Friday, March 06, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 6 March 2009


Graham Watson says Ireland may have to leave EU if it votes No again
British MEP and leader of the Liberal group in the European Parliament Graham Watson has warned that Ireland may have to leave the EU if it votes No for a second time in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The Irish Times quotes him saying, "It is very difficult to see any country being able to stay in if they have had two Nos from the people". He also warned that, "It would be very difficult to get large companies to invest in a country that looked as if it might be leaving the EU. I think it would have a social impact as well and, of course, it would call into question the future of the EU agency that is based in Ireland".

He goes on to say that the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) would contribute money to the second Lisbon referendum campaign if Irish PM Brian Cowen's party Fianna Fail asked for financial help. Fianna Fail last week announced it would join the ELDR before European elections in June.

Meanwhile, On BBC Online, as part of a series of viewpoints on EU issues, Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally argues that the EU Lisbon Treaty "is bad news for Europe". She notes that, "It is a myth that the EU Lisbon Treaty will strengthen democracy in Europe", quoting the President of the German Constitutional Court, who has said the Treaty's provisions for national parliaments are "ineffective" and "impractical", and the cross-party House of Commons EU Scrutiny Committee, which said: "We doubt the significance of the 'greater opportunities' for national parliaments to be involved in any meaningful manner in the workings of the EU". She also notes that judges at the German Constitutional Court have recently pointed out that the Treaty involves a clear extension of the EU's competences, with one asking "whether it would not be more honest to just proclaim a European federal state".

Meanwhile, Jean-Dominique Giuliani, Chairman of the Robert Schuman Foundation in Paris, argues in favour of the Treaty, and says that "there is no particular need for national referendums on European issues. Those who ask for referendums want to vote against the EU and their own government. Referendums are really populist procedures. People use them to answer different questions - not the actual referendum questions. Did Tony Blair ask by referendum to be allowed to send troops into Iraq? Did Margaret Thatcher ask by referendum to be allowed to carry out social reforms? Did Winston Churchill ask the English people to engage his country against Hitler? No. They all went to parliament, to have a debate and make the best decision. That is also what Sarkozy, Brown and Merkel did."
Irish Times BBC

Former Spanish PM: EU defence policy is "underway and its success is a matter of time"
Felipe Gonzalez Marquez, former Prime Minister of Spain and current President of the so-called '2020-2030 reflection group on Europe', argues in an article in Le Figaro that France's reintegration into Nato is "good news for France, for Europe, and of course, for Spain." He says, "The Lisbon Treaty, when it enters into force, will anchor the European Security and Defence Policy into the European 'acquis'...One can consider that the European defence policy is now underway and its success is a matter of time. There were some very important steps forward during the French EU Presidency. Furthermore, the realisation of this objective will be facilitated by the new provisions in the Lisbon Treaty."

He says: "Once a full member again, France will at last be able, working from within, to fully and effectively commit itself to its historic vocation, which is to promote with patience, method and determination the construction of a European pillar of the Alliance, which is strong and sure of itself. France and Spain are major actors in the development of European defence. We want Europe to be capable of acting by itself for the defence of its values, interests and international security."

Ahead of a debate in the French Parliament, to be held on 17 March, on whether or not the country should rejoin Nato's military structures, the Irish Times looks at the rationale behind the move and reports that Nicolas Sarkozy's diplomatic adviser, Jean-David Lévitte, and the French foreign ministry reportedly persuaded Sarkozy to "sell" the decision to reintegrate France into Nato's military command structure as a means of advancing the creation of a European defence capacity.

AP reports that French Prime Minister Francois Fillon has offered to submit his government to a confidence motion after the debate on 17 March.

A high-ranking French defence ministry official is quoted in the Irish Times describing Nato as "a 60-year-old lady, with lots of love handles" compared to the "pre-teenager, growing in an incubator," that is European defence. Additionally, the official suggests that "Europe has a more neutral image" than Nato troops. It quotes French Defence Minister Hervé Morin saying in the past: "Through our démarche, we want to Europeanise Nato."

Meanwhile, in an article in the IHT, Stanley Sloan, Director of the Atlantic Community Initiative, argues "The Obama administration appears wisely to be lowering expectations about how much more military force the Europeans can bring to bear in Afghanistan, but Washington will not reduce the pressure for European contributions without caveats and more generous nonmilitary contributions."
Irish Times IHT: Sloan AP

German parliament laments government's failure to consult on EU issues
According to DPA the German government has come under cross-party criticism from the German Bundestag for not sufficiently involving the parliament in decisions relating to EU policy. Two years ago, the German government and the Bundestag signed an agreement that allows the parliament a greater say and obliges the government to inform the Bundestag at an early stage about all planned EU measures. The spokesperson for European politics of the SPD group Michael Roth acknowledged a "need for improvement" in several areas.

