Monday, June 15, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 15 June 2009


"Lord and Lady Expenses" received up to £8 million in EU taxpayers' money over 15 years
The front page of the Sunday Times reported on Open Europe's findings that the new Europe Minister and outgoing MEP Glenys Kinnock, and her husband, the former EU Commissioner Neil Kinnock have received up to £8m of taxpayers' money in pay and allowances from the EU since 1994. The article reported that the couple claimed £6m in staff and salary allowances and would have received a further £1.7m if they had claimed the maximum to which they were entitled in subsistence and travel allowances. The Kinnocks did not dispute the figures when showed them by the paper.

Open Europe also found that during their time in Brussels, both Kinnocks claimed a housing allowance on top of their incomes, even though they lived in the same home, and that this alone would have netted the couple almost £600,000 over 10 years.

The Mail on Sunday reported on Open Europe's findings that Glenys Kinnock can expect £67,835 a year from two pensions as an MEP and Neil Kinnock's pension as a former Commissioner is worth more than £80,000 a year. Tom McPhail, Head of Pensions Research at financial consultants Hargreaves Lansdown, calculated that these pensions would cost an ordinary taxpayer £4.4million to buy in cash. McPhail was quoted as saying "Wow. Not bad for a failed party leader and his wife. But people will find this scale of indulgence on the part of politicians nauseating, especially at a time when British workers are having their pensions cut."

Open Europe's Mats Persson was quoted by the Sunday Times saying, "The Kinnocks are Brussels' very own Lord and Lady Expenses. One has to question whether Lady Kinnock is a suitable minister for Europe. How can she distinguish between the interests of Britain and the interests of the institutions that she and her family have relied upon for their income for so long?" Mats also appeared on LBC Radio this morning, discussing the findings.

The findings were also reported in the Sunday Express, the News of the World, in today's Telegraph, the Sun, Mail, Express, United Press International, Wales Online and the Western Mail.
Sunday Times Sunday Times: Leader Sunday Express Mail on Sunday Wales Online Telegraph Sun United Press International Mail: Leader Mail Mail 2 Express

British officials concerned House of Commons will have to re-ratify Lisbon if Ireland gets 'substantial' concessions;
EU official: Gordon Brown will "look pretty stupid" if Ireland gets a better deal than Britain
Saturday's Telegraph reported that the House of Commons may be required to approve the Lisbon Treaty for a second time if the EU grants Ireland substantial concessions in an attempt to persuade its voters to back it in a referendum later this year.

The Irish government is seeking legally binding "protocols" to the Treaty to show voters it has won substantial changes since the rejection last June. But legally-binding opt-outs would have to be ratified by a separate parliamentary vote in Britain, either straight away or when Croatia joins the EU next year.
In both scenarios, British ministers are concerned that concessions given to the Irish because of a referendum rejection might reignite demands for Britain to get a better deal.

EU officials and diplomats are now said to be tying themselves in knots in an attempt to deliver a "safe package" that will not require another Commons vote. According to the paper, the British concerns forced the cancellation of a key meeting of EU ambassadors on Thursday and frantic rewriting of legal texts.

A senior British source is quoted saying: "We must avoid a situation where guarantees to Ireland use language or words that could open up the Treaty in the House of Commons." An EU official is quoted saying, "If Ireland which held a referendum gets a better deal than Britain it makes Gordon Brown look pretty stupid after he went the distance to avoid a referendum."

According to an EU official quoted by AFP, "it's not just the British government that has concerns." Reportedly, some countries are now suggesting that the Irish guarantees could be included in a simple "declaration" in the name of all 27 EU nations. Another diplomat evoked the possibility of a text similar to the 1992 Edinburgh Agreement which offered Denmark policy opt-outs and thus allowed it to adopt the Maastricht Treaty after an initial "no" vote. The Irish Times reports that European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom has expressed confidence in solving the issue, saying: "I'm sure it will be resolved - we have to achieve two things - give the Irish the guarantees and the texts that they need and at the same time not reopen the treaty for reratification in other member states."Telegraph Euractiv Irish Times AFP

Ken Clarke: Conservatives will not reopen Lisbon Treaty negotiations if Ireland votes 'Yes' in second referendum
The FT reports that Ken Clarke, the Shadow Business Secretary, has admitted that a Conservative government would not try to renegotiate the EU's Lisbon Treaty if it were ratified in Ireland's second referendum, expected this autumn. Mr Clarke told the BBC's Politics Show: "If the Irish referendum endorses the treaty and ratification comes into effect, then our settled policy is quite clear that the treaty will not be reopened."

