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Labour: Time to look at immigration and EU laws on benefits; UK and German ministers meet to discuss ways to tackle “welfare tourism”

07 Mar 2013

Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has today called for more prosecutions and higher fines for paying less than the minimum wage, in order to ensure immigration is properly managed so it is “fair for all”, as well as a ban on housing workers in over-crowded accommodation. Speaking to ITV’s Daybreak, she said, “There are some changes you could make within existing European laws to things like jobseeker's allowance for example that we've had some advice on, but also some other areas where you do need to talk to some European countries.”

Home Secretary Theresa May is today expected to meet her German counterpart Hans-Peter Friedrich to discuss ‘welfare tourism’ in the EU. Mr Friedrich told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme that EU migrants are “not allowed to come only to Germany or to Great Britain to get social security. That's the reason why we want to send people back and this is what we have to regulate in our European law.” Open Europe Research Director Stephen Booth appeared on BBC Radio Wales to discuss European attitudes to immigration and free movement.

Meanwhile, EUobserver reports that EU interior ministers are today set to defer a decision on Bulgarian and Romanian accession to the passport-free Schengen zone. A number of member states, including Germany, Finland, and the Netherlands, have said corruption and the weak rule of law undermine the countries’ bids for full membership.
Open Europe research
Mail Mail: Leader EUobserver FAZ

Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that German SPD budget spokesman Carsten Schneider has argued that the Bundestag will lose its influence over banking supervision when the ECB takes over from Germany’s Federal Financial Supervisory Authority BaFin in 2014; “this is the biggest transfer of sovereignty since the introduction of the euro”.

Open Europe Berlin board member and professor of economics Joachim Starbatty is quoted in Frankfurter Allgemeiner Zeitung as downplaying the chances of the new anti-euro German political party ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ and saying that “the party should build its organisational base within the next six months.”
Open Europe Berlin
FAZ Handelsblatt

Monti: New elections better than anti-reform government;
Bersani calls for “correction” of EU austerity policies
Italy’s caretaker Prime Minister Mario Monti told a press conference yesterday, “I think new elections would be better, if the alternative was a government oriented towards interrupting Italy’s European and structural reform path.” Meanwhile, centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani yesterday won his party’s support for his proposal for a minority government based on a list of eight priorities. At the party meeting, Bersani said the next Italian government should “become an active protagonist in the correction of European stability policies…” Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta’s Twitter coverage of the meeting featured on the Guardian’s live blog.

Separately, in an interview with Time magazine, Beppe Grillo said, “I’ve never said I want to be in or out of the euro. I said I want correct information…”
Il Sole 24 Ore 2 Repubblica 2 Repubblica 3 Corriere della Sera Il Sole 24 Ore Time: Grillo Guardian: Live blog FAZ DWN European Voice

The Times reports that a plot to push for an EU referendum before the next election has been discussed by some backbench Conservative MPs.

A new report by the EU Court of Auditors looking at the European Social Fund’s spending on boosting employment opportunities for older workers has found that it is not possible to assess whether these have been effective as “the necessary tools to provide relevant and reliable information… have not been put in place by most audited member states”.
Open Europe research: EU Structural Funds ECA Press Release ECA Report

London Mayor Boris Johnson has called on George Osborne to “invoke the Luxembourg compromise and strike down” EU plans to cap bankers’ bonuses. Meanwhile, hedge fund industry specialists yesterday called on the government to ensure traditional partnerships are not hit by the EU’s proposed cap on pay, as the mobile funds could easily move overseas, City AM reports.
Open Europe research “trading places”
Telegraph European Voice Euractiv Independent City AM Evening Standard

New data published by the French National Statistics Institute (INSEE) this morning show that unemployment in France reached above 10% in the last quarter of 2012 – for the first time since mid-1999.
Le Monde
Le Figaro La Tribune

Figures released by Eurostat yesterday showed that eurozone exports fell by 0.9% from the third to fourth quarter last year, the steepest drop since the first quarter of 2009. Imports also fell by 0.9% over the same period. The figures also confirmed that the eurozone has been in recession for 15 months.
WSJ Irish Independent

Westerwelle: SPD and Green victory would be bad for Europe
In an interview with Tagesspiegel, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle argues that this year’s federal elections “will decide not only the fate of Germany but also that of Europe… the defining issue will be whether we implement the triad of solidarity, growth policies and budgetary consolidation, or whether we return to the old failed debt policies… the SPD and Greens have made it clear they wish to end the policy of consolidation… this is against German and European interests”.

Greek government and Troika struggle to find agreement on civil servant lay-offs
The meeting between Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and EU/IMF/ECB Troika officials scheduled for this week, has been postponed after the two sides failed to reach an agreement on numerous issues, including, the number and speed of civil servant layoffs. Separately, the Association of Hellenic Tourism Enterprises has announced that tourism bookings from Germany are up 15% compared to last year.
Kathimerini 2 Kathimerini 3 Euractiv

Standard & Poor’s has raised Portugal’s outlook from ‘negative’ to ‘stable’, as the country looks set to be given more time to repay its EU-IMF bailout loans.
Jornal de Negócios

The Spanish central government paid over €26bn in interest on its debt last year – a 17.3% increase from 2011, reports Cinco Días.
Cinco Días

In the FT, John Studzinski, a senior managing director of The Blackstone Group, writes, “The way things are looking, the City of London could be damned if the UK leaves the EU and damned a good deal sooner if it does not.”
FT: Studzinski
Open Europe research: European Banking Authority Open Europe research: EU financial regulation FT

Opinion polls in Malta put the centre-left Labour Party ahead of the centre-right Nationalist Party ahead of Saturday’s general election.
European Voice

The FT reports that new EU rules on the protection of personal data will be watered down following opposition from member states, technology companies and the US.

The UK Government will today face a Supreme Court challenge for breaching the EU’s air quality directive. In May, the Court of Appeal upheld a previous ruling that the air quality directive fell under the EU’s purview, saying that it was up to the European Commission – not a national court – to take corrective action.

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