Thursday, September 17, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 17 September 2009


Lisbon Yes campaigners look to EU lobbying firms for financial support
The Irish Times reports that campaign group 'Europe for Ireland' is trying to raise €500,000 to spend on adverts calling for a Yes vote in the final weeks of the second Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign. On their behalf a lobbying firm has issued an "urgent appeal" to other EU lobbying firms for donations of up to €30,000 to help the campaign.

In a letter to the paper, the Director of Whitehouse Consultancy, Chris Whitehouse, said it was inappropriate for European lobbyists to get involved in the Irish debate. "The Irish electorate are likely to take a very dim view of commercial lobbyists entering the debate simply to protect their own profits, derived in part from lobbying the very institutions that would benefit most from a Yes vote for the treaty."

The paper also reports that newly re-elected Commission President José Manuel Barroso will travel to Ireland this Saturday to campaign for a Yes vote in the referendum.

A leader in the WSJ notes that "It is a measure of the desperation of the supporters of the treaty that they have resorted to patent absurdities in their efforts to secure a Yes vote from the Irish people the second time around. Last Friday, Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan told a press conference that "a 'No' vote will signal to the rest of the world that Ireland has retreated into economic isolation."

It continues, "But no sane businessman is going to mistake a No vote on Lisbon with a decision to pull out of Europe or the euro. That kind of apocalyptic talk is symptomatic of the great plague of what passes for European politics: the strident declarations that you are either with us or against us. In Europe today, it sometimes seems that no possibility of a loyal opposition is countenanced."

The Times features an interview with No campaigner Declan Ganley, in which he says, "They are trying to scare the crap out of the Irish people by saying 'vote yes for jobs, vote yes for the economy' when the treaty will not create a single job in Ireland. In fact I am convinced it will result in job losses."

He adds, "My invitation to Brian Cowen [the Taoiseach] to a live television debate has been met with a resounding silence from the man who said he wanted a full and frank debate. Instead we have a long line of ministers running for the hills, not standing up to defend this piece of useless junk."

Meanwhile, PA reports that Conservative leader David Cameron has indicated his determination to hold a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, even if the Irish vote Yes, saying that a Conservative government would put the Treaty to a popular vote in Britain as long as it had not been fully ratified by all the EU member states. Party officials said even if the Irish did reverse last year's "no" vote, Poland and the Czech Republic had yet to fully ratify the Treaty.

Conservative Home reports: "He said that no-one should intervene in the Irish referendum and that it was up to the Irish people... no-one should bully them or browbeat them either before or after the vote. As to what Conservative Government would do if the treaty had already passed in all countries on its election, he repeated his much used formula that several countries are yet to ratify and implement the treaty, so he doesn't want to prejudge what they are doing - and that unless/until they have all passed it, 'we are clear we want to have that referendum [in Britain]... and recommend a no vote'."
Irish Times Irish Times 2 Times WSJ: Editorial Irish Times 3 El País Courrier International Irish Independent: Molony Irish Times 4 Conservative Home

72% of cost of regulation in the UK comes from the EU
The Telegraph questions whether Britain is still a sovereign state after the constitutional changes brought by EU membership. It cites Open Europe's research, which finds that 72 percent of the cost of regulation introduced in the past ten years is derived from the EU, and quotes Open Europe's conclusion that "In terms of absolute proportion, we estimate the figure to be around 50 percent. This means that the EU now has huge regulatory powers. What's more, in terms of relative impact - which is what matters - its powers over regulation exceed that of the UK government".

The article also features graphs and a break-down of Open Europe's research, published in February this year, which found that EU regulation has cost the UK economy £148bn in the last ten years, £107bn of which is derived from EU legislation.

The article concludes, "Even if we are talking about half of all UK laws and 72 per cent of regulations coming from Brussels, it is a staggeringly high proportion and of great importance to the way the country is run and governed."

