Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Open Europe press summary: April 7 2009


EU Data Retention Directive implemented without parliamentary debate
The BBC reports that an EU directive that came into force yesterday requires internet service providers (ISPs) and telecoms companies in the EU to store records for 12 months. Affected companies have been resisting this initiative, which does not include the content of e-mails or a recording of a net phone call, but is used to determine connections between individuals. According to the Guardian, data from phone calls and text messages will be stored and made available to government authorities.

Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, is quoted on the BBC saying, "the EU passed it by saying it was a commercial matter rather than a police matter." The introduction of these powers were not debated in either house in the UK, says the Guardian. The Home Office has defended the Directive, saying that it would help "protect public safety and national security." According to the BBC, Sweden has decided to ignore the Directive completely, while there is at present a challenge going through the German courts.
BBC Guardian: Porter Open Europe

UK hesitant on plans for EU financial supervision
At an informal meeting of EU Finance Ministers over the weekend, the UK expressed reservations about the proposals for European financial supervision contained in the de Larosière report, according to European Voice. UK Treasury Minister Lord Myners is quoted saying, "We think the ECB has an important role to play in strengthening and enhancing supervision, but the precise role is yet to be determined." The Commission is expected to present proposals in May for a new system of financial supervision, which will include committees with legally binding powers over the banking, insurance and securities industries.
European Voice FT: Letters

Obama reiterates support for Turkish membership of the EU
The Telegraph reports that President Barack Obama has repeated his support for Turkish accession to the EU, while speaking in Ankara. The paper notes that in response to French President Nicolas Sarkozy's public reprimand for interfering in EU affairs, President Obama reiterated that he "strongly supports" Turkey joining the EU.

The IHT quotes him saying, "Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports Turkey's bid to become a member of the European Union." He added, "We speak not as members of the E.U., but as close friends of both Turkey and Europe." El País reports that Obama has asked the Turkish government to accelerate liberalising reforms which would enable Turkey to meet the EU entry requirements.

On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer implies that Barack Obama's statement in support of Turkish membership of the EU is the equivalent of Angela Merkel, as "The newly elected President of the EU" declaring to Mexico's Parliament: "Let me be clear: the European Union firmly supports Mexico's candidacy to the United States."

Meanwhile, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Oli Rehn, notes that recent disagreement over the appointment of Rasmussen to the top position in NATO may signify that Turkey does not fit well with Europe. He said, "This does no good from a European perspective, as freedom of expression is such a fundamental value in Europe, just as Turkey is aspiring to become a member of the European Union...this will without doubt raise questions from member-states and their citizens regarding the manner in which Turkey has adopted key European values."

Writing in the Times, Mark Almond argues that the EU is no longer the "only game in town" and that "officially, all Turkish parties still support EU entry, but in practice alternatives are under consideration - they are courting new customers in a crescent from Russia to the Gulf."

A leader in the Times notes that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy's cool reaction to Obama's pitch for Turkish accession "panders to the scarcely camouflaged racism of voters who, faced with the prospect of Turkish EU membership, cleave with sudden tenacity to a homo-generous "Christian" identity that the continent has in fact been shedding since the Enlightenment."
Irish Times FT Telegraph Telegraph2 European Voice Le Figaro Times: Almond Times: Leader Guardian: Leader International Herald Tribune The Independent Telegraph: Leader El País Coulisses de Bruxelles Coulisses de Bruxelles2

Poll shows new Conservative group in EP could be fourth largestA poll by public affairs firm Burson-Marsteller predicting the results of the elections for the European Parliament (in which the number of MEPs will fall from 785 to 736) has found that the European People's Party will still be the largest group, obtaining 249 seats (falling from 37% to 34% of MEPs). The socialists are estimated to win 209 seats (up from 27% to 28%) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) will secure approximately 87 seats (down from 13 to 11 %). The firm notes that a new European Conservative group, composed of the British Conservatives and their allies, may be the fourth largest group with about 56 seats (8 %). A breakdown for the UK shows that the Conservatives would keep all their seats, with Labour winning 3, the Lib Dems winning 1 and UKIP losing 8. The prediction will be updated each week until the elections on 4-7 June.Predict09 Poll Breakdown by country

ECB rejects IMF calls for expedited Euro entry
The FT reports that the ECB has rejected a proposal from the IMF for eastern European states to adopt the Euro without joining the Eurozone. EUobserver quotes ECB council member Ewald Nowotny saying, "This [IMF proposal] is not realistic...From an economic point of view, it would not be a good signal [for] the confidence . . . towards the euro".

