Thursday, September 30, 2010

Muslim confiscates Christian Bible on Temple Mount

Jewish guards prevent Christians and Jews from exercising their religious right to pray on the Temple Mount? That's right! Only Muslims have unlimited access to Judaism's most holy site. Only the Koran is permitted within. The Tanach (Jewish Scripture, known to much of the world as the "Old Testament") and Christian Scriptures (the New Testament) are forbidden. Yet Israel claims to respect the religious rights of all people.


A House of Prayer For All Peoples?

Open Europe press summary: 30 September 2010


Fears over Ireland grow as cost of its banking bailout increase to €50bn
Fears over Ireland's public finances are continuing with Ernst & Young predicting that the country's public deficit will remain the highest in the eurozone until 2014 at the earliest, according to the Irish Independent. The news comes as the Irish government has announced that the cost of its banking bail-out will rise to €50 billion, Bloomberg reports.

The Telegraph reports that markets are concerned by the growing number of ECB governors calling for an end to emergency support measures for the eurozone, such as bond purchases and other lending facilities. Hans Redeker from BNP Paribas is quoted saying, "We think there is going to a double-dip recession in eurozone periphery."

Meanwhile, Le Figaro notes that Moody's has downgraded Spain's debt rating and Portugal has announced a new set of austerity measures, while Euractiv reports that the ECB has warned that Europe's banking sector is still vulnerable to the eurozone's debt problems. A leader in Le Monde argues, "The eurozone is less unified than one could think. 16 countries are still sharing the same currency, but the markets no longer consider them as part of a single homogeneous space."

Barroso declares "sea change" in economic governance of the EU
FT: Eurozone leaders must stomach the idea of sovereign default
There is widespread coverage of the proposals for stronger economic governance unveiled yesterday by EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn. The first set of proposals only envisages financial sanctions for rule-breakers and is restricted to eurozone member states. Fines for countries which persistently fail to meet the Stability and Growth Pact criteria will be "quasi-automatic", meaning that they could only be blocked by a qualified majority within the Council. Controversially, sanctions could possibly be imposed on countries with trade or current account imbalances.  

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said, "The proposals we are making today represent the biggest step forward on economic governance since we adopted the Stability and Growth Pact. Once approved and implemented by the Member States, they will mark a sea change in the way economic governance is dealt with in the European Union, and in particular in the Euro area".

Meanwhile, in an interview with Euractiv Deutschland, Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann has voiced his opposition to Treaty changes aimed at strengthening the EU's economic governance. "Everything that is within the bounds of current legal measures can be used. But all measures that would require Treaty change I find - thinking back to the Lisbon Treaty - hard to imagine in the next two years", he said.

In the WSJ, Richard Barley argues that the Commission's "proposals still represent something of a transfer of power to the Commission - and for that reason alone, some countries may try to water them down."  A leader in the FT argues, "A well-enforced [Stability and Growth] pact might have stopped Greece's reckless borrowing sooner, but would not have stopped the problems in Spain and Ireland, which were built up by private financial flows." It concludes that EU leaders cannot "stomach the idea of eurozone sovereign default. No one wants that, but an open-ended promise of bail-out weakens the force of the best-laid rules."

France wins German support on AIFM Directive
France has won the backing of Germany in opposing the 'passport' provision in the AIFM Directive, which would allow funds and managers outside the EU to obtain pan-EU marketing rights, raising fears that the Directive will take an even more protectionist format than before. Finance ministers will today discuss the proposal with a view to reaching a compromise.

The European Commission gives France an ultimatum on Roma but refrains from taking legal action on discrimination
It is widely reported that the European Commission has threatened to launch legal proceedings against France for failing to implement EU rules on freedom of movement. The French government has been given until 15 October to provide evidence that its policies on repatriations of Roma people comply with EU law. Crucially, the Commission has refrained from suing France for discriminating against the ethnic group. However, Le Point reports that EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said yesterday that "this dossier is not closed", suggesting that there could still be room for a legal action specifically against discrimination. The FT describes the Commission's decision as "a political victory" for Paris.   

