Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 8 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 pieter@openeurope.org.uk or Tel: 0032 2540 8625


Ireland could still keep its Commissioner if it votes No to the Lisbon Treaty;
Swedish PM admits Commission likely to reduce in size in future
On his State of the Union blog, the Irish Times' Europe correspondent Jamie Smyth, under a headline "Keeping our commissioner without Lisbon", reports on the EU foreign ministers' meeting in Sweden. Following an interview with Swedish PM Fredrik Reinfeldt, Smyth writes that, "a no vote would be respected and the Nice Treaty would prevail. Contrary to some of the exaggerated claims of yes campaigners the sky wouldn't fall on Ireland's head."

Smyth also reports that Reinfeldt said a "26 plus one" plan is favoured by diplomats and the probable solution, with 26 member states keeping a Commissioner, and the last state taking the 'High Representative' role currently played by Javier Solana. Under the Nice Treaty, the number of Commissioners would have to be reduced to less than the number of member states, but potentially only by one. Smyth also reports that Reinfeldt indicated that the political deal agreed last December on the size of the Commission to allow all member states to retain a Commissioner may not last forever. "We might in the future get back to this discussion. What if we keep on enlarging?" admitted Mr Reinfeldt, who warned that question of the efficiency of the Commission will re-emerge when there are 30 states or more in the EU.

In contrast, during a debate in Dublin yesterday Irish Europe Minister Dick Roche claimed that the EU would "judder to a halt" if the Irish voted no. He also predicted that Irish people would vote yes by more than 55 percent. He said: "It is difficult but I am convinced there will be a yes vote on this occasion and I will think it will be better than 55 percent."

The Irish Times reports that the 'People before Profit Alliance' launched its No campaign to the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland yesterday, and quotes Ailbhe Smyth of the group's Steering Committee saying, "Nothing in the treaty has changed. We have politicians telling us that this treaty will make Europe more democratic, yet they refuse to accept the clear view of the public as expressed in a referendum."

Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally appeared on Irish radio station NearFM yesterday to discuss Open Europe's event in Dublin tomorrow, bringing together commentators and experts from across the EU to explain why they say 'yes' to a more democratic EU, and 'no' to the Lisbon Treaty.
Irish Times Irish Times 2 Reuters Irish Times 3 Irish Times 4 Irish Times 5 Reuters Irish Times 6 Irish Times 7 WSJ Irish Independent Irish Times: State of the Union blog Irish Times - Letters Euronews Le Monde El Mundo

Swedish Presidency draws up plans for EU Foreign Minister "in secret"
Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter reports that the Swedish EU Presidency is planning, "in secret", to fill the post of the EU 'Foreign Minister' if the Irish vote Yes to the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October. The article notes, "no one speaks openly about the preparations while the outcome on Ireland is uncertain. But the timeframe is tight. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt wants the [EU Foreign Minister] and a new 'EU-President' to be appointed at a Council meeting in Brussels on 29 October. At the same time, a decision will be taken on the format of the new EU Diplomatic Service. Sweden is therefore now working discreetly but intensely to draw up the plans for the [EU Foreign Minister]. In fact, it's working on it so intensely that experienced observers express surprise over how much effort Sweden is putting into this."

The article also notes that the Foreign Minister will have his or her own headquarters, where the Diplomatic Service will be built, while the Foreign Minister will also be in charge of "EU embassies" around the world. It's also noted that important aspects of the EU's aid and enlargement policies will fall under the scope of the EU Foreign Ministry, while it's unclear to what extent it will have a mandate over the bloc's trade policy.

Lord Myners calls for impact assessment on EU's hedge fund proposals
The FT reports that UK Treasury Minister Lord Myners has said that EU proposals to regulate hedge funds and private equity funds for the first time should be subject to a full impact assessment. "The [European Parliament] is likely to come to a more informed conclusion if there is a full impact assessment," Lord Myners said after travelling to Brussels to lobby MEPs. He added, "This is a directive which has been produced in a hurry."

Although it is not clear whether Lord Myners is referring to a UK Government impact assessment or an impact assessment from one of the EU institutions, PA notes that Open Europe submitted a Freedom of Information request to the Treasury, which prompted the response that "because of the very foreshortened timescale on which the directive is being negotiated, we will not be publishing a formal impact assessment".

