Monday, September 14, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 14 September 2009


Declan Ganley challenges Brian Cowen to debate economic impact of Lisbon Treaty
A new poll for the Sunday Business Post, carried out early last week, puts support for the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, among those who intend to vote, at 62 percent, with 23 percent saying they will vote No and 15 percent undecided. However, when the likelihood of voting is not taken into account, EUobserver reports that support for the Treaty is at 52 percent, with 25 percent saying they would vote No, and 23 percent undecided. A separate poll for the Sunday Independent on Friday put support for the Treaty at 63 percent, with 15 percent saying they will vote No, and 22 percent undecided.

In Saturday's Irish Independent, Bruce Arnold reported on Open Europe's research which found that during negotiations on the original text of the Lisbon Treaty, the Irish government lost out on 113 proposals for amendment out of a total of 149. He wrote: "This abject failure was covered up. A permanent EU president was proposed... we failed to block it. We failed over the new voting system. Roche wanted the Nice system. He lost out, weakening us. He lost on the main issue of the national veto. He lost on a number of democratic issues."

There is widespread coverage of Declan Ganley's return to the 'no' campaign. A leader in the Sunday Times said, "Whatever your views on the October 2 referendum, this cannot be regarded as an unwelcome development...He warns the voters not to fall for familiar scare tactics and Brussels intimidation -- saying 'No' to Lisbon won't damage our economic prospects."

The paper also reported that Ganley has challenged PM Brian Cowen or Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to debate with him on the economic impacts of the Treaty, adding "If you want to make an economic argument about the Lisbon treaty, the only credible points you can make are negative". He also said he would "happily debate them every day between now and the referendum. I'm sure they'll run from that, but I am willing to have this discussion."

In the Irish edition of the Mail, Mary Ellen Synon reports that while the hint of Ganley's return was big enough news for the Wall Street Journal on Friday, the Irish state broadcaster RTE downplayed it over the weekend. She describes RTE as "no more an independent source of news than the Italian state-owned broadcaster, Rai Uno, is under the Berlusconi government." She also suggests that the political 'guarantee' offered to Ireland that they can keep their Commissioner, will only be guaranteed for a few years: "To those of us who live in Brussels, it is clear the Euro-elite have no intention that, when the EU is enlarged again, they will tolerate a commission bloated with 30 members. The guarantee will be discarded in 2014."

On Friday the Irish Evening Herald reported on an interview with EU Communications Commissioner Margot Wallström in which she said that Irish Commissioner Charlie McCreevy must regret saying that 95 percent of Europeans would vote No, adding "I think you can only ask Charlie about that. I can only guess that he's unhappy about being used in this way, in any campaign." According to the paper, "the Swedish politician is in Dublin to seek support for the Lisbon Treaty", and she is quoted saying, "Ireland would be so much worse off without Europe.... Maybe we don't tell you often enough: We want Ireland in the EU ... Ireland being in the EU, to the rest of the EU, it means so much." Saturday's Irish Times reported that Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has said that a 'no' vote would represent a "spiritual withdrawal" from Europe.

In his column for the FT, Wolfgang Münchau writes, "Last year, after a first referendum produced an overwhelming No, I argued in a series of columns that a definite rejection of the treaty would effectively strike that country off the political and economic map. I no longer believe that to be the case. If the Irish vote No, I now believe it will be the end of the treaty, not of Ireland." He describes the text as a "pre-crisis treaty for a post-crisis world" and goes on to say, "I, too, find the treaty increasingly hard to defend with a straight face...It is not that easy to explain why this particular treaty is necessary when the real problems of the EU lie so obviously outside its scope."

