Friday, February 26, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 26 February 2010

ECJ's top lawyer says member states should pay for healthcare costs of patients treated elsewhere in the EU
The BBC reports that the European Court of Justice's Advocate General Paolo Mengozzi has said that patients who receive hospital treatment in another EU member state should be fully reimbursed by their home country.
Mr.Mengozzi made the comments in reference to a case involving a resident of Spain, who had unplanned hospital treatment in France and is pressing for Spain to reimburse him. Mr.Mengozzi said Spain's refusal to reimburse the patient's extra hospital costs in France put Spain in breach of EU law relating to the freedom to provide services. The case is yet to be decided but the legal opinion of Mr.Mengozzi carries weight as a suggested legal solution to the case.
The European Parliament is backing a new draft EU directive aimed at harmonising cross-border healthcare, but the legislation has not yet come into effect. Under the plan, patients would be able to claim up to the amount their treatment would have cost in their home country. The aim is to clarify the possibilities for citizens to claim money back from their home state for healthcare treatment sought in a different country. In a landmark ruling in 2006, the European Court said the UK's National Health Service should reimburse a woman for a hip replacement operation she had in France.
Further drop in market confidence in Greek bonds points to likely bailout;
Diplomat: EU surveillance of Greece goes beyond "simple application of the European treaties"
The FT reports that Greek bond markets yesterday saw their biggest one-day fall of the year as investors warned that the country faced the growing threat of a ratings downgrade. The WSJ reports that a planned bond issue has been pushed to next week, noting that, combined with the threat of downgrade, expectations among investors have grown that the county will need to be rescued. FT Deutschland reports that Eurohypo and Hypo Real Estate, the two main German banks operating in the public debt market, will not participate in the next auction of Greek bonds.
The Mail reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel admitted last night that the Greek crisis had put the euro at risk "for the first time since its introduction." However, Merkel appeared cautious about French plans for greater 'economic governance' of the eurozone. "It would be wrong to have a coordinated economic policy for the euro group while the others can do what they want, because we are of course closely linked to our other neighbours through trade," she said. Meanwhile, speaking at the European College in Bruges last night, EU President Herman Van Rompuy cited the financial crisis as a reason for greater "economic governance" within the EU.  
On his blog, Liberation journalist Jean Quatremer quotes an unnamed EU diplomat saying, "Putting Greece under surveillance, as decided by the Eurogroup on 15 February, would have quite simply been unimaginable some months ago.  We are beyond a simple application of the European treaties, we are in the process of modifying them without saying so, in order to bring about a economic government of the eurozone." Quatremer concludes that "Paris and Berlin are still not on the same page."
The Telegraph reports that the head of Germany's debt agency has strongly hinted at a Greek rescue, saying that if Greece is allowed to default the eurozone may go with it. Carl Heinz Daube, Director of Germany's Finanzagentur debt agency, said, "If one member of the eurozone were to step out for any reason, this would be a collapse of the entire system. It would mean that after ten years, the euro experiment has ended."
The FT notes that the Greek government is expected to announce further austerity measures worth up to €3.6bn or 1.5 percent of GDP, after visits from the European Commission and the IMF this week. It is expected that the set of measures will include a rise in value added tax, fuel tax, duties on luxury goods and more cuts in civil servants' salary allowances.
In Prospect magazine, former IMF Chief Executive Simon Johnson argues that "The EU's leaders will try hard to keep the IMF at bay. This is not good news for Greece - or for anyone who cares about global financial stability."
The FT reports that Spanish ministers have been trying to ensure confidence in their austerity program, discussing the merits of a public sector pay freeze and urging opposition politicians to agree common policies against the crisis.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that the US Federal Reserve and the Securities Exchange Commission are to launch an inquiry into Goldman Sachs' role in masking Greece's debt burden.
FT Coulisses de Bruxelles Les Echos Telegraph Telegraph 2 L'Express IHT WSJ WSJ 2 Mail FT 2 Independent EUobserver City AM Le Monde FT 3 FT: Leader FT WSJ WSJ: Fidler Prospect: Johnson Coulisses de Bruxelles blog WSJ 3 FT 4 Irish Times WSJ 4 Handelsblatt FTD ASCA Coulisses de Bruxelles
MEPs vote for €13.4 million increase in staffing costs
MEPs yesterday voted in favour of proposals to hire 150 additional staff for the European Parliament's committees and groups, which they say is needed because of the increased workload for the EP under the Lisbon Treaty. The proposal also includes an increase in MEPs' staff allowance by €1,500 a month. The vote was 430 in favour, with 117 against, with 58 abstentions. Dutch MEPs protested and voted No, according to NOS. The increase must be approved by the European Commission and member states, expected in April. The European Parliament's press service says the new posts will cost €13.4m (£12m), according to the BBC.
