Monday, February 14, 2011

Open Europe


Ken Clarke: I don’t see how we can say that we don’t obey courts if we don’t want to”
The Sunday Times featured a special on the European Court of Human Rights. The paper reported that sex offenders and violent criminals could be freed from jail after the ECHR ruled that a defendant should not be convicted on the basis of written statements, but should be given the right to cross-examine witnesses. Another article highlighted that Strasbourg judges enjoy tax-free salaries of €180,000, despite the fact that 23 out of 47 members of the Court had no judicial experience before their appointment. They are also entitled to final salary pensions and three months’ holiday a year.
Meanwhile, Saturday’s Mail reported that, following demands from senior Tory MPs, Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to announce over the next weeks plans to draw up a new British Bill of Rights to re-balance human rights laws. However, in an interview with Saturday’s Telegraph, Justice Secretary Ken Clarke warned against provoking a clash with the Strasbourg Court and argued: “I don’t see how we can say that we don’t obey courts if we don’t want to. It would be pretty startling if a British government introduced a motion or Bill which said: ‘Let’s break the law’.”
Writing in Saturday’s Mail, Tim Montgomerie argued: “The jurisdiction of the European Court in Strasbourg is only one part of a much wider question of Britain’s ­relationship with European institutions. A new generation of Eurosceptic MPs understands that Europe energises voters when it becomes connected with real, bread-and-butter issues.”
On the Spectator’s Coffee House blog, Fraser Nelson argues, although the prisoners’ votes was an ECHR issue, “A healthy precedent was established last week. Britain has rejected that old argument that we have no choice. We do. Parliament is sovereign.”
Open Europe research Saturday’s Mail: Montgomerie Saturday’s Telegraph: Moore FT Weekend: Leader Saturday’s Telegraph: Clarke Saturday’s Mail Saturday’s Express Saturday’s Express: O’Flynn Express Spectator: Coffee House blog Mail on Sunday: ForsythMail
EU spent €153m on travel and a further €121m on staff missions in 2010
Saturday’s Times reported on Open Europe research revealing that the EU spent €153m on travel and a further €121m on staff missions in 2010. The total of €274m exceeded the amount spent on the budget line ‘food aid’, which comes under the Commission’s humanitarian aid budget. 2010’s travel budget paid for various junkets, including a trip by MEPs to the Seychelles costing £50,000 in hotels and flights, and a trip by 45 MEPs to the Democratic Republic of Congo costing £77,000. Open Europe’s Siân Herbert was quoted saying, “While boosting trade with developing nations is a noble objective, far too often these trips simply send out the wrong message to European taxpayers”. The research also featured in Saturday’s Mail and Saturday’s Irish Independent.
Saturday’s Times Saturday’s Mail Saturday’s Irish Independent
Axel Weber to step down from the Bundesbank at the end of April;
Slovak candidate for ECB board of directors rejected because of her country’s opposition to Greek bail-out

The German government confirmed on Friday that German Bundesbank President Axel Weber will leave his post at the end of April for “personal reasons.” In an interview with Der Spiegel, Weber also explained that he had decided to withdraw his candidacy for European Central Bank President because his “clear position” on issues such as the ECB bond purchases from struggling countries risked putting him on a collision course with some eurozone governments. The front page of Handelsblatt notes that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble has agreed to give up Germany’s demands for the chairmanship of the ECB, but only under the condition that German Chancellor Angela Merkel successfully pushes ahead with her ideas for an EU economic government with France, something which Weber reportedly opposed.
The frontpage of German magazine Wirtschaftswoche carries the headline, "Axel Weber goes, inflation arrives". The paper warns that "the departure of Axel Weber endangers trust in the stability of the euro." Former German SPD Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück has denied claims that he could replace Weber as Germany’s candidate for the ECB top post. In an interview with Bild, German Economy Minister Rainer Brüderle has suggested that the next ECB President does not necessarily have to be German, provided that they consider price stability as a priority to achieve growth and prosperity.
Meanwhile, FAZ reports that diplomatic sources have confirmed that Belgian Central Bank official Peter Praet will be appointed to the ECB board of directors at the expense of the Slovak candidate, Elena Kohútiková, who may have been rejected because of her country's resistance to the Greek bail-out. De Morgen quotes ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet saying that he "couldn't understand why a country that refused to show solidarity with the Greeks would want a top position at the ECB."
Saturday’s Independent
Saturday’s Guardian FT Weekend Handelsblatt BildSpiegel Stern BildBild: Brüderle Bloomberg Le Monde Economist
Irish bank losses could outstrip rescue funds;
2/3 majority needed in German parliament to pass permanent bail-out fund