Mats Persson, Open Europe's Research Director, is quoted saying, "Lord Myners is right that a full, comprehensive impact assessment is desperately needed. It's therefore very surprising that the Treasury has admitted that it won't publish one."
City AM FT Open Europe research OE Blog

Francois Fillon prepared to step in as President of European Commission should Barroso not be re-elected
According to reports in Le Monde, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon is ready to step in and become President of the European Commission should Jose Manuel Barroso fail to be re-elected by MEPs next week, or if a second rejection of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland leads to calls for a change of leadership at the European Commission. The Economist's Charlemagne blog describes the story as 'a nuclear strike at Barroso', and highlights Le Monde's analysis that the prospect of Fillon's candidacy would make members of the centre-right European People's Party hesitate before voting for Mr Barroso, whom they had previously felt forced to vote for due to the lack of an alternative.

Meanwhile, FAZ reports that the Liberal grouping in the European Parliament has agreed it will support José Manuel Barroso for a second term as President of the European Commission. The Parliament reports on Barroso's attempts to convince other groups, quoting Michal Kaminski, leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists group, saying his group was "well disposed" towards his renomination.

Glenis Willmott, leader of UK Labour MEPs, is also quoted saying, "Frankly, we are disappointed with what he is currently proposing. If he wants a second term, he has to improve his offer. We are looking for a better deal from him." A vote on his re-appointment is due to be held during next week's plenary session in Strasbourg, but some, notably the Greens, are reportedly still pressing for the vote to be delayed until after the Irish second referendum on 2 October.
Le Monde Economist: Charlemagne's notebook ORF EUobserver EurActiv The Parliament FTD FAZ The Parliament Eurotopics

German Bundestag decides today on required laws to ratify Lisbon Treaty
The German Bundestag is deciding today on the laws required by the Constitutional Court in order to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. The last obstacle towards an agreement - the CSU party's demand for a resolution limiting the validity of the Lisbon Treaty to the Constitutional Court's judgment - has been resolved.

AFP reports that SPD whip, Thomas Oppermann, is underlining the challenge the Bundestag will face after its powers over EU decisions are strengthened: "For the Bundestag it is crucial now to differentiate between the important and unimportant within EU politics". He says that the parliament will not be able to deal with every single question, but has to set priorities where it wants to use its increased participation rights.

In an interview with Freie Welt, Professor Dr. Dietrich Murswiek, who has been one of the main supporters of the constitutional complaint against the Lisbon Treaty, said the Bundestag has generally done a good job transposing the requirements of the Constitutional Court into the new laws. However from his perspective they should also include direct democratic rights for the people in EU treaty changes or accession of new member states.
Focus Euractiv AFP2 Freie Welt

European banks will need to make biggest adjustment to G20 proposals on new capital rules
A leader in the FT welcomes the G20's finance ministers' proposals on the need for banks to hold more capital. The paper notes that the new rules will force banks to hold at least half of their capital cushion as 'common equity' and retained earnings under measures agreed by the Basel Committee of central bank governors and bank regulators. The Committee is also likely to set a ceiling on borrowings of no more than 25 times assets.

The article notes that European banks are more likely to be affected by the plans than their US counterparts because regulators in Europe have allowed banks to hold more complex securities as a large part of their capital cushions than their US peers. The list of banks that need to raise common equity could include Germany's Commerzbank and Lloyds Banking Group in the UK.

The Basel Committee is expected to table concrete proposals by the end of the year and adjust them by the end of 2010 after carrying out an impact assessment.

Meanwhile, the FT reports that French officials have insisted that despite President Nicolas Sarkozy's outrage at what he called the "scandal" of bankers' bonuses, Paris would not 'go it alone' and impose a unilateral cap. French officials said they had met their main objective - G20 support for banks to defer half of bonuses over three years and pay out only according to long-term profitability and performance.
FT FT: Leader European Voice FT 2 Le Figaro

EU's former Chief Accountant quits as UKIP Treasurer
The Times reports that UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen, the EU's former Chief Accountant, has resigned as Treasurer of the Party. Mrs Andreasen told party leaders she was quitting during an executive meeting where she cited Paul Nuttall, the Party Chairman, for pushing through decisions she could not support. She told the paper, "I resigned because I disagree with how the party is being managed at the level of the chairmanship". She added, "I do not want to see funds being wasted, and the management of this party needs to wake up".

