Monday, February 28, 2011

Open Europe press summary: February 28 2011


New Open Europe briefing: ECJ ruling could cost young women drivers an extra £4,300The European Court of Justice could tomorrow rule to scrap the insurance industry’s opt-out from the EU’s 2004 Gender Directive, which will mean insurers can no longer offer different products and prices to men and women based on their sex. The ECJ’s Advocate General has argued in a preliminary opinion in favour of removing the opt-out, since it constitutes gender-based discrimination. The Court’s verdict follows the Advocate General’s opinion in 80% of cases.
Open Europe has published a new briefing showing that, should the ECJ decide to ban the insurance industry from charging different prices, it could, on average, cost a 17 year old female driver an extra £4,300 by the age of 26. In a worst case scenario, this cost could rise to £9,000. The ruling could also see the insurance industry needing to raise an extra £936m in capital due to increased uncertainty in the market.
Open Europe’s findings were featured on the front page of the Metro and the Express, and were cited in the Telegraph, the Sun, the Mirror, the Mail, the Press and Journal, and several regional papers. Open Europe Research Director Stephen Booth is quoted saying: “That these judges would magically rule that young women should pay more in the name of equality is simply perverse. Instead of making prices fairer between men and women, this ruling would increase costs for consumers taken as a whole.”
Meanwhile, the Guardian and the Telegraph also note that the ECJ ruling could cost male pensioners £340 per year due to a decrease in annuity rates.
Open Europe briefing Open Europe press release Mirror Sun Sun: Leader Mail Sun Metro Express Guardian Telegraph PAPress and Journal MSN Money Shropshire Star Express and Star
EU to impose sanctions on Libya “as a matter of urgency”EU Foreign Minister Baroness Catherine Ashton announced yesterday that the EU will impose sanctions on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and his family "as a matter of urgency", following a unanimous resolution by the UN Security Council. EU leaders have agreed to an embargo on arms sales, travel bans and asset freezes. Plans to enforce a no-fly zone have been shelved. The UN resolution also called for an immediate investigation to be launched by the International Criminal Court.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said that the Libyan crisis has reached “a point of no return”, adding that it is “inevitable” that Gaddafi quits. Frattini also confirmed that Italy has suspended its 2008 friendship treaty with Libya, which included a non-aggression clause. The Economist’s Charlemagne blog notes: “The rumour in Brussels is that Italy is making its support for EU sanctions against Libya conditional on guarantees of EU ‘solidarity’ on migrants.”
Writing in Saturday’s IHT, Baroness Ashton argued: “Some ask whether we should have acted sooner, opposing authoritarian regimes instead of cooperating with them. It is a fair question. There is no easy solution to the dilemma of when and how to engage with such regimes…Were the European Union to isolate every government that fails to live up to the principles of liberal democracy, we would face accusations of political imperialism. It is better to proclaim the principles of democracy, but deal with the world as it is.”
Handelsblatt: Prodi EUobserver El Mundo El Pais: Maria Ridao Saturday’s Telegraph FT Weekend Economist: Charlemagne blog Independent BBC Il Messaggero La Repubblica BBC: Today EUobserver BBC: Hewitt Saturday's Guardian FT Weekend: Leader Saturday’s IHT: Ashton FT Weekend
2,500 EU officials on £185,000 or more claim extra days off to compensate for “overtime”The Sunday Times reported that 2,558 officials in the European Commission’s top pay band – with an annual salary of £185,000 or more – are claiming an average of seven and half days off every year as a compensation for working overtime. This is on top of their basic holiday entitlement of 54 days. Under the Commission’s own staff regulations, officials on monthly salaries above €10,000 (£8,500) are not allowed to claim overtime payments when they work more than their basic 37.5 hours a week, but this is happening anyway.
A Commission spokesman said, “It’s perfectly natural that if people work more hours in one week or month, they should be able to work slightly less the next.” Open Europe Director Mats Persson is quoted saying, “Taxpayers will understandably ask by what right EU bureaucrats on six figures ask for extra days off to compensate for what are considered normal working hours in most places. It’s amazing these kinds of perks remain in place.” Mats also appeared on LBC, discussing the benefits and costs of the EU.
Sunday Times
Fine Gael-Labour coalition most likely to emerge as Irish voters punish outgoing governmentThe BBC reports that Irish centre-right party Fine Gael is most likely to form a coalition with the Labour party, who finished second in the poll. The Independent notes that former Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s party Fianna Fail had a historically poor result, as it dropped from more than 70 seats to around 20 and was almost wiped out in Dublin. The Green party – Fianna Fail’s junior partner in the outgoing government – lost all its seats.
The new Irish government is now widely expected to seek a renegotiation of the terms of the €85bn EU/IMF bail-out. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is quoted in the Telegraph saying: "I see room for manoeuvre in terms of interest rates and in terms of the cost of the banking structure."
A leader in the Observer argued that the EU/IMF deal for Ireland “is punitive, unjust and unsustainable…It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Irish interests are being sacrificed to the larger cause of saving the euro.” It concludes that “if democracy and European solidarity are to mean anything”, Ireland should be allowed to re-negotiate the terms of its bail-out.
Independent Le Figaro BBC EUobserver FT WSJ EurActiv Telegraph Independent: LeaderGuardian Guardian 2 Guardian editorial El Pais: editorial Times: leader IHT Observer: Leader Sunday Times Sunday Telegraph Observer Irish Times Irish Times 2 Irish Independent Irish Times 3 Irish Independent 2 Irish Independent: Keenan Irish Times: Leader
