Monday, July 12, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 12 July 2010

Open Europe is holding an event in conjunction with Policy Exchange in London today from 2pm - 4pm, entitled "EU supervision and regulation in the securities markets: Will one size fit all?"


Speaking at the event will be: Salvatore Gnoni, European Commission; Kay Swinburne MEP; and William Underhill, Slaughter & May - Chairman of the City of London Law Society's Company Law Committee. The event will be chaired by Open Europe Director Mats Persson.


Places are limited. If you would like to attend, please RSVP to Vincenzo Scarpetta on 0044 (0)207 197 2333 or




EU spending £400m on "confidential" projects;

Sun: "Let's see the coalition kick up a stink"

Saturday's Sun and Express reported on Open Europe's finding that, in the last three years, the European Commission has given out £400m in grants to 727 projects marked "confidential". The Express quoted a Commission spokeswoman saying, "This is a very small amount of money and I am sure there are reasons why this is confidential."


Projects which have received funding include "The Flying Gorillas" dance troupe, who received £160,000 to perform "spectacular belching" and "smelly foot" jigs. Nearly £147,000 has been spent on creating 736 postcards - one for each MEP in the European Parliament. Each cost the taxpayer £200. The Commission has proposed a 5.3 percent rise in the EU's budget, which is expected to exceed £118billion this year.


Open Europe's Stephen Booth was quoted in the Sun saying, "Funding these projects would be pretty ridiculous at the best of times, but when the Government is talking about massive cuts, the EU's spending looks truly outrageous. How can the EU demand more cash when it's throwing £400million of taxpayers' money down a black hole?" He was also quoted in the Express. A Sun leader argued, "At the last European Parliament elections, the Tories promised to get value for our money. So let's see the coalition kick up a stink."

Saturday's Sun Saturday's Express


EU officials retire on £60,000 a year leaving £1bn bill

The EU will this year spend almost £1 billion on pensions, giving the average retired official an income of almost £60,000, according to research carried out by the Telegraph. The UK's contribution will be £135 million. A British diplomat said: "Pay and pensions in EU institutions must reflect the very difficult decisions which are being made right across Europe."


The average annual pension pocketed by the 17,471 retired officials benefiting from the scheme is £57,194, but the highest ranking officials can expect pensions of over £102,000. The average retirement age for EU officials was 60, by 2009 figures, falling to 58 for lower secretarial grades. In Britain, the Government is raising the retirement age from 65 to 66 by 2016. A leader in the paper argues, "The European Commission has been to the fore in pointing out that the demographic profile of Europe makes present arrangements unsustainable...Yet EU institutions are hardly setting a shining example."

Telegraph Telegraph: Leader


New report says eurozone break-up would boost economic growth

The Sunday Telegraph reported that a new report from Capital Economics has predicted that the break-up of the eurozone would be beneficial for both weaker and stronger members, because it would bring about the necessary rebalancing of the region's economy. The report says that, since the beginning of the crisis, the PIIGS countries have been hit by higher costs and prices, undermining their ability to compete.


"As long as the eurozone continues to operate by these rules, there is no alternative to many years of economic pain," the report said, adding: "For the sake of the future economic health and success of the European Union, the eurozone needs to break up." The report also says that, "The threatened break-up of the eurozone, which many see as a potential disaster, would actually open the door to renewed economic growth, not just for weaker members of the zone, but for Europe as a whole".


Meanwhile, in an interview with El Pais, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has predicted bad times ahead for the eurozone, saying, "It wouldn't surprise me to see one or two countries leave the Euro. There is a plausible possibility that Greece becomes obligated to leave and this contagion provokes serious problems in the rest of the countries, especially Portugal, and possibly Spain and Ireland."

El Pais Sunday Telegraph Observer Bloomberg Irish Independent FT: Münchau OE blog


UK has weeks to decide on EU powers stripping judges of power to block DNA requests

The Telegraph reports that police forces risk being swamped by demands from foreign countries for DNA and other evidence under the European Investigation Order agreement. The Government has until the end of the month to decide whether to opt into the scheme, which would give authorities in any EU country the power to order the British police to collect and hand over evidence, interrogate suspects, or launch lengthy surveillance operations. UK judges would be powerless to block the requests, even if they related to offences that might be considered trivial in the UK.

