Open Europe press summary: 17 November 2009



Times: It is a bad sign that frontrunner for EU President proposed new EU taxes “at a private rather than a public forum”

The Times and Telegraph report that the frontrunner for the EU President job, Belgian PM Herman Van Rompuy, said last week that new EU environmental and financial taxes levied by Brussels should fund the EU, replacing national contributions, which governments are trying to cut because of the recession, as noted in Open Europe’s press summary yesterday.


The Times notes that such a position will alarm non-federalist countries such as Britain and Denmark, who oppose giving the EU tax-raising powers and breaking the link with national funding. In addition, the newer member states, already angry at the opaque process of choosing the EU President, will be unimpressed that Mr Van Rompuy expressed his views at the secretive ‘Bilderberg’ forum.


A leader in the paper argues, “Mr Van Rompuy has proposed new environmental and financial taxes to fund the EU. That would cut across the principle that national governments retain control of fiscal policy. And as serious as the demerits of Mr Van Rompuy’s proposals was the venue at which he reportedly advanced them…it is significant that Mr Van Rompuy made an important proposal at a private rather than a public forum. It is a bad augury for a flawed candidature.”


The Express reports that Mr Van Rompuy favours scrapping separate national emblems in a drive to create a European identity. The article quotes Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe saying: “he can be relied upon to quietly make sure that the EU gets more and more powers, with less and less say for voters.” Pieter is also quoted in Polish newspaper Zycie Warszawy.


The FT reports that, according to several EU government ministers and diplomats, the hunt for the right candidate for EU Foreign Minster has proved harder than rallying support for Mr Van Rompuy. It quotes one British official saying, “Van Rompuy is the guy the Swedes want to put into the job. There’s no question about that. To do that, they are positioning him as the leading candidate”. Political sources said it was possible that EU leaders would appoint Mr Van Rompuy for one 30-month term, rather than the maximum two terms lasting five years.


With no absolute consensus yet reached on the names for the jobs, EUobserver reports that a decision could require a follow-up meeting on Friday if agreement cannot be reached at Thursday’s special summit. Swedish EU Minister Cecilia Malmstrom said: “If the situation should appear that there is no decision on Thursday, it is up to the presidency to evaluate the situation. There’s Friday and there’s Saturday and Sunday…But the aim is to reach a conclusion on Thursday night.”


EurActiv reports that the Swedish EU Presidency yesterday organised an event which saw campaigners for women to be appointed to top EU positions make a final plea ahead of Thursday.The Independent quotes Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb saying: “We would look a bit silly were we not able to elect or choose a female.”


Meanwhile, the Sun reports that Gordon Brown is calling other EU leaders in a bid to save Tony Blair’s bid to become EU President. Gavin Hewitt’s BBC blog notes that there is one scenario in which Blair could get the job: “If there is no agreement at the dinner [on Thursday], the Swedish prime minister will have to call a vote and that would be weighted according to country size. In those circumstances, Tony Blair could sneak it.”


The Economist‘s Charlemagne notebook suggests that the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty may not necessarily result in a smaller number of EU representatives at important summits and, according to a senior European diplomat, Lisbon does not clear up whether the new Council President will take the EU chair at an economic meeting like the G20. The article concludes, “So you could easily end up with more Europeans trying to get into the room, post-Lisbon, rather than fewer”.

WSJ Times: Leader FT FT 2 Express Zycie Warszawy Telegraph Times Telegraph: Brogan blog BBC: Hewitt blog Guardian Independent EurActiv BBC Irish Times Irish Times: Beesley EUobserver FT: Brussels blog Economist: Charlemagne notebook

EUobserver 2 Standaard Open Europe press summary OE blog


The Malta Times features an example from Open Europe’s “50 new examples of EU waste” in an article looking at European Parliament information offices in the member states. The article cites Open Europe’s finding that, only last year, the EP spent €41 million on the offices, which have a total of 237 full-time staff, each costing the taxpayer €173,124 a year.

Malta Times Open Europe press release Open Europe research


Commission ruling to raise costs of fertility treatment for patients and NHS

The Telegraph reports that couples undergoing IVF could face higher bills after the European Commission said they should be screened for diseases between each treatment cycle, in a new interpretation of its 2004 Tissues and Cells Directive. However, British doctors said it was extremely unlikely new cases of infections like HIV and syphilis would be picked up through screening couples between cycles instead of just at the start of their course of fertility treatment.


