Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 22 September 2009


Industry bodies welcome Open Europe's report on EU's AIFM Directive
Open Europe's report on the EU's AIFM Directive continues to receive coverage. The report, published yesterday, found that the hedge fund and private equity industry contributed €9 billion in tax revenues to EU governments in 2008, and that the proposed Directive would cost EU-based firms in the two industries between €1.3 billion and €1.9 billion in the first year in compliance costs alone, while also having a negative impact on investor choice and returns.

The Telegraph quotes Open Europe's Mats Persson saying, "The proposal will hurt the EU's competitiveness, lead to more protectionism and mean less investment in European firms, at a time when more is desperately needed. Unless a range of amendments take place, the AIFM directive will impose substantial costs across the board, without offering sufficient benefits for the industry, investors and the wider economy. In a worst-case scenario, thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenues could be at stake."

Industry bodies AIMA, representing hedge fund managers, and EVCA, representing private equity managers, have welcomed the findings in the report. Andrew Baker, chief executive of AIMA, is quoted in the Hedge Fund Journal, saying "the findings [of the report] prove that our industry makes a strong and tangible contribution to the economies of Europe." His counterpart in the EVCA, Simon Walker, is quoted in City AM, arguing that "What we cannot accept is disproportionate regulation which would damage the operation of an industry which has not been identified as systemically dangerous or a cause of the financial crisis. This research reveals in stark terms that the directive as currently drafted would be deeply damaging to economies across Europe."
City AM Telegraph Wall Street Journal blog Reuters Népszabadság Valori Hedge Fund Net The Hedge Fund Journal HFM Week Dow Jones eFinancial News Global Pensions Global Investor Times: Letters Bloomberg TV Open Europe press release Open Europe's report

Referendum Commission rubbishes Yes campaign's claims on jobs;
Robert Ballagh: What is it about the Lisbon Treaty that causes the EU to "lose all sense of proportion?"
The Irish Times reports that Libertas founder Declan Ganley has said that claims that a No vote in next month's Lisbon Treaty referendum in Ireland will cost jobs are "ridiculous". He also welcomed a statement issued by the Chairman of the Referendum Commission, Mr Justice Frank Clarke, who said that "Claims that ratifying the treaty will affect job levels are political claims about which people may have different views. The treaty itself contains no provisions on this."

Meanwhile, Socialist MEP Joe Higgins has said the Yes side is spending "obscene" amounts of money ahead of the referendum. He said, "The role of big business in this referendum has ensured that the relatively slim resources on the No side are absolutely dwarfed by the obscene amounts of money the Ryanairs and Intels are putting into the Yes side." The IHT reports that Ryanair has said it is looking at flying home Irish expatriates for the vote next Friday, possibly for free.

An editorial in the WSJ considers the EU Commission's announcement that it will provide €14.8 million in aid to laid-off Dell workers in Ireland, and questions "When is politically directed state aid in Europe acceptable to the European Commission? Not when the German government tries to save jobs in the auto industry, or when the UK and others prop up failing banks. But these rules don't apply when it's Brussels itself trying to buy off a favoured constituency."

Writing in the Irish Times, Robert Ballagh argues that the Lisbon Treaty would damage Irish sovereignty: "Even the mildly curious must wonder what it is about the Lisbon Treaty that causes the European establishment to lose all sense of proportion in its frantic efforts to keep this unloved treaty alive...One argument frequently raised by some on the Yes side suggests that the Lisbon Treaty is 'no big deal', that it is simply a gathering together of previous treaties and, as a consequence, represents nothing more than a modest reform package. I'm afraid nothing could be further from the truth."

An article in Irish Medical News reports that more than 715,000 Irish people could be involuntarily detained under a provision in the Lisbon Treaty, allowing alcoholics and drug addicts to be held, which contravenes Ireland's 2001 Mental Health Act, according to Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Seán Ó Domhnaill. The provision is contained in the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), which the Lisbon Treaty would adopt in its entirety and give more weight before the Courts.

The Economist's Charlemagne blog looks at the possibility of Czech President Vaclav Klaus delaying ratification of the Treaty, and notes, "Talking about this with various Czech sources, though, I am struck by how few of them think Mr Klaus will hold out that long. The consensus I am picking up is that the president will sign the treaty before the end of this year."

