Greek PM could request bailout today;
Member states willing to back German calls for EU treaty changes to "strengthen" eurozone governance
Il Sole 24 Ore reports that a Greek request to activate the promised EU-IMF €45bn rescue package is only a matter of hours away. "The Prime Minister is expected to make an announcement shortly," said a government source. Following the announcement, Finance Minister Georges Papacostantinou is expected to travel to Washington to meet IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. The FT notes that Greece's budget deficit was yesterday revised up to 13.6 percent of gross domestic product from 12.7 percent. The news sent Greek borrowing costs to the highest level since 1998, while the euro fell to its lowest point against the dollar since last May.
An article in Spiegel examines predictions that Greece will need up to €130 billion in aid before the end of 2012 and quotes German FDP politician Frank Schäffler saying "It is possible that Germany will have to make more than €30 billion of euro credit available before the end of 2012...After that it could be more. Greece is a bottomless pit."
Meanwhile, a separate FT article notes that Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said Finland was "ready" to back EU treaty changes proposed by Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, to strengthen economic co-operation within the eurozone and impose sanctions against countries that threaten its stability. "We need an instrument that will guarantee that, after a warning, member states really change their fiscal policies," he said. "I think we can do it without changing treaties but we are also ready for treaty changes if it would produce something better."
Il Sole 24 Ore FT FT 2 Times Guardian Telegraph Mail Mail: Brummer FT: Barber FT 3 BBC EUobserver Spiegel Spiegel 2 Die Welt Die Welt 2 Deutsche Welle Irish Independent Irish Times Spiegel
Cameron attacks Labour and Lib Dems over broken EU referendum promise
The Times reports that Conservative leader David Cameron "edged" last night's foreign affairs debate, polling 37 percent to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg's 36 percent - according to a Populus poll for the paper. Only 27 percent gave the verdict to Gordon Brown. A Guardian/ICM poll gave Clegg a narrow victory, with 33 percent thinking Clegg emerged ahead, against 29 percent each for Cameron and Brown. Of the five polls taken after the debate Clegg led in three and Cameron in two, according to the FT.
The three leaders clashed on Europe, with Cameron saying that voters had been "cheated" because there had not been a referendum on the EU's Lisbon Treaty, promised by both Labour and the Lib Dems. He added, "What you are hearing from the other two is, frankly, do not trust the people. Do not ask them when you pass powers from Westminster to Brussels. Just give in to everything that comes out of Brussels and do not stand up for your country."
Clegg said he would offer "a referendum on the fundamental issue [of EU membership], do we stay in or do we go out," adding that he would campaign to remain in the union. Cameron responded saying, "This idea that what people want is an in-out referendum, I don't think it's right. It's a con." Clegg also attacked the Conservatives allies in the European Parliament. Brown said: "I am afraid David is anti-European, Nick is anti- American. Both of them are out of touch with reality."
In the Times, Bronwen Maddox notes that "Nick Clegg escaped a direct challenge about the euro (he, alone of the three, wants to take Britain into the currency zone)." On his BBC blog, Gavin Hewitt argues, "The debate came down to this: the Conservatives will resist any new powers going to Brussels. The differences between Labour and the Liberal Democrats over Europe are slight."
FT Times Times: Leader Times 2 Times: Maddox Guardian Guardian: Poll Guardian 2 Telegraph Telegraph: Leader Mail Independent Euractiv Spectator: Coffee House blog BBC: Hewitt's blog Irish Times Le Figaro Le Monde Irish Independent El Pais Irish Times Europa Press Corriere della Sera La Repubblica FT: Stephens Telegraph 2 FT: Huhne Sun Open Europe briefing Open Europe press release
Clegg admits flying economy but taking business-class fares as MEP
The Mail reports that Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has admitted taking expenses for business-class air travel while actually flying economy as a Member of the European Parliament. He says he channelled the spare money into paying for his office in Nottingham, where he was then based.
"If I flew back, and I would fly every week between Nottingham which was my home at the time and Brussels from East Midlands Airport, and I could fly - I remember at the end BMI Baby did a fairly good deal from East Midlands Airport - but I kept getting a whopping great big allowance for travel equivalent to first-class ticket on a major airline," the Lib Dem leader said. Asked if he had kept the extra cash, which came from EU taxpayers, Mr Clegg added: "No, what I actually did was I put that money aside, didn't pocket it myself. I used it for my office in Nottingham and so on."
The article cites Open Europe's estimates that Clegg received £1.6million in pay and personal allowances in his time working for the European Commission and the European Parliament, and a further £900,000 for his staff while an MEP.
Europe's small and medium size companies complain AIFM directive will threaten innovation and competitiveness
Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reports that more than 500 small and medium size companies from all over Europe that receive funding from venture capital and private equity funds have sent a letter to the European Parliament's ECON and Legal Affairs Committees, protesting against the proposed EU AIFM Directive. André Olijslager of the Dutch Association of Investment companies (NVP) is quoted saying, "the competiveness of small companies is threatened."
Telegraaf Open Europe research: AIFM Directive Open Europe research: AIFMD and Investment Trusts
EU member states to give the green light to data transfer negotiations with US;
Germany concerned over UK's push for looser data protection
Euractiv reports that EU justice ministers will today give the European Commission their authorisation to re-negotiate the SWIFT agreement on bank data transfers with the US. The article notes that "Germany has tried to water down the deal as much as possible," revealed a diplomatic source. However, sources said the UK wants to give the US room to request bulk data transfers, while Germany wants more restrictions on them.
Charlemagne: EU agriculture policy likely to be burdened with more regulation
The Economist's Charlemagne column looks at the European Commission's pre-budget debate on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and notes that EU leaders have agreed that the overall budget should focus on competitiveness and remain no bigger than now. However, Paolo De Castro, Chairman of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, is quoted saying that since CAP reform "is not a question of more money, it means more regulation."
The article concludes: "CAP reformers used to dream of simply slashing the farm budget...By contrast, price regulation and obscure trade barriers are harder to spot and more burdensome to the poor. Free markets and consumers will be the losers."
Foreign ministers meeting on Monday 26 April are expected to approve the High Representative Catherine Ashton's blueprint for an EU diplomatic service, according to an article in EUobserver.
Fall of Belgian governing coalition looms over Belgian EU Presidency
The FT reports that Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme yesterday tendered his resignation to King Albert after the Flemish liberal party, a key coalition partner, pulled out of the five-month old government. It notes that the turmoil threatens to damage Belgian leadership of the EU, set to start in two months.
A working group commissioned by French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde has delivered a report calling for better regulation of the EU carbon market.
EU ministers yesterday agreed to set up an advisory group to lead a "structured dialogue" in view of implementing the EU's new powers on sports policy.
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.