Monday, September 13, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 13 September 2010



The UK Government announces 'referendum lock' to give public a say on future transfers of powers to EU

The Coalition Government will today publish details of the 'referendum lock', which would subject any future transfers of powers to the EU to a referendum in the UK. The lock will be introduced by amending the original 1972 European Communities Act and will be brought forward in the "Europe Referendum Bill", which is set to come before the House of Commons in November.


The lock would cover any future treaty or any large scale transfer of power outside those treaties, although full details of how it is going to work in practice will be announced gradually. MPs would then be given the chance to vote on holding a referendum - if they vote in favour, a referendum would be held. The lock would not cover accession Treaties. Crucially, the process by which it would be decided what constitutes a "transfer of powers" remains unclear.


David Lidington, the Europe Minister, is quoted in the Telegraph saying, "This Bill will make sure that never again will powers be transferred in a new treaty from Britain to Brussels without the British people having a say in a referendum." A Foreign Office spokesperson said, "Referendums will happen over any future treaty with the EU, or any that transfer areas of power or competences," for example any move from unanimity to majority voting.


The article quotes Open Europe's Director Mats Persson saying, "This is very, very good news - if they take a strict interpretation of 'transfer of powers'. If they do, and call a referendum whenever powers are being transferred, then that is hugely significant and would stop further integration." However, he said, "The temptation is that the [Coalition] starts to take Labour's approach and try to get out of it by calling the transfer of powers something different."


A leader in the Telegraph argues that "Many will feel that all this is too little too late to check a newly authoritarian streak in the EU."

Telegraph Telegraph: leader Mail


Senior police warn that European Investigation Order is disproportionate and will impact on resources

The Sunday Telegraph reported that Commander Allan Gibson, the Association of Chief Police Officers' spokesman on extradition, has confirmed that he has written to the Government expressing concern over the European Investigation Order (EIO). Under the measure, agreed by the Coalition in July, foreign police will have the power to order British forces to carry out investigations, house and body searches and surveillance in this country on their behalf.


"If it's done correctly, the EIO is a potentially very useful instrument," Gibson said. "But there are issues around proportionality." Mark Taylor, the Secretary of the Police Federation's legislation subcommittee, said police were deeply concerned about the new order. "This is very resource-intensive, and where are the resources going to come from?" he said.


Meanwhile, writing on the Guardian's Comment is Free, Daniel Hannan MEP argues that people don't want to look into the failings of the European Arrest Warrant, "lest they find something that discredits European integration."

Comment is Free: Hannan Sunday Telegraph


Luxembourg's Finance Minister suggests dissolving Van Rompuy's talking shop on economic government

FTD describes European Council President Herman Van Rompuy's working group on economic government as the "coalition of the unwilling". Luxembourg's Finance Minister Luc Frieden is quoted saying "we always meet each other and then always repeat the same principles." He added that it might be better to dissolve the group and discuss the issues within meetings of EU finance ministers. "It would perhaps be better to do the work in the regular Council of Finance Ministers", he said.


EU Foreign Minister lobbied for top EEAS jobs via text message

EUobserver reports that EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton has come under significant pressure from EU foreign ministers pushing for the appointment of their respective candidates to the European External Action Service (EEAS) - the new EU diplomatic corps. Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb is quoted revealing: "I think the allocation of [EEAS] personnel is very much a discussion that takes place behind closed doors, by mobile phone or by SMS. All of us have friends and we are trying to lobby Catherine Ashton for places".


Meanwhile, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet has echoed criticisms made last week by the Estonian President regarding the discrimination of new EU member states in the allocation of posts within the EU's new foreign service.



Trichet "outraged" by Slovakia's refusal to bailout Greece

On Friday, Reuters reported that a memo from last week's meeting of eurozone finance ministers said ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet "was outraged at the last Eurogroup by Slovakia's refusal of a bilateral loan to Greece and said that had the ECB known Slovakia would behave like that, it would not have endorsed Slovakia's euro adoption."



EU to unveil proposals on derivatives regulation on Wednesday;

Stelzer: "By beating Britain, Europe also lost"

The European Commission is due to unveil later this week its proposals for regulation of the over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives market. The FT notes that the proposals will not deal directly with how OTC derivatives must be traded, since this specific issue will be addressed separately under the review of the directive on Markets in Financial Instruments (Mifid), which is also in the pipeline. Two issues are still being debated: the extent to which non-financial firms will be subject to new rules on clearing and the access of clearing houses to central bank liquidity.


Meanwhile, in the WSJ Irwin Stelzer cites Open Europe report, which stated that the UK will have the same voting weight as Poland within the decision-making body of the new EU financial supervisors, despite being home to 36% of the entire EU wholesale financial market compared to Poland's 0.3%. He argues: "The funny thing is that by beating Britain, Europe also lost [...] The EU, by burying financial-sector entrepreneurs under tons of paperwork, and ensnaring them in a web of regulations that will inevitably grow in reach and complexity as the four new regulators get their feet under their thousands of desks, have added another impediment to rapid growth". He concludes, "Financial services entrepreneurs are mobile [...] Newcomers, foot-loose and fancy free, will survey global opportunities, and shun the multiple layers of bureaucracy awaiting them in the EU. Europe might be inward looking, but financial players are not."         

