Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 29 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 sofia@openeurope.org.uk




51 percent of Germans want the Deutschmark back

AFP reports that an IPSOS poll has found that 51 percent of German voters want to return to the Deutschmark, with only 30 percent wanting to keep the euro. 56 percent of those over 50 years old said they wanted the DM back and 42 percent of those between 16 and 29 shared this view.


Meanwhile, the WSJ notes that eurozone faces its next major test on Thursday when the European Central Bank's €442 billion of emergency loans expire. Some investors worry that vulnerable euro-area banks, unable to borrow in the interbank market, could have difficulties in replacing that funding, despite repeated assurances from the ECB that it will provide funds on similar terms, albeit for only three months, beginning Wednesday. The FT reports that Spanish banks have been lobbying the ECB to extend this three month programme, accusing the ECB of "absurd" behaviour in not renewing the existing scheme.


A Handelsblatt article, entitled "The ECB has to play fire brigade for Greece", suggests that the ECB will have to intervene in Greece's bond auction this week, with investors put off by Greek government bonds' junk status. In an interview with Le Monde Jacques Delpla - a former economic advisor to French President Nicolas Sarkozy - has said that debt repayments for struggling eurozone member states should be postponed by ten years in order to allow these countries to pursue necessary budgetary reforms: "The solution I suggest is therefore to encourage fragile countries to go on with their reforms without leaving the eurozone. In exchange, their debt payments could be postponed by ten years".

AFP WSJ FT Telegraph Handelsblatt Handelsblatt 2


Former French Foreign Minister: Commission's push for economic government potentially "a big and furtive leap into federalism";

Spanish Foreign Minister: "The times when Berlin could decide everything on its own are over"

Writing in Le Monde, former French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine warns against the implications of the European Commission's recent demands for an early review of member states' budgets. He argues: "Over the last weeks, the crisis has brought back to life among nostalgic federalists [...] the hope of a windfall. Their premise is: we have a single currency, the euro, which is managed in a federalist way. We must therefore do the same with economic policies."


He adds, "But what do they mean by 'federalism' (or 'integration')? [...] If the Commission means, under the pretence of an early review of the economic guidelines of the budgets, that governments would now be obliged to submit before a vote is expressed by national parliaments, replacing the latter in taking the final decisions [...] then this would be a big - and furtive - leap into federalism, desired by the eurocrats, but never accepted or ratified by the citizens. This would be illegitimate, and out of the Treaties".  


Meanwhile, Handelsblatt reports that Spanish Foreign Minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos has warned Germany against trying to advance EU economic governance on its own. "Germany can make proposals, but it still needs the consent of 27 EU members," he said, adding that, "The times when Berlin could decide everything on its own are over." He also emphasised that Spain has never breached the Stability and Growth Pact and that Germany is one of the main beneficiaries of the euro.


A separate Handelsblatt article reports that the incoming Belgian EU Presidency will be giving priority to budget consolidation, according to EU diplomats. Belgium reportedly wants to give more competences to EU Economy Commissioner Olli Rehn and is in favour of taking into account the whole debt position of a country when enforcing sanctions.

Handelsblatt Le Monde Open Europe research


Belgian Presidency raises possibility of eurozone going it alone on financial supervision

Handelsblatt reports that the incoming Belgian EU Presidency wants a compromise on EU financial supervision by October at the latest. Belgian Deputy PM Didier Reynders has also said he wants to reach a compromise on the AIFM directive. The article notes that both projects are currently blocked, because the UK Government fears for the City of London, but that the Belgian Presidency may explore the possibility of the eurozone 'going it alone' on plans for financial supervision.


Furthermore, Belgium and Luxembourg want to introduce an EU-wide CO2 tax, which would serve to directly fund the EU budget. Most other member states are opposed to a direct EU tax. However, EUobserver reports that many Belgian policymakers believe the detailed agenda for the Presidency, which was created by the current caretaker government, could be at risk if a new government were formed quickly.

Irish Times EUobserver EurActiv Handelsblatt


Handelsblatt reports that Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned against a unilateral EU financial transaction tax, favoured by France and Germany, saying, "the danger of the European financial industry migrating is too great".



UK's bid to meet EU renewable energy targets dealt blow

The Guardian reports that, in a blow to the UK's bid to meet EU renewable energy targets, figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change show that the proportion of electricity supplied from renewable sources such as wind and hydro power fell by 7.5 percent in the first three months of this year compared to 2009. The EU targets require the UK to produce 15 percent of its energy from renewables.


