Thursday, September 03, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 3 September 2009


Conservative MEPs criticised for voting in favour of controversial hedge fund proposal;
Poul Nyrup Rasmussen: I do not understand why Mayor Johnson thinks that some modest reforms will damage the City of London
There is widespread coverage of London Mayor Boris Johnson's visit to Brussels yesterday, where he tried to lobby EU politicians to water down the proposed Directive on alternative investment funds - a Directive he claims "will have enormously damaging consequences for London, for the UK and for Europe." Johnson met with Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, the London MEPs and with Jean-Paul Gauzes - tipped to be the rapporteur for the Directive in the European Parliament. Following the meetings Johnson said that McCreevy "made very clear that he expects this Directive to be improved and modified during its passage, and encouraged us to make a contribution to that process."

On Newsnight, UKIP leader Nigel Farage criticised the Conservative MEPs for having voted in favour of a resolution in the European Parliament last year, which called on the Commission to adopt tougher rules on alternative investment funds. Farage said that Conservative MEPs "pretend to stand up for the City, but in reality they're not doing so". When asked by Newsnight about the vote, Conservative leader in the EP, Timothy Kirkhope, said, "I don't remember that I must admit and I'll have a word with my chief whip about it, in which case discipline is necessary. I think it's most unlikely and we're certainly very much in support of Boris." However, according to Newsnight, Kirkhope later confirmed that Conservative MEPs had voted in favour of the resolution which led to the AIFM Directive, although, he claimed, after amending it more to their liking.

Meanwhile, PA reports that Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, leader of the European socialists and one of the greatest proponents of tougher rules for hedge funds, yesterday criticised Johnson's intervention, saying "[he] has got his facts wrong. He says hedge funds and private equity played no role in the financial crisis, but the point is to avoid future crises. In any case hedge funds and private equity did play a major role in the explosion of excessive debt which was at the heart of the crisis. Frankly, I do not understand why Mayor Johnson thinks that some modest and long-overdue reforms will damage the City of London; I have always been told that the City of London was highly competitive and very robust."

The FT reports that at the first committee debate on the proposed Directive in the European Parliament, MEPs warned of the danger of approving the "one-size-fits-all" provisions in the current draft, as that would put similar requirements on most alternative investment funds, regardless of whether they are big hedge funds or relatively small commodity or real estate funds, for example. Scottish Labour MEP Catherine Stihler, said that some funds would be "innocently caught up" if the AIFM Directive would be passed in its current form. UK Lib Dem MEP Sharon Bowles, who is Chair of the Committee, said "I wouldn't be surprised if we receive more than 1000 amendments for modifications," according to Handelsblatt.
Newsnight Mail Guardian Times City AM City AM: Editor's letter City AM 2 FT Telegraph: Hannan blog EurActiv EurActiv 2 FT 2 Handelsblatt

75 percent of Irish voters say they want a change of government as PM Brian Cowen launches official Lisbon referendum campaign
A new TNS/mrbi poll in the Irish Times has found that 75 percent of Irish voters say they want a change of government, and just 17 percent said they did not. Support for the governing party Fianna Fail has hit a record low of 17 percent, and Irish PM Brian Cowen's personal rating has dropped to 15 percent. Brian Cowen is due to meet leaders of the other political parties today to discuss the coordination efforts of the 'Yes' side.

Writing in the Irish Independent, Senan Molony suggests that the low approval ratings could have an impact on the Lisbon Treaty referendum and argues that, "it is certain Mr Cowen himself could not survive another 'No.' He would resign."

Launching Fianna Fail's Lisbon campaign yesterday, Brian Cowen said he was not contemplating defeat and "honestly believes that the people will return a 'Yes' vote", reports the Irish Independent. Mr Cowen also ruled out naming Ireland's next EU Commissioner before the polling day.

