Thursday, October 01, 2009

Open Europe press summary: 1 October 2009


Senior Government source: Blair could be EU President within weeks
The Sun reports the news that Tony Blair could be nominated EU President within weeks, if Ireland votes 'yes' to the Lisbon Treaty in tomorrow's referendum. A senior Government source said: "If we get a 'Yes' vote it will all move very, very quickly. Tony could be named by the end of October." The article quotes French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner saying that Blair is currently the only real candidate for the post, and a French diplomat who said: "Who will dare say no to Tony Blair?"
The Sun Open Europe bulletin

Bruce Arnold blasts "Fear, lies and an array of blatant illegalities" in campaign for Lisbon Treaty
Ahead of Ireland's referendum tomorrow, and in addition to those on the website, Open Europe has set out five new reasons to vote 'No' to the Treaty, as a result of developments in this last week of the campaign. These include the fact that the Irish Referendum Commission has confirmed that the 'Yes' campaign is wrong to claim Lisbon will lead to jobs; the news that a top legal counsel has blasted so-called Irish 'guarantees'; and that Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary has confirmed that he has poured money into the 'Yes' campaign to curry favour for the purchase of Aer Lingus.

The Irish Times reports that Irish PM Brian Cowen has ruled out a third referendum if the Treaty is rejected again, saying "There won't be a Lisbon Three -- that's for sure". The FT Brussels blog looks at the threat to Ireland that a No vote would result in a two-speed Europe, as suggested by Brian Cowen, and argues that "a two-speed Europe [is] the dog that is hauled out of its kennel every time there's a EU institutional crisis but which, in the end, never barks?.. The truth is that, if the Lisbon treaty were to fail, the EU would have to conduct its activities under its existing Nice treaty, which prohibits the formation of core pro-integrationist groups in areas such as foreign and defence policy. "

Libertas leader Declan Ganley has said that "The only sane vote is a No vote", adding that: "They put a gun to our heads; the gun is empty; there is nothing harmful that can come from a No vote." Writing in the WSJ UCD Professor Ray Kinsella argues: "there is the insidious suggestion that recovery and jobs and a Yes vote are all somehow connected. This is simplistic nonsense...The real issue here is whether or not the Lisbon Treaty is a good treaty, not just for Ireland, but for Europe. And, equally, whether or not the European establishment has the humility to respect the voices of its people."

Writing in the Irish Independent, Bruce Arnold argues that "Fear, lies and an array of blatant illegalities by the Irish Government and by Europe have characterised the 'Yes' campaign in the repeat referendum on which we vote tomorrow...Of the many illegalities, the latest and most blatant was the placing of a European Commission propaganda supplement in all Irish newspapers last Sunday as a paid insert. This was an unlawful use of European taxpayers' money."

Meanwhile, European Voice reports that the Swedish EU Presidency now accepts that the new EU Commission will be formed without the Lisbon Treaty. The Commission is scheduled to discuss Ireland's referendum result at the start of its weekly meeting next Wednesday, 7 October. The FT looks at the likelihood of Czech President Vaclav Klaus delaying his signature of the Treaty and suggests that if a new Commission is formed when the Treaty is not ratified, rather than deny the Czechs a Commissioner under Nice rules, it is "more likely" that the Commission will proceed with one Commissioner from 26 countries, and the foreign policy chief going to the last country.

Aftonbladet quotes a spokesperson for the Czech Constitutional Court, saying, "The Court has to consider the case, according to the Constitution, and we can't say if this will takes weeks or months."
Open Europe bulletin Open Europe blog WSJ WSJ: Kinsella Irish Independent Irish Independent 2 Irish Independent 3 Irish Independent: Arnold Irish Impendent 4 FT European Voice FT 2 European Voice 2 Irish Times Irish Times 2 Irish Times 3 Irish Times 4 Irish Times 5 Irish Times 6 Guardian Guardian 2 EurActiv Times Guardian: Garton Ash Gazeta Wyborcza FT: Brussels blog FT: Brussels blog Aftonbladet OE blog

Spectator: Conservatives should hold a referendum on Lisbon, regardless of Irish result
Open Europe's Lorraine Mullally appeared on LBC radio this morning, arguing that in all likelihood the Lisbon Treaty will be in force by the time of the next General Election. A leader in the Spectator says: "There must, of course, be a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, regardless of how the Irish vote this weekend."

David Cameron reiterated on LBC yesterday that, "If this treaty is still alive, if it is still being discussed and debated anywhere in Europe, then we will give you that referendum, we will name the date during the election campaign, we'll hold that referendum straight away and I will lead the campaign for a No. Now, if those circumstances change, if the Germans ratify, if the Poles ratify, if the Czechs ratify, if the Irish vote Yes to the treaty, then a new set of circumstances (apply), and I will address those at the time."

