Monday, April 12, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 12 April 2010

Eurozone leaders agree €45bn rescue package for Greece;
Deal could be challenged at German Constitutional Court
Eurozone finance ministers yesterday agreed on a €30bn loan commitment to Greece over the next year to help manage its debt crisis, as part of a three-year commitment, with the IMF potentially providing another €15 billion.  Greece has not yet asked for the loans, but if put into action the agreement would be the biggest multilateral financial rescue ever attempted. The Irish Times reports that the amounts required in 2011 and 2012 are to be decided later, although certain Greek sources suggest the country may ultimately need €80 billion over three years. The interest rate on the loans is to be around five percent for a three-year fixed loan - above the IMF's standard lending rate but below the seven percent level asked for by the markets last week.
Eurozone members' contributions are to be proportional to their capital commitments to the European Central Bank, leaving Germany with the largest share which the Telegraph reports could amount to over €6.3bn.
Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker said that "If the mechanism had to be activated, it would not be a violation of the no-bailout clause (in the European Union treaty) since the loans are repayable and contain no element of subsidy", reports the Guardian. He also said that "The initiative for activating the mechanism rests with the Greek government."
However, TAZ reports that the German Centrum für Europäische Politik think-tank has said that the subsidised loan rates are a clear violation of EU rules, and if someone were to launch an action against the loans in the German Federal Constitutional Court, the chances of being successful would be "promising". The FTD suggests that the EU is misleading the public, arguing that the financial assistance provided to Greece is not transparent.
The front page of the Mail reports that the UK, as a contributor to the IMF, could face a bill of £650 million for the assistance to Greece. The Mail and Express quote Open Europe Director Mats Persson saying, "Britain didn't want to be in the eurozone for this very reason" but that it is "in Britain's interests economically for Greece not to go bankrupt."
Earlier in the weekend George Soros had warned that the Greek situation had pushed the EU to the "brink" of disintegration, adding: "It is 50-50 whether the eurozone breaks up. The damage that break up would cause is so great, that I think that as people realise it, they will pull back from the brink."
Meanwhile, writing in the FT Wolfgang Münchau argues that, despite the bailout, he still believes "Greece will eventually default. The numbers simply look too bad. The adjustment effort Greece is asked to make will be one of the largest in history...The agreed bail-out terms do not exactly offer much relief, except in the very short-term. It will become clear very soon that this loan agreement represents a net transfer of wealth from Athens to Berlin - and not the other way round."
Writing in the Telegraph Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues: "Yet let us be honest. This is not a bail-out for Greece. It is a bail-out for European creditors that account for most of Greece's €391bn external debt (163pc of GDP). As such it is the first line of defence against greater sums at risk across Club Med."
Guardian Guardian: Profile Independent Mail City AM FT FT: Lex Bloomberg Reuters BBC EUobserver European Voice EurActiv Coulisses de Bruxelles FT-Tett Times IHT Sunday Telegraph Irish Times Irish Times 2 Kathimerini WSJ Telegraph FT 2 Mail FT: Münchau BBC: Hewitt blog BBC: Today programme WSJ: Stelzer WSJ: Editorial Telegraph: Evans-Pritchard Le Point Les Echos El Economista Le Monde Handelsblatt TAZ Handelsblatt
French judge issues landmark EU arrest warrant to investigate Briton for murder in Ireland
The Independent reports that a French judge is trying to break new legal ground in Europe by issuing a European Arrest Warrant for a British suspect in an unsolved murder in Ireland in 1996. The judge, Patrick Gachon, wants to extradite a former journalist, Ian Bailey, to France to face questions about the murder of a French cinema executive, Sophie Toscan du Plantier, more than 13 years ago. Mr Bailey has twice been arrested and questioned by Irish police about the murder but no charge has ever been brought against him.
However, the French magistrate believes that sufficient evidence exists to continue investigation of Mr Bailey under the different approach used by the French judicial system. Under Irish law - broadly similar to British law - a charge cannot be brought against a suspect unless an overwhelming case has been established against him. Under French law, an investigating magistrate, like Mr Gachon, need only be satisfied that a prima facie case exists. There is no precedent in the EU for a murder suspect being extradited from the country where the crime was committed to the victim's home country. The Irish authorities have one month to respond to the warrant.
EU cuts to doctors' hours 'putting patients at risk'
The Telegraph reports that the Medical and Dental Defence Union of Scotland (MDDUS) has warned that the EU's Working Time Directive is putting patients' lives at risk. The Directive has reduced junior doctors' hours from 56 to 48 a week, meaning more handovers between shifts when doctors have to brief the new team about the condition of the patients on the wards. Research has revealed that the more handovers doctors do the more information they forget. The MDDUS said that this can lead to mistakes and errors if the new team is not properly informed about what actions have been taken, what drugs have been ordered and which patients are known to have deteriorated.
Telegraph Open Europe research
Ronald Stewart-Brown: UKIP's policy of replacing EU membership with free trade agreement is flawed
Writing on Conservative Home, Ronald Stewart-Brown, Director of the Trade Policy Research Centre, argues that UKIP's policy of EU withdrawal and putting in place a UK-EU free trade agreement is flawed. He writes, "There can be no doubt that the switch to a UK-EU free trade agreement would entail both material disruption to the logistics of UK-EU trade and an unquantifiable but real increase in its cost."
He instead argues that, "One possible solution is to negotiate to stay in customs union with the EU outside the framework of the EU treaties and institutions on the basis of a simple new "plain vanilla" bilateral customs union agreement. Staying within the EU tariff band could reasonably be seen as a fair price to pay for continuing free movement of goods. Such an approach combined with other agreements to cover areas such as services, intellectual property, public procurement, competition and technical barriers to trade could attract the happy label of 'Staying in Europe for Trade'."
Conservative Home: Stewart-Brown
Air crash strikes blow to Poland's political, economic and military elite
There is widespread coverage of the air crash that killed Poland's President Lech Kaczynski, its central bank governor and the chief of its armed forces. In the Times, Bronwen Maddox argues that "there is no exaggerating the national trauma" but that "Poland, in a different league of success from the other former Soviet countries that joined the European Union, is far beyond the point at which its stability and prosperity depend on just a few people."
Times: Maddox Times Telegraph Independent Guardian Guardian: Editorial BBC WSJ IHT
Commission to re-think renewable energy targets for transport
EUobserver reports that EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger is considering a re-think of the EU's target to replace 10 percent of fossil fuels used for transport with renewable energy by 2020, after the Commission's own internal studies have proven that biofuels have a negative impact on the environment and food production.
EUobserver FTD
Unearthed "hidden contracts" to delay Bulgaria's bid to join euro
EUobserver reports that previously unaccounted for "hidden contracts" have forced the Bulgarian government to double its 2009 budget deficit figure and delay its timetable for joining the euro. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov, who came to power last July, placed the blame on the previous administration. "We have in fact lied to our [EU] colleagues about our readiness for the euro zone, being unaware of this trap," he said.
55% of Swedes are now against joining the euro, 37% are in favour while 8% are undecided, according to a new opinion poll, marking a continued drop in support for membership amongst Swedes after a brief surge in support a year ago.
Euractiv reports that, according to a new opinion poll, 63% of Dutch voters support halving the Dutch contribution to the EU budget.
The FT notes that the Financial Services Authorities' plans to reform the retail market for investment products are likely to be restricted by the EU's Markets in Financial Instruments Directive.

