Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 3 March 2010

Survey of economists: 55% chance of a Greek bailout;
President of Greek Parliament appeals to "dear Germans" ahead of Merkel meeting
In a Reuters poll of 47 economists, respondents estimated there to be median 55 percent chance of Greece seeking a bailout from the EU or International Monetary Fund this year. That was up from 30 percent as measured by a poll of foreign exchange strategists last month. Only 18 of the 47 economists expected the country to meet its fiscal reform targets set by the EU. The WSJ notes that an examination of budget reports to the EU shows that Greece hasn't met the EU's budget deficit rule in any year except 2006.
Die Welt reports that Papandreou is due to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday and notes that, in an open letter to Stern magazine ahead of the meeting, the President of the Greek Parliament Philippos Petsalnikos has appealed to his "dear Germans" for a show of "solidarity". He wrote, "It is not your money, but your support and solidarity that Greece needs to fend off the attacks by international speculators."
Handelsblatt reports that Athens has broken EU law by not implementing 23 EU directives on time, a higher number than any other EU state. Greece has missed the implementation date of six EU directives by more than two years.
The FT reports that the Greek government will today announce a new austerity package of tax increases and spending cuts worth up to €4.8bn. The Times notes that, in a speech to his PASOK party, Prime Minister George Papandreou said his country was fighting for survival against bankruptcy. "If anyone thinks that this is a remote nightmare scenario, they don't realise what the situation is," he said. "Each day we discover new holes, new landmines, in the budget deficit."
Meanwhile, the FT notes that the European Central Bank may be softening its stance towards Greek government bonds, which would allow the ECB to continue using them as collateral against loans to Greek banks. If rating agency Moody's follows other rating agencies in downgrading Greek assets further, the assets could become ineligible for use as collateral in ECB liquidity offers when it reverts to standards applied before the financial crisis at the end of this year. But Ewald Nowotny, Austria's Central Bank Governor, said it was "unacceptable" that "the fate of Greece...the fate of Europe depends on the judgement of one rating agency."
City AM FT Irish Times BBC Le Monde Le Figaro Coulisses de Bruxelles NouvelObs Die Welt Reuters: Poll Reuters 2 Bloomberg WSJ Telegraph Times
AIFM Directive: Barnier signals unwillingness to compromise on protectionist provisions
Global Pensions magazine reports that the current version of the AIFM Directive does not currently have the qualified majority needed to pass the Council of Ministers. In particular, a blocking minority of member states still disagree over how to treat non-EU based fund managers and whether to exclude smaller funds from the Directive. There is also disagreement over which institutions can qualify as funds' depositories.
The Commission is recommending that the Permanent Representatives Committee - made up of member state ambassadors to the EU - agrees on a general approach to the entire draft. It also urged the Spanish Presidency to start negotiations with the Parliament "with a view to reaching an agreement at first reading", which will take place in July.
Meanwhile, during Michel Barnier's trip to London, in meetings with representatives from the City, he conceded that the AIFM Directive had been badly drafted and rushed, according to the FT. However, the Independent reports that Mr Barnier signaled unwillingness to compromise on the Directive's  crucial restrictions on offshore managers and funds. The article quotes him saying: "Requiring high standards of supervision and transparency from the European  industry but not from third country funds and managers active in Europe would be short-sighted. It would impede effective monitoring of risk in Europe and create an unlevel playing field and opportunities for regulatory arbitrage".
Hedge Funds Review FT Global Pensions Independent Open Europe research
Lord Turner criticises windfall profits to industrial polluters under EU's carbon-trading scheme
Lord Turner, Chairman of the UK Committee on Climate Change, has criticised the EU's carbon trading scheme, following a new report by Climate Strategies which recommends the EU halt the "inefficient and ineffective" practice of giving out free emissions allowances to companies that are prone to "carbon leakage", which can then be sold for cash on the open market. Commenting on the report's findings that some industries, such as cement-making, will gain an extra £9bn to £18bn in free emissions permits without any further effort to reduce their emissions, Lord Turner declared: "We can't solve the problem by giving out emission allowances for free as the only option for internationally trading manufacturing sectors." He also refused to rule out the prospect of a carbon tax on imports. "Border carbon price levelling should not be excluded," he said.


Meanwhile, FT Deutschland reports that EU Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard has demanded that Germany and the UK hand over the auctioning of ETS permits to the European Commission. From 2013 these member states can expect to receive €15 billion annually from the auction of permits. According to diplomatic sources, Germany and Britain, are opposed to common EU auctioning of ETS permits because they fear that the Commission could claim the proceeds for direct financing of the EU budget, although the Commissioner said this fear is "unfounded".

