Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 15 September 2009


ECJ rules that workers can claim back holidays ruined by illness
Several papers report that workers who are ill during their holidays can now claim the time back from their employers following a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice. The Court said that employees had the right to ask for statutory leave to be "reallocated" when it was spoilt by sickness. Under the terms of the judgment, employees will be allowed to carry any annual leave marred by illness over into the next holiday year.

The ruling is in effect a new interpretation of the European Working Time Directive, which applies in Britain across the entire private and public sector. Leading employment lawyers warned it would be costly for businesses and that it left the door "open for abuse" by unscrupulous employees seeking to bolster their holiday entitlement by simply claiming to have a cold or flu while on leave.

The Mail quotes Open Europe's Stephen Booth saying, "Yet again the ECJ has extended the EU's power over employment policy. This case illustrates what can happen when the UK signs up to EU laws without considering the potential consequences. This is the sixth or seventh time the EU's unelected judges have extended the reach of the original directive and increased costs for businesses."
Mail Telegraph Times EU Referendum blog Open Europe research Open Europe blog

Declan Ganley: Lisbon Treaty 'Yes' posters are "grossly misleading"
In a debate on the Pat Kenny show on RTE yesterday with Professor Brigid Laffan, Chairwoman of Yes campaign group Ireland for Europe, Libertas founder Declan Ganley said that tax harmonisation "will be right back on the agenda" if there is a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Discussing some of the Yes posters up around Dublin, such as the "Vote Yes for the economy" and "Vote Yes for jobs", Ganley said that, "the only job that would be saved by the Lisbon Treaty is Brian Cowen's job - nobody else's. The fact is, is the Lisbon Treaty would be bad for the Irish economy and indeed would have bad outcomes for Irish business. To put vote Yes for the economy - who's against the economy? Who's against jobs? This is an asinine argument, it is not factual, it is grossly misleading, and in fact, if anything can be argued about the effects of the Lisbon Treaty on Ireland, is it that it would be catastrophic for the Irish economy."

He went on to say that, "The Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for all of Europe. This is a grossly anti-democratic act that we are even voting again...we are transferring more competence with this Treaty without getting corresponding democratic accountability back."

Professor Laffan said that she believed there were "forces" in the UK who wanted to see an Irish No vote, adding "They want a Europe which fragments, they want a Europe which is multi-tiered and [David] Cameron would want, if we vote No, then there will be a referendum in the United Kingdom...and we will end up with an EU that is not in Ireland's interests." Mr Ganley accused her of putting forward "wacko conspiracy theories", adding: "It is condescending to the Irish people to say that there is some grand conspiracy going on."

In an interview with Austrian newspaper Die Presse, Declan Ganley said that, if the Irish vote No to the Treaty, the EU has to ask itself, "How can democracy, transparency, and reliability of the European government within a European constitutional arrangement be put at the center stage? Only when it [the EU] then listens, can one go forward".

In a piece for BBC Radio 4's PM programme, Jonny Dymond looks at Declan Ganley's return and says, "he may be too late, two opinion polls yesterday [Sunday] gave the yes campaign a huge lead but with two weeks to go, and the fate of the Treaty in Ireland's hands, the real campaign is only just begun."

Austrian newspaper Der Standard discusses the consequences of the Lisbon Treaty referendum on the European Commission and quotes diplomats in Brussels as saying "If the Irish say no the Lisbon Treaty is dead".

Meanwhile, the Times reports that Lord Tebbit yesterday called on David Cameron to pledge a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, even if it has already been introduced if a Conservative government is elected. He said that, unless Mr Cameron provides activists with a "satisfactory assurance" that he would hold a referendum regardless, he risks losing ground to UKIP, and added, "My understanding is that they've reneged on that commitment and if the Irish vote Yes and the treaty is ratified throughout the community Mr Cameron's only commitment is that he will not let the matter rest there. I don't know what that means."
Irish Times Irish Times 2 Irish Times 3 Irish Times 4 Irish Times 5 Irish Times 6 Irish Times 7 Toute L'Europe Irish Times 8 Irish Independent: Lillis RTE RTE 2 Euractiv (fr) Times BBC Radio 4 Die Presse Der Standard OE blog

