Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 22 December 2009

Charlie McCreevy: Sarkozy sees European Commission "as a commission for the advancement of French interests"
EUobserver reports that, in a speech to the Association of European Journalists in Dublin, outgoing EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has said that recent statements by French President Nicolas Sarkozy were a "coming out" on EU matters.
Regarding Sarkozy's comment that Michel Barnier's appointment as the next Internal Market Commissioner was a "defeat for Anglo Saxon Capitalism", Commissioner McCreevy said: "President Sarkozy has laid to rest once and for all the myth that EU commissioners, certainly French ones, when they go to Brussels, are expected to leave aside their home member state national interests and political priorities and act exclusively in the community interest".
He added, "What President Sarkozy's statement tells us is that like many of his fellow countrymen, he does not see the European Commission as a commission for the advancement of European interests. He sees it as a commission for the advancement of French interests."
Commissioner McCreevy went on to say that "The influence of France in Brussels is impressive, though. People forget that the Brussels bureaucracy was designed by the French almost as a copy of how the administration in Paris works. This has over the years given the French a huge advantage in knowing how to pull the levers of power. And if you look around the commission you will see that the French have been masters in getting their key people into some of the most powerful posts".
He said that in all the major areas of finance, services, trade, EU monetary policy and central bank leadership the French "have scooped the pool, lock, stock and barrel", adding: "So I salute President Sarkozy and his colleagues in the French foreign service and the finance ministry for their extraordinary deftness and diplomatic and tactical coups".
Telegraph EUobserver Irish Times
Open Europe research finds top 100 EU regulations will cost £184 billion over next decade
The Telegraph reports on Open Europe's new research, published yesterday, which shows that the top 100 most costly EU regulations introduced since 1998 will cost the UK £18 billion in 2010 alone. Over the next decade, they will cost £184 billion in total.
Open Europe Research Director Mats Persson is quoted saying, "Despite some attempts at reform, the cost of EU regulation continues to rise year on year. Some of these regulations might be helpful but far too often the cost of EU rules outweigh the benefits. The UK is facing a massive public deficit, so the Government should be doing everything it can to save money. Targeting even just a few of the most costly EU regulations could save taxpayers and business billions every year."
Telegraph Open Europe press release Top 100 most expensive EU regulations OE blog
European Parliament staff to strike again in January
Dutch press agency ANP reports that European Parliament employees in Brussels are planning to strike from 11 to 15 January, during the hearings of the incoming EU Commissioners, over the on-going disagreement regarding a planned 3.7% pay rise for EU civil servants. Member states have suggested a 1.85% pay increase as a compromise.

The article also reports that staff at other EU institutions, including the European Commission, have threatened similar action. However, the trade unions will wait to see whether or not the European Commission administration will start a law suit against member states over the pay rise.

