Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 13 October 2010


Chair of EP's Budget Committee: MEPs may hold 2011 EU budget to ransom unless member states agree to discuss EU taxes
MPs will debate the draft 2011 EU budget in Parliament today but are unable to influence the outcome of the negotiations as the UK has no veto over annual increases. Despite UK calls for a cash freeze on next year's budget, member states have voted for a 2.9% increase, while the Commission wants a 5.9% increase. The Telegraph notes that MEPs are likely to demand an increase to the Commission's €130 billion proposal when they vote on the budget later this month. Included in the extra EU spending, which will cost the British Treasury an extra £435 million, MEPs will vote to double their budget for champagne receptions.

Meanwhile, Les Echos reports that the European Parliament's Budget Committee has hinted that MEPs may reduce their demands for the 2011 EU budget if member states commit to discussing the issue of directly financing the EU budget. French MEP Alain Lamassoure, who chairs the Committee, is quoted by EUobserver saying that, "It must not be called a 'European tax'. Once you mix the words 'Europe' and 'tax' in the same sentence it becomes explosive." AFP quotes Lamassoure calling on member states to avoid behaving "like 27 Baroness Thatchers around the table". He also suggests that unspent money from this year's budget should be kept by the EU rather than re-distributed among member states.

In the likely event of a stalemate, a 'conciliation' committee comprising national governments, the Commission and the EP will have 21 days to reach a compromise. If a deal still can't be reached, the budget remains the same as last year.

UK Government warns that MEPs' proposals will "effectively double" the cost of maternity leave
EUobserver reports that MEPs' plans to extend maternity leave in the EU to 20 weeks have come under fire from the British Government a week before the proposal is due to be voted on in the European Parliament. "The amendments put forward by MEPs on maternity and paternity pay would cost us up to £2.4 billion," said a UK Government spokesperson, according to AFP. "To put this into context, we currently spend around two billion pounds a year on maternity pay, meaning the cost would effectively double."

Romania has only spent 1% of EU funds designed to integrate vulnerable ethnic groups such as the Roma
RFI reports that Romania has used less than 1% of the EU funds, €3.7 billion for the period 2007-2013, it has received for the integration of vulnerable groups such as the Roma, whose mass deportations from France caused huge controversy last month. Meanwhile, AFP reports that French Immigration Minister Eric Besson has said that France will adapt its domestic legislation on free movement in order to avoid EU infringement proceedings.

Iain Martin: A 'two-speed' model for the EU requires UK leadership
In the WSJ, Iain Martin argues, "Where might [...] leadership of those outside the common currency come from? In theory, the British and the Poles are well placed to provide it. But the UK government doesn't seem remotely interested in the arguments...Understandably, the Tory leader doesn't want Europe disrupting his coalition...But he has shut down discussion on the future of the EU just as the subject threatens to get interesting."

Portuguese minority government struggling for support for austerity;
Bundesbank President calls for immediate suspension of ECB's asset purchase scheme
Wirtschaftswoche asks whether Portugal may have to tap into the eurozone's bailout mechanism. By the end of this week, Portugese PM José Sócrates must propose the 2011 budget to the Portuguese Parliament, but his minority government has so far failed to obtain the necessary support for his proposed austerity measures.

Meanwhile, Axel Weber, the Bundesbank President tipped to become the next President of the European Central Bank (ECB), yesterday called for the immediate suspension of the ECB's asset purchase scheme, reports the Times. Reuters notes that the ECB has spent €63.5 billion on buying bonds, according to its latest figures.

Greece held a successful bond sale yesterday, which the IHT suggests could be due to the news that Greece may prolong its debt repayments under its EU/IMF bailout. However, FTD reports that Germany wants Greece to first show that it is successfully implementing its austerity programme and that advancements are made on establishing a permanent eurozone rescue mechanism before any extension to Greece's repayments.

The WSJ reports that yesterday the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on France to provide "active support" in its EU membership negotiations. In response, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told Turkey that "the ball is in your court".

Commission expected to fall short of calling for moratorium on deep water oil drilling
Later today, the Commission will release proposals to toughen up rules on offshore oil and gas drilling. Initial plans to force a moratorium on deepwater oil drilling inside the EU seem to have been sidelined, as the Commission is instead expected to call for a voluntary ban at member state discretion, reports EUobserver. The Guardian notes that as more than half of the offshore rigs in the EU are located in British waters, any EU laws would disproportionately affect the UK.

An editorial in the WSJ argues that the damage from the unintended consequences of the EU's proposed rules on bankers' bonuses "is likely to be real."

The Times notes that among the more radical EU proposals on the table for supervising audit firms is the possibility of giving third parties, such as a regulator, responsibility for appointing and paying auditors for companies or institutions considered systemically important, including big banks.

AFP reports that EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has said that he is in favour of regulating "high-frequency trading". New rules could be introduced when the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive is reviewed.

Writing in Le Figaro, Director-General of Global Equities Marc Touati argues that the proposed reform of the French pension system needs to be implemented as soon as possible if the country is to avoid entering a Greek-style spiral.

EUobserver reports that MEPs have won the right to scrutinise the staffing arrangements in the European External Action Service's new delegations, including all pay-grades and locally-hired agents.

Le Figaro reports that the European Commission could consider tougher anti-pollution rules for the industrial sector in the wake of the environmental disaster in Hungary.

The Register notes that the Commission has proposed a new directive, harmonising member states' laws on cybercrime.

German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle has proposed the EU sign a free trade agreement with China.

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has asked the EU not to recognise ambassadors appointed by President Robert Mugabe.

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