Friday, September 04, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 4 September 2009

On Wednesday 9 September, Open Europe is hosting a lunchtime debate in Dublin on the topic of the Lisbon Treaty. Speakers include Gisela Stuart, Labour MP and former member of the European Convention which drew up the EU Constitution; Dr Jochen Bittner from German newspaper Die Zeit; and Erik Lakomaa, political consultant and strategist for the 2003 Swedish campaign against the euro. The event will be chaired by Bruce Arnold, Political Columnist for the Irish Independent. Places are limited. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Pieter Cleppe at or Tel: 0032 2540 8625.


Support for Lisbon Treaty drops in Ireland a month before second referendum;
Peel: Yes side is struggling to persuade voters
Support for the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland has declined over the summer, but the Yes side is still in the lead with four weeks to go to the referendum, according to the latest Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll. The poll shows that 46 percent would vote Yes, a drop of eight points since the last poll in May, while 29 percent say they would vote No, an increase of one point. The number of people in the Don't Know category has increased by seven points to 25 percent. However, 91 percent of Yes voters said they were very likely to vote, but among No voters the figure was only 70 percent.

Writing in the paper, Stephen Collins argues "The drop of eight points since the last poll, before campaigning has begun in earnest, is eerily reminiscent of the trend before the loss of the first Lisbon referendum and the first referendum on the Nice Treaty, which was also lost."

An article in the FT by Quentin Peel notes that that the Yes side "look worthy and defensive. They struggle to persuade voters that the Lisbon treaty is both positive and necessary."

The Irish Mail reports that Enda Kenny, leader of the main opposition party Fine Gael, launched his party's Yes campaign yesterday claiming that the Lisbon Treaty would boost Ireland's ability to block new EU laws that would hurt Irish business and industry. In fact, according to academics at the London School of Economics, Ireland will lose 40 percent of its power to block legislation it disagrees with. The Irish Times reports that Fine Gael will spend over €300,000 on the campaign.

The Irish Mail also notes that Irish High Court judge Mr Justice Frank Clarke, Chairman of the Referendum Commission, the independent body set up to explain the Lisbon Treaty, has confirmed the public is being asked to vote on exactly the same Treaty they rejected last year. He added that the 'assurances' granted by EU leaders last December to address Irish concerns were irrelevant to the vote, as the issues concerned - abortion, tax and defence - had never been part of the Treaty.

On her Mail blog, Mary Ellen Synon notes that when asked how Lisbon would affect employment policy in Ireland, Irish PM Brian Cowen "could only give a rambling reply that never answered the question." He said, "Clearly, the way it's going to affect employment in Ireland is that by having a Lisbon Treaty passed we'll have more effective decision making in all aspects of both Council, Parliament and Commission in terms of their right of initiative."

Synon notes that the Treaty says, "The Union shall take measures to ensure co-ordination of the employment policies of the Member States, in particular by defining guidelines for these policies," effectively reducing the Irish government's influence over domestic employment policies.

The Irish Independent notes that Ireland's largest trade union, Siptu, has announced that it is in favour of the Lisbon Treaty. Meanwhile, the Peace and Neutrality Alliance has said that it aims to "expose the Irish Government lie that legally binding EU guarantees on the Lisbon Treaty will not affect Ireland's traditional policy of military neutrality."
EUobserver FT: Peel EurActiv Standart Telegraaf Irish Times Irish Times: Collins Irish Times: Leader Irish Independent Irish Times 2 Irish Times 3 Irish Independent 2 Mail: Synon blog Irish Independent: Leader Irish Independent: Quinn Irish Independent: Maloney Irish Times 4 Irish Times 5 Irish Independent 3 Irish Times 6 Irish Independent 4 Irish Independent: Hand Conservative Home Reuters Irish Independent 5

EP hedge fund rapporteur: "I think we should go further with regulation"
Jean-Paul Gauzès, the recently appointed rapporteur for the EU's directive on the regulation of hedge funds and private equity firms, has said in an interview with EurActiv that he intends to go ahead with the controversial legislation, and wants to regulate funds, rather than just managers, which is what the current draft directive forsees.

