Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 11 August 2010



French Europe Minister: Proposals for EU tax are "perfectly ill-timed";

FTD: An EU financial transaction tax could make the UK the largest net contributor to the EU budget

AFP reports that French Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche has described as "perfectly ill-timed" the proposals from Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski for the introduction of direct taxes to finance the EU budget. "Any extra tax is currently unwelcome. It is much more the time for the member states and also European institutions to make savings", he argued, adding that "the idea of a European tax raises fundamental political questions and would constitute a major transfer of sovereignty and tax-raising power". Mr. Lellouche's comments came after the UK and Germany had already expressed their refusal of the idea.


However, Belgian State Secretary for Budget Melchior Watelet has said that an EU tax would make the whole system of national contributions to the EU budget fairer, while Spanish Prime Minister José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero is quoted by EFE saying that "Spain will consider with interest any proposals aiming to strengthen the EU's economic and financial capacity".


Meanwhile, in an interview with Polish news agency PAP, Commissioner Lewandowski has suggested that an EU-wide tax would most likely come in the form of a levy on financial transactions. "I see a tendency, that it is possible in terms of public opinion to defend a tax on financial transactions or another form of tax on the financial sector. It would even be popular", he said.


Writing in the Independent, Hamish McRae notes that "the two areas the EU wants to put taxes on, banking and air traffic, would hit the UK particularly hard". Christopher Booker writes in the Mail: "An EU tax on each financial transaction would result in Britain having to pay up to ten times as much as countries like France and Germany - and could even result in a large part of the global finance industry packing its bags to move out of Britain and the EU altogether". An article in the FT Deutschland also notes that an EU-wide levy on financial transactions could make the UK the largest net contributor to the EU budget due to the size of its financial services industry.


In the WSJ, Iain Martin warns: "Don't write off the concept of EU direct taxation. That it is a dud idea, and that a continent that needs jobs and growth can do without a layer of new taxes, is beside the point. When so many politicians are involved, and there's an emergency on, all sorts of ideas that sound half-crazed or just highly unlikely can still end up being implemented".


In a blog piece for El Mundo, UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen writes: "It's important to realise that once the EU is able to 'auto-finance' itself, it will feel able to spend wherever and on whatever it wants without having to explain to anybody".

AFP: Lellouche AFP: Watelet La Tribune Le Point Independent: McRae Mail: Booker WSJ: Martin EFE El Mundo El Mundo blog: Andreasen EUobserver


Top currency investor predicts Greek and Spanish default

Speaking on Bloomberg TV, John Taylor, head of FX Concepts, the largest currency hedge fund, said that he expects Greece and Spain to default on their debt.


Meanwhile, in an interview with the FT, Nicholas Spiro, at Spiro Sovereign Strategy, has said: "The sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone's peripheral economies has let the genie out of the bottle", adding that "the focus on fiscal retrenchment and bank stress tests is simply obscuring the root of the eurozone's troubles - the gaping structural differences among its members and aspirants". Mr. Spiro also said that he expected central and eastern EU members to suspend their entry into the euro indefinitely.

Bloomberg TV FT EUobserver


Doctors argue the case against the EU's Working Time Directive

The Times features a series of letters on the impact of the EU's Working Time Directive on doctors and surgeons. Janice Rymer and Roger Jones of Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals and Kings College London argue: "The present limits on doctors' working hours threaten patient safety by undermining continuity of care, delaying the acquisition of surgical and other procedural skills and impairing the development of clinical confidence".
Times: Letters OE research


Plans for European contract law are "too centralised", lawyers warn
Writing in FAZ, corporate lawyers Laurenz Schmitt and Stephan Balthasar argue that "the plans for a harmonised European contract law suffer from serious shortcomings [...] Centralisation of law policy at the EU level goes way beyond what is desirable and what is practically possible. Alternatives to this aren't provided by the [Commission's] Green Paper". They further criticise the lack of consultation by the Commission.

EC Press Release


Senior German economist: Strong competition and respect for democratic decisions in member states are needed for a new period of euro-dynamism

Writing in the FT Deutschland, Dennis Snower - President of the Institute for the World Economy in Kiel - argues that the EU has "to decide in favour of competition over interest group politics. What is necessary is the creation of a common European market for services". He continues: "With the backdrop of wide ranging discontent with the democratic deficit in the EU, it would be foolish to continue to back a model of paternalism", and concludes that "competition has to be promoted, democratic decisions in member states have to be respected and fiscal responsibility in member states has to be uphold".



The Telegraph notes that far-right MEPs are thought to be using some of their £3,300 a month travel allowance to attend a conference in Tokyo aimed at creating an official worldwide alliance between extreme nationalist parties.



On his Die Zeit blog, Jochen Bittner comments on how Germany has become more critical towards the EU and notes that "European mandarins are now looking with some nervousness to the second half of this year. Then the negotiations on the new EU budget will start. Whether Germany, as always, will be enthusiastic to remain the biggest net payer of the Union, is being doubted more and more".

Die Zeit blog: Bittner


The Telegraph reports that the Department for Communities and Local Government has been sent a bill of £150m by the European Commission for failing to fly the EU flag outside its head office and failing to feature emblems prominently. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has said he will refuse to pay the fines and that it would be wrong for the Government to give way to "bullying" from bureaucrats.

No link


Writing on Critical Reaction, UKIP MEP David Campbell Bannerman argues that the Government's decision to opt in to the European Investigation Order "should immediately scupper any idea that this Coalition will really roll back the powers of the state - at whatever level."

Critical-reaction: Campbell Bannerman


Reuters reports that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has provisionally ruled that the EU's anti-dumping regulations against China are discriminatory and break international trading law.



The Commission announced yesterday that it will give Spain €8.5 million from the European Globalisation Adjustment Fund to help workers who have lost their jobs in the regions of Valencia and Castilla-La Mancha, reports El Mundo.

El Mundo




UK exports to countries outside the EU are growing

The Times notes that of Britain's total exported goods, 47.9 percent ended up outside the EU -- the highest share since Office for National Statistics records began in 1998. However, the EU remains Britain's biggest overseas market, consuming 52.1 percent of its exports.



The Telegraph notes that the UK's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme has come into effect, with businesses having to declare their energy use and facing charges for every ton of greenhouse gases they produce. It is a 'cap and trade' scheme similar to the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme, however, the CRC will cover emissions not included in the EU's ETS.



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