Monday, October 12, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 12 October 2009


Government's Europe portfolio downgraded
PA reports that Baroness Kinnock has been switched from her post as Europe Minister, to take responsibility within the Foreign Office for Africa. Although Lady Kinnock will continue to speak on European affairs in the House of Lords, junior Foreign Office minister Chris Bryant has been handed overall responsibility for European affairs - described by PA as a "downgrading of the post", as he remains a Parliamentary Under-Secretary.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman described the changes as "housekeeping" in the wake of the departure from Government of Lord Malloch-Brown, who was Africa Minister.
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Royal College of Surgeons: EU's 48-hour week is causing deaths
The front page of the Sunday Times noted that a new report from the Royal College of Surgeons, the RCS, says that NHS patients are dying as a result of the EU's Working Time Directive, which imposed a 48-hour week on junior doctors, beginning in August. The report argues that lives are being lost because patients have to be switched between up to four doctors every 24 hours, instead of being cared for by the same team round the clock. The RCS also released details to the paper of a series of "avoidable deaths" that it claims were caused by the way in which the limits have been implemented since August.

John Black, President of the RCS, is quoted saying, "We now have a clear message from the front line that patient care is being made significantly less safe." The BBC reports that a survey in the report found 62% of surgeons said they were not complying with a 48-hour week and half of consultants said compliance with the European regulation had been achieved at the expense of patient safety.

Saturday's Telegraph reported that a vulnerable pensioner was left locked out of her care home because a member of staff was on an enforced 11-hour break required by the WTD and was unable to unlock the door.
Mail on Sunday Independent on Sunday Sunday Times EU Referendum blog BBC Open Europe research OE blog

France and Germany threaten to oust Klaus over delays to Lisbon Treaty;
Klaus will not be satisfied by 'Irish-style guarantees' on Charter of Fundamental Rights
The Weekend FT reported that Czech President Vaclav Klaus has explained that he is seeking an opt-out from the Charter of Fundamental Rights before ratifying the Lisbon Treaty due to concerns that Sudeten Germans may use it to make claims over property rights. He said, "It [the Treaty] endangers the legal status of the citizens and the stability of property rights in our country."

The Irish Times notes that an aide to Klaus, Ladislav Jakl, has said that Klaus would not be satisfied with the type of 'guarantees' offered to Ireland before its second referendum. The aide said, "This [Irish way] seems to me as an absolutely impossible way forward. The president will not be satisfied by any declaration, but only guarantees for every citizen. For him, this condition is fundamental, necessary, unbreachable."

The Times quotes Jakl saying, "If the Czech Republic does not get the opt-out, the President will not ratify." However, Gazeta Wyborcza reports that Jakl said President Klaus would not sign the Treaty, even if the Constitutional Court rejects all of the complaints. Der Spiegel notes that European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has said that any opt-out would have to be approved by all 26 other member states.

Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet reports that President Klaus is angry with Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt and the Swedish Presidency, accusing Reinfeldt of having broken an agreement to keep secret a phone conversation they had last week. According to the paper, Klaus wanted to wait to announce his plans until the Czech Constitutional Court gave its verdict on the current challenge, but Reinfeldt prematurely revealed his plan.

The Times notes that the Czech Cabinet is meeting in emergency session today to consider how to persuade Klaus to sign the Treaty - under intense pressure from Paris and Berlin to complete the ratification as soon as possible. A headline in the Sunday Times said, "Germans seek to oust Czech president Vaclav Klaus over EU treaty", and reported that German and French diplomats, in talks with their Czech counterparts, have explored two ways of removing the 'Klaus obstacle'. "If the president is obstructing the democratic process and opposing the decision of parliament as well as the will of the people, he is moving beyond the law and will need to face the consequences," a German diplomat said.

The Times notes that Czech constitutional experts set out several options before today's Cabinet meeting in Prague. The government could ask the Constitutional Court to decide whether the President has the power to submit demands. It could also propose that parliament change the provision in the constitution that stipulates who signs international treaties. It could also ask parliament to state that President Klaus is no longer competent to exercise the post of President.

Meanwhile, Polish President Lech Kaczynski completed his ratification of the Treaty, signing it on Saturday.
Sunday Times Irish Times BBC: Hewitt blog EUobserver EurActiv European Voice BBC Times WSJ Guardian Independent Times 2 Weekend FT Le Figaro El Mundo Spiegel Gazeta Wyborcza Sueddeutsche NZZ Der Standard Klaus' Statement SVD FAZ Focus Welt Spiegel Sueddeutsche NZZ Der Standard Gazeta Wyborcza

Stephen Booth: Regulatory reform is vital to an EU burdened by regulation costing over 160bn a year
In an article for Europe's World, Open Europe's Stephen Booth argues that "Last autumn's financial meltdown and the recession that has ensued has been presented by some as proof that more regulation is needed, and that the light-touch era is over. The crisis may indeed have woken us up to the fact that better targeted regulation is needed in the financial services sector, but the recession does not change the fact that for the vast majority of businesses the problem of over-regulation is as great as ever."

