Belgian EU Presidency moves to establish European Public Prosecutor
EUobserver reports that the Belgian EU Presidency is stepping up plans to establish a European Public Prosecutor, despite objections from some member states, notably the UK. "Our wish is to improve judicial co-operation and co-ordination of criminal investigations within the EU. For that, we need better instruments," Belgian Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck said yesterday. Mr De Clerck admitted that there was "still a lot of reluctance" on this issue, with the UK being "the most vocal." A major objection is that the prosecutor may override national investigators or even order them to start an inquiry. The prosecutor would initially be confined to combating "crimes affecting the financial interests of the Union" but its remit can be expanded in future.
The UK has a veto over the proposal, which would prevent the prosecutor from being established in the UK. However, under the rules of the Lisbon Treaty, nine member states may go ahead with the proposal if they wish, under so-called "enhanced cooperation". While the European prosecutor would not be able to bring cases in Britain, he would still be able to issue European Arrest Warrants to force UK citizens to face prosecution in another member state - without asking the permission of the Government or the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Iain Martin: The Strange death of Cameron's Euroscepticism
Writing in the WSJ, Iain Martin looks at the Conservatives' attitude to Europe. He argues, "Almost unnoticed, [Cameron's] MPs have voted for a list of measures that would a few years ago have triggered full-scale Tory war. There was the expansion of justice and home-affairs powers, involving the extension of the so-called European arrest warrant. The European External Action Service--or EU diplomatic service--was nodded through. New regulations for the City of London require the establishment of three pan-European supervisory bodies. This was accepted by the Treasury and if there were protests from the Conservative benches they didn't make much noise."
He concludes, "If it is not the death of UK Tory Euroscepticism, it looks a lot like it."
EU officials' pension bill to double over next 30 years to £2 billion per year
The Mail reports that figures released by the EU's statistical agency, Eurostat, reveal that the cost of EU officials' pensions is expected to double over the next 30 years, from £1 billion to £2 billion per year. The UK's contribution will rise to £350 million a year by 2040, with a total contribution of £8.5 billion expected over 50 years. The number of EU officials due to draw pensions is expected to increase from nearly 17,500 this year to 37,500 in 2040.
The article notes that many EU civil servants qualify for pensions worth 70 percent of their final salary, with average annual pensions of £57,194. 100 top officials are in line for pensions worth almost £130,000 a year. The Scotsman reports that due to a change in EU rules in 2004, EU officials can retire early without incurring any financial penalties.
MEPs set to give the go-ahead to new EU financial supervisors
The European Parliament is expected to give its approval to the legislative package establishing three new EU financial supervisors and the European Systemic Risk Board today. Open Europe's Director Mats Persson is quoted by the Evening Standard warning that the creation of the new European Supervisory Authorities marks a clear transfer of powers from the UK to Brussels. "Once established, the EU supervisors are likely to extend their powers incrementally, since the proposal is designed to allow for more and more laws to come under their authority", he said. Mats is also quoted by the Irish Herald.
Meanwhile, City AM quotes Jonathan Taylor - Managing Director for Financial Services and Stability at the UK Treasury - warning against the new EU proposals on derivatives trading. Under the proposed rules, over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives would have to be traded via stock exchanges and processed by clearing houses or central counterparties. However, Taylor argues, "Forcing derivatives onto exchanges is not always appropriate and could, for example damage liquidity. So we need to think through what the policy options are for achieving these policy ambitions for standardisation without risking these downsides".
European Commission to start a legal procedure against France on Roma
Euractiv reports that EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said yesterday that the European Commission is set to start a legal procedure against France and several other member states for failing to transpose into national law the 2004 EU directive on freedom of movement. The formal decision will be taken on 30 September by the entire college of 27 EU Commissioners. Reding also hit back at criticism from the French government about her comments on the matter, arguing, "If a man in politics puts a fist on the table [...] he is defending himself. But if a woman does it, she is 'hysterical'."
