Thursday, March 05, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 5 March 2009


Commission to fast-track de Larosiere's proposals on financial regulation
The FT reports that the European Commission has thrown its support behind new financial regulation proposed last week by Jacques de Larosiere, former Bank of France Governor, and pledged to fast-track his proposals. "Action is urgent," said Jose Manuel Barroso, Commission President, unveiling about a dozen regulatory and legislative initiatives, which the Commission hopes to bring forward this year.

The most significant elements of the proposals include the creation of a European Systemic Risk Council to act as an "early warning system" for European financial markets and increased co-ordination and supervision of national regulators. The committees that currently oversee national banking, insurance and securities regulation are to be given increased powers.

However there are a number of other measures contained within the proposals, which are to be tabled in the coming months, including standards for hedge funds and recommendations on remuneration to be unveiled in April; a supervision framework package in May; and proposals on capital requirements in June.

According to Reuters, the European Banking Federation welcomed many of the measures on stricter capital requirements and new supervisory structures but said that the EU's better regulation policy, of public consultation before deciding if new measures were needed, has been broadly overlooked in the recent moves to regulate.

Meanwhile, the IHT notes that member states have reached agreement on the mandatory registration and direct supervision of credit rating agencies, a spokesman for the Czech EU Presidency said.
FT European Voice EurActiv EUobserver Reuters Irish Times IHT Reuters 2

ECJ rules that UK retirement laws don't violate EU law
The ECJ has ruled that the UK's compulsory retirement age of 65 does not breach EU law, as long as the practice has a legitimate aim related to employment and social policy. It also ruled that it is up to the national court - the UK's High Court - to "ascertain, first, whether the United Kingdom legislation reflects such a legitimate aim and, second, whether the means chosen were appropriate and necessary to achieve it."

The case was brought by Age Concern, which claims that the UK's current law, allowing companies to dismiss an employee without redundancy payments when the worker reaches the age of 65, violates the EU's Equal Treatment at Work Directive. The Government's lawyers insisted in court that retirement age was a matter for national rules, and should not be governed by the EU Directive, PA reports. The High Court will now have to decide whether the aims of the Government's compulsory retirement are legitimate and proportional.
BBC Express Reuters

Eastern Europe's economies demand to be evaluated on individual merits
EUobserver reports that the central banks of the better-off nations of eastern Europe have issued a joint statement asking that investors and others distinguish between themselves and the weaker economies in the region. The WSJ notes that Hungary was "conspicuously absent" from a joint statement issued yesterday by the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria expressing concern about oversimplified and "misleading" ratings and views on the state of their banking systems.

According to EUobserver, the statement read "Each of the CEE member states has its own specific economic and financial situation and these countries do not constitute a homogenous region."
FT IHT EUobserver WSJ

Barroso: Eurozone has the "means" to help a state facing debt default
The Irish Times reports that Commission President Jose Barroso has said the eurozone is prepared to help any EU state that is threatened with defaulting on its debt during the current crisis. He said, "If there is a problem in the euro area we will have the means to act, but I am not now going to speculate about how, when, which countries, because we are dealing with markets". Adding, "It is an interesting idea from a European point of view, I can't hide that. But quite a lot of countries are opposed to it...There is no consensus."
Irish Times

The EU and the part privatising of Royal Mail
The EUReferendum blog notes that, yesterday in Parliament, Harriet Harman said that the "real reason" for the part-privatising of Royal Mail was not EU legislation but "the analysis in the Hooper report, which we commissioned as long ago as December 2007." However, the blog argues, the Hooper Report itself said that the real reason was European Union postal legislation and EU state aid rules.
EU Referendum blog

CAP Health Check blog: EU's Single Payment Scheme is "unsustainable"
The CAP Health Check blog outlines 10 reasons why the EU's Single Payment Scheme (SPS) for farms is unsustainable. These include discrimination against certain types of farms, i.e. poultry and pig farmers don't qualify for the SPS, but non-farmers such as railways and water utilities do. It also suggests that the payment benefits landowners rather than working farmers and that 85 per cent of SPS payments go to the biggest 17 per cent of recipients.
CAP Health Check blog

Renault Chief Executive calls for co-ordinated EU auto aid
Carlos Ghosn, Chief Executive of Renault and Nissan, yesterday urged the EU to take a proactive role in co-ordinating aid for carmakers in Europe, saying "Europe cannot just blame national governments for taking initiatives and not take any initiative itself", according to the FT. He also went on to say that, "Governments should help eliminate the obstacles on the car industry as a whole, not intervening on one particular carmaker".

The paper also reports that Mr Ghosn and other car industry representatives are to meet with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and EU Industry Commissioner Gunter Verheugen today. The Rheinische Post reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel categorically rejects any direct investment by the German government to the carmaker Opel. Merkel is quoted by Suddeutsche Zeitung saying, "In contrast to Hypo Real Estate, Opel is not relevant to Germany's national economic system".

EUobserver reports that a German scheme, introduced under its second 50 billion euro stimulus plan announced in January, by which citizens can trade in any car of at least nine years for 2500 euros when also buying a new car appears to have had immediate and tangible effect in raising car sales. New car registrations in Germany reportedly rose 21.5 per cent in February compared to the same month in 2008.
EUobserver Times FT dpa Welt

Clinton visit to focus on Russia and Afghanistan
Mark Mardell's BBC blog notes that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is in Brussels today to meet Nato foreign ministers and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. He writes that, "Today's visit may be dominated by Nato's traditional role - eyes fixed on Russia. But Afghanistan remains the trickiest subject." EurActiv reports that Clinton is expected to back a resumption of formal ties with Russia, which have been suspended since the incursion into Georgia last summer.
FT: Brussels blog BBC: Mardell blog EurActiv EUobserver

EPP-ED to oppose minimum pollution standards
MEPs are to vote on the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) draft directive next week which could mean stricter controls on nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide emissions for industrial plants across the European Union, but the largest group in the European Parliament, the EPP-ED, has decided to oppose minimum standards on common air pollutants, according to European Voice. The EPP-ED's position coincides with views expressed by environment ministers at a meeting in Brussels on Monday.
European Voice

Telegraph: "The Europe we see is one totally incapable of coordinated action"
During Gordon's Brown visit to the US and speech to Congress he said that there was the most "pro-American European leadership in living memory - a leadership that wants to cooperate more closely together in order to cooperate more closely with you". A leader in the Telegraph argues, "He must be thinking of some other Europe. The Europe we see is one totally incapable of coordinated action, where protectionist instincts are every bit as strong as in the US and which at last weekend's summit in Brussels split into two hostile camps".
Times Independent Independent: Leader FT Guardian Mail Telegraph: Leader

In the Spectator, Charles Moore argues that the crisis in the EU tends to be used to strengthen further integration - something which "eurosceptics" are failing to understand.
No link

The EU's DG Environment has released a draft report calling for an overhaul of EU policies on agriculture, transport and overseas aid, in order to deal with "unavoidable climate change", according to European Voice.
European Voice

Companies struggling with tight credit conditions can now apply for liquidity guarantees and loans from the German government's 100 billion euro fund, a spokesman for the Economy Ministry said yesterday.

The WSJ argues that the EU's newly imposed tariff on imported US biodiesel is "encouraging inefficient biodiesel producers to stay in the market. And all of this is being done despite evidence that fuels like biodiesel actually increase CO2 emissions compared with fossil fuels."
WSJ: Editorial

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