Monday, January 24, 2011

Open Europe press summary: 24 January 2011


New powers for EU to investigate crimes would not be covered by ‘referendum lock’
MPs will start the first of three days of debate on the Government’s EU Bill today, with attention turning to the Bill’s so-called ‘referendum lock’. Open Europe has welcomed the Bill but has argued that it should be strengthened. The NOTW quoted Open Europe’s Stephen Booth arguing that loopholes in the referendum lock mean that Parliament and voters do not have a say over which EU crime, justice and immigration laws apply to the UK. He argued that people deserve to be consulted on the European Commission’s plans to grant Eurojust, the EU’s judicial body, the authority to launch criminal investigations. Stephen is quoted in the Express and Open Europe’s briefing on the loopholes in the Bill is also cited by Euractiv.
On Conservative Home, Europe Minister David Lidington argues in favour of the Bill writing that it will “strengthen our democracy” and that he wants it to become “a natural part of our constitution.”
Open Europe briefing Open Europe press release Euractiv Express Conservative Home: Lidington Conservative Home: Bone
Details of Irish Finance Bill uncertain as PM resigns as head of party
Irish PM Brian Cowen announced on Saturday that he is standing down as leader of Fianna Fáil, but will remain as Taoiseach until the general election. Fianna Fáil’s coalition partner, the Green party, formally withdrew from the coalition on Sunday, prompting calls for an earlier election to be called. The Greens confirmed they will still support the Finance Bill, which is crucial to secure the release of EU-IMF bail-out funds. The government is meeting with opposition leaders today to try to negotiate an agreement on the bill by the end of this week.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Dutch TV program Buitenhof, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet, dismissed fears of an Irish or Greek default as "absurd". Het Financieele Dagblad notes that he acknowledged implicitly that debt restructuring was an option by calling "hard consolidation" in some countries "the route we have in mind”. In an interview with the WSJ, Trichet voiced concerns over rising world inflation, indicating that the ECB could raise interest rates, a move which would threaten recovery in peripheral eurozone countries.
The front-page of Handelsblatt reports that German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle rejects increasing the eurozone bail-out fund, saying that "making national debt common would take away the pressure for budget consolidation". In an interview with Der Spiegel, Eurogroup Chairman Jean-Claude Juncker suggested that “all European leaders are in agreement [on the eurozone’s €440bn rescue fund, the EFSF]. We don't want to expand the bailout fund, but we do want to make sure that it reaches its intended size”.
In an interview with FD, ECB Chief Economist Jürgen Stark has said: "We need to strengthen economic governance. This is a next step towards greater political union [...] This is clearly stated in the Maastricht Treaty: all member states shall regard economic policies as a matter of common concern.”
Les Echos reports that, following bilateral talks held in Paris on Friday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero have acknowledged their “complete identity of views on European issues, especially as regards the creation of a European economic government.”
City AM Guardian Telegraph Irish Independent Irish Independent: Leader Saturday’s Guardian FT Weekend FT Weekend 2 EUobserver WSJ Euractiv European Voice City AM Telegraph FT FT 2 Independent Publico The Times RTE Les Echos Sunday Times WSJ 2 WSJ FD FD English version Buitenhof Handelsblatt Handelsblatt 2 Handelsblatt Welt
Anibal Cavaco Silva was re-elected yesterday as Portuguese President. The election attracted the lowest turnout in the history of Portuguese democracy.
El Pais Irish Times Diário de Notícias Journal de Notícias Expansion
Eurozone comment round-up
In the FT, Wolfgang Münchau argues that “the best solution [for the eurozone], as ever, is the least probable: a large but limited increase in the EFSF’s lending ceiling; and a large bond purchase programme accompanied by the restructuring of the financial sector. That would be a step towards crisis resolution that everybody would understand.”
On his Telegraph blog, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes: “José Manuel Barroso, the ex-Maoist President of the European Commission, has told Ireland that it is entirely and alone responsible for the disaster that has befallen the Irish people […] Once a Maoist, always a Maoist, I suppose. Mr Barroso misrepresents what happened, falsely denies any EU culpability, and equally falsely misclaims a “solution” – unless you count the solution of the economic graveyard.”
