France says it is ready to support Greece if necessary;
Germany and France to propose IMF-style European Monetary Fund
The Weekend FT reported that, following her meeting with Greek PM George Papandreou on Friday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to do "everything in order to stabilise the euro, our common currency", but stopped short of making any financial commitment to support Greece. European Voice quotes French President Nicolas Sarkozy saying "If Greece needs us we will be there." He added, "The Greek government has taken the measures that were expected of it, the members of the eurozone must be ready to do the same...France will do what is necessary".
City AM reports that Mr Papandreou has said that France, Germany and Greece, in cooperation with eurozone Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker, will unveil new measures to tackle speculators that "abuse" credit default swaps in the next few days.
The Sunday Business Post reported on Open Europe's briefing on how much a Greek bailout could cost EU taxpayers, which found that Ireland's share of any bailout would be between €227 million and €406 million.
Meanwhile, the FT reports that Germany and France are planning to launch a new initiative to reinforce economic co-operation and surveillance within the eurozone, with the establishment of a European Monetary Fund (EMF). The WSJ quotes German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble saying he would "present proposals soon" for a new eurozone institution that has "comparable powers of intervention" to the International Monetary Fund.
In the FT, Quentin Peel notes that the "intervention" methods and potential penalties for failures to control debt and deficits being discussed are a suspension of EU cohesion funds and banning persistent miscreants from voting in EU Council meetings. He adds, "Such reforms might need EU treaty changes, something almost all member states are desperate to avoid given the difficulty they had ratifying the Lisbon reforms. The changes would amount to easily the most radical overhaul of the Maastricht treaty, which laid the foundations of the single currency."
The FT Deutschland reports that decisions on whether the EMF would grant assistance, or not, would be decided by eurozone finance ministers on the basis of unanimity, and with the exclusion of the member state concerned. Eurozone countries would be forced to refuse money from the IMF, which the article notes would prevent US or Chinese influence over the eurozone's affairs. "The Commission is ready to propose a European instrument like this that would have the support of eurozone members," the EU's Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said.
In an interview with Handelsblatt, former German Finance Minister Theo Waigel raised the problem with overlap with the IMF, asking why eurozone countries would continue to be members of the IMF, "when only Latin American, African or Asian countries would be helped. Europe doesn't need its own monetary fund."
FT FT: Peel WSJ EU Observer Welt FTD FTD2 Welt 2 Welt 3 Handelsblatt Handelsblatt 2 Handelsblatt 3 Frankfurter Rundschau Frankfurter Rundschau 2 Spiegel Online Standaard ASCA Irish Independent European Voice BBC City AM Guardian Le Monde Le Figaro Spiegel Weekend FT Weekend FT 2 Weekend FT 3 Weekend FT: Leader Times: Emmott FT: Munchau Sunday Business Post OE briefing FAZ Les Echos
Planned European Public Prosecutor could prosecute Britons without UK permission
Saturday's Telegraph reported that the Spanish EU Presidency, backed by France and Germany, has announced that it is going to propose the creation of a European Public Prosecutor next month using powers under the Lisbon Treaty. If the UK 'opts out' from the plans, the European prosecutor will not be able to bring cases in this country, but he will still be able to issue European Arrest Warrants to force UK citizens to face prosecution in another member state - without asking the permission of the Government or the UK's Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer.
Open Europe's Sarah Gaskell is quoted saying, "This is an extremely worrying move for UK citizens, who could face prosecution by a European Public Prosecutor that the UK Government had no hand in setting up." She added, "This just goes to show that the Government's so-called 'opt-outs' from the Lisbon Treaty in justice and home affairs are a totally inadequate safeguard for the UK's criminal and justice system. A future government needs to fundamentally reform Britain's participation in EU criminal and justice rules and reclaim much greater control over the legal rights of its citizens."
Ashton is the highest paid female politician in the world
In Saturday's Mail, Andrew Pierce noted that EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton's salary package of £328,000 a year makes her the highest paid female politician in the world, ahead of US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The article notes that if she survives for a five-year term, "there will be a gold-plated £64,000 pension and a £464,000 golden handshake." Open Europe's Stephen Booth is quoted saying, "No one in the UK voted for the creation of an EU Foreign Minister and no one across the EU has ever voted for Catherine Ashton. She is a complete lightweight."
