Open Europe press summary: 11 November 2009



Telegraph: Waste is built into the EU budget

Open Europe’s 50 examples of EU waste, published yesterday, are reported in the Mail, Express, Telegraph and Polish paper Dziennik. Open Europe’s Mats Persson is quoted saying, “The European Commission tries to put the blame for fraud and waste on the member states, but the real problem is the EU budget itself. Too often, EU money is wasted on inefficient projects which are based on unrealistic expectations, or for which there is no real demand. Because of the way the EU’s spending schemes are set up, bizarre or wasteful projects can receive funding which never would have received money if subject only to national spending priorities. Unfortunately the focus of the EU budget is to get the money out of the door, not to spend the money wisely.”


Meanwhile, several papers note the opinion from the European Court of Auditors yesterday, in which the auditors refused to sign off the EU’s budget for the 15th consecutive year, while giving a clean opinion to the reliability of the Commission’s own accounts for the second year in a row, and signing off the bulk of agricultural spending for the first time. The Mail quotes Shadow Europe Minister Mark Francois, saying there was still “unacceptable mismanagement” in the way the EU budget is spent. “There are also still too many shocking examples of wasteful or pointless expenditure of taxpayers’ money. This strengthens the already powerful case for major reform of the EU budget”, he said.


EUobserver notes that the auditors said that some €2.7 billion from the EU budget should not have been paid out in 2008, flagging up the EU’s regional spending as particularly prone to errors.  The auditors also said that Spain, Italy and Portugal are responsible for the bulk of the financial errors detected by European auditors in the field of regional policy.


A leader in the Telegraph argues, “whether or not error is decreasing in some areas [of the EU budget], it must be asked whether the balance of the budget is right at all. Waste is built into the system. The new president should make it his priority to encourage a root and branch overhaul of the EU’s finances. It might then be a job worth having.”


EUobserver reports that EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has distanced herself from a leaked Commission communication on EU budget reform, which suggested that money be channelled from regional and agricultural policy to jobs, climate change and foreign policy, saying “I really think it was a bunch of officials preparing their own view on the budget.” She added that the paper is “now in the bin.”

Open Europe’s 50 examples of waste Open Europe press release Mail Telegraph Telegraph: Leader Express Mail: Synon blog Dziennik Info Radio  Irish Times European Voice FT EUobserver EUobserver Commission’s communication OE blog


Ken Clarke: Conservatives’ new policies on Europe are “largely reassurance”

The Telegraph reports that the Shadow Business Secretary Kenneth Clarke has suggested that the Conservatives’ new policies on Europe – unveiled last week – are “largely reassurance”. The paper quotes him saying “We’re going to have a go at repatriating, going back to the old opt-out on the social chapter. People want to be reassured on criminal justice.” He also added that a Conservative government would show “calmness and common sense” in its relations with the rest of the EU.


However, Mr Clarke disputed the notion that any attempt to repatriate powers would leave the Conservatives isolated in Europe. He said, “I do think we will not be alone. We will have allies. So long as you don’t over-dramatise it, done properly, there’s a serious negotiation to be had.”


Meanwhile, PA reports that Conservative MP Douglas Carswell has sent an email to his constituents in which he wrote, “I want you to know that I have begun a campaign for a referendum on the EU. All three parties promised us a referendum. Yet somehow it hasn’t happened. I think that’s wrong.” He told his constituents it was “time to let the British people have their say…No one in Britain under the age of 52 has had the chance to vote in a referendum on Europe. For years it has been left to professional politicians and diplomats to decide EU policy. I believe it is now time to let the people have their say.”


Writing in the Telegraph, Simon Heffer looks at the Conservatives’ policy on Europe and argues, “To pretend that Britain might one day dine à la carte from the menu of the Treaty of Lisbon would be just the latest grotesque deceit practised upon this country in the name of Europe.”

Guardian Telegraph Times FT Telegraph: Heffer Open Europe research


Swedish PM: EU top jobs to be decided on 19 November

El Mundo reports that Fredrik Reinfeldt, Sweden’s Prime Minister, has decided to hold the European summit to decide who will fill the EU’s new President and Foreign Minister posts on 19 November. In an interview with the FT, Reinfeldt, who holds the current EU rotating Presidency, said that he would be consulting EU leaders this week but that he had not yet asked any leaders about their availability. He said, “There is a very tense situation where there are prime ministers and top people who already have jobs. I have to be sure before I ask them to be candidates.”


The Irish Times notes that many east European countries are resisting the “coronation” of Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy, who is emerging as the preferred candidate of France and Germany, as EU President.


Meanwhile, following the news that David Miliband has ruled himself out of the Foreign Minister job, Euractiv notes that Romanian MEP Adrian Severin and former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema have emerged as the frontrunners. According to Le Monde, Lord Mandelson has “discreetly sounded out” French President Nicolas Sarkozy in order to promote his candidacy for the post, but the Times reports that his spokesman has said he doesn’t want the job.


