Monday, June 08, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 8 June 2009


Labour suffers worst election defeat since 1918, coming in third behind UKIP
Labour has suffered its worst election defeat since 1918, falling into third place with 15.3 percent of the vote in the European elections, giving them 11 MEPs. The Conservatives came first in the vote share, with 28.6 percent, giving them 24 MEPs; UKIP came second, receiving 17.4 percent of the vote, and increased its number of MEPs to 13; and the Lib Dems received 13.9 percent of the vote, giving them 10 seats, reports the BBC. Turnout in the UK was 34.8 percent, down from 2004.

The Green Party came in fifth with 8.7 percent of the vote, but failed to increase their number of MEPs from two.

The BNP won its first two seats in the European Parliament, in Yorkshire and the Humber, where it won 10 percent of the vote, and in the North-West of England, where it received 8 percent of the vote.

Plaid Cymru received 18.5 percent of the vote in Wales, giving them 1 MEP. The BBC reports that, in Scotland, the SNP received 29 percent of the vote, putting Labour into second place, and PA reports that the parties will get two seats each. The results have not been declared yet from Northern Ireland.

On his blog, the BBC's Europe Editor Mark Mardell analyses UKIP's results and says: "It is pretty clear if you compare the local elections with the Euros that the Conservatives lost votes to UKIP. They want those votes back in time for a general election. So if there was ever any argument for them soft-pedalling their hard line on the EU it's gone. Those who've argued for a range of policies, pulling out of the centre-right group, arguing for a referendum, for a new relationship with the EU, will have their hand strengthened."

On the live BBC coverage last night, presenter Emily Maitlis cited Open Europe's figures, published on Friday, which showed that each MEP costs the European taxpayer £1.8 million per year, compared to £364,000 for each Member of the House of Commons.

The research was also discussed in detail on Andrew Pierce's show on LBC radio yesterday, including an interview with Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally.

Meanwhile, the FT reports that the Conservatives will begin negotiations to form a new anti-federalist centre-right party in the European Parliament today, but a leader in the paper argues that the Conservatives' decision to leave the EPP grouping is "foolish and counter-productive. It is time to reconsider."
BBC: Mardell blog FT FT 2 FT 3 Mail Mail 2 Mail 3 Times Times 2 Times 3 Times 4 Telegraph Telegraph 2 EU Referendum blog Telegraph: Hannan blog BBC BBC 2 BBC 3 Elections 2009 Tribune Sun Sun 2 Independent Independent 2 Telegraph: Waterfield blog FT 4 FT: Leader EUobserver Times 5 Independent 3 Open Europe press release Andrew Pierce on LBC OE blog

Centre-right parties dominate across Europe as voter turnout hits record low
The FT reports that Europe's centre-right parties are celebrating "a resounding election victory", taking 265 seats of the 736 in the new parliament, compared with 184 for socialists, 83 for centrist liberals, 50 for the Greens and 36 for the radical left.

EUobserver notes that voter turnout across the EU to a record low of 43.1%. In 2004, turnout was 45%. Turnout has fallen every year since the first direct elections in 1979. On his blog the Telegraph's Bruno Waterfield argues "This is an EU election result that Europe's elites richly deserve."

In Ireland, Prime Minister Brian Cowen's party Fianna Fail suffered what the Irish Independent called a "disastrous plunge in votes in the local, European and by-elections", adding to speculation that its junior coalition partners could decide to pull out of Government. According to Euractiv, the opposition Fine Gael party took nearly 32% of the vote in local polls, according to latest results, beating Fianna Fail party into second place with 23%, and tabled a motion of no confidence in the government next week. However, Cowen vowed to stay in office until the end of his government's term in 2012.

More than half a million people are estimated to have voted, giving a turnout of just over 60%, on a par with the country's European election turnout in 2004.

The pan-European campaign Libertas won only one seat, with Philippe de Villiers elected under the party banner in France. Leader of the party Declan Ganley ordered a recount of votes in his constituency in Ireland this morning, but looks unlikely to have secured a seat.

In France voter turnout was low, leading to a 60.2% abstention rate. President Nicolas Sarkozy's UMP finished first with 28% of the vote. The opposition Socialists gained only 16.8%, just ahead of the Green party who celebrated a 16.2% share. The extreme right and left polled badly overall, with Jean-Marie Le Pen's Front National securing only 6.5% and 3 MEPs, half as many as in 2004. The result marks a significant setback for the Socialists who had campaigned to make this vote a referendum on the Sarkozy presidency.

Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union were victorious in Germany, with 37.8% of the votes cast, making it the largest party with 43 seats. The centre-left Social Democratic Party obtained a meagre 20.8%, its lowest percentage since World War II, but held its 23 seats. In an election with a record-low turnout of 43.5%, the Greens obtained 14 seats, the Liberal party 11 seats, and the Leftist 'Linke' 8 seats.