In the Sun, Fergus Shanahan writes that, if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, the UK will lose its veto in 40 key areas, and will "lose the final say over our immigration and asylum policy." He also argues that if Ireland votes Yes and the Treaty becomes law David Cameron, "must promise a referendum regardless, if he is PM. We'll say No, at which point we must rethink our relationship with Europe."
WSJ: Editorial Irish Medical News 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 9 Irish Times 10 Irish Times 11 Irish Times 12 Irish Independent Irish Times 13 Irish Times 14 Irish Times 15 Irish Times 16 Irish Independent 2 Irish Independent 3 Irish Independent 4 IHT IHT 2 Irish Independent: Myers Economist: Charlemagne notebook Irish Examiner

Commission to outline plans for pan-EU financial supervision tomorrow
The FT reports that the European Commission will tomorrow unveil its proposal for a pan-EU system of financial supervision, including three new pan-European supervisory agencies that will draw up and help enforce a common rulebook for banks, insurers and securities markets. The proposals will also include the creation of a "European systemic risk board", made up of representatives of central banks and financial supervisory groups across the member states, to track and analyse financial stability issues.

The article notes however that it is the establishment of the three new pan-EU supervisory bodies in the banking, insurance and securities areas, to augment day-to-day supervision by national authorities, which will be the most controversial. The new authorities would be able to rule in the event of a dispute with or between member states - although there would be an appeals process, where the final decision would be taken by qualified majority voting.

Meanwhile, the Times reports that national regulators are to be handed new powers to limit the share of profits that banks are able to spend on bonuses under a new deal due to be put forward at this week's G20 meeting in Pittsburgh. Earlier this month Gordon Brown blocked a proposal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to cap individual bonuses, but he is supporting a compromise solution of limiting the percentage of firms' profits that may be allocated for bonuses. It is proposed that the three new pan-European supervisory agencies would be responsible for the day-to-day supervision and enforcement of the common rules.

The WSJ reports that the OECD has warned that eurozone banks could have further problems with impaired assets and insufficient capital, hindering economic recovery. "Failure to deal with banks' balance-sheet problems adequately could inhibit the functioning of the financial system as well as overall economic growth, for some time," the OECD said.
City AM FT EUobserver EurActiv Times City AM 2 EUobserver WSJ Open Europe press release Times Independent Independent: O'Grady WSJ 2 Telegraph FT 2

Richard Tyler: The double-edged sword of doing business with Brussels
In the Telegraph, Richard Tyler looks at the role of the EU in 'doing business' in the UK today. Whilst acknowledging that Europe is useful for some businesses, Tyler notes that the majority of businesses in Britain do not trade across borders but that these companies are nevertheless subject to lot of EU legislation, "much of which imposes business and employment practices alien to Britain". Citing Open Europe research, Tyler indicates that "70% of the additional cost to business of new UK legislation originates from the EU." He points out that there have been over 50 employment regulations put in place since 1997, most of which originated from European directives.

The paper also gives the reaction of leading business men to the EU and operating within it. Leading retailer Sir Phillip Green argues that "if there are any significant opportunities, they are exceptionally difficult to get to due to all the complex, time-consuming and ever-changing regulations", particularly highlighting the damaging effect of employment legislation.
Telegraph: Tyler Open Europe research

77% of manufacturing emitters will be exempt from buying EU carbon permits
Euractiv reports that the EU has agreed on a list of industries, ranging from plastics manufacturing to iron and food processing, which will be largely exempted from the rules governing the next phase of the EU's carbon emissions trading scheme (ETS) after 2013 for fears that their inclusion would move production abroad. These industries will continue to get a higher share of their emission allowances, or permits to pollute, for free after 2013, while the power sector will be obliged to pay for all its permits.

The article notes that the list of exempted industries, covering the most carbon-intensive industries such as steel, cement and chemicals, represents 77% of the total manufacturing emissions under the ETS. National experts agreed on a list of 164 sectors deemed to be at risk of relocating their activities to foreign countries that have not adopted greenhouse gas emission restrictions similar to the EU's.
European Voice EurActiv Open Europe research

EU interior ministers divided over Commission's refugee proposals
Handelsblatt reports that EU interior ministers have agreed in principle to a Commission proposal that aims to create a more equal system in accepting refugees and asylum seekers. At the moment, each EU member state independently decides who should be considered a refugee and what treatment they should receive but the Commission is aiming to replace this with a common plan to identify the world's most vulnerable refugees.

