Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 6 April 2010

Germany unwilling to see Greece benefit from lower interest rates;
Greek Deputy PM warns Portugal is next
The FT reports that Germany is in disagreement with other eurozone members over how much interest to charge Greece, if it needs the emergency loans package agreed at the EU summit last month. Most eurozone nations are prepared to offer loans at 4 to 4.5 percent, the rate paid by the eurozone's other big debtors, Ireland and Portugal, but Germany says Athens should pay 6 to 6.5 percent, the rate paid on Athens' 10-year bonds.  Berlin fears a veto from its Constitutional Court if it agrees to cheaper financing.
Reuters reports that the Greek government wants to amend the deal on a potential bailout package reached last month, to bypass any financial contribution from the IMF. It quotes an unidentified senior official saying the potential measures the IMF would request are "tough and might cause social and political unrest. After that, various cabinet members voiced their opposition to the IMF contribution." Le Parisien reports that the IMF will begin working on the Greek budget tomorrow, providing technical assistance on "budget execution" and "tax matters".
Writing in Monday's FT Wolfgang Münchau argued: "I am willing to risk two predictions. The first is that Greece will not default this year. The second is that Greece will default...if you do the maths on the public debt dynamics, as I did recently, it would be hard to arrive at any other scenario than an eventual default." The FT reports that Greece is to launch a $5bn to $10bn bond issue in the US later this month.
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Greek Deputy PM Theodoros Pangalos said in an interview with Portuguese paper Jornal de Negocios last week that Greece's debt problems could spread in the eurozone, adding: "You [Portugal] are the next victims...I hope it doesn't happen and the solidarity prevails and we find an exit from this escalation [of borrowing costs]. But if this does not happen, the next probable victim will be Portugal. What happened to us [Greece] now is because we are in a worse situation, but it could also happen in Spain and Portugal."
He also said that Germany's tough conditions on aid for Greece had been based on a "moral, racial approach", adding: "The Greeks have problems. Why do they have problems? Because they don't work enough. And why is that? Because they have a good climate, music and drink and they are not as serious as the Germans". When asked if he thought it was a viable strategy to leave the euro he said, "no I didn't speak about leaving the euro, Germany spoke about throwing away, out of the euro, countries like Greece".
FT FT 2 Mail ABC Reuters City AM Economist: Charlemagne notebook FT: Munchau Reuters: Copeland Le Parisien Reuters 2 Business Week Reuters 3 FAZ FAZ 2 Jornal de Negócios El Pais El Pais: 2 El Pais: 3 Handelsblatt
Mats Persson: "Should the Conservatives win the election, they must compel the EU to do less, and do it better"
Writing on Conservative Home Open Europe Director Mats Persson outlines Open Europe's new research on the cost of regulation in the UK in the last eleven years, which finds that it is, on average, around 2.5 times more cost effective to regulate nationally than it is to regulate via the EU. Mats argues that it is "disappointing that the Conservatives have chosen to focus their regulatory reform proposals almost entirely on the domestic level...Given that the bulk of the regulatory cost stems from Brussels, the lack of EU focus could lead to contradictory or undeliverable policy proposals."
He adds: "A defeatist attitude is no good: despite being one of the EU's Big Three, its contribution to the EU budget, its role as a financial centre and its liberal instincts, the UK is punching far below its weight in Europe - particularly in regards to building viable coalitions or simply putting its foot down à la Chancellor Merkel. Should the Conservatives get into power, they must grasp the chance to embark on a new course to compel the EU to do much less, and concentrate on doing it better. That is not euroscepticism; it is pragmatic localism." Open Europe's research is also featured on EurActiv.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports that today is "Red Tape Day", with 48 new regulations being introduced, as part of the twice-yearly package of regulatory changes.
Conservative Home EurActiv Open Europe research OE press release OE blog 
UK's top judge: Lisbon Treaty will have "significant impact" on criminal cases in Britain
Friday's Independent reported that the country's most senior judge, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, has warned of the increasing power that both the European Court of Human Rights and the EU's Court of Justice have over British law. He also warned that changes brought about by the Lisbon Treaty will have a "significant impact" on criminal cases in the UK. The British judiciary, the judge said, will need to be trained to deal with these developments. He predicted that in 20 years' time there would be a very different judiciary to the one today.

FT Deutschland: "Citizens' initiative shows 'managed democracy' of EU"
A leader in FT Deutschland argues that the EU's citizens' initiative shows the "managed democracy" of the EU, writing: "in the future, European citizens will be authorised to bring a European bill forward, provided they don´t come up with 'stupid proposals' and proposals that would harm the 'European basic understanding'. But who determines what a 'stupid proposal' is, and according to the interpretation of statement, would that mean a national referendum against proposals such as the Lisbon Treaty would injure the 'European basic understanding' in the future?"
FT Deutschland