Saturday's Irish Times reported that the General Secretary-designate of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union has said that his union is recommending a no vote.
Sunday Irish Independent Sunday Business Post Irish Times EUobserver Today programme Irish Independent Irish Independent: Leader Irish Independent: Sheahan Sunday Times Sunday Times: Leader Guardian Observer Standard FT FT: Editorial Times Irish Times Irish Mail Irish Times 2 Irish Times 3 Open Europe research Evening Herald OE blog Evening Herald 2 BBC

Rasmussen says AIFM Directive doesn't go far enough
On Friday over 300 people attended a debate hosted by Open Europe and Policy Exchange on the EU's proposed regulation of the alternative investment fund industry, entitled "Common sense or a step too far? Private equity, hedge funds and the EU AIFM Directive." The debate featured Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, one of the key proponents of the draft Directive and UK City Minister Lord Myners. Industry representatives Douglas Shaw from Blackrock and Jonathan Russell of 3i were also on the panel. The debate received widespread media coverage, including the Telegraph, Times, and FT.

Rasmussen argued that "this crisis is undeniably the result of excessive debt" and that the private equity and the hedge fund industry had to shoulder part of the blame for it. He claimed that a "short-sighted" focus on securing unreasonably high returns had "undermined the ability" of the industry to invest and create jobs.

He said that the proposal was "a mild Directive", suggesting several areas in which the Directive should go further than the current draft including less far-reaching exemptions for smaller funds. In addition, Reuters reports that Rasmussen told reporters after the debate that "I see changes on the capital requirements side...and I see changes on the precise description of transparency," as well as "I see changes on ensuring that the funds are covered also with the managers and we need to solve the problems of the offshore fund managers."

Lord Myners described the draft Directive as "flawed" and said that he was disappointed at the "lamentable" lack of consultation on the proposal by the European Commission. He also warned that the Directive was "protectionism hiding as if it were protection". He said that the alternative investment industry plays a crucial role in the European economy, particularly in the aftermath of the economic crisis as firms are looking to rebuild and start-ups are struggling to secure capital investment. The FT notes that Lord Myners in his speech made "one of his strongest attacks yet on the draft regulations".

Blackrock's Doug Shaw noted that the impact of the Directive would fall disproportionately on smaller firms, and that its result could be that newer companies would struggle to compete with their more established rivals. Shaw continued that it has been asserted that around a thousand amendments to the Directive are needed, which equates to around twenty amendments per article, and warned that a decrease in returns would lead to bigger and deeper deficits for investment funds - many of which have already been hit hard by the financial crisis.

Jonathan Russell said that there was a general consensus that the private equity industry was not a cause behind the crisis but that it could be an important part of the solution as "Europe needs patient and long term capital".
Telegraph Times FT FT2 Bloomberg Reuters SmartBrief WSJ Reuters Blogs: Hedge Hub Business Insider IPE Forexpros Financial News Open Europe blog

57 percent of UK voters want referendum on Lisbon, even if it is already ratified
To mark a two-week series on "The State of Europe", the Telegraph reports that a YouGov poll for the paper has found that 57 percent of voters think a Conservative government should hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty even if it is already ratified when it is elected, 15 percent say they shouldn't, and 23 percent are not sure. When asked how they would vote in a referendum, 36 percent said they would vote No, 13 percent said they would vote Yes, and 51 percent said they didn't know.

When asked if it was a choice between accepting the Treaty as it is, or leaving the EU altogether, 26 percent said they would accept the Treaty, 43 percent said leave the EU, and 31 percent said they were not sure.

In an interview with Saturday's Telegraph, David Cameron was quoted saying, "I do not want Lisbon to be ratified. I think it's a bad treaty. I do not want a European constitution. My view is we should have a referendum if there is a chance of having a referendum because that treaty is not finalised and implemented, that is what we shall have. Full stop, end of story."
Telegraph Telegraph 2 Saturday Telegraph

EU budget used to finance puppet theatre, promote Finnish tango, and a crocodile zoo
The Sunday Telegraph reported that Britain does proportionately less well from the EU budget than other similar-sized member states across a whole range of core funding programmes. Citing extensively from Open Europe research, the paper noted that the EU has funded a whole range of questionable projects including £93,000 on a puppet theatre, £6,165 to a former Miss Seville to kick-start her event organising company, more than £87,000 on a fake silkworm-breeding business and £750,000 on a crocodile zoo.

