Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 29 September 2009


Commission's own legal service expressed reservations about intervention in Ireland's Lisbon campaign;
French Europe Minister vows to push on with EU integration, regardless of Irish voteThe Irish Times reports that the European Commission has rejected claims from No campaigners that it broke Irish rules on referendum spending after paying €150,000 to insert a guide to the Lisbon Treaty into all Sunday newspapers in Ireland. The €150,000 was paid out of the Commission's Dublin office's media budget, and was in addition to a €1.6 million contract the Commission signed recently with a PR firm to provide information about the EU in Ireland.

The Telegraph reports that the legal services of both the Commission and the Council of the EU, which represents governments, expressed reservations about the publication of the "citizens summary" of the Treaty. An EU official is quoted saying: "The lawyers asked if it was right for the commission to produce a summary of Lisbon, before it was ratified and when there was not one for the Constitution."

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan yesterday described as "disturbing" a report that Libertas had received £3,000 in cash and non- cash donations of £13,964 from a London hedge fund manager. Libertas Chairman Declan Ganley responded by saying that the donation had nothing to do with the Irish referendum campaign but related to the UK European elections in June.

Ganley was quoted saying, "It was a donor who donated for that purpose and that money was well spent on the British election campaign in time for the European elections. That's it. It's got nothing to do with this". Mr Ganley said the Minister was very good at "spouting out" untruths.

Meanwhile, in an interview with French radio station LCI, Pierre Lellouche, French Minister for Europe, was asked what will happen if Ireland votes 'No'. He said: "We are waiting very impatiently because the future of 500 million Europeans lays in the hands of 3 or 4 million Irish voters... it is a very uncertain campaign". He continued: "Whatever happens, Europe will keep on going because we do not have a choice...there is a lot of work to do in the energy, immigration, industry and social fields, and we are not going to stop. So we will find solutions if ever we were faced with such a situation."

Writing in the Irish Times, Jamie Smyth questions how to close the information gap between Dublin and Brussels. He cites the Metock immigration case and the ECJ ruling that the Irish government had broken EU law by introducing restrictions on the rights of non-EU spouses to reside in Ireland. Smyth argues the ruling was "hugely controversial as the Government claimed it undermined a central plank of its immigration policy - tackling 'sham marriages'...Despite the importance of the case, not a paragraph was written in the Irish newspapers about the outcome...Clearly, the public cannot rely on Ministers to bring to their attention decisions in Brussels that have not met Irish concerns."
Irish Times Irish Times 2 Telegraph: Hannan blog Irish Times 3 BBC Irish Independent Irish Independent 2 Irish Independent 3 BBC Today programme Irish Independent 4 Irish Independent 5 Guardian EUobserver RTE Telegraph Irish Times: MacShane Irish Times 4 Irish Times: Smyth EUobserver 2 Coulisses de Bruxelles French Foreign Office

Aaronovitch: It is inconceivable that 26 member states would agree to retrospective renegotiation of Lisbon
Writing in the Times, David Aaronovitch questions what a Conservative government might do if the Irish vote Yes to the Treaty, and argues that a retrospective referendum on the Treaty could amount to a demand for a "retrospective renegotiation, and it seems inconceivable that, should such a referendum go against ratification, the other 26 nations will agree to do the whole thing again." He also writes, "Open Europe suggests that the new government should indeed hold a referendum not on Lisbon, but on something else -- a 'reform package' -- threatening to veto the EU budget if we don't get our way. Presumably Britain would be offered a yes or no to this 'reform package'."
Times: Aaronovitch

German professor: German court ruling shows why Ireland should vote No
At a press conference of Europeans organised yesterday by the Irish No campaign, Professor Dietrich Murswiek from the University of Feiburg said that the media had given the "completely wrong impression" of the ruling on the Lisbon Treaty by the German Constitutional Court. He said that the Court didn't approve of the Treaty, because it damaged German democracy and sovereignty. The only way it could be passed, Murswick said, was if Germany adopted reforms which would "repair" the damage the Treaty did to national democracy. He said that since the Irish had not taken any similar measures, the Irish people should vote No to the Treaty on democracy grounds.