The Sunday Times reported that a delegation from Ireland’s National Treasury Management Agency negotiated with Libya over a possible bail-out of Irish banks, with loans coming from the Libyan Investment Authority. Brian Lenihan, then Irish Finance Minister, is believed to have been aware of the negotiations, which took place in December last year.  Sunday Times
Environment Minister’s family has earned £2m in EU farm paymentsThe Mail on Sunday reported that the family of a Government Minister, Richard Benyon, has earned £2m in EU farm subsidies between 1999 and 2009. Mr Benyon, a Conservative MP, is the Environment and Fisheries Minister within DEFRA, which recently blocked public access to all information about how much farmers had earned from subsidies in order to comply with an ECJ ruling on data privacy.
Mail on Sunday
Greek EU Commissioner: EU-imposed austerity measures could lead to “social degradation” in Greece;
German Economy Minister: German taxpayers liable for €174bn in eurozone loans
EUobserver reports that the Greek EU Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, has criticised the EU austerity plan in Greece, claiming it could lead to “social degradation”. In a speech on Wednesday, Damanaki called for a “better balance between austerity and growth”. She also accused the EU of “short-termism” and embraced the idea of a “fully fledged economic union.”
José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President, and Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council President, have drawn up a successor to the Franco-German “pact for competitiveness” and will release it to eurozone officials today. The plan will reportedly include some form of constitutional cap on government borrowing but is not expected to tackle the linking of wages to inflation or corporate tax rates specifically.
FAZ reports that German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle has said that the various eurozone bail-out agreements could make Germany liable for around €174bn in potential loans. This includes “€22.4bn in aid to Greece, €119bn for the EFSF and around €11.4bn for the EFSM. The implicit share of ECB purchases amounts to €21bn.” The WSJ reports the Italian Central Bank Governor Mario Draghi has indicated that interest rates in the eurozone will probably be increased soon but has argued that this will not hurt weaker eurozone economies.
Meanwhile, La Dernière Heure reports that the Belgian law approving the eurozone's temporary bail-out fund – the European Financial Stability Facility – is being challenged by citizens at the Belgian Constitutional Court. They are also demanding a referendum in Belgium on the necessary treaty change to set up a permanent eurozone rescue mechanism.
EUobserver FT EurActiv WSJ  FT Munchau FT Editorial FT fm WSJ 2 FAZ FAZ 2 DH
Writing in theTelegraph, Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, argues that having a referendum on a new voting system is the wrong one to be having. He wrote: “By all means let us have a referendum – the one we were promised, on the Lisbon EU Treaty. Have you noticed the EU policy on North Africa? Have you heard much from Baroness Ashton? Shouldn't we have a vote on all that?”Telegraph
German Industrial Energy Association: EU green targets could lead to de-industrialisation of EuropeDie Zeit reports that the President of the German Industrial Energy Association Annette Loske has warned that EU environmental targets are pushing a “policy of de-industrialisation”. The article alleges that that EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger is also lobbying against measures proposed for the EU’s low-carbon “Roadmap 2050”.
Meanwhile, in the Mail Christopher Booker argues that although wind turbines are expensive, inefficient and unsightly, Britain is committed to building thousands more in order to meet EU renewables targets. He claims Britain ought to take notice of other EU countries turning against EU policy, following Holland’s announcement that it would slash its annual subsidy by billions of euros.
Zeit Mail: Booker
The Times reports that employers have warned that the EU Agency Workers Directive, due to come into force in October, will cost them £1.5 billion a year. The Directive will affect around 1.3m workers in the UK.Times
The Mail on Sunday reported that UK consumers have to pay nearly four times more for new eco-friendly light bulbs following the EU’s ban on incandescent bulbs.
Express Mail on Sunday Mail on Sunday: Leader
The Sunday Times reported that, following TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s campaign against the EU Common Fisheries Policy, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki, will this Tuesday unveil a proposal to ban the controversial practice of “discards”, whereby fishermen have to throw back the fish for which they have no quota. However, Spain and other southern European countries are expected to oppose the plan.Sunday Times Express
News of the World reported that the Conservative-run Northants County Council has opened a £2m office in Brussels, at the same time as it has cut 900 jobs and passed saving measures worth £73m.No link
In an interview with Al-Jazeera, David Cameron has rejected calls for an in/out referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, arguing that leaving the EU would “not be in [Britain’s] interest.” On his Telegraph blog, Dan Hannan has argued that rather than guessing at the outcome, and then working backwards, people ought to consider instead whether it is right in principle to consult the country.Al-Jazeera: Cameron Telegraph: Hannan
Saturday’s Express reported that under the European Parliament’s “mobility plan”, parliamentary staff using public transport are entitled to a taxpayer-funded travel subsidy of £203, about half the annual cost of a season ticket.Saturday’s Express Saturday’s Express: Editorial
EUobserver reports that, ahead of a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the German society of “xenophobia” and the German government of “discrimination” against Turkish migrants. This follows an awkward meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday, during which Sarkozy told the press that Turkey’s accession would “destabilise” the EU.EUobserver
Le Figaro reports that French Foreign Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie resigned yesterday over links with the ousted Tunisian regime. She will be replaced by Alain Juppé, who has been serving as Defence Minister.Independent Le Figaro

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