Gauzès said there is "the will to avoid demolishing the European financial industry", and acknowledged that "hedge funds are not the origins of the crisis" but added, "personally, I think we should go further with regulation", noting that he "will have the final say". Gauzès promised to address concerns that private equity firms should not be treated in the same way as hedge funds by saying "we will study the issue closely".

Meanwhile, Sharon Bowles, the UK Chair of the European Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee has said, "we have got to get our heads away from the notion that everything to do with hedge funds is evil" and acknowledged "strong reservations in some quarters" over the proposals. The revised proposal is not expected before December.
EurActiv EurActiv 2 EurActiv 3 European Voice

Tony Bunyan: European Parliament should end "secret" deals
Writing in the Guardian Tony Bunyan, Director of Statewatch, argues that questions of transparency and accountability hang over the European Parliament, and that in its last five-year term, over 80 percent of new measures were agreed behind closed doors in secret "trilogue" sessions, meetings between the EU Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission. He goes on to ask, "Just think of the uproar if a national parliament behaved in this fashion. Imagine a government publishing a bill, then negotiating in secret with other parties, before presenting the full parliament with a fait accompli."

He concludes that "it is a problem that is set to deepen even further unless the European parliament casts aside 'inter-institutional loyalty' to the council and remembers that its primary loyalty is to the people who elected it."
Guardian: Bunyan OE blog

EU spending £3.4 billion a year on EU embassies
The Sun reports that the EU is spending £3.4 billion a year on EU diplomats and embassies overseas, according to the Taxpayers' Alliance, and that the EU's diplomatic service, which is only supposed to be introduced if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, "has quietly grown to effectively challenge the British Foreign Office around the globe". PA quotes Sir Anthony Acland, former UK Ambassador to Washington, saying "Members of the public will be surprised at just how active the EU's own diplomatic corps already is today. The EU Constitution in the form of the Treaty of Lisbon will take the process even further."

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Parliament Ross Hornby, Canada's Ambassador to the EU, suggests that, "The Lisbon treaty will make our jobs as diplomats more complicated because power will be more diffuse between the various institutions."
The Parliament

Head of EU Military Committee warns of competing Nato and EU defence policies
PA reports that the head of the EU Military Committee Henri Bentegeat, a four-star General and former Chief of Defence Staff at the Elysee Palace, has warned that the traditional Nato alliance is at risk from the competing efforts of the European Union's own defence policy. General Bentegeat told MEPs at a European Parliament hearing, "Sometimes the EU and Nato are competing and harming." However, he added that the EU was often the only international player parties to a conflict would accept.

G20 set to begin talks on stimulus 'exit strategy';
France, Germany and UK unite in calls to clamp down on bank bonuses
The BBC reports that the G20 finance ministers are preparing to meet today to outline a commitment to boosting the global economy. There is an expectation that there will be consensus over continuing to spend, but friction will arise over the pace of spending and when to scale down stimulus efforts.

The FT reports that although they have warned that the crisis is not yet over, the world leaders have laid out the first steps toward withdrawing emergency support for the global economy and that the US, UK, France and Germany have called for work to "start on exit strategies to be implemented in a co-ordinated manner as soon as the crisis is over."
Meanwhile, in a recent letter to the Swedish and EU President Fredrik Reinfeldt, Nicolas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and Gordon Brown, emphasise the need for the G20 countries to attend the Pittsburgh summit with a "stong common ambition". The FT reports that the letter calls for "binding rules" to rein in bankers' bonuses. City AM describes Gordon Brown's support for the French and German proposals on bonuses as a "shock U-turn".
FT FT 2 FT: Geithner FT: Trichet BBC French Foreign Office Toute L'Europe Elysee Le Figaro Le Figaro 2 Helsingin Sanomat FT 3 FT 4 FT: Letters FT: Stephens Guardian BBC 2 EurActiv Irish Times WSJ: Editorial WSJ IHT radiobfm Telegraph Times Independent City AM

MEP threatens Czech Republic over legal complaint by Senators
Czech Senator Jiri Oberfalzer has said that, in addition to issuing a legal challenge against the concomitant law needed to implement the Lisbon Treaty, Czech Senators are also planning to challenge the Treaty directly in future. The Prague Daily Monitor reports that German Socialist MEP Jo Leinen has threatened to isolate the Czech Republic over the constitutional complaint lodged by the Senators, saying "The Czech Republic is exposing itself to isolation and weakening of its position within the EU."
Prague Daily Monitor

