Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 16 September 2009


Swedish Secretary of State for Europe: EU can function without Lisbon Treaty
An article on EurActiv featuring an interview with the Swedish Secretary of State for Europe, Maria Asenius, has a headline that reads "EU can function without Lisbon Treaty". It reports that, several "leading EU politicians digress from the thesis that the Lisbon Treaty is necessary for the effective functioning of the enlarged EU. The new message is that, without the Lisbon Treaty, the EU would be as capable of acting as hitherto."

Maria Asenius is quoted saying, "We cannot wait forever for a decision on this issue. We need a new Commission to continue EU businesses. With or without the Lisbon Treaty. We've got no choice."
EurActiv OE blog

Simon Tisdall: Ireland's Lisbon Treaty referendum is no longer about principles, "it's about fear"
The Irish Times reports that former Polish President Lech Walesa will travel to Dublin on Friday to campaign for a Yes vote. The article notes however, that Walesa only offered "somewhat qualified" support for the Treaty. "This Lisbon Treaty is not very good, but the European Union needs a framework and rules," he said.

Declan Ganley and Eamon Dunphy, a well-known Irish broadcaster, yesterday appeared on Tom McGurk's 4FM radio show to debate the Lisbon Treaty. Dunphy, who voted No in last year's referendum, said that the economic crisis had shown that Ireland could no longer govern itself and that it couldn't afford to vote No again because it had lost its "capacity for independence". He said, "I am now persuaded that we can't govern ourselves". Challenged by Ganley as to whether these arguments had anything to do with the Treaty, Dunphy admitted that, "I know it has nothing to do with Lisbon."

Handelsblatt quotes Ganley saying that the suggestion that the fate of Ireland's economy is dependent on the Lisbon Treaty is a "huge lie" and the common form of "intimidation from Brussels". The Irish Independent reports that former Irish PM Garret FitzGerald said yesterday that Ganley's return to the No side won't affect the campaign.

Writing on the Guardian's Comment is Free, Foreign Affairs Columnist Simon Tisdall notes, "It's plain the Irish have not suddenly fallen back in love with Brussels; many reservations remain...The key difference between now and June last year is Ireland's transformation from Celtic tiger to timid puss. What happened is the recession happened. The referendum is not about principles, if it ever was; it's about fear."

The Irish Times also reports that the Peace and Neutrality Alliance have said that the Irish government's recently published Defence Bill should be "setting off alarm bells," with the Alliance's Carol Fox saying the Bill "provides for the Government and the Dáil to determine whether Ireland should participate in Permanent Structured Co-operation, an inner core military force established by the Lisbon Treaty as a spur to EU military development."

Meanwhile, Conservative MEP Geoffrey van Orden has told Euractiv that his group in the European Parliament hopes that Czech President Václav Klaus and his Polish counterpart Lech Kaczynski won't sign the Lisbon Treaty, until after the UK General Election. However, Austrian newspaper Der Standard reports that Kaczynski has indicated he will sign the Treaty if the Irish will vote Yes in October.
Irish Times Irish Times 2 Irish Independent Irish Times 3 Irish Independent 2 Handelsblatt Welt El Mundo Comment is Free: Tisdall EurActiv Der Standard

Cohn-Bendit claims EU leaders will meet this month to discuss EU's top jobs
EurActiv reports that Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the co-chair of the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament, has claimed that EU leaders are pretending that their meeting on 24-25 September is about the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, but they will actually be discussing the EU's top jobs such as the President of the European Council, which will be created if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force. He said Spanish PM José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero visited French President Nicolas Sarkozy last Friday to clarify whether former Spanish PM Felipe González was a candidate for Council President. He also said he rejected the idea of Tony Blair taking the position, because of his support of the war in Iraq.
EurActiv Le Monde OE blog

UK will see legislation on temporary agency workers in next Parliamentary session
The FT reports that Gordon Brown has committed to producing legislation to implement the EU's Temporary Agency Workers Directive in the next Parliamentary session. However, Unions want the Directive to come into force in April, while business is lobbying for implementation to be delayed until the last possible date of autumn 2011.

Socialists in European Parliament to abstain in vote to re-elect Barroso today
The European Parliament (EP) is likely to vote in favour of granting Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso a second term today. According to the FT, he is expected to have support from the centre-right European People's Party group, and from a part of the European Conservatives and Reformists, although the vote is held by secret ballot.

