Monday, May 18, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 18 May 2009


Highest paid MEPs have the worst attendance at European Parliament
Saturday's Times reported that the worst attendance record at the European Parliament has gone to the highest-paid MEPs - the Italians. Italian MEPs currently earn €134,291 (£120,000) a year but came bottom of the 27 EU nations for turning up in Brussels and Strasbourg, appearing at 72 percent of sittings over the past five years. British MEPs had an 86 percent attendance record, 17th out of 27 over the course of the 2004-2009 European Parliament, according to the analysis by

According to the article, under a new system, coming into effect after June's elections, all MEPs will be paid the same rate of €88,952 a year, rather than the same rate as individual countries' domestic MPs. It means a pay rise for British MEPs, who are currently on €71,500, and a massive rise for Bulgarians, who earn €9,200 a year.

The News of the World reported that UKIP MEP John Whittaker receives a £64,766 a year salary but only goes to Brussels once a month because he "doesn't believe in the EU". Whittaker claimed he was saving the taxpayer money because he only receives his salary and not his daily attendance allowance.

The Sun notes that Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague is insisting that newly elected Conservative MEPs will have to sign a pledge to reveal precisely how they spend their taxpayer funded allowances and expenses. Conservative MEP candidates will be told to publish expenses claims online, update them every three months and publish online details of all meetings with pressure groups.

The Times reports that from the next parliamentary session, MEPs will be unable to employ close family members, with all Brussels-based assistants to be paid direct from the authorities. Saturday's Irish Times noted that the impetus for the change was given a boost when internal auditors discovered some MEPs were paid for non-existent staff, had not made social security payments to staff, and in one case paid a staff member a Christmas bonus worth 19 times their monthly salary. In the next parliament all MEPs will have to provide receipts for all travel, although they will continue to receive flat rate subsistence and general expenditure allowances and will not have to provide receipts for claims.

The Irish Sunday Business Post cited Open Europe's recent briefing on the European Parliament when looking at the voting record of Conservative MEPs in the European People's Party. It also quotes the briefing saying, "The European Parliament has substantial powers to influence daily life in Britain and takes decisions affecting everything, from working time to energy and internet use . . . the often repeated claim that MEPs 'lack real powers' is largely inaccurate."
Sunday Business Post Open Europe briefing Times Irish Times Times 2 Sun

French European Affairs Minister: "enlargement is behind us: we finished enlargement with the Balkans"
Le Monde reports that French European Affairs Minister Bruno le Maire wants a public debate, "proposal by proposal", particularly on the Lisbon Treaty, European borders and European industrial policy so that parties clearly state where they stand on each issue.
Le Maire also argues that "enlargement is behind us: we finished enlargement with the Balkans" and if "we want a strong Europe, it is necessary to stop enlargement".
Le Monde Le Monde 2

The seminar organised last week by Open Europe in Southern Sweden received coverage in Swedish daily Kristianstadsbladet. Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally was also interviewed by Swedish Radio.

Marshall: Proposed EU directive on hedge funds "makes a mockery of subsidiarity"
Writing in the FT, Paul Marshall, Chairman of Hedge Fund Managers Marshall Wace, argues that "If opponents of the European Union are looking for evidence of political meddling and overreach, they could hardly find a better example than the new draft directive on alternative investment fund management."

He also writes that the proposed directive "makes a mockery of any notion of subsidiarity" and argues that it has a "strong protectionist element, since it would prevent fund managers in third countries - such as the US - from accessing the European market unless those countries adopted "equivalent" regulation... All it does is enhance the suspicions held by some in the UK that it is highly risky to engage with the continental Europeans on matters of crucial British interest."
FT: Marshall

Sweden to push for financial supervision in EU Presidency
In an article in the FTD Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg says that his country wants to advance cross-border financial supervision in the EU during the Swedish EU Presidency. Borg is quoted saying "The Heads of State and Government have to assume political leadership in the June Summit and demand a quick common solution to banking supervision in Europe".

Labour neck and neck with UKIP in European election polls;
Two in five to shun the major parties
The Mail on Sunday reported that Labour's predicted share of the vote in the June 4 elections has fallen to just 17 percent - neck and neck with the UK Independence Party (UKIP). The Conservatives were also down six points but continue to lead with 30 percent of the vote. The BPIX poll had the Liberal Democrats in fourth with 15 percent.

