Monday, July 19, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 19 July 2010



Senior EU official: "We should liquidate some institutions" to cut down on "mushrooming" costs

EUobserver reports that a "very senior Commission official" has told reporters of his frustration that so many in Brussels are oblivious to the incongruence of the increasing cost and expansion of the EU institutions amid austerity everywhere else in Europe. "People will look at us and say: 'How is it that they are immune, they keep growing when we are having to cut back?'" said the official, who refused to be named. "The number one issue should be to stop the mushrooming of the institutions [...] There is a tendency to think every time there is a new problem, the EU can solve it with a new institution".


In 2011, the administrative costs for all EU institutions will climb 4.4 percent, amounting to €8.3 billion out of the bloc's budget. In addition, the cost of the European Schools - the nursery, primary and secondary schools providing high-quality free education to the children of EU civil servants - will grow a full 12.5 percent, with the total amounting to €174 million. "We should liquidate some institutions", the official said, pointing to the European Parliament's two seats in Brussels and Strasbourg. "We should also shut down the Economic and Social Committee and Committee of the Regions", he added.

EUobserver OE blog


EEAS may cost extra €55m to set up

The Sunday Telegraph reported that, despite assurances that the EU's External Action Service (EEAS) would be "budget neutral", requiring no extra cost to EU taxpayers, the EU's former chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, has estimated that it is likely to cost at least an extra €55 million to set up. The article noted that the EEAS has requested an extra €9.5 million for staff salaries so far, while the final bill remains unclear.


The EEAS will control a total budget of around €7 billion and comprise of around 7,000 staff based around the world.


Meanwhile, in her column in the Mail, Melanie Phillips argues: "The EEAS will be taking foreign policy decisions that may well run entirely counter to the policies and interests of member states -- but which, frighteningly, Britain and other EU countries will be forbidden to oppose. In order for all 27 member states to agree on a united foreign policy, they will inevitably be forced to coalesce around the lowest common denominator".


Writing in the Irish Sunday Independent, author Eamon Delaney argued that, "Taxpayers will also be alarmed about having to pay for a further layer of European bureaucracy, given all the money that is already spent on the Brussels gravy train, with its endless revelations about the expenses of MEPs and EU officialdom."

Mail: Phillips Sunday Independent: Delaney Sunday Telegraph IHT Irish Times OE blog


New EU securities body raises concerns over powers of intervention

The FT reports that asset managers, along with other financial companies, have raised concerns over how the new European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) will affect national watchdogs, and intervene directly with the companies it oversees. The article cites Open Europe's debate, held last week in conjunction with Policy Exchange, on the EU's proposals for financial supervision and regulation, and quotes European Commission official Salvatore Gnoni's and MEP Kay Swinburne's contributions to the discussion.

FT OE events  


Compromise deal close on AIFM Directive

Euractiv reports that MEPs and member states are nearing a deal on the EU's AIFM Directive. The article notes that both sides are warming to the idea of letting hedge funds decide whether they want to get an "EU passport" to operate throughout the EU 27 or apply to countries' regulators privately, which in some cases may require less stringent requirements than the proposed EU-wide licence. The compromise could move a vote on the AIFMD to September, putting the EU back on schedule to have the regime in place by January 2011.

EurActiv Open Europe research


Civil liberties groups warn against the European Investigation Order

An article in Saturday's Express looked at the consequences of the introduction of the European Investigation Order (EIO), under which police officers from any EU country would be able to demand information such as DNA, phone records or bank account data from police officers of another Member State on anyone they suspect of a criminal offence.


Open Europe's Stephen Booth was quoted in the article saying: "This would not only pose a major threat to civil liberties in the UK but also irreversibly change the shape of our criminal justice system. The coalition's claims to be serious about civil liberties are meaningless unless they defend individuals' freedoms and rights from unwelcome EU laws, as well as those in the UK". The Home Office now has until 28 July to decide whether to opt in to the EIO or not.



Stress tests to make it an anxious week for EU's banks

The Independent on Sunday noted that analysts are still concerned about the rigour of the EU's bank stress tests, the results of which are due to be published after markets close this Friday. Antonio García Pascual, an economist at Barclays Capital, was quoted saying, "They should tell the markets what mechanisms they have used. There is no clarity on the treatment of sovereign debt risk or, for example, a bank's liquidity". The Guardian suggests that Spanish, Greek and German banks and financial institutions may have to raise another €78.6 billion (£65 billion) to appease regulators.


