Monday, March 09, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 9 March 2009


EU Directive could impose extra costs on NHS hospitals
PA reports that EU plans to tighten controls on industrial pollution could impose massive extra running costs on about 70 NHS hospitals, under the EU's Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive. The Directive currently targets heavy industries such as power stations and extraction and mining industries, but plans are to widen the scope and establish a permit system to prevent and limit pollution from "large-scale industrial installations."

Conservative MEP Caroline Jackson has said that this means hospital boilers would be caught in the scheme. NHS hospitals keep substantial spare boiler capacity to cope with emergencies and in case of technical failures. The changes to the EU Directive would include assessing their boilers on the basis of their potential emissions, rather than their actual emissions, adding to the costs of obtaining the necessary permits. Ms Jackson said she now hoped her amendments to exclude hospitals from the rules will be approved in a first vote on the new plans in the European Parliament this week.
No link

EU VAT harmonisation could cost 150,000 jobs
The Sunday Express reported that the Treasury is scheduled to end an exemption next month under which schools, hospitals and charities, among others, are able to employ tens of thousands of temporary workers without paying VAT on their wages. The paper reported that the move was slipped into last year's budget and is designed to meet requirements, contained in a 2006 EU directive on a common system of value added tax, to "harmonise" VAT rules, and could force 150,000 people out of work.

The Treasury has estimated the change will cost business 125million pounds a year, but industry experts put the true cost at closer to 390million pounds. Paul Goodman, of the Forum of Professional Recruiters, urged ministers to delay the move, warning it would have a devastating impact and said "The Government is sleep-walking into creating a tax on jobs at the worst possible time. The people affected by this include nurses, charity of ordinary workers in the financial sector. It will put 150,000 jobs at risk and makes a mockery of the Government's claim to be delivering real help to business."
Sunday Express

Stuart: The EU cannot continue with "integration by stealth"
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Gisela Stuart MP argued that "The EU cannot continue with its current structure. Politicians can no longer rely on the electorate's implied consent or promote deeper political integration by stealth without making the institutions accountable." She went on to say, "If the potential benefits of co-operation between Europe's nation states are to be realised, the EU needs to be closer to...a commitment to free trade, but otherwise much less power to the union and much more for member states."
Sunday Telegraph: Stuart

Murtagh: If Ireland opts out of common EU defence it might as well get rid of army
In the Irish Times, Peter Murtagh argues that Ireland should not opt out of the European Defence Agency and other common defence provisions entailed in the Lisbon Treaty. The opt-out could form one of the "guarantees" that the Irish will receive ahead of a re-run vote on the Lisbon Treaty. Murtagh argues, "If we leave it, if we opt out of the common security and defence aspects of Lisbon, we are going to have to ask ourselves why we have an Army at all. In such circumstances our Defence Forces would effectively have nothing to do."

In a separate piece in the paper, Tony Kinsella argues that the EU's Chad mission has shown that the bloc can play an important role as a peacekeeper.
Irish Times-Kinsella Irish Times-Murtagh

Department for Communities cuts funding to pay EU fines
The Weekend FT reported that funding has been cut from a number of key programmes by the Department for Communities as it scrambles to cover fines of up to 250m pounds from the EU over irregularities in monitoring European regional aid. The department was hit with a 20m pound "financial correction" from the European Commission last year after a failure to properly account for funds allocated to projects in the north-west.
Weekend FT

Former BP Chief Executive: "Pinning all your hopes on the ETS is wrong"
Speaking to the Observer, Lord Browne, former Chief Executive of BP, has revealed that he believes his initial enthusiasm for carbon trading may have been misplaced, saying "My view has shifted over time. Pinning all your hopes on the European Union ETS [emissions trading scheme] and carbon trading is wrong." The paper noted that the first phase of the scheme, beginning in 2005, was "dogged by controversy" and that "companies were given too many credits, allowing them to bank billions of pounds of credits". However, Lord Browne suggested carbon trading could play a part in tackling climate change, but only alongside legislation and government targets.

EU still seeking funds for Commission's 5bn euro stimulus plan
Euractiv reports that Commission plans to spend 5bn euros on clean energy and broadband internet infrastructure projects to help kick-start the economy are a step closer to approval, after compromises with key member states. However, the article notes that there are still concerns over where the money will come from, with the majority of member states opposed to the use of surplus funds from the 2008 budget.

Proposed EU directive to see crucifixes banned?
The Mail on Sunday reported that equality laws proposed by the EU could see organisations which hang crucifixes on the wall being sued if they upset atheists. According to the paper, any group offering a service to the public, including hospitals, charities and prisons, could be liable. The paper also suggested that the legislation could allow Christians to bring an action against a hotel if it displayed something they deemed offensive - such as a poster for the 1979 Monty Python film The Life Of Brian. The proposals are part of a new directive outlawing discrimination by businesses, which will be voted on later in the year. A spokeswoman for the Government Equalities Office said the department felt existing UK law was "adequate".
Mail on Sunday

WSJ: US and Europe set to clash at G20
The WSJ reports that the US will press world leaders to boost emergency government spending to lift the global economy at April's London G20 summit. The paper notes that the US risks a rift with European countries, especially France and Germany, which are more concerned with restructuring financial regulation and that the shift in priorities is especially at odds with Germany, which is keen to limit government borrowing in the EU out of concern that countries with weaker finances are running up unsustainable debts, with the EU will be forced to bail them out.