On a question from a journalist on whether it could really be correct that the entire Irish political establishment, including employer organisations and main political parties, are wrong about the Lisbon Treaty, Professor Murswiek said the German government said exactly the same thing about the Lisbon Treaty before it was challenged in the German Constitutional Court. However, he said, the Court ruling showed that the "German establishment got it wrong".

The speakers also talked about the pan-European No campaign "Europe Says No - No to Lisbon, Yes to democracy" (www.europesaysno.org), established this month.

The Irish Independent reports on the press conference, and quotes Danish MEP Soren Sondergaard saying that he had to "think twice" about coming to Ireland to back the 'No' campaign, but that the "interference" by the EU Commission led to his decision to call on Irish voters to reject the Treaty.
Irish Independent

French Foreign Minister suggests Blair is currently the only real candidate for EU President
In an interview with France Inter, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was asked if Tony Blair will become EU President if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. He said, "In any case, Tony Blair is a candidate and people are talking about it a lot, yes." Asked if there are other candidates, he said, "Not many." Asked who, he said, "No, honestly", to which the interviewer replied, "So it's Blair then?" Kouchner said, "At one point there was Verhofstadt. Wait! There are others who will perhaps put themselves forward; it is not for straight away. But for the moment, indeed..." Asked if he thought it is right that a supporter of the Iraq war should become the first President of Europe, he said, "He has given several speeches on Iraq for a long time; he has been a supporter of peace; he has been the representative of the Quartet for peace in the Middle East. On the other hand, there will also perhaps be Mr. Rasmussen, the Danish President of the Socialist International who will put himself forward, but we don't know of any other candidate."

Meanwhile, Euractiv reports that Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende is conducting a "very subtle" lobbying campaign in Brussels to be considered a candidate for the job of EU President. The article notes that, according to unnamed sources, he will be strongly backed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. EUobserver describes former EU Commissioner Chris Patten's speech on foreign policy at a European Parliament seminar yesterday as "a mini-manifesto" for the post of EU Foreign Minister.
French Foreign Office EurActiv EUobserver

Czech Europe Minister: We will not force Klaus to sign Lisbon, for now
Czech daily Hospodarske noviny reports that Czech legal experts are proposing that the Czech government force President Vaclav Klaus to sign the Lisbon Treaty by filing a complaint against him for inactivity. However, the article notes that Minister for European Affairs Stefan Fuele has so far rejected this course of action. He is quoted saying, "There are some legal experts who have proposed that the government embark on such a path. However, I said at the latest cabinet meeting that I saw no reason for such a course at the moment."

Svenska Dagbladet notes that Swedish PM Frederik Reinfeldt has said that even if the Irish vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty on Friday, the Czechs and the Polish still need to sign which could delay the Treaty into the New Year, when Sweden no longer holds the rotating Presidency of the EU. According to its own provisions, the Lisbon Treaty is due to come in to force the month after the last country has ratified the document, the article reports.

Meanwhile, Cesky Rozhlas reports that former Czech PM Mirek Topolanek will today meet Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to discuss the future of the Treaty. The article notes that during the meeting in Brussels they will discuss the candidacy for the future Czech Commissioner that will replace Vladimir Spidla, the Irish referendum and the political situation in the Czech Republic.
Ceskenoviny Cesky Rozhlas El Pais Svenska Dagbladet

Commission proposes carbon tax for transport and agriculture sectors
Euractiv reports that the European Commission is considering imposing an EU-wide tax on CO2 emissions on sectors such as transport and agriculture, which are currently not covered by the EU's emissions trading scheme. The proposed amendment of the 2003 Energy Taxation Directive would oblige member states to levy a CO2 tax on fuels in order to cut emissions. Member states would have to apply the CO2 taxes starting from 2013, according to the draft document. The article notes that the proposal would promote the use of biofuels as they will be exempt from the taxation.

Commission calls for EU-wide system to share tax details
The front page of the Express reports that the European Commission wants EU countries to allow authorities to access people's personal financial details as part of a plan aiming to combat VAT fraud. EU Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs, who tabled the proposal in August, is calling on member states to agree to give each other access to tax data under a new body called Eurofisc. The article notes that officials would be able to view the salary details, spending habits and savings of taxpayers without their knowledge.

