Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 23 March 2010

Barroso calls for EU leaders to reach decision on Greece this week;
Bundesbank suggests IMF's mandate may not extend to assistance for Greece
In an interview with the FT, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said "it is completely wrong and misleading to say that because of the 'no bail-out' clause [in the EU treaties] there cannot be help to some member states". He added that he did not understand "why some people have a kind of almost resistance to the IMF as if it were a foreign power", adding that eurozone and EU member states are the biggest contributors to the IMF.
Spiegel reports that several EU foreign ministers are also calling for a decision on a Greek bailout, with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini quoted saying: "We need a compromise - it is a difficult moment, [but] we have an institutional as well as a moral duty to intervene as fast as possible". Jean Asselborn, Foreign Minister of Luxemburg, also warned that if uncertainty continued, Greece would be "very, very badly off".
Spiegel also reports that Angela Merkel has begun her campaign for the German state elections by saying that "countries which cheat on their public finances should help themselves" and promising to defend her position among other EU leaders to resist aid for Greece.
EUobserver reports that eurozone Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker has softened his position towards IMF involvement in a potential EU bailout of Greece saying: "My personal view is that it's better to have a solution that does not have an IMF component...But I think mixing the two instruments would not be a major scandal", adding that eurozone states should provide "the lion's share" of any financial aid.
In its monthly report the Bundesbank has pointed out that it is not the IMF's job to help countries finance excessive budget deficits, saying: "The IMF's mandate stipulates that it may only use its foreign-currency reserves to bridge short-term balance of payments deficits". The Bundesbank also said it saw the expulsion of a eurozone member as possible, reports Sueddeutsche.
The Times reports that Deputy Greek PM Theodoros Pangalos has accused Germany of exploiting its debt crisis, saying: "By speculating on Greek bonds at the expense of your friend and partner, by allowing [German] credit institutions to participate in this deplorable game, some people are making money".
Meanwhile the Guardian reports that the Bank of Greece has forecast in its annual report that the economy will contract by 2% this year, worse than the 1.7% predicted, and blamed the assessment on the spending cuts and austerity measures implemented by the Greek government.
City AM FT European Voice FT: Interview transcript FT 2 EUobserver European Voice FAZ European Voice 2 WSJ Telegraph FT 3 IHT Times Irish Times EurActiv El Pais ABC ABC Le Figaro Les Echos LaTribune Le Point Le Figaro 2 Guardian BBC: Hewitt blog Spiegel Dow Jones Süddeutsche Courrier international Spiegel 2
Barroso backs proposal for EU 'bank tax'
The FT reports that Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso yesterday gave his support to the creation of a tax on financial transactions to insure taxpayers against potential future bailouts of failing banks. He conceded that such a levy could pose problems if there were a lack of co-ordination internationally or "distortive cumulative effects". He added, "The message I want to send to the City of London is that we care a lot about the financial services sector and certainly do not want to put it at risk."
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the IMF's Managing Director, last week called for a "European Resolution fund" financed by the financial industry and Euractiv notes that Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier said on Friday that he is already working on a proposal and will present a Communication in the autumn. City AM reports that Germany is expected to approve its own banking levy next week.
FT EurActiv City AM Le Figaro IHT
Austrian Foreign Minister: "Everyone is unhappy" about proposed EU diplomatic service
EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton has finalised the architecture of the EU's External Action Service (EEAS) and will present her plans to the Foreign Affairs Committee of Parliament this afternoon.  The proposed structure, similar to that of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a secretary-general, has already been considered by the European Parliament as unacceptable.
The FT reports that the end of April deadline originally set for the establishment of the service is unlikely to be met and, on his blog, Jean Quatremer describes the deep-seated disputes as "trench warfare". Die Welt quotes Austria's Foreign Minister, Michael Spinderlegger saying "Everyone is unhappy at the moment", with the article noting that member states such as Poland and Hungary are wary of undue influence over the service by France, the UK and Germany.
Le Figaro notes that the hunt for the service's Secretary-General, a position which will be Lady Ashton's key deputy, is already fraught with competition.  Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, is quoted by the paper saying, "France will without doubt put forward a candidate and it is my opinion it will not be the only one".
Meanwhile, EUobserver reports that Ashton has accepted France's offer to take a free French language course at the Millefeuille Provence language school before the summer. Austrian daily Der Standard reports that Germany and Austria are fighting to maintain the influence of the German language in the EU institutions. In a letter to Ashton, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle requested that she consider applicants' knowledge of languages, especially German when hiring staff for the new service.