Writing in the Times, Bill Emmott, former Editor of the Economist, argues, "If the Irish vote yes, the game is over. That is what David Cameron and his highly Eurosceptic Shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, will need to face up to -- immediately, at their party conference next week. To threaten to reopen the whole thing when they enter government would be provoke a row over a boring institutional treaty, which virtually everyone else has already agreed to, would be folly, grand scale. Indeed, if Messrs Cameron and Hague do hang on to Lisbon as one of their battles, it would raise serious doubts about their fitness for government."
Times-Emmott Spectator: Coffee House blog

Mats Persson: We need to start looking at the AIFM Directive from a European point of view
Bloomberg has a feature on the EU's proposed AIFM Directive, which will impose tougher regulation on hedge funds and private equity firms, noting that "At meetings across the city, investors are discussing how to respond to Brussels, the EU capital. Where some see the rules as a threat to Britain, others argue that the challenge is to capitalism across all of Europe". The article quotes Open Europe Research Director Mats Persson saying that "It's good to avoid mentioning London in every single sentence and start looking at this from a European point of view", noting that three-quarters of Europe's 1,785 private-equity firms are based outside Britain.

The article cites Open Europe's recent report on the Directive, which found that the new rules could cost hedge fund and private equity managers as much as €1.9 billion through increased compliance costs in the first year and €985 million annually thereafter. Open Europe's research is also cited in the online magazine First Post.

Meanwhile, Mats has an op-ed in Swedish financial daily Dagens Industri, urging the Swedish Presidency of the EU and Swedish MEPs to step up their efforts for an amended and improved AIFM Directive. Mats argues that "Europe is facing the dual challenges of huge public deficits and an ageing population. This is a terrible time to place meaningless burden on a sector that could provide the returns we need to help us cope with that challenge... So the proposal clearly needs amending. The Swedish Presidency has done a good job so far, but more can be done. It's now particularly important that Swedish MEPs take a proactive role in the European Parliament." Mats outlines four key changes to the draft Directive that Sweden should be working for: Separate between different types of funds; Free up investors' choice by dropping the protectionist requirements in the Directive; Bring the Directive's organisational requirements in line with existing EU law; and scrap the restrictions on specific investment policies.

In a comment piece in FT Deutschland, Elisabeth Atzler argues that the proposed AIFM Directive does not go far enough, particularly as it relates to hedge funds. She argues that "Before the crisis, it was argued that hedge funds have a corrective function and are able to compensate for inaccurate ratings of other market participants. The financial crisis showed that this is rarely the case. Quite the contrary, certain hedge funds even made the financial crisis worse."
First Post Bloomberg Dagens Industri-Persson Dagens Nyheter Open Europe research Open Europe press release FTD

France and Germany hatch plan to forge ahead with EU integration without Britain
Under the headline "France and Germany unite to push Britain to EU sidelines", the Times reports that France and Germany are planning a new 'treaty of friendship' and a number of other joint schemes that could push Britain to the sidelines in Europe, according to sources close to French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The article notes that Paris and Berlin, reverting to the old idea of a two-speed Europe, aim to push ahead with a separate headquarters for European defence, the promotion of industrial champions and a drive to loosen what the pair see as Britain's grip on the European Commission. The agreement may also include the permanent assignment of ministers in each other's Cabinets. The article notes that Sarkozy has appointed 'Germanophile' officials, including Bruno Le Maire, his new German-speaking Agriculture Minister, who has been given the task of securing a deal on Common Agriculture Policy spending.

The paper reports that a casualty of the deal is likely to be Franco-German backing for Tony Blair as the first President of the EU, a post created under the Lisbon Treaty. The article quotes a French diplomat saying, "Tony Blair is a man of the past and the United Kingdom is no longer any model."

French newspaper Liberation writes that "now that the crisis of the liberal model has made clear the need for the State, Europeans cannot do without the public power of a Union sufficiently willing and dynamic to align its forces and promote this regulation of the market of which, due to the current circumstances, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy have become the apostles."

Also in the Times, Roger Boyes comments that the Franco-German deal means "the following: the Lisbon Treaty is the basis for the future of the EU. Oppose it and you are going to be left behind." He adds that "For the new Merkel administration it is Deutschland first, Europe second, France takes the bronze and Britain is an also-ran."
Times Liberation Open Europe blog

Swedish EU Presidency wants new EU financial supervision system to be up in 2010
The FT notes that EU finance ministers will at an informal meeting in Sweden today seek an agreement on new controversial proposals for more EU-wide supervision of financial institutions. Sweden's Finance Minister Mats Odell is quoted saying that the aim is to have the new structure, which includes three new EU authorities with the power to overrule national regulators and a Systemic Risk Board to monitor for overall threats to the financial system, up and running in 2010. "All member states must be prepared to walk that extra mile to make it happen," he said. However, the article notes that there are still plenty of disagreements amongst ministers, for example on how recommendations issued by the new Systemic Risk Board should be implemented in practice. There are also disagreements over how many central bankers should sit on the Systemic Risk Board, reports Dagens Nyheter.