An op-ed in Handelsblatt by former Chief Editor Bernd Ziesemer warns against “the fatal side-effects of euro therapy” and asks “how do we prevent these measures leading to an even greater democratic deficit in Europe?”
In a separate comment piece, Handelsblatt’s finance commentator Frank Wiebe warns that the idea of bond buy-backs "is only a variation on bundling all national debts together on the market into EU debts, thereby burdening the creditworthiness of the EU."
Handelsblatt: Ziesemer WSJ: Stelzer FT: Münchau Telegraph blog: Evans-Pritchard Independent on Sunday: McRae Handelsblatt: Wiebe
Swedish Europe Minister: Many elements in the EU budget do not add value
In an op-ed for Le Monde, Swedish Europe Minister Birgitta Ohlsson argues: “The EU budget should finance activities which bring real European added value […] At the present time, a big part of the EU budget includes elements which do not meet these criteria.” Ohlsson goes on to suggest that “capping the [next multi-annual] budget well below 1% of the EU’s GNI should represent a reasonable target.” She further argues that “the reduction and modernisation of the EU budget should involve a reduction of agricultural spending […] Structural funds should be focused on those areas across the EU which need them the most.”
Le Monde: Ohlsson
Head of European Parliament compares EP's two seats to monarchy
In an interview with Euractiv, European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek has said he is opposed to abolishing the European Parliament’s monthly commuting session to Strasbourg, arguing: "Strasbourg is a symbolic place. Symbols are important. We can also ask whether for some member states it is right to keep a monarchy. But for these countries that has an historical meaning and it is still an important part of public life and interest."    
Euractiv: Buzek
Saturday’s Guardian reported that the EU has been accused of running a “Mickey Mouse” carbon trading scheme after some traders experienced heavy losses due to a botched statement released by the European Commission on Friday. Meanwhile, today’s Guardian notes that the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme could remain closed for longer than expected following last week’s cyber attacks on the Czech, Austrian and other national markets.
Saturday’s Guardian  Guardian EUobserverEuractiv
Ashton taking full advantage of EU tax loophole
The Telegraph reports that EU Foreign Minister Baroness Catherine Ashton pays the reduced EU tax rate on her earnings, even though she remains a British resident, unlike most other EU officials. While the reduced rates are automatic, EU officials, including Lady Ashton can choose to pay national tax rates, giving the difference to the exchequer in their home country, but most, including her, do not.
Telegraph FT Deutschland
In the Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Booker looked at the increasing costs of the EU’s Galileo satellite system and argued: “No one can predict what the final cost of this murky and mismanaged venture might be, could it ever be got successfully off the ground. The ways in which we pay for it are as hidden as the true purpose of the project itself.”
Sunday Telegraph: Booker OE research OE blog
Saturday’s Times featured an interview with Labour peer Lord Winston discussing the Government’s plans to reform the NHS. Lord Winston suggested that “we need to renege on the European Working Time Directive because consultants are being appointed as surgeons before they have enough experience. They will ring up at night and say ‘Can you give me a hand, I have never done this kind of operation before’.”
Saturday’s Times: Lord Winston
AFP reports that EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has said that he will present a “European strategy for intellectual property” during the next spring.
Euractiv reports that yesterday around 34,000 Belgians took to the streets to demand an end to the country’s political stalemate and the formation of a new unity government.
Euractiv Le Monde
The Telegraph notes that Europe's banks are facing an exodus of staff to US rivals as regulatory and political pressure drives a growing pay divide between financial institutions.
An article in Saturday’s Mail noted that last week’s ruling by the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights – which condemned Belgium for sending an Afghan asylum seeker back to Greece under the EU’s Dublin II Regulation – could make it easier for asylum seekers to enter the EU through Greece and move to other EU member states in future.
BBC EUobserver Euractiv European Voice Saturday’s Mail FT Weekend


An article in Handelsblatt criticises “the way the EU deals with despots”, noting that “the EU wants to help human rights break through, but is really following economic interests”, giving the EU’s past attitude towards Tunisia and its current attitude towards Libya as examples.  

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