Telegraph Open Europe research
European regulator proposes EU-wide rules on short selling
The FT reports that the Paris-based Committee of European Securities Regulators has proposed that traders across the EU should have to disclose all significant short selling of shares. The article notes that the CESR's proposals are similar to rules currently in place in the UK, where the Financial Services Authority requires public disclosure of short positions of 0.25 percent in financial services companies as well as in any firm carrying out a rights issue.
The Association for Financial Markets in Europe said that it welcomed the move towards harmonisation but that it would have preferred a 1 percent threshold rather than the proposed threshold of 0.2 percent, which it said would lead to increased costs and could reduce liquidity in markets. Michel Barnier, EU Internal Market Commissioner, confirmed yesterday that the European Commission would push forward with EU-wide legislation.
FT City AM
EU finance ministers push to develop own credit rating agency
EU finance ministers are urging the European Central Bank to develop its own credit rating agency for eurozone countries, reports Spiegel. The article quotes an unnamed EU-finance minister as saying, "the agencies have been completely wrong in the case of Lehman". In the European Central Bank the aim is now to gain acceptance on this matter.
According to the German newspaper Handelsblatt, the ECB would need only 10 to 20 additional employees in order to create its own rating agency, but the ECB declined to make a statement on the issue. A spokesperson for Moody's said to Handelsblatt that "recent events have shown how important the rating agencies are for the market."
Spiegel Reuters Handelsblatt
Angela Merkel expresses "scepticism" at 2020 Strategy
EurActiv reports that the EU's new development plan, Strategy 2020, which will be presented by the European Commission later today, has already attracted criticism from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has "misgivings" over new "country surveillance" schemes and EU-established national objectives.
El Pais notes that Brussels wants these objectives to be adopted by the member states and converted into "national objectives" according to the conditions and circumstances of every country. However, EurActiv reports that the German Chancellor "expressed scepticism about setting individual countries specific targets, saying she would only sign up to this if governments were able to directly influence their achievement and if they were attainable within a few years."
EurActiv El Pais El Periodico
Ashton's troubles signal that Lisbon treaty "will not resolve Europe's problems"
Pierre Rousselin argues in his Le Figaro blog that she is the "scapegoat for all that doesn't work in Brussels".  He concludes that "If they [the 27] look inward, her [Ashton's] troubles are perhaps the sign that the Lisbon Treaty will not resolve Europe's problems. They reflect the prevailing atmosphere in Brussels and throughout the different capitals, that the European construction has ceased to be a collective effort and has been reduced to a competition between countries and their rival administrations."
Speaking to the BBC Today programme this morning, Baroness Ashton, when asked whether or not she was drained with regard to the arguments in the EU about the settlement of the Lisbon Treaty and the appointment of the EU's top jobs, said: "Not drained, but it's not surprising really that the Lisbon Treaty gave us the words in law of the creation of the new roles and then we have to work it out from there." 
The Irish Times reports that EU ambassadors will meet in Brussels today to discuss new plans for the European External Action Service (EEAS), whilst EU foreign ministers are expected to take stock of the situation at an informal meeting this weekend in Spain.
Irish Times BBC LeFigaro: Rousselin blog Today programme
Airlines warn EU rules will force up prices
The WSJ reports that European airlines are battling against recent changes to EU air-passenger protection rules that carriers say could cost them up to €5 billion annually and force up ticket prices. The change stems from a November ruling by the European Court of Justice, which was applied for the first time last month by authorities in Germany and Spain. The ruling significantly increases the number of flights for which passengers can claim compensation, with payouts ranging from €250 to €600 per passenger.
Swedish Justice Minister: German Court ruling shows we were right to wait on implementing EU data rules
Following yesterday's German court ruling that the German law implementing the EU's Data Retention Directive is not compatible with the German Constitution, the FT reports that Angela Merkel's CDU party is calling for new legislation to be drafted, while coalition partners the Free Democrats said the Court's ruling called the concept of mass data storage into question.
AP notes that Sweden is yet to implement the Directive and quotes Justice Minister Beatrice Ask saying the German ruling showed "that we have been right in that it concerns sensitive issues that demand very difficult judgments." The FT suggests that the ruling will inspire efforts in Brussels to revise the law.
FT Irish Times EUobserver BBC AP IHT
EUobserver reports that Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger yesterday signalled that the EU is interested in the Russian South Stream gas pipeline project, seen as a rival to the EU's Nabucco pipeline project.

EUobserver France 24 Il Sole 24 Ore

The European Commission yesterday gave the green light to German chemical company BASF to begin the cultivation of the GM Amflora potato.
Les Echos Liberation NouvelObs FT European Voice EUobserver BBC IHT WSJ
European Voice reports that Nigel Farage has been fined €3,000 for making "unparliamentary and insulting" comments about Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council.
European Voice EUobserver BBC Telegraph El Pais
EurActiv reports that the European Central Bank (ECB) has been criticised for failing to do more to provide liquidity to new member states in eastern Europe, making it harder to restore investor confidence in those markets.
The German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble says in an interview with the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Germany needs to save €10 billion a year to meet strict new limits on public debt.
Le Point notes that the EU and Singapore will begin talks later this month aimed at establishing a free trade agreement, following the opening of similar negotiations today between the EU and Vietnam.
Le Point WSJ

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