Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 19 May 2009


Ireland asked to set date for second Lisbon Treaty referendum
The Irish Times reports that the Irish government has been asked by other EU member states to set a date for the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty at next month's EU leaders' summit in Brussels. The call from Czech Europe Minister Stefan Fule followed a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels yesterday where member states discussed how to draw up 'legal guarantees' to try and persuade Irish voters to vote Yes in the second referendum.

EUobserver notes that the government is currently working with the Czech EU Presidency on three 'guarantees' that the Lisbon Treaty will not affect Irish sovereignty in tax, defence and ethical issues. There will also be a further declaration on workers' rights, but this will not be legally binding. Last year member states also agreed that Ireland could keep its EU commissioner in return for a second referendum.

The Irish Independent reports that Irish European Affairs Minister Dick Roche has ruled out any debate on a possible date for a referendum re-run until Ireland signs off its 'guarantees'. Roche said the guarantees must be legally robust, but they would be Irish-specific and not require other states to re-ratify the Treaty: "Our guarantees are Irish-specific, and are not intended to cause problems for anyone else."

Comment: This is a contradiction. Any changes at all to the Treaty will require re-ratification by other member states in order to make them legally binding.
Irish Independent Irish Times Irish Times 2 EUobserver

Conservatives launch European election campaign
The Conservatives yesterday launched their European election campaign in Lancashire, and all Conservative MEP candidates were asked to sign a pledge, promising to publish details of their expenses online, according to Mark Mardell's BBC blog. The Conservatives also reiterated their support for a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty if it was not yet ratified by all 27 member states when they formed a government.

David Cameron also called for Parliament to be dissolved and a General Election called after the elections on 4 June, reports the Guardian, and urged Conservative candidates to collect signatures demanding an election. Mr Cameron also proposed an end to the European Parliament sessions in Strasbourg, saying: "Heaven knows, one European parliament is more than enough", and said of UKIP, that a third of its 12 MEPs had "disappeared, some to prison [for expenses abuses], some to the furthest reaches of rightwing lunacy". He also cited the description of UKIP by one of its former MEPs, Robert Kilroy-Silk, as a "bunch of nutters", according to the FT.

Writing on Conservative Home, Sally McNamara, Senior Policy Analyst in European Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, argues that "Labour's broken promise to hold a referendum on the European Constitution (later Lisbon Treaty) is undoubtedly a big part of the public's mistrust of this Government...Labour's sheer brazenness over Lisbon has not gone unnoticed and it will not go unpunished."
Conservative Home Conservative Home: McNamara Guardian Telegraph: Hannan blog BBC: Mardell blog FT

Spain wants to re-open Lisbon Treaty negotiations over number of MEPs
El Mundo reports that Spanish Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos has demanded a legal guarantee ensuring that Spain will have 54 MEPs in the European Parliament when the Lisbon Treaty comes into force and that they will not have to wait until the next European elections. Only 50 MEPs will be elected in June, as the Treaty of Nice is currently in force. Moratinos wants these legal guarantees to be approved during the EU summit on the 18-19 June, at the same time that Ireland receives its guarantees prior to going ahead with the second referendum. This reportedly provoked an angry reaction from Ireland which doesn't want to reignite the Lisbon debate as it could favour the 'No' vote.

Czech European Affairs Minister Stefan Füle made it clear that the Lisbon debate would not reopen but said "In the remaining days and weeks before June we will try to find a solution which responds to Spain's concerns and reflects the interests of other parties".
El Mundo

Mahony: Next Commission could see Ireland sidelined for "upsetting the political apple cart over the Lisbon Treaty"
On her blog, EUobserver Editor Honor Mahony looks at ongoing speculation over who will be in the next European Commission, and suggests that Irish pundits fear the country might be in line to get the most powerless portfolio in the next Commission, "as a punishment for its voters upsetting the political apple cart over the Lisbon Treaty."
EUobserver blog

Swedes in favour of a new referendum on the EuroAccording to Dagens Nyheter, a 51 percent majority of Swedes would like a new referendum on the Euro, preferably before 2011. In 2003, Sweden rejected the Euro in a referendum with 56 percent of the electorate voting No.DN GP

Göterborgs-Posten: The Lisbon Treaty will make EU agriculture reform harder
At the launch of their election campaign last week, the Swedish Liberal People's Party's leader Jan Björklund and top candidate Marit Paulsen launched an attack on EU agricultural subsidies, saying "Away with them", and, "free farmers from the claws of politicians". Swedish daily Göterborgs-Posten now writes, "Of course Björklund and Paulsen are right...The problem is that this goes against the Treaty of Lisbon, which doesn't help at all. Either you want to do something about overproduction, protectionism and greenhouse gases, or you don't."

Commissioner Verheugen: "Germany is world champion in risky banking transactions"
Süddeutsche reports that EU Industry Commissioner Günther Verheugen has criticised German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück for rejecting EU plans for stricter bank supervision. Verheugen is quoted by Süddeutsche saying the EU had "proposed very clever requirements to secure the survival of German Federal State banks." Verheugen also said that Germany was "world champion in risky banking transactions. Nowhere in the world, and not in America, were banks more willing to pounce on incalculable risks. [This has now] dramatic consequences for German taxpayers." Handelsblatt also reports that Commission insiders called Steinbrück an "arrogant paint brush".