More than 100,000 marchers converged on Brussels from across the EU to protest against austerity measures yesterday. Open Europe's Mats Persson appeared on Sky News' Jeff Randall show yesterday, discussing the protests and European governments' austerity programmes.

Head of EU's food agency accused of conflict of interest over GM foods
Le Monde reports that Hungarian scientist Diana Banati - who chairs the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) - has been accused of a conflict of interest. While the EFSA is supposed to provide the European Commission with scientific advice on genetically modified foods, Ms. Banati did not reveal that she had previously sat on the board of directors of the International Life Science Institute, which lobbies in favour of genetically modified products and includes among its members several multinationals such as Kraft Foods, Danone, Nestlé, BASF and Bayer.

EU officials' union: "If there are no EU institutions, there is no Europe"
EUobserver reports that Renzo Carpenito from the European Council's FFPE union has complained about some national governments' approach to EU expenditure, describing it as "scapegoating" and "caricaturing", following French and British demands for reduced budget increases. "They [European leaders] come here to Brussels and they agree to the Lisbon Treaty, to more Europe but they are not willing to pay for it. If there are no EU institutions, there is no Europe", Carpenito argued.

Dutch University research: European Arrest Warrant leads to race to the bottom in human rights protection
NRC Handelsblad reports that Dutch judges and prosecutors have "strong suspicions" that the European Arrest Warrant is being abused by authorities in other countries. Researchers from Utrecht University found that judicial protection for suspects is often insufficient and that the instrument is mainly being used to transfer "petty criminals" from country to country.

Der Spiegel reports that the discovery of secret documents now 'proves' that Germany only traded the Deutschemark for the euro as a French condition for German reunification.

MEPs are threatening to freeze part of the budget for European Commissioners' salaries and allowances unless changes are made to the Commissioners' code of conduct.

Euractiv notes that Egemen Bağış, Turkey's chief EU negotiator, sought yesterday to unblock Ankara's accession bid by calling on EU member states to call referenda on the country's membership. Meanwhile, European Voice reports that NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has called on the EU to give Turkey a role in the Union's security policy.

The Chief Executive of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein yesterday warned that overregulation could force banks to move out of Europe. He is concerned that the new Basel III rules aimed at toughening banks' capital and liquidity requirements may be enforced more rigorously by European regulators than by other jurisdictions.

FT Deutschland has called into question the influence of the newly created European Systemic Risk Board, noting that its recommendations will only be made public in 'special cases'. The article notes that this is unlikely to have much impact on member states, unless early warnings of financial hazards are made public.
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The WSJ's Real Time Brussels blog notes that a legal advisor to the European Court of Justice has said that insurance companies may not charge men and women different rates for products. That would include life insurance, in which women routinely get better deals than men because they live longer.

ORF reports that the EU is considering yearly stress test for banks.

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.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 29 September 2010


AIFM Directive: France seeks more power for itself and Paris-based EU supervisor on market access rules
Euractiv notes that "a French attempt to concentrate more regulatory power in Paris has thrown a spanner" in the negotiations over the AIFM Directive. Although details remain unclear, France proposes to keep national rules to determine market access for fund managers outside the EU with minimum standards in place across the bloc, as opposed to EU-wide access based on a single set of requirements, which several other member states are pushing for. The soon to be created European Securities Markets Authority, based in Paris, would then be given a key role in resolving divergences between national fund rules, notes the WSJ's Real Time Brussels blog. MEP Syed Kamall is quoted in City AM saying, "The French are trying to undermine the Belgian presidency and form a blocking minority, and they claimed [last night] to have done so."

