Monday, September 07, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 7 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.


Irish government failed in 75% of its attempts to amend the original text of the Lisbon Treaty
The Irish edition of the News of the World reported on Open Europe's new research, which shows that during negotiations on the original text of the Lisbon Treaty, between 2002 and 2004, the Irish government objected to many of the Treaty's most important elements - but failed in the overwhelming majority of the amendments it tried to make to the text. Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally was quoted saying, "The Lisbon Treaty is a bad deal for Europe and a bad deal for Ireland. Why should Irish voters feel comfortable with this Treaty when not so long ago the Government itself had such important reservations?"

Writing in today's Irish edition of the Mail, Mary Ellen Synon explains that, according to the research, Dick Roche, the Government's representative to the European Convention, made 149 proposed amendments, but only 36 resulted in changes to the text, meaning three out of four attempts by Ireland to get the text changed failed. In particular, the government objected to the appointment of a permanent EU President, the changes to the voting system, the creation of a European Public Prosecutor, and to many of the moves to abolish the national veto, including in the area of social security policy, on EU definitions of criminal offences and sanctions, on decisions relating to the European Defence Agency, and much else. She notes that Mr Roche and the government also failed in their attempt to let national parliaments have a say in the election of the Commission President.

Responding to the research, Irish Defence Minister Willie O'Dea said Open Europe should "butt out" of the Lisbon debate. Mary Ellen Synon writes: "Note first of course that Mr O'Dea did not dispute the findings of the Open Europe research, all of which show how absurd it is for the Government to pretend we have some great influence in shaping the future of the EU. We don't. All Mr O'Dea offered by way of reply to the research was an attempt to paint Miss Mullally and her work as 'British' and therefore be ignored. Yet of course Miss Mullally is Irish, with family in Dublin. And Open Europe itself is full of people from different European nationalities."

Mary Ellen Synon also looks at the connections of Peter Sutherland, "one of the richest bankers on the planet", who until last week was the chairman of BP, to Libya, Megrahi's release, and the 'Yes' campaign in Ireland.
Irish Mail: Synon

Swedish Prime Minister: If there is a No vote, we will continue "as before" with Nice Treaty - current rules allow for 26 member states to keep a Commissioner
Die Presse reports that Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said of the Irish referendum, after a meeting with the European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek in Stockholm, "If it is a No, we will continue as before with the Nice Treaty as a basis. There would be no need for a 'Plan B'".

On the question of European Commissioners, Mr Reinfeldt said a "26 plus one option" was probably the best solution, whereby 26 states retain their Commissioner and the 27th state is offered the post of High Representative for Foreign Affairs instead. This would give all 27 countries a top EU job, while complying with the legal condition for an EU Commission of less than 27 members, which is stipulated in the Nice Treaty.
Irish Times DiePresse

Anthony Coughlan: Lisbon Treaty could see Ireland lose its right to choose EU Commissioner
Saturday's Times and Guardian both reported that the latest opinion poll shows an eight point fall in support for the Lisbon Treaty among Irish voters.

The Irish Times reports that MEP Joe Higgins has called on the government to prevent Ryanair and Intel from spending as much as €1 million on promoting a Yes vote in the Lisbon Treaty referendum. He said, "There is a monumental hypocrisy here in the sense that the media and the pro-Lisbon establishment have not raised a single question about the fact that Ryanair and Intel are spending up to a million euro between them on their Yes campaigns. If they were private companies on the No side, there would be a massive outcry and demands for enquiries."

The Irish edition of the Sunday Times reported that Anthony Coughlan, Secretary of the National Platform EU Research and Information Centre and a lecturer in social policy at Trinity College Dublin, has said that Ireland will not have the final say in choosing its EU Commissioner if the Lisbon Treaty is passed. The article notes that the wording of the EU Treaties would be changed to allow member states only to "suggest" their choice of Commissioner, as opposed to the power to "propose" their nominee under the Nice Treaty. Garret FitzGerald, the former Fine Gael leader and a supporter of the Treaty, admitted that "This will give the commission president at least the theoretical capacity to turn down the member state's choice of commissioner."

The Irish Independent reports that Irish PM Brian Cowen has repeated that a Yes vote is essential to Ireland's economic recovery, "I am asking, with all of the authority that my office commands, the people of Ireland to look at the big picture, our destiny".