El País and El Mundo report that Spain's governing PSOE suffered the same fate as the majority of socialist parties across Europe. The centre-right PP led by Mariano Rajoy had their best result yet in terms of percentage of votes won (42.23%) and gained 23 seats while the governing PSOE won only 21 seats. Turnout was 46%, slightly higher than in 2004.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's governing PDL party received a strong 35% share of the vote. Italy was no exception for the centre left, which failed to secure the anti-Berlusconi vote they had campaigned on.

In Poland, the Law and Justice Party came second with 16 MEPs to Civic Platform with 24 seats. The Law and Justice party are prospective members of the UK Conservatives' new grouping in the EP.

Reacting to the low voter turnout, European Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström branded voter participation as "very disappointing", given the €18 million the European Parliament had spent on awareness in the election campaign, The Parliament reports. However, she stressed her comments were not meant as a criticism of the EP's efforts, adding "let's not forget that member states have a role to play when it comes to raising awareness of European issues".

The Times reports that the far right could gain access to further funding and influence should enough MEPs club together to form an official parliamentary group. France has re-elected 3 far right Front National MEPs, and Britain will be sending 2 representatives from the BNP. The article notes that there are significant signs that the threshold for this extra funding (25 MEPs from 7 countries) will be met.
EUobserver Liberation Le Monde Figaro Le Monde 2 Liberation 2 Figaro 2 IHT CNN WSJ WSJ 2 FT FT 2 European Voice EurActiv FT: Brussels blog FT Telegraph Independent Telegraph 2 EurActiv Telegraph: Waterfield blog EUobserver 2 Zeit El Mundo El Pais ABC Vanguardia Europa Press Hoy The Parliament Irish Independent EurActiv EUobserver European Parliament

Citing Open Europe's research, Saturday's Telegraph noted that the new Europe Minister Glenys Kinnock clocked up 127,465 air miles in the past year on publicly-funded "information gathering" trips, more than any other British MEP.
Open Europe blog

The Parliament reports there is a likely agreement between the European People's Party and the Party of European Socialists to share the Parliament's Presidency between Martin Schulz, the current leader of the Socialists in the EP, and Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish Prime Minister and leading EPP member.The Parliament

Finance ministers meet to discuss financial regulation;
French diplomat: UK negotiators in a "weak" position
Le Figaro reports that Eurogroup and Ecofin will meet today in Luxembourg to discuss financial regulation, with an emphasis on the de Larosière report. The article notes that the Swedish government, who will take over the EU Presidency in July, has expressed its intention to focus on public deficits and its support of increased regulation of financial institutions.

A French senior civil servant said "the British, who are the most hostile to this idea [of more regulation], will arrive in a weak position, given the situation of the Brown government". The article also notes that the European debate on financial regulation will be influenced by Tim Geithner's (the US Treasury Secretary) presentation in two weeks on reforms to US financial regulation.
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Fears that Latvia's economic woes may spread to its neighbours
The WSJ notes that the IMF and the EU are requiring that Latvia undergo budget cuts before applying for an international aid package to control its financial crisis and the devaluation of its currency. The article notes that there is fear that Latvia's problems could spread to its Baltic neighbours.
WSJ FT: Wagstyl

In the FT, Bertrand Benoit looks at how Angela Merkel and wrote "a minor chapter of her country's political history" when she last week criticised the US Federal Reserve, Bank of England and European Central Bank for "bowing to international pressure" by planning to buy up covered bonds.
Weekend FT

In the FT, Wolfgang Münchau argues that even if economic recovery will take place elsewhere, Europe's economy may be stuck at low growth for "some time".
FT: Munchau

AP reports that Romanian police have set up checkpoints around the country after widespread allegations of voting fraud, citing officials who said parties were offering voters 50-100 lei (12-24€) to vote in several towns.AP

Saturday's Guardian featured an interview with UKIP leader Nigel Farage.


Lord Falconer calls for a new Labour leader
Writing in the Times, former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer argues that Labour are in disarray and only a new leader will bring about the reunification of the party. He writes, "Whatever the length of time under this new leader, we would be more strongly united around both a new leader and an agreed programme, rather than clinging, disunited and dissatisfied, to the present position."

The Independent reports that Labour's election results will increase the pressure on Gordon Brown, after Labour was beaten into third place by UKIP. The paper reports that the results will set the scene for a tense meeting at 6 pm this evening of the Parliamentary Labour Party, where the Prime Minister is expected to address his backbenchers.
WSJ WSJ: Editorial Independent Mirror CNN Times: Falconer

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.

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