Handelsblatt reports that Axel Weber, President of the German Federal Bank, has said that the current proposal "can lead to blind spots and overlaps". Furthermore he stresses that the competences of the new European supervisor authorities are too far reaching. The President of the Association of German Saving Banks, Karl-Peter Schackmann-Fallis, has questioned whther giving the new EU authorities binding powers is allowed under EU law. The European Parliament and ministers must both agree before the proposal can become law.
Dagens Nyheter E24 FT Handelsblatt Open Europe research Open Europe press release

UK opposes Commission's plan for EU-wide carbon tax
European Voice notes that the UK is opposed to the Commission's plans to introduce an EU-wide carbon tax for sectors not covered by the EU's emissions trading scheme. The article notes that the UK thinks that the proposal would breach the principle of subsidiarity and is unnecessary. "We don't see any evidence that there is a distorting effect on the single market," said a UK diplomat. The proposal would need the unanimous support of national governments.
European Voice

Sholto Byrnes: It is not a right-wing instinct to have a profound suspicion of the EU
Writing in the Independent, Contributing Editor of the New Statesman Sholto Byrnes argues that being critical of the EU is not about where one stands on the right-left divide. He notes that "For all it takes to have a profound suspicion of the EU and its greedy accretion of powers is this: to believe in transparency and accountability...To be, in other words, a democrat...Now it may very well be that many Eurosceptics are right-wing...Nevertheless it remains the instinct of a democrat, not of a right-winger in particular, to wonder why a group of unelected civil servants, which is all the EU Commission is, should act as though they had the mandate of a government."

He adds "above all, it is the EU's attitude towards democracy itself that we should question. Why is Ireland having a second referendum? The answer is that like the Danes before them, at the time of Maastricht, they voted on a treaty: and they gave the wrong answer."
Independent: Byrnes

Bruce Anderson: Breach of trust over Lisbon referendum cost Labour the support of The Sun
Writing in the Independent, Bruce Anderson argues that Labour's decision to renege on a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty contributed to The Sun's decision to back the Conservatives at the next General Election. He writes, "Tony Blair used The Sun to announce that there would be a referendum. Mr Murdoch was delighted, the Eurosceptics felt relieved, the Euro-fanatics were dismayed. They were all misled. None of them realised that the Government would break its word. This breach of trust always made it unlikely that The Sun would support Gordon Brown."
Independent: Anderson

EU wants to cut down companies' business trips
EurActiv reports that the European Commission will next week propose recommendations to encourage the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to reduce greenhouse gases emissions. The Commission suggests that companies use more video conferences and thus cut down on business trips.

Jean Quatremer: France has "shattered" the EU's Stability and Growth Pact
Jean Quatremer writes on his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog that France has "shattered" the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP) due to its refusal to deal with its dire public finances, with potentially disastrous consequences for the euro. He reports that Christine Lagarde, France's Finance Minister, has sketched a gloomy picture: a deficit of 8.5% of GDP in 2010 (currently at 8.2%) and a return to the SGP's target of 3% only by 2015. He concludes: "how long will Germany wait before leaving the single currency?"

Meanwhile, Focus reports that EU think tank Bruegel has called upon the EU to create a debt reduction 'master plan'.
Focus Bruegel Paper Coulisses de Bruxelles

EU states divided over proposal to withhold fishing aid for breaking the rules
European Voice reports that EU member states are split over whether payments from the European Fisheries Fund should be denied to countries that breach the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy. Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK are in favour of suspending financial aid. France is arguing that any suspension of aid would be incompatible with EU law.
European Voice

EU report lays blame on Georgia for war but says Russia used excessive force
The Independent reports that the EU's analysis of the Gerogia-Russia war published yesterday has concluded that Georgia started the conflict with Russia with an attack that was in violation of international law. However, the report also concluded that, "Much of the Russian military action went far beyond the reasonable limits of defence."
WSJ Irish Independent Independent: Leader Independent Le Monde

The European Commission has told Lloyds Banking Group to relinquish around 3.7 million bank accounts to secure approval of the bank's government rescue.
Irish Independent

The European Commission has welcomed the news that Icann, the body responsible for managing the development of the internet, will no longer be subject to review by the US Department of Commerce.

The FT Brussels blog looks at which of Iceland and Ireland might recover from the economic crisis first and writes, "the hard truth is that Ireland - like fellow eurozone members Italy, Greece and Spain - has a long and hard road ahead to claw back its competitiveness."
FT: Brussels blog

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