Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 19 January 2010

E.ON Chief Executive: UK needs to ignore EU rules on coal plants to keep lights on
The Guardian reports that E.ON Chief Executive Paul Golby has urged the Government to defy EU environmental regulations and keep open some of the coal and oil-fired power plants due to close in the coming years in order to keep the lights on. Under the EU's Large Combustion Plant Directive, a number of the UK's old-fashioned plants will be forced to close by 2015 but Golby argues some should remain operational and ready to come online during periods of peak demand such as those experienced in recent weeks.
"Given that the issue we are trying to grapple with is climate change, there is a question mark over keeping one or two of these oil or coal fired plants mothballed to secure supplies for a few days per year when we get these conditions," Golby said. "It might be a small economic and carbon premium worth paying for security of supply and getting us through this transition to a low-carbon energy system. It's something we have talked to the government about."
Golby has warned that as more wind farms are built to comply with EU renewable energy targets, more back-up generation will be needed for when the wind does not blow, particularly during cold weather. E.ON's UK wind farms operated at only 16% capacity on average during this month's cold snap.
Guardian Open Europe research
BCC warns that employment regulation will cost business £25.6 over next 4 years
The British Chambers of Commerce have warned that business are to be hit by 18 new employment and tax regulations over the next four years which will cost firms £25.6bn, reports the Guardian. The Chambers' Director-General David Frost has called for a three year ban on new employment laws to help firms cope with 'daunting' extra costs, and is urging the Government to lead a campaign for an EU-wide delay to the introduction of regulations. Some of those costs will come from the EU's Agency Workers Directive, which has to be implemented in the UK before October 2011, and the European Works Council Directive.
Open Europe's recent briefing on EU social and employment legislation, based on the UK Government's own impact assessments, found that existing UK laws derived from EU social legislation will cost the UK economy over £71bn between 2010 and 2020.
Mail Guardian Times BCC press release Open Europe briefing
Bulgarian Commissioner designate withdraws her candidacy
The BBC reports that Bulgaria's nominee to the new European Commission Rumiana Jeleva has resigned - a move that could delay confirmation of the new 27-strong team. Kristalina Georgieva, Vice-President of the World Bank, has been put forward as the new Bulgarian candidate. Questions had been raised over Jeleva's declaration of her financial interests and her past management of a consultancy firm. The article notes that the European Parliament's legal service cleared her of wrongdoing, but MEPs also doubted Jeleva's competence.
Meanwhile, European Voice reports that in his hearing with MEPs the Slovak Commissioner designate Maros Sefcovic was asked to explain a comment he is alleged to have made, that Roma were "exploiting the Slovak welfare state" but that he emerged "safely" from the hearing. Dutch Digital Agenda Commissioner designate Neelie Kroes has been forced to write to MEPs in an attempt to stave off doubts over whether she is sufficiently prepared for the job.
BBC Irish Times EUobserver EurActiv EUobserver 2 European Voice European Voice 2 European Voice
Fears still loom that Greek budget deficit has been under-stated
The WSJ reports that both the Dutch Finance Minister Wouter Bos and German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble have suggested that Greece will have to conform to EU rules on public deficit limits, and will not receive financial help from other eurozone members.
The Scotsman reports on Open Europe's poll of German voters in June 2009, which found that 70% of Germans are against using public money to bail out other countries that got into financial trouble. The article notes that, even if Greece does not have to leave the eurozone and accepts drastic spending cuts instead, "the social and political pressures will put a big question mark over political stability in Greece and the ability of its government to survive."
EU finance ministers will today discuss Greece's plan for reducing its budget deficit from 12.7% GDP in 2009 to 2.8% by the end of 2012, with European Voice reporting that the Commission has described the plan as "adequate", although it will spend the next two weeks deciding whether or not to officially endorse it. Incoming EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said that the Commission would present a proposal to ministers to give Eurostat auditing powers, to prevent any manipulation of data.
Reuters notes that there remains a possibility that Greece has over-stated the 2009 data in order to make its deficit-cutting efforts this year look more successful, they said.
WSJ WSJ 2 BBC Irish Times Scotsman: Jamieson Open Europe press release City AM Reuters FT European Voice EurActiv
Le Monde: The EU cannot rely on an ageing German economy
An article in Le Monde notes that, while the economic problems in countries like Greece, Romania, Spain, Portugal and Ireland are grabbing the headlines, not many people realise that the German economy is weaker than it appears to be.  Its GDP fell by 5% in 2009, the biggest drop since the Second World War, with a 15% drop in exports and a 20% drop in sales of German manufactures. 
The article notes that the poorer EU countries are hoping for Germany to be the "trailblazer economy" to lift the EU out of the recession, but that in the long term, the outlook for Germany as the EU's biggest economy is not good.  Its population is declining and ageing: by 2050 Germany's population is projected to be 70 million, meaning it will no longer be the most populous EU country, and it will have a higher proportion of retired people than most EU countries.
Le Monde
French diplomat: Lisbon's confusing power structures risk rupture between the machine in Brussels and the member states
In an interview with Toute L'Europe, Maxime Lefebvre, a French diplomat and academic at IEP de Paris, argues that the Lisbon Treaty does not solve the problem of representing the EU on the world stage.  He is critical of Lisbon for not having ended the rotational Presidency of the EU, which he argues undermines the idea of the permanent President, Herman Van Rompuy.  He says: "There is a risk of fracturing...We have created a risk of causing a rupture between the machine in Brussels and the member states, which might show less of an interest to be involved in the EU."
Meanwhile, writing in Les Echos, Harvard Professor Dominique Moïsi argues that Mr. Van Rompuy may turn out to be the best man for the job, describing him as a "discreet, but firm" leader. He writes, "Nobody expects anything from him, and he can do nothing but surprise us positively".
Toute L'Europe Les Echos
Gordon Brown meets EU President and announces plan for new 'jobs compact'
Gordon Brown is meeting with EU President Herman van Rompuy today, with PA reporting that Mr Brown is to unveil his proposal for an 'EU Compact for Jobs and Growth', which he suggests could get 15 million more people into work across the bloc and raise EU output by 4%, or €500 billion. The proposed compact will be discussed at a special meeting called by Mr van Rompuy in Brussels on February 11, and envisages wide-scale reform of the EU budget to complete the single market and create more flexible labour markets.
Press Association
Commission to propose that the eurozone becomes a member of G20
Luxembourg's PM Jean-Claude Juncker was reappointed yesterday as President of the eurozone finance ministers for another two-and-a-half year term, saying: "The scope for its [the eurozone group's] activities is much broader". Under the Lisbon Treaty, the group is given legal status, and more powers to take decisions, rather than waiting for a full meeting of EU finance ministers. Mr Juncker also said the European Commission was set to formally propose that the eurogroup become a member of the G20 and that a small secretariat of "four to five" civil servants be set up in the Council of Ministers building in Brussels to prepare the group's monthly meetings.
EUobserver European Voice
House of Commons committee says food waste should be banned from landfills to meet EU targets
The Metro reports that the House of Commons Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs have said that millions of tonnes of food waste should be banned from going to landfill within five years. The action comes amid fears that Britain could be fined £200m by the EU if it misses the target, contained in the Landfill Directive, to halve the amount of biodegradable waste sent to landfill by 2013, from 1995 levels. The report also says firm plans to deal with business waste must replace "vague ambitions and rhetoric".
Committee report BBC