MEP: "it's hypocritical to claim that CAP benefits small farmers"
Dutch socialist MEP Berman has said in an interview with Toute L'Europe that "it's hypocritical to claim that the EU's Common Agricultural Policy benefits small farmers", saying that 80% of subsidies go to 20% of farmers, and that these subsidies don't serve regional development or landscape preservation. He goes on: "CAP is like a drug addict: it needs subsidies to survive, but those subsidies make it sick".
Toute L'Europe
Friday's Telegraph reported that Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier has said that tough new regulation on the trading of credit default swaps could include a ban on trading sovereign debt. He said that although he had not used the word "ban" explicitly, it could not be ruled out.
Telegraph EurActiv
William Hague: European Public Prosecutor would not have jurisdiction in UK
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague said that a Conservative government would oppose the creation of a European Public Prosecutor, adding "Other countries could go ahead with that if they wish but the European Public Prosecutor would not have jurisdiction in Britain." He also said they would scrap any preparation in Whitehall towards a future decision by Britain to join the euro.
Meanwhile, writing in the FT, Gideon Rachman argues that "A Cameron government might quickly have to face profound decisions about how the EU will go about rescuing the floundering European single currency. If this involves deeper political integration, all the old Tory neuroses on Europe would return. The Tories will also be put on the spot fairly rapidly over EU legislation that flows from the economic crisis - in particular new regulations for finance."
Sunday Telegraph FT: Rachman
EU plans to promote regional rather than national borders
The News of the World reported on EU civil servants ongoing plans to create new trans-frontier EU regions, which would see parts of southern England joined to northern France as a new zone called "TransManche". The project, part of the EU's INTERREG programme, would also see new maps produced that would stress regional rather than national borders in order to foster a feeling of "shared space." The project is being backed by £1.1 million of UK taxpayers' money. Open Europe Director Mats Persson was quoted in the paper saying "The whole exercise is ridiculous".
NOTW Sunday Express Mail on Sunday Mail
MEPs call for law to make Sunday a day of rest
The News of the World reported that hundreds of MEPs have signed a declaration calling for Sunday to be made a legal day of rest, under a review of the EU's Working Time Directive, with only the likes of hospital staff, police and firemen allowed to work. Open Europe's Stephen Booth was quoted saying: "There is absolutely no need for the EU to be deciding what days people can work. This ludicrous proposal shows the extent to which MEPs are determined to interfere in the working practices of UK citizens".
NOTW Open Europe research
Van Rompuy: "I don't agree" with Merkel's call for eurozone expulsion
In an interview with Saturday's Telegraph, EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy said that he disagrees with German Chancellor Angela Merkel's calls for tough "economic government" that could include expelling states from the euro and would require a change to the current EU treaties. "She [Mrs Merkel] can have that point of view but for treaty changes you need unanimous decision," he said. "Personally I don't agree with expulsion as a sanction. But that is my personal view and we have to wait for the discussion [among member states]...I don't think there is unanimity or consensus about treaty change."
He added; "We need economic convergence - I don't say economic union - in the development of the economy...It is the main topic for the coming years. Without economic convergence, we cannot have monetary unity."
He also said that British politicians must do more to win over the public to the benefits of the EU. "It is the job of British politicians to convince their population".
Row over UKIP party donations
The Sunday Times reported that UKIP's party leader, Lord Pearson, and an MEP, Stuart Agnew, have been recorded on tape describing how to get around the rules on party donations set out by the Electoral Commission.
In a statement UKIP said that, "Lord Pearson, Leader of the UK Independence Party, clearly stated (as reported in the Sunday Times article) that he would check with the Electoral Commission and 'if there was any doubt I would honestly rather go without.'' Mark Wadsworth, UKIP Treasurer, added: "All donations or loans to the UK Independence Party have been reported to the Electoral Commission."
Sunday Times Guardian UKIP statement
EU funding project to monitor airline passengers' conversations
The Sunday Telegraph reported that airline passengers could have their conversations and movements monitored under an EU-funded research project at Reading University aimed at tackling terrorism. The technology, aimed at detecting suspicious behaviour on board aircraft, uses a combination of cameras, microphones, explosives detectors and a sophisticated computer system which would give a pilot early warning of any danger. Gus Hosein a lecturer at the London School of Economics said, "This is getting out of control. An airplane is not a privacy free zone."
Telegraph Open Europe research
Erdogan; "Sarkozy should come and see Turkey today"
The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said in an interview with Le Figaro that he "must succeed in changing the view" of France and Germany over Turkey's EU accession, saying "We must go there to see that Turkey is ahead of many countries in the European Union in several areas."
In response to whether Turkey would be a burden to the EU, he replied that "Not only would Turkey not be a burden for Europe, but it will help to alleviate [existing problems]. The EU has accepted new members who are a burden. Our European friends know this. These countries have been admitted for political reasons and the European Union is now paying the price. It is investing heavily to try to change these later entrants. Turkey, it has reached the same level by its own means."
Le Figaro Europe1
European Voice reports that Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have promised to push for a global agreement at the June G20 summit in Toronto to introduce a banking levy for special funds to guard against future financial market crises.
European Voice NouvelObs Reuters La Tribune Tagesschau
In a comment piece for Euractiv, two researchers from the German think tank Centrum für Europäische Politik argue that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) simply creates an "artificial shift of emissions" and that as a result "overall climate protection costs are even increased."
Euractiv Centrum für Europäische Politik
The EU is to table a directive on water savings in buildings, in the wake of new legislation to reduce the energy consumption of buildings and electric devices.  "The potential for water savings in the EU is estimated at 40%. Binding rules could be envisaged to promote water savings in public and private buildings" states the 2010 work programme.
Monday's FT reported that EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier's plans to reform the IASB, the body that sets international accounting rules, has infuriated accountants in a move that could hamper a G20 push for global convergence on rules.
Friday's Telegraph reported that the EU's Committee of European Securities Regulators is launching an investigation into so-called "high-frequency" trading, as part of its review of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive (MiFID).
EUobserver reports that the Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Droutsashas suggested that Athens is ready to accept the name of 'Northern Macedonia' for FYR Macedonia, which could bring an end to the dispute which has held up EU membership ambitions.
Handelsblatt reports that German business association BDI has criticised unclear EU competition law, urging EU authorities to provide more transparent schedules and more predictable fines.
Gordon Brown is to ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament today and will call an election for 6 May. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times put the Conservatives on 39%, Labour on 29% and the Liberal Democrats on 20%, while an ICM poll for the Guardian today puts the parties on 37, 33 and 21 respectively.
Times Mail Irish Times FT City AM Guardian Telegraph Independent BBC EurActiv Sunday Times Guardian 2 El Pais

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.

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