Independent: Retirement rules are "hypocrisy" and a "double standard"
There is widespread coverage of yesterday's ECJ ruling that the UK's compulsory retirement age of 65 does not break EU law. The Independent quotes UK MEP Liz Lynne, Vice-President of the European Parliament's Employment and Social Affairs Committee, describing the decision as "a bitter blow for older people". She says, "It has always seemed wrong to me that just because someone reaches 60 or 65, they can be thrown on the employment scrapheap."

A leader in the Independent suggests that it is "hypocrisy to send 65-year-old civil servants home for good while the House of Commons is packed with 89 MPs over the retirement age...This, however, turns out to be yet another area in which a double standard - one for the government and another for the governed - applies."
Express Guardian Independent Independent: Leader EUobserver AFP Sun Mirror Times Telegraph Telegraph: Leader

ECB cuts rates to record low;
Bank of England to boost financial system with 150bn pounds
The European Central Bank and the Bank of England both cut interest rates to record lows yesterday. In addition, the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee yesterday announced an unprecedented 150bn pound programme of "quantitative easing" - a direct increase in the quantity of money circulating in the economy.

Meanwhile, the FT reports that the central banks of Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands lost almost 6bn euros collectively on bank failures last year, the ECB said yesterday, highlighting the risks countries face in supporting struggling institutions.
FT WSJ Irish Independent IHT Express Guardian Independent Spectator: Coffee House FT 2 FT: Leader Times EurActiv BBC European Voice

EU industry ministers reject bailout for car industry
EU industry ministers have promised to speed up access to finance for Europe's troubled car industry, but reaffirmed that there would be no bailout to help the industry through the slump, according to European Voice. EU Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen urged General Motors Europe, which has said that it is only weeks away from collapse, to be more transparent in its dealings, according to EUobserver, and Belgian minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said the EU must "clearly tell GM that it can not play one country off against another in an attempt to raise the stakes."

Neil Winton, a columnist for Detroit News Online's Automotive Insider, writing in the WSJ, reports that car industry experts say financial aid isn't the only way for governments to give the auto industry temporary relief, and the EU could instead postpone new rules forcing car makers to produce more fuel-efficient machines by 2015, and delay new plans to enhance safety measures in cars. He quotes Garel Rhys, Emeritus Professor of Motor Industry Economics at Cardiff University, saying that carmakers "have to survive [in order] to make these environmentally friendly products, and current rules will force them to do it too quickly for their weakening balance sheets."
Times European Voice BBC WSJ: Winton Independent EUobserver

Rapid eurozone entry could help Baltic states, says rating agency
Credit rating agency Standard and Poor's has said that Baltic nations' credit ratings would go up and their balance of payments crisis would end if they rapidly entered the eurozone. It also said if there was an indication from the European Commission or the European Central Bank of a greater appetite for an acceleration of Euro membership it would have a positive impact on the sovereign ratings.

The Commission has given the go-ahead for a "major facelift" of Brussels' European quarter, with building work due to begin in 2011.
EurActiv European Voice BBC

The Ukrainian energy company Naftogaz paid its February bill for Russian gas in full yesterday, officials said, acting before Moscow cut off supplies that could have once again affected deliveries to Europe.

Independent Austrian MEP Hans-Peter Martin has rejected running on the Libertas list for the upcoming European elections. Martin is quoted by Die Presse saying, "Due to my personal beliefs I am non-attached, which I will remain in the future".
Die Presse

A poll in France has found that 43% of people believe their MEPs in Brussels and Strasbourg are not carrying out their duties adequately. 50% of respondents said that French members of the European Parliament do a good job overall.

The Coulisses de Bruxelles blog reports on rumours in Brussels that French Prime Minister Francois Fillon may be a potential candidate to succeed Jose Barroso as President of the European Commission. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's name has also been mentioned.
Coulisses de Bruxelles

The Economist's Charlemagne column argues that the liberal, free-trading, internationalist standards of the EU will help to avert the political extremism, caused by financial crisis, witnessed in the 1930s.
Economist: Charlemagne

EurActiv reports that Romania is in talks with the EU Commission and International Monetary Fund over a possible loan from the IMF.


The Guardian reports that Gordon Brown and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband are to unveil plans today to create 400,000 jobs through investment in low-carbon industries.
Guardian Economist: Leader Economist


US seeks greater Nato-Russia co-operation
The BBC reports that Nato has agreed to resume high-level contacts with Russia, working with what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called a "greater unity of purpose". The Times notes that US President Barack Obama is keen to secure Russia's help with a number of American strategic goals, not least restraining Iran, fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan and reducing nuclear weapons.

EUobserver notes that Clinton strongly defended the planned US missile defence shield in Poland and the Czech Republic as being directed against threats from Iran, not Russia.
EUobserver Times: Leader Times FT: Brussels blog BBC European Voice European Voice 2 WSJ WSJ: Asmus

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