Ireland's borrowing costs reach new highs as rating agencies warn of new downgrade
The Irish Times notes that Ireland's borrowing costs hit a record high again yesterday after two credit rating agencies warned that Irish state debt faces further downgrades. The Telegraph notes that Standard & Poor's said the final cost for the Anglo Irish bank bailout could be much higher than the €23bn (£20bn) earmarked so far and may exceed €35bn, putting severe strains on Ireland's public finances.

Meanwhile, the Irish Independent quotes Irish Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan insisting that entering the euro had not caused Ireland's boom to bust, even though the single currency was "part of the illusion" that sustained the toxic cycle.

Angela Merkel: no more bailouts until eurozone budget rules are strengthened and an orderly default mechanism is established
Handelsblatt reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said there can be no extension of the European Financial Stability Fund until the Stability Pact is strengthened and an orderly insolvency procedure is agreed for eurozone members. A leader in the paper welcomes Chancellor Merkel's proposal for an insolvency procedure, arguing that neither banks nor countries should be "too big too fail".

On his EUobserver blog, Open Europe's Mats Persson argues that "instead of taxpayers footing the bill for the poor decisions of governments and companies they cannot vote out of office, [an orderly insolvency procedure] would mean that ultimate liability will rest with those who actually made the mistakes".

EU Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn will today present his proposals for the introduction of sanctions against countries running excessive public deficits and debts. The FT reports that the first round of proposals will be limited to eurozone countries, while a proposal allowing for EU funds to be withheld for non-euro countries that persistently fail to meet the Stability and Growth Pact criteria will be tabled at a later stage. However, the UK has an opt-out exempting it from EU rules on debt levels.

Meanwhile, writing in Les Echos, Laurence Boone from Barclays Capital argues that the compromise reached on sanctions is not sufficient to protect the eurozone from the risk of a new debt crisis, as it remains strictly limited to the budgetary domain, without addressing the huge competitiveness gaps existing between stronger and weaker eurozone economies. However, a comment piece in FAZ suggests that today's proposals from the Commission will go a lot further than what was expected. According to the paper, Commissioner Rehn follows what the German government wants on many points.

In the WSJ, Vice-governor of the Czech National Bank Mojmir Hampl argues: "A monetary union without a state is a unique experiment. By definition, the national budgetary sovereignty of the euro-zone's members doesn't go too well with the strict enforcement of supra-national rules. It is like having the power to sentence culprits but leaving it up to them whether they actually go to prison".

EU administration costs increased to 6.5% of the budget;
Commission to look at additional "compensation mechanisms" for net contributors
The EU released its 2009 Financial Report yesterday which explains how the EU spent its budget in 2009. The UK's contribution went up from £6.2bn in 2008 to £6.7bn in 2009. The Telegraph reports that as the fifth highest contributor to the EU, "the average British household paid £440 to be a member of the European Union last year but received only £312 back in direct benefits". The EU's administration costs increased to 6.5% of the budget (€7.4bn) from 6.2% in 2008.

EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski has said the Commission will consider additional "compensation mechanisms" for net contributors and will present a proposal in June 2011, reports EUobserver.

Meanwhile, FD reports that the Netherlands disputes the Commission's claim that it only contributed €4bn to the 2009 EU budget. The Netherlands wants customs levied at Rotterdam Port to be included in the calculation, increasing its contribution to €5bn.

FT Deutschland quotes Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders saying that, "It should be possible to penalise rating agencies" if these "wrongly" downgrade a eurozone country. Meanwhile, to avoid conflicts of interest, the Commission has said it wants to abolish the practice by which member state governments pay agencies to rate their debt.

Sarkozy "repeatedly pressed" the ECB to commit to aggressive intervention in bond markets
The WSJ features a two part special on the alleged "secret committee to save the euro". The articles notes that French President Nicolas Sarkozy "repeatedly pressed" the ECB head Jean-Claude Trichet to commit to aggressive intervention in bond markets. "Mr. Trichet, unwilling to show his hand, replied that the ECB didn't take orders", notes the article. The European Commission has said it has "no information" on the 'secret committee', reports ORF.