In the Telegraph, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes, "Perhaps the stress tests for Europe's banks will clear the air and unblock the credit system. But such tests worked in the US only because that was a banking crisis. Few questioned whether the US Treasury could stand behind the system, or whether the US would hold together as a political entity. In Europe, sovereign states are themselves the risk, and a dysfunctional EMU is the Achilles heel".

BBC: Peston blog Telegraph: Evans-Pritchard Independent on Sunday Mail on Sunday WSJ: Stelzer Guardian La Tribune EurActiv


Germany will not go it alone on financial transactions tax

The FT reports that Roland Koch, Minister-President of Hesse, has said that Germany will not introduce a tax on financial transactions in the absence of a previous international agreement. In his opinion, "a financial transaction tax is absolutely impossible for Germany alone". Mr. Koch also acknowledged that Germany's unilateral ban on short-selling was "not helpful", but said that Germany would not take any further unilateral action to impose a levy on financial transactions.



The Sunday Express reported on allegations of fraud at the EU police training college in the UK, involving fraudulent expenses claims, official cars being used for private travel, personal bills paid, homes equipped with furniture bought by the taxpayer and "uncontrolled" personal use of mobile phones. The allegations relate to occurrences in 2007 and 2008, and are highlighted in a recent report from Olaf, the EU's anti-fraud body.

Sunday Express OE blog


UK to pay back €223m of EU agricultural subsidies

Dutch paper Elsevier reports that the UK will have to pay back to the EU a total €223 million of agricultural subsidies due to technical errors in the government's "land parcel identification system" used to calculate farm sizes. Reuters quotes the British junior agriculture minister Jim Paice saying that "the [European] Commission has now drawn a line under the legacy of the long-running and expensive saga of implementing the Single Payment Scheme in 2005", adding that "today's announcement will have no impact on the services we deliver, as the sums have already been accounted, but we recognise that more needs to be done to improve the administration of the scheme".

Reuters Elsevier Raiffeisen Euractiv


Eurostat to extend investigations over Greek public finances

A new report issued by the IMF last week pointed out that Greece "is making progress to put the public finances on a sustainable path". The IMF has to give its final approval in order for the next instalment of the EU/IMF €110 billion joint aid package to be unblocked in the autumn.


Het Financieele Dagblad reports that Eurostat has decided to postpone the disclosure of the true picture of Greek public finances by at least six months.  

FD Handelsblatt FTD IMF Report (pdf)


EUobserver reports that EU and IMF negotiators abandoned talks over the weekend with Hungary's government over its plans to rein in its budget deficit, bluntly saying Prime Minister Victor Orban's strategy was inadequate, and criticising the proposed financial levy, describing it as "high" and likely to "adversely affect lending and growth". The breakdown in talks means that Hungary cannot access the remaining funds of the €25.1 billion loan package secured in late 2008.

AFP Nouvel Obs Telegraph FT Bloomberg EUobserver FAZ Handelsblatt Presse WSJ


Die Welt: Merkel did not do enough to "keep key players on board"

The IHT notes that the abrupt resignation of Hamburg Mayor Ole von Beust (CDU) yesterday dealt another blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel's government. A leader in German daily Die Welt argues: "It might not be entirely accurate to blame the Chancellor for all these losses but you have to ask if she did enough to keep her key players on board - and the answer is: no, she did not".

IHT Independent Handelsblatt


Moody's credit rating agency has downgraded Irish's government bond ratings from Aa1 to Aa2 due to "the Irish government's gradual but significant loss of financial strength, as reflected by its deteriorating debt affordability".

Irish Times Le Figaro FT BBC Focus El Mundo Expansion Svenska Dagbladet


The Sunday Times reported that Moldovans with an ethnic Romanian background have been allowed to apply for EU passports, allowing them free movement within the EU and the right to work in any member state. A senior Brussels diplomat was quoted saying that "enlargement is progressing through the back door as we're already receiving enormous numbers of new citizens due to the citizenship policies of some member states".

Telegraph Sunday Times


El Mundo reports that France and Germany have proposed that the EU extend to all member states the set of rules outlined in their agreement on cross-border marriage.

El Mundo




The Sunday Telegraph reported that David Cameron tried to block the election of Bill Cash - a leading eurosceptic - as chairman of the European Scrutiny Committee in a bid to quash rebellion on Europe. Mr. Cash was, however, elected unopposed last Wednesday.

Sunday Telegraph



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