Monday, March 30, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 30 March 2009


Brown at odds with EU ahead of G20 summit;
UK and US forced to manage expectations
There is widespread coverage of this week's G20 summit in London. The Independent reports that Gordon Brown's hopes of securing a global stimulus package have been dashed by resistance from France and Germany. The paper notes that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, backed by other EU nations, have opposed fresh efforts to boost their economies through government spending.

In an interview with the Weekend FT Merkel said, "The crisis did not take place because we were spending too little but because we were spending too much to create growth that was not sustainable. It isn't just that the banks took over too many risks. Governments allowed them to do so by neglecting to set the necessary [financial market] rules and, for instance in the US, by increasing the money supply too much."

Diplomatic tensions ran high yesterday as the German government was forced to deny it had engineered the leaks of two draft communiques, drawn up in advance of the summit, to weaken the British position. A spokeswoman for the German government insisted it was not behind the leaks: "We treat all drafts with complete confidentiality."

The Guardian notes that the rift has led to cabinet ministers, including the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, and the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, dampening expectations of Thursday's G20 meeting. "This is about trying to tackle an exceptional economic crisis...This G20 summit was never about writing national budgets," said Miliband.

The WSJ notes that over the weekend White House officials sought to play down fiscal-stimulus targets they were urging earlier in the month and instead focused on more 'modest' objectives, such as new rules for tax havens and international coordination for financial regulation.

In an article in the Times, outgoing Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, who will represent the EU at the G20, argues "Europe does not need such a large fiscal stimulus compared with the US, which does not have such a system of social support".
Telegraph Weekend FT 2 WSJ Times Times: Kaletsky Independent Independent: Anderson Mail Guardian IHT Weekend FT WSJ Telegraph 3 Telegraph 2 EU Referendum blog Telegraph: Hannan blog Irish Times Sunday Times: Leader Observer: Hutton Independent on Sunday: Leader Sunday Times Sunday Telegraph: Evans-Pritchard Sunday Express Times: Topolanek

French Foreign Minister: No Lisbon Treaty, no enlargement
According to the Irish Times, outgoing Czech PM Mirek Topolanek has said he will "plead" with his party to support the EU Lisbon Treaty, saying he believes the Treaty will be ratified before his country's presidency of the EU ends on June 30th. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said that he thought failure to ratify the Treaty would leave his country "absolutely isolated" in central Europe, saying "For us, that would be an awful result. Ireland as an island at least has free access to the sea. We are fully surrounded by the EU. We would thus isolate ourselves within it".

However, EUobserver reports that the deputies of his Civic Democrats (ODS) are largely sceptical about the Treaty and are now seen as unlikely to align with Topolanek's line on Europe, and instead align themselves more strongly with ODS founder and Czech President Vaclav Klaus.

In an interview with Die Welt, Schwarzenberg said "I'm rather sure that the Czech Republic will ratify the Lisbon Treaty in the coming weeks", however adding that "of course the EU could function with the Nice Treaty. The world would not go under". Süddeutsche Zeitung quotes Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborg saying that, "[Ratification] is going to be very difficult."

NRC Handelsblad quotes French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner saying: "if the new treaty does not enter into force, the EU will not be enlarged". HLN reports that Angela Merkel's proposition to freeze enlargement after Croatia's accession to the EU has faced critics at a summit in the Czech Republic this weekend. Tagesspiegel quotes an EU expert from the German social democrats saying: "no deepening, no enlargement".

