Friday, September 11, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 11 September 2009


Declan Ganley announces return to Lisbon No campaign in the Wall Street Journal
In an interview with the WSJ, Declan Ganley, who became the figurehead for the No campaign in Ireland's first referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, has announced that he is back to do it again ahead of the re-run referendum on 2 October.

He says, "It's profoundly undemocratic to walk all over democracy...The Irish people had a vote on the Lisbon Treaty. They voted no. A higher percentage of the electorate voted no than voted for Barack Obama in the United States of America. No one's suggesting he should run for re-election next month. But--hey, presto!--15 months later we're being told to vote again on exactly the same treaty."

Ganley also notes that the Treaty is essentially the same as the EU Constitution that French and Dutch voters rejected in 2005: "There is no law that could be made under the European Constitution that cannot be made under the Lisbon Treaty. None."

Ganley asks, "Why, when the French voted no, the Dutch voted no and the Irish voted no, are we still being force-fed the same formula? You don't have to scratch your head and wonder about democracy in some intellectualised, distant way and wonder, is there some obscure threat to it."

Ganley stresses that Ireland's referendum may be the last chance EU citizens get to have a say on how the Union works. He says, "With just intergovernmental agreement, with no need of going back to the citizens anywhere, they can make any change to this constitutional document, adding any new powers, without having to revisit an electorate anywhere."

Ganley also dismisses the notion that Ireland would become 'isolated' in the EU. "The only people we risk annoying are a bunch of unelected bureaucrats and what I call this tyranny of mediocrity that we have across Europe," he said.

Meanwhile, in a letter to the Irish Times, Director of the National Platform EU Research Centre Anthony Coughlan writes that the change in voting weight under Lisbon would "halve Ireland's voting influence from its present 2 per cent to 0.8 per cent."

The paper reports that, speaking at the launch of the newly founded European Chamber of Ireland, EU Communication Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said, "I have not come to Ireland to lecture anyone. The decision on how you vote is just that: your decision." She then added, "My hope is that the referendum will finally put an end to our internal reform process so that we can concentrate on finding common solutions to our common problems."

In addition, the Economist's Charlemagne notes that "Last week, some of the most senior Irish Eurocrats flew home in to Ireland to visit their old schools, theoretically as part of a long-standing 'Back to School' initiative. Nonetheless, their visits were clearly timed to boost the idea that Ireland has done well out of Europe, ahead of the second vote on the Lisbon treaty on October 2nd."

Meanwhile, on his Telegraph blog, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan writes, "I am increasingly confident that Britain will get its referendum [on the Treaty]. I'm not in a position to explain why at this stage, but our hand is stronger than is generally supposed."
WSJ Irish Times Irish Times 2 Irish Times 3 Irish Times 4 Irish Independent Irish Times 5 Irish Times 6 Irish Times: Coughlan EurActiv Irish Times: Letters Economist: Charlemagne's notebook Telegraph: Hannan blog OE blog

McCreevy: Irish people decided "in their wisdom" to vote No to Lisbon last time
At the Sir Thomas Gresham Docklands lecture yesterday, EU Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy addressed the question of whether the financial crisis means that more regulation of the financial sector is needed. He said: "It is not too little regulation which has caused the problems, and it is not lots more regulation that will solve it. The main failure of the last decade...was the failure of supervisory resources."

When asked what he was most proud of achieving during his term as Commissioner, he said, "It's what I held back, because the machine in Brussels is very adept at producing more and more regulations".

When asked about the prospects for the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, Mr McCreevy said he was not sure what would happen, but that: "All the political parties are for it, but then they were for it last time as well. All the media are for it, as they were last time. All the main trade unions are for it, as they were last time, so are the farmers groups... But the Irish people in their wisdom decided...against the advice of everybody and said No."

He said of the 'guarantees' offered to Ireland on neutrality, taxation and other issues that they were "concessions, and I put concessions in inverted commas", adding that if Ireland voted No again, Europeans might ask "What the hell do these people want?"
No link

Spanish Finance Minister says Spain is backing France and Germany in tougher regulation of hedge funds
City AM reports on Open Europe's debate on the EU's proposed AIFM directive, which will be held at lunchtime in the City. The article reports that the City of London's Policy Chairman, Stuart Fraser, will say "AIFMs did not cause the current crisis, nor do they pose systemic risks" and warn "we risk blunting the economic recovery right across the European Union."

The Guardian reports on an interview with Elena Salgado, the Spanish Finance Minister, on the EU's AIFM directive. The paper notes that her views are particularly important, as Spain will take over the EU Presidency while the regulations are being negotiated. Salgado said that Spanish regulation of hedge funds "is strict and has been for a long time" and pointed to the fact that "the directive introduces some bigger obligations, in transparency and the protection of consumers, that we think are adequate."

She added that Spain is backing France and Germany, which have pushed towards tougher regulation of hedge funds, blaming them for exacerbating the credit crunch by betting on a plunge in banking shares.

The FT Deutschland reports that British hedge funds are creating new products in an attempt to evade the planned Directive. The new products, called "structures for common investments in bonds", invest in both stocks and derivatives, thus fulfilling the principle of risk diversification. The products reportedly provide the investors more transparency and a better access to the money, as well as more security for the evaluation of the risk of default.
City AM Guardian European Voice FTD Spiegel

Louis Michel MEP: "bureaucracy in European Parliament makes everything else pale in comparison"Belgium's De Standaard quotes former EU Commissioner and current MEP Louis Michel saying: "I thought I had experienced everything when it comes to bureaucracy. But seeing the bureaucracy here makes the rest pale in comparison. But yes, now I have more time to devote myself to Belgian politics."