Süddeutsche reports that the German government rejected Verheugen's comments and said, "[These statements] show a surprising lack of knowledge of the state of affairs and limited understanding" of the banking sector's problems in the US and Britain.
Süddeutsche Süddeutsche 2 FTD

Barroso says his reappointment must respect rules of the Nice Treaty
Le Monde reports that Commission President José Manuel Barroso has ruled out the idea of waiting for the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty for a definitive renewal of his mandate. "We must respect the current treaty. It is not possible to apply a treaty which is not yet in force. We must do everything under the Treaty of Nice, without this contradicting the next Lisbon Treaty," he said.

He added that he is "very proud of the support he has received from different governments and different political groups" and reckons that it is probable that "we have the conditions to pursue our agenda for the future of Europe". However, he also added that he will make his "decision after the elections, considering the support [I have] from member states and the European Parliament".
Le Monde

More than half of Europeans "not interested" in European Parliament elections
A TNS opinion survey for the French Political Innovation Foundation has found that 18 percent of the respondents said they were "not at all interested", while 35 percent said they were "not interested".

The highest number of "not at all interested" people was found in Lithuania and Slovakia (29%), closely followed by the UK where 28% were "not at all interested".

Meanwhile, Le Monde covers an interview with French European Affairs Minister Bruno Le Maire. When asked whether he feared a protest vote in the June elections, Le Maire responded "No because we have proved, with the President of the Republic, that we know how to lead Europe in the right direction". When asked who the UMP's main opposition is, he said "Abstention. If it is high, this means that French representatives elected to Parliament will suffer from reduced legitimacy".
Le Monde Le Monde EUobserver

EU Enlargement Commissioner: "Iceland can join as early as 2011"
The Icelandic parliament will vote on EU accession in the next few weeks. In Helsingin Sanomat, Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, says accession talks could develop rapidly, since Iceland "fulfils criteria for entry already, and is a member of the EEA". The article notes that Rehn's statements have raised discontent in the European Parliament, and EP President Hans-Gert Poettering dismissed the statements, suggesting there could be no further enlargement without ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Libertas adopts conflicting policies on free movement in Ireland and Poland
In the Irish Times, Jamie Smyth writes that Libertas is campaigning for the European elections in Ireland on limits to the freedom of movement for workers, with candidate Caroline Simons saying that limits are needed to "reduce the burden to Ireland of caring for inhabitants of other member states" and proposing making all EU citizens apply for a "blue card" to work in other states.

However, the paper reports that in Poland, the party is campaigning on a platform to remove the remaining EU limits on free movement of workers. Polish newspapers reportedly picked up on Libertas' plan yesterday, with the daily Rzeczpospolita running a front-page story under the headline, "Irish Libertas wants to limit influx of Poles".
Irish Times Irish Times: State of the Union

In a letter to the Independent, Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary Chris Huhne argues that the "Conservatives claim to support European co-operation to fight crime, but have opposed almost every measure to make that possible", and suggests that it is "staggering" that the Conservatives oppose the European Arrest Warrant, Europol and Eurojust.
Independent: Letters

In an interview with France Inter, French Minister for Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner said that "the President [Sarkozy] has a clear position which is that Turkey has no place in the 27 member group. In my opinion it is necessary to continue to develop closer relations". Kouchner adds that he does not agree with the President but that it is the President who ultimately decides.

El Mundo reports that European Defence Ministers and Foreign Ministers have agreed to extend the EU's anti-piracy mission to the Seychelles, as pirates fleeing from North Somalia spread their activities.
El Mundo

The European Commission's Berlaymont headquarters in Brussels remains closed after a fire broke out yesterday, the source of which remains unclear.
EUobserver Guardian European Voice EurActiv EU Referendum blog Guido Fawkes blog Telegraph: Waterfield blog El Mundo Le Figaro DPA Le Figaro BBC

In the WSJ, Natasha Srdoc and Joel Anand Samy write that, despite the EU's positive assessments of Croatia's bid for accession, "Croatia remains wracked by corruption, smuggling and organized crime"
WSJ: Srdoc and Samy

Handelsblatt reports that an internal EU Association Council progress report shows shortcomings in Turkey's reform processes and obstacles to EU accession. The report says, "Substantial efforts" are especially needed with regards to basic rights and freedom of speech, and restrictions for EU imported beef are "totally unacceptable".
No link

An article in the Independent looks at the possibility of extremist parties doing well in the 4 June European elections, and writes that the EP's reputation is "all-too-frequently dogged by scandals over MEP allowances and the extravagant idiosyncrasy of being the only parliament in the world with two houses."

Le Figaro reports that Poland has strongly criticised a video published by the European Commission on the fall of the Berlin wall. Polish Ambassador Jan Tombinski wrote a letter to the Commission arguing the video included "omissions, shortcuts, blatant errors and poor use of video material".
No link

Writing in the Independent, Mary Dejevsky argues that the first "European generation" bears a responsibility for failing to "sell" the European project and its benefits to the public.
Independent: Dejevsky

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