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UK Europe Minister: Britain should still join the euro;
Lib Dem spokesperson strongly defends European Arrest Warrant
Open Europe held a debate in the House of Commons yesterday, in conjunction with Business for New Europe. Speakers included Europe Minister Chris Bryant, leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament Timothy Kirkhope, and Lib Dem Shadow Foreign Secretary Ed Davey, entitled "Europe: A priority for the next government? The debate was chaired by John Peet, Europe Editor of the Economist.
Europe Minister Chris Bryant started by saying that his approach to Europe stemmed from the fact that he was "an internationalist", and said that he believed the EU, "despite being flawed in many ways, in particular over the last eight years because its spent so much time obsessing about its own rules and regulations and its own internal processes", is "one of the great political successes of humanity".
Lib Dem Shadow Foreign Secretary Ed Davey said he thought crime, defence and foreign policy were three issues that would be critical for the next Government. He strongly defended the European Arrest Warrant, which has been criticised by several of his party colleagues in the past.
He also said that a key issue for the next Government was to decide how to use its opt-out on justice and home affairs entailed in the Lisbon Treaty. He asked, "are we going to opt out of the European Arrest Warrant, Eurojust, and Europol? I hope not."
Timothy Kirkhope said that he thought the next election in the UK would be about "trust", adding that the public "needs a government which can be trusted to promote Britain's national interests in the European Union by advancing its ideas clearly and firmly".
He said that during the 13 years of the current Government, "public support for our membership of the European Union has fallen, it is lower now then when they took office. That is a sad indictment of their record in Europe. For all the sound-bites and soft words, the Government hasn't delivered in Europe and the public knows it."
On a question regarding the speakers' position on the UK joining the euro, Ed Davey said that eventually he wanted the UK to join the euro. Chris Bryant added that "Yes I would long term like to see the United Kingdom join the euro but we made it absolutely clear that we would not do so unless the economic conditions in the UK were right and it was in our economic interest to do so, and we wouldn't do so unless there had been a referendum which said yes, and for me that would be a significant constitutional change and therefore would necessitate a referendum."
Open Europe events
Merkel and Lagarde clash over German export reliance as threat to eurozone;
Calls grow for an IMF bailout of Greece
The Telegraph notes that Merkel swept aside criticism from French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde that Germany's strategy of export reliance has led to a widening rift between eurozone economies. "Where we are strong, we will not give up our strengths just because our exports are perhaps preferred to those of other countries," she said in the Bundestag. FAZ quotes Jörg Asmussen, the Director General of the German Federal Ministry of Finance, saying, "The Europeans cannot seriously want the biggest national economy of the EU to be less capable of competing and the whole EU being damaged because of this."
The WSJ reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the Bundestag yesterday "We need to have an agreement under which, as a last resort, it's possible to exclude a country from the eurozone if again and again it doesn't fulfil the requirements."
The proposal would require changes to the EU treaties and support of all 27 member states, including those with the worst fiscal track records.
The article notes that European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet told a French magazine in an interview conducted before Ms. Merkel's comments that the notion of expelling a eurozone member was "absurd." Mr. Trichet told Le Point "It is not a membership that can be adapted to suit the circumstances. It is about sharing a common destiny with other countries."
Turning to the situation in Greece, Merkel said "the turnaround must come from Greece" and that the EU "shouldn't rush to provide help that doesn't achieve anything in the long term and merely weakens the euro."
However, the Telegraph notes that Greek PM George Papandreou threatening to turn to the International Monetary Fund for support unless they come up with an acceptable rescue package at their next summit on 25 March. "Nothing is excluded," he said when asked about IMF involvement.
The WSJ quotes a senior Greek government official saying, "The rift with Germany is widening instead of narrowing. There is an increasing belief in the government that the IMF will be the only solution."
Fondsnieuws.nl reports that a majority of the Dutch Parliament wants Dutch PM Jan-Peter Balkenende to say no to pledging financial support to Greece, as proposed by Dutch Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager. The article suggests that Finland, Italy and the Netherlands are all warming to the idea of the IMF helping Greece.
AFP WSJ IHT Handelsblatt Euractiv EUobserver BBC BBC: Hewitt blog Telegraph El Mundo Bloomberg Irish Independent Irish Times WSJ 2 Irish Times 2 Telegraph 2 Le Figaro FAZ Reuters FTD Reuters 2 Handelsblatt 2 Die Welt Fondsnieuws Le Monde
Quatremer: Zapatero gave a "helping hand" to Gordon Brown on AIFM
On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer argues that, by postponing a vote on the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, Spanish PM Jose Luis Zapatero "wanted to give a helping hand to his colleague Gordon Brown", who is facing an election in the next three months. Quatremer adds that, apart from the UK and Czech Republic, all other member states were ready to accept the Spanish proposal.
Le Monde quotes Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier defending the idea of a 'passport available to third country fund managers' according to strict criteria: "If there is a passport, it will be demanding, very demanding . It will deserve no shortcuts and no compromise."
Coulisses de Bruxelles Le Monde Telegraph EurActiv.es OE research OE press release OE blog
Writing in the Telegraph, Reuters journalist Pierre Briancon argues that there is now little chance things will change with the Directive before June.
Hungary sold two million false certificates under EU's Emission Trading System
The Times reports that "chaos" has hit Europe's emissions trading system following concerns about "recycled" carbon permits. The scandal erupted after it emerged that Hungary had exploited a loophole in the EU's Emissions Trading System (ETS) which allowed them to re-sell two million certificates of emission reduction. According to the article, two carbon exchanges have been forced to suspend trading as investors fear they have bought invalid permits.
