Germany in U-turn over IMF help for Greece
The FT and WSJ report that Germany is leaning towards involving the IMF in a potential Greek bailout, with the WSJ quoting a senior German official saying that Angela Merkel is "open to a financial participation by the IMF" in any aid package for Greece. Berlin is reportedly trying to avoid any potential German Constitutional Court objections over participation in an EU bailout for Greece, which could be in violation of the 'no-bailout' rule in the EU treaties.
The FT quotes senior CDU MP Michael Meister saying that, "should our expectations [that Athens does not need a bail-out] be disappointed, Greece would have to accept measures imposed by the IMF". The financing of such measures "would then have to be negotiated between the IMF and the eurozone member states". French officials said they have not held discussions with Berlin about a joint eurozone-IMF rescue.
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has previously said that "help from the IMF would in my view be an admission that the euro countries can't solve their problems through their own efforts."
Le Monde reports that Greek PM George Papandreou said yesterday that EU leaders had until next week's leaders' summit to come up with a concrete plan for assistance, threatening to go to the IMF otherwise. This was before the apparent turnaround in the German attitude to IMF involvement. Greek Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou yesterday denied rumours that Greece will apply for IMF funding at soon as the start of April. "This is ridiculous," he told Reuters. "We have said from the beginning that all options are open... we are not any closer now to the IMF [than before]."
EUobserver reports that Finland has indicated it would support an IMF solution, with Italy and the Netherlands also thought to be in favour. Dutch paper Het Financieele Dagblad reports that a majority in the Dutch parliament oppose providing a loan to Greece, and believe that Greece should turn to the IMF.
Writing in the FT Quentin Peel argues: "In being prepared to contemplate a deal between Greece and the International Monetary Fund, Berlin is compromising on a profound resistance to having any outside institutions intervene in the operation of EU economic and monetary union, and the eurozone in particular. It amounts to a recognition that the single currency was created without a full set of tools to deal with a comparable crisis".
Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports that Spain urged Ms Merkel to avoid talk of possibly expelling fellow members from the single currency, saying such comments could be misconstrued.
FT FT: Peel FT 2 WSJ WSJ 2 City AM Telegraph EUobserver Bloomberg Irish Times Telegraph: Evans-Pritchard blog Eurointelligence Times Guardian FT 3 EurActiv IHT European Voice BBC: Hewitt blog Business Week ARD Handelsblatt Le Monde Le Figaro Reuters FD Le Figaro Kathimerini
EU spends millions on questionable culture programme
The European Commission is to spend £366 million through its 2010 culture programme on arts events to promote wind instruments, 'hip hop' dance and circus skills. £180,000 has been earmarked for a 'Wind Art Festival' to address the "need to increase audience for organ performances in order to give the organ a natural role in cultural life". Open Europe's Stephen Booth is quoted in the Telegraph saying, "These projects show that, if nothing else, EU bureaucrats have an exceptional talent for finding creative ways to waste taxpayers' money. Europe is struggling through the worst economic climate for generations and yet the EU budget is still being squandered on dubious projects that do nothing to create sustainable jobs and futures for European citizens."
The Mail also quotes Open Europe Director Mats Persson saying, "The EU's spending machine is completely out of sync with economic reality", and asking "why EU bureaucrats should be involved in cultural initiatives in the first place. Surely this is better handled nationally or locally?"
French Europe Minister: "Lisbon Treaty has given us a more 'political' Europe"
In an article published by Mondes magazine French Secretary of State for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche, argues that "The financial crisis...has reminded European countries that none of them, not even the largest, can hope to deal with such turmoil alone". He goes on to add, "There is no doubt that the Lisbon Treaty has given us a more 'political' Europe...[and that the]...EU's new institutions will enable it, provided there is sufficient political will, to emerge as a full-fledged strategic actor, capable of influencing international affairs." He also believes that "the idea of a European 'economic government', supported by the French President, is progressing."
With regard to European defence policy he argues that "the poor visibility of the European Union's action in Haiti demonstrated the importance of translating the political impetus created by the High Representative on the ground, if necessary through a European humanitarian force. The French President has stated that he is in favour of the creation of such a force." He concludes; "Europe's ability to matter politically on the international stage depends on the revival of the European defence and security pillar".
Belgian Presidency to propose extending gambling laws
Belgian daily De Standaard reports that the Belgian EU Presidency, starting in July 2010, is planning to draft common EU-wide rules to regulate online gambling. The paper says Belgium wants to use its own new law as a blueprint for others. Under Belgian law, only licensed casinos are allowed to offer poker or other games of chance on the web.