In a report published in February this year, Open Europe found that the annual cost to Europe of EU regulation has increased by more than 50 percent from 108bn to over 161bn. EU-sourced legislation introduced since 1998 now accounts for the bulk of regulatory costs throughout Europe, accounting for an average two-thirds of the total cost of regulations imposed on any of the member states' economies.

Stephen argues that, "Raising the political profile of regulatory issues is not just important for businesses, it is also an essential political point. Regulation is the principal method by which the EU exercises power, so there is therefore a democratic as well as an economic case for greater scrutiny of EU regulation."

The article notes that "EU-sourced legislation reduces the room for manoeuvre because of the difficulty of repealing or making substantial changes to it. Any change to EU law requires the re-opening of complex negotiations between ministers from the 27 member states, and in many cases the approval of the European Parliament. This, as we all know, can be an extremely cumbersome process."
Europe's World: Booth Open Europe research

Conservatives warn that Tony Blair as EU President would lead to "permanent warfare"
The Sunday Telegraph reported that senior Conservatives have warned that if Tony Blair were appointed as the EU's first permanent President, a position to be created if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, it would lead to a state of "permanent warfare" between a future Conservative government and Brussels. Leading Conservatives claimed there could be "just two weeks" to stop a process which could Blair installed in the 275,000-a-year post. The Sunday Express reported that vacant and expensive properties are already being lined up for inspection for the new President of the European Union, with the Blairs in mind.

However, Le Figaro reports that Werner Faymann, Austria's Chancellor, declared on Sunday that he would not support Tony Blair for the position due to his close relations with George W. Bush. On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer comments that it would be reasonable to assume that "if Luxembourg and Vienna have been so firm in their opposition to Blair, they must have at least the tacit consent of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, given that these countries are close. If things keep on going this way, Paris will find itself isolated in its support of Blair."

EUobserver reports that Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso last week appeared to side with smaller member states, seeking to restrict the role of the President. Writing in the Sun Trevor Kavanagh argues, "The EU presidency is a blank sheet of paper. A clever politician can write his own script. Tony Blair is certainly a clever politician."

The Sunday Times reported that Tony Blair is believed to have accepted tens of thousands of pounds from the steel billionaire Victor Pinchuk, campaigning for Ukraine to join the European Union. Ukrainian diplomats are preparing to launch a membership bid as early as next year and consider Blair a key ally. Writing in Saturday's Mail columnist Paul Scott wrote "I am told that members of Blair's staff have made private tentative inquiries about whether current rules, which forbid the EU President having outside financial interests, might be 'modified' to allow Mr Blair to carry on earning".

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph reported that David Miliband is being lined up to become the EU's first "foreign minister" as a "plan B" should Tony Blair be blocked from becoming President.
Sunday Times Sunday Telegraph Independent on Sunday Euobserver: blogs Mail: Scott Sunday Express Sunday Telegraph Euobserver Euobserver 2 CoulissesDeBruxelles OE blog Tijd

Telegraph joins campaign against EU's AIFM Directive
The Sunday Telegraph noted that a new report from the office of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, says that the status of London as a world financial capital will be undermined if new EU rules controlling UK hedge funds and private equity are introduced. The paper has launched a 'Ditch the Directive campaign', aimed at fundamentally changing the EU's draft Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive. City AM reports that representatives of the hedge fund industry will this week put forward an alternative to the Directive.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that one of the Directive's most contentious proposals relates to the way Europe effectively gets cordoned off from the rest of the world and its free flowing capital, in what AIMA Chief Executive Andrew Baker described as creating "Prison Europe" rather than "Fortress Europe". The paper also reported that there is a scheduled plenary vote on the draft Directive for July 2010.

Writing in the paper Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, President of the Party of European Socialists, argued "The UK versus Europe on financial regulation is a false dichotomy. The European directive will give alternative investment funds access to the entire Single Market - the biggest economy in the world."
Sunday Telegraph Sunday Telegraph 2 Sunday Telegraph: Rasmussen Sunday Telegraph: Knight Guardian City AM FT: Letters FTAdviser WSJ Open Europe press release Open Europe research

EU's External Action Service could reach "6000 - 8000" employees
Handelsblatt reports on disagreements over the shape and structure of the EU's External Action Service, EAS, to be created if the Lisbon Treaty comes into effect. It notes that London, Paris and Berlin want the EAS to be responsible to the Council, and not the Commission, in order for member states to retain control.

However, the European Parliament and the smaller member states are opposed to that and the article quotes German MEP Elmar Brok saying that the EAS could develop into an "authority with 6000 - 8000 employees", and this must not bypass Parliament and the Commission to answer directly to the Council. Elmar Brok warned that if the EAS was not put under the control of the Commission, the European Parliament could block the funding of the Service. The article also suggests that the European Parliament could block the approval of any candidate for the role of EU Foreign Minister.

Saturday's Sun featured a YouGov poll which found that 39 percent of UK voters would vote No in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, 19 percent would vote in favour, 32 percent said they didn't know, and 10 percent said that they wouldn't vote.