Sarkozy accused of "naked protectionism" over plans for EU carbon tax on imports
The FT reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has renewed his calls for a European carbon tax on imports to the bloc yesterday to "save the human race" from global warming, as he unveiled details of a new charge on fossil fuel products in France. He is quoted saying, "We need to impose a carbon tax at [Europe's] borders. I will lead that battle." France will become the largest economy to levy a carbon tax when it comes into effect next year, set at €17 per tonne of carbon emissions. The tax will apply to oil, gas and coal, but not electricity.

Simon Tilford, Chief Economist at the Centre for European Reform, is quoted saying, "It would be seen as naked protectionism." He also added, "This would put the developed world on a collision course with China, India and other developing countries. It could do serious damage to the international trade system." Greenpeace said the plans was "dramatically lacking in ambition", a wasted effort and a failure from the outset, reports the Guardian.
FT Irish Times Guardian Independent BBC WSJ Figaro Figaro NYT

EU could offer between €2 and €15 billion a year to developing countries to fight climate change
EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas yesterday presented a draft proposal for scaling up international finance in support of developing countries, given them between €2 and €15 billion a year to help fight climate change. The final scale of financing will depend on how ambitious any final agreement reached at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in December is, reports EUobserver. It is understood that some member states, notably France, Germany and Italy were opposed to including any figures at all in the proposal.
EUobserver EurActiv European Voice WSJ NYT

European Parliament to vote next Wednesday on Commission Presidency
The European Parliament yesterday confirmed that the vote on reappointing Jose Manuel Barroso for another term as Commission President will take place next Wednesday, 16 September. EP President Jerzy Buzek is reported in El País as saying "In these times of crisis we cannot permit ourselves to maintain a political vacuum at the head of Europe". Mr Barroso is expected to gain the majority necessary to secure the Presidency for the next 5 years.

According to the FT, Mr Barroso has gained the support of the three major parties in the Parliament which would secure him the majority he needs. The leaders of the European People's Party, the ECR and the centrist liberals have all confirmed their support for Barroso's re-election. Barroso should also gain the support of the UK Labour MEPs and Spanish and Portuguese socialists.

EUobserver reports that Barroso plans to introduce a "separate portfolio for fundamental rights and civil liberties" if re-elected.
EUobserver FT EUobserver EUobserver 2 EurActiv El Mundo AFP Le Monde El Pais El Mundo

EU Commission plan foresees EU financial supervisor bypassing national supervisors
According to Euractiv, the European Commission will present its plans on financial oversight on 23 September, and the first details have been leaked. It quotes German newspapers reporting that EU supervisors would be able to bypass national supervisors "when the stability of financial markets would be endangered". Euractiv

Charlemagne: Germany's politicians are shunning real debateThe Economist's Charlemagne column suggests that the German election will have wider consequences for the EU and writes, "The [financial] crisis has exposed acute new questions, such as how to marry Europe's cross-border single market for finance with the reality that only national governments can and will step in when things go wrong. Any proper European debate will need to hear Germany's answers to those questions. Yet its politicians are shunning real debate--until election day at least."
Economist: Charlemagne

European Voice reports the European Commission has proposed that national police and Europol should have access to the Eurodac database that stores asylum seekers' fingerprints and is currently only open to authorities directly responsible for processing asylum requests. The proposals were met with criticism and concern by human-rights groups.
European Voice

A leader in Sueddeutsche highlights a decision of the German Constitutional Court not to allow extradition of an Iraqi to Greece, commenting "Just because the label says EU it doesn't mean the rule of law is there. Athens' scandalous handling of refugees has been documented many times."

Sri Lanka's top diplomat today hit out at the European Union for "punishing" the country, after EU investigators recommended cancelling a £1bn trade concession over the country's failure to honour human rights commitments.

An article in the IHT by the former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari argues that Turkey's EU accession bid has lost significant momentum since 2005, adding that "Europe's wavering on Turkey's EU accession is jeopardising the EU's credibility and threatening to tarnish its good image."

General Motors has decided to sell most of its European arm, the owner of Vauxhall and Opel, to Magna, a Canadian vehicle parts group. Magna, the German government's preferred buyer, has stated its commitment to keeping GM's four German factories open, although the future of Britain's Luton and Ellesmore Port plants is uncertain.
FT: Leader FT: Lex FT City AM Sun Guardian Independent BBC Mail Times
The Irish Times reports that the European Commission has predicted Irish government debt could be among the highest in the EU by 2020, reaching as high as 200 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).
Irish Times
An article in the Economist looks at whether there is another Nato crisis in the making in the dispute between Turkey and Cyprus.

Resurgent protectionism is a real threat to the global economic recovery, the European Central Bank warned in its monthly bulletin for September, published yesterday.

The FT reports that secret British Government documents to be published today reveal that François Mitterrand privately warned Margaret Thatcher that a reunited Germany might "make even more ground than had Hitler", and that Thatcher told President Gorbachev that neither Britain nor Western Europe wanted the reunification of Germany and made clear that she wanted the Soviet leader to do what he could to stop it.
Times Times: Leader FT


The Independent reports that ministers are discussing proposals to hold a referendum to change Britain's first-past-the-post voting system on the same day as the General Election next spring.

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