Open Europe and the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU are holding a debate in Brussels on Monday 30 March, entitled, "EU regulation: Getting better, or out of control?" Speakers include Christofer Fjellner, MEP; Jens Hedstrom, Business Europe; Marianne Klingbeil, European Commission; Jacques Pelkmans, College of Europe; Mats Persson, Research Director, Open Europe.
Debate from 6.15 until 7.45pm. Followed by a drinks reception. Places are limited. If you would like to attend, please contact Sarah Gaskell at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: +44 (0) 207 197 2333.
New EU Directive could force UK authorities to share information about citizens' health with other EU countries and the public
The Swedish Data Inspection Board has warned that a new EU Directive could seriously threaten individuals' right to privacy. The so-called Inspire Directive (Infrastructure for Spatial Information in Europe) sets out common rules for information relating to the environment and public health, including requirements for authorities to make information about citizens' personal health available to both authorities in other member states and the public. The Board warned that the Directive could "have far reaching consequences for individuals' right to privacy since both authorities and the public can gain access to information about people's health." It also criticised the law for not having been subject to a proper impact assessment, and said that the law "does not fulfill the requirements that one reasonably can expect from a legal matter with such potentially significant implications for the right to privacy." The Board said it could not support the proposal.
Dagens Nyheter Open Europe research
No decision reached on opt-out from the EU's 48 hour working week
Yesterday's talks between the European Parliament and EU ministers over the future of the opt-out from the EU's 48 hour working week ended with no compromise being reached. According to PA, the UK was joined by at least eight other countries in blocking a proposal from MEPs that would have ended the opt-out from the maximum working week, contained in the Working Time Directive.
According to Swedish news site Europaportalen, apart from the EP itself, several countries, led by Spain, want to see an end to the opt-out. Another group of countries, including the UK, Germany and Poland want to keep it, while a third group, including Sweden, has as its main priority a change to the rules in the WTD which defines all time spent on call as active working time - a definition which is seen as hugely problematic for the public sector, including hospitals and care homes. The next meeting between MEPs and ministers will take place on April 1.
On the Guardian's Comment is Free website, Open Europe's Mats Persson argues that "No-one is opposing safeguards to ensure that people enjoy fair and decent working conditions. However, the WTD is arguably one of the worst laws ever to come out of Brussels. It's hugely burdensome for business and the public sector alike; it's prescriptive in the extreme; and it takes no account of individual countries, sectors or circumstances. It's no surprise that the WTD has caused so many problems across Europe."
Guardian: Persson Europaportalen
City 'nervously awaits' FSA review of financial regulation
The Telegraph notes that the City is "nervously awaiting" Financial Services Authority Chairman Lord Turner's review and recommendations of how banks should be regulated. The paper notes that "The Turner Review" is expected to include radical recommendations that will affect banks, hedge funds and tax havens. According to the BBC, Lord Turner has already said his plans will amount to "a revolution".
The Times reports that the review will call for aggressive interventionist scrutiny of banks and other financial institutions, including a risk-based approach in which the watchdog requires banks to build up capital reserves in healthy economic times. This could include pre-emptive powers for the FSA to stop banks over-extending themselves if their capital reserves are not large enough to balance their loan book.
Lord Turner will suggest more co-ordination between regulators and central banks to spot signs that economies are overheating. The BBC notes that a proposal to form a new pan-European body will be mooted, to set standards for other regulators to follow.
Meanwhile, at an LSE lecture yesterday, Mario Nava, Head of the Commission's Financial Market Infrastructure Unit, offered a preview of pending proposals for EU financial regulation, outlining two new regulatory measures. First, he revealed the creation of a new pan-European supervisor, one which would operate above current national regulators. He avoided details about the implications for national regulatory autonomy. Mr. Nava also mentioned the introduction of a pan-European, publicly responsible clearing house, aimed at increasing transparency.
In the WSJ, Xavier Vives argues that the EU's proposed regulatory framework consisting of two committees - one to oversee systemic risk, and another to oversee regulation of individual institutions - does not go far enough. He asks, "How can the authority in charge of systemic risk do its job properly when it has no supervisory powers over large cross-border groups?"
Independent Times Telegraph BBC BBC: Peston blog WSJ: Vives
Commission officials to 'harvest experience' by mucking in down at the farm
Agence Europe reports that, as of 2010, a training programme including a stay on a farm will be created for Commission officials from the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development. Reportedly it is hoped that a greater practical understanding of farming will result in agricultural policies and regulations of a better quality. In the Times, David Wighton notes that the programme will be entitled "Harvest Experience".
Agence Europe reports that last week the European Parliament adopted, by 604 votes to 18, an own-initiative report presented by French MEP Claire Gibault calling for equal treatment and access to jobs for both men and women in the performing arts. In order to combat gender inequality in the sector, the Parliament stressed the importance of ensuring that candidatures remain anonymous "whenever possible, which is for example the case when musicians are recruited behind screens".
Independent: Conservatives' decision to leave the EPP "none of Barroso's business"
A leader in yesterday's Independent, argued that "It is, to be blunt, none of Mr Barroso's business how a British party aligns itself in the European parliament...This sort of unwarranted interference merely feeds that suspicion that the European Union is a conspiracy of arrogant and unaccountable elites."
