Thursday, March 19, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 19 March 2009


55% of Britons want to leave the EU;
84% want a referendum before transferring new powers to the EU
A ComRes poll for the BBC's Daily Politics programme shows that 55% of those asked agreed with the statement "I want Britain to leave the EU but maintain close trading links", while 41% disagreed. When asked if the current economic crisis has made people more likely to join the Euro, only 31% agreed with 64% disagreeing. On the question of whether Britain benefits overall from membership of the European Union in terms of jobs and trade only 44% agreed with 51% disagreeing.

When asked if the British people should decide in a referendum before Britain transfers any further power to the European Union 84% agreed, with 13% against.
BBC Daily Politics BBC/ComRes poll

Commission begins training EU diplomatic corps in anticipation of Lisbon Treaty coming into force
The European Commission has begun training hundreds of staff to prepare them to work in the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Union's future diplomatic corps which would be created by the Lisbon Treaty. European Voice notes that the preparations are controversial because they might be seen as prejudging the outcome of Ireland's second referendum on the Treaty.

The article reports that the EEAS cannot be launched before a new European Parliament has been elected, a new Commission appointed and the Lisbon Treaty ratified. EU officials have stressed that the training was designed entirely within the framework of the existing treaties, quoting a source saying, "We are trying to push the envelope as far as we can within the current environment".
European Voice

Head of EP negotiation team: There is a 50% chance of reaching deal that will end the opt-out from 48 hour working week
The head of the European Parliament's negotiating team on the ongoing talks with EU ministers over the future of the opt-out from the 48 hour working week, German Socialist Mechtild Rothe, has said that the chances of a deal being brokered is "five out of ten". The talks, which also seek to change the EU-imposed definition for on-call time for doctors and others, have pitted MEPs and some member states that want to scrap the opt-out against the UK, backed by Germany and Poland, that want to keep it.

Rothe said, "Unfortunately, we went our separate ways [on Tuesday] night without agreement. The problem is that council will not budge on the opt-out issue and this remains the main bone of contention between the two sides. We made it clear that we are willing to compromise but that we expect member states to do the same. So far, they have not shown a readiness to do so. There is, though, still a chance of a breakthrough when the talks resume next month. If we can make progress on the opt-out clause then I think the other issues can be quickly sorted out."

Labour MEP Glenis Willmott, who in December voted to scrap the opt-out, said after the meeting that "At a time of financial crisis, workers need the flexibility to earn extra money." The next meeting between MEPs and EU ministers will take place on 1 April. Swedish news site Europaportalen notes that at the moment, there is a blocking minority of eight countries - and that as long as that group stays intact, it's likely that a deal cannot be struck and that the opt-out stays.

In the Western Daily Press, Liz Webster picked up on Open Europe's report published this week, which noted that losing the opt-out will cost £8bn and also spelled out the case against the EU's 48 hour working week. The article quotes James Sloane, a steel erector in Dorset and one of the contributors to Open Europe's report, saying "All sorts of things affect our working week...of course we have to work longer to be able to try to recover some of the lost time." The article also notes that firefighters in North Somerset "have warned that some services and therefore lives would be put at risk" if working hours for retained fire fighters were restricted to 48 hours.

A leader in the paper argues, "It goes against the British spirit to be forced to abide by such rigid rules, imposed by politicians from a different country...the graft and benevolent nature of people in this country should not be steamrolled over by decision-makers in Brussels."
The Parliament EurActiv European Voice Western Daily Press Open Europe research

Turner review recommends new independent European financial supervisor
There is widespread coverage of a new review from the Chairman of the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Lord Turner, urging an overhaul of the UK's financial regulatory regime.

The FT reports that the Turner review supports calls for the creation of a pan-European regulatory body, a move previously opposed by the FSA and the City of London. The article quotes Lord Turner saying, "We've got to think about how to run a single market in retail banking without a European federal government".

Robert Peston's BBC blog reports that the new European institution would be "an independent authority with regulatory powers, a standard setter and an overseer in the area of supervision".

According to PA, Lord Turner said that the failure of Icelandic bank Landsbanki showed that depositors and taxpayers had been subjected to "unacceptable risks" due to an "unsafe and untenable" European framework, and quotes him saying, "Faced with that reality we either need more European co-ordination or more national powers - more Europe or less Europe - we can't stay where we are".

The Times quotes Bob Penn, a Partner with the law firm Allen & Overy, saying: "The real surprise is in the FSA's willingness to give up powers to Europe. This would have been unthinkable a year ago and is a politically brave recognition of the need for international solutions to international problems. However, the devil will be in the detail."

An article in the Independent by Sean Farrell also argues that "The main surprise was Lord Turner's call for a European super regulator, an idea that the UK has resisted for many years to prevent any undermining of Britain's position as a hub for financial services." It also reports that the Turner review recommends that the new European institution bring together three existing committees to act as a standard setter and coordinator of supervision.

The article quotes Simon Gleeson, a Partner at the law firm Clifford Chance, saying, "They have done a 180 degree turn on European regulation. They seem to be saying if we don't get a single regulator we are going to stop EU banks passporting into London. That may be why Lord Turner was describing the report as being revolutionary." Mr Gleeson also said the FSA might feel confident enough in calling for an overarching European watchdog because it has more employees than all the other regulators in Europe put together.

