Open Europe press summary: 25 November 2009



EU Commission to “look at” direct EU taxes

AFP reports that in a question-time session in the European Parliament yesterday, European Commission President Jose Barroso said he would look at the idea of raising direct EU taxation.  Asked if he agreed with Herman Van Rompuy, the new EU President, that there should be EU taxes, he said: “I intend to look at all issues of taxation in the EU, we have to look at this, we have to look at all resources of the EU.  We have promised it to the parliament, the programme with which I was elected was to look at possible ‘own resources’ and this is in the programme that was adopted by this European Parliament.” 



EU governments keen to push justice and home affairs proposals without input from MEPs

EUobserver reports that the European Parliament yesterday rejected proposals to step up the role of the EU’s police and anti-terrorism agency, Europol, in an attempt to delay the plans until after the Lisbon Treaty comes into force, which gives the European Parliament more say in this area. The proposals cover changes to the confidentiality of Europol information, exchange of personal data with partners such as Interpol, agreements with non-EU countries and assistance with criminal investigations.


The article notes that member states may seek to push through the changes regardless of the MEPs’ protests, when justice and home affairs ministers meet in Brussels next Monday, where they will discuss a raft of proposals. They include a proposed common European asylum system and the management of EU databases designed to hold criminal records and controversial European arrest warrants.


Member states are also keen to agree a new deal with the US on the transfer of citizens’ banking data. According to the provisional agenda of next week’s ministerial meeting, ministers are due to “authorise the signing of an agreement between the European Union and the United States of America on the processing and transfer of financial messaging data for purposes of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme.”


The deal will allow American authorities to access information from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), an inter-bank data processing centre, as well as other, similar companies in Europe. In 2006 it emerged that the American authorities were secretly using information on European transactions as part of the so-called ‘war on terror.’

EUobserver Ministers’ Agenda Open Europe press release Open Europe research


William Hague to spell out plans for ‘greening’ EU budget

In an article on Conservative plans to introduce green individual savings accounts, the FT reports that William Hague “will today pledge to use negotiations on the next EU budget for 2011-2014 to back European Commission efforts to redefine spending priorities.”  Hague is expected to say: “It will be a priority of a Conservative government to push for fundamental reform of the EU budget … to redirect resources towards addressing climate change and energy security.”  Other initiatives he is expected to announce include a call for significant support through the EU budget to developing countries to fight deforestation.  He will also pledge to introduce new criminal offences in the UK banning the import, sale or distribution of illegally harvested timber.



Jean Quatremer: “There is no doubt” that France’s Michel Barnier will become EU Internal Market Commissioner

EUobserver notes that all 27 member states have now submitted their nominations for the new European Commission. The FT reports that Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said yesterday that he will resist pressure from member states angling for top jobs, telling MEPs: “Let’s be blunt: All of us are subject to pressure and requests. But at the end of the day, I have the final decision on what the next Commission will be.”


However, on his blog, Jean Quatremer notes that “there is no doubt” that France’s Michel Barnier will become EU Internal Market Commissioner, with responsibility for financial services.  He notes that the Justice and Home Affairs portfolio will be broken up to create a new Human Rights Commissioner, and a Climate Change Commissioner.  The composition of the new Commission is expected to be announced on 1 December, to coincide with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. EUobserver notes that the newly nominated Commissioners are expected to face hearings in front of the European Parliament on 11 January, ahead of a general vote of approval from MEPs.


Euractiv reports that four Eastern European Commissioners are finding themselves in competition after the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Latvia all signalled their interest in the enlargement portfolio. The WSJ notes that current Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has been re-nominated by the Dutch government but is unlikely to carry on in the same post.

Coulisses de Bruxelles FT Euractiv Euractiv 2 EUobserver European Voice European Voice 2 WSJ


MEPs approve controversial EU telecoms package

The European Parliament has approved a highly contested set of telecoms rules, which must now be transposed into law in member states by 24 May 2011.  The Commission says the rules give consumers the right to switch fixed or mobile operators in one working day while keeping their number; the right to be better informed about subscription-based services; the right to be informed about data breaches by their telecoms operator, and also oblige operators to give consumers the option of signing a contract which lasts no longer than 12 months.


