Friday, September 18, 2009

Open Europe press summary 18 September 2009


Sarkozy warns Czech Republic of "consequences" of delaying ratification of Lisbon Treaty
The FT's Brussels blog argues that the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty "is not the only cloud on the EU's horizon." It reports that, even if Ireland votes Yes, "there remain considerable doubts over when Václav Klaus, the Czech president, will append his signature to the Lisbon treaty, allowing it to take force. Fears are growing in Brussels that Klaus intends to find an excuse to delay signing as long as possible - certainly, until some time in the first half of next year. The EU will then face its ultimate nightmare - that the Lisbon treaty will not have been ratified by the time that the UK holds its next general election, due by June."

EUobserver reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has warned the Czech Republic that it will have to face "consequences" if it delays final ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, if Ireland votes Yes on 2 October. He described Czech PM Jan Fischer as a "man of great quality", but added "I stated clearly that if the Irish say Yes, there is no question that we will accept to stay in a no man's land with a Europe that does not have the institutions to cope with the crisis. It will be necessary to draw the consequences - but those will be the subject of another meeting."

DPA reports that Jan Fischer said yesterday that ratification of the Lisbon Treaty could take up to six more months in his country.

Meanwhile, writing in the Irish Times Tony Allwright looks at the 'guarantees' offered to Ireland on taxation and neutrality and argues, "they only nibble at the treaty's edges, and studiously avoid the rotten core to which so many people fundamentally object." He goes on to list four reasons to vote 'No', and four reasons not to vote 'Yes', including "the dishonesty of having converted the readable, understandable, if internally contradictory Treaty Establishing A Constitution For Europe into the Lisbon Reform Treaty."

Jamie Smyth in the Irish Times looks at what will happen in terms of the size of the EU Commission if Ireland votes 'No', and describes Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt's '26 plus one plan' as "the most obvious contingency plan".

The front page of the Telegraph reports on the story that the 'Europe for Ireland' campaign has appealed to EU lobbyists in a "whip-round" to raise £450,000, in order to help the Yes campaign in Ireland.

The Irish Times reports the news that Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende has emerged as a possible candidate for the position of President of the European Council, a position that would be created under the Lisbon Treaty.
EUobserver OE blog Irish Times Irish Times 2 Irish Times 3 Irish Times 4 Irish Times 5 Irish Times 6 Irish Times 7 Irish Times 8 Irish Times: Editorial La Razon Presseurop Irish Independent Irish Independent 2 Irish Independent: Myers Iain Dale's diary Telegraph FT: Brussels blog

Open Europe debates EU regulation and the EMU in Estonia
Open Europe and the Educational Initiative for Central and Eastern Europe on Wednesday organised a conference in Tallinn, Estonia, titled "European Union: Costs, Benefits and Strategies for Estonia." Speakers included Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, International Business Editor of the Daily Telegraph; Aivar Sõerd, Former Finance Minister of Estonia; Ülo Kaasik, Head of the Economics Department, Estonian Central Bank; Prof. Dr. Ülo Ennuste of Tallinn University; Kalev Kallemets of the NGO Estonian Nuclear Station and Mats Persson from Open Europe.

There were two separate panel debates. The first one asked the question "would the euro be good for Estonia?", with Ambrose Evans-Pritchard warning that the euro is not a safe-haven for small countries, pointing to Iceland whose currency absorbed much of the shock created by the financial crisis. Ambrose's speech was followed by remarks by Aivar Sõerd and Ülo Kaasik, who outlined the prospects for Estonia joining the euro and the current state of affairs. The second debate touched on how EU regulation impacts on Estonia and other smaller member states, with Mats Persson stressing the need for improving the scrutiny and impact assessment of EU proposals at an earlier stage in the policy process.
No link

German upper house approves laws required for Lisbon Treaty ratification;
New complaints against Treaty are filed with the Constitutional Court
Today, all 16 federal states in the German Bundesrat (upper house) have voted in favour of the laws accompanying the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. This was the last parliamentary hurdle for ratifying the Treaty in Germany, and it is now waiting for President Horst Köhler to give his signature for the final approval.

Meanwhile, FAZ reports that Diether Spethmann, former CEO of Thyssen, and one of the actors in the first lawsuit against the Lisbon Treaty in Germany, has lodged a new constitutional complaint against the revised laws with the German Constitutional Court.

Meanwhile, in an article in the Telegraph, Andrew Gimson looks at the German Constitutional court ruling on the Lisbon Treaty and writes, "In a tone of barely suppressed fury, the court enumerates the encroachments Europe has made on national judicial systems and rules that this process must go no further... The German judges add that measures of European integration 'must, in principle, be revocable', and declare that they themselves have the right to safeguard 'the inviolable core content' of the German constitution."
Zeit Focus Spiegel FAZ AFP DPP DPA EUobserver Telegraph

FSA announces its support for fight against EU's Alternative Investment Directive
City AM reports that the Financial Services Authority (FSA) yesterday gave its support to the hedge fund and private equity industries and called on the EU to rethink its plans for a crackdown on the alternative investment industry. Managing Director of the FSA's risk division, Sally Dewar, said the EU must address weaknesses in the current rules in a "proportionate" way in its draft directive on alternative investment funds.