In 2007, the latest complete year for which accounts are available, Britain received €4.2 billion (£3.7 billion) compared with €6.9 billion given to Germany, €6.9 billion going to Spain and €5.9 billion to Italy.

A leader in the paper commented "José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, has failed to deliver on his oft-repeated promise to initiate a thorough review of the way the EU spends its (or rather, our) money. At the moment, the whole process is riddled with fraud, never mind the waste inherent in sponsoring such dotty projects as 'the internationalisation of Finnish tango'".

Meanwhile, Sächsische Zeitung reports that the liberal Italian MEP Luigi de Magistris, Chair of the EU Committee on Budgetary Control, has described the Mafia as a European problem because it is increasingly gaining access to EU funds. De Magistris is a former Italian attorney and investigator and wants to use these experiences to fight the fraud and misuse of EU funds. "It's about enormous sums, hundreds of billions of euros," said De Magistris.
Sunday Telegraph: Leader Sunday Telegraph Sunday Telegraph 2 SZ Open Europe research

Barroso to appoint EU Immigration and Human Rights Commissioners
The front page of the Telegraph reports that, if he is re-elected this week, EU Commission President Jose Barroso intends to appoint a powerful new EU Commissioner for fundamental rights and social rights, who is expected to put pressure on Britain to accept more asylum seekers from across Europe and seek greater EU intervention in workers' rights. The article quotes Open Europe saying, "This new post was proposed by Barroso to buy off the socialists which gives you some indication of what is to come."

The front page of Saturday's Express reported that Barroso will also appoint a Commissioner in charge of immigration. According to the paper, Britain will be obliged to take in up to 13 percent of all EU refugees as part of a common European asylum policy. The percentage share, which is worked out by population, would see Britain having to accept 30,940 refugees, more than any other country apart from Germany.
Telegraph Express

Swedish EU Presidency anticipates Lisbon Treaty vote in preparing foreign policy agenda
European Voice reports that the Swedish EU Presidency will this week start separating the agenda for foreign ministers into two distinct parts: external relations, and general issues, presaging changes that the Lisbon Treaty would bring into force, if ratified.
European Voice

New European Council building to cost €315m
EUobserver reports that from 2013 the EU's Council of Ministers will meet in a new 'eco-friendly' building with solar panels and rain-water recycling facilities. The total cost of the project is €315 million, rising from the initial estimated cost of €240 million due to the "impact of the contractual price revision", the project description says.

Portuguese MPs most active in monitoring EU law;
UK's House of Lords in fifth place
EUobserver reports that the Portuguese parliament has been by far the most active in commenting on EU legislative proposals and position papers, whereas Spain has not sent a single remark to Brussels since the process was put into place in 2006. According to the latest figures from the European Commission, Portuguese MPs have sent 102 comments, followed by the French Senate (58), the German upper house (48), the Swedish parliament (44), and the British House of Lords (39).

The article suggests that the underwhelming response from national parliaments does not bode well for the slightly more powerful mechanism in the Lisbon Treaty, under which the Commission must review - although not necessarily withdraw - a proposal if at least one third of national parliaments (nine) claims it breaches the 'subsidiarity' principle.

Commission introduces tough energy guidelines on household appliances
The Sunday Express reported that the Commission has introduced new guidelines on electrical products in an attempt to tackle climate change. Televisions, fridge freezers, kettles, dishwashers and washing machines have all come under scrutiny in the new "eco-design directive". The Directive includes the requirement of a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption by TV sets by August 2010.
Sunday Express Sunday Times Sunday Telegraph

Former Italian PM: "Within 15 years not a single country in the EU will qualify for the G7, except perhaps Germany"
The Telegraph reports that former Italian PM Massimo D'Alema said the EU's 'Lisbon Strategy', devised in 2000 to boost growth and jobs, was an "illusion". He said, "It is an illusion to think that once crisis is over we will return to where we were. The US and China will emerge stronger: we will be left ever further behind. Within 15 years not a single country in the EU will qualify for the G7, except perhaps Germany."

