Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 24 March 2010

On Thursday 25 March Open Europe is holding an event in Brussels from 2 - 3.30pm, entitled "The AIFM Directive: Striking the right balance between protection and growth?" Speaking at the event will be: Gunnar Hökmark, MEP for Sweden (EPP) and Member of the EP's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs; Othmar Karas, MEP for Austria (EPP) and Member of the EP's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs; Uwe Eiteljoerge, European Commission, DG Internal Market, Asset Management Unit; Karel Lannoo, CEO, Centre for European Policy Studies; and Mats Persson, Director, Open Europe.
Places are limited. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Pieter Cleppe at or Tel: 00 32 2 540 86 25.
FAZ: Germany is "no longer prepared to pay any price for European unification"
A leader in today's FAZ looks at Germany's attitude to EU integration in the wake of the eurozone crisis, arguing: "we never saw this before: A German Chancellor threatening other EU members with eurozone exclusion, doing that openly in the German Parliament. The biggest member state, which has for so long silently been the guarantee of the EU, has now openly expressed that it is no longer prepared to pay any price for European unification. The present Euro crisis is more than a monetary matter. It changes the political rules of the game in Europe."
It goes on: "the image of the paymaster of Europe, the caricature of the Brussels bureaucracy, and the growing displeasure with the loss of sovereignty has shaped a eurosceptic fundamental sentiment, into which the Greek debacle has landed like a bomb. No German government today can afford to put the European ahead of the German interest, especially not in a core issue as monetary policy. And even if it tried, it can reckon on being resisted by the German Constitutional Court."
The FT reports that France and Spain have called for a summit of eurozone leaders to be held tomorrow, immediately before the full EU leaders' summit in Brussels, to agree a deal on a Greek bailout. The paper adds that there is some resistance from Berlin, which does not want to hold a meeting unless a successful outcome is likely.
The WSJ reports that a deal would likely include German backing for a financial rescue plan for Greece in return for an agreement by other countries to let the IMF play a substantial role. The plan would also have to meet Germany's condition that aid be a "last resort".  FTD suggests that the a deal would likely see the IMF providing up to €10 billion to Greece, topped up with bilateral loans from a number of eurozone countries, with a German finance ministry official saying that France is now agreeing with Germany's position that the IMF be involved in any Greek aid plan. The FT reports that Germany will also demand negotiations on tough new rules to enforce future budget discipline in the eurozone, even if that means renegotiation of the Lisbon Treaty.
Meanwhile, in an interview with FAZ, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble urged Greece to step up its austerity measures, adding: "I still believe that in the long run it will be better if the European currency can solve its own problems. The IMF solving the problems of part of our monetary area, can and should only be an exception." Reuters reports that in a twist to the Greek debt crisis, France and Germany are pressing Greece to buy six frigates, 15 helicopters and up to 40 top-of-the-range Rafale fighter aircraft, even as they urge Greece to cut its public expenditure.
Draft conclusions of the EU summit indicate that EU leaders will agree closer coordination of their economic policies, as part of the EU's 2020 growth strategy. The conclusions say: "Coordination at the level of the euro zone will be strengthened in order to address the challenges the euro area is facing".
Standaard: De Mol Van Otterloo FAZ Leader Standaard: De Mol Van Otterloo FT: Analysis FT: Wolf FT Irish Times Economist: Charlemagne notebook EurActiv BBC: Hewitt blog FTD FT 2 Irish Independent EUobserver EurActiv 2 WSJ WSJ 2 Guardian: Fischer AFP NouvelObs Le Figaro EU Business Repubblica Le Monde L'Express Frankfurter Allgemeine Reuters Kathimerini Repubblica Il Sole 24 Ore Le Monde Bloomberg IHT Bloomberg El Pais ABC El Mundo Sueddeutsche Focus Zeit FAZ Reuters
US Senator threatens retaliation against EU's "protectionist" rules on alternative investment
The WSJ reports that Democrat Senator for New York Charles Schumer has threatened retaliation if the protectionist elements of the EU's proposed Directive on hedge fund and private equity firms are included in the final text. He described the EU's proposed AIFM Directive as "protectionist rules that discriminate against US firms and activities."
In a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, Mr. Schumer said he stands ready to call on Congress to pass legislation that would prohibit funds not based in the US from marketing and raising money in the US. It also would require funds operating in the US to use custodian banks based in the US. Schumer urged Mr. Geithner "to ensure the adoption of provisions that will not discriminate against U.S. firms. Just as EU-based funds and custodian banks currently have full access to our market, U.S.-based funds and custodian banks should similarly not arbitrarily be denied access to the European market."
WSJ OE research: AIFM Directive OE research: AIFM and Investment Trusts
France shelves domestic carbon tax to push for EU-wide proposal