Meanwhile, German magazine Focus reports that France wants to prevent offshore hedge funds from getting the planned "EU passport" which would restrict the marketing of these funds. Jean-Pierre Jouyet, Chairman of the French financial authority AMF, said this Wednesday in London that the "EU passport" should be reserved for hedge funds that are registered in Europe, but every EU member state should make its own decision.
City AM Focus

Charlemagne: There is an idea in Brussels that "policies are not legitimate if they are not supported by a 'pro-European majority'"
The Economist's Charlemagne blog looks at the re-election of Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and writes, "Labelling the Tories 'Europhobes' is a slippery step, if that is what some commentators are trying to do. It smacks of this idea you hear in Brussels that policies are not legitimate if they are not supported by a 'pro-European majority' in the European parliament, meaning the centre left S&D group, the centre right EPP group and the Liberals and Greens."
Economist: Charlemagne notebook

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard: Britain is still better off outside the euro
In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard argues that the UK is better off outside the euro, noting that "Had we joined monetary union in 1999, interest rates set by the European Central Bank would have been near 2 per cent during the mid-years of this decade. This would have been like pouring petrol on the housing fire. The credit bubble would have been even worse."

As part of the paper's "State of Europe" series, Jeremy Warner also looks at the euro writing, "The single currency has survived because the line that has been held on the stability and growth pact has been roundly ignored. Toleration of unruly behaviour has saved the euro from forced or voluntary withdrawal."

Meanwhile an article in the WSJ reports that "Spain's struggles illustrate the pitfalls of Europe's common currency", raising the question: "Could the divergent economic fortunes of euro-zone countries pose a problem for the currency union itself?"
Telegraph Telegraph: Evans-Pritchard WSJ Bloomberg FFOE Blog: Hughes

Poland and Czech Republic dismayed at Obama's decision to scrap missile defence shield
US President Barack Obama has scrapped plans for a missile defence shield over eastern Europe in a major concession to Russia that has dismayed Poland and the Czech Republic. A spokesman for the Polish Foreign Ministry described the move, which will have major implications for Western relations with Russia, as "a catastrophe" and John McCain, the Republican challenger in the 2008 presidential race, said "this decision calls into question the security and diplomatic commitments the United States has made to Poland and the Czech Republic."
Times Times 2 Times: Leader WSJ WSJ 2 Telegraph EUobserver BBC EurActiv Guardian GuardianFarley Guardian2 CorrieredellaSera Messaggero Sole24Ore ANSA ANSA2 Le Figaro Mail Irish Independent: Osborne Welt

UK falls into line with rest of EU on bankers' bonuses ahead of G20
There is widespread coverage of yesterday's meeting of EU leaders ahead of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh next week. The WSJ reports that EU leaders said the G20 should establish binding rules on bonuses for financial institutions and set penalties for firms that don't comply. The article quotes Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, who holds the EU Presidency, saying, "From our point of view, the bonus bubble burst tonight."

The article notes that the UK's objections to strict rules on pay have faded now that President Barack Obama seems willing to agree to new regulations. The Telegraph quotes Gordon Brown saying, "Irresponsible remuneration policies were one of the factors that put the global economy at risk."

EUobserver notes that EU leaders have also agreed that the global economic recovery is still too fragile to begin a roll-back of economic stimulus packages, with Mr. Reinfeldt saying that "exit strategies need to be designed now but implemented later".

Meanwhile German newspaper Welt reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated a global financial tax during yesterday's EU summit which then could be brought up at next weeks G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. However the EU is divided on this issue. While Germany, France, and Austria are in favour, Great Britain and Sweden are against a global financial tax.
WSJ European Voice EurActiv EurActiv 2 Guardian FT Telegraph Times EUobserver Messaggero Messaggero2 Evening Standard Irish Times El País Le Figaro Le Figaro 2 Euractiv (fr) Helsingin Sanomat Nachrichten Boerse Le Figaro Die Welt

France's EU under-spending to be investigated
Euractiv reports French MP Pierre Lequiller and MEP Sophie Auconie are to be appointed to produce a report on EU funds that were allocated to France, but not spent. They are to receive a letter outlining their task from Matignon in the next couple of days. Such "lost funds" total €227 million, according to Euractiv. Between 2000 and 2006, France only used 86% of its cohesion funds.
Euractiv (fr)