In the Times, Daniel Finkelstein writes in an open letter to Miliband, “The Lisbon treaty is your work as much as anyone’s. You pushed it through and you told everyone that it really mattered. You’ve been making speeches on the importance of the new job as EU foreign minister. You’ve said it is an essential tool of influence. Yet now – now – you tell me that you don’t actually want to do it yourself.”


Writing in the WSJ, Jonathan Eyal, Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, argues “As the EU is about to appoint a foreign minister, the basic divisions between the eastern and western halves of the continent will become more pronounced. For no amount of bureaucratic tinkering will produce a common EU foreign and security policy, unless all the member states can agree on a viable stance vis-a-vis Russia.”

FT IHT EUobserver BBC Irish Times EurActiv Times El Pais El Mundo Times: Finkelstein WSJ: Eyal Knack DPA French Foreign Ministry Le Monde


Rapporteur for AIFM Directive: “We have to make Europe a fortress, we need European regulation”

At a “workshop” yesterday in the European Parliament’s economic committee, in which MEPs heard evidence from industry representatives on the EU’s proposed AIFM Directive, Jean-Paul Gauzès, the committee’s rapporteur, said that the EP would scrap the AIFM proposal’s general limits on leverage. “We won’t give any figures on leverage, but if the regulators (national and European) identify risks, they will be able to point it out,” Gauzès said. However, the controversial provisions in the proposal which would limit managers from non-EU countries to operate inside the bloc are still subject to debate. “We have to make Europe a fortress, we need European regulation”, Gauzès said according to the Guardian.

Guardian Telegraph Times EUobserver Open Europe press release Open Europe research


Commission to set minimum threshold of a third of countries for Lisbon Treaty’s citizens’ initiative

EUobserver reports that the EU Commission will publish a discussion paper today setting out some of the issues surrounding the implementation of the citizens’ initiative, contained in the Lisbon Treaty, which allows for one million citizens to request a legislative proposal from the Commission. The threshold for the minimum number of states that citizens must come from is likely to be set at a third, and a population percentage could be included. The article reports that the Commission proposes giving itself ‘wiggle room’ for repeated petitions on issues it doesn’t wish to follow up, noting that “disincentives or time limits” could prevent “successive presentations of the same request.”



Conservative MEPs rubbish claims on personal gain from new pan-European party
The Parliament reports that Conservative MEPs have rubbished claims that they stand to personally gain by the creation of a new pan-European party: the ‘Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists’, which will include most of the 54 members of European Parliament’s ECR group. Roger Helmer MEP is quoted saying: “This is money that would otherwise go to other political parties. We will not gain personally in any way.” Martin Callanan MEP added: “All the other political groups are affiliated to pan-European parties so why shouldn’t we be?”


The Parliament also notes that a new far-right pan-European party is set to launch later this week, to include the BNP. It was however unable to muster the minimum membership of seven member states which is required to form a new EP grouping.
The Parliament The Parliament 2


Sueddeutsche: EU Competition Commissioner applies double standards and should be independent

The WSJ notes that by objecting to Oracle’s agreement to acquire Sun Microsystems, the European Commission has “ventured into a thorny legal area and could strain the bloc’s regulatory relationship with the US.” In a leader, Sueddeutsche Zeitung argues that the positions taken by EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes demonstrate she applies double standards in her decisions.


The article suggests that Kroes pursued the Oracle-Sun case regardless of the political repercussions of her decision, but in the case of Opel and General Motors, she took into account the interests of the affected EU member states. It notes that “as long as the guardians of the EU treaties are sitting together in one house with those who make the laws, they cannot be independent”. It argues for Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to “outsource” the Commission’s Competition department.

WSJ La Tribune


FT: Berlin continues to turn down Sarkozy’s advances

The FT reports that French Europe Minister Pierre Lellouche is busy with plans to prepare a new “Franco-German agenda for Europe”, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy aiming to reignite the Franco-German relationship. However, the article notes that “for months the French government has been casting around for new projects to strengthen Franco-German co-operation at the heart of Europe, but has found little enthusiasm in Berlin.”

FT BBC Le Figaro


Oxford Professor: Carbon tax preferable to EU’s emissions trading scheme

In a comment piece for the Times, Oxford Professor Dieter Helm writes: “We must put a long-term price on [carbon]. This way the market can sort out the best way to reduce emissions and the financial costs that go with them. It was intended that the EU Emissions Trading System would do this, but it has proved short term, volatile and the prices are very low. A simple carbon tax would immediately create a uniform price; and if politicians commit to never lowering it, investors would have the confidence to put money into schemes”.

Times: Helm Open Europe research


The WSJ reports that the EU is set to raise minimum taxes on the sale of tobacco across the bloc.

HLN Reuters


European Voice reports that the Czech government has nominated its Europe Minister Stefan Füle as its next Commissioner.

European Voice




The Times reports that President Obama is to ask Nato to provide at least 4,000 more troops to the campaign in Afghanistan.





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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