The Irish Mail reports on EU Commissioner Karel de Gucht's comments that the Lisbon Treaty was designed so that people could not understand it, to avoid "real debate". A leader in the paper argues that the Irish government has failed to come up "with a single convincing reason for voting Yes, other than that everybody else in Europe will be annoyed with us if we don't. Sorry, Mr Cowen, but that is just not good enough."

European Voice reports that European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek is to visit Ireland next Tuesday in a bid to bolster support for the Treaty. However, he will avoid meeting politicians and will instead address the Irish Institute of European Affairs, talk with sporting organisations and meet young people at the European Parliament's offices in Dublin.

Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports that the electricians' and engineering union, the TEEU, has said it will be campaigning for a No vote. Eddie Conlon, a former honorary secretary of the TUI, said nothing had changed in the Lisbon Treaty since its was rejected by the Irish people in June last year. SIPTU, the biggest Irish union with over 200,000 members, is to decide its stance on the Treaty today, after remaining neutral in last year's referendum, according to the Irish Independent.
Irish Times Irish Independent Irish Times 2 Irish Times 3 Irish Times: Leader Irish Independent 2 Irish Independent: Molony Irish Times 4 Irish Independent 3 Irish Independent: Hand Irish Independent: Sheahan Irish Independent 4 Irish Times 5 Irish Times 6 Irish Times 7 Irish Times: Gibbons Irish Times: Grace Irish Times: Letters European Voice OE blog

UK and US to line up against France and Germany over economic stimulus 'exit strategy' and bankers' bonuses
The Times reports that the UK and US are heading for a collision with Germany and France at the meeting of G20 finance ministers this week over whether governments should continue to pursue economic stimulus programmes through government borrowing. The meeting is a precursor to the full G20 summit in Pittsburgh on 25-26 September. Timothy Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, made clear the difference between the two camps by warning that it was too soon to remove policies aimed at boosting growth. Similarly, the Independent quotes Chancellor Alistair Darling saying, "It is a bit early to say 'How do we get out of this?' You must have a plan that allows you to exit in a way that is consistent with allowing the economy to grow again. Don't for goodness' sake get out of them before you have completed the job."

The Times notes however that Peer Steinbrück, Germany's Finance Minister, has called for the reduction of fiscal measures as soon as possible. The FT quotes Wouter Bos, the Dutch Finance Minister, warning, "We will need to think about exit strategies, because in the end the huge deficits will threaten the euro."

Meanwhile, France has presented proposals for caps on bankers' bonuses such as a targeted tax and a legal maximum as a share of profits. The Guardian quotes Anders Borg, the Finance Minister of Sweden, which holds the rotating EU Presidency, saying, "The bankers are partying like it's 1999, and it's 2009. The bonus culture must come to an end and it must come to an end in Pittsburgh." However, Gordon Brown has declined to endorse the French ideas, saying that to impose mandatory limits "would be difficult in an international environment," according to the FT. The US is understood to be reluctant to come down hard on bankers, fearful of an exodus of talent from Wall Street.

Open Europe's Sarah Gaskell was interviewed on CNBC's Europe Tonight programme yesterday, discussing the meeting of EU finance ministers and the possibilities for finding a consensus on legislation capping bankers' bonuses.
Independent BBC Times Guardian Mail City AM FT Independent: Hamilton WSJ IHT IHT 2 EUobserver EurActiv WSJ 2 Le Figaro Helsingin Sanomat European Voice Le Monde Le Figaro Sueddeutsche FAZ

Commission proposes joint EU resettlement programme for refugees
EUobserver reports that the European Commission has proposed a scheme to co-ordinate the resettlement of refugees from countries outside of the EU. The Commission has said that it hopes the "Joint EU Resettlement Programme" will ease the flows of illegal migration into the EU. The scheme will be voluntary and allow member states to choose how many refugees they wish to resettle and from which destinations. However, EU countries that agree to resettle refugees according to the EU's "common annual priorities" would receive additional financial assistance of €4,000 per person from the European Refugee Fund.