Hedge fund manager: "EU proposals are protectionist and will provoke American counterstrike"
De Standaard reports that hedge fund manager Aarnout Snouck Hurgonje of Axa Investment Management has criticised the proposal to prevent non-EU based hedge funds from being sold to European investors. He said: "this is ridiculous. This is going to limit the choice of European investors in an enormous way ... The US will for sure see that as protectionism and will strike back". With regards to proposals for increased transparency, he said, "Only when hedge funds pose a systemic risk, they should provide full transparency. Because as a company, you wouldn't throw all your information on the streets. That would be the same as asking Coca-Cola to disclose its recipe."

Meanwhile an article in Le Figaro by Anne Bodescot criticises the proposed regulation. In particular, she notes French fund managers' anger at the requirements for independent external valuation of funds and the restrictions on investing in foreign funds, "even reputable ones." Patrick Fenal, Chief Executive Officer of Unigestion, is quoted as saying "Conversely, the directive does not say anything about the main problem with hedge funds during the crisis: liquidity, and the delays in foresight for investors who want to pull out."

Handelsblatt reports that more and more hedge funds are repackaging their innovate investment strategies in traditional mutual funds in anticipation of the EU Directive on Alternative Investment Fund Manager (AIFM). For instance British Man Group has announced it is introducing a new product in the UCITS-III structure. UCITS (Undertakings for Collective Investment in Transferable Securities) funds are already regulated at the EU level but much lighter than the expected rules on hedge funds.

The recently published Swedish EU Presidency position paper underlined that the current Commission proposal has weak points and criticised the constraints for institutional investors. Sven Zeller, partner of the law firm Clifford Chance, says that the new initiatives of the hedge fund companies are not an attempt to bypass the expected AIFM directive. Fund experts say that this move can be seen as a preparation of the upcoming AIFMD as well as a reaction to the financial crisis and search for new selling opportunites.
Le Figaro Standaard Handelsblatt

Roche shows interest in replacing McCreevy in the Commission
The Irish Times reports that Dick Roche, the Irish Europe Minister, has shown an interest in replacing Charlie McCreevy as Ireland's representative in the European Commission. Mr Roche said "If I was offered the commission job I would be honoured to take it", although Taoiseach Brian Cowen is unlikely to make the appointment before Ireland's referendum on the Lisbon Treaty.
Irish Times

Path open for Croatia's entry to the EU
Le Monde reports that Slovenia and Croatia have opened the way for EU expansion into the Balkans as agreement over border dispute is reached. Fredrink Reinfeldt, the Prime Minister of Sweden, said he is "ready to proceed on accession negotiations."

Meanwhile, the FT's Brussels Blog reports that the European Council has said that it "stresses the need for more substantial results in investigating, prosecuting and judging cases of high-level corruption and organised crime" in Bulgaria, which it considers to have 'serious implications' for Croatia's membership talks as domestic corruption and organised crime are two of the biggest obstacles to Croatian EU membership.
FT: Brussels blog

Private Eye: British Government is endangering citizens by adopting trials in absentia early
Private Eye's Brussels Sprouts column argues that the British Government, having "pushed through the EAW [European Arrest Warrant] without proper debate, is now further endangering its citizens by adopting Trials in Absentia two years before the official date, allowing suspects to be extradited without even prima facie evidence." It goes on to argue that "Thanks to the British government's manic determination to please the EU and abandon legal safeguards, innocent people have already been extradited to serve long jail sentences, despite lack of evidence."
Open Europe research OE blog

Head of the Authority for Financial Markets in France: "We must do everything to converge with the British"
Jean-Pierre Jouyet, the head of the French Financial Authority, praised progress in the regulation of credit rating agencies but was less enthusiastic about the handling of hedge funds, in particular off-shore funds that would benefit from a European passport if regulation is not tighten. He forecasted a greater use of the International Monetary Fund as a means to prevent future crises, emphasised the importance of the American management of the aftermath of the financial crisis, and gave his full support to a European financial regulator. He claimed that it was necessary to converge with the UK, where the "age of autoregulation is already over" and the social benefits of certain activities of the free market have been questioned by Lord Adair Turner, president of the Financial Services Authority.
La Tribune

Lord Pearson of Rannoch to stand for leadership of UKIP, claiming "Lisbon is a watershed"
Lord Pearson of Rannoch, a former Conservative peer who defected from the party in 2007 after criticising them for being insufficiently eurosceptic, has announced his intention to stand as leader of UKIP.