Le Point suggests that Europe not only wants a coordinated Europe-wide regulatory and oversight initiative, but also wants a stronger international mechanism for financial crisis prevention. A common EU declaration from Sunday's meeting in Berlin stated the EU leaders' desire for a new 500 million dollar IMF fund designated specifically to "financial crisis aversion." French President Nicolas Sarkozy asserted that the Berlin meeting "was an important step between Washington and London" as it brought Europe together on both issues of financial regulation and staving off protectionism.
Le Point Irish Independent WSJ

German government losing patience with GM over Opel bailout
Saturday's Telegraph reported that German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said that insolvency was a better option for Opel than a state bailout because it would give the German car maker a chance to start again rather than go out of business. The Weekend FT noted that Berlin has refused to assist Opel without guarantees on job losses and plant closures, and that the money will not be 'leaked' to its US owners, General Motors, or be lost in the wake of a GM insolvency. Officials say Opel's restructuring suggestions so far have failed to provide these guarantees.

GM is seeking 3.3bn euros in government guarantees, predominantly from Germany but also from the UK, Sweden, Spain, Belgium and Poland, to underpin its European businesses. The Sunday Times quoted Peter Cooke, head of the Centre for Automotive Management at the University of Buckingham Business School, saying, "There is 30% too much capacity worldwide, and the scramble is now on to make sure that the plants that are shut down are not in Europe, and not in your country."
Sunday Times Telegraph Weekend FT

Fine Gael MEP: Re-run referendum on Lisbon Treaty should be held in May
Fine Gael MEP Colm Burke has urged all the parties in favour of the Treaty to support a referendum to be held in May - before the European and local elections. He said, "We have now been debating the Lisbon Treaty, both well and badly, for over a year. The various issues have been well ventilated. If an intensive three-week national campaign is deemed sufficient to engage the electorate in the process of deciding by way of a general election who to put governing this country, is it also not sufficient to tease out the pros and cons of the Lisbon Treaty?"
Irish Times

New TPA book says EU membership costs 2,000 pounds a year
The News of the World looked at a new book entitled "The Great European Rip-off", co-written by Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, which argues that the cost of the EU to every Briton is 2,135 pounds a year, which is ten times the figure stated by the European Commission.

The EU revives Democratic Republic of Germany
According to the FTD, at a reception to honour Hamburg as one of two Environment Capitals, Hamburg's Senator for the Environment was welcomed under the flag of the former Democratic Republic of Germany in Brussels last Monday. However, official pictures on the European Commission homepage are manipulated to show the flag of the German Federal Republic. FTD called this reaction "censorship like in times of the Cold War".

Clinton visits European Parliament
On his BBC blog, Mark Mardell noted that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's Friday visit to the European Parliament was the first by a top American politician since President Reagan more than 20 years ago. However, the BBC notes that Clinton left many puzzled when she said that American democracy had been around longer than European democracy.

EUobserver also reports that Clinton indicated that the Obama administration was committed to renewed co-operation with regards to climate change, saying "We are committed to a cap-and-trade system, but also to a number of other things. We are making major investments now in our stimulus package in alternative energy, in basic science research, in new forms of fueling transportation, as well as upgrading our grid. The European Union is taking a similarly broad approach."
BBC: Mardell blog Economist: Charlemagne blog European Voice BBC EUobserver

The Mail reports that Deputy Labour Leader Harriet Harman is being lined up to take the blame for Labour's expected defeat in this year's local and European elections.

As reported by WAZ, the EU is planning a higher minimum tax for cigarettes. Reportedly, in this week's plenary session, the European Parliament will agree on a tax rise of at least 1.50 euros per pack of 20 cigarettes until 2014.

Danish daily Jyllands-Posten reports that Albania will submit an application for EU membership in June.

The Observer reported that the Cabinet is split over whether to allow all employees the right to work past 65, following last week's ruling by the ECJ that the British retirement age was not illegal.
Observer Observer: Leader

Le Monde reports that Jean-Claude Trichet, President of the European Central Bank (ECB), has welcomed governments who "are pursuing politically courageous spending reforms, particularly in the realm of public salaries," claiming that such policies will be an important means to fighting the "accumulation of domestic imbalances."
Le Monde

At a meeting between Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland yesterday to discuss their rules on banking secrecy, the countries requested to be part of international talks when new rules are agreed at the G20 in April.
European Voice EUobserver

Writing in the Sunday Express, columnist Jimmy Young argued that "all is far from united in the European Union", citing recent opinion polls which suggest that only 35 per cent of people across Europe think the EU is going in the right direction.
Sunday Express: Young

Brian Crowley, leader in the European Parliament of both the Union for Europe of the Nations (UEN) group and the Irish Fianna Fail delegation, has warned that the plan to join the European Liberals group after the European elections could weaken their ability to "deliver policy at a European level".

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