Open Europe press summary: 26 November 2009



Former advisor to Hungarian socialists tipped for EU financial services post

The Telegraph reports that EU Commission President Jose Barroso, who is currently putting the finishing touches on a complete line up for the Commission posts, is under intense pressure from governments, particularly France.  Paris is claiming that Barroso promised the key job of internal market Commissioner, with responsibility for financial services, to Michel Barnier.  However, the article notes that “Sources in Brussels and Paris now indicate that French pressure has not succeeded and Mr Barroso has threatened to take responsibility for financial services out of the internal market post to avoid a clash with Britain.”  According to the paper, Paris is now concentrating on securing the post of competition commissioner, another job where France, which has a poor track record on abiding by rules against state subsidies, faces resistance.  An unnamed source is quoted saying, “The French were telling everyone they had a deal on internal market and financial services. Now they are saying they want competition. There was no cast-iron promise. Whatever happens France is unlikely to get financial services.”


On his Coulisses de Bruxelles blog, Jean Quatremer says he has a copy of the plan for the portfolios being shared out, which says that responsibility for financial services will go to Hungary’s Laszlo Andor, who is described as being “close to the Socialists.”  According to the FT he is a former economic adviser to the Socialist party and to the socialist-liberal government.  Quatremer says the appointment of the Hungarian to this post would be “a real slap in the face for France”.  However, he notes that a small consolation for France will be the appointment of Romania’s Dacian Ciolos to the agriculture portfolio. 


According to the list, Germany’s Gunther Oettinger is being lined up for energy, losing the industry portfolio to Poland’s Janusz Lewandowski.  Of the existing Commissioners, Dutch Commissioner Neelie Kroes will move to trade, Spain’s Joaquin Almunia will go to competition, Finland’s Olli Rehn will take economic and monetary affairs, Latvia’s Andris Piebalgs will go to social affairs, and Luxembourg’s Viviane Reding will stay at digital economy (which will include culture), and Italy’s Antonio Tajani will stay at transport.  Estonia’s Siim Kallas will keep the administration portfolio and the Belgium’s Karel De Gucht will stay in development.  The new climate and environment porfolio will go to Denmark, and Sweden will take human rights.  The justice and home affairs and enlargement posts will go to Bulgaria and Slovakia, though it has not been decided who will take which.  Ireland will take the budget portfolio, Austria will take research, Greece and Cyprus will take maritime affairs or education, Lithuania will take structural funds, and the Czechs will take one of research or health with the other going to Slovenia.

Telegraph Coulisses de Bruxelles FT: Leader Irish Times FT Open Europe blog


Lukewarm response to European Parliament’s first draft on AIFM Directive

Several papers look at the report on the AIFM Directive, published yesterday by the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the Directive, Jean-Paul Gauzes. The FT notes that hedge fund and private equity managers yesterday gave “a lukewarm and very conditional welcome” to the report, which suggested 130 amendments to the Commission’s original draft. The report proposed to drop some of the protectionist elements of the draft Directive, but scrapped the provisions which would exempt smaller funds from the new rules.


Controversially, Gauzes’ report also proposed that the new European Securities and Markets Authority, likely to be created next year as part of the Commission’s proposal for more EU-wide financial supervision, will have the power to restrict shortselling and put caps on how much money managers can borrow.


The Telegraph quotes Open Europe’s Mats Persson saying “This would centralise significant supervisory powers at the EU level at the expense of national regulators. Handing over such powers raises questions about accountability, creates legal uncertainty and, in a worst case scenario, may even prove counterproductive for ensuring market stability.” Richard Wilson of the European Private Equity and Venture Capital Association is quoted in the FT saying that the report only “takes us some way along the road to improving [the legislation].”

EUobserver Telegraph Times FT Handelsblatt Open Europe research


MEPs question Catherine Ashton’s past links to the Soviet Union

The Times reports that newly-appointed EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton has been forced to deny taking funds from the Soviet Union during her days as treasurer for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Lady Ashton was challenged to deny that she had contact with Russian sources while she was in charge of its accounts at the height of the Cold War. Lady Ashton’s spokesman said: “During her time in the CND she never visited the Soviet Union, had no contact with the Soviet Union and has never accepted any money from Soviet sources. The first time she visited Russia was as EU Trade Commissioner.”


However, all the candidates for the next European Commission must undergo formal hearings at the European Parliament and the European People’s Party, the main centre-right group, has pledged to reject any who have promoted communism in the past. The FT notes that the European Parliament cannot reject individual Commissioners; only confirm or reject the entire Commission. Yet the threat of the “nuclear option” could be enough to force Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to make individual changes.


The IHT notes that the questions over Lady Ashton’s past have particularly worried centre-right Eastern European MEPs. Czech MEP Hynek Fajnon said, “There is no doubt that the Kremlin supported CND activities. If Mrs Ashton as treasurer had played any role in that, it would be a great scandal.” Latvian MEP Krisjanis Karins said, “We are especially concerned how the High Representative for Foreign Affairs will conduct discussions with our eastern neighbour,” according to the Times.


UKIP MEP Nigel Farage raised the matter on the floor of the EP yesterday and was reprimanded by EP President Jerzy Buzek for referring to Lady Ashton and Herman Van Rompuy, the new European President, as “pygmies”.


