Monday, April 27, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 27 April 2009


Open Europe is hosting a debate entitled "European Monetary Union: Second honeymoon or pending divorce?" in Brussels on Tuesday 28 April. Speaking at the event will be: Derek Scott, Vice-Chairman of Open Europe and former Economic Advisor to Tony Blair; David Marsh, author of "The Euro: The politics of the new global currency"; Ignazio Angeloni, Advisor to the Executive Board, European Central Bank. Chair: Paul Adamson, The Centre.

To register please send an email to with 'April 28' in the subject field, clearly stating your name and organisation. Or, for further information on this event, please contact Pieter Cleppe at or on 00 32 477 68 46 08.

Conservatives launch campaign calling for referendum on Lisbon Treaty
At the Conservative Spring Conference over the weekend, Conservative leader David Cameron launched a campaign renewing calls for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the run up to the European elections in June, PA reports. Opposition to the Treaty is expected to form the centrepiece of the Conservative campaign for the European elections.

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague repeated the promise to hold a referendum if the Conservatives won a General Election and the Lisbon Treaty had not yet been ratified by all 27 member states, saying "It is a matter of trust; it is a matter of faith in politics; and our commitment rests on the truth that, in a democracy, lasting political institutions cannot be built without the people's consent".
EU Referendum blog BBC

UK Government may be forced to accept stringent new rules to save opt-out from EU's 48 hour working week
The FT reports that a compromise deal between EU ministers and MEPs on changes to the EU's controversial Working Time Directive will be discussed tonight in Brussels. Under the proposal, the UK would keep the opt-out from EU rules which cap the maximum working week at 48 hours in return for more stringent rules for how the opt-out is applied. The European Parliament wants to scrap the exemption, while the UK, backed by several member states, wants to keep it.

According to the article, under the compromise, workers using the opt-out will have to tell their employers in writing twice a year that they are prepared to go on doing so. Employees would be forbidden from signing their working time waiver during a probationary period. They would subsequently be able to withdraw from the agreement at any time, with no forward notice.

Member states retaining the opt-out will also have to present a report to the European Commission on the health and safety aspects of their decision not to limit hours, as well as detailing how many workers are working over 48 hours.

The article quotes David Yeandle of the the Engineering Employers' Federation saying, "The new conditions being imposed on using the individual opt-out are very onerous and impractical for employers."
FT Open Europe research Open Europe press release Open Europe events

Website ranking attendance at the European Parliament closed after MEPs' protests
European Voice reports that following protests from MEPs, Italian Liberal MEP Marco Cappato has been forced to close down his website which aimed to increase transparency on MEPs' performance. The website published a ranking of MEPs based on their attendance and participation in Committees and the European Parliament. The article notes that there were particularly strong protests from members of Cappato's own group in the Parliament, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer writes that numerous MEPs threatened to commence legal proceedings against Flavien Deltort, who created the site.
European Voice Coulisses de Bruxelles

Plans to build €5 million swimming pool at European Parliament draw criticism
New Europe reports on plans to build a €5 million 'aqua gym' for MEPs. Apparently the complex will include the first 'green' sauna, powered exclusively through solar energy but which is only predicted to reach a temperature of 14 degrees. The facilities will include steam baths as well as exercise bikes and treadmills which will reportedly be connected to the European Parliament's power grid to generate electricity. According to the article, "it is hoped that the power generated could be used to beam pro-Europe messages from a beacon in Place Luxembourg".

Gerard Onesta, a French Green party member & EP Vice-President has previously argued that the proposed fitness facilities would reduce staff absenteeism by up to 30%.
New Europe

Friends of the Earth: EU's agricultural policy is fuelling rainforest destruction and makes climate change worse
A new report by Friends of the Earth, titled "Feeding the Beast", details how the EU's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) fuels demand for imported animal feed, encouraging South American ranchers to clear rainforests for plantations of soy crops. The report argues that the CAP has had a "significant role" in encouraging the intensification of EU and UK livestock production, favouring big business factory farms where animals are fed on imported soy protein over small farms where cows are reared on grass. At current trends, soy farmers and cattle ranchers will destroy 40% of the Amazon rainforest by 2040, the report argues.