EUobserver OE research


EU's environmental targets are driving up the cost of energy

PA notes that a new Civitas report has warned of the extra costs being put on energy from policies including the EU's emission trading scheme, the EU's renewables targets, and the climate change levy which taxes energy use in businesses and the public sector. The UK's 2009 "Renewable Energy Strategy" suggested that the surcharge on electricity prices could be as high as 33 percent for domestic users and 70 percent for business users by 2020 respectively.


Meanwhile, according to the Fuel Poverty Advisory Group, energy bills have increased by 125% in the past six years, with the number of households in fuel poverty in England quadrupling as a result.

Conservative Home Civitas press release Open Europe research


British MEPs have worst European Parliament attendance record

Saturday's Telegraph reported that the UK's 72 member delegation to European Parliament had the worst attendance record of all 27 member states during key voting sessions, attending an average 85% since last year. The three British MEPs with the worst attendance record are the UKIP MEPs David Campbell Bannerman, Paul Nuttall and Godfrey Bloom, each averaging under 63 percent attendance.


The article quoted Open Europe's Stephen Booth, saying "British MEPs are paid an awful lot of money to defend the interests of UK voters in Europe but it's pretty difficult to do that if they don't turn up to vote. Helping to fight the general election campaign is all very well but MEPs' first duty is to make sure that EU laws coming out of the European Parliament are good for the UK."

Saturday's Telegraph


European Commission wants EU-wide level of protection for bank deposits

Die Welt and FAZ report that EU Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier wants to standardise bank savings guarantees throughout the EU. Barnier's plans would set the guarantee at €100,000 in all 27 member states. Furthermore, the repayment process would be accelerated in the case of bank default, with money paid out to savers automatically within 7 days. EurActiv notes that consumers may have to pay for these new guarantees through higher banking fees or reduced interest rates.

Welt FAZ Euractiv FAZ Commentary


AIFM 'equivalence criteria' has been scrapped in compromise text

FTfm reports that the so-called "equivalence criteria" in the AIFM Directive - which would require funds and managers based offshore to be subject to similar regulations to those applicable in the EU - has been scrapped in a compromise version currently under negotiation. However, funds based outside the EU would still have to comply with several other requirements and they would only be eligible for a "passport" - allowing them to market their funds throughout the EU - if they fulfil even stricter rules.


Fund managers are also concerned they will be caught up in various tough new EU regulations on remuneration that are aimed at financial institutions - including last week's rules on bank capital that contain tough rules, as well as the upcoming AIFM Directive - and that there is a lack of consistency between the proposals, reports the FT.


Meanwhile, a separate article in the paper reports that ten of Europe's largest companies have backed a warning that the EU Commission's proposals for reforming the vast over-the-counter derivatives markets could trigger a fresh financial crisis if they are not watered down. They would force more OTC derivatives to be traded on exchanges and electronic trading platforms, and push them through clearing houses - which requires purchasers of derivatives to put up extra cash as collateral in case of defaults.

FT FT 2 CityAM: Comment FT 3 OE research


Hague made 'decisive call' on EU foreign service vote

EurActiv reports that "a decisive call" from William Hague to the Conservatives' fellow party members in the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) was key to the passage of the EU's new foreign service through the European Parliament. The blueprint for the European External Action Service was approved thanks to the support of the ECR group, according to the article.



EU to try and convince Slovakia to approve €500bn eurozone bailout

The WSJ reports that Slovakia's new PM Iveta Radicova is to fly to Brussels today to meet with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to outline her country's objections to the eurozone's €500 billion bailout package, which is holding up the launch of the programme. Last week, Ms. Radicova said she didn't want to block the start of the facility but said Slovakia wants more talks on its participation in the fund, as well as its overall size and other details.




UniCredit Chief Executive offers counter proposal to state banking levy

Several European banks are discussing a potential €20bn private European recovery fund which could bail out other banks in the event of another financial crisis, according to the FT. The proposal is in opposition to EU governments' plans for national bank levies. The talks have been prompted by Alessandro Profumo, Chief Executive of UniCredit, who writes in the paper that "the option for authorities to use the fund to stabilise one or a few large, ailing banks could assure the market that a crisis could be contained at an early stage."


Meanwhile, the IHT reports that the ECB, BoE and the IMF are all warning of a looming crisis for European banks - suggesting that within the next two years European banks will be competing with governments on the bond markets as they have to roll over trillions of dollars of short term borrowing. Should institutions be unable to raise enough capital amidst investor uncertainty, the ECB will have to decide whether to keep providing cheap cash to prop them up.