A leader in Sunday's Irish Independent argued "This referendum must not be construed as a referendum on our membership of the EU - because if it is, and if it is still lost, the consequences would be extreme. This is a referendum on a treaty, not a union, and the arguments must concentrate on the specifics of that treaty."

Writing in Saturday's Irish Independent, Bruce Arnold argued that "If we vote No, we will go on as before. Nothing detrimental will occur. We will be joined by others when they feel the muscle-testing relief of freedom."

The Irish Times reports that proposed legislation requiring parliamentary approval for Irish participation in European Defence Agency (EDA) operations will be debated soon after 2 October, subject to a Yes vote in the referendum.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Telegraph reported that Ireland's Lisbon Treaty referendum "has plunged preparations for next month's Conservative conference into disarray." The article noted that party activists are likely to use the event to press the leadership for a clear statement on whether a Conservative government would hold a referendum on the Treaty.
Sunday Telegraph Conservative Home Sunday Times Sunday Irish Independent: Leader Times Guardian Irish Independent Irish Times Irish Times 2 Mail: Synon blog Irish Times 3 Irish Times 4 BBC Sunday Times 2 Irish Times 5 Irish Times 6 Irish Times 7 Irish Times: Smyth Irish Independent: Hayes Irish Times: Kinsella Irish Times 8 Sunday Irish Independent: O'Dea Sunday Irish Independent Irish Times: Gilmore

47% juniors doctors working longer than allowed under EU working time rules
An article in the Mail on Sunday reported that a new report by doctors' group RemedyUK has found that 47 percent of junior doctors are working more than 48 hours a week, in breach of the EU's Working Time Directive. 36 percent admitted falsifying their timesheets to help health officials stay within the guidelines, and a further 11 percent openly declared they were working beyond their set hours.
Open Europe research Open Europe press release

Swedish diplomats recommend changes to AIFM Directive
The Weekend FT reported that Swedish diplomats have recommended changes to the EU's Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive in an 'issues paper', with regards to the scope of the directive, the definition of funds covered, calculations of leverage, and the way the new rules would interact with existing regulations.

Meanwhile, eight Dutch pension funds with €450bn ($640bn) in assets under management - in a letter to EU Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy - have warned that they are "concerned that elements included in the current proposal may reduce investment opportunities and risk diversification, lead to higher costs and lower returns, and may, in fact, not reach its intended objective to reduce the systemic risk as experienced under the current financial crisis".

Writing in the Telegraph London Mayor Boris Johnson argues that there is still time for the directive to be improved, but there is no point in lobbying British ministers because amendments will be proposed by MEPs. He concludes, "Power has passed, is passing, and under the Treaty of Lisbon, will pass further to the Euro-parliament."
Telegraph FT: Letters Weekend FT

G20 finance ministers agree to "clawback" scheme for bankers' bonuses and call for increased capital buffers
The Independent on Sunday reported that the weekend's G20 finance ministers meeting rejected plans to impose caps on the amount financial sector workers can receive in bonus payments, following objections from the US and UK. However, the G20 agreed a "clawback" scheme to ensure that bonuses are linked to the long-term success of deals and could be forfeited if they fail to deliver over a period of years.

The FT reports that the ministers also called for increased capital buffers at banks, and a reduction in the amount of capital held in the form of complex securities, in favour of higher quality capital such as shareholder equity. The Telegraph reports that the move could see some of the leading European banks having to raise more capital, implying further taxpayer bail-outs. US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner had proposed setting up a new system of bank accounting rules by 2012, but France and Germany lobbied hard against such plans, in favour of the existing Basel II rules, which the US has not yet adopted. Insiders said this owed much to the fact that, to meet the more stringent US proposals, European banks would likely have to raise significantly more equity.

European Voice reports that the Swedish EU Presidency is to organise an additional meeting of EU leaders on 17 September, to prepare the EU's position before the G20.

The Weekend FT reported that a confidential paper, prepared by officials of the leading countries, for the finance ministers' meeting said that rich countries must get ready to provide some $100bn a year by 2030 to help developing nations tackle climate change
Sunday Telegraph Sunday Irish Independent Sunday Times: Lawson Sunday Times Observer Independent on Sunday FT FT 2 FT: Analysis European Voice EurActiv Telegraph European Voice 2 WSJ Times: Leader Times: Rees-Mogg Times: Kaletsky
Times Telegraph 2 Weekend FT Weekend FT 2

Barroso: EU Commission might not attend UN climate conference "with its full competence politically and legally"
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has said that uncertainty over the Lisbon Treaty could mean the Commission may be a "lame duck" at the UN Copenhagen climate conference in December, saying "I fear the commission will not be there with its full competence politically and even legally."

