Member states agree blueprint for EU diplomatic service amid "bureaucratic battles";
MEP: Development policy "must not" be handed back to member states
EUobserver reports that member states yesterday reached political agreement on the future shape of the EU's new diplomatic service, the EEAS, with the European Parliament, which has the power to veto its budget and staff regulations, now seen as the biggest remaining obstacle to the formal go-ahead. The Irish Times notes that the Commission will have a say over the shortlist of candidates of which Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton assigns top diplomatic postings in 136 EEAS delegations around the world.
The EEAS will be under Ms Ashton's direct control, but will be managed day-by-day by a secretary general and two deputy secretaries general. It was also agreed that the EEAS will only offer limited consular services - an earlier more extensive role was reduced due to British opposition.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt has spoken out against the internal squabbling over the creation of the service and is quoted by the Swedish Wire saying, "Brussels is spending far too much time dealing with itself and that is not the way it was supposed to be," calling on ministers to stop the "bureaucratic battles" and let the new body concentrate on real global problems.
European Voice reports that development NGOs, including Oxfam, have challenged Ashton's decision to place development policy under the remit of the EEAS, saying that this is reserved as an "exclusive competence" for the Commission under the EU treaties. Ska Keller, a German Green MEP is quoted saying, "The establishment of the external service must not lead to a situation where development policy is handed back to the member states."
Swedish Wire European Voice The Parliament EUobserver FT Irish Times
Barnier warns that big bank profits are "a thing of the past"
Reuters reports that EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has warned that new regulations will mean that banks will have to expect more modest returns in the future. "Everyone has to realise that the profit levels seen before the crisis are a thing of the past," he said. "We need our citizens to believe we are taking the action necessary to create a new financial architecture. A financial system that is the heart of jobs and growth, and one that serves them - not the other way round."
IMF and ECB called in to win over Bundestag support for Greek bailout
Greek bond markets suffered yesterday amid worries that the country will still have to restructure its debt, despite the €45bn bailout package from the eurozone and the IMF, and following opposition from senior German politicians, raising fears that the bailout may be delayed.
During a press conference in Berlin yesterday German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn and ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet have been asked to brief members of the German parliament on the details of the rescue package, in order to try and win their approval.
She also said that Greece would have to accept harsh measures "not just for one year but for several years", adding: "Germany will help if the appropriate conditions are met. Germany feels an enormous obligation towards the stability of the euro," reports the Telegraph. German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble added, "It is about recognising our national responsibility within Europe", reports Welt.
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said time was "of the essence" in setting final terms for Greece, adding that some of the parliamentary debates over the rescue smacked of "posturing" for the sake of public opinion. She also said that the issue of restructuring Greek debt was "off the table", according to the Independent.
Il Corriere della Sera quotes Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, saying "I'm concerned over a certain rigidity on Germany's part...I believe that if the risk of Greece hits other countries - Portugal has been raised as a possibility - this means that it is the common enterprise that we must save. And since we are part of that common enterprise as well, then we must show our solidarity". He also said that an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders might be needed before the bailout is activated.
The Irish Times reports that a new poll by Greek Public Opinion (GPO) for Mega TV has shown that 60.9 percent of Greeks disapprove of the government's decision to request financial aid. However, Greek PM George Papandreou's personal approval rating stays high at 50.8 percent.
Meanwhile, the IMF's former Chief Economist and Harvard Professor, Kenneth Rogoff said yesterday that problems in Greece could yet force an IMF bailout of other eurozone countries, such as Ireland, Spain or Portugal, adding: "It's more likely than not that we'll need an IMF programme in, at least, one more country in the euro area over the next two to three years". In the Times Ian King argues that if Portugal is next it will be a bigger crisis because "unlike Greece, Portugal did not cheat the entry rules and many of its problems are actually due to its membership of the euro."
FT FT 2 FT 3 Telegraph FT: Leader Irish Independent Independent EUobserver Guardian Irish Times WSJ WSJ: Wheatcroft WSJ: Barley Times Mail: Brummer City AM Irish Times 2 WSJ 2 Times: King Mail Welt online Corriere della Sera AGI Die Zeit Tagesschau noows
Green campaigners warn that auctions of EU carbon permits will be used to subsidise 'dirty' power
The Independent reports that the European Commission will allow revenues from the sale of EU carbon permits, under its emissions trading scheme, to be spent on state aid for new coal-fired power station construction across the continent. A leaked document seen by the paper says that the funds could be used to provide up to 15 per cent of the costs of "highly-efficient Carbon Capture and Storage-ready power plants".
But environmental campaigners are warning that "CCS-ready" merely means a power station ready to be fitted with carbon capture and storage and that this means there could be massive government subsidies across the EU for building what are in effect old-fashioned "dirty coal" power stations.
Agriculture Commissioner argues for 'fairer' distribution of farming subsidies
La Croix reports that the European Commissioner for Agriculture Dacian Ciolos is considering changes to the mechanism for the distribution of farm subsidies within the CAP framework. "In the future, it will not be possible to justify, particularly to taxpayers, distribution of subsidies based on historical production levels", he argued.
Ciolos said he wanted to see subsidies shared across the EU more fairly, rather than on the historical system that favours the older member states with higher historical production levels. The new scheme would not see a reduction in the total amount of subsidies.
La Croix Ciolos's speech (full text)
John Vinocur: Election could see more active UK role in the EU
In the IHT, John Vinocur asks, 'could a freshly elected and seriously different kind of British government take a new leadership role in Europe?' He points out that "belonging to the euro zone could become a less essential element in the perception of Britain's leverage in the EU" and that the "International Monetary Fund even projects growth in Britain as out-doing the euro-zone average this year and next." However, he concludes, the odds for greater "adventure in Europe" remain "poor".
IHT: Vinocur Open Europe briefing Open Europe press release
Commissioner's plans for new animal welfare regulations could cause trade rift with US
The IHT reports that EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy is due to tell US officials that he intends to propose a new law on animal welfare, potentially causing future trade disputes. He has said he wants to eliminate exceptions that have allowed cosmetics companies like Estée Lauder and L'Oréal to use ingredients that are tested on animals. Such products could not be sold in Europe then unless the testing stopped by the end of 2012. If cosmetics companies do not find alternatives by then, "there are going to be problems," he said.
EUobserver reports that EU foreign ministers meeting yesterday asked the Commission to draw up a study looking into creating an EU cybercrime centre to facilitate information sharing between member states. It could be set up within Europol, which already has a cybercrime department.
EUobserver Open Europe research
Belgium's King Albert last night accepted the resignation of PM Yves Leterme after the collapse of the ruling coalition last week. Elections could now take place in June, just before the country is due to take over the rotating EU Presidency in July.
Guardian Irish Independent Economist: Charlemagne notebook EurActiv BBC EUobserver European Voice
In a letter to the Telegraph, Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Graydon, Chief of the Air Staff, 1992-1997, and Tony Edwards, Head of Defence Export Services, 1998-2001, argue that the Lib Dems cannot cancel the third order of Eurofighter/Typhoon jets without a strategic defence review.
The Irish Independent reports that Irish EU Commissioner Marie Geoghegan-Quinn has caved in to pressure from senior ministers and given up her €108,000 Dail pension while in her current job, which she was receiving on top of her €243,000 Commissioner's salary, after it was revealed that she will be entitled to other generous EU pensions.
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