Deutsche Welle reports that few ministers supported the proposal as they stressed the importance of national independence, with Austrian Interior Minister Maria Theresia Fekter insisting that participation be "voluntary," and that this "should not be undermined by any obligation to explain the grounds for non-participation." Frankfurter Rundschau says that France, the UK, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic are supporting the Commission's plans, whilst Germany's interior minister Wolfgang Schäuble (CDU) avoided any commitments at this stage.
Handelsblatt Frankfurter Rundschau Hamburger Abendblatt Deutsche Welle Messaggero ANSA

Lib Dems: "Wholly inappropriate" for Blair to fill EU Presidency
Further to recent speculation over the possible nomination of Tony Blair as the first EU President, the Irish Times and the Telegraph report that at the Liberal Democrat conference a majority of members supported a motion which said it would be "wholly inappropriate for him to occupy such a position". At their annual party conference the party argued that until investigations into Mr. Blair's potential involvement in the rendition and torture allegations brought against the government have been fully investigated he should not be supported "by any British or EU government" for the presidency.

In a separate article the Telegraph looks at those in the running for the 'top EU jobs' that would be created by the Lisbon Treaty and notes that, if Blair is not in the frame, some EU officials have speculated that Foreign Secretary David Miliband might step forward for the post of EU Foreign Minister.

On his FT Brussels blog Tony Barber argues that "if taking a top EU job is really such a step down in life, our leaders can't complain if the general public regards the EU with something less than transfixed awe."
FT: Brussels blog Irish Times Telegraph Telegraph 2

EU puts pressure on the US to agree deal at UN climate change summit
The WSJ reports that big differences remain between the US and Europe on fundamental issues surrounding a new climate change agreement, including how quickly rich countries should have to cut their emissions over the next decade or so. While the European Union has pledged to cut its emissions by at least 20% below 1990 levels by 2020 - and to increase that reduction to 30% if other major emitters do the same - the most aggressive proposal in Congress to curb US emissions calls for a 4% reduction beneath 1990 levels by 2020. Connie Hedegaard, the Danish Environment Minister, has tried to lower expectations for the talks, telling the FT: "Things are looking difficult and too slow, that is the fact."

Merkel's allies break rank before German general elections
The FT reports that the Christian Social Union (CSU), sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU), broke ranks on Monday unveiling promises of income and corporate tax cuts in a last-minute bid to rally voters just days before the country's general election. The proposals underline fears in Ms Merkel's camp that the CDU and the liberal Free Democratic party (FDP) could fail to gather sufficient votes to from a centre-right coalition after Sunday's election.
FT FT: Rachman

Dutch news site Webwereld cites Open Europe's research on the EU's subsidy of IT software designed to detect "abnormal behaviour".

European Voice reports that 51 percent of Norwegians are opposed to joining the EU, up from 48.3 percent, in August and 35.7 percent are against joining, down from 38.5 percent. 12 percent said they did not know.
European Voice

The Times reports that three quarters of rivers in England and Wales have failed tough new pollution standards introduced by the EU, with only five of 6,114 rivers and tributaries reaching the EU's highest standard. The Environment Agency responded that rivers are cleaner than they have been for twenty years but "We need to go even further to meet the new EU measures for water quality."

The EU has today published its evidence of anti-competitive behaviour by Intel, as arguments continue over the record €1.06bn (£960m) fine levied against the computer chip maker.
Guardian Cinco Días FT IHT

The Irish Independent notes that a new report from the OECD has said the EU should further liberalise energy markets and add shipping port services to the single market. It also said that the EU was nowhere near reaching its stated goal of boosting R&D spending to 3 percent of GDP by 2010.
Irish Independent

In a letter to the Guardian, Vaclav Havel, former Czech President, Valdas Adamkus, former Lithuanian President, Daniel Cohn Bendit, leader of the Green Group in the European Parliament, and nine others claim that "a new wall is being built in Europe - this time across the sovereign territory of Georgia".
Guardian: Letters

Spain and Malta, the centre of the lucrative bluefin tuna industry, have been backed by France, Greece, Italy and Cyprus in resisting EU support for a worldwide ban on bluefin tuna fishing to help depleted stocks to recover.
Times Independent El Mundo EUobserver

EUobserver reports that diplomatic relations between Sweden, holders of the EU Presidency, and Israel have continued to deteriorate, after Israel accused Sweden of breaking an EU ban on contact with Hamas.

Denmark and Ireland have dropped their demands for changes to an EU Directive on the freedom of movement of people, to prevent immigrants arranging sham marriages to stay in the EU, accepting that few countries want to reopen negotiations on the Directive.
European Voice

Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: openeurope.org.uk or call us on 0207 197 2333.

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