EU Referendum blog Independent: Leader
Rasmussen for Commission President?
Le Monde reports that Nicolas Sarkozy has shown ambiguity regarding Jose Barroso's future as EU Commission President, in contrast to Gordon Brown's unequivocal support for his second term. In a growing movement against the so called "Sarkozy-Barroso" axis, a number of Left French delegations are supporting Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the former Danish Prime Minister for Commission President instead.
European Parliament launches 18 million election campaign
FAZ reports that the European Parliament has authorised the PR Agency Scholz & Friends to run an 18 million campaign termed "European Election - It's your choice" to increase citizens' interest in the European elections and boost turnout. According to Welt, the campaign will see posters, 3-D installations and TV and radio advertisements addressing questions, such as "How much security do we need?" or "How much food labelling is necessary?".
EIZ Niedersachsen Welt Die Presse EUobserver EurActiv
EU divisions continue over need for economic stimulus;
EU set to boost emergency aid to eastern states
The WSJ reports that despite the fact that the EU's unemployment rate is headed toward 10%, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said that governments see no immediate need for further fiscal-stimulus measures. He said, "It would be unwise to start talking about other plans before we start implementing the plans we already have".
However, the Independent reports that Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, warned last night that an "excessively cautious" response to the economic crisis will lead to the return of "mass unemployment and world recession".
EUobserver reports that the Nobel-prize winning economist Paul Krugman has described the EU's fiscal stimulus programmes as "inadequate" and said that "[European Central Bank chief] Mr Trichet is still saying there is no risk of deflation in Europe, which I think is weirdly complacent". In an article in the IHT, Krugman also questions whether, with the economic crisis, "Does all this mean that Europe was wrong to let itself become so tightly integrated? Does it mean, in particular, that the creation of the euro was a mistake? Maybe."
A feature the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, looked at changing attitudes in Germany towards the rest of Europe. An interview with a spokeswoman from the Berlin based-European Council on Foreign Relations has said that Germans are now saying, "Why should we help the others?.. Germany was one, or perhaps the one country of the European Union that really restructured industry. We got our deficit down, we did our homework. Now it appears that a couple of other countries didn't do so why should Germany now bail out the others that didn't do their homework in the way that Germany did?" She went on to say that, "there is a risk for the European project because it was Germany to a large extent that carried the European project because we were the only big country in the European union that was strongly pro-integration and this momentum has been lost."
Meanwhile, the FT reports that EU leaders will declare at a summit tomorrow that they are ready to increase the size of a 25bn emergency fund for central and eastern European member states that face balance of payments crises. The size of a possible funding increase is not specified, but the paper notes that the EU's emergency fund was doubled in size last year after Hungary and Latvia requested funds.
BBC: Today programme WSJ Independent FT EUobserver EurActiv
Merkel and Sarkozy warn of "excessive public debts" in letter to Barroso According to FAZ, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have warned that "excessive public debts" threaten "global stability", in a letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Merkel and Sarkozy have also said that "the first priority is to build a new global financial architecture", adding that "the European Union must affirm a common position and take the lead on this subject." In particular, the two leaders said, Europe should go to London with proposals for new regulation and supervision of hedge funds and other high-risk investments and legal tools to act against tax havens that refuse to lift bank-secrecy laws.FAZ Washington Post Le Figaro EurActiv
An article for the Heritage Foundation regarding the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy quotes an Open Europe briefing on the subject.
Heritage Foundation Open Europe briefing
Former European Commission President Jacques Delors has expressed pessimism about the ability of the eurozone to survive the current economic crisis. He said, "I could well imagine that the pressure of the strong on the weak to carry out better policy or leave the monetary union increases."
The FT reports that the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, Yvo de Boer, has warned that EU leaders could threaten the fight against climate change if they fail to agree on financing of emissions cuts for developing countries at the annual Spring Council meeting tomorrow.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced that Russia plans to boost both conventional armed forces and nuclear forces to counter a growing threat from NATO.
Guardian Irish Independent Mail Telegraph IHT
The IMF forecasts that the UK will be the only major economy still in recession in 2010.
FT Mail Telegraph Independent Times
President Sarkozy has won a parliamentary confidence vote prompted by his plans to join NATO.
Irish Times BBC AP Le Point Le Figaro
On his BBC blog, Mark Mardell questions whether it is "perhaps odd that when governments of all political stripe are turning to state aid and the nationalisation of banks that the European left isn't enjoying more of a renaissance."
BBC: Mardell blog
The FT Brussels blog looks at Declan Ganley and Libertas' upcoming campaign in the European Parliament elections. The blog argues that "he [Ganley] comes across as more sympathetic to the idea of European integration than his critics allow... He pulls no punches, however, in attacking what he sees as the EU's shortcomings in democracy and accountability."
FT: Brussels blog
The falling value of the krona will increase Sweden's contribution to the EU budget in 2009 by between 2 and 2.5 billion krona (£250-300 million).
On his Telegraph blog, Dan Hannan MEP looks at the Conservatives' decision to leave the EPP and says, "being against Euro-federalism doesn't ipso facto make anyone extreme".
Telegraph: Hannan blog
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 or call us on 0207 197 2333.