Thursday, March 04, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 4 March 2010

Commission to table proposal for EU-wide €10 per tonne carbon tax
European Voice reports that the new European Commissioner for Taxation, Algirdas Šemeta, is planning to propose a minimum rate of tax on carbon across the whole of the EU. The move, which was considered too controversial by the first Barroso commission, would mean that carbon tax is calculated according to the energy content of certain energy sources such as petrol, coal and natural gas, and the quantity of CO2 they emit. It would be introduced through an amendment to the EU's Energy Taxation Directive, originally adopted in 1992. An earlier draft of the proposal set the minimum excise rate at €10 per tonne of CO2 emitted.
Šemeta would like to present draft legislation as early as next month, the article reports. "In my estimation it is possible to start discussions within the college [of European commissioners]...there is currently the right momentum", he said, arguing that the proposal has a better prospect of success now than in the past because an increasing number of member states are adopting national carbon taxes, creating a need for EU rules to prevent distortions of the single market.
A UK diplomat is quoted saying: "We do not support the idea of a mandatory pan-European carbon tax...We believe that member states are best placed to choose the policy tools for achieving their climate-change objectives." All member states have to agree before the proposal can become law.
European Voice
Spanish EU Presidency to propose European Public Prosecutor;
UK veto would not stop Britons being extradited for prosecution elsewhere in EU
Europolitics reports that the Spanish EU Presidency is due to submit a proposal for the creation of a European Public Prosecutor (EPP) in April to "investigate fraud and speculation against the euro". Under the Lisbon Treaty, the office can be established by a unanimous vote, after approval by the European Parliament, or if that fails, a group of at least nine member states may proceed under so-called 'enhanced cooperation'.
Conde Pumpido, Spain's Inspector-General of Finances, said "The single currency needs a specific institution that protects the application of criminal law against fraud and speculation." The Spanish Presidency's website notes that although it "would initially investigate fraud and speculation against the euro; it could also investigate and initiate criminal proceedings against cross-border crimes such as people trafficking, drug trafficking or terrorism."
When the Lisbon Treaty was being negotiated, the UK was strongly opposed to the creation of an EPP, even if the Government was granted a veto. At the time, Peter Hain wrote on behalf of the Government that, "We are firmly opposed to establishing a European Public Prosecutor. Unanimity does not mean that this article can be accepted...There is clearly no need for a separate prosecution body at EU level."
If the UK opts out of the EPP, it would mean it would not have the jurisdiction to launch investigations in the UK but could still prosecute UK citizens in any of the member states that go ahead with the EPP. In 2007, Professor Jo Shaw from Edinburgh University confirmed to a House of Lords Committee that the European Arrest Warrant could be used to force UK citizens to face prosecution by the EPP in another member state.
Europolitics Spanish EU Presidency House of Lords: Shaw evidence Open Europe research
Barroso's vow to use Lisbon Treaty to create "economic governance" hits a nerve in Germany
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has vowed to make full use of new powers under the Lisbon Treaty to push for further economic integration and greater EU oversight over member states economic policy through greater "economic governance in the union". Barroso was speaking as he launched the EU's so-called "Europe 2020" strategy, which sets new 10-year economic targets, based on cutting poverty, boosting education and focusing on "green" growth.
He said, "Now we have the Lisbon Treaty, which provides for (economic) policy recommendations and policy warnings. The commission intends to use these powers to the full. The commission will address country-specific (economic) recommendations to member states and warnings in the case of inadequate responses." He added, "I hope there is agreement that we need to implement the Lisbon Treaty and use all opportunities it offers on economic governance in the union," according to PA.
The Mail notes that Barroso dismissed suggestions that the Greek budget crisis, threatening the future of the euro, had weakened the case for further economic integration. "It does the reverse, so we must keep the fundamentals of the very important European policy of European integration," he said.
Open Europe Director Mats Persson is quoted in the Mail, the Express and on PA, saying, "The unelected Commission is seeking to gain power over one of the core features of democratic politics - deciding how a country's economy is run. This has no public support and runs the risk of being hijacked by narrow political interests." He added, "While everyone is in favour of more growth and jobs, it's far from clear how this will be achieved by allowing the EU to set even more central targets. Economic growth receives its thrust from individuals, businesses and communities - it cannot be forced from the centre."
The IHT notes that Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, continues to oppose the link between the surveillance system and the Growth and Stability Pact.
A leader in FT Deutschland argues that "Chancellor Angela Merkel created confusion, when she expressed in Paris at the beginning of February the concept of 'European economic government'. It looked as if she had fulfilled a long running wish of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. However the opposite is true. Merkel refuses and impedes a similar economic government."
Express Mail IHT El Mundo European Voice Euractiv Die Welt WSJ Irish Times EUobserver BBC European Voice: Editorial The Parliament FT WSJ 2 FTD Leader ARD Standaard Les Echos RTBF Euractiv
Greece waits on EU "solidarity";
Germany only prepared to help "if it is about protecting Germany"
Following Greece's €4.8 million additional budget austerity measures announced yesterday, Greek PM George Papandreou said on Greek television: "We are now justifiably expecting EU solidarity". He also told his Cabinet during a three-hour meeting, "The time of Europe has come. We've done whatever we need to, Europe must do the same", reports the Times.
The Telegraph reports that following the cuts, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that "Greece's ambitious programme to correct its fiscal imbalances is now on track. Regarding the overall issue of solidarity with Greece, Greece can count on this".
