Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 13 April 2010

Greek bailout plan calms markets but questions remain over implementation;
FAZ: The German government cannot "keep up the fiction that nobody is breaching the European rules"
Several papers report that the deal announced by eurozone countries on Sunday to loan Greece €30bn at below market interest rates, if required, has calmed the markets but questions still remain about how it might work in practice, as well as when it might be launched.
On his Telegraph blog, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard notes that the plan's implementation faces many domestic hurdles in member states, particularly in Germany: "The voices that matter are those of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Bundesbank, the finance committee of the Bundestag, and ultimately the Verfassungsgericht, or German constitutional court."
FAZ reports that German government officials have said that the bailout package for Greece was not "automatic", with government spokesman Christoph Steegmans quoted saying: "That a fire extinguisher is hanging at the wall, says nothing about the probability of whether it is needed".
Handelsblatt quotes German Professor Wilhelm Hankel, who sued the government in the German Constitutional Court in 1998 over the euro's introduction, saying a new complaint is now inevitable: "we are ready and are just waiting for the announcement of the Eurozone governments to support Greece." A leader in the FAZ argues that the German government cannot "keep up the fiction that nobody is breaching the European rules, according to which no country may help another. The German government is cheating, but so clumsily that everybody can see it." Der Spiegel carries the headline, "Merkel gambles it away in Greek poker."
The Telegraph quotes Frank Schäffler, a Free Democrat Party finance expert in Chancellor Merkel's coalition, saying the rescue deal is "clearly a subsidy" and violates the EU summit deal in March.  However, Volker Wissing, the Free Democrat Chairman of the Bundestag's Finance Committee, has told the FT that his party would "constructively assist" the German government in its efforts to implement the weekend agreement.
The FT notes that another key question is the relation between the eurozone package and the additional €15bn of International Monetary Fund lending that was also under discussion yesterday. Morris Goldstein, a former Deputy Director of the IMF's Research Department, said "If a regional grouping can set IMF conditionality, what is the point of the fund anyway? This could create a very dangerous precedent."
The Guardian notes that the Greek bailout faces its first test today when the country attempts to sell €1.2bn of government debt.
In the WSJ, Richard Barley notes that "in the longer term, the deal does little to address fundamental questions about the euro zone." He adds that "On one level, 5% for a three-year fixed-rate loan represents a concession relative to last week's market levels. But this is still 3.7 percentage points over three-year German debt--a long way north of where the Greeks would like to be able to borrow." He concludes the eurozone needs a "Plan B" for what "it would do if it doesn't solve the problem--and Greece ends up following in the footsteps of Argentina, which defaulted after a decade of IMF bailouts."
The Irish Independent notes that the Greek centre-left paper Eleftherotypia described the proposed bailout as "a sigh of relief...but it doesn't solve our problems."
Meanwhile, the WSJ notes that European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet has found himself on "the sidelines" in discussions over the current deal and that "his advice often went unheeded".
Comment: Open Europe is not against IMF-involvement in a Greek bailout in principle, notwithstanding that one-off IMF loans would probably not solve Greece's long-term competiveness problems, or the structural flaws of the eurozone and could not include a proper devaluation requirement. In fact, we've consistently argued that involving the IMF is probably one of the more pragmatic and sensible options in the Greek debt crisis - although still far from being a long-term solution. Comments made by Open Europe over the weekend were made in response to a potential deal, this time around or in future, which would see British taxpayers contributing to a bailout based on the UK's share in the ECB - something which remains wholly unacceptable - and did not relate to IMF involvement. It is clear that the deal agreed on Sunday, will only see eurozone countries take part in a rescue operation, with additional money coming from the IMF if needed. Importantly, IMF loans would be drawn from the UK's and other countries' existing contributions to the Fund, and not involve any additional transfers of taxpayers' money.
Guardian Independent Independent: O'Grady FT FT 2 WSJ Times WSJ 2 CityAM Le Figaro L'Expansion WSJ: Analysis Mail Telegraph: Evans-Pritchard blog Telegraph EurActiv.es El Pais IHT IHT 2 Irish Independent Bloomberg Eurointelligence FAZ FAZ: Leader Spiegel OE briefing
Gordon Brown defends controversial decision not to hold promised referendum on Lisbon
PA reports that, in a phone-in with BBC Radio Derby this morning, Gordon Brown defended his decision not to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, saying: "It wasn't a huge constitutional change at all, so there was no need for a referendum ...We got all our main points answered in the negotiations." EUobserver reports that, in its election manifesto, Labour have pledged not to renegotiate any EU laws on social or employment rights.
Meanwhile, in an article looking at Labour's 2005 manifesto pledges, Channel 4 news cited Open Europe's research, which found that the Lisbon Treaty and the European Constitution are 90 percent the same, noting that in Government the party refused to hold a referendum on Lisbon despite promising one on the Constitution.
Channel 4 Open Europe research
Conservatives say voters were "cheated" out of referendum on Lisbon Treaty;
Commitment to pass legislation on referendum lock within the year
The Telegraph reports that Conservative leader David Cameron has said: "I know that people feel rather cheated that they did not have a referendum on the European constitution and I am determined that we never let that happen again." The Mail reports that the Conservative election manifesto, to be launched today, will commit to applying transitional immigration controls on citizens from new EU member states.
Mr Cameron also committed a Conservative government to passing legislation on a 'referendum lock' as one of its first orders of business, saying: "A Conservative Government in its first Queen's Speech will pass a bill through Parliament that says anytime any Government wants to pass powers from Westminster to Brussels they can't do it without holding a referendum."
