Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 27 January 2010


Michel Barnier announces plan for "EU Social Business Act" and says "No financial actor will be exempt from regulation"
In an interview with Toute L'Europe Michel Barnier, the new EU Internal Market Commissioner has said that "No financial actor will be exempt from regulation", with Europe having come out of a "financial crisis of unparalleled proportions". He added, "I am hoping to introduce an EU Social Business Act to regulate profit making commercial undertakings to combat social exclusion and to help young people and people in difficulties."

Meanwhile, in an interview with the WSJ, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet offered qualified support for US plans for overhaul of the banking sector, describing them as "relevant and interesting", though he stressed such proposals should be coordinated globally.
Toute L'Europe WSJ WSJ 2 WSJ 3

Bundesbank President says EU assistance for Greece would be politically impossible
The Telegraph reports that Axel Weber, President of the German Bundesbank and a member of the ECB Executive Board, has said that any EU aid for Greece in response to its economic problems would be counterproductive. He told the German Boersen Zeitung financial paper, "Politically, it would not be possible to tell voters that one country is being helped out so that it can avoid the painful savings that other countries have made". He added that such a bail-out "is not provided for and, as a general rule, I think such aid, whether it is conditional, or - even worse - unconditional, is counterproductive".

EUobserver reports that ECB Chief Economist Juergen Stark said yesterday that the state of EU governments' public finances could lead to further credit rating downgrades and market turmoil. The Commission is expected to give its assessment of deficit cutting measures in four EU member states - Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Malta - today. The FT reports that Portugal's government last night unveiled its budget proposals for 2010 aimed at bringing the country's budget deficit under control, which stands at 9.3% GDP in 2009.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Les Echos, ECB President Jean-Claude Juncker said "I have been arguing for stronger economic policy coordination within the Eurozone for many years, but I never managed to gain support from all Eurozone countries". He added, "If we want to turn the Eurozone into an influential monetary, economic and political entity, then we must stop giving the impression that we focus only on budgetary consolidation. The time has come for us to set up an integrated strategy to get out of the crisis".
FT City AM Telegraph City AM 2 Bloomberg FT 2 EUobserver LesEchos Reuters Les Echos

Jean Quatremer: Catherine Ashton is "lazy" and "disinterested"
On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer argues that EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton is "lazy" and "disinterested", criticising her not only for her failure to travel to Haiti but also her lack of knowledge of foreign affairs and her inability to communicate in anything other than English.  He also suggests that she doesn't even have the security clearance required to access classified documents.

The Economist's Charlemagne blog looks at the press reports on Ashton and argues that Quatremer's comments are "a smidgeon exaggerated" but concludes: "most damaging, to my mind, is the intimate nature of some of the briefing: this stuff is coming from officials close to Lady Ashton, or who are senior enough to have significant contact with her. And I can confirm from my own conversations that people across the whole EU foreign policy machine are asking the same question: why did she take this huge job, when her instinct seems to be to make it as low key as possible?"

Meanwhile, Le Soir reports on the plans to send an EU gendarmerie force of 350 to Haiti, and quotes UK Europe Minister Chris Bryant saying: "I'm not sure this is the best way to go about it".
Economist: Charlemagne notebook Coulisses de Bruxelles Liberation Le Soir

Lib Dems call for tough new tests for EU doctors
The BBC reports that, following the case of an out-of-hours GP from Germany who accidentally gave a patient a fatal overdose, the Liberal Democrats have called for doctors from other EU countries working in the UK to be subject to tougher restrictions. The party has called for exams to root out those with poor language skills and inferior medical training and for a new criminal offence under which hospital managers could face prosecution if they fail to carry out such tests.

Lib Dem Health Spokesman Norman Lamb said: "I believe patients' lives are at risk because standards across Europe are not uniformly good and because doctors can come into this country and practise in the NHS without a test of competence and language." There are almost 20,000 doctors from the EU qualified to work in the UK. However, EU free movement rules mean they are not subject to the same checks as those from outside the bloc.

Spanish EU Presidency wins fight to shake Obama's hand first
Belgian daily Het Nieuwsblad reports that EU leaders have been fighting to be the first to meet US President Barack Obama when he arrives for the upcoming EU-US summit in Madrid in May. It notes that the problem has arisen because the Lisbon Treaty raises the question of "who is more important: the rotating President (Jose Luis Zapatero) or the Permanent EU President (Herman Van Rompuy)? In addition, there is Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who doesn't exactly shy away from photo opportunities either."