Barroso unveils policy document for next five years in attempt to convince MEPsEUobserver reports on the European Commission President's plans for the EU's near future, designed to woo MEPs into backing him for a second five-year term in office. The paper will form the basis of discussions with each of the seven political groups in the European Parliament next week - discussions Mr Barroso is hoping will lead to a decision to put his nomination to a vote on 16 September.
EUobserver BBC European Voice The Parliament Sueddeutsche FAZ Handelsblatt Volkskrant Barroso document Irish Times IHT AFP Le Figaro Le Figaro 2

EU considers penalties on foreign currency loans
The FT reports that the European Commission is threatening penal measures as it attempts to crack down on mortgages denominated in foreign currencies. Charlie McCreevy, the EU's Internal Market Commissioner, has said the Commission wants to introduce specific capital requirements on lenders in order to prevent households being given excessive loans in currencies other than that of the borrower's income.

Nigel Farage is to announce that he is standing down as the leader of UKIP at the party's annual conference later today, in part to concentrate on fighting for the seat of Commons Speaker John Bercow in Buckingham. The Times reports that the main leadership contenders will be two MEPs elected this summer - Paul Nuttall, the Party Chairman, and David Campbell Bannerman.
Mail Guardian BBC BBC: Today programme Times Telegraph Iain Dale's diary Coffee House blog

ECB sounds caution over eurozone economic recovery
The FT reports that the ECB has sounded a note of caution on the eurozone's economic recovery yesterday, forecasting only a "very gradual recovery", and suggesting it could even be thrown into reverse. The ECB also left interest rates unchanged at 1 percent.
FT City AM Reuters FTD Welt WSJ

Siim Kallas, the European Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, is considering revising the European Commission's register of lobbyists in an attempt to tighten its rules on financial disclosure.
European Voice

The Economist's Charlemagne argues that it is increasingly hard to pretend that Turkey's accession negotiations with the EU are on track.
Economist: Charlemagne

An article in the Economist argues that the outcome of the German federal election on 27 September may be less certain than it once seemed, after Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party's recent defeats in two state elections.

The Oxford Mail reports that footballers at Oxford's further education college have been given €22,000 - the equivalent of £19,393 - by the EU to take part in an exchange project with similar colleges across Europe.
Oxford Mail

A leader in the Economist argues that regional and bilateral trade agreements are no substitute for an agreement in the Doha trade round, and are in fact "its enemy".
Economist: Leader

An article in the Economist reports that later this month, the civil service will begin recruiting for a "European fast stream", designed to increase the number of Britons in the EU institutions.

The European Commission has launched an investigation into whether Oracle's $7.4bn acquisition of Sun Microsystems is in breach of EU competition rules.
FT City AM Economist WSJ WSJ: Editorial IHT Telegraph Le Figaro Taloussanomat

The FT Brussels blog reports that an opinion poll of Denmark's population has found that over half have little or no confidence that a deal will be reached at December's UN climate change conference in Copenhagen.
FT: Brussels blog

The US is pressing Europe in behind-the-scenes negotiations to sharply reduce its clout at the International Monetary Fund in favor of developing countries such as China and Brazil.

According to an EP press release, Members of the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament have voiced concern over the interim agreement under negotiation between the EU and the United States on bank data transfers via the SWIFT network, criticising the Council's choice of legal base and demanding to be involved in the drafting of the agreement.EP Press Release

Junge Freiheit reports that the "Alliance against the Lisbon Treaty" (Bündnis gegen den Lissabon-Vertrag) has called for a nationwide demonstration against the Lisbon Treaty in Berlin. Their motto is "No to the EU dictatorship! Referendum on the Lisbon Treaty". The demonstration will take place on Saturday in Berlin.
Junge Freiheit

The IHT reports on the World Trade Organisation's impending ruling on the Airbus subsidies complaint, expected today, with a ruling on the EU's counterclaim against Boeing not expected until next year.

EUobserver reports that an internal note from the Norwegian Ambassador Oda Helen Sletnes in Brussels reveals that Norway is increasingly frustrated over its lack of influence over the EU decision-making process.

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: or call us on 0207 197 2333.

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