Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 2 September 2009


EU Commissioner admits Lisbon Treaty was designed to avoid "real debate"
An article on Conservative Home reports that new EU Development Commissioner Karel de Gucht has said that: "Whilst the original Constitutional Treaty was technical, and correct, people didn't read the Lisbon Treaty, they didn't understand the first word about it. No real debate about the Lisbon Treaty could happen. This was a deliberate decision of the European Council".

Meanwhile, former Green Party MEP and Chairwoman of the People's Movement Patricia McKenna is considering a legal challenge against the Referendum Commission, claiming an information booklet on the Lisbon Treaty from the body is "evasive", "inaccurate" and "misleading" and must be changed or withdrawn immediately. The Irish Times quotes her saying, "This document which the voters believe to be balanced and non-partisan is one of the most disturbing aspects of the campaign to date".

The Irish Times reports that John Burke, an Irish cattleman, has told the High Court that he intends to challenge the legality of the second referendum on the Treaty on the grounds that no means no and that no written evidence of legal changes to the Treaty had been put before the electorate. He told the Court, "That vote [the first referendum] still stands and the Taoiseach has since told the electorate they have been misinformed and that they will have to vote until such time as they decide to vote the opposite".

Irish PM Brian Cowen is to meet with other party leaders to prevent the political 'infighting' which occurred during the last referendum, according to the Irish Times. The Fianna Fail Yes campaign will be launched today, and the Irish Independent reports that Fianna Fail is hoping to get €100,000 towards its campaign from the liberal ALDE group it joined in the European Parliament after the European elections.
Irish Times Irish Independent Irish Times 2 Irish Independent 2 Irish Independent 3 Irish Times 3 Irish Independent 4 Irish Times 4 Irish Independent 5 Conservative Home: Daniel Hamilton Reuters OE blog

Czech Senators file court challenge over Lisbon Treaty
Seventeen Czech Senators have filed a complaint against a 'special mandate' related to the Czech Republic's ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. The special mandate requires the parliament's approval for any future transfer of powers to the EU, but the Senators argue that this is not sufficient and a constitutional majority should be required for such a transfer. The Senators also plan to ask the Constitutional Court to reassess the Lisbon Treaty for its impact on the EU's institutions.
Prague Monitor Ceskenoviny

Swedish Young Social Democrats come out against Lisbon Treaty
The Young Social Democrats in Sweden have come out against the Lisbon Treaty, thereby going against the line of the main social democratic party. In an article on Europaportalen, the Chairwoman of the Young Social Democrats, Jytte Guteland, argues that "While the Young Social Democrats have confirmed its basic positive view of [European] cooperation, we have decided to say No to the Lisbon Treaty. The criticism was fundamentally about a Treaty which in our eyes isn't sufficiently democratic." She argues that in future the EU must develop treaties with more focus on democracy, human rights and transparency.

EU's 'top jobs' to be decided in October, if Lisbon is ratified
Euractiv reports that the Swedish EU Presidency has said that, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by then, the 29-30 October European summit in Brussels will discuss nominations to all EU top jobs, including a high-profile permanent "EU President" and "Foreign Minister". Swedish EU Affairs Minister Cecilia Malmström added that the October summit would also deal with the issue of the 18 newly elected MEPs who cannot sit in the Parliament until the Treaty's ratification, and on arrangements for the European External Action Service.

In the FT, Brussels Correspondent Tony Barber writes that the Socialist group in the European Parliament's attempts to stall Jose Barroso's reappointment as Commission President are "an example of how the EU - though by no means incapable of leadership on big-picture issues such as financial market reform and climate change - is often forced to operate in a framework shaped by meaner considerations. Political vanity, self-aggrandisement and an irrepressible instinct for horse-trading are as much part of Europe's public life as Beethoven's Ninth Symphony."Die Presse Euractiv Julien Frisch blog FT: Barber Europolitique

British insurers warn that EU rules will require £50bn in new capital
The FT reports that UK insurers fear they will be forced to raise more than £50bn in fresh equity as a result of proposed new European rules that they warn would lead to a dramatic increase in premium rates. The new rules, laid out in the so-called "Solvency II" directive, are to come into force in 2012 after the Commission has set implementation standards by the end of next year.