Meanwhile, according to EUobserver, the Irish government has said it will continue negotiations with the Czech EU presidency on securing a legal text on certain 'guarantees' offered at a summit in December regarding the Lisbon Treaty. A diplomatic source told the Sunday Business Post that the Irish government expected the guarantees to be agreed ahead of the EU leaders' summit in June, but admitted: ''We don't know what's going to happen. Nobody does. They don't know themselves."
Irish Times EU Observer AFP Tagesspiegel Welt 1 Welt 2 NRC HLN

Open Europe's Pieter Cleppe appeared on French national television channel France 2 criticising EU Commissioners for receiving £1 million each in pensions and payoffs on leaving office this year, in a feature based on Open Europe's findings.
France 2 - 09.12 minutes in Open Europe press release OE blog

Stuart Wheeler to be expelled from Conservative Party over UKIP donation
The Times reports that the Conservative Party is to expel one of its largest donors, Stuart Wheeler, after he announced over the weekend that he would give £100,000 to UKIP and vote for them in the European elections in June. The Sunday Times reported that Mr Wheeler said, "I am very disappointed indeed with David Cameron's stance on this issue [the EU]. Much as I want the Tories to win the next election; getting Europe right is even more important".

He went on to say that Ken Clarke's influence was a "concern", adding: "He has indicated that he will not contradict current Conservative policy on the EU, but I don't think he'll be bound by that." The Sun also reports that Mr Wheeler said, "More than half the Shadow Cabinet are more euro-sceptic than the leadership."

Writing in the Sunday Times, Mr Wheeler argued that, "The European Union (the EU) is a disaster, even worse than the recession because the recession will end some time but the EU may 2007 David Cameron wrote 'Today I will give this cast-iron guarantee: if I become PM a Conservative government will hold a referendum on any EU treaty that emerges from these negotiations.'" However, he went on to write that, "my doubts about his commitment to doing anything effective were increased this week when I was told that he had got 70 Conservative MPs together and told them the EU issue did not matter...This may or may not be true but it fits in with what a great many people believe to be his attitude."
Times Independent Mail Guardian Conservative Home Observer News of the World Sunday Times Sunday Times: Wheeler Sun Telegraph Telegraph: Leader BBC

Commission wants stronger enforcement of privacy rules on internet
The IHT reports that the EU Commission this week will argue for stronger enforcement of rules on the commercial use of information garnered through online tracking made possible via "cookies" -- small files dropped into users' computers by the Web sites they visit. Meglena Kuneva, the European Consumer Affairs Commissioner, will argue that EU and national laws governing the use of personal information are ineffective and that "the World Wide Web is turning out to be the world 'Wild West'", although she will stop short of proposing new regulations.

CAP costs British taxpayer £10.3 billion a year
The Express reports that new research from the Taxpayers' Alliance has shown that the Common Agricultural Policy is adding £400 a year to British families' food bills. The research claims that the CAP costs British taxpayers £10.3 billion a year and that it has made food in Britain a fifth more expensive.

The article quotes Europe Minister Caroline Flint saying, "The CAP does not serve the best interests of farmers or consumers across Europe. We will use the opportunity of the EU budget review, starting later in the year, to argue for the long-term reform that is needed."

Saturday's Mail reported that Stephen Green, Chairman of HSBC, has backed plans for a pan-European regulator, proposed by the European Commission and Chairman of the FSA, Lord Turner, saying that it should be based in London.
No link

Saturday's Telegraph reported that Labour MEP Stephen Hughes receives £40,000 a year in office expenses despite only paying an annual rent of £1,642.
No link

On Sunday Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi closed a three-day congress merging the three main right-wing parties. The new party will be called the 'People of Liberty'.
EurActiv Times

An article in the WSJ looks at President Obama's pledge to create new green jobs "that can't be outsourced" and warns that any kind of carbon tariff on imports could spark a trade war.
WSJ: analysis

FAZ reports that the economist and former Board Member of the European Central Bank, Otmar Issing, fears that a bail-out of a member state will threaten currency stability and the individual democratic responsibility of states within the eurozone.
No link

Austrian daily, Die Presse, comments on "the fear of Europe's elite for the citizen", arguing that it is hypocritical for political elites to complain about the scepticism of citizens towards the EU while, at the same time, making decisions that refuse to give citizens a greater say.
Die Presse

The former Latvian PM, Guntars Krasts, is to stand as a candidate for Libertas in Latvia, according to the Irish Times.
Irish Times


On Saturday the Times reported that George Soros has warned that Britain may have to seek a rescue package from the IMF.

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