Monday, May 11, 2009

Open Europe press summary


Merkel: "We refuse to stretch out our hand to those who oppose the Lisbon Treaty"
At a CDU campaign meeting in Berlin for the June European elections, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that, "We refuse to stretch out our hand to those who oppose the Lisbon Treaty...that allows the entry of new members [in the EU], but who at the same time talk about enlargement...Those who want more [Europe] must cooperate."

EUobserver notes that "Merkel did not specify to whom her comments were addressed, but they were largely understood as targeting the British Conservatives and their leader, David Cameron." The meeting was also attended by French president Nicolas Sarkozy, marking the first time a French politician has campaigned in Germany ahead of an election, with Merkel expected to pay a return visit to France before the end of the month.

EUobserver quotes Sarkozy saying, "Angela Merkel is right...With Angela Merkel we want a Europe with institutions worthy of the name. Europe cannot keep changing presidents every six months [and] agreeing on the minimum, while the world expects it to agree on the maximum." Merkel and Sarkozy also repeated their opposition to further EU enlargement, in particular to Turkey. "We cannot take in everyone in Europe as a full member," said Merkel.

Le Monde notes that Paris and Berlin are concerned by the "increasingly eurosceptic tone" of the Conservatives and their decision to leave the European People's Party grouping in the European Parliament.

Open Europe's Mats Persson is quoted in the American Spectator in an article looking at the future of the Lisbon Treaty. He said, "Ever since the Irish voted No to the Lisbon Treaty in June, politicians in Ireland and across Europe have tried to find ways to force this unwanted document through - against the clear will of the people."
EUobserver Le Figaro Deutsche Welle Le Monde Le Monde 2 American Spectator: Bandow

YouGov/Sunday Times poll predicts Labour to get barely more than a fifth of the vote in European elections;
Centre right parties lead polls in Europe's five largest countries
A new BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday has found that support for the Labour Party has fallen to the lowest level since opinion polls began in 1943. Labour is supported by just 23 percent of voters, 22 points behind the Conservatives' figure of 45 percent. The Lib Dems were on 17 percent.

Analysis from election experts Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher for the Sunday Times has predicted that Labour is heading for third place in next month's local elections. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has also put the Conservatives on 43 percent, up two points on last month, with Labour down seven on 27 percent and the Liberal Democrats up two on 18 percent. It also predicted Labour will get barely more than a fifth of the vote in European parliament elections, also to be held on June 4.

Writing in the Times, William Rees-Mogg notes that "If Labour should fall into third place in the local elections, and, conceivably, in the European elections as well, it is likely that there will be a challenge to the Prime Minister. Parties do not like a loser." A leader in the paper argues that the mainstream UK political parties must do more to make the case for voting in the European elections to counter the threat of the British National Party.

Meanwhile, Conservative Home notes that, according to a ComRes survey of public opinion ahead of the European elections, left wing parties trail their centre right opponents in Europe's five largest nations.

The Irish Times reports that the campaign for next month's European elections is gathering pace in Ireland as the closing date for the nomination of candidates closes today. The paper reports that Libertas leader Declan Ganley hopes his party will secure 100 seats in the European Parliament. He confirmed he will step down as Libertas leader if his personal election bid is unsuccessful. "That is democracy. I can take No for an answer, unlike other people."

FAZ and Welt both report that the Bavarian CSU party is worried that it might not reach the 5% threshold needed in Germany to elect its MEPs.
Mail on Sunday Sunday Times Times: Leader Times: Rees-Mogg Irish Times Irish Times 2 BBC Conservative Home ComRes briefing Welt FAZ

Hedge funds consider relocation in face of EU regulation
The Sunday Times reported that hedge fund manager Crispin Odey has threatened to move his firm out of Britain due to the EU's proposed directive to regulate hedge funds and the Government's new tax rate on high earners. The paper quoted him saying, "We no longer have any defence against the French and the Germans [who played a heavy hand in drafting the EU directive]. There is a great sense that the City is much less prized than it was."