In a letter to Chancellor Alistair Darling, the Association of British Insurers said that "The huge over-capitalisation will mean that investment returns in insurance will fall. Companies will exit the market, prices will rise, cover will reduce and innovation will lessen." The letter urged Mr Darling and the European Commission to intervene over a threat "to the industry, to its customers and even to financial stability".
FT Telegraph Times Reuters

Boris Johnson lobbies MEPs and Commissioners to water down proposed alternative investment regulation
The Times reports that London Mayor Boris Johnson will today lobby EU Commissioners and MEPs over the EU's proposed crackdown on hedge funds and private equity firms contained in the proposed Alternative Investment Fund Management Directive. The BBC quotes Johnson saying that the Directive was "open to people to construe it as a naked attempt by Paris and Berlin to attack the competitiveness of the City of London...those suspicions in my view are not wholly unfounded." In City AM, Johnson argues that "If we allow this directive to go ahead unamended, these alternate investment funds will not migrate to Paris or Frankfurt, they will go to New York, Shanghai or Singapore."

PA quotes Johnson saying, "In London alone, the private equity and venture capital industry directly employs around 7,000 people and we estimate a further 35,000 people are employed directly and indirectly by hedge fund managers."

Labour MEP Peter Skinner, a member of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, said "Boris Johnson's visit illustrates the isolation of the Conservative Party on critical issues that are driven by the EU...Influencing the EU does not come from one visit; it comes from sustained relationship building and a willingness to engage in the EU."

Writing in the FT, Director of Investment Affairs at the Association of British Insurers Peter Montagnon argues that "The restrictions on access to the European market that [the Directive] would place on fund managers in 'third countries' that do not adopt equivalent regulation are protectionist. The compliance burden is enormous and will stifle choice, while the purported protections are not particularly helpful to professional investors. Some of those managers the directive will hit are about as remote as you can get from the origins of the financial crisis."
City AM: Johnson BBC Times Bloomberg FT: Montagnon

France tries to rally G20 leaders to bankers' bonus proposals
The FT reports that the French government is proposing three options for capping bankers' bonuses, including a targeted tax and a mandatory limit on rewards as a share of profit, which it wants G20 leaders to discuss at the summit later this month in Pittsburgh. French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde will brief EU finance ministers on the proposals today, and G20 ministers on Friday. Le Pays reports that Luxembourg PM Jean-Claude Juncker has come out in support of French proposals for capping bankers' bonuses.

However, the Guardian reports that the Obama administration is expected to say tomorrow that it wants the summit to focus on getting the world economy back on its feet and promoting financial stability, with doubts that it wants to tackle the Wall Street bonus culture whilst trying to pass healthcare reforms.
FT FT: Lex Guardian Guardian 2 Le Pays Expansion Le Monde

Berlusconi calls for gag on EU Commissioners
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has threatened to block the workings of the EU unless Commissioners and Commission spokespeople are barred from speaking publicly on "any subject". The demand came after British Commission spokesman Dennis Abbott said the Commission would ask Italy to clarify an incident on Sunday in which Italy turned migrants back to Libya. The Commission responded that such requests were "normal process in situations like these."
Guardian Reuters EUobserver EurActiv Irish Times

Eurozone unemployment rate hits decade high of 9.5%
The Guardian reports that Eurostat, the European Union's statistics office, announced today that the number of unemployed rose by 167,000 in July to over 15 million. The joblessness rate in the eurozone has risen to its highest in a decade, at 9.5% last month and Europe-wide unemployment is 9%. European Voice notes there are 21.7 million unemployed in the whole of the EU in July and that every member state saw a rise in unemployment since 2008.
Irish Independent Guardian European Voice BBC Figaro Helsingin Sanomat Taloussanomat European Voice

