Thursday, August 12, 2010

Open Europe press summary: 12 August 2010



Commission says Slovakia's decision not to take part in Greek bailout will have "political consequences";

Slovakian Finance Minister: we have only held up "a mirror" to eurozone politicians' behaviour

EUobserver reports that a vote in the Slovakian Parliament has confirmed that the country will not help fund the €110bn eurozone bailout of Greece. Slovak MPs voted by 69 to two to refuse to take part. Speaking in Parliament, Slovak Finance Minister Ivan Miklos criticised the unfairness of poorer countries being roped in to bail out richer ones, and euro area policy makers' lack of accountability. "I do not consider it solidarity if it is solidarity between the poor and the rich, of the responsible with the irresponsible, or of taxpayers with bank owners and managers," he said.


The Slovaks decision was rebuked by EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn yesterday, who said, "I can only regret this breach of solidarity within the euro area and I expect the eurogroup and the [economic and finance ministers'] Council to return to the matter in their next meeting." A spokesman for Mr Rehn told EUobsever that Slovakia will not face any legal penalty for its Greek u-turn but should expect unspecified "political consequences."


In his speech Miklos said that, "It's true the top politicians in the eurozone are not excited by our position and that we have irritated them quite a lot. But this is only because they have been creating alibis for themselves and we have held up their behaviour to a mirror." Bloomberg notes that Miklos also said EU fiscal rules should be changed to allow for the default of euro-member nations.


At the same time, Slovak MPs did back the country's participation in the eurozone's overarching €750 billion bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), a commitment of €4.4 billion.

EUobserver Europa Press ABC Bloomberg Les Echos European Voice AFP


João Vale de Almeida: "I am the first new type of ambassador for the European Union anywhere in the world".

On Tuesday, João Vale de Almeida formally became the new EU ambassador to the US, the first since the Lisbon Treaty took effect. Mr. Vale de Almeida is quoted by EUobserver saying, "I am the first new type of ambassador for the European Union anywhere in the world...Our delegations now cover a wide spectrum of issues well beyond the economic dimension, trade dimension and regulatory dimension, to cover all policies in the union, including foreign policy and security policy".


His appointment, earlier this year, was surrounded in controversy as Mr. Vale de Almeida has no diplomatic experience but is a former journalist who served as an EU commission press spokesman, as an advisor to EU Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, and, briefly, as head of the Commission's External Relations department. Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief who oversees the new European External Action Service (EEAS), is due to appoint 29 other heads of delegation in the coming weeks.

EUobserver AFP European Voice Deutsche Welle


New Dutch government set to join anti-EU tax front;

Lamassoure: The range of the Commission's proposals is still too limited

EUobserver reports that the two main Dutch parties, soon to form the next coalition government, are opposed to the idea of an EU tax. Elly Blanksma, a spokeswoman for the Christian Democrats, is quoted saying: "taxation is a matter for the member states and should remain so". Dutch MEP Hans van Baalen, a senior member of the Liberal Party (VVD), is also quoted warning that "where it starts small, there will be more and more asked of the EU citizen".   


Meanwhile, in an interview with Libération, French MEP Alain Lamassoure, Chair of the European Parliament's (EP) Budget Committee, suggests that the proposals outlined so far by Janusz Lewandowski, EP Budget Commissioner, are not ambitious enough. "I am a bit disappointed because the range of [Commissioner Lewandowski's] proposals is so limited. The Commission is eschewing certain issues. We should seriously consider the VAT option [...] It would be very easy to say that - for instance - 2 percent of the VAT collected will be used to fund the EU budget", he argues.


When asked whether EU citizens are ready to accept a direct tax imposed by the EU, Mr. Lamassoure replied: "The citizens do already fund the EU budget through national contributions, but they do not realise that. If the amount of this [EU] levy were to be decided by the European Parliament, then the MEPs would be accountable for it to the citizens at each election".


James Forsyth cites Open Europe's press summary on the Spectator's Coffee House blog in a piece discussing plans for an EU financial transaction tax. Open Europe's Mats Persson also appeared on Deutsche Welle radio, discussing the proposal for an EU tax.

EUobserver Libération Express: McKinstry Spectator: Forsyth


FTD: "Refinancing avalanche threatens European banks"

FT Deutschland reports that there is a "2,000 billion euro problem in European banks". It notes that "the real stress test still has to come. Banks must refinance billions. A refinancing avalanche is coming their way".



An article in the FT notes that differing approaches to the reform of derivatives trading in Europe and the US will "make it unlikely the biggest capital markets will end up with the same reforms."



A leader in Handelsblatt argues that Germany will suffer an economic downturn after the current phase of low unemployment and export growth has passed, similar to the US. It notes "our economic policy makers can't do a lot to counter the hangover after the party. The European Central Bank must adapt its monetary policy towards the whole Eurozone, which rules out actions to cool off".



De Volkskrant reports that negotiations over the new Dutch government will discuss EU policy in the coming days. Top of the agenda is how to lower the Netherlands' contribution to the EU budget, whether asylum policy should be led by the EU or nationally, and Turkey's EU accession bid.



EU free movement calls UK immigration cap into question

The Telegraph reports on new Government figures showing that nearly four out of five new jobs in the UK have gone to foreigners over the past three months, despite the introduction of an immigration cap. The article notes that, "under the cap, the numbers of skilled and highly skilled workers who can come to the UK was limited to just over 24,000. However, yesterday's figures cast doubt on its effectiveness as more than half of the foreign workers - 77,000 - would have been exempt because they come from within the EU".



The Mail reports that the five Britons extradited to Greece under the European Arrest Warrant last week have been granted bail and can return to the UK until their trial.



An article by David Wessel in the WSJ entitled "The demographics driving nations' wealth", argues that declining working population rates mean that "Japanese and Europeans almost surely will have to work longer, take fewer vacations and probably pay more taxes."

WSJ: Wessel


The Guardian reports that 20 MEPs, the BNP's staff manager Adam Walker and members of the Alliance of European National Movements will attend a week-long conference in Japan, bringing together extreme right parties from across the world.



Les Echos reports that, according to the latest Citigroup's European economic bulletin, Spanish GDP's growth rate in 2011 will be "significantly lower" than the 1.3 percent forecast by the government.

Les Echos Handelsblatt  


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