Elsewhere in the Telegraph, Matthew Elliott, the Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, argues that the overall cost of EU membership to Britain is the greatest cause for concern.
Telegraph Telegraph: Elliott Open Europe research

Newly-elected Barosso promises more EU integration;
Re-election seen as boost to Blair's chances of becoming EU President
José Manuel Barroso has been re-elected for a second term as President of the European Commission despite strong attacks from the Left and criticisms that he has not done enough to limit the effect of the recession. Barroso won an absolute majority of votes from MEPs with 382 of 718 votes, thanks to the backing of Conservatives and Liberals within the European Parliament, including the UK Conservatives, as well as the absence of a challenger.

A headline in the Telegraph reads: "I'll bind EU states even closer, says victorious Barroso". He is quoted saying, "As President of the Commission, my party is going to be Europe. Anyone who wants to can come on board on this exciting journey that is the integration of Europe... Having this very clear reaffirmation of support is great. I will use this capital for more energy for Europe. It will use it because I think it is important to fight national egoisms."

The Times reports that Barroso's success has revived talk of a 'dream team' of Barroso working alongside Tony Blair in a future role of President of the European Council, and notes that Mr Blair's appointment to the role would be strongly backed by Britain and Italy, although French support appears to have waned.

De Telegraaf and Het Financieele Dagblad report on speculation that Dutch PM Jan-Peter Balkenende could become the first EU President, citing three sources from his CDA party who claim to know this "for sure", while adding that Maxime Verhagen would be his successor as Dutch PM.

Meanwhile Le Figaro reports that negotiations have already begun for the 26 positions on the new European Commission, with France having already chosen Michel Barnier for its appointment to the Commission. The paper notes that Barroso promised to "fight social dumping," confirming his intention to look at the EU's controversial law on workers posted abroad (the Posted Workers Directive), which led to wildcat strikes in the UK last year.
Times Independent Independent: Hamilton EP press release Messaggero ANSA Wall Street Journal El Mundo La Razon 2 El País FT IHT FT: Brussels blog Telegraph: Hannan blog Spiegel BBC European Voice EurActiv EUobserver Le Figaro Les Echos Le Figaro 2 Le Figaro 3 Le Figaro: Blog L'Express Le Figaro 4 Telegraph Times: Analysis Euractiv (fr) Le Figaro 5 Telegraaf Open Europe research

EU leaders meet to debate bankers' bonuses and climate change ahead of G20 summit
European leaders are today set to agree plans for greater control over bankers' pay ahead of next week's G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. In a statement expected to be endorsed at an EU meeting in Brussels this evening, EU leaders will call on G20 countries "to encourage [...] a strong link between compensation and long-term performance". The leaders will also recommend "binding rules [on bonuses] backed up by the threat of sanctions", reports City AM.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to walk out of next week's summit in Pittsburgh should the other nations fail to agree on curbs to bankers' bonuses. He has cast himself as the scourge of high-paid bankers and will demand a legal cap on financial sector remuneration. But his demands have already run into opposition from Gordon Brown and President Obama.

Today's extraordinary EU summit will also deal with climate change which is to be discussed at next week's G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. EUobserver says that the clock is ticking for EU states to put forward climate change ideas for a UN summit in December. The European Commission last week put the first concrete figures for global funding on the table, suggesting that the EU would commit an annual €2-15 billion of public money. However national capitals are yet to accept the figures put forward by the Commission, according to Euractiv.
CityAM Times El País EurActiv IHT BBC Le Figaro Welt Irish Independent: Keenan EUobserver EurActiv Die Zeit

Commission set for clash with central and Eastern Europe over carbon credits
European Voice reports that a renewed battle over EU climate policy is looming between the Commission and central and eastern European countries. Some member states want to keep some or all of the unused carbon credits that they accumulated from the first phase of the EU's emissions trading scheme (ETS). This would make it easier for them to meet their next climate targets when a successor to the Kyoto protocol comes into force after 2012.

The article notes that the Commission estimates that there are seven-and-a-half gigatonnes of surplus carbon credits, equivalent to one-and-a-half times the annual emissions of the EU. An official recently warned: "If you put that all into the second commitment period, then a 30% target becomes meaningless."
European Voice Open Europe research

EU proposal on alternative investment has a long road ahead
In the FTadviser, James Spellman writes that the EU's efforts to regulate hedge funds and the private equity industry will be "fraught with difficulty in the months ahead". He notes that the proposed EU directive on Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFMD) has been criticised for shutting out non-EU AIFMs. He notes that any AIFM wishing to market AIFs in the EU would need to become an EU-regulated AIFM. Since US regulations, for example, are not considered by the EU to be equivalent to the Directive, "it is likely that US fund managers wishing to continue to market their AIFs in the EU will be forced to establish a place of business in the EU and become authorised under the directive," according to an analysis by the law firm K&L and Gates.