Commission urges member states to admit more refugees
The BBC reports the European Commission is to release plans to allow more refugees to enter the EU, aiming to discourage immigrants doing so illegally. Last year, the EU accepted 7% of all resettled refugees around the world, totalling fewer than 6,000 people. In contrast, the US resettled more than 60,000 people. Under the new plans member states would prioritise refugee groups and receive funds for their resettlement. Helsingin Sanomat notes that not all member states currently accept and resettle designated quotas of refugees. According to Gilles van Moortel, spokesman for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), "at the moment 10 out of 27 member states have resettlement programmes."
BBC Helsingin Sanomat

CDU losses might bring about a repeat of "grand standstill coalition" at next German elections
A leader in the WSJ argues that the heavy losses of the CDU party in Sunday's regional state elections should serve as warning to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Similar results later this month would put an end to any hopes of an alliance with the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) and almost certainly bring about a repeat of the "grand standstill coalition."
WSJ: Editorial

EU holds tight on plan to exit milk quotas
Farmers from all over Europe yesterday appealed to the EU Commission to stabilise milk prices. Stuttgarter Nachrichten reports that the European Milk Board (EMB) is demanding a swift reduction on EU-wide milk production in order to raise the price per litre on 40 cents until the beginning of next year.

EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Mariann Fischer Boel, rejected this demand saying that the "central regulation" needs to come to an end. For now milk production is regulated by a quota system which is sought to be increased by one percent annually in order to prepare the exit in 2015.
Ad hoc News Volksblatt

ARD reports that the ban on light bulbs "is just the beginning", as new rules for fridges and coolers are on the way due to the EU ecodesign directive. The new rules are expected to come in force in 2010. Unlike the banned light bulbs, affected products will not be taken off the market completely. Currently there a talks in progress on regulations for windows and shower heads, which don't need energy, but might save power.

The BBC reports that the Scottish Fishermen's Federation has welcomed EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg's suggestion that annual fish quotas be scrapped, and that they be replaced with an annual allowance of days at sea.

The former President of the Party of European Socialists Poul Nyrup Rasmussen has called for the introduction of a "financial transactions tax" in the EU, calling it the second version of the Tobin tax.
Bruegel - Memos to the new Commission

In an opinion piece in Dutch daily De Volkskrant, Belgian MEP Derk-Jan Eppink calls for the Dutch liberal party VVD to stand up against the ALDE leader in the EP Guy Verhofstadt, arguing that "He thinks that Barroso should give way to a European tax and a European army. The VVD doesn't support this."Volkskrant

European Voice reports that Swedish Environment Minister has said that the EU will push for climate finance to be made available to the world's poorest countries in the next 3 years.
European Voice

EurActiv reports that Jo Leinen MEP, head of the EP's Environment Committee, has said that the EP plans to send a delegation to the US to encourage the Senate to pass pending climate change legislation, by explaining the "benefits" of the EU's climate and energy package.
EurActiv Open Europe research: Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package

The FT reports that Pascal Lamy, head of the World Trade Organisation, says growing unemployment will fuel protectionist pressures "for years to come". He added, ahead of tomorrow's meeting of trade ministers in New Delhi, that an agreement in the Doha round of talks on global trade was essential to combat protectionism.

A report commissioned by the City has found that of the 84,000 financial services jobs forecast to be cut in the EU this year, the UK is likely to account for around 35,000.
City AM

A Christian DJ who was allegedly sacked for 'offending Muslims' is to take his case to the European Court of Justice. The Rev Mahboob Masih, a Church of Scotland minister, took his case to an employment tribunal arguing he was discriminated against on the grounds of his religion. The case has been passed to the ECJ in Luxembourg, where judges will make an important ruling on whether volunteers are protected by anti-discrimination laws.

The EU Commission has given the green light for a grant of €450million for French television to compensate the scrapping of advertising after 8pm, but has launched an in-depth investigation into the long-term funding of French public television because of concerns that planned charges are incompatible with EU state-aid rules.
European Voice WSJ Times Figaro Le JDD

A leader in the Mirror looks at yesterday's World War II commemorations in Poland and argues "we should all acknowledge the important role of the much-criticised European Union in winning the peace."
Mirror: Leader

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