Germany rejects idea of EU tax
Der Standard reports that the German government has rejected the idea of an EU tax to help finance the EU budget. A spokesman for the German Finance Department is quoted saying: "we reject an EU tax or EU involvement in national taxes". The WSJ quotes the Finance Ministry saying, "such a tax is not necessary because existing funding rules already ensure sufficient own funds for the EU." The reaction comes following Luxembourg Finance Minister Luc Frieden's argument in favour of an EU tax.
Standard WSJ

Private Eye: Spain has failed to protect EU citizens' rights
The Brussels Sprouts column in Private Eye notes that the Spanish EU Presidency have said that "citizens' rights" are top of their agenda, but argues that "thousands of EU citizens have seen their homes in Spain demolished thanks to a loophole in Spain's planning laws...Even Spain's attempt to change the law...has been dismissed by the European Commission as failing to protect citizens' rights and breaching EU public procurement rules."
No link
Italian company undercut British wages at Lincolnshire plant, report claims
A pay audit, requested by trade unions, claims that British workers at a power plant project in Lincolnshire were undercut by the subcontractor CMN that paid Italian labourers over £1,000 less on average per week than the agreed rate in a national pay deal agreed between the union Unite and the industry, the Guardian reports. The dispute over pay ignited a wildcat strike in Lincolnshire last year. Unite has called for CMN's works contract to be terminated after the discrepancies came to light. Free movement of labour within the European Union requires a company to pay posted foreign workers the agreed national minimum wage, either as legislated or agreed in a collective agreement.
Guardian Open Europe research
EU finance ministers postpone vote on ECB Vice-Presidency
Bloomberg reports that EU finance ministers have decided to postpone a vote on a successor to European Central Bank Vice-President Lucas Papademos until next month in order to clear some procedural hurdles. The frontrunners are Luxembourg's Central Bank Chief Yves Mersch, his Portuguese counterpart Vitor Constancio and ECB Banking Supervision Committee Chairman Peter Praet. FT Deutschland reports that the decision is relevant for the appointment of ECB President, as a "north-south balance" needs to be taken into account, and Bundesbank President Alex Weber would see his chances of becoming President increase if Constancio is appointed.
Bloomberg Standaard La Stampa Il Sole 24 Ore FT Deutschland Echos
The European Commission has said it is still seeking answers from Renault regarding its recent controversial statements on national car production. The French Industry Minister Christian Estros said last week: "If a car is destined for sale in France it has to be produced in France".
Spain seeks to maintain strong CAP during its Presidency
Le Figaro reports that, according to incoming Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, the Spanish EU Presidency has vowed to defend high subsidies and the dominant place of agriculture in the European Union's budget.
No link
The EU has pledged €400m (£354m) in aid for Haiti, along with a contingent of 140 - 150 gendarmes (the European Gendarmerie Force) to assist on the ground.
BBC EUobserver European Voice Guardian Irish Times Le Monde Toute L'Europe
In the Times, Bronwen Maddox looks at the prospect of international sanctions against Iran, noting that Germany's stance is crucial given its substantial trading links with the country.
Times: Maddox
Writing in the Times, Frank Pope argues that the EU Commission needs to enforce a ban on fishing bluefin tuna.
Times: Pope BBC
A study published yesterday by Eurostat claims that 17% of the EU27 population are at risk of poverty, with children and the elderly at higher risk.
The Canadian Press Eurostat

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