Thursday, April 02, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 2 April 2009


Andrew Duff: New EU Treaty for ratification in all member states is the only way to make Irish 'guarantees' legally-binding
The Irish Times reports that plans to tack 'guarantees' onto the Lisbon Treaty via the Croatian Accession Treaty have run into opposition in the European Parliament. Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff, who is one of three MEPs who sat on the intergovernmental conference that drew up the Treaty, told journalists yesterday that adding an Irish-specific protocol with the legal guarantees to an accession treaty was not legally possible.

He said: "Adding this protocol to the Croatian accession treaty would leave the treaty wide open to attack in the courts." He said that rules in the EU treaties governing accession treaties only allow issues pertaining to a state's accession to be dealt with. He said the procedures to allow for a general revision of the European treaties were different and the insertion of an Irish protocol into the EU treaties may have to wait for a new EU treaty to be drawn up and ratified.

He cited the example of Denmark, which had to wait five years before the guarantees and opt-outs it received after its No vote against the Maastricht treaty in 1992 were embedded in the EU treaties. The Danish guarantees were finally embedded in the EU treaties by means of the Amsterdam Treaty.

In the Irish parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Brian Cowen confirmed that the 'guarantees' promised by EU leaders last December "must be legally robust in order to reassure the public about the treaty". He said: "Whilst I respect the fact that other member states do not wish to re-ratify the Lisbon Treaty, I made it clear that for my part the legal guarantees will have to be attached to the EU treaties at the next possible opportunity."

EU diplomats said yesterday that a final decision on how to structure the guarantees would not be made until an EU summit planned for June. Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche said he did not agree with Mr Duff's analysis and stressed that a decision on the guarantees had been taken last December. He said: "Frankly I don't agree with him and I don't think anyone else agrees with him either." He added the government may not seek to attach the protocol to the Croatian Accession Treaty but could ask states to ratify an Irish protocol separate from it.
Irish Times

Irish Lisbon Treaty referendums will cost €50 million
The Irish Independent reports that the Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland will end up costing taxpayers more than €50 million. Among the costs for the last referendum was €800,000 on publications such as an "information booklet", which was distributed to every household in the country.

Meanwhile, Irish PM Brian Cowen has said that the government will not be "complacent" about the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, according to the Irish Times.
Irish Independent Irish Times

Express: Flint's Lisbon Treaty admission went down like a "lead balloon" at Foreign Office
According to the Express, Europe's Minister Caroline Flint's admission that she has not read the Lisbon Treaty has gone down like a "lead balloon" in the Foreign Office. A colleague said: "Her department is both furious and embarrassed...She was given a copy by her staff as soon as she got the job".
Open Europe blog

Talks on opt-out from EU 48-hour week end without agreement;
Labour MEP Stephen Hughes links opt-out to teenage pregnancies
According to PA, talks in Brussels on the revisions to the EU Working Time Directive ended last night without agreement. At least nine EU countries now using the opt-out from the 48-hour week refused to budge over MEPs' demands that the concession be scrapped. One last round of negotiations between officials from EU governments and a delegation of MEPs could take place this month - or plans to update the Working Time Directive will fall and the opt-out will continue.

PA reports that at the very least, MEPs are pushing for an updated working hours law to include a review of the opt-out to phase it out in three years - flatly rejected by the UK. One UK Government official said: "The updated Working Time Directive on the table actually offers more safeguards for workers, including an absolute maximum working week of 60 hours even if the opt-out is used to exceed the normal maximum of 48 hours. But if the talks break down, the existing Directive prevails - with no cap on how many hours workers can work if the opt-out is invoked. So it is in the interests of workers to get this deal, and it appears the member states have a sufficient large backing not to give up the opt-out."

An article on BBC online mentions Open Europe's briefing on the opt-out, which notes that the Working Time Directive as it currently applies in the UK is already costing the economy between £3.5 billion and £3.9 billion every year. This could rise to between £9.2 billion and £11.9 billion a year by 2011, should the UK lose the opt-out.

On the Today programme, Labour MEP Stephen Hughes, who is leading calls in the European Parliament to end the UK's opt-out from the 48-hour week, said, "I think another useful study might be to look at the correlation between very long working time in Britain and teenage pregnancy, social dysfunction; a whole range of social indices that might well suffer as a consequence of the long working hours culture in Britain."
BBC Open Europe report Today programme

Sarkozy and Merkel's "red lines" make life difficult for Brown at the G20
The Independent reports that Gordon Brown's hopes of forging a united response to the global recession at today's G20 summit were thrown into jeopardy when France and Germany demanded much tougher regulation for the financial system to prevent a repeat of the crisis. The paper notes that both leaders also rebuffed US and UK pleas for them to stimulate their economies further to help kick-start a worldwide recovery.

PA notes that, at a joint press conference yesterday, President Sarkozy and Chancellor Merkel made it clear that they will refuse to sign an agreement which does not meet their red lines on tax havens, hedge fund regulation, banking transparency and a worldwide cap on bankers' salaries and compensation. The Independent quotes Sarkozy saying, "These are our red lines. We are totally prepared to discuss other things so long as these issues are clearly dealt with and solved." Angela Merkel added, "we [G20 countries] have not been attacking the roots of this crisis," reports Le Figaro.

Sarkozy also said, "This is a historic opportunity afforded us to give capitalism a conscience." Merkel added that France and Germany wanted to see "a new architecture and new regulations for financial markets" spelt out very clearly in the final communiqué of the summit.