Meanwhile, the Times reports that Antonio Lopez-Isturiz, Spanish MEP and Secretary General of the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), has said "We want David Cameron to win these elections. I believe that he will make a pragmatic choice after the elections [to return to the EPP]."
Telegraph Mail Times Independent EUobserver
In a column submitted to the FT before his death in the Smolensk air crash, Poland's late Central Bank Chief, Slawomir Skrzypek defends Poland's decision not to join the euro. In the article he argued: "The decade-long story of peripheral euro members drastically losing competitiveness has been a salutary lesson. Another conclusion from the Greek imbroglio is that there is no substitute for countries' own efforts to improve competitiveness, boost fiscal discipline and increase labour and product market flexibility."
FT: Skrzypek
Business group warns that ECJ's latest ruling on Working Time Directive is "hampering employment"
PA reports that the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has said a European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on the EU's Working Time Directive, that statutory entitlement to paid annual leave should continue during long-term sick leave, will affect the way seven out of 10 businesses employed staff. A survey of 1,400 firms showed that many will be more cautious about taking on new staff with health problems, or will be more likely to dismiss staff on long-term sick leave. FSB Chairman John Walker is quoted saying, "These figures show that the changes in the law on sick leave are hampering employment opportunities to get long-term unemployed back into work."
Open Europe research OE blog
European Commission launches debate over future of CAP;
Commit to keep direct subsidies
Le Figaro reports EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos launched a 'public debate' over the future of the Common Agricultural Policy in Brussels yesterday, ahead of upcoming negotiations over the EU's 7-year budget period from 2014-2020. Commissioner Ciolos indicated that he wanted a special conference held in Brussels in July to discuss reform to the policy.
Le Figaro reports that the entry of the FDP into the German coalition could mean that Germany will be a weaker ally for France on agricultural issues.
EUobserver notes that the European Commission has already indicated its willingness to limit CAP payments to some of Europe's largest farmers in the future - although this is likely to be resisted by several member states - and keep the EU's controversial direct subsides to farmers. In a speech at the beginning of March Commissioner Ciolos reiterated his comment to direct aid as part of EU farm policy, saying: "We too often overlook the importance of direct aid...It doesn't mean that subsidies should remain unchanged forever. Yet, I really believe they have a future".
EUobserver Les Echos Le Figaro EurActiv Euronews EU press release
Euractiv reports that EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has accused the US of insufficient ambition concerning financial reform, stating that they "don't seem to be very convinced of the urgency of a global regulation convergence".
Euroactiv Reuters
New report suggests spending on energy infrastructure to double within 20 years
A new report from the European Climate Foundation to be released today argues that renewable energy in Europe should be generated and distributed on a continental scale, with a gigantic power cable that would link solar farms in Spain with countries like Poland, shipping volumes of clean electricity, according to the IHT. The report also argues that the EU will be unable to reduce emissions by 80%-95% by 2050 on 1990 levels - a goal endorsed by EU leaders last year - without action to take fossil fuels out of the electricity supply in the next 10-15 years. The research concludes that spending on energy infrastructure will have rise from €28 billion in 2005 to between €58bn and €71bn by 2025.
IHT European Voice Bloomberg
Dow Jones newswire reports that the rapporteur for the EU's AIFM Directive on hedge funds and private equity firms, Jean-Paul Gauzes, has outlined a potential compromise deal that would require non-EU fund managers to follow EU rules before being allowed to market funds in Europe. Regulators in foreign countries would ensure that investment managers followed the rules.
Dow Jones OE research
Van Rompuy will seek to establish power over rotating presidency during the second half of 2010
Writing on her EUobserver blog, Honor Mahony, notes that during a recent seminar on future presidencies, former MEP Richard Corbett, who sits on Van Rompuy's cabinet, indicated that President Van Rompuy intends to clearly establish the division of powers in the second half of 2010, saying "Many of the precedents will be laid down very clearly in the Belgian presidency".  He added that "summits with third countries will be in Brussels" and that the future prime minister or foreign minister of a rotating presidency "won't play a role."
Meanwhile, Belgian daily De Standaard reports that EU President Herman Van Rompuy will not meet with US President Obama at the two-day non-proliferation conference in Washington, although German Chancellor Angela Merkel will get a bilateral meeting, and suggests that US officials are still badly informed about President Van Rompuy's role.
EUobserver De Standaard HLN Express
El Mundo reports on the "battle" over the structure of the EEAS, noting that Spain can expect to have no more than two or three ambassadors and perhaps 40 civil servants. The Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, has already put together a list of 20-30 suggestions for embassy posts to be decided on in September.
El Mundo EurActiv EurActiv.fr
On the BBC Today programme UKIP leader Lord Pearson discussed the proportion of the UK's laws made by the EU, suggesting the figure was around 75%.  Interviewer John Humphrys said in reply however that it was "simply not true", adding that Lord Pearson was "confusing two things here...regulation is one thing, and passing laws is another thing."
BBC Today programme Open Europe research OE blog
El Pais features an opinion piece by Sami Naïr, French political philosopher, former government adviser and former MEP, which notes that the splits between German parties over talk of Turkey's accession to the EU have revealed "a radicalisation of Germany towards all type of enlargement in the South of Europe".
El Pais
The FT, Guardian and Independent report on the official inquiry into Iceland's financial crisis, published yesterday, which accuses the Icelandic government and regulators of "extreme negligence" prior to the collapse of the country's three largest banks.
Guardian Independent FT EUobserver BBC
EUobserver reports that Beijing is to call for a formal investigation on 20 April by the World Trade Organisation into EU import duties on Chinese-made leather shoes.

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: openeurope.org.uk or call us on 0207 197 2333.

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