EUobserver Coulisses de Bruxelles Euractiv Times FT Welt Der Standard
MEP: A Conservative government would make it clear that current AIFM Directive is 'unacceptable'
Reuters reports that Conservative MEP Syed Kamal has said that a Conservative government would oppose the EU's proposed directive on private equity and hedge funds. "What's on the table - to make it difficult for European investors to invest in non-EU hedge funds - is protectionism," he said. "They (a Conservative government) would make it clear that it isn't acceptable." However, the decision will be taken under qualified majority voting, meaning that that the UK could be outvoted.
Reuters OE research: AIFM Directive OE research: AIFM and investment trusts
Taxpayers will be faced with £2.1m per MEP bill in 2011
The Express reports that draft figures for the next European Parliament budget have revealed that each MEP will cost taxpayers £2.1 million next year, with the Parliament's overall budget rising by 6.5 percent. The increase means that the Parliament will breach a 22-year-old pledge that its budget would never exceed a fifth of the EU's overall administrative budget.
Open Europe's Stephen Booth is quoted saying, "This is a huge rise in these tough economic times when governments across Europe are trying to find ways to save money. Taxpayers are being forced to tighten their belts. Euro MPs should do the same."
Express Express: Leader
EP President calls for directly elected EU Commissioners
EurActiv reports that European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek said in a speech in Berlin yesterday that EU Commissioners should take part in Europe-wide elections in order to gain a "democratic mandate". He said that a Treaty change would not be needed but that "We just have to convince the EU countries to add their commissioner candidates to the lists for the European elections". He said it would create a "parliamentarisation" of the European Commission, which he claimed decides about 65% of the laws adopted at the national level.
He said that plan would make the EU closer to the "European demos goal". Recalling demonstrations in Germany on unification in 1989, he said: "In this way we must change the attitude of our citizens, and say: 'Wir sind das Volk Europas' ('We are the nation of Europe'). We need to create a European identity of citizens, a new sense of belonging".
Barroso claims Cathy Ashton made decision over EU Ambassador to US
In an interview with the FT, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso suggested that it was Cathy Ashton's "initiative" to nominate his former Chief of Staff Joao Vale de Almeida as EU Ambassador to the US. He said, "This was unanimously supported by the Commission but it was a decision of the High Representative". He added that he found it "quite extraordinary that some foreign ministers went public by criticising the decision of the High Representative, the first nomination she took, and I think it's quite extraordinary that they believe this is a way of reinforcing her role."
He also appeared to place the blame with member states for taking so long to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, saying: "Washington is one of the most important, if not the most important capital in which we should have a head of delegation and for several months it was vacant that position. Why was it vacant? Because member states took too long to ratify the Lisbon Treaty and so the Commissioner's caretaker Commission did not want to nominate the head of the delegation. It should have been several months before."
FT OE blog
Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman reports that during her visit on 29 and 30 March German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she will offer Turkey alternatives to full EU membership. In an interview with Deutschlandfunk on Sunday, she said: "I am of the opinion that we should rather aim for a privileged partnership, in other words a very close affiliation of Turkey to the European Union".
Today's Zaman
EUobserver reports that draft conclusions for this week's EU summit reveal that EU leaders do not favour a strong role for the Commission in establishing national targets under the EU's new economic plan, "Strategy 2020".
At a public hearing in Brussels yesterday, the European Commission attempted to dispel concerns over the Anti-Counterfeiting and Trade Agreement (ACTA). The Commission's Intellectual Property Spokesman Luc Devigne tried to reassure businesses and civil liberties groups that the treaty would impose criminal sanctions only on counterfeit goods "on a commercial scale," and not on "proverbial housewife file-sharing".
NouvelObs Euractiv
The Times reports that European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht has warned there could be "transatlantic trade war" over the US' decision to exclude EADS from a £33 billion Pentagon contract.
The Irish Times reports that EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton has said that talks between Israel and the Palestinians should, "within two years", lead to the creation of "an independent, democratic, viable state of Palestine that lives side by side in peace and security with Israel and other neighbours".
Irish Times
Die Welt reports that German bakers are fearful of EU requirements to label the salt content of their bread. Peter Becker, President of the Central Association of the German Baking Craft, commented: "I find it discriminatory, if we will not be allowed to describe our bread as healthy anymore. I find it perverse".
The Express reports that yesterday the London Olympics organisers confirmed that tickets to the games will be universally available for purchase by citizens from all EU member states and none will be reserved for UK purchase only, due to EU competition policy.
Express OE blog
Le Monde looks at the possibility of greater Franco-British military cooperation in the future. According to the paper, the French government is waiting for the right opportunity to begin further talks after the UK's General Election.
Le Monde
PA reports that the European Court of Justice has ruled that Google is not infringing trademark law by allowing advertisers to buy online keywords corresponding to their competitors' trademarks.
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