Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 9 June 2010

UK and EU clash as Government claims veto power over national budget supervision
At yesterday's Ecofin meeting of EU finance ministers, there was continued opposition from the UK to European Commission demands for national governments to submit their budgets both to the Commission, and to national finance ministers for peer review, before they are sent to national parliaments.
UK Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban, attending the meeting in place of the Chancellor, said: "The Budget will be presented to Parliament first. There is no question of anyone other than MPs seeing it first. Once the Chancellor has presented it to Parliament, it is of course publicly available." The Times reports that the UK was isolated in its opposition to the proposal, with EU President Herman Van Rompuy insisting after the meeting that broad agreement had been reached. The Guardian quotes Van Rompuy saying that "levels of growth or inflation, would be examined...A government presenting a budgetary plan with a high deficit will have to justify itself."
European Voice reports that the UK is suggesting that its pre-budget report could be submitted as part of the 'budget semester' review as an alternative, but the Telegraph cites one Commission official saying those details would not be sufficient, adding: "The idea is that this information is received well in advance in order to have the peer review. This does not mean after, or simultaneously, but before it has been given to MPs. Recycling old or previously announced figures will not do either - and we'll be able to tell."
PA notes that the UK's 1972 European Communities Act states that any economic "stability and convergence" programmes cannot be submitted to the EU until they have been considered by Parliament. The article also notes that the UK Government is arguing that any agreement to introduce the plan would have to be based on unanimity, but EU officials are suggesting that the proposal could be introduced through qualified majority voting instead, under which the UK would have no veto.
Van Rompuy will now report on the proposals of his eurozone taskforce at the 17 June European Council meeting, with the final details to alter economic governance expected in October.
Guardian WSJ Mail Times Telegraph Independent Irish Times: Beesley FT: Brussels blog BBC: Hewitt blog European Voice Reuters Italia ASCA Il Sole 24 Ore Repubblica WSJ: Analysis IHT Irish Times EUobserver EurActiv European Voice 2 BBC Sueddeutsche
EU health ministers agree to reimburse patients who seek care abroad
The Irish Times reports that EU health ministers have backed a Spanish proposal on patient mobility within the EU, which will enable patients to receive certain healthcare abroad without prior authorisation at home. In a statement, the ministers said, "As a general rule, patients will be allowed receive healthcare in another member state and be reimbursed up to the level of reimbursement applicable for the same or similar treatment in their national health system if the patients are entitled to this treatment in their country of affiliation."
Patients will however require prior authorisation for treatments which involve overnight hospital accommodation or which require a highly specialised and cost-intensive medical equipment and infrastructure. European Voice notes that national governments say these safeguards will allow them to manage their health budgets, but the Commission believes that they should be more relaxed. The Commission, national ministers and the European Parliament will begin negotiations on a final version of the law in the autumn.
El Pais Irish Times European Voice FAZ
Barnier concedes there is "disagreement" about whether EU regulators could force governments to bailout banks;
Sarkozy and Merkel put pressure on Barroso for stronger financial regulation
In an interview with the BBC, Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has said that there is "disagreement" about whether a national government could be compelled to bailout a failing bank by the EU's new financial regulators. The UK has been resisting pressure from other EU governments, especially the French, for the new regulators to have sweeping powers to force bank bailouts. He added, "Both sides will have to move but I know the red lines of the UK government, which is also shared by others on fiscal sovereignty, and I think those red lines will be respected in the final agreement." Barnier also reiterated his support for a new global tax on financial transactions.
Meanwhile, it is widely reported that yesterday French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote a joint letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, calling on the Commission to accelerate the improvement of financial regulation at the EU level. "We urgently need the Commission to speed up its work with regard to stronger supervision of the sovereign CDS market and of short-selling and to submit its set of guidelines to the ECOFIN in July", the letter reads, specifying that "the Commission's proposal should encompass the possibility to impose a ban at the EU level on naked short-selling [...] and on some naked CDS on sovereign bonds".
City AM reports that the EU will press ahead with its own banking levy, after a failure to agree on joint measures at last week's G20 meeting. However, the Independent reports that disagreements remain between member states on how the revenues from a future levy should be used. The UK has made clear that revenues from any levy should be made available for general spending, while Germany wants a ring-fenced fund to pay for future bailouts.
BBC Il Sole 24 Ore El Mundo Le Monde FT Independent City AM Sueddeutsche France2 TF1 PulsBiznesu
German official: "It was the French who cancelled, not the Germans"
The circumstances that led to the cancellation of the dinner between President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel on Monday remain unclear. French newspaper La Tribune quotes a German official saying: "It was the French who cancelled, not the Germans", while the Elysée had previously said in an official communiqué that Chancellor Merkel had asked President Sarkozy to postpone their meeting because of timetabling problems. Meanwhile, FAZ notes that the meeting was called off by the Chancellor without an apology, despite the French press delegation having already landed in Berlin.
An article in the Independent notes that "the Franco-German disagreement is not the first in the last fifty years but is potentially the most serious. The personal chemistry between the mercurial, tactile President Sarkozy and the stolid, unemotional Chancellor Merkel has never been good. But there has also been a wider divergence in German and French viewpoints and interests, which has been exposed by the debt and euro crisis".