Meanwhile, AFP reports that French Prime Minister François Fillon has said that the Commission should "not go beyond" the role entrusted to it by the EU Treaties, adding that it "should refrain from any hasty value judgments".
MEPs back EU tax
Nouvel Observateur reports that MEPs from the European People's Party yesterday backed the creation of an EU tax. EPP President Joseph Daul is quoted saying that this tax could include a tax "on financial matters" or "on CO2 emissions". Elsevier notes that UK Trade Secretary James Sassoon has announced the UK will veto any proposal for an EU tax.
MEPs threaten to put External Action Service on hold unless EU officials are appointed to leading positions
FT Deutschland reports that the European Parliament is refusing to approve the EU External Action Service's budget unless representatives of the European Commission are appointed to leading positions in the service. They have also complained about the lack of gender and geographical balance in the appointments made by EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton so far. German MEP Elmar Brok is quoted saying, "these names are unacceptable. European foreign policy is also Community policy (...) If Ms. Ashton doesn't see that, we'll put her budget on hold".
The Irish Independent reports that Ireland successfully auctioned off €1.5bn of debt yesterday. Writing in the paper, David McWilliams argues, "When you pay 4pc more for money than your neighbour, borrowing is hardly a victory."
Poland clashes with France and Germany over CAP
EUobserver reports that EU farm ministers have clashed over the upcoming talks on the common agricultural policy (CAP) as part of EU budget negotiations, with Poland accusing France and Germany of using bullying tactics. France and Germany published a joint paper last week setting out their opposition to an equal per-hectare distribution of subsidies for farmers across the EU. Poland's Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said the joint paper was "a rather unsuccessful attempt to exert pressure on other member states."
A study by brokers Hobart Capital Markets Ltd., titled "The Default of the PIIGS", pictures a ranking of likelihood of default for the PIIGS countries. It puts Greece first, followed by Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy, in descending order. The study notes that if those countries were to default, assuming a 65% haircut, debt to GDP ratios would be 104% in the Netherlands, 99% in Germany, and 123% in France.
Research by Insurance group Aviva Europe shows that workers across the EU need to save €1,900bn more each year if they hope to retire with pensions that will maintain their standard of living.
EUobserver notes that despite the EU's claims about stepping up relations with strategic partners, the EU will squeeze in a summit with China on the same day as a similar meeting with South Korea on 6 October.
The European Parliament yesterday approved a law on the security of gas supply that requires European gas companies to have enough gas to maintain supplies in the event of future crises, obliges governments to co-ordinate policies in the event of a crisis and gives the European Commission an oversight role.
Die Presse reports that the German Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and their Austrian Counterpart (ÖVP) want to strengthen the role of national parliaments in the process of European integration.
The European Commission yesterday adopted a set of proposals on sharing airline passengers' data with non-EU countries. Meanwhile, the European Parliament also approved rules yesterday that would require airline passengers to name their next of kin when they book a flight, reports the Irish Times.
The Times reports that approximately 17,000 Moldovans have been given Romanian citizenship so far this year allowing them to seek work in other EU member-states. Citizenship is granted for those whose grandparents were born on what was once Romanian territory.
AFP reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy's party (UMP) has set up a task force to assess the available options for a "fiscal convergence" between France and Germany. Concrete proposals will be unveiled by the end of this year.
The European Court of Justice ruled yesterday that the Commission can restrict public access to documents it files in lawsuits until after cases are decided, rejecting a request by a leading journalists' trade union based in Brussels.
An EU-wide "trustmark" that would guarantee the quality of products sold on websites is among the proposals backed by MEPs to encourage e-commerce across the EU.
The Irish Times reports that Swedish Military Commander Brig Gen Jan Stefan Andersson suggested yesterday that the EU should consider broadening the range of possible deployments for its battle groups to include natural disasters and humanitarian crises such as the Haitian earthquake.
Italian MEP Sonia Alfano (ALDE Group) says on her blog that yesterday she used her "one minute speech" during the European Parliament's plenary session to inform her colleagues about alleged relations between Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the Italian mafia.
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