EurActiv reports that, when asked by the website if the Conservatives were a 'pro-European force', European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it was not his business to issue "certificates of good Europeanship".
EUobserver EurActiv

Commission launches investigation into supermarket pricing
The Observer reported that the European Commission has launched an investigation into the failure of supermarkets to pass price cuts onto consumers. The investigation comes after it was revealed that the price of butter has fallen by 39% over the past year whilst the price paid by customers has fallen by just 2% - and that similar discrepancies exist across the dairy sector.

Meanwhile, Saturday's Mail reported that the stocks of butter that are bought by the EU to prop up prices are to reach 100,000 tonnes by February next year.
Mail Observer

Airlines could face £1bn in fines and compensation over EU competition ruling
The Sunday Telegraph reported that some of the world's biggest airlines, including British Airways, Air France/KLM and Qantas, face more than £1bn in fines and compensation as a result of the EU's long-running inquiry into a price-fixing cartel on cargo flights. The EU ruling will come ahead of the publication of a European directive on competition, expected to be published by the end of the year.
Sunday Telegraph

German Greens question Merkel's stance on Europe
EurActiv reports that Cem Özdemir, Co-Leader of the German Green party, has claimed there is a joint strategy between Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU Party and Die Linke in which they are aligning against Europe to garner popular support. Özdemir said he was disappointed by the absence of foreign policy or European issues from Merkel's campaign, asking "Where is the chancellor? Why isn't she out there rallying opinion in favour of the EU?" Özdemir also said that an EU foreign minister is necessary if the EU is to become involved in the Middle East peace process "even if, thanks to the Brits, we cannot say 'foreign minister' but 'coordinator'."

Commission to consider receipts displaying EU tax separately
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has told the Telegraph that the "EU and national VAT should appear as separate taxes on the invoices or receipts", and the idea will be discussed this autumn as part of a major rethink of how European funding is collected. He said he hoped that such a move would make the EU more "transparent" to members of the public.

Nigel Farage: Majority of Conservatives "support UKIP policy on Europe"
In an interview on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show UKIP leader Nigel Farage claimed that most members of the Conservative Party "really think like UKIP."

The Sunday Times' 'Atticus' column reports that the leadership of UKIP, which has been left open by Nigel Farage's decision to stand down as, could be taken by the Argentine-born MEP Marta Andreasen, who was sacked as the EU's chief accountant after she raised concerns about fraud.
Sunday Telegraph Sunday Times: White Times: Aaronovitch Times: Rumbelow

The Sunday Express reported that an online survey by Opinium Research showed that 67 percent of voters wanted a referendum of Britain's membership of the EU, including more than half of Labour and Lib Dem voters.
Sunday Express

The Sunday Telegraph reported that, of more than 20,000 EU doctors registered to practice in the UK, 4,061 have arrived since safety checks were removed five years ago, with experts warning that there is little consistency in the medical training, treatments and medications used across Europe.
Sunday Telegraph

The FT reports that EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton has opened the door to negotiations with the US to end the long-running dispute over airline subsidies, following a ruling from the World Trade Organisation on Friday which partly upheld the US complaint about illegal subsidies to Airbus.
FT FT: Leader EUobserver Times Weekend FT WSJ

The European Commission is holding hearings today to address how to respond to concessions offered to European publishers by Google, concerning plans to digitise millions of books and make them available online.

The Independent Commission on Turkey, a panel of experts chaired by Nobel Peace Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari, will warn in a report today that the EU's relationship with Turkey has turned into a 'vicious circle', with growing distrust on both sides, according to EUobserver.

Saturday's Independent reported that a proposal to ban the sale of bluefin tuna is being fiercely opposed by Malta and its EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg.

EurActiv reports that EU foreign ministers have criticised a German-ordered air strike in Afghanistan in which killed 'scores' of civilians were killed, according to reports in the Washington Post. EU foreign ministers claimed the strike could undermine Nato efforts in Afghanistan.
Focus Welt BBC EUobserver EurActiv EU Referendum blog

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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