The package includes a provision for “internet freedom” to prevent national authorities from cutting off suspected illegal downloaders’ access unless there has been “a prior, fair and impartial procedure and effective and timely judicial review”, according to the Commission. According to the BBC MEPs agreed on a statement which read: “A user’s internet access may be restricted, if necessary and proportionate, only after a fair and impartial procedure including the user’s right to be heard.” However what the fair and impartial procedure will mean in practice remains unclear, and an earlier amendment which ruled that any application for cutting off internet access must go through a judge was rejected. Sweden’s Pirate Party have argued since the package’s inception that the text’s wording would allow member states to cut off suspected Internet pirates’ connections without a fair trial.

Euractiv BBC


EP rapporteur for AIFM Directive foresees stronger role for new EU authority in setting leverage caps

Jean-Paul Gauzes – the rapporteur in the European Parliament for the EU’s proposed AIFM Directive – has written a letter to Members of the European Parliament in which he proposed a significant role for the soon-to-be created European Securities and Markets Authority, which will have binding powers over national regulators, in monitoring and intervening in the alternative investment market. For example, ESMA would be given the mandate to set caps on the amount of money hedge fund managers can borrow when investing in shares. Gauzes also proposed remuneration restrictions on fund managers similar to those recommended for bankers. While the letter is likely to be seen by the industry as a ‘step backwards’ compared to the proposal previously circulated by the Swedish EU Presidency, Gauzes also recommended that non-EU hedge funds should be allowed to operate in member states under national rules, which would make the AIFM Directive much less protectionist.

Forbes Open Europe research


Iain Martin: Ashton’s appointment demonstrates the EU’s lack of vision for a coherent foreign policy

Writing in the WSJ, Iain Martin looks at the appointment of Catherine Ashton as EU Foreign Minister and argues that it is evidence of the fact that “Despite the rhetoric, Europe doesn’t have a foreign policy in any serious sense. It has various people appointed to positions with foreign-affairs titles, and it has the beginnings of a structure of embassies abroad, but its states have no collective view.” He adds, “Ultimately, the impression isn’t of a strong EU, but of a supplicant continent that keeps saying it wants a bigger role on the world stage and then can’t deliver. Boxed in by the way in which it chooses its senior figures, it ends up with Baroness Ashton, rather than a figure of consequence.”

WSJ: Martin


WSJ: GM bailout “won’t be any prettier just because it’s coordinated” 

An editorial in the WSJ looks at the news that Germany, Britain, Spain, Belgium and Poland have promised to coordinate their response to General Motors to avoid a subsidy war. It argues that “even if they keep their pledge not to cut separate deals with the US auto maker, that still doesn’t mean that aid will only be handed out under strict commercial considerations. A bailout is not going to be any prettier just because it’s coordinated.”

WSJ: Editorial


Jean-Claude Trichet: We refused member states’ requests to lower interest rates

In an interview with Het Financieele Dagblad, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has declared that “we have refused to give in to requests to lower interest rates. At the beginning of 2004 we received requests from the President of France, the Chancellor of Germany, [and] the PM of Italy. In December 2005 we have even increased interest rates”. Trichet was defending the ECB’s record against claims by economists that low interest rates set by central banks caused the economic crisis.


A BBC investigation has found that large sums promised to developing countries to help them tackle climate change cannot be accounted for.  The money was pledged in the 2001 Bonn Declaration, signed by 20 industrialised nations including the 15 EU countries. The EU says the money was paid out in bilateral deals, but admits it cannot provide data to prove it.



The newly-appointed President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, will mark his first semi-official engagement in the role when he visits Latvia and Finland next month.



French website Toute l’Europe notes that, at €29,504 per month, Herman Van Rompuy’s salary as EU President is €8,000 higher than Nicolas Sarkozy’s.

No link


Euractiv reports that the European Commission has launched a consultation process on its plans to make Europe a “smarter, greener social market” by 2020.

Euractiv EUobserver


Today Yves Leterme is being sworn in as the new Belgian PM in replacement of Herman Van Rompuy, amidst concerns over the upcoming negotiations between Flemish and Walloon factions, reports De Standaard.

Standaard Standaard Leader


The Guardian reports that the European Commission is likely to extend the ban on carrying liquids on aeroplanes until 2013, except for airports that purchase new upgraded security scanners.



Le Figaro profiles the new Secretary General of the European Council, Pierre de Boissieu, nominated by EU leaders last week.

No link




The Independent reports that senior Conservatives believe that Gordon Brown may call a general election next March.





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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