The Telegraph reports that the French government has dropped its plans for a domestic carbon tax, with French PM Francois Fillon saying it could only be done "in common with other European countries". NouvelObs quotes Fillon saying that the government still wants to implement a carbon tax but that it will "ask the European Commission to accelerate the development of a proposal for harmonisation of environmental taxation schemes in the European Union". Le Figaro quotes Cécile Duflot, the National Secretary of the Greens, saying that "it's rubbish" to hide behind the European Union. 
FT Telegraph Irish Times EUobserver EurActiv BBC Les Echos Le Figaro EurActiv NouvelObs NouvelObs 2 Le Figaro
Ashton risks becoming "a puppet" to Paris warn MEPs
The Times reports that EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton was facing strong opposition from MEPs yesterday over details of the new European External Action Service (EEAS). In particular, MEPs warned that the creation of a Secretary-General would weaken her influence, making her "a puppet" of Paris. Franziska Brantner, a German MEP on the Foreign Affairs Committee is quoted saying: "It is pretty clear that they are trying to establish a strong figure under her so that she might be the one who gives nice talks but...the power will be somewhere else." EUobserver also notes that Lady Ashton promised to the EP "accountability of the service in financial terms", including the service's €45 billion budget.
Separately, the front page of Le Figaro reports upon the news that Catherine Ashton is due to learn French under the headline: "Lady Ashton sent back to French classes by Pierre Lellouche".
El Mundo Il Velino EP Press Service EU Observer Standard DPA Times Irish Times WSJ: Martin
EU starts new negotiations for bank data agreement
More than a month after the collapse of the SWIFT agreement regarding the transfer of bank details to the US, the EU is to restart negotiations. Today, the EU Commission will look to suggest a new mandate, with the EU proposing to allow American counter terrorism agents access to details of European bank customers only if they transfer money outside of the EU.  A new agreement could be passed in the second half of the year.
Zeit online
MEPs vote to "water down" report critical of EP spending
European Voice reports that members of the European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee voted yesterday to "water down" the Staes report, which critically examined the Parliament's spending of €1.4 billion in 2008. The Parliament reports that the author of the report, Belgian Green MEP Bart Staes, said: "no less than 202 amendments were tabled, most of them with the aim of deleting the most critical parts of this report".  He added; "Also gone are the proposals for a more transparent procurement policy and a ban on using taxpayer's money to cover a €121m euro hole in the MEPs' voluntary pension fund".
European Voice The Parliament Europarl: press release
High Court: EU citizens are entitled to UK child benefits even if their children live abroad
The Express reports that the UK's High Court has ruled that, under EU law, unemployed EU citizens living in the UK can claim benefits in Britain for their children living in their home country.
Open Europe's Stephen Booth was interviewed on LBC Radio this morning saying that the case demonstrated the extensive impact that EU law has on the lives of citizens and UK taxpayers, arguing that Europe should therefore play a bigger role in the general election campaign.
Express Express: Leader
Commission to propose cross-border EU divorce rules
Euractiv reports that European Commission will today propose new rules to regulate divorces for international couples in a bid to prevent so-called 'forum shopping', where spouses seek to gain an advantage over their partner by filing their case in the country that best serves their interests. For when a couple cannot agree which national legislation should apply, the Commission proposes introducing a hierarchy, with the couple's country of residence at the top of the list.
The proposal has been resisted by a number of countries, including the UK, but the Commission is proceeding under so-called "enhanced co-operation", which will allow Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovenia and Spain to proceed with the proposal without the remaining 17 member states.
FT EurActiv
Handelsblatt reports that French MEP Sylvie Goulard, who sits on the European Parliament's economic committee, has said that the EU's proposed three new financial supervisors for insurance, banking and securities should all be moved to Frankfurt. However the article notes that national finance ministers want the three regulators, which will be based upon three existing committees, to remain in London, Paris and Frankfurt.
Handelsblatt Open Europe press release
The Telegraph and the WSJ report that the World Trade Organisation has finalised its condemnation of European subsidies for aircraft manufacturer Airbus, finding that $20 billion in preferential government loans for the A380 passenger jet constituted an illegal export subsidy.
FT Telegraph European Voice BBC WSJ
The EU Commission has criticised Bulgaria and Romania for the level of corruption within their political systems.  A report, published yesterday, called for these "allegations of irregularities, conflicts of interest and fraud in the use of EU funds" to be "processed quickly and comprehensively".
Welt online Euractiv

Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: or call us on 0207 197 2333.

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