Professor Peter Braude, Head of the Department of Women’s Health at King’s College London, said: “This new interpretation of the EU directive is of extreme concern to fertility practitioners, as it will have substantial implications for the costs of fertility treatment to individual patients and for the NHS.”

No link


New German government pledges to avoid “goldplating” EU regulations

FAZ reports that the new German government wants to cut down on the costs of unnecessary bureaucracy for businesses, by ensuring that EU regulations are not gold-plated. The article notes, “the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty will increase the number of regulations coming from Brussels: this is because the EU can more easily make new directives with majority voting”. It adds that “as a result of that, the new German coalition has decided EU regulations will only be introduced ‘one for one'”, and will not go beyond minimum EU requirements. According to Jochen Clausnitzer, a lawyer working for the German Chamber of Industry, “the German legislator often turns the screws tighter than it has to. This contradicts the objective of achieving a single market and sets German companies at a disadvantage”.

FAZ Open Europe research


MEPs set to use new powers under Lisbon to block CAP reform

Euractiv notes that “The first exchange of views on the post-2013 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) [expressed in a workshop] last week showed that the European Parliament may well use its new powers to block any significant budget cuts for the policy.” The article quotes Italian Chair of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, Paolo De Castro, saying that if EU farm policy is to address important new demands, including food security, biodiversity and water management, then “it is a paradox” that the Commission plans a significant reduction in resources.



UK retailers call for end to EU trade war on shoes

The Independent reports that Britain’s shopkeepers have joined forces with the Government to urge European Union countries to vote against extending punitive tariffs on leather shoes from China and Vietnam at a crucial meeting on Thursday. The article notes that European retailers have paid about €800m (£710m) in import charges for leather shoes from the two Asian countries since the charges were introduced in 2006. Meanwhile, reports that Polish shoe makers fear bankruptcy if the EU antidumping duties are lifted.



EU budget rules leave member states unable to spend funds for ‘green’ projects

EUobserver notes that only a tiny fraction of the billions of euros that have been allocated by the EU for clean energy projects in central and eastern Europe have made their way to their intended recipients. A total of €1.8 billion has been allocated for energy efficiency measures, but of that, only €292 million has been invested in approved projects with contracts signed. The article notes that local authorities and municipalities often do not have the funds to co-finance this sort of work and sometimes the application procedure is simply too complicated.



An article in Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet notes that neither EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, nor the Swedish EU Presidency, were represented at the meeting between US President Barack Obama and China’s President Hu Jintao, in which it was decided that the agreement on fighting climate change, to be hammered out at the UN summit in Copenhagen next month, will not be “legally binding”.

Svenska Dagbladet


Max Hastings: Cameron still faces tough test on Europe

Writing in the FT, Max Hastings argues that despite David Cameron’s “considerable courage in his response to the EU Lisbon Treaty ratification,” Europe will become “a serious issue for a future Cameron government.” He adds that “It is unlikely Britain will leave the EU, but highly plausible that Mr Cameron will sooner or later feel obliged to force a crisis on specific issues of sovereignty and jurisdiction, of which the outcome is anybody’s guess.”

FT: Hastings


French Finance Minister calls for G20 inquiry into potential competition abuse

Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, says in an interview with the FT that the G20’s Financial Stability Board, consisting of regulators and central bankers from around the world, should prepare a report to assess whether some financial institutions have become too powerful following a series of bail-outs and mergers. “We need to make sure that we do not create institutions that have a competitive advantage,” Lagarde said.



An article in Italian paper L’Occidentale questions the logic of establishing the EU’s new diplomatic corps without reducing or incorporating member states’ existing diplomatic representations across the world.



In a comment piece on EUobserver, former Icelandic PM and current Secretary General of the Nordic Council Halldor Asgrimsson writes that “the current EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been a dismal failure,” adding, “the ultimate goal should be an EU fisheries sector that does not receive direct financial aid.”

EUobserver: Asgrimsson


Euobserver reports that EU foreign ministers yesterday backed Albania’s request for official candidate status to join the EU.



French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde is in first place in a ranking of European finance ministers compiled by the FT. Alistair Darling is in seventh place.



EUobserver reports that the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico has warned that a fresh gas crisis is around the corner, despite Russia and the EU signing an early warning agreement to prevent such a situation.





A new Guardian/ICM poll puts the Conservatives on 42 percent, Labour on 29 percent and the Lib Dems on 19 percent.






Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: or call us on 0207 197 2333.


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