The Independent on Sunday reported that the recent MPs' expenses scandal is causing the public to spurn the major parties. A ComRes poll shows that two in five say they will refuse to vote or select one of the minor parties, such as the Greens or UKIP, rather than support the Conservatives, Labour or the Lib Dems.

Saturday's Telegraph noted that fears are growing that the BNP will be at the centre of a wave of victories in next month's elections that would give nationalist parties a firm foothold in Europe and a new political grouping in the European Parliament, giving them access to £1 million a year in public funding.

A leader in the Sun calls for an early general election arguing that "In a year's time, the EU will have signed and sealed the wretched Constitution. A general election is your last chance to stop it. Eight out of 10 voters want a referendum. Labour promised one and then betrayed us."
Mail on Sunday Sun: Leader Independent on Sunday Times Telegraph Le Monde

Pottering criticises Conservatives' decision to leave EPP;
Cohen: Cameron's 'indecision' on Europe could produce a crisis
The Observer reported that EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering has criticised the Conservatives' decision to leave the EPP grouping in the European Parliament, and said it would be a "tragedy" for Britain and Europe which would leave a Conservative government with no influence in the EU.

Writing in the Observer, columnist Nick Cohen argued that Conservative MEPs will be "isolated" in the European Parliament, and "will make the journey from influence to irrelevance overnight." He also argued that "Britain has three coherent European policies: to leave (Ukip); to go further in (the Liberal Democrats); and to co-operate but remain aloof from full integration (the Major, Blair and Brown administrations). Cameron lacks the courage to choose any of the above and his indecision will produce a crisis."

Writing in the Sunday Express Stuart Wheeler explained his recent donation to UKIP and criticised the Conservatives' reluctance to spell out their policy on the EU. He urged David Cameron and William Hague to promise a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty: "So David and William, the right policy on Europe is to give a cast iron guarantee - no wriggle room - that an incoming Conservative Party will have a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, irrespective of whether it is already law".
Observer Observer: Cohen

Polish website Kurier cites Open Europe's research on the cost of EU regulation to Poland.
Kurier Open Europe research

Topolanek: "The Lisbon Treaty is bad and we know it";
New poll shows support for Lisbon Treaty at 52% in Ireland
On his BBC blog, Mark Mardell asks former Czech PM Mirek Topolanek what he really thinks of the Lisbon Treaty, and Topolanek says "This treaty is bad and we know it. We supported the treaty among other things because we were a party in government and because we signed it and because we agreed on a compromise at the level of the European Council...If we hadn't signed the Lisbon Treaty and had been pushed to the sidelines of the European Union we would have had no chance of promoting our national interests. That's the main reason. It was the lesser of two evils."

Meanwhile, a new Irish Times /TNS mrbi poll has found that 52 percent of people in Ireland would now vote Yes in a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, while 29 percent say they would vote No, and 19 percent of people said they did not know how they would vote.
BBC: Mardell blog Irish Times Irish Times 2 HLN EU Observer

Lithuania elects EU Commissioner as first female President
El Mundo reports that EU Budget Commissioner Dalia Grybauskaite has won the first round of the Lithuanian Presidential elections and will officially become Lithuania's first female President on 12 July. Grybauskaite, who ran as an independent, won 68.17 percent of the votes, with turnout at 51.7 percent, just above the threshold to ensure that the elections didn't progress to a second round.
BBC EurActiv IHT El Mundo Le Monde Le Figaro

New ETS data shows 3.06% emissions drop last year
New data on the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) was released on Friday and factories covered by the ETS saw their emissions drop by 3.06 percent last year, according to the European Commission, reports EurActiv. The second phase of the ETS was launched last year, which will see the number of allowances cut by 6.5 percent. Barbara Helfferich, the Commission's Environment Spokeswoman, said it was not possible to know exactly what proportion of the 3 percent cut was due to the ETS.