The Mail notes that the proposals are widely seen as the first part of a blueprint to roll out a common immigration and asylum policy across the EU. The article quotes Open Europe's Stephen Booth saying, "Asylum policy is a sensitive issue for the public and national governments therefore need to be clear and open about where EU asylum policy is heading in order to avoid a backlash from their citizens."
Mail FT Express EUobserver Commission press release

Incoming European Police Academy Chief is corruption suspect
Belgian daily De Morgen reports that the Belgian police officer who will preside over the executive board of the European Policy Academy (CEPOL) during the Belgian EU Presidency in 2010 is a corruption suspect. A Belgian police trade union is quoted saying: "apart from the corruption, he bears responsibility for a department that has been administered in a bad way for years". De Morgen

German parliament: EU responsible for fewer laws than expected
FAZ reports that only 31.5% of laws in the current German legislative period have been initiated by the EU, according to Bundestag statistics. Whilst there is significant variation between departments, with just under a quarter of home affairs legislation originating from the EU compared with 67% of environmental laws, the overall figure is far lower than the usually quoted figure of 80%.
FAZ Open Europe research Open Europe blog

Parliamentary debate on German Lisbon Treaty descends into 'chaos'
Der Spiegel reports that a German parliament committee discussion on the law required by the German Constitutional Court for the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty descended into chaos yesterday, as the meeting had to be repeatedly interrupted and lengthened as the governing coalition no longer had a majority.
op-online Spiegel

OECD pressures Iceland to join euro
The FT reports that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said the only "durable solution" to Iceland's economic problems is to join the euro, but that its accession to the EU would be complex. The OECD added that in order for Iceland's bid to be successful, it should seek to join the euro "as soon as possible."
FT Helsingin Sanomat

Barroso sends political programme to EP to gain MEP backing
European Voice reports on José Manuel Barroso's personal political programme which he is to send today to the European Parliament, to persuade MEPs to back him for a second term as Commission President. Euractiv reports that Joseph Daul, leader of the centre-right party in the Parliament has said that MEPs in his political group will support Barroso's candidacy, but did not however rule out rebel voting when the deputies cast their votes later on this month.
FT: Leader EUobserver European Voice EurActiv

In an interview with the Independent, former Deputy PM John Prescott argues that Europe's targets of cutting carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050 may not be enough to get developing countries into a worldwide deal at Copenhagen in December, and that 40 and 90 percent targets respectively may be needed.

EU finance ministers agreed at a meeting in Brussels to increase the EU's contribution to the IMF by two-thirds, totalling €125 billion.
Google News Le Figaro

The FT reports that Greek PM Costas Karamanlis has called a snap election, expected to be held on 4 October.

The WSJ reports that the World Trade Organisation is expected to rule Friday that European governments illegally subsidised Airbus aircraft, in the first significant ruling in a long-running trans-Atlantic trade dispute.

Romanian Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu has cancelled his visit to the Netherlands at the last moment, after the Dutch government put a press release on its website declaring that Romania is insufficiently working against corruption and organised crime.
NRC Handelsblad

Euractiv reports the EU's Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs told the European Parliament that the proposed EU Nabucco gas pipeline cannot fail, despite Russia's attempts to undermine the project through accelerating progress on the 'South Stream' pipe project.

The French Foreign Office has said that the French European Affairs Minister Pierre LeLouche's visit to Spain in which he intends to show France's support for the upcoming Spanish EU presidency.
French Foreign Office


A new YouGov poll for the Sun has put the Conservatives on 42 percent, Labour on 28 percent, and the Lib Dems on 17 percent. 61 percent said Gordon Brown was doing either fairly or very badly as PM, and 16 percent said he was doing either fairly or very well.

The Telegraph reports that UKIP leader Nigel Farage will announce at the annual conference on Friday that he intends to stand against the Speaker, John Bercow, at the next General Election.


Australia's Trade Minister Simon Crean has said that the US and India have the political will to conclude the Doha round of world trade talks, and that a deal is "very close to its conclusion".

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