Czech Constitutional Court clears Lisbon Treaty;
Cameron to announce this week what the Conservatives' position is on Lisbon
The FT reports that the Czech Constitutional Court has ruled that the Lisbon Treaty does not violate the country's constitution, opening the way for President Vaclav Klaus to sign the pact. Die Presse reports that Czech Senator Jiri Oberfalzer has said he now wants to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The BBC reports that David Cameron has said he is "disappointed" by the decision and said he would decide "later this week" what to do about the Conservative position on a referendum on the Treaty, should Cameron form the next Government. The Telegraph reports that the announcement could come as early as today.
The front page of the paper reports that Mr Cameron said that once the Treaty is endorsed by all 27 EU members and comes into force, it will "not be a treaty" and will instead be part of European law. It also quotes David Heathcoat Amory MP, saying: "You cannot have a referendum on something that doesn't exist. I accept that and I shall wait to see what my leader proposes next."
Senior Conservatives are now saying that instead of a referendum on Lisbon, they will seek to renegotiate several of the changes it implements. The paper quotes a Conservative source saying: "It is clear that a post-ratification referendum is simply not possible. We will look at the parts of the treaty that are not acceptable and seek to renegotiate them."
The Times reports that David Cameron will also pledge to write into law that no British Government will ever again be able to push through a European Treaty without a referendum. The paper also suggests that, by seeking a mandate in the next election manifesto to "repatriate" powers in areas of employment, justice and home affairs, Mr Cameron will be able to avoid a "pre-negotiation" referendum if he is elected.
PA quotes Europe Minister Chris Bryant saying: "Now he is clearly saying that there is not going to be a referendum so his cast iron is already rusting pretty badly. I think this is a matter of trust, whether you can really trust David Cameron with the British interest."
A leader in the Telegraph argues, "The favoured option appears to be a binding 'manifesto mandate' empowering him [Cameron] to renegotiate important aspects of our relationship with the EU. Such a plan has some merit but is a poor second-best to the referendum, so solemnly promised by both main parties, that might now never be called. For the majority of voters...this is a scandalous state of affairs."
Writing in the Telegraph David Chalmers, Professor of European Union Law at LSE, argues that, instead of focusing Conservative EU policy on repatriating powers in social and employment policy, the Conservatives should do what the Germans did with the Constitutional Court's ruling. He writes, "This stated that even where the EU was acting within its extensive competencies, there were certain lines it could not cross. Education, law and order, defence, cultural policy and, above all, social policy were to be predominantly a matter for national law not EU law. In British terms, this would simply mean amending the European Communities Act so that where the EU passes laws that violate things that mean a lot to us we reserve the right not to apply the law... This would not require negotiation with the other governments."
Meanwhile, the FT reports that the EEF industry body has warned that a Conservative government's negotiations on the repatriation of powers could be complicated by the resurgence of the issue of Britain's opt-out from the EU's Working Time Directive. A Commission report this month - ostensibly about how employees on call are dealt with under the law - could reopen the wider question of how the opt-out works.
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Belgian PM emerges as candidate for EU President
Herman Van Rompuy, Belgian Prime Minister, has emerged as a possible consensus candidate for the first permanent European President. While Rompuy insists that he is not an official candidate, diplomatic sources commented "there is a consensus over his name, a rarity among the 27 EU member states." El Pais reports that Sarkozy has "subtly indicated" his support for Van Rompuy, which is significant given France and Germany's earlier announcement that they will support the same Presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, the Times notes that, when referring to Tony Blair's Presidential bid, David Cameron said to Gordon Brown in Parliament yesterday, "It is completely unacceptable to see an unelected Prime Minister pushing for an unelected president under a treaty no one was allowed to vote for!" There is also speculation that Nick Clegg has got his eye on the Foreign Minister post after he asked Brown to "look beyond his party ranks at other good candidates" other than David Miliband.
Stephen Booth: "The defence of our civil liberties is now a war on two fronts"
Writing for the Guardian's Comment is Free, Open Europe's Stephen Booth argues that, "While the UK government pushes ahead with new ways to stockpile our personal data and watch us at every street corner, the European Union is quietly getting on with establishing its very own Europe-wide version of the surveillance state."
He writes that "Once [the] Lisbon [Treaty] is finally ratified, it will be full steam ahead. Plans are already underway for a fledgling EU 'Home Office' which has been dubbed the committee on internal security. It will decide how national police, border, immigration and criminal justice authorities should deal with cross-border issues throughout the EU."
