Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 18 August 2010



Commission draws up plans for EU tax on resources 'to improve industrial efficiency'

FAZ reports that an internal Commission paper is outlining plans for a new EU tax on all types of natural resources, to create incentives for businesses to use them more efficiently. The tax would include both renewable resources such as wood, as well as minerals and fossil fuels. The paper argues that increased efficiency would make countries more competitive internationally, stating that an increase in efficiency of 20 percent would lead to additional economic growth of 1 percent. The paper does not state explicitly whether the tax receipts should be used to directly fund the EU budget, as was proposed last week, and sources from the Commission said that a decision on the resource tax has not yet been made. In combination, the Commission is also considering gradually banning the import of inefficiently produced products into the EU to protect European industry from disadvantages in international competition.


FAZ's Brussels Correspondent Hendrik Kafsack writes that "no tax is needed to move industry to more 'resource efficiency'. Increasing prices for natural resources already compel this - and precisely competition. It is unclear as well, what shape a tax on all resources would take and how the Commission is planning to keep this separate from other taxes, for example on greenhouse gas emissions. It would probably be 'most efficient' if the Commission spent its resources on more reasonable projects."

FAZ FAZ: Commentary


Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions: The EU impacts on 60% of local decisions

A new report from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions shows that 60 percent of the decisions taken in an average Swedish local authority, and 50 percent of decisions taken in the country's regions are impacted by the EU. Procurement in the healthcare sector, state aid during sales of land and property, animal welfare inspections and EU subsidy programs are all examples of how the EU affects local and regional decision-making, states the report. The findings in the report are based on decision-making agendas from 30 local authorities, 7 healthcare regions and one region.   

Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions EU-upplysningen Open Europe research


Cotizalia notes that Eurostat data shows that, since the euro came into force, Spain and Greece have seen the highest increases in the cost of living throughout the EU. The article notes that, in comparison to the rest of the EU27, the cost of living in Spain has increased by 14.5 percent and in Greece by 14.8 percent, whereas it has remained stable in Germany.



Commission wants greater coordination of school holidays

Germany's Die Welt reports that the EU wants to make school holidays in Europe more flexible. Commissioner for Industry Antonio Tajani is quoted saying "better coordination would be helpful to reduce peak times". He does concede, however, that Brussels does not have a mandate to legislate in this area but can only give suggestions.



El Pais reports that Moody's may lower its credit ratings of France, Germany, the UK and the US. A spokesperson is quoted saying, "Challenges linked to budgetary pressures imply that the road leading to a credit rating reduction has got smaller".

El Pais


Ireland forced to pay higher rates on its debt

Yesterday's auction of Irish government bonds was a success, with demand more than five times the amount of new bonds on offer. However, the FT notes that Dublin was forced to pay high yields to attract investors, which will put more pressure on already stretched Irish government finances. In contrast to Spain, whose yields fell, the Irish government was forced to pay higher interest on its debt than in the previous bond sale in May.


Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports on a new study by the Irish National Economic and Social Council, which warns that "Ireland's approach to fiscal policy, prices, costs and financial regulation were not sufficiently adapted to the disciplines of the single currency".

FT WSJ La Tribune Irish Times


President Obama to meet EU leaders on the margins of NATO summit in November

It is widely reported that US President Barack Obama will hold talks with EU President Herman Van Rompuy and EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Lisbon on 20 November. The meeting will take place on the sidelines of a NATO summit scheduled in the Portuguese capital. EUobserver notes that Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme will not take part in the meeting, since under the Lisbon Treaty the representative role of the rotating EU Presidency has been taken over by the EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy.     

European Voice EUobserver EurActiv Le Monde France Soir Nouvel Observateur


Germany opposed to plan for pension reform costs to be exempted from budget statistics

It is widely reported that nine EU member states - including Sweden and mostly eastern European states - have proposed that EU statistics on public debt take into account the pension reforms made by certain countries, which have resulted in higher levels of borrowing. "Maintaining the current approach to debt and deficit statistics would result in unequal treatment of member states and thus effectively punish reforming countries", they argue in a letter to EU President Herman Van Rompuy and the Commission.


The German government has already said it is "very sceptical" about the request, which would require all member states to agree to it.

FT Reuters EUobserver EurActiv La Tribune Les Echos Reuters Italia ASCA


Barroso and Sarkozy argue about EU's efforts in Pakistan

EUobserver reports that, in a letter to President Nicolas Sarkozy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has defended the Commission's handling of the EU response to the floods in Pakistan, following suggestions from Paris that Brussels could "do more." Die Zeit notes that Barroso wants an international aid conference for Pakistan.

EUobserver AFP Zeit DW Presse


Green MEP wants to lower threshold for EU Citizens' Initiative

Austrian media report that Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek wants to lower the threshold for citizens' initiatives. Presse reports that she demands a review of initiatives if "at least 7 people from 3 different member states" support it. She goes on to say that the current threshold of 300,000 signatures is a "mockery" and insists the instrument should not become a tool for governments and lobbyists.

Presse Standard


EUobserver notes that the deportation of Roma from France back to their countries of origin is to begin tomorrow, the French government has announced.

EUobserver Nouvel Observateur Liberation


Euractiv notes that, amid criticism from the EU for refusing to participate in the Greek bailout, Slovakia's Foreign Ministry has republished an FT blog piece by Quentin Peel on its website, seen as defending the country's decision.

EurActiv FT: Peel's blog


In the Independent, David Prosser argues that, "Sooner or later, the European Commission is going to have to think again about the complicated and often draconian rules governing what airlines must do in the event of delays or cancellations of their flights."

Independent: Prosser


The IHT reports that the WTO has ruled against the EU use of tariffs on electronic products.

IHT Handelsblatt FTD


The Commission has backed Kosovo's bid to join the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).





A leader in the Independent looks at Lord Pearson's resignation as leader of UKIP and argues, "Ukip's vote rose by 50 per cent at the last election. If this is failure, one might ask, how should one gauge success?"

Independent: Leader Express



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: or call us on 0207 197 2333.