The article concludes that with Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy's departure at year-end and rumours that Christine Lagarde, France's Finance Minister, wants the job - "all forebodes for a long, long road ahead. That, as with all new roads, will have new ruts."
FTadviser: Spellman

Controversy over Louis Michel's potential appointment as chair of ACP delegation in the European Parliament
The Parliament reports that the composition and some of the chairmanships of the European Parliament's delegations were settled yesterday in Strasbourg. Former EU Commissioner Louis Michel was strongly tipped to be elected chair of the African, Caribbean and Pacific delegation, which is seen as controversial in some quarters given his former position as Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, with one parliamentary critic being quoted saying that "It is a clear conflict of interests."

French Green MEP Helene Flautre was predicted to be elected chair of another key delegation, to Turkey, while Elmar Brok, a German centre-right deputy and former chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, was expected to get the plum chairmanship of the delegation to the United States, a post held in the last parliament by UK Conservative MEP Jonathan Evans.
The Parliament

EU Agriculture Commissioner: CAP needs to be changed to help farmers reduce emissions
Euractiv reports that EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said yesterday that European farmers must slash agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020, primarily by producing biomass and storing carbon in the soil, but they risk ruin without outside help. Fischer Boel said Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Health Check and Economic Recovery Package had helped set aside more money for farmers to fight climate change. But she said Europe would "almost certainly" have to make changes to the CAP, mainly after 2013, to give farmers much-needed support to reduce emissions.

Opel deal causes political fallout across the EU
The FT reports on growing concern over Germany's plans to aid the restructuring of General Motors' Opel unit, through the provision of billions of euros in loan guarantees. Politicians in Belgium yesterday confirmed there would be a stringent examination of the moves in order to ensure they comply with the EU's competition rules. Miguel Sebastien, Spain's Industry Minister, expressed concern over Germany's moves, claiming that "this has to be a European project and solution", whilst the FT quotes UK Business Secretary, Lord Mandelson, stating that the Commission must look into anything that "looks like a political fix".
FT FT 2 FT 3 FT: Leader BBC Irish Times Le Monde

The Times reports that Business Secretary Lord Mandelson intends to delay the implementation of several new business regulations, possibly including the EU's Temporary Agency Workers Directive.

Barack Obama has abandoned the US's controversial plan to build a missile-defence system in Poland and the Czech Republic in one of the sharpest breaks yet with the policies of the Bush administration. If confirmed, this move is likely to delight the Kremlin but unnerve Washington's eastern European allies.
Guardian CorrieredellaSera Messaggero Repubblica ANSA EUobserver BBC

European Union officials have claimed that a third of President Karzai's vote in the recent Afghan elections may be fraudulent.
Times Messaggero El País

Le Monde reports that approximately a thousand people gathered in Kosovo's capital, Pristina, to denounce a protocol of an agreement signed three days earlier by Serbia and Eulex, the European civil mission present in Kosovo, accusing it of reducing Kosovo's sovereignty.
Le Monde

The European Commission has announced plans to crack down on the way banks treat their customers after a report prepared for the Commission identified problems with "re-contractual information, account switching, advice given to customers and the level and transparency of bank fees." The report uncovered that some practices infringed upon EU law and regulations may need to be tightened in response.
European Voice

The Mail describes the European Commission's expected decision to force Lloyds Banking Group into asset sales as "humiliation" for Gordon Brown.
Mail Irish Times

An article in the New Statesman looks at the expulsion of MEP Edward McMillan-Scott from the Conservative Party, after remarks he made about Michal Kaminski, who leads the Conservatives' group in the European Parliament. It asks, "Why are the Conservatives so desperate to silence McMillan-Scott and Kaminski's critics, while turning a blind eye to backbench racists and promoting right-wing cranks?"
New Statesman

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