"Ghost MEPs" to be elected before a position exists for them in the EP
Austrian TV ORF reports on its website that 18 "ghost MEPs" will be elected in the upcoming elections, as the Treaty of Nice foresees the number of MEPs dropping from 785 to 736, but the Treaty of Lisbon would provide for this number to rise again by 18 MEPs, bringing the total to 754. Richard Corbett MEP is cited as a source, having been working on a report on the changes, which concludes that the 18 "ghost MEPs" could obtain "observer status" from the summer onwards, in order to become full MEPs in 2011. This is because the 18 would only be able to become MEPs if a ratified Lisbon Treaty is modified through protocols. The protocols for Lisbon to enter into force would have to coincide with Croatia and/or Iceland's accession treaty, and this will be 2011 at the earliest.
No link

Ganley: We don't know if there is corruption in Brussels because there is no transparency
In an interview with El Mundo Libertas leader Declan Ganley argues that the EU is flawed because "we have no idea about its institutions. We can't know if there is corruption or not because there is no transparency". When asked for his opinion on the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Ganley asked, "Why do the Irish need to be consulted twice on the same issue when all other Europeans haven't even been asked once?"
A new poll for Saturday's Irish Times suggests Declan Ganley is currently polling at 9%, and would need to double this to have a chance of winning a seat in the European Parliament elections.Irish Times El Mundo

Germany will disclose the beneficiaries of agricultural subsidies in mid-June
Die Zeit reports that Germany plans to disclose the beneficiaries of CAP subsidies by mid-June, after the European elections. The Commission has already threatened Germany with an infringement procedure for being the only EU country not to publish their beneficiaries by 30 April.

£14 billion EU immigration project subject to one audit in 14 years
The Sunday Express reported that £14 billion has been spent on the EU's Barcelona Process project to combat illegal immigration from north Africa to southern European member states. The paper reported that the EU has never published a detailed breakdown of spending on the venture, and produced just one high-level audit of the project's total spending in 14 years. The paper also reported that EU leaders are set to sanction another £550million project in eastern Europe.

El País reports that Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has requested a summit on immigration for European leaders. He has also demanded that a European coastal guard be established to monitor Mediterranean coasts. According to the paper, the patrols would decide how many immigrants on board actually have the right to political asylum and the rest would be rejected.
Sunday Express El País

Kaletsky: The credit crunch has been a greater disaster for Germany and Europe than Britain
Writing in the Times, Anatole Kaletsky looks at new economic figures released last week by the European Commission and argues that "What these statistics confirmed is that the credit crunch has been a far greater disaster for Germany and most of continental Europe than for the US and Britain." He also goes on to say that, "In the past few months, however, the single currency has changed from a stabilising factor into a new source of vulnerability for members of the eurozone".
Times: Kaletsky

Philip Booth, Editorial and Programme Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, wrote in the Sunday Times that a new report from the IEA argues that regulatory bodies have not just failed to stop financial markets going wrong, they have also worsened the problem, and that the proposals by the G20 governments, the FSA and the EU that involve extending regulation further are misconceived.
Sunday Times: Booth

Writing in the FT, Wolfgang Münchau argues that Germany's bad bank plan will not work in the way it has been proposed because it is a "giant accounting trick".
FT: Munchau

German Bundesbank President: "no more monetary and budgetary expansion in middle and long term"
In an interview with the FTD, Bundesbank President Axel Weber has rejected speculation on further ECB measures that would go beyond buying €60 billion in covered bonds, instead saying that "in the middle and long term the goal should be to take a U-turn away from expansive monetary and budgetary politics."
FTD Eurointelligence

The Irish Labour Party's Dublin MEP Proinsias de Rossa has accused Libertas of being a "fascist party" in response to their new immigration plan, which calls for the adoption of a "blue card" throughout the European Union that would allow a citizen of the EU to live in another member state for up to two years as a guest worker, as long as they were not a burden on the receiving state.
Irish Times
A piece in Saturday's Mail profiling Europe Minister Caroline Flint mentioned the fact that she has admitted to not reading the Lisbon Treaty.No link
An article in the Weekend FT looked at France's new Hadopi internet piracy law and noted that the bill was rewritten in recent weeks to try and avoid conflicts with EU law contained in the EU's telecoms package.Weekend FT
Saturday's Irish Times reported that former Polish President Lech Walesa is expected to address a Libertas European election event in Ireland in the coming days.Irish Times
EU foreign ministers are expected to call for an independent inquiry into alleged war crimes by Tamil Tiger rebels and Sri Lanka's government.

The British Chamber of Commerce is calling for a moratorium on any new employment law from Europe to give companies the "freedom" to focus on survival during the global recession, according to PA.
No link

Austrian daily Die Presse reports on the "Brussels virus", explaining how politicians stop criticising the EU once elected in the EP and cites British MEPs Christopher Beazley and Caroline Jackson. Die Presse

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