The Telegraph reports that Lord Pearson announced his intention after being spurred on by the Lisbon Treaty, which he described as a "watershed" for Britain and argued that Britain needed a referendum on the issue whether the treaty is ratified or not. Lord Pearson went on to say that if Lisbon goes ahead it is "the end of the game" and that Britain's membership of the EU "has removed the rights of British democracy". He also criticised the introduction of EU laws to regulate the city and "the secretive process of lawmaking that entirely excludes the Commons and the Lords". A UKIP insider is quoted, saying: "He is the best man for the job and someone who can unite the party." Nigel Farage, the current UKIP leader, is standing down in hope of becoming UKIP's first MP.

Meanwhile, Sir Stephen Wall discusses Britain's relationship with Europe in the Telegraph, highlighting the difficulty of every British government in balancing advantages of common policy and the constraint these can put on national freedom. Looking ahead to the next election he argues "a Conservative government...is pledged to try to return social and employment legislation to national control. For that to be achieved by treaty change would require the agreement of 26 other states. And no concession would be made to Britain without us giving something in return."

Also in the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard discusses the impact of the economic downturn on Europe and their place in the global economic landscape.
Telegraph Telegraph 2 Telegraph: Evans-Pritchard

Private Eye's Brussels Sprouts column reports that the European Commission is to spend £1.5 million in an "information campaign" to try and win a Yes vote in Ireland, ignoring warnings from the House of Commons' EU Scrutiny Committee not to use taxpayers' money to promote EU propaganda.
OE research: The Hard Sell

In the FT, Quentin Peel writes that central and eastern Europeans are becoming less and less 'atlanticist' and that their faith in Nato has been rocked by the combination of the Georgia-Russia war and the Afghanistan mission.
FT: Peel

European Voice reports that the Danish EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has said that she is stepping down and will not be a candidate for the next Commission.
European Voice

The Brussels Sunshine blog looks at the case of senior European Commission trade official Fritz-Harald Wenig who was last year accused of leaking commercially sensitive information in return for financial rewards. It notes more than seven months after Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud agency, finished its inquiry, it seems that the Commission has still not made up its mind about the case.
Brussels Sunshine blog

The BBC reports that the European Commission's latest economic forecast suggests the eurozone is emerging from recession. Meanwhile, the FT reports that the Commission has warned that European governments are likely to record higher budget deficits this year than was originally thought four months ago.
City AM EUobserver European Voice BBC EurActiv Taloussanomat Le Figaro Trends European Commission report IHT FT

Magna, the new owner of the Vauxhall and Opel, is to cut around 10,500 jobs in Europe. The European Commission is to scrutinise German backing for the takeover amid concern that planned job cuts could be influenced by political factors, hitting plants in the UK and Belgium disproportionately hard.
FT FT 2 Helsingin Sanomat Mail Express El País Spiegel Focus Zeit Deutsche Welle

The Guardian reports that it will be up to Britain and other European countries, rather than the United States, to provide reinforcements for Afghanistan if more troops are needed.

Belgian daily De Tijd reports on how Belgian Consultants have paid bribes to obtain contracts with the EU worth millions of Euros for assistance to EU projects in former Eastern block countries, such as Ukraine. Tijd

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay attacked Italy, Malta and Libya over their refusal to aid African illegal immigrants trying to make it into Europe by boat, and 17 European countries for their discrimination of Romas, especially in Italy, Hungary, Slovakia and Bulgaria.
CdS Messaggero

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the Co-President of the Greens in the European Parliament, attempted to postpone Barroso's investiture as President of the European Commission by tabling a motion at the opening of the Strasbourg plenary session to have the vote after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. The Socialists supported Cohn-Bendit but the centre-right easily overturned the motion.
Liberation: Coulisses de Bruxelles Blog

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