He adds, "When the treaty was being negotiated, the UK government insisted it would be able to pick and choose which EU justice and home affairs policies it opts into, presenting this as a victory for the British 'national interest' in negotiations with our dastardly EU neighbours. But in practice, the UK has been all too happy to drive controversial policies through at the EU level, safe in the knowledge they will avoid proper attention in parliament and the media."
RBS to shed 3,700 jobs in plan to appease EU state aid rules
The BBC reports that RBS and Lloyds are to sell off branches in a major shake-up of the UK banking industry. The sales have been demanded by the European Commission amid competition concerns after the two were bailed out by the Government. The Independent notes that RBS' restructuring plan will lead to 3,700 job losses.
Meanwhile, the Irish Independent reports that shares in Allied Irish bank slumped again yesterday as investors worried that the European Commission may force the bank to sell units and prevent it from raising equity until the outcome of talks with Brussels on state aid is decided.
Sarkozy wants Internal Market Commission portfolio for France
The FTDeutschland reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy wants current MEP Michel Barnier to succeed Charlie McCreevy as EU Internal Market Commissioner. A British diplomat is quoted saying the nightmare scenario would be David Milliband as EU Foreign Minister, and a French Commissioner in charge of Finance, where he would counteract the interests of the City of London. A leader in the newspaper comments that "Europe doesn't need a Commissioner who is only concerned with enforcing its own national financial centre. The suspicion is that is what Sarkozy wants". German Chanceller Angela Merkel also reportedly wants Gunter Oettinger to succeed Gunter Verheugen as Industry Commissioner, "to protect German industry against an onslaught from Brussels", notes Eurointelligence.
Meanwhile, the Irish Independent reports that former Fianna Fail minister and current member of the European Court of Auditors Maire Geoghegan-Quinn is "hotly tipped" to become Ireland's next EU Commissioner, in charge of budgets - even though the government would prefer the agriculture portfolio.
European Voice describes the current EU Commission as a "lame-duck" since its five year mandate expired on Sunday. As a successor Commission has not been approved the current Commission is obliged to continue only in a "caretaker capacity".
EU's big six to discuss counter-terrorism in "undemocratic" talks with the US
European Voice reports on a meeting between the interior ministers of the EU's six biggest states (UK, Germany, France, Spain, Poland and Italy) and the US's top security official this Thursday in which they will discuss organised crime, exchange of data and how to increase public support for anti-terrorism measures. While the head of MI5 and the head of US homeland security are attending the meeting, neither Jacques Barrot, the European Commissioner for Freedom, Justice and Security, nor Gilles de Kerchove, the EU's counter-terrorism co-ordinator are scheduled to attend. Lib Dem MEP Sarah Ludford is quoted saying "Six governments cutting themselves off from mainstream EU work is inefficient as well as undemocratic".
Council on Foreign Relations warns that Washington sees EU governments' attention seeking as "infantile"
The FT's Brussels blog notes that today is the first formal EU-US summit under the Obama administration and writes, "Even Europeans know that their inability or reluctance to put a sensible limit on the number of people who represent them is a weakness... Will the situation improve once the EU has its first full-time president, one of whose tasks will be to represent the EU in external relations? Unlikely."
Meanwhile, the Times notes that a new report from the European Council on Foreign Relations argues that, "Europe has the US President it wished for, but Barack Obama lacks the strong transatlantic partner he wants. Seen from Washington, there is something almost infantile about how European governments behave towards them -- a combination of attention seeking and responsibility shirking".
Zapatero calls for more solidarity for communal repatriation of illegal immigrants
In a joint press conference with Lawrence Gonzi, Malta's Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain's Prime Minister, appealed to the "solidarity principle" and to the necessity of a common EU immigration policy, reports El Mundo. Zapatero, who will hold the EU's next rotating presidency, advocated a strengthening of Frontex, the EU border control agency, and for greater "political and diplomatic" involvement by EU member states related to joint repatriations of immigrants.
The Parliament quotes Open Europe's Mats Persson discussing the implications of the EU's proposed Consumer Rights Directive, which would threaten the right of shoppers to get their money back for faulty goods.
Russia has warned the European Union that a new gas conflict is brewing with Ukraine.
Belgian daily De Standaard reports that MEPs receive €4,202 per month for "office expenses", which they receive whether they spend it or not and without having to present any proof. This is on top of their €7,000 per month wage, the article adds.
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The Chief Executive of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales Michael Izza has accused the EU of "political interference" in and damaging the image of the International Accounting Standards Board.
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