Meanwhile, writing in the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash argues that with the appointments of Catherine Ashton and Herman Van Rompuy the EU has made its choice: “for soft, slow, fragmented decline. Europe becomes a museum of the good life; still bright and modern now, but slowly getting darker and more decrepit as the years go by.”

Times IHT FT Euractiv EUobserver Guardian: Garton Ash England Expects El Mundo: blog European Voice


Swedish EU Presidency to propose minimum alcohol pricing policies, sales restrictions and discount bans in all member states
The Swedish EU Presidency is widely expected to come forward with proposals designed to cut alcohol consumption at a meeting of EU health and consumer affairs ministers on 30 November, according to The Parliament. These are likely to include minimum pricing policies, sales restrictions and discount bans in all member states. The article notes that Europe’s brewers are on a direct collision course with the EU over the plans, with Rodolphe de Looz-Corswarem, Secretary-General of the Brussels-based Brewers of Europe, quoted saying: “The focus has to be on actions at local level, in partnership with local actors and consumers, rather than one-size-fits-all EU policies being proposed.”
The Parliament


UK likely to be outvoted on extending EU regulation on maternity leave for self-employed

European Voice reports that self-employed workers and their spouses would get more generous maternity leave allowance and social security benefits from draft legislation expected to be agreed by EU employment ministers on 2 December. The proposal would grant female self-employed workers the right to a “maternity leave allowance” sufficient for them to take 14 weeks off work. The article notes that diplomats have said that, despite continued reservations from the UK and Germany, there was a qualified majority in favour of an amended text presented by the Swedish Presidency of the EU.


The UK is concerned that the proposal might encourage people to do undeclared (and untaxed) work for their spouses. Germany has worries that it might be required to extend the relatively generous protection granted to doctors and other specific professions to doctors’ spouses, even if the work they perform is menial.

European Voice


China criticises EU for failing to deliver on previous climate promises;

Obama to attend Copenhagen summit

The WSJ reports that China’s envoy on climate change has criticised the EU for failing to meet its previous promises to cut greenhouse gases and deliver on technology transfer and aid to poor countries. Yu Qingtai said, “Europe made a lot of commitments. But if you compare those commitments to actions, there is a big disparity.”


Euractiv reports that the European Parliament has urged EU leaders to offer €30bn a year to help developing nations combat climate change at the upcoming UN climate change summit in Copenhagen.


The Guardian reports that US President Barack Obama has decided to attend the summit, offering to cut US greenhouse gas emissions by 17% on 2005 figures by 2020. By comparison, the EU has pledged to reduce emissions by 20% by 2020 on 1990 levels – or 30% if there is a global deal.

WSJ WSJ 2 Guardian Euractiv European Voice


New poll: Conservative Party members sceptical about Cameron’s commitment to reforming relationship with the EU

A poll of Conservative Party members for Conservative Home has found 20% expect that, under a Conservative government, “even more powers will have been lost to Europe”; 20% agreed that “the UK-EU relationship will be about the same”; 41% answered that “a few powers will be won back but nothing significant”; 13% thought that “significant powers will have been won back”; and 6% answered that “Britain will be on the verge of leaving the EU”.

Conservative Home


Multinationals defy Commission over delay to global accounting rules

The FT reports that some of Europe’s biggest multinational companies are preparing to defy moves by the European Commission to delay the introduction of new global accountancy rules within the European Union. The EU decision means that European companies officially cannot use the rules while companies in more than 80 countries outside the US can. This has angered many multinationals, particularly in the UK, which believe they will be put at a competitive disadvantage. Four companies contacted by the paper said that they are looking to use the so-called IFRS 9 rules in 2010 and may begin to prepare the numbers for internal use for this year end.

FT FT: Sanderson


The European Parliament yesterday decided that the additional 18 MEPs, put in place by the Lisbon Treaty, will not be allowed to vote or speak in the plenary until EU governments agree and ratify a legal basis for their full mandate, EUobserver reports.



The BBC reports that travellers who book holidays on the internet could receive more financial protection if things go wrong, under plans in a European Commission review of current EU legislation. The FT reports that European airlines have reacted strongly to moves to force them to set up a compensation fund for passengers stranded by failed carriers.



The European Parliament yesterday voted in favour of a proposal to introduce a tyre-labelling ‘green’ scheme, similar to existing labelling for energy-intensive household appliances such as fridges and tumble dryers, with top performers awarded a green “A” class and the worst a red “G” class, EUobserver reports.

Euractiv EUobserver BBC


A European Commission report released yesterday warned that EU member states will not meet the educational objectives set for 2010.

El Mundo


The three main opposition parties in the Danish Parliament have urged the country’s Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen to call a referendum on the Danish EU opt-outs from justice and home affairs and defence policy, Berlingske reports.



Åland – a small semi-autonomous Finnish island – has ratified the Lisbon Treaty after its parliament voted in favour of the Treaty by 24 to 6, Swedish Television reports.

Swedish Television


The FT reports that the Bundesbank has warned that Germany’s leading banks face €90bn worth of writedowns.



Writing in the Guardian, Simon Tisdall argues that the EU’s loss of patience with Ukraine could see the country “lurch back towards the Russian sphere”.

Guardian: Tisdall IHT European Voice



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.


One Response to “Open Europe press summary: 26 November 2009”

  1. Jenny Parker Says:

    Mary Mason said it best in – A baby is something you carry inside you for nine months, in your arms for three years and in your heart till the day you die.

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