Reformatorisch Dagblad reports that Dutch MEP Peter Van Dalen has urged the European Parliament to cut the number of cars available to staff, which cost €6,5m per year. MEPs are allowed to use luxury rental cars to travel between the airport, hotels and Parliament. Ref Dag

Knack reports that the European Court of Auditors has criticised the fact that impact assessments are rarely carried out for draft EU legislation in its final stage noting, "whilst it is common that amendments are proposed during the legislative procedure, the related impact assessments are not updated." The report cites Open Europe's research on the impact of EU regulation.

European Voice reports that the European Parliament's Committee on Budgetary Control has refused to approve the 2008 accounts of the UK-based European Police College due to a lack of progress in improving the body's financial management.

MEPs want more control over EU foreign policy spending
European Voice reports that yesterday the European Parliament's Committees on Budget and Budgetary Control endorsed a series of amendments to the financial rules proposed by the European Commission for the new European External Action Service (EEAS), including making the European Development Fund part of the EU's regular budget. The European Parliament is due to vote on the EEAS's financial and staff regulations at its plenary session on 18-21 October.

RP-Online reports that Commission President Barroso spends a total of €730,000 per year on travelling and representation - more than twice his yearly salary of €304,000. The article further reports that the ECJ will soon decide on the proposed salary increases for 44,500 EU officials.

The Irish government is in danger of losing up to €10m a year in EU funding because it imposed pay cuts on top university researchers who are funded entirely by Brussels, reports the Irish Independent.

The European Commission has attracted fresh criticism over its fledgling EU lobby register, with new analysis suggesting that data for five out of the top 15 entries is likely to be inaccurate, reports EUobserver.

Private Eye reports that a group of environmentalists are suing the European Commission and the Council for refusing to give the group access to internal EU documents on renewable energy targets.
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The Mail reports that Cadbury has been forced to axe its 'glass and a half' slogan from its Dairy Milk bars under EU rules, which state that by 2010 all weights and measures on packs must be in metric.

The European Commission is due to decide today whether to take legal action against France over the controversial deportation of the Roma.

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.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 28 September 2010


Focus: Trichet is risking your money
The frontpage of German magazine Focus features a picture of ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, with the headline: "This man is risking your money". The article argues that "the interest rate time-bomb is ticking: central banks endanger prosperity". The magazine wonders whether the ECB will become a "bad bank" itself, arguing that its ongoing low interest rates, junk bond purchases and aid to private banks harm savers and investors.

ECB denies it considered triggering the eurozone rescue fund for Ireland
The Irish Times reports that the European Central Bank yesterday denied claims that it was close to calling for the activation of the eurozone rescue package for Ireland. EUobserver notes that the move would run contrary to the framework agreement for the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which says that member states must first make an application for aid before the ECB and the European Commission can make a decision.

However, concerns over the stability of Ireland's economy are mounting as rating agency Moody's yesterday downgraded Anglo Irish Bank's rating to Baa3, just one notch above junk status, reports CityAM. The Irish government announced that it will disclose the final expenses of bailing out Anglo Irish Bank this week to try to calm investors' concerns. An article in the Irish Independent reports that German MEP Sven Giegold has said that Ireland now has a "moral responsibility" to change its tax policy and stop operating as a haven for tax evaders.

A group of federalist academics and think-tanks writing in the FT - endorsed by former EU Commission Presidents Jacques Delors and Romano Prodi - argue that the €440 billion European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) should be turned into a permanent bailout fund managed by the EU institutions.

In a letter to the FT, Annerose Tashiro of legal firm Schultze & Braun argues that the eurozone should adapt and introduce "a municipal restructuring plan, similar to Chapter 9 - the US bankruptcy code that enables municipalities to restructure", in order to allow states to default inside the euro area.

Meanwhile, Dutch economist Mathijs Bouman argues on Z24 that "in May, when the aid package was set up, the Euro wasn't saved. The destruction was only postponed [...] There is still one week to save the euro", if "it works to let member states agree with [...] strict rules, high fines and harsh punishments". 