Meanwhile, the Coulisses De Bruxelles blog reports on a letter sent from Catherine Day, General Secretary of the European Commission, to all EU staff which argues that member states should accept the 3.7% pay increase agreed to in the staff regulations for EU civil servants. The letter says: "It is not a question of giving a higher or lower personal salary increase, but of applying the compulsory method for calculating the figure and of respecting European law and the agreement signed by representatives of EU member states in 2004". 
ANP Les Coulisses De Bruxelles OE blog
Copenhagen failure causes carbon price to plummet;
Energy firms warn "the lights may go out"
The FT reports that prices for carbon permits traded within the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) fell by nearly 10 percent yesterday in the aftermath of the Copenhagen climate conference, which failed to produce firm global commitments to reduce carbon emissions.
The Guardian reports that energy companies E.ON and Centrica have warned that they would not invest the tens of billions of pounds to build expensive new nuclear reactors and clean coal plants at today's carbon price, which is supposed to penalise dirty coal and gas plants. Spot prices for ETS permits are now around €12 (£10) a tonne, close to a six-month low, and experts say that to make building new nuclear reactors financially viable, a price closer to €40 is needed.
A spokesman for E.ON said that without government action to tighten carbon markets, companies would wait until ageing reactors and coal plants close over the next decade and until power prices rocket before they made the investment. "It is taking a hell of a risk of the lights going out," he said. "Power prices would go through the roof - they would have to get at a level where we think 'there's money to be made'. But we will get very, very tight [on security of supply]. It's the worst case scenario."
Writing in the Telegraph, Dan Lewis, Chief Executive of the Economic Policy Centre, argues that an incoming Conservative government will need to "immediately confront the EU" regarding the UK's energy security. He notes: "That's because the UK will have to seek a lengthy opt-out from the European Large Combustion Plant Directive that will close down many of Britain's coal-fired plants by 2015 without replacement. Then he will have to renegotiate the truly unachievable 2020 renewables target which demands that 35% of our electricity supply come from mostly intermittent renewables."
In the Express, Ross Clark looks at the "winners" of carbon trading, noting that many big businesses and even major polluters have profited from selling surplus carbon permits on the ETS market. Open Europe has found that oil and gas companies' operations in the UK were granted a surplus of carbon permits worth €28.6m in 2008. For example, ExxonMobil received €4.3m and Total received €5.4m. Heavy industrial polluters such as Corus received €47m, while cement firms Hanson and Lafarge received €17.3m and €20.2m in 2008.
Meanwhile, the Economist's Charlemagne blog looks at the EU's role in the Copenhagen negotiations, noting "the thing that stands out here in Brussels is the almost-total absence of the European Union from the final, depressing bouts of deal-making." Charlemagne adds, "European complexity clearly undermined European power, once again. Europe was represented at the top level by France, Germany and Britain, who operated as a directoire of big countries. The leaders of those countries were then flanked by the Swedish prime minister, as holder of the rotating presidency, and the president of the European Commission."
The front page of Handelsblatt reports that, following the Copenhagen summit, German businesses are worried that the German economy could be left at a disadvantage because, "Germany is going ahead with climate protection and is leaving other EU countries a long way behind".
Handelsblatt Times Guardian FT FT 2 Independent Express: Clark City AM BBC EUobserver WSJ WSJ: Analysis Telegraph: Lewis Economist: Charlemagne blog Open Europe research Open Europe press release
ECB board at odds over monetary policy
The FT reports that the "influential" Cypriot ECB Governor Athanasios Orphanides has said that the ECB should maintain its "ultra-loose monetary policy" as long as is necessary, in order to 'head off' risks to the eurozone caused by exceptionally low inflation. FTDeutschland notes that this puts him in opposition to his colleagues who want to end loose monetary policies as soon as possible, such as Bundesbank chief Axel Weber.
Meanwhile, in the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues that "the super-strong euro is having sharply varying effects on the different countries in the eurozone and causing the rift between north and south to widen further." He adds that, "The headache for the ECB is that Germany seems well able to cope with a strong currency after screwing down wages and raising productivity, even if Club Med is squealing. German firms have gained some 18pc in labour cost competitiveness against Italy and 15pc against Spain since 2005, and far more going back to the mid-1990s...Jobs are already telling the story. Unemployment fell slightly to 7.5pc in Germany in October, but continued rising in Spain to 19.3pc."
FTD FT Telegraph WSJ
New EU Justice Commissioner to review Data Protection Directive and consider introduction of EU Civil Code
EurActiv reports that Viviane Reding, the EU's incoming Commissioner for Justice and Fundamental rights, is planning several reforms under her portfolio, including the introduction of a European Civil Code and a revamp of EU data protection rules.
The article reports that the notion of a 'European Civil Code' has already been partially addressed by current Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, who proposed the Consumer Rights Directive currently before the European Parliament, establishing the basis for EU consumer contract legislation. The article notes that national civil codes include things such as property rights, contracts, tort and general obligations at the core of civic life. An 'EU source' is also quoted saying that Reding's first move will be to "review the Data Protection Directive of 1995".
EUobserver reports that the Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos said on Friday that Madrid sees the foundation of a Palestinian state as one of the main priorities of the Spanish EU Presidency, due to begin on 1 January.
EUobserver Open Europe briefing: Spanish EU Presidency
Le Monde reports that in spite of opposition from the Left, the French postal service, La Poste, will be privatised into a public limited company on 1 March 2010, to conform with EU law aiming to privatise the postal service market across the EU by 2011. 
Le Monde
On his New Statesman blog James Macintyre claims that Gordon Brown privately agreed to back Lord Mandelson last month if he wanted to take the EU Foreign Minister job. However, Lord Mandelson decided to stay in the UK for next year's General Election. Iain Dale's blog suggests that the French may have vetoed him, because of difficulties from his time as EU Trade Commissioner.
New Statesman: Macintyre Iain Dale's Diary Spectator: Coffee House blog
On his Telegraph blog Dan Hannan MEP lists his top ten reasons to leave the EU.
Telegraph: Hannan blog
European Voice reports that Croatia has this week closed a further two chapters in its EU accession bid, and Turkey has opened negotiations on the environment chapter. However, Slovenia is still blocking progress in three of Croatia's chapters.
EUobserver European Voice
It is widely reported that Gordon Brown, Nick Clegg, and David Cameron will take part in 3 live televised debates in the run-up to the next General Election. However, the Scottish National Party have threatened legal action over their failure to be included in the debates.
Mail WSJ Spectator: Coffee House blog Guardian Times Telegraph Independent BBC BBC 2      

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