The WSJ suggests that the €85bn Irish bail-out agreed in November will fall short of the €133.9bn needed by the Irish government and banks over the next three years. Meanwhile Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny will meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel with discussions likely to focus on a possible renegotiation of the bailout terms.
The FT Weekend reported that a proposed EU-IMF privatization planm, which could see Greece raise €50bn over the next four years, has met with a hostile response from the Greek government with a spokesman saying: “We asked them for help...not to meddle in our internal affairs”.
According to diplomatic sources in Brussels, negotiations over the structure of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) are entering their final phase, and are due to be concluded at the EU summit on 25 March. It is reported the ESM is to have a total volume of €500bn, and a capital stock of €100bn. Meanwhile, the German Parliament’s research service has concluded that due to the constitutional implications of the measures, a two-thirds majority will be required, meaning the government will have to rely on support from the opposition.
In an interview with La Tribune, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble argues, “One day, all EU member states will also be members of the European Monetary Union”.
FT Weekend
FT Weekend 2 WSJ WSJ 2 Irish Times Welt Irish Independent FT EUobserver Reuters Handelsblatt La Tribune: Schäuble WSJ Blog WSJ
NOTW investigation: One sixth of MEPs leave work after clocking in to get expenses
An exposé carried out by the NOTW and UKIP MEP Nikki Sinclaire revealed that about a sixth of MEPs check in for work on a Friday, in order to receive the £258 daily allowance, before leaving shortly after for the weekend. A third of MEPs turned up for work with luggage for the weekend. Conservative MEP Robert Sturdy and Labour MEP Peter Skinner were both filmed signing in to work and then arriving at the Eurostar, in a chauffeur driven car, to catch the 8:29am journey to London.

French government rejects MEPs’ call to scrap the Strasbourg seat
Saturday’s WSJ reported that in reply to MEPs’ calls to scrap the European Parliament’s second seat in Strasbourg, the French Foreign Ministry released a statement saying, “the seat is legally fixed by the treaties. This initiative is not a formal parliamentary action, and certainly does not implicate its president, Jerzy Buzek”.
FT Brussels Blog WSJ
Following criticism of the European Court of Auditors by its former Dutch member Maarten Engwirda, Stern writes about a similar case from 1998, when the ECA’s former President Bernhard Friedmann was pressured by his colleagues not to investigate the circumstances surrounding French company Fléchard’s let-off from paying a previously imposed €14 million fine.

The Sunday Times reported that Foreign Office Ministers are pushing through a law, via the European Union Bill, to appoint a new Conservative MEP for the West Midlands, at the cost of £1.2mn a year. Critics say the Government should wait until the next elections.
No link
The Mail on Sunday reported that Britain’s only specialist nettle beer family brewery may be forced to close because of EU rules stating that it does not qualify as a beer for tax purposes since it does not contain malt. As a result, the brewery may face a bill of almost £10,000 in backdated duty because the drink now falls within a higher tax band.
Mail on Sunday
The Guardian reports that MEPs are due to vote on a new measure which could compel EU member states to inform publishers of child pornography that their images are to be deleted from the internet. Child pornographers will also have to be informed of their right to appeal against any removal. The move has been accused by charities of prioritising the rights of child pornographers over victims.
Het Laatste Nieuws reports that Derk-Jan Eppink MEP, who sits with the European Conservative and Reformists, has launched a Citizen’s Initiative campaign with several taxpayer associations against the introduction of an EU tax.
HLN Telegraaf Vlanetax
The Guardian notes that an unpublished report by consultancy firm McKinsey challenges the idea that renewables are the cheapest way of cutting carbon emissions. The report argues that new technologies, such as shale gas, may save more money than wind farms.
Guardian IHT
The Sunday Times reported that the European Court of Justice is expected to rule shortly on a case examining if insurance firms are breaking EU gender equality rules by providing variable annual pension rates according to gender.
No link
FD reports that the Dutch Court of Audit’s 2009 Annual Report notes that errors in EU spending are increasing.

EUobserver reports that the Italian government has declared a state of emergency and has asked the EU for help in managing thousands of illegal immigrants arriving from Tunisia.
Straneuropa Telegraph Guardian Irish Times