Elysée official website La Tribune Independent Open Europe blog
UK authorities keep tabs on various political activists under EU surveillance scheme
The Guardian reports that the UK is taking part in an EU surveillance programme which is designed to gather personal information about suspected "radicals" from across the political spectrum. Confidential documents, obtained by Statewatch, reveal how an initiative to gather data on "radicalisation and recruitment" in Islamic terrorist groups has been expanded to incorporate other organisations, including "environmental extremists".
Police and security agencies have agreed to monitor "agents" who adhere to ideologies potentially involving violence. Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, has been asked to produce a list of people involved in either promoting such groups, or in trying to recruit members. In the UK, the police have developed a centralised monitoring apparatus to spy on "domestic extremists", an umbrella term with no legal definition which, in practice, includes environmental protesters, anti-war activists, and anti-racist campaigners.
Guardian Open Europe research
Markets continue to fall despite announcement of eurozone rescue deal
The Telegraph reports that markets continued to fall yesterday, despite finance ministers' agreement on the final details of the €440bn bailout package, and Gillian Tett argues in the FT that investors are uncertain just how many government bonds the ECB plans to purchase. Le Monde reports that, according to a survey conducted by Bloomberg, 41% of investors and financial analysts estimate that Greece will leave the eurozone. Regarding the eurozone rescue mechanism, only 23% believe it will be effective, while 35% said that "the debt crisis will not be fixed, and some countries will dismiss the euro".
Meanwhile, the Irish Independent reports that a German official, Klaus Regling, has been named as Chief Executive of the EU's new European Financial Stability Facility, charged with overseeing the €440bn in loans to eurozone governments that face difficulties selling their own bonds.
Telegraph FT: Tett Le Monde Irish Independent
Negotiations on EU's foreign service continue to stall on budgetary independence
EUobserver reports that further talks took place on Tuesday between EU foreign minister Catherine Ashton and MEPs concerning the setup of the European External Action Service (EEAS). Member states and Ms Ashton want an independent institution with a separate budget, whereas several MEPs want the EEAS to be anchored to the European Commission. A compromise between the contrasting views is now being sought: one solution could be modelled on OLAF (EU's anti-fraud office) which has an independent budget, but which has to go through the Commission to obtain its funds.
Poland to present its EU Presidency agenda
EUobserver reports that a Polish delegation is arriving in Brussels today to present an agenda for the Polish 2011 EU Presidency, beginning 1July. Sensitive issues, such as EU military cooperation, are expected to be discussed. Poland will also play a major role in how the EU shapes its €1 trillion 2014 to 2020 budget, putting into place EU economic governance, and the future of the Common Agricultural Policy.
EUobserver GazetaWyborcza
Workers in Germany call for protests against austerity package
The FT reports that Germany's public sector workers yesterday called for mass demonstrations this weekend against the government's €80bn austerity package announced by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Meanwhile, Le Figaro reports that several members of the UMP - President Nicolas Sarkozy's party - have questioned the appropriateness of implementing a set of austerity measures in France similar to those which are being launched by the German government.
La Razon reports that the Commission has asked Spain to finish its labour market and pension system reforms in order to help reduce the deficit, regain competitiveness, and calm markets in the wake of Spain's public sector strike that began yesterday.
La Razon FT FT: Leader Times Telegraph FT Irish Independent Independent Irish Times EUobserver Le Figaro  
Government wasted £71 million on motorbike test centres to comply with EU rules
The Mail reports that a major review of the motor bike L-test has been ordered after the previous government built 'super test centres' to comply with an EU metric rule. An EU directive ordered that L-test manoeuvres - such as the emergency stop or avoiding an obstacle - must be carried out at speeds of 50 kilometres per hour. But 50kph is 31.2 miles per hour - an illegal speed on the 30mph roads usually used by learner motorcyclists. To get around the problem, the Driving Standards Agency was forced to build 66 multipurpose 'super test centres' - at a cost of £71million - so that motorcycle candidates could take the manoeuvring elements of the test.
EurActiv reports that a special group of eight EU Commissioners is to meet on Friday to discuss pension reform in the EU, and agree on a Commission Green Paper, which proposes raising the retirement age, designed to stimulate debate on the topic.
EurActiv Commission mandate
The Mirror reports that the European Court of Justice yesterday backed moves to cut mobile roaming rates by up to 70%. The law had been introduced by the European Commission in 2007, but Vodafone, 02, T-Mobile and Orange went to court to attempt to have it overturned.
El Mundo Mirror Telegraph
Dutch voters head to the ballot box today, with the free-market People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) leading the polls.
FT Independent Irish Times BBC EUobserver BBC: Today programme
In the WSJ, Iain Martin argues, "perhaps the reality is that Mr. Obama and Europe are destined not to get along. He may realise in a future crisis the advantages of being nice to old friends. Equally, he may not."
WSJ: Martin
The FT notes that a new report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change projects that the UK's greenhouse gas emissions in 2020 are likely to be about 36 percent below 1990 levels, exceeding EU targets, after electricity demand fell around 7.5 percent during the recession.

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