EU crackdown on vitamins could put 4,000 jobs at risk
The EU Commission's plan to curb vitamins and mineral pills with dosages that are too high, affecting supplement pills, could lead to 4,000 job losses and force 700 health food stores to shut down in the UK, reports the Express. The Consumers For Health Choice campaign, which has 11,000 UK members, says France and Germany are pushing to allow only low-dose levels of vitamins and minerals to be used in food supplements, and warning that the UK will be outvoted in the final decision.
ECB Board Member Mario Draghi calls for "European economic government"
In an interview with Handelsblatt, ECB Governing Board Member Mario Draghi, who is in the running to become the next ECB President, said that "We need a European economic government", and is also calling for "a wider Stability and Growth Pact...Until now we had a supervisory mechanism and also a mechanism to partly correct the accounts and budgets of member states. Now we must make this more workable and endorse structural reforms."
He adds: "It is time to go one step further. At least the Eurozone countries should accept a mechanism which improves the cooperation between governments and provides stronger discipline."
Charlemagne: Brown has condemned next Government to "nasty clash" over AIFM Directive
The Economist's Charlemagne column suggests that by, delaying a vote in the Council of Ministers on the AIFM Directive, Gordon Brown may have condemned the next UK Government "to a nasty clash over European Union regulation of hedge funds and private equity." The article cites one official saying that if Mr Brown is re-elected, and his ministers return to EU negotiations in May or June, a compromise is probably possible. The column adds that a potential newly-elected Conservative government "will come under pressure from the press, the party and the City to stand and fight."
Relaxing EU rules could see return of rabies to UK
The Express reports that the EU wants to relax the regulations on pets travelling between member states, which would involve abandoning controls for rabies, tapeworms and ticks. British vets have warned that rabies was "far from eradicated" in Europe and could return to the UK if the safeguarding tests are removed.
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Le Figaro reports that IMF Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn has said he's sceptical about the creation of the European Monetary Fund: "It would represent a distraction from the real problems the Eurozone must tackle in the light of the Greek crisis", he explained yesterday.
Writing in the FT Otmar Issing, former Executive Member of the ECB board, argues that the idea that labour costs in individual countries should be "governed" by a European authority is an "economically absurd and politically dangerous concept."
In an interview with La Tribune Guy Verhofstadt, President of the liberal group in the European Parliament, says that the WTO system, where the EU is represented by one Commissioner, is "what we need for the monetary system: an economic and social governance, with convergence criteria like those of the stability pact but on the monetary level."
The Coulisses de Bruxelles blog argues that EU Foreign Minister Lady Ashton's insistence that her working week ends on a Friday continues to undermine her credibility. This is in response to her apparent refusal to meet with the UN Security Council Ambassadors on a stopover in Brussels on Sunday, 18 April.
A leader in the Economist argues that "The east European economies, for all their faults, have shown more flexibility in both labour markets and in what they produce than have many older EU members."
France has suggested creating a joint UK-French nuclear deterrent by sharing submarine patrols. The UK so far, has opposed this offer stating that such a merge of sovereignty would be politically unacceptable.
EurActiv reports that a debate about education targets in the proposed 'Europe 2020' strategy was removed from the agenda of an EU summit meeting next week after Germany expressed concerns that the proposed EU objective would step on the competences of the federal Lander.
The WSJ reports that new figures from Eurostat show that the eurozone posted a large trade deficit of goods in January of €8.9 billion, after a €4.1 billion surplus in December.
The Parliament reports that the start of Iceland's EU accession talks is being delayed by the German Constitutional Court ruling on the Lisbon Treaty last summer, which will see Germany Parliamentary committees take a month to examine the EU Commission's opinion on the bid before negotiations begin.
A leader in the FT argues that Business Secretary Lord Mandelson should not drift towards the French approach to industrial strategy, with government picking the winners.
EUobserver reports that EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Commission President Barroso will both represent the EU at the G20 meeting, although they will speak on different subjects.
Le Monde reports that the European Commission is considering taking several member states accused of failing to comply with EU environment laws to the ECJ.
Handelsblatt reports that the European Parliament has threatened to use its newly acquired veto right in ongoing negotiations on trade, over the EU's free trade deal with South Korea.
Conservatives would introduce carbon tax to encourage renewables investment
A Conservative government would put a carbon tax on electricity generation to encourage investment in renewables and nuclear power, reports the FT. The article suggests that it will be welcomed by energy companies, which have argued that the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme does not provide enough stability for costly investment in long-term capital projects such as nuclear power stations. Dieter Helm, an energy expert at New College, Oxford, said: "I can't see why anyone would think this is a bad idea. It would not surprise me if the government pre-empted it in the Budget."
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