In an interview with the FT, Spanish PM Jose Luis Zapatero said that his country will implement its economic austerity plan to cut its budget deficit "whatever the cost", and will introduce even harsher measures, if necessary.


The Observer reported that rich countries have threatened to cut aid to developing nations if they do not back the deal agreed at the UN climate summit in Copenhagen. The article quoted one senior African diplomat saying, "It was made very clear by the EU, UK, France and the US that if they did not back them then they would suffer."
Observer European Voice
In the IHT, James Kanter notes that EU member states stand to make €26 billion annually by 2020 through regular sales, or "auctions," of emissions permits under the EU's emissions trading scheme, noting that "The prospect of those earnings is one of the key reasons that nations are determined to stick by carbon trading, despite the setbacks and scandals."
IHT: Kanter Knack Open Europe research
The Mail reports that the Labour Party has made a new manifesto pledge to extend current English language requirements that apply only to non-EU public sector workers "to ensure all employees who have contact with the public have an appropriate level of...competence".
Writing in the Times, William Rees-Mogg argues, "In practice, most governments at most times can get their way in the Commons; most European legislation is accepted without much question. No one could regard this as a satisfactory division of powers, because it is not. The Lords is at the bottom of the legislative pile, and Brussels is at the top."
Times: Rees-Mogg
Fidesz has won a 52.8% share of the vote in the Hungarian elections, giving the party 206 out of 386 seats in the first round of parliamentary elections.
NRC Handelsblad EUobserver EurActiv
The Independent profiles German Chancellor Angela Merkel, describing her as the "Iron Frau".
The FT reports that Sir Richard Branson has criticised the EU's competition authority for its "lazy approach" to the planned alliance of British Airways and American Airlines, which he argues should be treated like any other merger situation.
In an interview with Saturday's Telegraph former MEP and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said he came to realise that the European Parliament "was not the type of politics that interests me. You have no meaningful relationship with your constituents. It's very bloodless. And I didn't go into politics to become a legislator."
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph Christopher Booker argued that few issues have given rise to as much "grief" since the last election than rubbish disposal, adding: "We are left having to put up with a mess which is soon going to cost us hundreds of millions of pounds a year, for failing to meet EU targets far more damaging to us than to any other country in Europe."
Sunday Telegraph

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