EU anti-fraud agency urged to reconsider decision not to probe alleged irregularities in EP financing of parliamentary buildings
The Parliament reports that EU anti-fraud agency OLAF has been asked to rethink its decision not to probe alleged irregularities in the financing of parliamentary buildings. European Ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros reportedly made two recommendations to Parliament and Olaf concerning the financing of the Willy Brandt, József Antall and Altiero Spinelli buildings in Brussels and whether they should have been subject to a public tender procedure. The case dates back to November 2006 when the complainant, a journalist, asked parliament for access to a number of documents relating to the financing of the Willy Brandt and József Antall buildings, which was refused. As the European Parliament had agreed to pay a company for services relating to the financing of the building's acquisition without publishing a call for tender concerning these services, OLAF had opened an investigation and closed the case in 2006, without recommending any further follow up.
The Parliament

UK raises 'subsidy war' fear over Opel
Lord Mandelson last night called on Brussels to ensure that Germany's offer of multi-billion euro subsidies to smooth the sale of General Motors' European arm does not begin a "subsidy war", reports the FT. He said that the European Commission should "refuse to accept plant closures and restructuring that reflect the size of the chequebook, rather than commercial considerations", that the Commission's "legal duty is to insist on the difference between what is economically sound and what is politically expedient" and that it should "not accept anything that looks like a political fix or any linkage between aid and retention of jobs in any specific plant or country." EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes promised on Monday that she will ensure the deal is "based on commercial considerations, designed to sustain viable jobs, and not protectionist motives."
FT WSJ: Editorial Telegraph Eurotopics

MEPs endorse short-term support for dairy farmers
MEPs have endorsed a resolution which urges the Commission to adopt a package of short-term initiatives aimed at supporting dairy producers. However, MEPs were split on some of the other major issues, namely the abolition of milk quotas, an EU market measure that the Commission and member states maintain will be abolished in 2015, according to The Parliament.

AFP reports that the Association of Dairy Producers has declared that more than 40,000 farmers of eight European countries have participated to a milk strike to put pressure on the Commission to halt the fall in price of milk.
AFP The Parliament FAZ Sueddeutsche ARD

Three-party coalition looks like possible outcome of the German election
German opinion polls indicate that Germany could for the first time find itself with a three-party government. The coalition of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Free Democratic party (FDP) is still leading, but its majority is shrinking and the centre-left coalition have not got the strength of support to win. It is appearing increasingly likely that either the elections will result in a CDU, FDP and Greens coalition, or that of the SPD, FDP and Greens. The Guardian reports that while the centre left has lost much support the far left seem to be growing in popularity, receiving 14% in the latest opinion polls.
FT Guardian Economist: Leader Economist: Briefing

Belgium's Het Belang van Limburg mentions Open Europe's calculation that EU Commission President Jose Barroso earns roughly the same basic salary as the democratically-elected President of the United States.
HBVL Vacature OE research

On his blog the BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson considers what relations with the EU would be like if David Cameron were Prime Minister. He says that it was noted across Europe that the Conservative leader dodged a question on what he would do if the Irish vote No to the Lisbon Treaty and asks "Would the Tory leader prefer to see his first few months in office occupied by a battle with the EU or with Eurosceptics in his own party?"
BBC: Nick Robinson's Newslog

A Populus poll for the Times has found that when asked "Which of the main parties would do the best job representing Britain's best interests in the EU?" 40 percent of voters said the Conservatives, 28 percent Labour, and 15 percent the Lib Dems.
Times: Populus poll

In the Guardian, Edward McMillan-Scott writes of his "shock" at the Conservatives' decision to expel him from the party.

Die Presse reports that after yesterday's talks between EU Commission President Barroso and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, Wilhelm Molterer and Johannes Hahn are the prime candidates for the position of Austrian EU Commissioner.
Die Presse

In the Telegraph, Jeff Randall notes that the option for the Government of increasing subsidies to Royal Mail and the Post Office network as necessary social services has been removed by the EU, which has the power to decide how much state aid is allowed.
Telegraph: Randall

EurActiv reports that Ji?í Šedivý, the Assistant Secretary-General of NATO, has said co-operation between the EU and NATO in the field of counter-terrorism is in "dire need of improvement" and that the inability for the organisations to share information due to an internal blockage between Cyprus and Turkey is "alarming" and "unacceptable".

European Voice reports that the Estonian government has nominated Siim Kallas to serve a second term as a European Commissioner.
European Voice

John Petley, of the Bruges Group, looks in the Telegraph at EU efforts to harmonise railways and argues that the result "is becoming increasingly detrimental to Britain." He argues that a European Commission proposal giving priority to international freight trains on certain trunk routes, including the West Coast Main Line, could add 10 percent to passenger journey times; and 25 minutes to the London-Glasgow route, only a few years after a £9 billion upgrade to speed up services along this line.

In a letter to the Telegraph Conservative MEP Charles Tannock argues that, "The debate about Europe, it seems, is actually alive and well in the Tory party".
Telegraph: Letters

Italy wants to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said yesterday after a suicide bomber killed six Italian soldiers.
Times El País CorrieredellaSera Messaggero Repubblica Sole24Ore ANSA

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