Officials and commentators in the EU's new member states seemed divided, and reportedly thought that the idea might be suitable for smaller countries with fixed exchange rates, such as the Baltic States, but not for states with floating exchange rates, such as Poland and the Czech Republic. However, Jean-Claude Juncker says there are no short cuts for euro adoption. The ECB insisted that membership has rules, and these rules must be followed.
FT EurActiv EUobserver Eurointelligence FT

Jan Fischer to head up EU for the remainder of Czech presidency
El Mundo reports that the Council of the European Union will be in the hands of a relatively unknown Czech civil servant Jan Fischer from 9 May, provided President Vaclav Klaus approves. The article highlights that while outgoing Premier Topolánek has ensured temporary stability for his country, he has not considered how the EU Presidency will be affected. It reports that EU ministers may "have difficulties negotiating with staff who are unprepared to assume their rotational presidential responsibilities".

In the Irish Times, Daniel McLaughlin reports that Fischer has secured the support of the main political parties and Klaus has indicated his approval, saying "In principle I am satisfied with this agreement. I think he [Fischer] is a considerate man, who never had any radical political orientation."
El Mundo Irish Times

New data shows a reduction in EU emissions
EurActiv reports that preliminary data on emissions released by the European Commission on April 1 shows the EU to have achieved its carbon reduction targets for the first time. Recorded emissions for 2008 fell by about 6 percent relative to 2007. Germany had by far the largest discrepancy between verified emissions and allocated allowances, followed by the UK and Italy.

Deutsche Bank estimates suggest that the amount of emissions allowances used last year put the EU on track to reduce CO2 emissions by 20 percent by 2020. However, the article notes that the market expects the economic downturn to drive further reductions in demand for emission allowances in 2009, dragging down carbon prices and reducing the efficacy with which the program deters emissions.

Almunia: EU states should consolidate IMF representation
Reuters reports that, in a speech yesterday, EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said, "I consider it crucial for the European Union to consolidate its voice in the global institutions, most importantly in the IMF...Despite our global currency and single monetary and exchange rate policy, the euro area has limited capacity to convey an assertive message on questions which directly impact our economy".

He went on to say, "The argument for a single consolidated euro-area chair is quite obvious. Yet, member states concerned jealously guard their seats", according to EUobserver. A spokesperson for the German Finance Ministry said that Germany was "open for discussion" on the idea of a single seat at the IMF.
EU Referendum blog European Voice Reuters EUobserver

EU members hesitate to take Guantanamo prisoners amidst worries about security threats to the EU
The IHT reports EU countries, who had been arguing vigorously for the closure of the Guantanamo prison, are now turning their backs on the American request. La Razón reports that the US Government has still not confirmed how many Guantanamo prisoners EU member states are expected to accept. So far, nine EU member states (Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Finland, Ireland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have said they are willing to accept prisoners.
La Razón

Euronews quoted Open Europe yesterday in a discussion piece on excessive pensions for EU Commissioners.
No link

In an interview with Euractiv, the President of the EUDemocrats Sören Wibe explains his party's proposals for the European elections.

In the WSJ, Borut Grgic writes that the political situation in Bosnia is still a major hurdle to stability in the Balkans. He notes that, "It doesn't help that the signals from Europe point to a stall in enlargement."
WSJ: Grgic

Writing in the Times, David Wighton argues that despite the recognition by G20 leaders that dealing with banks' so-called 'toxic assets' is vital for the global recovery, very little was said about it in the official communiqué. He adds, "Now that Mr Sarkozy and Ms Merkel have their crackdown on tax havens, perhaps they can show some leadership on more urgent problems."
Times: Wighton

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