EuropeThe Government’s EU Bill emerges unscathed after second committee day;
MPs criticise lack of time to discuss contentious amendments
MPs last night debated the so-called ‘referendum lock’ in the Government’s EU Bill in the House of Commons. Labour proposed amendments, tabled by leader Ed Miliband, that would have seen a Parliamentary committee decide on the need for referenda on EU treaty changes, but several MPs objected that this would give the government of the day the power to push through new treaties if it held the balance of power in Labour’s proposed committee. Labour’s amendments were defeated by 329 votes to 220.
Conservative MP James Clappison’s amendment, which would have removed the so-called ‘significance condition’ from the Bill, was also defeated by 310 votes to 239. 18 Conservative MPs voted against the Government.
Many MPs complained about the Government’s scheduling of the Bill, which did not leave enough time for many of the most contentious amendments tabled, including Conservative MP Peter Bone’s proposal for an in/out referendum, to be debated. If the Government had been serious about allowing scrutiny of the legislation it could have lifted last night’s 10pm deadline, Mr Bone said, according to the Express. “This was a very bad day for Parliament, for the Government and for politics. And it just builds up bad feeling in the party.” MPs continue to debate the Bill today and tomorrow.
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IMF calls for EFSF increase;
Spain plans nationalisation of troubled savings banks
The eurozone €440bn bail-out fund, the EFSF, is expected to raise the maximum allotted amount of €5bn in five-year bonds in its first sale today. The FT notes that the bonds are likely to be bought mainly by European funds, although Asian and Middle Eastern investors are expected to buy about 30%. In a report released today, the IMF recommends that the effective size of the EFSF be increased and that the fund be given “a more flexible mandate” to ensure access to funding.
Meanwhile, Euractiv reports on an EU committee made up of technocrats and lawyers from national finance ministries – called the Taskforce of the Eurogroup Working Group – which is currently rewriting EU rules on bail-outs and national debt without public scrutiny. Tax coordination and national debt are among the issues being discussed by the group.
The Irish Times reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting Commission President José Manuel Barroso in Berlin to discuss a package of measures including partial debt restructuring. According to Reuters, Merkel’s spokesman yesterday dismissed a proposal made by German Economy Minister Reiner Brüderle that the EFSF should lend at different interest rates.
Le Figaro reports that French Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said yesterday she is considering an extension of the bail-out plan for Greece, so that it can follow the same timeline as Ireland. FAZreports that eurozone member states have agreed that a possible Greek restructuring should not be considered before details have been agreed on the post-2013 permanent rescue mechanism. The article notes that Barroso has given up his demands for the EFSF to be expanded.
The front-page of El País reports that the Spanish government will nationalise the cajas that have problems in financing themselves in September. The Telegraph notes that the Spanish government has also required that Spanish banks boost their core Tier One capital ratio to 8%. Spanish Economy Minster Elena Salgado is quoted saying that capital injections into the cajas would “in no way exceed €20bn”. However, FAZfeatures estimates from experts showing that the Spanish banking system faces write-downs of more than €100bn, with the cajas accounting for half that amount.
According to the Irish Times, the Irish Government and main opposition parties have agreed to get the Finance Bill through both the Houses of Irish parliament by the end of this week, clearing the way for a general election on 25 February. The Irish Independent reports that European Trade Union Confederation Secretary-General John Monks has accused the Commission of traying to push down wages.
Meanwhile, the WSJ reports that Yu Yongding, a former adviser to China's central bank, has written that China shouldn't buy eurozone government bonds directly until the euro zone works out a permanent crisis resolution mechanism, to avoid the risk of "turning good money bad."
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UK and Netherlands to revive Services Directive and create a mini-free market
The Guardian reports that UK PM David Cameron and Dutch PM Mark Rutte are trying to garner support to revive the EU’s Services Directive under enhanced co-operation which could see the Nordic countries, Baltic states, UK and Netherlands adopting the original, more liberal Services Direct on their own. In an interview with the paper Rutte said, "The services directive has been watered down, and nothing has been left, because countries could not agree."
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Die Zeit reports that demonstrations are planned for next weekend to protest against unsustainable agricultural policies and EU export subsidies. Georg Häusler, Head of Cabinet for the EU’s Agricultural Commissioner, is quoted saying, “On the one hand the policy promises an ideal world but on the other German consumers now face a food scandal of major proportions”.
€1.3m of EU funds will fund a project training up to 3000 Polish civil servants polite and efficient ways of serving clients, reports the Parliament.
Dutch PM: Netherlands wants a permanent rebate on the EU budget
Ahead of this year’s negotiations on the next EU multi-annual budget, Dutch PM Mark Rutte said that the Netherlands wants a permanent rebate on the EU budget, similar to the UK’s, reports NOS. Meanwhile, in an interview with EurActiv.cz, Czech Agriculture Minister, Ivan Fuksa, dismissed the Commission’s proposal to create an additional transition period to CAP payments to even out differences in payments between 'new' and 'old' EU members.
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German Economics Minister warns EU renewable targets might lead to energy blackouts
Focus Magazine reports that the German Ministry of Economic Affairs has warned that Germany may in future experience energy blackouts, as the country doesn’t have the capacity to cope with the EU’s renewable energy targets, which oblige member states to source 20% of energy from renewables by 2020. Liberal MEP Holger Krahmer is quoted saying, “this shouldn’t surprise anybody given the irrational energy policies of excessive reliance on renewables”. Meanwhile, FAZ cites a Commission paper which claims that member states will only reach a 10% renewable share of their 2020.
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The Express reports that local councils are introducing maximum limits on the amount of rubbish collected from households in order to meet EU targets.
The Commission has signalled that Hungary's new media law may be in breach of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, but concedes it has no powers to challenge Hungary's media council.
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El Pais criticises the EU for welcoming Islam Karímov, the Uzbek dictador accused of human rights abuses, to Brussels “with the red carpet”.
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ORF reports that "the EU wants to teach Facebook manners". EU Data Supervisor Peter Hustinx is quoted saying, "there should be stronger controls on applying data protection law. We need more muscles in the system. Laws should be harmonised more".
El Pais reports that the EU has withdrawn €300,000 of agricultural subsidies from Valencia due to delays by the regional agricultural council that administers the payments.
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