Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Open Europe

Tensions continue over Franco-German eurozone pact;
Polish PM to Merkel: “Are the rest of us standing in your way?”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal for more fiscal and economic harmonisation within the eurozone continues to provoke resistance. Spiegel reports that yesterday Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said that Poland has “fundamental doubts regarding the method” of the plan. The paper notes that Tusk “personally attacked” Merkel saying, “Why do you have to demonstrate a division? Are the rest of us standing in your way?” Reuters quotes Bundesbank Head Axel Weber saying the plan left "too much room for discretion in interpreting and applying the rules of the [Growth and Stability Pact].”
European Voice reports that yesterday European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told MEPs that forcing investors to take losses by restructuring national debt would only benefit speculators. He also reiterated that renegotiation of the terms of the Greek and Irish bail-outs is unlikely.
Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe appeared on CNBC arguing, "Basically what you see is a discussion between the German and the French bloc within the Eurozone. France represents Spain and other periphery countries and wants more transfers." He continued, "Inflation in Germany is the big story and this will raise calls in Germany for higher interest rates, putting the eurozone more under strain”. An article in Forbes magazine notes that Open Europe calls the EU “a de facto debt union”.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Lithuania could delay its eurozone entry beyond its 2014 target to avoid having to cut state pensions, reports EUbusiness.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office launches ‘EU Careers Month’
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) today launches ‘EU Careers Month’. Europe Minister David Lidington is quoted on the FCO website saying, “This campaign aims to increase the number of UK graduates applying for the next round of the EU Civil Service’s recruitment competition. The UK only makes up 6% of the EU’s workforce despite representing 12% of the EU’s population.  In last year’s recruitment competition – the assessment taken by graduates to secure a job in one of the EU institutions - the UK produced the lowest number of applicants of all EU member states”.
Nurse skill tests to be overhauled to meet EU freedom of movement rules
An article in the Mail notes that skill tests for EU nurses aiming to work in the UK will be overhauled, as they are currently contrary to EU freedom of movement laws. The Telegraph reports that the Health Select Committee has warned that the General Medical Council must ensure that GPs have competent English language skills. The Committee noted, however, it is unclear if language testing can be included as part of regular checks, under EU rules.
Environmental groups have attacked the EU over giving loans of €750 to Slovenia’s Sostanj coal-powered energy plant, arguing it is inconsistent with EU policy on carbon emissions. Slovenian officials confirmed that, if built, the plant will likely use up all of Slovenia's permitted emission quota under 2050 goals, reports EUobserver.
Le Figaro columnist: the euro weighs on the growth of the Old Continent;
Eurozone comment round-up
In a comment piece in Le Figaro, columnist Yves de Kerdrel argues that the euro “remains a handicap for manufacturers trying to conquer the world. It continues to weigh on the growth of the Old Continent […] Above all, it is increasingly rejected by public opinions, which see it as the cause of the austerity plans they are subject to. But in Paris, as in Berlin, everyone is determined to defend the single currency, not for its usefulness, but for what it represents.”
In an opinion piece in Handelsblatt, Czech President Vaclav Klaus argues, “Everyone wanted the opening of Europe, the general liberalisation of life and the economy and the removal of the barriers […] What happened after that - the artificial unification, harmonisation and centralisation from above - not all us wanted this. Europe will never become a nation, and it is pointless to try to eliminate the nation-states”.
Handelsblatt’s Brussels correspondent Ruth Berschens notes that many people mistakenly are not taking the Franco-German pact for competitiveness seriously. “In Europe, the last bastions of national sovereignty in economic and social policy will fall”, she concludes.
An editorial in the WSJ argues, “Angela Merkel wants the nations of Europe to get competitive. But the German Chancellor would rather get there without any of these nations competing with each other”. An editorial in the FT argues, “Regrettably, the proposals have nothing to say about expanding the European single market, the most important motor of economic growth and integration that the EU has ever designed.”
During yesterday’s hearing of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a retired Swedish judge Brita Sundberg-Weitman said she believes the issuing of a European Arrest Warrant for his arrest is “disproportionate”, reports the Guardian.
In the Irish Times, Arthur Beesley notes that the eurozone crisis is overshadowing the EU’s urgent energy supply problem, reporting that the EU currently imports more than half of its oil and gas supplies, a proportion that would rise to 70% in 2030 if nothing changes.
Polish President Bronisław Komorowski has invited Russia to join future meetings of the Weimar Triangle group, comprising of Poland, Germany and France, as a way of strengthening Moscow's ties with the EU.
Le Monde reports that the Hungarian government has accepted to amend its new media law. A first draft of alterations is expected to be presented to the European Commission by 10 February.
The Mail reports that the total number of cases pending against the UK at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rose from 1,690 in 2009 to 3,172 last year.    
Under new EU regulations, from Monday factories must equip new cars and small vans with Daytime Running Lights, which automatically switch on when the engine starts, reports El Mundo.
The European Parliament's international trade committee gave its backing yesterday to the EU's free-trade agreement with South Korea.

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: openeurope.org.uk, follow us on twitter @OpenEurope or call us on +44 (0) 207 1972333 (London) and +32 (0) 2 5408625 (Brussels).