Meanwhile, the Weekend FT reported that Germany's Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück has called for a global 'finance tax' to be imposed on all transactions by banks, insurance companies and investment funds in a bid to end what he derided as "binge-drinking" on markets.
WSJ Telegraph El País Weekend FT EurActiv WSJ 2

Stoiber Group: Reduction in EU red tape could save €40bn a year
Die Welt reports that Edmund Stoiber, former Minister-President of Bavaria, charged in 2007 with coming up with ways of reducing EU regulation, has said that he has identified €40bn of potential savings for the EU economy. He said, "I will on Friday present a series of measures to the European Union to reduce bureaucracy which will save more than 40 billion euros a year". He also suggested the creation of an independent body to oversee EU legislation in order to reduce the number of regulations and directives emanating from the Commission.
Welt Straits Times Focus AFP Welt Open Europe research

On Conservative Home, Daniel Hamilton looks at the new system of travel expenses for MEPs and suggests that the maximum amounts that MEPs can claim, which a re set by the European Parliament, do "absolutely nothing to encourage members to reflect value for taxpayers' money in their travel arrangements."
Conservative Home: Hamilton

Commission to review register of lobbyists
Siim Kallas, the Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-fraud has said that insufficient numbers of law firms and think tanks have signed up to the Commission's voluntary register of lobbyists, launched in June 2008. Kallas argued the inclusion of think tanks is justified as many are "directly linked to who the corporate funding sources are." The Commission has said it will review "ambiguities" of the present system, particularly regarding the disclosure of financing.

In an interview with Le Figaro, the head of the WTO Pascal Lamy says he is sceptical about the future French plans for a cross-border carbon tax.
AFP Figaro

The IHT reports the EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas has said that EU climate funding to developing nations "cannot be a blank cheque".

Merkel and Steinmeier clash in TV debate ahead of German elections
Two weeks ahead of the German parliament elections on 27 September, Chancellor Angela Merkel and her Social Democrat rival Frank Walter Steinmeier engaged in a TV debate. Euractiv notes that most analysts gave the edge to Steinmeier, who appeared more dynamic and confrontational but snap polls released after the debate showed viewers were divided on who had won.
Die Welt Irish Times Irish Times: Leader WSJ Telegraph Economist: Charlemagne's notebook BBC EurActiv La Razon FT FT Times El País El País Le Figaro Independent

Head of Gazprom warns of another winter energy crisis
The Guardian reports that the EU fears another winter energy crisis, as Russia has officially become the world's largest exporter of oil, anticipating a tightening grip on energy reserves. Russia supplies around a third of the EU's current consumption. 80 percent of the EU's gas travels through Ukraine, and Alexei Miller, the head of Gazprom, warned of a possible crisis in early February, two weeks after Ukrainians go to the polls to elect a new president on 17 January.

The BBC reports that Belgium wants the EU Commission to investigate Germany's role in the sale of General Motor's European units, after GM decided to sell Opel and Vauxhall to Germany's preferred bidder, Canadian manufacturer Magna. Magna said that it will keep all four German plants open but has suggested that it could wind down production at a plant in Antwerp.BBC Reuters Tijd IHT Euractiv Handelsblatt 1 Handelsblatt 2 Welt WDR RP online FT Blog Times

Slovenia has confirmed it is ready to lift its block on Croatia's accession to the EU, after discussions between the two resulted in an agreement to allow the EU mediate their border dispute.
BBC European Voice EurActiv IHT El Mundo

EU officials condemned President Robert Mugabe yesterday as an obstacle to an aid deal to famine-plagued Zimbabwe.
Irish Independent FT Times IHT IHT 2 Independent Independent 2 Independent 3 AFP

Bloomberg reports on findings from the European Wind Energy Association, released today, that the total installed capacity of offshore wind could increase from 0.3 percent to provide 17 percent of Europe's energy demand by 2030.

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