Gonzalez rules himself out of EU President job
In an interview with the FT, former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez rules himself out as a candidate for the EU's first permanent President, a position to be created if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified. However, when asked whether Tony Blair had the personality to be President of Europe, Gonzalez said, "Blair is a strong personality, [but] the United Kingdom is not in the eurozone, and he has opted out of several policies. This has been resolved in the past and we have British citizens in several offices in Europe, but there are other candidates."
FT: View from Europe

Swedish EU Presidency wants EU wide ban selling alcohol in shops
Politics.be reports that the Belgian small business federation NSZ has opposed plans put forward by the Swedish Presidency for an EU wide ban on advertising, higher sales taxes, and a ban on selling alcohol in shops. A representative is quoted saying: "this doesn't make any sense. Every individual has to deal in a sensible way with alcohol. It's not up to Europe to decide whether and where alcohol can be provided". Euractiv notes that also the drinks industry is gearing up for a counter-offensive against the plans.
Politics.be Euractiv

European Commission discusses new laws for the rights of authors in view of Google's digitalisation plans
Concerns over Google's project to digitalise the world's leading libraries have led Brussels to begin discussions over the revamp of authors' rights. The Guardian reports that the both the Luxembourg and Irish Commissioners are hoping for a "better understanding of the interests involved" in order to "define a truly European solution in the interest of European consumers". Meanwhile after the French and German governments both voiced strong opinions against the internet provider's plans, Google agreed to remove all books still on sale in Europe from its US online market until an agreement is reached with European publishers and authors.
Guardian Independent El País El Mundo FT FT: Leader Times EUobserver EurActiv BBC

16 member states' plea for more dairy support rejected by EU Agriculture Commissioner
EUobserver reports 16 EU members have called for additional financial support to dairy farmers who are faced with a 40% drop in milk prices in recent months, but Marian Fisher Boel, the EU's Agriculture Commissioner, insisted an increase in intervention prices and a freeze in dairy quotas would go against EU policy set last year. The Swedish EU Presidency also disagreed with the 16 member states. However, Fisher Boel says she is ready to consider other methods, such as promotion and labelling of products.
EUobserver European Voice FAZ Focus Spiegel Sueddeutsche Standaard ARD

Euractiv reports that in a paper by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, Professor Dieter Helm argues the EU's climate change and energy package is "a politically neat but economically inefficient set of targets." As it is "based on carbon production, not consumption," the EU could outsource its energy production, therefore meeting its target, but possibly even increasing global emissions.
Euractiv Financieel Dagblad Open Europe Research

Agence Europe reports that Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, whose country holds the EU Presidency, has cancelled a trip to Israel this Friday. Diplomatic tensions between Sweden and Israel are high after a Swedish paper published a story claiming that organs had been stolen from dead Palestinians.
No link

The Telegraph reports that a senior Chinese official has said that China will be forced to diversify its foreign currency reserves in favour of the euro and the yen over the dollar, if the US continues "printing money".

Euractiv reports the European Commission plans to present a paper in the coming days, a draft document of which shows the EU is prepared to provide 30% of the funds needed to persuade developing countries to sign a post-Kyoto climate treaty.
Euractiv EUreferendum blog

The Independent reports that Martti Ahtisaari, head of the Commission on Turkey, has said membership talks must be reinvigorated with Turkey to show the EU's commitment to negotiations. The Commission issued a report yesterday claiming that the EU will lose credibility if they 'don't let the process go unhindered'. Meanwhile a former French Prime Minister is reported in Sueddeutsche as claiming that not reunifying Cyprus may "widen the gap between the EU and Turkey."
EurActiv BBC FT Helsingin Sanomat Suomen Kuvalehti El Mundo Independent

The FT Brussels blog looks at the ongoing dispute between Slovakia and Hungary and writes that any lingering ethnic or national tensions between them are more likely to be resolved with them as members of the EU, than not.
FT: Brussels 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: openeurope.org.uk or call us on 0207 197 2333.

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