Commission report criticises EU governments for overly optimistic budget plans
Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn has criticised the budget plans of various EU member states as being short on detail and based on "favourable macroeconomic assumptions after 2010 that may not materialize", reports the WSJ. El Pais reports that, according to the Commission's evaluations the most vulnerable member states are Ireland, the UK and Portugal. With the Commission stating that the UK must avoid "further measures contributing to the deterioration of public finances" which, the Mail says could provide a timely boost for the Conservatives' strategy for cutting the deficit. Meanwhile, writing in the IHT, Steven Erlanger highlights what critics are calling a "cult of austerity" created by "the region's new fixation on debt."
WSJ Bloomberg El Pais Euractiv Die Welt Mail Irish Times Irish Times IHT Focus
EU rules delay Irish government's ban on Mephedrone
The Irish Independent reports that Mephedrone, a drug linked to two recent deaths in Ireland, will remain legal in the country until June, as the government cannot fast-track legislation to ban it. Ireland's Junior Minister responsible for drugs strategy, John Curran, explains that "there are a number of EU directives that we must comply with and because it's a restriction of trade we must give the three months' notice to Europe. We've done that and the ban will be operational from the beginning of June".
Michel Barnier calls for engagement for a "political Europe"
In an interview in Le Monde, Michel Barnier calls for a more political and federal Europe: "history and current affairs show it: there is no big power without an economy, a currency, a foreign policy and a defence policy. The recent crisis shows that it is vital to consolidate our single market, better coordinate our economic and budgetary policies." He adds, "I plead for a common diplomacy, not a single diplomacy".
EU Foreign Minister may delegate day-to-day running of EAS
EUobserver reports that EU member states are close to agreement on the internal architecture of the bloc's new diplomatic corps, but MEPs are threatening to delay the decision-making process unless their recommendations are taken into account. Although agreement on the External Action Service is due to be reached in April, MEPs are suggesting a final agreement may be reached as late as July or September. MEPs are keen on establishing quotas for EAS staff coming from newer member states.
According to the latest draft organisation plan given to EU diplomats, EU Foreign Minister Cathy Ashton is planning to delegate all day-to-day work to a Secretary General and his two deputies. Belgian daily De Standaard quotes a diplomatic source predicting that the new EU diplomatic service will mean a loss of talented diplomatic figures from the smaller member states.
EUobserver European Voice Standaard Le Monde European Voice BBC
New study: Expert bureaucrats decide on most EU regulations after proposal has been adopted
University of Utrecht researcher Gijs Jan Brandsma has found that expert bureaucrats from the Commission and member states in so-called comitology groups are responsible for deciding the content of almost half of all EU regulations after the actual decision has been made by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Brandsma argues that the extensive use of expert bureaucrats creates big problems for scrutiny and accountability.
The report notes that there are around 250 expert committees in EU which together take over 2,000 decisions ever year. He notes that 40 percent of these bureaucrats are not directly accountable to anyone - a problem made worse by the technicality of the subjects these groups deal with.
Utrecht University NWO
EurActiv reports that the new Justice Commissioner, Vivian Reding, believes that cross-border crimes such as money laundering and counterfeiting should be defined in the same way across all EU countries. Reding will outline her plans for criminal and civil law reform in at speech at the European Policy Centre today.
European Voice reports that the Commission on 24 March is set to launch a proposal on Common EU divorce rules, to apply in ten member states. The measure would be the first time that the EU has used the 'enhanced co-operation' mechanism, which allows for the setting of standards between some, but not all, member states.
The Mirror reports that BNP leader Nick Griffin, elected an MEP last June, has claimed £235, 000 in EU expenses, including an £82,000 annual salary and £18,000 consultancy fees. Lib Dem MEP Chris Davies called his accounts as "transparent as mud".
An op-ed article in European Voice asks "is the [European] Parliament too politicised?", after reports of further divisions over the Staes report, which critically investigates the expenditure of the 2008 EP budget of €1.4 billion 2008: "The dispute has cast a spotlight on a defining characteristic of the Parliament's 6,000-strong administration: that officials move between the secretariats of the political groups and the secretariat of the Parliament". EP are due to vote on the proposed amendments to the report next week.
European Voice European Voice 2
EUobserver report that Eurojust's new chief Aled Williams announced yesterday that he has launched a "task force" to examine the possibility of transforming Eurojust into a European Prosecutor's office. Under the Lisbon Treaty this would be possible, but is thought to be unlikely as it would require consent of all member states, many of which currently oppose the measure.
European Voice reports that several member states have criticised the Commission's new EU 2020 strategy for growth and competitiveness, with France and Ireland calling for a greater emphasis on agriculture, which is not mentioned once in the strategy document. EU leaders are scheduled to approve the plan on 25-26 March.
EurActiv reports that the European Commission's proposal for a regulation aimed at improving security of gas supplies will be voted on today by the EP Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. When asked about the cost of the technical improvements stemming from the new regulation, EP Rapporteur Alejo Vidal-Quadras said he realised the figure would be "in the billions".
The Parliament website reports that a senior European Commission official said at an event yesterday that a proposal to recommend harmonising laws across the EU on drink-drive limits was under "serious consideration". The recommendation would be non-binding on member states.
El Mundo report that yesterday the Commission made the first steps towards EU accession to the European Convention of Human Rights, after submitting a negotiating mandate for the adoption of future directives. The Spanish Presidency is expected to approve this before the end of June.
Die Zeit reports that the European Parliament voted against the EU adoption of traffic light labeling on food.
Latvia's government collapsed yesterday after the largest party pulled out of the centre-right coalition over disagreements on how to deal with the country's recession which is the deepest in the European Union.
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.