Jean Quatremer reports on his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog that the entire Socialist grouping is to abstain from the vote, but notes that an abstention is a vote for Barroso, as only yes and no votes are counted under the Treaty of Nice. Glenis Willmott, leader of Labour MEPs in the European Parliament, said they were "disappointed" with Barroso's agenda. According to PA, Willmott said she had not come under any pressure from Gordon Brown to ensure a vote for Barroso.
FT FT: Barber EurActiv European Voice BBC The Parliament Focus AFP ZDF ARD Die Presse Le Figaro Le Monde Liberation: Coulisses de Bruxelles Le Monde Pais Mundo Helsingin Sanomat

EU Commission extends its investigation into ING;
Lloyds could be forced to sell off Halifax
European Voice reports that the European Commission has announced that it will extend the scope of its investigation into the valuation of the impaired assets of ING, the Dutch financial group. The Commission is concerned that the Dutch government might have paid too much for ING assets, and insured toxic assets on ING's books in a way that contravenes EU rules restricting state aid.

The Irish Independent reports that it is a timely reminder to Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan not to pay too much for assets under the government's NAMA scheme.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that the Commission has also warned Lloyds Banking Group that it may have to split off Halifax as punishment for the billions of pounds of state aid that it has received. Business Editor David Wighton writes in the paper that, Lloyds could be delaying negotiations with the Commission because if the Irish vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty, a new Commission could be formed by the end of October.
City AM Irish Independent European Voice IHT Times Times: Wighton

Jack Thurston: Farm subsidies should be shifted from EU to national level
Writing in the Telegraph Jack Thurston, co-founder of, looks at the EU's budget and Common Agricultural Policy spending and writes "If the EU budget is considered as an ancient forest overgrown with brambles, by far the most impenetrable thicket is the common agricultural policy."

He goes on to suggest that, "Instead of trying to get rid of farm subsidies, their financing should be shifted from the EU to the national level. This would reduce politically awkward budget imbalances as well as focusing minds in countries that see the CAP as providing 'free money' from Brussels."

Also writing in the paper, former diplomat Tim Collard argues that Britain and France, "were never meant to be on the same side. As for real EU partnership, we'll never see that this century."
Telegraph Telegraph 2

The Express reports on the recent ruling from the ECJ that workers who are ill during their holidays can now claim the time back from their employers.
Express BBC OE blog

Edward McMillian-Scott MEP expelled from Conservative Party
The BBC reports that Edward McMillan-Scott MEP has been expelled from the Conservative Party. He was suspended in July after he stood as a candidate for European Parliament Vice-President against the official candidate of the European Conservatives and Reformists grouping. He said he was "shocked" at the decision to expel him and described it as "vengeful and fruitless", adding that he would appeal against it. He also said that, "David Cameron has been exploited by those in his party who want Britain to leave Europe: I want Britain to lead in Europe."
BBC BBC Today programme

French newspaper Les Echos reports that the Chief of the London Stock Exchange, Xavier Rolet, is criticising the EU's directive on hedge funds and private equity (AIFM). He says that the directive would cause irreparable damage to the European financial markets and put Singapore, Zurich, and New York in an advantageous position.
No link

El Mundo reports that EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot, the Swedish Asylum Minister Tobias Billström, and the EPP and S&D groups in the European Parliament are supporting a strengthening of Frontex, the EU's border control agency.
El Mundo

Austrian newspaper Wirtschaftsblatt reports that Commission President José Manuel Barroso revealed in his election speech to the European Parliament that he intends to create a Commissioner for Climate Protection.
Wirtschaftsblatt Standaard

The BBC reports that the French Parliament has passed a draft version of the 'three-strikes' Hadopi bill, which could see the internet access of illegal downloaders cut off without going through the courts. An earlier version of the law was ruled unconstitutional. The law will be adopted if a commission - made up of seven senators and seven deputies - can agree a joint version in the next few days.
EUobserver BBC

EUobserver reports that the EP President Jerzy Buzek has pledged to ensure web streaming for all of the Parliament's work, not just the plenary sessions, and increase scrutiny of the Commission.
EUobserver Mundo

Jacques Barrot, the Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs, has condemned the practice of rejecting boats transporting illegal immigrants and singled out Italy. Franco Frattini, Italy's Foreign Minister, countered by arguing that Italy was fully complying with international laws on immigration.
Messaggero ANSA

EurActiv reports that the Swedish EU Presidency will meet with MEPs on 30 September to hammer out an early second-reading agreement on the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive. One of the key points to be agreed upon is the directive's implementation date. The Commission had proposed that the directive be transposed by the end of 2010, by national states say such a date is too soon.

The FT reports that EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has praised the incoming Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama for an essay he wrote that criticised US-style capitalism, as a sign of the "converging visions" of Brussels and Tokyo.

The Prague Daily Monitor reports that the Czech Chamber of Deputies has refused to call early elections in November. It notes that the plan to hold early elections in October was frustrated by the Constitutional Court's decision to cancel the early elections. This means that regular elections will be probably held next May.Prague Daily Monitor

In a comment in Sueddeutsche, Cerstin Gammelin argues that the EU Commission is delaying acting on urgent European matters if they are in some way associated with the German elections this month. The Commission - which usually becomes active very quickly - says that the details of the Opel contract negotiations are not in hand, despite them being published in the media.

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