According to United Nations figures, the meat and dairy industry is already responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than all the world's transport. The report calls for changes to the CAP to support the sustainable, non-intensive, grass-based meat and dairy sectors.

Friends of the Earth's Executive Director Andy Atkins is quoted on PA saying, "Cash-strapped families have no idea that millions of pounds of their money is being spent on an industry that contributes more to climate change than all the planes, cars and lorries on the planet."
No link

EU proposals could see English and Welsh courts imposing foreign divorce laws
A report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank has criticised EU proposals to make English courts apply foreign laws in divorce cases involving couples from overseas. According to PA, under the scheme, courts would deal with divorces according to the legal system with which the marriage has the closest connection - opening the way for English and Welsh courts to apply the laws of other EU states, and potentially even countries outside Europe.

The plan, known as Rome III, hit opposition from Sweden last year, which was concerned at the prospect of having to apply sharia law in divorce cases involving couples from Islamic countries, and Malta, where divorce is banned. But a group of nine EU states - not including the UK - requested permission to push ahead with the Rome III plan alone. Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot is now trying to develop a compromise solution which would allow the whole EU to take a common approach.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman rejected the CSJ report's claims: "These claims are incorrect. The UK decided not to participate in this proposal and therefore if it had been agreed it would not apply in the UK."
Mail Centre for Social Justice

New report warns CDS regulation could damage London's status
A report commissioned by the City of London Corporation has warned that London's status as a leading financial centre risks being damaged if policymakers regulate over-the-counter derivatives without distinguishing between those products that contributed to the financial crisis and those that did not, according to the FT.

Terry Smith, Chief Executive of Tullet Prebon money brokers, writes in the paper that the European Commission has raised the possibility of legislation imposing "stringent new controls" unless banks which are the main dealers in credit default swaps establish the use of a central EU clearing house by the middle of the year, and argues that neither the practicality nor the desirability of such legislation has been considered. He also writes, "The prescriptions put forward for the OTC [over-the-counter derivatives], markets show a blatant disregards for the facts, and the cultivation of self-interest by politicians and some operators."

Writing on Conservative Home, former Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Howard Flight warns against the EU proposals for financial regulation contained in the de Larosière report: The UK has already lost too much of its regulatory independence - witnessed by the imposition of the unhelpful EU, MIFID regime."
Conservative Home: Flight FT FT: Smith

Irish government to launch €550,000 'media blitz' ahead of Lisbon referendum
The Irish Independent reports that the Irish government is set to spend €550,000 on a 'media blitz', centered on Ireland's EU membership in the run-up to the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. The campaign will target national and regional press, as well as billboard, radio and the internet.
Irish Independent

In an interview on the BBC Politics Show, Chris Davies MEP described the rules governing MEPs' expenses as "so lax in some areas that you can find yourself putting money in your pocket before you know what you're doing."
Politics Show

Commission outlines plans to regulate executive compensation
European Voice reports that this Wednesday the European Commission will "call for an end to severance packages that reward failure" and demand that unjustified bonuses paid to executives in public companies be clawed back. The proposed legislation will focus on executive pay in public companies and on remuneration, particularly in the financial services sector. Saturday's Guardian reported that the guidelines will limit 'golden parachutes' to no more than double the basic salary.

European reluctance to give up seats at IMF creates deadlock
The Times reports that a split has erupted between the United States and Europe over a call by Washington for reform of the International Monetary Fund that would give a much bigger say in its operations to emerging market countries, led by China, at the expense of Europe. Tim Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, issued a strong call at the weekend for a reordering of power in the fund, saying "Much bolder action is required to realign quotas towards dynamic emerging-market economies."

Didier Reynders, Belgian Finance Minister, said that European nations deserved their representation because "European countries are having to finance the fund very strongly."
Times Independent WSJ

German industry warns Commission against "regulation chaos" with eco-design directive
European Voice reports that on Friday MEPs voted to extend the European Commission's power to impose environmental standards on "energy-related" products such as windows and insulation. Presently they can set eco-design standards only for products which directly use energy.