Sir David King, a former Chief Scientist to the Government and Director of the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford University, said the figures highlighted the need for new nuclear generators to help cut emissions and keep power supplies reliable. "We can't rely too heavily on wind because it always requires a gas-fired turbine to be able to be switched on to provide alternative energy," he said.

Guardian Open Europe research


In response to the news that the new House of Lords' expenses system will be operated on a per diem basis, Open Europe Director Mats Persson was quoted in the Telegraph pointing to the experience of the European Parliament, where MEPs were caught "signing in and sloping off". He added, "The idea of a per diem allowance eliminates a lot of accountability."

Telegraph Open Europe research


Handelsblatt suggests that tomorrow's German presidential election no longer presents a danger to Angela Merkel's Chancellorship, with her favoured candidate Christian Wulff expected to win.

Handelsblatt WSJ


BMA Chairman: EU doctors must be tested before working in the UK

The Telegraph reports that, in a speech on the opening day of the BMA's annual conference in Brighton, Dr Hamish Meldrum said that it was wrong that foreign doctors from within the EU did not face the same scrutiny as British doctors. He said: "We seem to be able to do little or nothing to check that doctors from overseas - especially from Europe - meet the proper standards of language and competence."

Telegraph Mail


Sarkozy will oppose "discounted" CAP, French Agriculture Minister says

In an interview with Les Echos, French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire said he will try to persuade other EU member states to adopt the French approach during the debate on the reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). He said: "Two visions will clash: the first one supports a 'discounted' CAP, and wants the EU to produce at the lowest costs possible, regardless of the consequences for health, for the environment and for product standards. This is not our choice. Our President [Nicolas Sarkozy] defends an ambitious agricultural policy resting on full health security, on the safeguard of the environment and on aid for struggling areas [...] But all this has a cost, and requires real harmonisation of rules".

Les Echos


EU's Data Retention Directive under attack from privacy groups

Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet reports that while the European Parliament is pushing for an extension of the EU's Data Retention Directive, the European Commission is under pressure to discard the Directive altogether. In a letter sent to Commissioners on 22 June, more than one hundred European organisations are calling for the repeal of the Directive. Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom has told Svenska Dagbladet that a repeal of the Directive is unlikely, but that she will undertake a review of it and present her findings later this year.

Svenska Dagbladet Svenska Dagbladet: Letter to Commissioner Malmstrom Computable


EU legislation has 'enshrined the working methods of the big four auditors'

Writing in Belgian daily De Tijd, Peter Vandewalle, a Belgian Certified Public Accountant, argues that the EU's 2006/43/EC Directive regulating statutory audits of annual accounts "has largely emerged due to the lobbying of the major accounting firms", to the detriment of their smaller competitors. He argues: "Under the disguise of improving quality, procedures have become more burdensome...The working methods of the four big auditors (Deloitte, KMPG, Ernst & Young and PriceWaterhouseCoopers) have been enshrined in legislation, despite their failings in the Enron, Parmalat and Lernout & Hauspie scandals". 



Swift Agreement finalised after compromise with European Parliament

The EU and the US have signed the "Swift Agreement", enabling the transfer of information on EU citizens' bank transfers to US counter-terrorism authorities. A compromise was reached after the Council of Ministers agreed to MEPs' demands that the EU will have its own system for mapping terrorists' finances within five years time, similar to the Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme employed by the US.

European Voice Dagens Nyheter FAZ


AFP reports that French Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche said yesterday he wants EU member states to keep direct political control over the new European External Action Service (EEAS). "I have my own red line about the functioning of this system: it has not to be a sort of 28th service piloted by the Commission and controlled by the European Parliament", he argued.



Petr Necas has been sworn in as the new Czech Prime Minister. He is Chairman of the Civic Democrat Party, which sits in the European Conservatives and Reformists group in the European Parliament.



An article in the WSJ notes that, due to the bigger share of exports in their economies, the weaker euro is likely to benefit countries such as Ireland and Germany rather than Portugal, Spain and Greece.



In response to the Greek parliament's discussions on austerity measures scheduled for today, Greek public sector workers have embarked upon another 24-hour strike, the fifth this year.

Dagens Nyheter Svenska Dagbladet


El Mundo reports that the European Commission has rejected European-level legislation prohibiting the use of the burka in public settings.

El Mundo


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