Euractiv reports that leaders will pledge to regulate major hedge funds for the first time and set up a new oversight board to monitor the global financial system, according to draft conclusions released by the G20. However, missing from the draft was a toughened stance on tax havens, strongly pushed for by France and Germany.

A leader in the Independent writes "The Franco-German intervention throws down the gauntlet to Mr Brown and Britain's chairmanship. At best, it will have precipitated much nocturnal redrafting; at worst, it risks a final communiqué even more diluted than the drafts already in circulation, or even - a prospect almost unthinkable - no significant agreement at all, either on fiscal stimulus or on regulation."

In the Evening Standard, Anne McElvoy argues that "Europe is proving as purblind, fractious and self-serving in this crisis as it has been in economic peacetime but with greater risks attached. Faced with a financial crisis, it turns inwards, happy to beat up the old foe of Anglo Saxon capitalism. She says: From "M Sarkozy and Herr Steinbrück, we get to hear a lot about what they won't tolerate but very little of what they would propose as a remedy, except a strict dose of regulation after the horse has bolted."
WSJ WSJ 2 Times Times: Kaletsky Independent Independent: Leader FT FT 2 FT: Leader FT 3 Irish Times Irish Times 2 Irish Independent Mail Mail: Leader Express IHT IHT 2 Guardian Guardian 2 Telegraph BBC BBC: Flanders blog European Voice
FT 2 FT: Guthrie Irish Times 3 EurActiv Eurointelligence Le Figaro La Croix Evening Standard

EU carbon emissions drop as recession bites;
Surplus of carbon permits for heavy industry likely to keep prices to pollute low
The WSJ reports that carbon emissions from heavy industry and utilities in the EU fell 6% last year as the economic downturn slowed industrial activity in everything from construction to auto manufacturing. The scheme's goal is to drive down carbon emissions through creating a shortage of permits available to industry.

Reuters reports that the ETS was at least 40 million tonnes short of carbon permits in 2008, the first time the scheme has registered a shortfall. However, the article notes that it is likely that the ETS will once again register a surplus of permits in 2009, raising question marks over its effectiveness. The WSJ says that carbon permit prices are trading at 18-month lows because production decreases mean many of the biggest emitters are now well within their caps.
WSJ WSJ 2 Reuters

MEPs resist suspension of rules on airport slots
European Voice reports that MEPs are resisting a proposal from the European Commission to suspend rules that oblige airlines to use airport slots or lose them to rival carriers for the 2009 summer season. The Commission says the proposal is a response to a decline in air passenger traffic and would prevent airlines running near empty planes. But Paolo Costa, an Italian liberal and the EP's lead MEP on the dossier, argues that the Commission should instead temporarily lower the threshold, currently 80%, that airlines have to meet to avoid losing their slots.
European Voice

Croatian-Slovenian border dispute reaches "critical" stage
European Voice reports that the Croatian-Slovenian border dispute, which threatens to block Croatian accession to the EU, is reaching a "critical" stage. Olli Rehn, European Enlargement Commissioner, yesterday cancelled a meeting with the foreign ministers of Croatia and Slovenia, instead calling in representatives of the EU's past, current and future presidencies for emergency consultations on the border dispute.
European Voice

Open Europe's research on the Commission pay-off package continues to receive coverage in the Hungarian daily Magyar Hirlap.
Magyar Hirlap

Ludwik Kotecki, Poland's lead negotiator with the EU and the European Central Bank on adopting the euro, has said Poland will have to slow down its timetable for adopting the euro if the zloty remains volatile.

The Scotsman reports that an airline has had to stop carrying cancer patients' blood samples between islands in Scotland as they have been labelled dangerous/hazardous, and it does not have a dangerous goods license now required because of a change in European rules on carrying freight.

A poll in La Tribune shows that 54% of Europeans (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Poland) want protectionist policies to ease the domestic effects of the current financial crisis. The article notes that this could mean protection will be a hot topic in the upcoming EU elections.
No link

A group of MEPs have tabled a written declaration calling for a new parliamentary gender guidance booklet to be withdrawn. Roger Helmer, Christopher Heaton-Harris and Martin Callanan, all UK Conservative MPs, have branded the guide as "political correctness gone mad."
The Parliament

At a debate in Brussels yesterday with Libertas leader Declan Ganley, MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit argued: "We are coming to the point that unanimity is a risk for the EU". According to EUObserver, the debate was "short on substance and dragged down by mud-slinging."

The Irish Times reports that Libertas has missed the deadline for registering candidates to stand in the European elections in Germany. It also reports that Libertas is expected to announce today that it is fielding 25 candidates in the Czech Republic.
Irish Times RTE

Former Finnish President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari has criticised the EU for not participating enough in the international peace mediation process. He said, "We [EU] have to develop professional expertise in mediation and also in mediation support, like the other actors in this field are doing, and of course we have to get our decision-making working faster than it does at the moment."

Leader of the Labour Party in the European Parliament Glenis Willmott has attacked the Conservatives' proposed new group in the European Parliament, saying "Their new friends are likely to be an odd assortment of homophobes, racists and climate change deniers."
Labour List

Mastercard yesterday announced that it would cuts its charges on card payments made across Europe - so called multilateral interchange fees- in return for an end to the European Commission's investigation into whether its fee structure breaches competition rules.
FT Irish Times Guardian EurActiv


US and Russia pledge to reduce nuclear weapon stockpiles
The Times reports that Presidents Medvedev and Obama have pledged to produce a binding arms-reduction treaty by December. Both said they are committed to "achieving a nuclear-free world".
WSJ Times

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