EUobserver European Voice BBC NOS OE blog
Centrica Chief Executive casts doubt over ability to meet EU renewables targets
The Times reports that Sam Laidlaw, Chief Executive of Centrica, has said it is unclear whether the Government scheme to build an estimated 10,000 wind turbines across the North and Irish seas would ever go ahead, because of the vast costs involved. Mr Laidlaw said that the economics of generating electricity from offshore wind turbines in deep water up to 200 miles offshore remained questionable.
A contract was awarded to Centrica to build a wind farm in the Irish sea last month, one of nine planned farms, but the construction could cost as much as £14.7 billion, according to industry estimates. Citigroup has estimated that the cost of installing one megawatt of offshore wind is about £3.5 million - roughly five times the cost of building a gas-fired power station with the same capacity.
Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), said that wind farms would be essential if Britain was to have a chance of meeting the EU target of generating 15 percent of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Times Open Europe research
European economy at risk of missing out on global recovery
Bloomberg reports that Europe's economy is in danger of becoming "unstuck" from the global recovery. Jullian Callow, of Barclays Capital, said: "Europe is where we see the biggest risk of a double dip at the global level. Europe has been lagging and we've continued to see better numbers in Asia and now the U.S." Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that the European Commission has downgraded its forecast for UK growth to just 0.6% in 2010.
Bloomberg Telegraph Les Echos Le Point  La Tribune
German business federation criticises EU 2020 strategy
Handelsblatt reports that a Commission proposal for the EU's 2020 growth strategy suggests that the European Commission should set five economic policy goals and give government leaders the responsibility to conduct the strategy. Every member state would reportedly receive detailed economic policy recommendations from Brussels. The proposal also suggested that the European Council should conduct the strategy and guard its implementation.
Responding to the plans Hans-Peter Keitel, President of the German Business Federation BDI has warned: "this discussion is on completely the wrong track. We cannot accept European steering of the national economy".
Farage faces disciplinary measures on Van Rompuy comments
Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has been summoned to European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek's office on Tuesday next week and is facing disciplinary action over his comments in the European Parliament describing EU President Herman Van Rompuy as a "damp rag". A leader in the Times argues that "Nigel Farage is an embarrassing figure who does not speak for Britain".
Mr Farage also described Belgium as a "non-country", prompting a letter of complaint from Belgian PM Yves Leterme to President Buzek. Belgian MEP Véronique De Keyser also demanded a formal apology, to which Mr Farage responded: "She is very sweet and rather pretty but I cannot apologise for the fact that Belgium is a completely artificial construction and a mistake."
Prospect: Brussels Diary Telegraph Independent Times Economist: Charlemagne notebook EUobserver European Voice BBC Times: Leader NouvelObs TF1
Hedge fund industry "has been bad at understanding" what is going on with AIFM Directive
The Parliament magazine reports that hedge fund and private equity figures at a conference in London yesterday called for MEPs to ensure that the final agreement on the EU's Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive "was a proportionate response and one that avoids damage to financial markets and the EU itself". Javier Echarri, Secretary General of the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, said the hedge fund industry "has been bad at understanding what was going on behind the scenes."
The Parliament Open Europe research
Iceland walks out of debt repayment talks
The Times reports that Icelandic officials last night walked out of talks in London aimed at reaching an agreement on the repayment of £2.3 billion in debts to the UK. According to an article in the Independent, officials from Iceland's foreign ministry secretly appealed to the head of the US embassy in Rekjavik for help last month, after claiming Britain had "bullied" the Icelandic government. A referendum is due to be held on 6 March.
Times City AM EUobserver BBC Independent
Interior ministers support EU pact to counter drug-trafficking
Proposals to launch a European pact against drug-trafficking were examined during a meeting of the 27 interior ministers yesterday. In a message said to be directly addressed to Turkey and the Balkan states, the proposals also made it clear that any countries looking to join the EU must be willing to commit to the fight against drugs.
Le Figaro L'Express
The Economist's Charlemagne column looks at the EU's relationship with Russia and suggests that, via the 'eastern partnership' project, "Bringing ex-Soviet republics into a rules-based system would challenge the bleakness of Putinism".
Economist: Charlemagne Euronews
PA reports that Europe Minister Chris Bryant has called for civil partnerships to be recognised across the EU, and said the Government is working to ensure legal protection in all member states. 11 member states, including Greece, Italy, and Poland, have no legislation covering same-sex partnerships.
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