Conservative leader David Cameron has promised a referendum if the Treaty is not in force by the time the Conservatives come to power and said that if the Treaty is ratified by all EU member states he would "not let matters rest". When asked to clarify the latter comments, Clarke said that "It has also been said by David Cameron - and he means it - that it will not rest there, and he will want to start discussions on divisions of competence between national states and the centre of the EU."

Clarke added that a Conservative government would seek negotiations with the EU "about the return of some responsibilities, particularly in employment law to individual nation states. These will be sensible negotiations, and I actually don't think that the British will be alone. I think there are some other member states who think it is perfectly legitimate to start considering whether or not something like the opt-out to the old social chapter might not be reconsidered."

On the programme, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan argued for the UK's relationship with the EU to be scaled back to an agreement based on the EU's 'four freedoms' of the free movement of, goods, people, services and capital but without political union.

Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally also appeared on the show to discuss the future of the Lisbon Treaty.
Sunday Telegraph: Booker FT Guardian EU Referendum blog BBC Sun Express Mirror Politics Show Mail Express: Leader Spectator: Coffee House blog

City Minister vows to fight "tooth and nail" over controversial EU hedge funds directive;
City Minister Lord Myners has sought to play down fears over the level of the UK Government's commitment to fighting a new EU proposal for tougher restrictions on hedge funds, amid industry concerns that the draft proposal poses a big threat to the competitiveness of the UK's financial sector and could lead hedge funds to leave the City, the Sunday Times reported. The Commission's proposal includes provisions for regulators to mandate the amount of leverage hedge funds are permitted, which is particularly damaging since most trading strategies depend on leverage. The proposal also wants to restrict hedge-fund managers' partners, such as prime brokers, to the same tax jurisdiction which will stop many investors coming to London, as most of them are registered off-shore.

Myners said, "We think there is a job of work to be done here and we will fight tooth and nail to make the necessary improvements," while adding, "It is wholly unhelpful of hedge funds -- which have made lots of money in London - to say at the first sign of regulation from Europe that they intend to up-sticks and go."

Myners also said he will meet Sweden's Deputy Finance Minister in 10 days to seek changes to the directive, as Sweden prepares to take over the EU chair from the Czech Republic on July 1 and is perceived to be more receptive than most other EU member states to the UK's concerns.

Meanwhile, City AM notes that a House of Lords committee will publish a report this week, warning that the Commission is being too hasty in its drive for more pan-European regulation and supervision and that the pace of reform risks causing lasting damage to the UK's financial services sector.
Sunday Times Independent on Sunday City AM City AM 2 Guardian

Internal report calls for tightening up conflicts of interest rules for EU Commissioners
The Telegraph reports that an internal European Parliament report seen by the paper and drawn up by external consultants has called for a tighter definition of "conflicts of interest" for EU Commissioners, and said that a failure to tighten up the rules could raise a "significant risk" of future scandals. Inge Graessle, a German Christian Democrat MEP who oversaw the inquiry, has accused the Commission of trying to delay the report's publication, saying "The commission is trying to push it back until after the appointment of a new commission [in the autumn]".

One major loophole identified by the Graessle Report is that Commissioners, including Commission President José Manuel Barroso, have not been required to disclose gifts, over the value of £132 in the form of hospitality, such as free holidays or stays at luxury villas or yachts. The issue was highlighted last summer when Lord Mandelson, while in the post of Trade Commissioner, stayed on board a luxury yacht in Corfu owned by Oleg Deripaska, according to the article. The report has criticised the Commission for having an ethics code that, as in the Mandelson case, "does not specify a course of action if a conflict of interest arises", unlike the tighter codes of conduct that apply to other, less senior, EU officials.

Jacques de Larosière talks about the need for further supervision of EU banks
In an interview with Le Figaro, Jacques de Larosière, the former director general of the IMF talks about the need for supervision of banks, the causes of the current crisis and the difficulties of imposing further regulation. He says that the "current financial crisis was not sudden, but the work of years of de-regulation". In the interview, he is quoted as saying that the imposition of a single European supervisor for financial regulation was not included in the report and that "it seemed more realistic and efficient to let national control organisations manage the day to day supervision". He adds that a supranational financial regulator is highly unlikely, as some states may be able to "benefit from public finances, which are, by definition national". He does however highlight the need for the authorities he proposed creating in February to have certain powers such as mediation between parties and the establishment of common techniques for said supervision.
Figaro Figaro 2

Irish opposition wants to lead Yes campaign in second referendum
Saturday's Irish Times reported that Irish opposition leader Enda Kenny has said his party, Fine Gael, will lead the Yes campaign in a second Lisbon referendum to prevent anti-Government sentiment from shooting the Treaty down. He said: "We need a proper campaign to inform the people. We need to set up a committee to properly scrutinise how the Government transposes EU directives. Red tape in Europe is interfering with people."
Irish Times

