Friday, June 25, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 25 June 2010

On Wednesday 30 June, 6.30pm - 8.00pm, in Room 1, House of Lords, SW1A 2PW, Open Europe is hosting a book launch with Derk-Jan Eppink MEP, who will present and discuss his new book Bonfire of Bureaucracy in Europe. The book describes how the EU's obsessive focus on "ever closer union", neglecting its core tasks such as the single market, has led to the debt crisis which is now engulfing the continent.


If you would like to attend this event, please contact Sofia Casselbrant on 0044 (0)207 197 2333 or




Contagion fears spread as Greece prepares to tap bailout fund;

BoE warns of UK's exposure to eurozone

The Independent reports that fears that the Greek government may soon have to tap its €110bn eurozone-IMF rescue package sent the cost of insuring Greek government bonds against default soaring to record highs yesterday - and hit UK bank shares in London badly, due to the fear of "contagion". AFP notes that the Bank of England has warned there is a risk to Britain's financial institutions when dealing with "European banks that have direct exposures to countries facing increased sovereign risks".


Greece is drafting legislation to set up a €10bn (£8bn) support mechanism to bailout her banks if, as is virtually certain, they cannot raise funding on the international markets in the conventional way, especially now that 12-month ECB funding facility is due to be wound down on 1 July. The €10bn would come from the €110bn emergency loan package.


In the Mail, Ben Laurance writes, "We can thank a whole pantheon of gods that Britain has refused to be bullied into joining the barmy experiment that is the euro. But we cannot hope to be insulated from the eurozone's troubles."


Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that Greece has decided to sell off some of its islands in a bid to raise much needed revenue.

AFP Independent FT Guardian Express WSJ: Analysis Mail: Laurance Guardian 2


Commission to pay journalists to travel on 'sensitive' foreign trips

The EU Commissioner in charge of communications has announced that journalists will be "embedded" with Commission President José Manuel Barroso on important meetings abroad from October. The service will also be extended to other Commissioners on media-sensitive missions, like the planned visit of Olli Rehn to Athens in the coming weeks.


Barroso will have his own dedicated speechwriters and two dedicated photographers on permanent call as well as a TV crew to travel with him. Commission Vice President Vivienne Reding intends to submit a financing decision and operational guidelines to enable the Commission "to take in charge some of the costs of journalists travelling with you [Barroso] and fellow Commissioners."



US-Germany confrontation over spending heats up on eve of G20

FAZ reports on its front page that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected US President Barack Obama's criticism of Germany's budget austerity plans, saying, "I prefer a clear answer to no answer". Meanwhile, the front page of Handelsblatt describes the US as "the greater Greece", noting that "the US criticises the German saving plans, but they are themselves in a debt trap." However, opposition SPD Chairman Sigmar Gabriel has come out in support of US criticism of Merkel's savings plan. "We need to talk about investments and not just about austerity," he said.


Het Financieele Dagblad reports that Dutch traders have warned against the financial transaction tax EU leaders will argue for at this weekend's G20 summit, while the Irish Times reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stepped up her calls for the tax.


Meanwhile, an article in the WSJ, looking ahead to the summit, notes that David Cameron "has shown himself as pragmatic rather than ideological on foreign policy, particularly in his Conservative Party's prickly dealings with the European Union. He has advocated pragmatic engagement rather than grandstanding rhetoric."

FAZ Handelsblatt Handelsblatt: Franz Handelsblatt Comment Econoshock Die Welt Handelsblatt 2 FAZ 2 Handelsblatt 3 FT WSJ: Rehn FD Irish Times WSJ Guardian Telegraph Independent European Voice


EU officials hopeful that MEPs will vote through new financial supervisors before August

The FT reports that the broad shape of the EU's new "European supervisory authorities" (ESAs) for banking, insurance and securities as well as a "European systemic risk board" has been agreed by MEPs, EU member states and European Commission officials. There have been big divisions between member states and MEPs over what powers should be given to the ESAs, particularly in "emergency situations", and what safeguards governments should have to keep the new authorities in check. The article notes that Commission officials are hopeful that MEPs could vote through the financial supervision rules before the summer break in August.