The paper also reported that Kinetic Partners, which specialises in moving hedge funds to Switzerland, has been inundated with enquiries since the recent EU directive was proposed. Kinetic's David Butler said he was advising 15 hedge funds that are actively considering leaving. Charles Price, founder of hedge fund business Palmer Capital, also admitted that he was weighing up his options, saying firms have no choice but to consider moving given the lack of clarity about the regulatory environment.
Sunday Times

British family arrested on suspicion of £1m EU regional funds scam
The front page of Saturday's Newcastle Journal reported that five members of a family in Durham have been charged with offences relating to a massive scam involving nearly £1m of European grants. They are accused of defrauding the European Social Fund out of money handed out to help disadvantaged people in the region to find work.

Money had been paid from the European Social Fund (ESF) and the European Regional Development Fund through the UK Government to companies based in County Durham, which was supposed to pass on the money through various initiatives and training courses. However it is believed the money was used by the family to buy land, houses, a vehicle and to finance building work, while large amounts of cash were also transferred abroad. Two companies connected to the family were paid a total of £986,031 in grants from the ESF.
Newcastle Journal Open Europe research

France leads opposition to European Commission proposals for less bureaucracy for small companies
Wirtschaftswoche reports that France is obstructing plans for deregulation drawn up by the European Commission's High Level Group on regulation, headed by Edmund Stoiber. The group calculated that a plan to reduce obligations for small and medium sized companies to publish information regarding their activities would save around €6 billion in administration costs. The article notes that the Commission presented a legislative proposal based on Stoiber's recommendations.

However, the paper reports that France along with Italy, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and Greece oppose the proposal because less bureaucracy for small companies would increase the work load for their tax authorities. Reportedly, these member states want to block the proposal in the Council and, in the European Parliament, French MEPs are trying to establish opposition.

Meanwhile, an article in FAZ notes that half of the administrative cost of regulation derives from the EU.
Wiwo Open Europe research

European Commissioner Neelie Kroes: "EU has no more bureaucrats than average town in the Netherlands"
European Commissioner Neelie Kroes has responded to criticism over the number of EU civil servants, claiming that the EU has no more bureaucrats than an "average town in the Netherlands". De Pers quotes Dennis de Jong, leading MEP candidate for the Dutch Socialist Party refuting the claim, saying Neelie Kroes "is engaging in propaganda". He cited Open Europe's research which found that the EU employs 170,000 people.
Wereldomroep De Pers Open Europe research

French Minister: "European Parliament is at least as important national parliament"
On the Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer asks what percentage of national law originates in the EU. It notes that French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said 60% and argued that the "European Parliament is at least as important as the national Parliament". Similarly the French Ministry of Justice states "the proportion of European legislation in French legislation comprises between 60-70% of new laws".

In an article looking at the European elections, the BBC quotes Swedish MEP Gunner Hokmark saying, "I tell people at home that the European Parliament is one of the two Swedish Parliaments - and that goes for every country in the Union. There are decisions that can't be taken in Stockholm or in Edinburgh, but have to be taken together".
Coulisses de Bruxelles BBC Open Europe research Open Europe blog

Brown's no-show at EU eastern partnership summit angers Czechs
On his FT Brussels blog Tony Barber notes that Gordon Brown's failure to attend the Prague Summit between the EU and Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan has angered the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic hosted the summit as part of its EU Presidency. Barber notes that, "In private, one embittered minister in [Czech PM] Topolanek's outgoing government used truly unprintable language to condemn Brown."

In the WSJ, Borut Grgic describes the summit as a "flop", writing that the resulting eastern partnership declaration "is just seven pages of ramble".
FT: Brussels blog WSJ: Grgic

Speculation mounts over key Commission posts
Le Monde reports that member states will have to choose between prestige and power when negotiations begin over the appointment of the new European Commission following the European elections. According to the article, prestige is securing the post of High Representative for foreign policy while power is the role of Internal Market Commissioner, which is coveted by both France and Germany.