FT FT: Profumo IHT


Competence tests for European nurses are in breach of EU regulations

The Mail reports that nurses from other EU states will no longer be required to pass rigorous competence exams before being allowed to treat NHS patients, nor will they have to show that they have looked after patients during the past three years as such tests break EU law.

Mail Mail: Comment


France and Germany seek Belgian EU Presidency support for financial transaction tax

French and German Finance Ministers Christine Lagarde and Wolfgang Schäuble have written to their Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders, to push for the rapid creation of a global tax on financial transactions, in a letter published on Friday. However, despite calling for a discussion of the tax at Tuesday's Ecofin council, Le Monde reports that Reynders has responded saying that it is to be discussed at the next Ecofin in late September.

FAZ Le Monde Handelsblatt Weekend FT


ECB hints at end to controversial bond buying programme

The Weekend FT reported that European Central Bank Board Member Jürgen Stark has hinted that the Bank may end its controversial bond buying scheme that started at the height of the eurozone debt crisis. The article notes that this would put the ECB on collision course with the IMF, which has recommended continued support to the bond markets.

Weekend FT City AM Open Europe research


The Sunday Telegraph reported that Chancellor George Osborne is set to demand that one of the new "super-regulators" proposed by the EU is based in London, after the European Parliament announced all three would be based in Frankfurt.

Sunday Telegraph


The IHT reports that the opposition Social Democrats and Greens agreed over the weekend to form the next coalition in North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state in Germany, dealing a big blow to Angela Merkel's ruling CDU/CSU/FDP coalition who will lose their majority in the Bundesrat.



A new report from an Oireachtas subcommittee is to publish recommendations tomorrow for new rules on how to handle EU negotiations, according to the Irish Times. One key decision will be whether the Dáil and Seanad should develop a role in the oversight of the EU negotiating process that would make the Foreign Minister accountable before and after decisions are made, instead of only after.

Irish Times


The Sunday Telegraph reported that a number of Turks, fed up with being rebuffed by France and Germany in their efforts to join the EU, have grown increasingly hostile to EU accession, with less than half now in favour. In Saturday's Times, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Britain will "champion Turkish membership of the EU".

Sunday Telegraph Saturday's Times


Der Standard reports that the European Parliament's rapporteur on Croatian accession, Hannes Swoboda, has said that the process may be delayed by a year until 2013.



FTD reports that Poland was the only European country not to suffer from shrinking economic output during the financial crisis, and is forecast to grow by 3.5% in 2011.



A new FT/Harris poll has found that, when asked if they support the spending cuts being carried out to help long-term economic recovery, citizens in the EU's five largest countries answering yes were: 84 percent of French people, 71 percent of Spaniards, 69 percent of Britons, 67 percent of Germans and 61 percent of Italians.



The EU plans to introduce legislation tomorrow that would allow large-scale commercial planting in pro-GM countries, such as Spain and the Netherlands, while at the same time legally endorsing existing GM bans in countries like Italy, Austria and Hungary.



The Sunday Telegraph reported on growing discontentment among Conservative MPs over the coalition, adding that the appointment of Bill Cash as Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee is not an appointment which will make it easier for Mr Cameron to cosy up to Europe.

Sunday Telegraph


An article in FT Deutschland argues that EU leaders of large member states, including Sarkozy, Merkel, Zapatero, and Berlusconi, are fighting for domestic survival instead of governing the EU. This is leading to inertia in Brussels at a time when EU President Herman Van Rompuy is warning that "the storm isn't over yet".

No link




Gordon Brown said Lord Mandelson's attempt to get EU Foreign Minister job was "treachery"

The Sunday Telegraph reports that Lord Mandelson's attempt to secure the EU Foreign Minister job last autumn wrecked the 'rapprochement' between himself and Gordon Brown, who considered it to be an act of "treachery". The article reported that Mr Brown included Lord Mandelson's name on a three-person shortlist which he took to a meeting of left-of-centre EU leaders. According to sources close to the former PM, Cathy Ashton won "a fair bit of support" round the table, while "one or two" leaders backed Geoff Hoon. "Nobody," the source added, "wanted Peter".

Sunday Telegraph


The Guardian reports that the Food Standards Agency is to be abolished and its regulatory responsibilities - including safety and hygiene - are to be reassigned to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).



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