A letter seen by the Mail from the European Commission warns the UK government that current restrictions on welfare payment claims by EU immigrants are 'not compatible' with EU law and must be scrapped. The Commission has initiated legal proceedings against Britain to get restrictions on welfare claims by incomers scrapped.

France and Germany split on "automatic" sanctions for EU budget rule-breakers;
Der Spiegel: Countries with chronic trade imbalances could also face sanctions
It is widely reported that, at yesterday's meeting of the task force on economic governance chaired by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, EU finance ministers backed tougher sanctions for countries which fail to comply with the Stability and Growth Pact criteria on deficit and debt levels.

However, Euractiv notes that France was reluctant to accept Germany's proposals for "automatic" sanctions. French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde is quoted saying: "To foresee a complete automaticity, a power totally in the hands of the experts, no [...] Politics should not abdicate in favour of the experts [...] The fate of a country can't be put totally in the hands of the experts". According to Handelsblatt, neither the temporary withdrawal of voting rights nor the suspension of EU subsidies will be included in the Commission's proposal due to be unveiled tomorrow.

ECB's President Jean-Claude Trichet yesterday restated his support for the idea of political sanctions during a hearing with the European Parliament's Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. Trichet is quoted by Reuters Italia saying: "It's still being debated whether political sanctions, suspension of voting rights and so forth can be used or not. We would be in favour [...] But a Treaty change may be needed".

Meanwhile, FAZ notes that a spokesman for the European Commission has denied claims that Rehn's proposals may target national wage policies directly. Der Spiegel Online reports that countries with chronic trade imbalances - such as Germany - could also face sanctions under new EU rules.

Spanish Environment Minister: Spanish Costal Law not under EU remit
El Mundo reports that in response to a question by EU Justice Commissioner Vivane Reding, Spanish Environment Minister Elena Espinosa has announced that the Spanish Costal Law does not discriminate against foreigners and therefore complaints cannot be brought forward under EU rules on freedom of movement.

The Mail reports on a study published by the UK Energy Research Centre revealing that it costs nearly twice as much to generate electricity from an offshore wind farm as it does from a conventional power station. The study comes after the world's biggest offshore wind farm - worth £780 million - was opened last week in the UK as part of plans to meet EU targets on renewable energy.  

De Volkskrant reports that the European Commission will today announce that the Netherlands pays €2 billion every year to the EU - thereby remaining the second biggest net per capita contributor to the EU budget along with Denmark. Nieuwsblad Volkskrant 1 Volkskrant 2 Elsevier

Reuters reports that during a panel discussion on financial supervision ECB's board member Ewald Nowotny argued: "It would be dangerous to feed the illusion that we could eliminate all risks from markets through more intensive supervision".

BBC News reports that Belgium - which currently holds the EU rotating presidency - wants to reach agreement on cross-border rules for traffic policing within the EU so drivers can be punished for offences they commit abroad.

The FT has a feature on the state of Germany's controversial regional banks (Landesbanken), labelling them "Germany's weakest link" and noting that a formal process will begin this week for the sale of the Düsseldorf-based WestLB, demanded by the European Commission as the price of a bail-out during the financial crisis.
Le Figaro reports that yesterday ECB Chief Jean-Claude Trichet restated his opposition to the unilateral introduction of an EU tax on financial transactions, arguing that "it could simply provoke an outflow of transactions towards other market places".

In an interview with EUobserver, Jacqueline McGlade, Director of the European Environment Agency, said that the EU is willing to make payments to developing countries to protect their biodiversity, despite recent EU statements to the contrary.

European Voice reports that EU Agriculture Ministers have hinted that Iceland's "damaging" mackerel fishing quotas could harm the country's prospects of joining the EU.

AFP reports that Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said yesterday that the European Commission is considering giving Greece financial aid to help the country reform its asylum system.

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.