Michel Barnier is the French favourite for Internal Market Commissioner, but Christine Lagarde is also a possibility. According to Le Monde Lagarde has the advantage of being female, the current Finance Minister, speaking perfect English and understanding the City of London.
Le Monde Coulisses de Bruxelles

EU and Turkey reach gas pipeline deal;
Crucial supply countries refuse to sign
The Irish Times reports that the EU and Turkey have struck a gas pipeline deal. According to the newspaper, the agreement reached at a summit in Prague, and to be signed in Ankara on June 25th, represents a major boost to the EU's Nabucco pipeline project, which is intended to transport natural gas to Europe from central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East, and is seen as the key to breaking the Kremlin's stranglehold over Europe's gas imports. According to EUobserver, Turkey linked the negotiations to the EU's opening of the energy chapter in Turkey's EU accession negotiations.
However, the German daily, Tagesspiegel, notes that the Nabucco project has suffered a significant "setback", as gas delivering countries Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have refused to sign the concluding declaration of the summit.
Irish Times EU Observer Tagesspiegel Euractiv European Voice European Voice: Grgic ARD Guardian BBC

Münchau: "Like a fish, Europe is rotting from the head"
In the FT, Wolfgang Münchau argues that the European Commission has "failed abysmally" in response to the economic crisis. In the article he describes Jose Barroso as "among the weakest Commission presidents ever", adding that "Europe's top jobs are not awarded on the basis of electoral success, but on whether you fit into an opaque political matrix."
FT: Munchau

German CDU leader calls for Europe to be brought closer to citizens
In a comment piece in FAZ, Volker Kauder, Head of the CDU/CSU group in the German Bundestag, argues that the shift of competences to Brussels as well as further enlargement of the Union have made citizens concerned. He writes that in order to re-establish Europe's citizens' trust in the EU, a period of 'consolidation' should take place, in which Europe is brought back closer to citizens, and tasks within the Union are divided according to citizens' needs.
No link

Lib Dems to attack Conservatives' policies on policing in Europe
The Liberal Democrats are to put the Conservatives policy on Europe at the heart of their election campaign, reported the Independent on Sunday. Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg is reportedly going to claim this week that the Conservatives' plans to withdraw from European cross-border policing agencies threatens to turn Britain into a "safe-house for criminals". This follows comments by Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, who has said that the UK should not be a member of Eurojust, the body that helps to co-ordinate prosecutions across Europe.
Independent on Sunday

Luxembourg PM calls tax haven list "unacceptable"
Le Figaro reports that in an interview with Der Spiegel, Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker said that he is offended that Luxembourg is on the grey list of tax havens compiled by the OECD. Juncker said, "I consider this scandalous. I am disappointed that my European colleagues, in London, have not kept the promise they made in Brussels...It is unacceptable".
Le Figaro

In the Sunday Telegraph, Christopher Booker reported that the EU's former Chief Accountant, Marta Andreasen, is to publish a book, entitled Brussels Laid Bare, detailing her attempts to clean up the EU's accounts.
Sunday Telegraph: Booker EU Referendum blog

Saturday's Mail reported that from September, the EU is banning every type of opaque 'incandescent' or frosted lightbulb, as well as clear 100 watt bulbs, with the rest of the clear bulbs being phased out from September 2010. Instead, consumers will have to buy low energy compact fluorescent lamps or low energy halogen bulbs.
Kronen Zeitung

The Observer reported that two giant satellites, Herschel and Planck, are to be launched by the European Space Agency on Thursday and at £2bn, are to be the single most valuable science mission in the history of European space activity.

Iceland's new government announced yesterday that it would soon press parliament to vote on whether the country should apply for European Union membership.
AFP BBC EUobserver Coulisses de Bruxelles Le Monde

Czech President Vaclav Klaus has confirmed Jan Fischer as the new Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. Fischer will run a caretaker government until elections in October.
European Voice

Le Figaro reports that faced with increasing unemployment, Switzerland is considering temporary limits on immigration for job seekers from the EU.
No link

Euractiv reports that has criticised the highly-fragmented nature of the information provided by governments on recipients of EU farming subsidies, saying that it actively defies the principles of open government and transparency.

The FT reports that the UK could face a bill of more than £2bn if it cancels its latest order of Eurofighter Typhoon jets - a project in conjunction with Germany, Italy and Spain.

EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy has criticised the Netherlands for protectionism over its treatment of foreign internet gaming companies.
Sunday Telegraph

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