operators on the list will have to submit plans for monitoring their emissions by January 2010.

The European Commission will present a working document to a meeting of European foreign ministers to address the problem of illegal immigration at the end of October.
L'express abc Irish Times

Jean-Claude Trichet, the president of the European Central Bank, has denied claims that the ECB has been overly cautious in its response to the economic crisis.
Irish Times Telegraph

In the Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Booker noted that the Home Office has confirmed that deportations under the European Arrest Warrant are likely to treble.
Sunday Telegraph: Booker

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Lord Patten's chances of filling the newly-created post of the European Union's 'foreign minister' next year - a key provision of the Lisbon Treaty - could be "torpedoed" by the Conservatives' decision to leave the EPP grouping in the European Parliament.
Sunday Telegraph

The Observer reported that UK regional development authorities believe their counterparts in Europe are flouting EU state aid rules to attract low-carbon manufacturers to set up factories and, as a result, the UK is lagging behind in its efforts to establish a 'green' manufacturing base.

The FT reports that the Committee of European Securities Regulators has abandoned its review of member states' implementation of depositary rules for Ucits funds. The regulator's move is considered likely to undermine EU efforts to tighten rules in the field.

The FT reports that net inflows into the European fund industry in the second quarter of 2009 were the highest since the start of 2006 with a 14 percent jump in assets under management to €3,106bn. The recovery is not taking place across Europe, however, with contraction continuing in Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain.

The Weekend FT reported that the EU is considering a ban on blue fin tuna catches as stocks plummet.
No link

A Sunday Times investigation has found that foreign criminals from within the EU are trafficking children as young as three months old into Britain and using them to defraud the benefits system of millions of pounds.
Sunday Times

Saturday's Mail reported that frosted light bulbs will disappear from the shops in 10 days time as an EU ban comes into force. The weekend FT reported that in Germany and Austria, sales of the conventional bulbs have soared as hoarders stash them in advance of the EU ban.
Mail FT

The European Union says that Afghanistan's elections represent a "victory for democracy".
Etaiwannews DW AFP AFP2

A Latvian official has declared to Euractiv that "the euro remains our goal for 2012", while calling Swedish press coverage on the economic situation in Latvia "hysteric".

The Observer reported that a plan, backed by the EU, to supply power to southern Europe from a hydroelectric dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo at a time when less than 30% of Africans have access to electricity has "sparked fierce controversy".

Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: or call us on 0207 197 2333.