FT Mail


Commission to publish plans to vet national budgets next week

The Guardian reports that the Commission will press ahead next week with plans to vet member states' budgets before they are seen by national parliaments, despite formal objections from the UK Government. A Treasury spokesman said the EU could comment on Britain's budget, but only after it was presented to the UK Parliament. "There will not be a transfer of powers to Europe on the budget or anything else. The Coalition agreement is clear on this," he said.



Insurers warn against one-size-fits-all EU financial services regulation

The FT reports that the CEA, the European insurance and reinsurance federation, said yesterday that it believed a "worrying trend" was developing, with regulatory initiatives failing to distinguish between the "distinct business models" of different parts of the financial services sector.



Verhofstadt says EP has won a "significant" victory in recent "turf wars" over the EU's diplomatic corps

The Parliament reports that Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian PM, said the European Parliament had secured several "guarantees" which would ensure the service will follow a "community-method". He pointed out, for instance, that at least 60 percent of the total workforce of the EAS will be permanent EU officials, adding, "This will ensure, as parliament wished, that it will not based on a workforce of national diplomats." Citing examples in development and the EU's neighbourhood policy, he said, "What we have agreed is a much more ambitious and broader EAS than the one originally proposed."

The Parliament


Spanish opposition leader: Spain reduced to a "protectorate" managed from abroad

According to Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the main Spanish opposition party, Spain ended its stint as EU President as a "protectorate" of the bloc with its "economy managed from abroad". Spain's Presidency was also marked by the cancellation of two key summits, but Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pointed to the EU approval of publishing bank stress tests as an example of the success of the Presidency.



Swedish Migration Minister calls on Commission to intervene in Italy, Greece and Malta to improve their reception of immigrants

Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reports that Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billstrom is very critical of the way immigrants and asylum-seekers are received in southern European countries such as Italy, Greece and Malta. He is quoted saying, "I stand firm in my opinions about Malta and I have run out of patience, it's time for the European Commission to intervene". Mr Billstrom notes that the EU has accepted the Stockholm Programme, and that if countries do not fulfil the criteria set out therein the Commission has to put pressure on them to do so.

Dagens Nyheter


Defence spending gap increasing between US and Europe

The WSJ notes that defence spending in Europe is expected to be affected by governments' austerity measures, widening the gulf between US and European military capabilities. Meanwhile, a top Polish security official, Stanislaw Koziej, a retired general who is Director of Poland's National Security Bureau, has warned that NATO needs to change its approach in Afghanistan or risk a "strategic catastrophe".



The European Parliament has approved the Swift agreement with the US, allowing for the transfer of EU citizens' bank data for counter terrorism investigations. The text could be approved by the Council of Ministers on Monday 28 June, according to the Spanish EU Presidency.

EP press release Euractiv


Euractiv reports that divisions amongst EU Commissioners and concerns about the financial crisis have resulted in proposals for an EU carbon tax to be shelved until further impact assessments can be performed.



The Guardian reports that MEPs have approved an EU directive entitling anyone facing charges in any EU country to prompt access to an interpreter and to translation of documents when they need it.



Dagens Nyheter notes that Nessa Childers MEP has written to the European Commission to suggest legislation limiting the use of Facebook, which she claims has gone from "social networking to social dysfunction".

Dagens Nyheter


French unions yesterday challenged President Sarkozy's plans to raise the retirement age to 62, bringing an estimated 2 million protesters to the streets.

Independent Le Monde Le Figaro


Euractiv reports that the incoming Belgian EU Presidency has said it will keep social issues high on the EU agenda in the coming six months, notably on the question of social services provision in the internal market.



George Friedman, CEO of private intelligence corporation Stratfor, argues on Business Insider that "Germany and Russia moving closer together", as "the economic crisis in Europe has caused the Germans, among others, to reconsider their basic strategy."

Business Insider Stratfor


The European Commission's decision to suspend air travel due to Iceland's ash cloud has come under increasing criticism in Germany from both politicians and the air travel industry.



Tout l'Europe and Badische Zeitung report that Spain, Italy, France and Germany are opposed to the Commission's current plans to harmonise consumer protection.

Tout l'Europe Badische Zeitung


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