Poland could block deal on EU's climate change commitment to developing countries
Handelsblatt reports that talks on the EU's climate change policy will take place at this week's EU leaders' summit. The article notes that member states have yet to agree on proposals to help finance climate change abatement in developing countries or how to distribute the cost between member states. Poland will reportedly oppose a previously agreed decision that would see all member states donating 0.7 percent of their GDP to climate change aid.
No link

Graham Watson: "Barroso is a fine tactician, but he lacks courage and vision"
Le Monde reports on how José Manuel Barroso has been forced to adapt during his first mandate as President of the Commission, referring to him as a 'chameleon'. The article notes that Barroso started his mandate with a "very British, meaning very liberal agenda" and a focus on growth and employment, but events have forced him to focus on climate change, social issues and financial regulation.

Barroso has already gained widespread support for a second mandate but there is still strong opposition from some MEPs, including Daniel Cohn-Bendit who has called for an "anti-Barroso coalition".

Graham Watson, the Leader of ALDE, said "Barroso is a fine tactician, but he lacks courage and vision", adding that "he follows too closely behind the leaders of the main countries". In comparison with his predecessor Jacques Delors, Watson says "If Delors had adopted the same attitude we would never have the euro".
Le Monde

The front page of Saturday's Express reported on Lord Mandelson's comments that Britain should join the euro to help it beat the recession. It quoted Derek Scott, Open Europe's Deputy Chairman and former economic advisor to Tony Blair saying, "Eurozone membership is not the answer. We're seeing German output falling by six per cent and Spain's unemployment heading for 25 per cent - definitely not success stories."

European Voice reports the Italian Democrats have announced that they will form an alliance with the Socialist group (PES) in the European Parliament. This will increase the group's members to 182 and it will be called the Alliance of Socialists and Democrats for Europe (ASDE).
European Voice

Hannan: If a party "is Euro-sceptic, then no amount of moderation or common sense can wash away the accusation of being 'far Right'".
On his Telegraph blog, MEP Daniel Hannan writes that Euro-sceptics are often accused of being far-right and for the conservatives to leave the EPP, they would be aligned with the neo-fascist party Italian Alleanza Nazionale. He says, "note the delicious double-standard [created by the left]. To sit with a party connected to Berlusconi makes the Tories extreme, but to sit with Mr Berlusconi's own party, which is the EPP, is fine."
Hannan adds "a party might be anti-gay, anti-gipsy or anti-American; but as long as it's pro-EU, it cannot by definition be extreme."

In a letter to Saturday's Guardian, Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois responded to criticism of the Conservatives' potential allies in the European Parliament.
Guardian Telegraph: Hannan blog

El Mundo reports on the 18 'ghost' MEPS, which will only enter into the European Parliament if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. Two of the new MEPs would be the youngest MEPs in Parliament, at just 21 and 26 years old. The Swedish 'ghost' MEP, Amelia Andersdotter, 21, said "The Lisbon Treaty isn't very popular with the European population. I'm not sure if it would be good for the EU if it is approved."
El Mundo

Commenting on the lowest turnout ever for the EU elections, European Communication Commissioner and Vice President Margot Wallstrom writes on her blog that "a hunt for someone to blame will also no doubt start and some will look to blame the Commission, which would be absurd. The main responsibility for persuading people to vote lies with the political parties. The Commission has displayed more modern thinking than many others in recent years by embracing Youtube, MTV, actively engaging womens organisations etc." Wallstrom blog

EU energy ministers meeting on Friday agreed to update rules on oil stocks that will require member states to ensure that at least one-third of their stocks are refined petroleum products rather than crude oil.
European Voice

Writing in the Independent on Sunday, Leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas MEP argued that the Green Party had the most success in the European elections, increasing its vote by 44 percent, compared to 2004.
Independent on Sunday: Lucas

In the Weekend FT Tony Barber argued "Democracy in individual European countries seems strong enough, but at EU level it is clearly in trouble... if it is to succeed as a long-term project, it desperately needs to improve the quality of its democracy and reconnect European citizens to its mission and ideals."

El Mundo reports that European foreign ministers from the 27 member states will today approve an agreement on receiving Guantanamo prisoners. The article notes that some member states including Austria and the Czech Republic have refused to accept prisoners.
El Mundo

Euractiv reports that the Telecoms package "remains the hostage of political row" as Telecoms ministers and the European Parliament fail to reach an agreement over internet users' rights.
Euractiv EIZ

Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: or call us on 0207 197 2333.

No comments: