Thursday, February 17, 2011

Open Europe

Reminder: Fundación para el Análisis y los Estudios Sociales (FAES) and Open Europe are hosting a seminar in Madrid tomorrow on the eurozone. For more information, please contact Siân Herbert by email:


Lords criticise failure of EU’s €55m-a-year police training mission in AfghanistanEUobserver notes that in a report published yesterday the House of Lords EU Committee concluded that the EU’s police training mission in Afghanistan has achieved “very little” in the past four years due to understaffing. The mission, which will cost €54.6m for the year 2010-11, is described as “woefully inadequate” and “has the wider effect of bringing EU Common Security and Defence Policy missions as a whole into disrepute.” The report notes that after four years of work, around 70% of Afghan police cannot read or write and process basic paperwork.
The report also highlights “the slowness of EU bureaucracy” to get the project off the ground and the lack of cooperation with NATO forces. The Committee's Chairman, Lord Teverson, is quoted by the BBC saying, “there is no formal agreement between the EU and NATO in Afghanistan, which we find utterly unacceptable.”
EUobserver BBC House of Lords report Open Europe blog
Conservatives may pledge to leave European Court of Human Rights at next electionTheTimes reports that David Cameron is preparing to fight the 2015 general election with a pledge on pulling out of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). A Conservative policy review will examine whether the party can back withdrawing from the Court, but party figures admitted that they would not be able to pursue such a move while in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The FT reports that the President of the ECHR, Jean-Paul Costa, has warned it would be a “disaster” for Britain if it failed to let prisoners vote or left the jurisdiction of the Court.
Meanwhile, The Parliament reports that MEPs yesterday demanded increased protection for prisoners’ rights, including "minimum common standards" for all prisoners across member states, overseen and enforced by the Fundamental Rights Agency.
Times Telegraph: Leader FT Express: Leader Open Europe press release Open Europe research
Merkel’s sister party: the introduction of “a European State through the back door” must be avoidedFAZ reports that the leadership of the Bavarian CSU party, has attacked German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble "in an unusually critical way" over the level of the permanent European bailout fund, which would see Germany bear a considerably higher burden. CSU General Secretary Alexander Dobrint said: “the introduction of a centralised European state through the back door” must be avoided. He added that it appears “that all European states want German money” and he argued “this cannot be the path we chose”.
In an interview with Die Zeit Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank, argues that eurozone members should make greater use of fiscal policy to atone for any economic differences. He said: “individual member states need to take monetary policy as given and adjust their national policies accordingly”. He added: “If a country is experiencing a boom, it has to make its own national policies – such as the fiscal, wage and structural policies and financial regulation – more restrictive, so that the economy does not become overheated or speculation gets out of control”.
Yesterday Portugal bought back €215m of €9.5bn bonds expiring in April and June. The purchase, which was expected to be higher, was described by traders as “insignificant”. Portugal also held an auction of €1bn of 12 month bills, which saw borrowing costs increase to 3.987% and demand fall. Separately, the ECB may have bought nearly €18 billion of Portuguese bonds since May according to Societe Generale. This would amount to15% of Portugal’s total debt outstanding.
The Irish Times reports that Irish banks are issuing bonds to themselves under a government guarantee to use as collateral in order to borrow cheaply from the ECB. Four banks issued bonds worth €17bn to themselves last month. “What you have here is micro-quantitative easing, or money printing,” said Cathal O’Leary, head of fixed-income sales at NCB Stockbrokers. “The banks are issuing unsecured loans to themselves”.
FT Bloomberg Irish Times Irish Times 2 Zeit Dow Jones FAZ
The FT reports that EU regional funds worth £155m destined for England were suspended between mid-October and mid-December 2010 while the Commission investigated “significant shortcomings” in the way the funds are spent by regional authorities. The funds have now been disbursed, but with a warning that greater supervision is required.FT
Residents asked to use up to nine bins to meet EU recycling targetsThe Telegraph reports that local councils are asking residents to separate rubbish into up to nine different bins in order to meet EU recycling targets. Gary Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association Environment Board said: “Taxpayers face huge European Union financial penalties if targets to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill are not met”.
Telegraph Express Mail reports that President of the Belgian Constitutional Court, Marc Bossuyt, has warned of the danger of a "government of judges" as the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights attribute more and more powers to themselves and overrule decisions made by elected
The BBC reports that the EU has eased sanctions on Zimbabwe by removing 35 individuals from a list of people affected by visa bans and asset freezes. But sanctions on other people close to President Robert Mugabe were extended for another year.BBC
An article in the FT notes that youth unemployment in the eurozone currently stands at 20.4% up from 14.6% in February 2008, before the start of the financial crisis.FT
An article in the IHT notes that the difficulties currently faced by German publicly owned regional bank WestLB “are symptomatic of a larger problem in the German economy. Many of its biggest banks are still on government life support after making bad lending bets during the bubble years. And with their access to cheap capital long gone, their prospects of becoming profitable again are dubious.”IHT FAZ
The FT reports that the ECJ has ruled that EU member states can ban the exclusive airing of World Cup and European football championship games on pay TV, as both these events can be considered of “major social importance” and must therefore be guaranteed wider public viewing on free TV channels.FT AFP
Timothy Garton Ash says if EU does not come up with “a generous, imaginative and strategic response [to events in North Africa], then that failure will one day come back to haunt us on all the Arab streets of Europe”.
Guardian: Garton Ash
Hungary's government has agreed to amend a new media law after criticism from the EU that the legislation imposes unacceptable restrictions on freedom of expression.WSJ EurActiv European Voice
The Irish Government faces a fine of at least €3.27 million over its failure to adopt a farming environmental directive.Irish Times
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has approved a plan to establish a statutory register of practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines in order to protect consumers from an EU ban on such products due to come into effect on the 1st May. The College of Medicine’s Kaye McIntosh said: “Without statutory regulation […] thousands of patients would be unable to make the choice to use herbal treatments”.
MEPs have agreed to enact new legislation on the labelling of medicines, in order to counteract a surge in fake drugs sold in the EU.EUobserver
Gazeta Wyborcza reports that the European Commission is considering a change to the Working Time Directive, which could see employees losing some of their holiday allowance in the event of long term sick-leave. Poland’s Employment and Social Affairs minister Jolanta Fedak told tabloid newspaper Fakt that she will oppose the measures.
Wyborcza Fakt
EUobserver reports that Belgium today marks 249 days of political deadlock, thereby hitting the world record for lack of government. No deal appears likely to emerge anytime soon in the country which hosts the EU’s institutions.EUobserver WSJ Tijd: De Grauwe

New on the Open Europe Blog

Rhetoric versus reality of EU foreign policy: Lords blast EU’s Afghan police missionOpen Europe blog

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