PA reports that Downing Street said it supported the "general approach" of the Turner Report, but stopped short of committing the Government to implementing any of its specific recommendations.
WSJ WSJ: Analysis Times: Leader Times Times: Wighton Mail Mail: Brummer IHT Independent Independent: Warner Independent: Analysis FT FT 2 FT: Lex FT 3 Guardian Guardian: Pratley BBC: Peston blog FT: Leader

EU summit highlights divisions over EU's priorities
The Irish Times looks ahead to today's EU summit and reports that "discussions at the European Council will focus on the global economic and financial situation, energy and climate change and external relations." "The rapid increase of unemployment [will also be] central to our concerns," said a final draft statement of the EU quoted in the EUobserver.

Referring to the question of further economic stimulus in Europe, EU Commission President Jose Barroso said that "if member states are in a position to do more, they should do more," reports the FT. In contrast, a senior European diplomat is quoted by Euractiv as saying "no-one can claim that [Europe's] public spending is insufficient... we have reached the limits beyond which the sustainability of public finances cannot be maintained."

The FT notes Germany and France's focus on the regulation of hedge funds and other types of financial organisations threatens to draw attention away from the more pressing question of further stimulus, which could harm Europe's economic recovery. Emma Marcegaglia, President of Confindustria added in an interview with the FT, "I'm afraid, yes [Europe could be last to exit the crisis]. If Europe is not co-ordinated and we go back to nationalism we will have a lot of trouble."
FT FT: Barber Irish Times BBC: Mardell blog EurActiv European Voice EUobserver

EU leaders to discuss €5bn stimulus package;
Germany threatens to block package
The WSJ reports that at today's EU summit European leaders will attempt to agree on a €5bn energy-focused stimulus package, which they have argued over for the last four months. The Commission wants to spend the money, surplus from its annual budget, on energy and technology projects, such as broadband and gas networks.

According to FT Deutschland, Germany has threatened to block the package, warning that either it is amended or abandoned. The paper notes that the German government favours reducing telecoms regulation as a means of encouraging investment in new technologies instead of spending surplus funds, which would normally be returned to member states. The Economist's Charlemagne blog argues that Germany's reluctance to agree the package is partly based on a desire to create a temporary monopoly for Deutsche Telekom to build broadband networks in Germany.

The IHT notes that the continuing wrangling over the package "has become a symbol of a weak and divided response to the global financial crisis".
WSJ IHT European Voice Handelsblatt Reuters FAZ Economist: Charlemagne blog

On her Mail blog, Mary Ellen Synon notes that Open Europe has unearthed a warning that the EU's Inspire Directive could seriously threaten the privacy of health records, requiring authorities to make private health information available to the general public.
Mail: Synon blog

German diplomat sparks new row over second Lisbon Treaty referendum;
Commission warned of another No vote
The Irish Independent reports that German Ambassador to Ireland Christian Pauls has warned that Ireland would "throw away its future" if it voted No to the Lisbon Treaty for a second time. The comments were made as the EU Commission announced a €1.8m 'information' campaign targeted at young people, women and the less well-off, through social networking websites, internet campaigns and cinema adverts.

Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports that EU Internal Market Commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, and the Head of the Commission's Irish delegation, Martin Territt, have warned the Commission that the political and economic situation in Ireland could prompt a second No vote on the Lisbon Treaty. McCreevy noted that the upcoming emergency budget in April could further hurt the government's popularity. "He told commissioners there needed to be a very strong campaign to win a referendum, stressing the new guarantees that the Government had secured in talks with other EU states," said one source.
The Parliament Irish Independent Irish Times

ORF and EEnews report that the European Commission has taken the final decision to ban incandescent light bulbs by the adoption of two new regulations that are supposed to improve energy efficiency of households as well as office, street and industrial lighting. Selling of incandescent light bulbs will gradually phase out from 2012 onwards.ORF EEnews

In an interview with the FT, former French Central Bank Governor Jacques de Larosiere has said that he has been encouraged by the "positive reactions" to his report on the restructuring of financial supervision in the EU.

EU agriculture ministers are to meet next week and debate whether to offer more financial assistance to dairy farmers.
European Voice

Quatremer: Financial crisis to end European enlargement?
Jean Quatremer on his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog argues that the financial crisis is creating "hidden fractures" that will prevent future European enlargement. He notes that Angela Merkel, speaking on a German television program, called for "a pause of enlargement" and that the future focus should centre on learning to "cohabit as 28 within the framework of the Lisbon Treaty," assuming Croatian succession.
Coulisses de Bruxelles

Libertas is reportedly distancing itself from the controversial League of Polish Families party, up to now a key political ally in its European election campaign in Poland.
Irish Times

Writing on European Voice, Czech Republic PM Mirek Topolanek, current holder of the EU Presidency, argues that Europe is not polarised, by small countries versus large countries, old members versus new members and east versus west, and that the crisis should be considered as "an impulse for improvement and development - provided we assume responsibility for 'causes and consequences' at a national as well as at a European level."
European Voice: Topolanek

In the IHT, Judy Dempsey notes that US President Barack Obama is already losing patience with some of Nato's European members for their unwillingness to shoulder a greater burden in Afghanistan.
IHT: Dempsey

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