EUobserver notes that Ashton has complained to the press that a lack of resources, such as her own plane, is holding her back in her work. After last week's meeting of European foreign ministers to discuss the shape of the EU's new diplomatic service, the External Action Service (EAS), an unnamed Spanish diplomat told AFP that Ashton should get her own aircraft - a perk denied even to the EU Commission and EU Council Presidents so far.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that national governments, led by Britain and France, are concerned that the European Commission's attempts to seize control of the EU foreign service will delay its creation and allow China to continue to "divide and rule" the EU's 27 member states. The Commission is fighting hard to keep its control over EU-China negotiations on trade, economy, energy or climate change but member states argue that the EAS must encompass all these policy areas in order to be effective.
EUobserver notes that Ashton is planning to visit Gaza on her Middle East trip next week, a potential sticking point with Israeli authorities.
Mail: Pierce EUobserver Telegraph Observer: Hutton Le Monde Les Coulisses de Bruxelles
AIFM Directive moves into final stages of negotiation
The Independent reports that British diplomats are beginning a final campaign to amend the EU's Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) Directive, as the Directive moves to the European Council's Committee of Permanent Representatives, COREPER, for consideration on Wednesday. The UK's permanent representative to the EU, the diplomat Kim Darroch, will have a final chance to persuade colleagues that amendments are necessary, but only small changes will be possible. The legislation will then be rubber-stamped by Ecofin on 16 March, before being presented to the European Parliament for a vote, which is expected to be a formality.
The article reports that the fate of the Directive lies in the hands of a number of eastern European member states that have yet to finalise their positions.
Saturday's Express cited Open Europe's calculation that the Commission's plan for a new EU carbon tax on transport and heating fuels would cost the UK economy £3.2bn a year.
Greek banks could endanger eastern Europe
Handelsblatt reports that Greek banks may be forced to withdraw large amounts of cash from their subsidiaries in eastern Europe should the economic situation in Greece worsen, potentially causing serious problems for eastern European businesses and economies.
EU spends millions paying NGOs to lobby it
The Sunday Telegraph reported that environmental groups are receiving millions of pounds in taxpayers' money from the EU, which they then spend to lobby the EU institutions, according to a report by the International Policy Network. Six Organisations including Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund received €3.37 million in operating grants, and in turn spent £2.69 million lobbying the EU to influence policy. The report concludes, "Put simply, the EU uses public funds to pay NGOs to lobby it."
EU citizens to receive benefits after 3 months
The Mail on Sunday reported that due to a change in EU regulations, immigrants from the newest member states - Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic - will be able to claim benefits after having lived in Britain for 3 months. Previously, immigrants had to have worked in the UK for a year before being able to claim Jobseeker's allowance. The article notes that monthly unemployment allowances in the Eastern bloc tend to be lower than in the UK, with Latvia offering £57.20 per month and the UK offering £200-£256.
An article in the FT reports that private investors have failed to see the benefits of the EU's Markets in Financial Instruments Directive. It adds that the European Federation of Investors (EFI) is preparing a study for the Commission this year, in time for the first review of the Directive, and in preparation for possible reforms.
The WSJ reports that Icelandic voters have rejected a proposed deal to repay the UK and the Netherlands the £3.48 billion lost in the collapse of an Icelandic internet bank Icesave. Iceland's President Olafur Grimsson has demanded that Gordon Brown personally agree a reduction in the multi-billion pound bill.
The IHT reports that Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso is pushing for EU safety standards for nuclear power plants to become binding worldwide. Barroso is expected to declare in a speech due to be delivered to the OECD that the EU was "the first big regional actor to make the main international norms for nuclear security internationally binding." EU officials said that they would like similar standards of enforcement globally.
Handelsblatt reports that the financing of the Airbus A400m military transport plane has been successful, with the seven buyer countries - Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, Luxembourg and Turkey - coming to an agreement with aircraft manufacturer EADS. The total costs were initially set at €20 billion, but have now risen to an estimated €27.6 billion, making it Europe's biggest arms project.
The Telegraph reports that Europe Minister Chris Bryant has warned Spain that knocking down British expatriates' houses was hurting its economy
An ICM poll for the News of the World put the Conservatives on 40 percent, Labour on 31 and the Lib Dems on 18.
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