Meanwhile, Open Europe's Pieter Cleppe was interviewed by Polish broadcaster TVP, commenting on President Van Rompuy's first weeks in office. Pieter said: "The fears of Polish President Lech Kaczyński that the EU might even become more like an 'aristocratic republic' under the Lisbon Treaty are probably justified when we see that EU President Van Rompuy has not exactly been modest during his first month in office, engaging in a fight with the Spanish EU Presidency over who is the 'real' EU President, in the wake of the institutional chaos brought in by the Lisbon Treaty."
Nieuwsblad Standaard

MEPs make record number of amendments to EU's alternative investment directive
The Telegraph notes that the European Commission's proposed Alternative Investment Fund Management (AIFM) Directive has been subject to a "record number of amendments" from MEPs. Javier Echarri, Secretary General of European Venture Capital Association, is quoted saying: "We understand that well over a thousand amendments have been tabled by MEPs - this is unprecedented in EU financial services regulation, and shows clearly that there's a long way to go to get the directive into an acceptable shape, which will protect rather than damage Europe's economies and competitiveness."
Telegraph FT: Fm blog Open Europe research

Commission fights for power over carbon capture projects
Het Financieele Dagblad notes that the Commission and member sates are battling over the allocation of 300 million CO2 emission rights, which are to be awarded to pilot projects that clean up emissions from coal- and gas-fired power plants with carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. European Voice notes that Germany and the UK want the 300m allowances to be split among member states, which would then select the projects. The Commission however is adamant that it retains control and that the funds should not be 'nationalised'.
FD European Voice

Barroso gives more power to EP to ensure confirmation of Commission
DPA reports that Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has granted more powers to the European Parliament to ensure that they will confirm the new Commission on 9 February. In the future, the Commission will need to respond to a resolution from the Parliament within three months. If the resolution concerns a request for a legislative proposal, the Commission will have to issue a proposal within 12 months, or explain why they are not proposing an initiative. However another round of talks today between Barroso and German MEP Klaus-Heiner Lehne, who is responsible for the request, will be needed to settle on a compromise.

Bulgaria faces losing 20% of EU funding
EurActiv reports that the Bulgarian PM Boyko Borissov claimed on Sunday that the country could lose its environmental project funding, up to 20% of its total EU funding, unless the government explains by the end of January how and where they are spending the money.

Balkan enlargement plan outlined while Spanish EU Presidency adds to Kosovo confusion
The Telegraph reports that the Spanish EU Presidency has backed a "sooner the better," attitude to the review of Serbia's EU application, saying it would boost the country's hopes of starting membership negotiations quickly. Euractiv reports that the EU's position on Kosovo is confused due to Spain's refusal to acknowledge Kosovo's independence.
EurActiv EUobserver Telegraph

NouvelObs reports that the seventh phase of international negotiations are underway for the secret ACTA agreement on intellectual property, including internet fraud and illegal downloading, with the European Commission and the Spanish EU Presidency representing the EU in the talks.  There are fears that the accord, of which very little is known, could have a grave impact on freedom of expression.

On his Telegraph blog, Lord Tebbit argues that defeat of amendments to the Equality Bill in the House of Lords raises a major problem for the Government because much of the Bill is underpinned by EU legislation and failure to implement it could risk a human rights case "being brought against a church - or God forbid, a mosque - and decided in Europe, not here in Britain".
Telegraph: Tebbit blog

The Mail reports that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said that France will not send any more combat troops to Afghanistan.
Mail Irish independent

An article in the WSJ looks at waning EU global influence and the rise of the 'G2': China and the US. It quotes Rajeev Kumar, Director of the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, arguing that the EU has "one silver bullet" that could boost its external influence, and that would be Turkish accession to the EU.

In the FT Peggy Hollinger looks at the "recurring contradictions" of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's actions, arguing: "as he preaches the benefits of healthy globalisation...[he] faces scrutiny from Brussels over his insistence that Renault, the partly owned state-carmaker sells only French-made cars in France."
FT: Hollinger

The BBC reports that the RSPB wildlife charity and the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) have joined forces to lobby for changes to the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. They are arguing for a more accelerated move away from paying farmers for what they produce, and towards instead rewarding them for their development of the countryside.
BBC Joint policy paper

Euractiv reports that the EU's Payments Services Directive, designed to make cross-border payments faster, cheaper and easier, is in danger of becoming ineffective as some member states have begun to opt out of parts of the rulebook.

The BBC reports that the European Commission has said it will monitor the use of CView software, to be used by Virgin Media to identify illegal file-sharing, following a complaint from Privacy International over privacy concerns.

The Spanish EU Presidency is "weighing the pros and cons" of lifting a 20 year long China arms embargo.

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