FT WSJ: Stelzer Expansion Open Europe research Open Europe blog


AIFM Directive: Compromise could include both private placement rules and "passport"

Financial News reports that a compromise on the AIFM Directive could include both the right by a national government to allow fund managers to market their funds in its territory, under so-called private placement rules, and a 'passport' which would allow fund managers to market their funds across the EU, if they fulfil certain criteria.

Financial News Open Europe research


Former German Finance Minister: "The Commission and the other institutions should have questioned Greece's budget figures much sooner"

Euractiv reports that Theo Waigel, Germany's former Finance Minister and one of the architects of the euro in the 1990s, says the Greek sovereign debt crisis has exposed the failure of the institutions underpinning the common currency, in particular the European Commission. "Greece fiddled with the numbers, which is quite a nasty trick," Waigel said. "However, the [European] Commission and the other institutions should have questioned Greece's budget figures much sooner. The country should not have joined the eurozone under such circumstances."



Dutch Foreign Minister criticises Barroso for not speaking about EU reform and not supporting zero growth of EU budget

Elsevier reports that Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has criticised Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's "state of the union" speech, lamenting that fact that Barroso didn't call for a freeze on the EU budget and failed to announce any reform of the EU's structural and agricultural policies. Elsevier Volkskrant Accountancy Nieuws Court of Audit Letter


3-day a week Commissioner Tajani a "complete failure"

Wirstschaftswoche runs a report on EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani who replaced the German Guenter Verheugen this February. The article reveals that Tajani usually flies in to Brussels from Italy on Tuesdays only to leave again on Thursday. A representative of the automobile industry is quoted saying, "this man is a complete failure"



EU finance ministers, who met in Brussels last Tuesday, avoided discussing the inclusion of pension liabilities in their national statistics; neither did they set a date for future dialogue.



Israel refuses to receive five of the EU's foreign ministers

Israel has snubbed five senior European foreign ministers, including the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, by refusing to receive them for a planned visit to Jerusalem, over EU attempts to pressure Israel over peace talks.

Guardian Independent


The Parliament cited Open Europe's research which found that the Commission spent at least €351,765 on Irish journalists and Lisbon-related seminars in the run up to the referendum on the Treaty in October in 2009.

The Parliament


Opposition to EU membership has increased to 65% among Norwegian voters, according to a new poll. Only 25% are in favour.

Swedish Television


The Telegraph reports that Turkish voters have approved EU-supported constitutional reforms, which some believe will bolster the country's claims on EU membership. The vote was passed with 58% in favour.

Telegraph El Pais El Mundo EUobserver Irish Times AFP


Christopher Booker: The EU has long lost its democratic mandate

In the Sunday Telegraph, columnist Christopher Booker reported on the latest Eurobarometer poll revealing that only 19% see the EU as "democratic" (in Britain, Finland and Latvia this is as low as 10%). He argues "of course, if we still had the power to run our own country, this crisis in the NHS [with the Working Time Directive] and much else besides could be sorted out within months, but since our Government seems quite happy to continue handing over even more powers to this crazy system, there is nothing we can do about it."

Sunday Telegraph: Booker


Le Figaro reports that French Immigration Minister Eric Besson has denied knowledge of a leaked internal memo revealing that the Ministry had given priority to Roma people in its campaign to expel immigrants from the country.

Le Figaro


Global banking regulators agreed the so-called Basel III package on Sunday, sealing a deal to effectively triple the size of the capital reserves that the world's banks must hold against losses. EU Commissioner Michel Barnier has said the new requirements will be incorporated into EU law in the first quarter of 2011.

FT BBC: Peston FTD Sueddeutsche FAZ Die Welt Liberation


Writing in the FT, Wolfgang Munchau argues, "Two years after Lehman's collapse, the fragility of the European banking sector is still an issue. I would bet we are still talking about it in five years."

FT: Munchau WSJ: Real Time Economics blog Independent on Sunday: McRae


The Irish Times reports that, at a summit next Thursday, the leaders of the 27 member states will ask EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton to explore ways of strengthening the union's links with NATO.

Irish Times


The European Commission is proposing to restrict the power of domestic vacuum cleaners to levels used in the 1960s in a bid to cut energy use, reported the Sunday Telegraph.

Sunday Telegraph


The FT reports that several prominent members of the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union have hit out the leftward drift of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's leadership.



Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has pledged that "there will not be more" austerity measures.

FT Guardian La Tribune El Pais


Writing in the Mail, Melanie Phillips argues that "the Working Time Directive is merely one of the countless ways in which British government ministers have lost the ability to represent the interests of the people of this country."

Mail: Phillips


Writing in the Sunday Express, columnist Jimmy Young argued in favour of the EU Referendum campaign's call for a referendum on the UK's membership of the EU.

Sunday Express: Young


On her El Mundo blog, MEP Marta Andreasen argues against the EU's new strategy to supervise member states' budgets through the 'European Semester', writing, "I cannot share such an idea when an arrangement doesn't exist to adequately involve national parliaments in the planning of the EU's budget".

El Mundo blog: Andreasen


On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer notes that Belgian Walloon politicians are preparing for the possible division of the country, due to the narrowing room for negotiations with their Flemish-speaking counterparts over the formation of the new government.

Coulisses de Bruxelles


Possible changes to the European insolvency law, including removing exemptions for the maritime industry, could harm the revival of Britain's merchant fleet, reported the Mail on Sunday.

No link


According to EUobserver, a World Bank report states that EU and US biofuels policies are causing land grabs in the developing world.

EUobserver Open Europe research


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.