An ICM poll for the News of the World asked voters on ten policy issues, whether the Conservatives or Labour had the best policies. On the question of Europe, 29% said the Conservatives had the best policies, and 23% said Labour did.
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Ofgem: UK will suffer power cuts within four years due to EU directives
Saturday's Times reported that Britain faces a return to 1970s-style power blackouts and disruption to its electricity supplies within four years, according to Ofgem. The article noted that Ofgem raised the spectre of a return to the three-day week for British industry as the country scrambles to renovate its ageing power infrastructure ahead of new EU pollution rules - including the so-called Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive and Large Combustion Plant Directive - that will force the closure of a quarter of UK power stations by 2015.

Meanwhile, a leader in Saturday's Express criticised the Labour Government for lacking the "independence to stand up to EU demands to pension off existing plants."

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has term extended to end of 2009
The Telegraph reports that EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has had her term extended to the end of the year. The extension will give Royal Bank of Scotland and Lloyds Banking Group an extra two months to negotiate changes to the asset protection scheme, which is required in return for aid from the UK Government. A Commission spokesman said the Commissioner would be eligible during her "caretaker period" to make decisions on ongoing cases, such as state aid for the APS, but would not be able to start new policies.
Sunday Telegraph City AM

Charlemagne: Conservative leadership is less 'Euroseceptic' than people think
The Economist's Charlemagne blog questions how 'Eurosceptic' the leadership of the Conservative Party is, and after speaking to some senior figures at the conference in Manchester, he concludes that they are less sceptical towards Europe than many people in Brussels or even Britain think. He believes that they will "pick a couple of fights to satisfy the demands of their electorate for a renegotiation of Britain's relationship with Europe, but reassure other European governments by being surprisingly constructive on a range of issues, especially (and perhaps surprisingly) in the field of European foreign and security policy."

Meanwhile, Daniel Korski asks on the Spectator's Coffee House blog what powers the Conservatives might repatriate from the EU. He suggests "Britain could re-opt out of the social chapter and the Working Time Directive. But in truth, the former is less important after the eastern enlargement and the latter has already been secured by the Labour government."
Economist: Charlemagne's notebook Spectator: Coffee House blog Weekend FT: Analysis

EurActiv reports that MEPs last week debated the Swedish EU Presidency's Stockholm Programme, which will set out the EU's priorities for the next five-year period on issues such as justice, home affairs and immigration. The article reports that the programme provoked criticism from southern Europeans who believe the Swedish priorities do not go far enough in their treatment of security and immigration.
EurActiv OE blog

Miliband launches fresh attack on Conservatives' European allies
Writing in the Observer, Foreign Secretary David Miliband launched a new attack on the Conservatives' allies in the European Parliament and, in particular, the leader of the new European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) grouping Michal Kaminski. He argued, "There will be incredulity in Washington, Beijing and Delhi, never mind Berlin and Paris, that a party aspiring to government in Britain - the party of Winston Churchill no less - chooses allies like this."

On his BBC blog, Gavin Hewitt writes, "I know that as the British election gets closer they [The Conservatives' allies] will gain more attention not less; that it will be difficult to close down this story and that in the dog-fight of an election campaign you can be judged, fairly or not, by your friends and associations."
Observer Observer: Miliband Observer 2 Telegraph BBC: Hewitt blog

Klaus-Heiner Lehne MEP has been accused by the correspondent of Dutch financial daily Financieele Dagblad of a conflict of interest, as he opposes European Commission plans to introduce the system of class actions, at the same time as being a lawyer dealing with competition policy.
FD blog

Spanish newspaper El Mundo reports that the European Commission proposed on Friday to make milk quotas more flexible for two years, to push richer member states to restructure the dairy sector following the crisis triggered by the price fall.

The European Commission is to extend rules covering cancellations and insolvencies for package holidays to DIY travellers who book directly.
Independent Independent:Comment

The Weekend FT reported that a dispute has broken out between the office of Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and the Economics Ministry over the protracted negotiations to secure financial support for the Opel car manufacturer.
Weekend FT

The WSJ reports on last month's ECJ ruling, overturning a Commission decision imposing stricter limits on Poland and Estonia's carbon emissions until 2012, saying that the EU executive arm "exceeded its powers" in doing so, and suggests that the ruling could restrict the EU's emissions trading scheme.

The EU Ombudsman has urged the European Parliament to disclose documents relating to the leasing of two buildings, without a public procurement process, to a Belgian developer.
EU Observer blog

Welt reports that Polish President Lech Kaczynski said his most important message, when signing the Lisbon Treaty on Saturday, was that "the EU must not remain closed for those who want to enter: the Ukraine, Georgia, and possibly others. You must not take their hopes."

The FT reports that Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, has called for the European Union to overhaul its "dysfunctional" asylum policy amid concerns that attitudes to foreigners are hardening in the financial crisis.

The Telegraph reports that the Financial Services Authority has actively discouraged up to 10 European banks from establishing branches in London over fears about their stability, according to senior sources at the regulator, which is not empowered to stop the banks setting up.

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.

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