Conservative MEP Kay Swinburne said, "Of course cross-border fraud needs to be dealt with by European cooperation but the EU is once again turning the principle of data-sharing on its head. We already grant other EU governments access to our fingerprint and DNA database and extending access to commercial information like this will only increase our vulnerability."

Swedish EU Presidency: EU Battlegroups are currently a waste of taxpayers' money
Several newspapers report that the Swedish EU Presidency is proposing an expansion of the mandate of the EU's Battlegroups in order to see them used more effectively. The Battlegroups are supposed to provide the EU with a tool for rapid crisis management, but have never been used since their establishment in 2004. The deployment of the EU Battlegroups requires a unanimous decision from member states. So far, it has proved impossible to reach such unanimity.

The Swedish EU Presidency says on its website: "It's unfortunate from more than one point of view that we build up very effective units that then aren't used. For one thing, it costs taxpayers money, and for another, we don't take the opportunity to do good where we're needed." Austrian newspaper Standard reports that RĂ¼diger Wolf, State Secretary in the German Ministry of Defence, said that Germany was opposed to an expansion of the Battlegroup's mandate but that he could imagine that smaller groups of member states could agree amongst themselves on the deployment of their own troops within the EU battlegroups in the future.
DPA Focus Standard Standard 2 Swedish Presidency

Leader of the Free Democratic Party tipped as new German Foreign Minister; Continuity expected in Germany's policies
Various newspapers report that with the Free Democrats enjoying their best ever result in the German elections with 14.6 percent, its leader Guido Westerwelle is most likely to take over as Foreign Minister.

German newspapers Berliner Zeitung and Die Zeit report that continuity is expected in Germany's foreign policy as well as its politics towards the EU. In terms of domestic politics, the FT notes that "Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, promised swift income tax cuts and a reform of corporate and inheritance tax on Monday but warned her Free Democratic partners in Germany's next government not to expect a more radical shift towards free-market economic policies."
Berliner Zeitung Zeit Guardian Times FT: Leader FT FT 2 Irish Times Independent Independent: Leader WSJ: Lehming Guardian: Posener Guardian: Leader IHT: Vinocur IHT: Editorial

Private Eye's Brussels Sprouts column notes that the European Ombudsman has requested that the European Parliament release documents detailing the recent development of two new Brussels buildings, for which there was no public tender.
No link

Italian Finance Minister warns over fraud and waste of EU funds in Southern Italy
Giulio Tremonti, Italian Finance Minister, declared during a Freedom Party conference that "the devolution of powers to regions has increased the amount of fraud and waste of capital involved in small projects". Tremonti continued saying that "if EU funds would be administered by the National Council on Research more sectors would probably develop faster".
Repubblica Messaggero

ECB President backs creation of pan-EU financial regulator but rejects calls for 'Tobin tax'
European Voice reports that ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet told MEPs yesterday that he backed the creation of the European Systemic Risk Board. However, he said he opposed the introduction of an international levy on financial transactions (often referred to as a Tobin tax), which has been proposed by Adair Turner, the head of the UK Financial Services Authority.
European Voice

The IHT reports that investigators commissioned by the EU are expected to conclude that Georgia ignited last year's war with Russia by attacking separatists in South Ossetia. But the report is expected to balance this conclusion by saying that Russia created and exploited the conditions that led to war.

Writing in Handelsblatt, Kurt J. Lauk, President of the German CDU party's Economic Affairs Council, said that the EU should not handle issues which can be solved by member states on their own, such as education, taxes and social issues. He said: "The citizens love Europe, but not Europe's institutions, because they make decisions without having to convince anybody."

The BBC reports that the European Commission has proposed setting a maximum noise default setting on new portable music players to protect consumers' hearing.
WSJ Irish Times EUobserver European Voice BBC EurActiv

An article on French news site Slate argues that French President Sarkozy's hopes for Franco-German leadership in fighting tax havens and bankers' bonuses may have been dashed now that Angela Merkel's CDU has the liberal FDP as a coalition partner.

The FT reports that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has asked for a 50 percent capital increase, €10 billion, from its shareholder governments to mitigate the impact of the global economic crisis on central and eastern European countries.
FT EUobserver FT: Wagstyl

The Times reports that, under pressure from Italian and Spanish manufacturers, the Commission is considering extending anti-dumping duties on cheap Chinese shoes.

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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