According to Handelsblatt, Martin Wansleben, Chief Executive of the German Chamber of Commerce and Industrie (DIHK) has warned the Commission against the prospect of "regulation chaos".
European Voice

Council claims European Parliament's decision to block clearing of accounts "not based on any factual observation"
In response to the decision of the European Parliament to delay approval of the European Council's accounting books for 2007, the Council has said that it is "the only institution not to receive a single remark from the Court of Auditors in relation to execution of the 2007 budget" and claimed that "the position taken by the Parliament is not based on any factual observation relating to the quality of financial management by the Council".
Council document Julien Frisch blog EUobserver

Barber: Slovenia and Croatia border issue is a bar to further enlargement
Tony Barber in the FT reports that EU ministers will meet today to try and broker a solution to the maritime border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia. EU Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn has said that an ideal solution would see Iceland and Croatia join the EU at the same time, but the paper describes the prospect of Iceland joining as "hostage" to the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland.
FT: Barber El Confidencial Terra Knack FT: Brussels blog

The European Commission is threatening Germany with legal action if it refuses to publish details of beneficiaries of farm subsidies, according to European Voice.
European Voice

Munchau: EU failed to co-ordinate strategy across borders
Writing in the FT, Wolfgang Munchau looks at banks' bad assets and argues, "the core problem with the European policy response, both in terms of bank rescue and stimulus packages is a failure to co-ordinate across national border...What the eurozone needs is a co-ordinated European stimulus." He also describes European leaders as "by and large an intellectually complacent lot."
FT: Munchau

In an online chat published in Le Monde, Bruno le Maire, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, argues that the Lisbon Treaty is not a copy of the European Constitution, saying that "if it were a copy, there would be no need for a new treaty".
Le Monde

The WSJ notes that the German Free Democratic Party is gaining support as a result of the economic crisis, which could help CDU Chancellor Angela Merkel to win the forthcoming election and escape her "awkward coalition" with the Social Democrats.

A left-wing coalition won elections in Iceland on Saturday, which the WSJ notes could "move Iceland closer to joining the European Union - a major goal of the Social Democrats".
Weekend FT WSJ Times FT Guardian Irish Times Irish Independent IHT Sunday Telegraph Telegraph BBC European Voice EurActiv EUobserver Tagesschau Frankfurter Rundschau

In the Observer, Will Hutton argued that, "There is no way that Britain's defence, overseas aid and foreign commitments can survive the next decade without swingeing cuts... Suddenly, the European Union will seem a more attractive way of retaining influence."
Observer: Hutton

Writing in the FT, Stefan Wagstyl looks at Poland's application for funds from the International Monetary Fund and argues that the EU could do more to support non-member states in Europe, particularly for countries preparing to join the bloc.
FT: Wagstyl


The Times reports that Downing Street is looking for alternatives to Gordon Brown's plan for a £150 daily allowance for MPs, it conceded last night, after meeting overwhelming opposition from voters, and members on all sides of the House of Commons.
Times Guardian Guardian: Ashley Observer Mail

Booker: More and more laws are passed without proper Parliamentary scrutiny
In the Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Booker noted that "the number of Government Bills going through Parliament this session, 12, is easily the lowest ever recorded. Twenty years ago the average was 200." He added, "But this doesn't mean we get fewer laws. Last year 3,327 new laws, 99 per cent of the total (many, of course, from the EU), took the form of statutory instruments, to which MPs are irrelevant."
Sunday Telegraph: Booker

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Benjamin Wright said...

Treasury Secretary Geithner is calling for new record-keeping requirements for what he calls "non-standard" derivatives. Part of the issue with the recordation of derivatives is that technology (e-mail, text message and so on) has made the formation of legally-binding contracts (such as derivatives) very cheap and easy. Efforts to promote better documenation on derivatives will provoke massive new campaigns to capture, archive and comprehend electronic financial records. See Details --Ben

Washington State Divorce Laws said...

A report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) think tank has criticised EU proposals to make English courts apply foreign laws in divorce cases involving couples from overseas.