Mr Papandreou is due to travel to Berlin to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday, and to Paris to meet President Sarkozy on Sunday. However, Chancellor Merkel said that the meeting "is not about aid measures for Greece ... but about good relations between Germany and Greece".
The WSJ quotes an aide to Chancellor Merkel saying, "We can only justify a bailout if it's about protecting Germany, not Greece". Officials in Berlin said that Germany considered Greece to be "liquid till the end of March" with the real test of confidence coming in late April or May when it has to roll over about €22bn of debt, according to the FT.
AP reports that Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou has said that Greece cannot rule out turning to the IMF for assistance if help is not forthcoming from other eurozone states.
Die Welt quotes the head of the IFO, the Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, Hans-Werner Sinn arguing that the expulsion of Greece from the eurozone is unavoidable: "Every attempt to stabilise Greece within the eurozone is a bottomless barrel. If Greece is allowed to stay, the euro will be de-stabilised", but warning that "Greece will suffer insolvency this year if it is not helped".
Die Welt LeFigaro NouvelObs Le Monde WSJ WSJ 2 WSJ 3 WSJ 4 EUobserver IHT BBC: Flanders blog Guardian Times Focus FAZ Les Echos EurActiv IHT 2 Telegraph NouvelObs LeFigaro FT AP Romandie WSJ: Wheatcroft FT: Leader FT 2 Independent: Hamilton FT: Hope FT: Hale Bloomberg Bloomberg 2 Bild Bloomberg 3 Focus
Authorities step up measures to examine hedge fund "conspiracy" claims
Authorities on both sides of the Atlantic took steps yesterday to allay fears of a hedge fund "conspiracy" to destroy the euro, with US authorities ordering some funds not to destroy euro trade records pending further examination.
Meanwhile the European Commission will use a meeting with banks and regulators today to discuss the regulation of the sovereign CDS market. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has condemned speculators with "ulterior motives" for exacerbating his country's difficulties, however, one hedge fund manager, quoted in the FT, countered: "the problems of Greece are down to the appalling public finances, not evil hedge funds."
EU finance ministers will meet on 16 March to discuss the EU's Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive (AIFM), European Voice reports.
IHT Independent Spiegel FT Le Monde European Voice OE Research OE Briefing 
MEPs voice discontent over the formation of the EEAS
European Voice reports that MEPs will demand a greater say in the creation of the EU's diplomatic corps when they meet next week for a plenary session in Strasbourg, having complained that of being sidelined in the discussions between the European Commission and member states over setting up the European External Action Service (EEAS). There are also reports that this internal struggle for influence could delay the launch of the EEAS.
El Mundo reports that EU Foreign Minister Cathy Ashton is coming under criticism in Spain for her failure to attend summits, such as those held this weekend with Morocco and Granada, which she says she will miss as she has "a very important political appointment" in London. A Spanish diplomat is quoted saying: "She is violating the Treaty, which says that she should be with the President of the European Council in the foreign representation of the EU".  The article questions whether she has a phobia of flying as "after more than three months in the position, she has hardly travelled - and hasn't even visited the Middle-East".  The article also reports that the German government is "very angry" at how the new role is developing.
European Voice European Voice 2 European Voice 3 El Mundo
Commission to re-evaluate Data Retention Directive
Following the decision of Germany's Federal Constitutional Court to reject the German law implementing the EU's Data Retention Directive, the European Commission has decided to re-examine the directive itself to see if it is compatible with the Lisbon Treaty, German daily Die Welt reports. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, told the paper "We will check to see if the directive is adequate and effective, and we will check how high the costs are".  A leader in the FT suggests that Germany's highest court may have done the rest of the EU member states a favour.
Die Zeit  Die Welt  FT: Leader
Belgian Foreign Minister finds little difference in Conservative and Labour attitudes to EU
Following a visit to London, Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere has said that, following meetings with both Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, the difference between Labour and the Conservatives on their attitude to Europe did not seem to be very large, according to Belgian daily De Morgen.
De Morgen
El Mundo report that the Commission has launched a consultation to examine if "broadband for all" is a "public right"; if it should be included in EU rules, under universal telecommunications obligations; and if it should be financed by public funds or by the telecommunications sector itself.
El Mundo EurActiv
74% of Icelanders are ready to vote 'no' to an Icesave agreement in this weekend's referendum, reports Le Monde.
No link
Preliminary results suggest that the populist Freedom Party led by Geert Wilders has made headway in Dutch local elections, setting the scene for the General Election to be held in June of this year.
EUobserver BBC
European Voice reports that an expert group, chaired by former Managing Director of the IMF Michel Camdessus, advising national governments and the European Parliament has proposed creating an EU development bank out of parts of the EIB and European bank for Reconstruction and Development, to lend money to developing countries.
European Voice
EUobserver reports that the European Ombudsman will censure the European Commission today for refusing to release correspondence between former Industry Commission Gunter Verheugen and German car manufacturer Porsche relating to agreements on carbon emissions.
EUobserver European Voice
EUobserver reports that an internal report from the EU's anti-fraud office OLAF has revealed that it came very close to finding the sources of German investigative journalist Hans-Martin Tillack's stories of fraud at the heart of Eurostat. Following the stories an anonymous EU official accused Tillack of bribery, leading Olaf to alert the Belgian police, who raided Tillack's office and seized documents about the source of the stories in Brussels in 2004.
EUobserver OE blog
A leader in the Times argues; "A new wave of Eastern European migrants -- this time from Latvia -- has arrived to season that stew of nationalities and cultures that, simmered over centuries, gives Britain its tang."
Times: Leader

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