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France and Germany to push ahead with imminent Treaty change

02 Dec 2011


Open Europe


Fortnightly Open Europe bulletin: 2 December 2011

- France and Germany to push ahead with imminent EU Treaty change
- Open Europe event in Brussels
- News in brief
- Open Europe in the news
- Please support Open Europe
- Follow us on Twitter @OpenEurope


1.    France and Germany to push ahead with imminent EU Treaty change at 27

France and Germany are expected to unveil their proposals for EU treaty change next week, ahead of a key meeting of eurozone and EU leaders on 8-9 December. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel look likely to agree on changes involving all 27 EU member states. However, significant divergences remain between the two leaders, for example over the future role of the European Commission and the European Court of Justice in the enforcement of stricter budgetary rules within the eurozone, and whether to allow the ECB to purchase unlimited amounts of debt from struggling euro countries. (BBC 2 December)

Meanwhile, reports suggest that David Cameron may have decided not to use upcoming negotiations over Treaty change as an opportunity to seek repatriation of certain powers from Brussels, in the interests of reaching an EU-wide agreement on new measures to tackle the crisis as quickly as possible. (FT 2 December, Times 1 December)

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2.   Open Europe event in Brussels

Open Europe hosted a short conference in Brussels discussing transparency and accountability in the EU institutions. Speakers included: Vice-President of the European Commission, Maros Sefcovic; Diana Wallis, Lib Dem MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament; and Open Europe’s Director Mats Persson.

To read a summary of the event, click here:

3.    News in brief

UK’s gross contribution to EU budget rose to £18.5bn last year.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that the UK’s gross contribution to the EU budget rose by 5.7% last year to £18.5bn. At the same time, the money Britain received back from the EU fell by almost a quarter to £8.1bn, a fall of £2.6bn in only one year. (Mail Express, 24 November)

EU Commissioner: London would lose out under eurozone financial transactions tax. EU Taxation Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta said in an interview that a eurozone-only financial transactions tax would be “designed in such a way that it doesn’t matter where transactions are taking place. I think that London will lose out.” Šemeta has also warned that he could take the UK to court if it fails to re-write its multibillion pound tax agreement with Switzerland. (FT, 28 November)

EU plans for ‘green’ public buildings to cost UK taxpayers £50bn over three decades. It has been revealed that, under new European Commission proposals, UK taxpayers may have to pay billions of pounds a year to install green technology into council houses, schools, hospitals and other public buildings. The initiative, if implemented, is estimated cost local authorities £50bn over the next 33 years. (Sunday Telegraph, 27 November)

4.    Open Europe in the news

Cost of UK health and safety laws heavily dependent on EU directives
1 December Telegraph: Lofstedt 21 November Conservative Home: Heaton-Harris

In the Telegraph, Prof. Ragnar Lofstedt, author of an independent review of health and safety legislation commissioned by the Government, cited research from Open Europe’s ‘Still out of control’ report showing that EU Directives accounted for 94% of the cost of UK health and safety laws introduced between 1998 and 2009. On Conservative Home, Chris Heaton-Harris MP cited Open Europe’s research estimating that regulation cost the UK economy £176bn since 1998, with 71% of that amount originating in EU legislation. 

Supporting treaty change in return for revision of Working Time Directive would be a strategic mistake for Cameron
29 November Coffee House blog: Persson 24 November Conservative Home: Persson Heritage Foundation 23 November Die Presse

On Conservative Home, Mats Persson wrote, “Unlike [EU] treaty negotiations, where the UK has a veto, the Working Time Directive is decided by qualified majority voting amongst EU ministers and subject to so-called co-decision with the European Parliament…Cameron would therefore be trading a UK veto – and spend plenty of political capital – in return for little more than the vague hope of a reformed WTD.” He concluded that a better objective for David Cameron would be a “safeguard to protect the UK from harmful EU financial services regulation.”

On the Spectator’s Coffee House blog, Mats argued, “Giving the ECJ final say over EU budget rules and introducing automatic sanctions for states that break the rules – which the Germans are very keen on to avoid history repeating itself – really does require a Treaty change among the EU-27…Cameron may therefore have more leverage over a Treaty change than he thinks.” Mats was also quoted in Austrian daily Die Presse.

Separately, the Heritage Foundation cited Open Europe research estimating that EU social policy costs British businesses and the public sector £8.6bn a year.

Greater intervention by the ECB raises more problems than it solves
29 November Telegraph CityAM WSJ FP 23 November Rzeczpospolita 22 November FT: Ruparel

On the FT A-list blog, Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel argued, “Having the ECB act as a full lender of last resort will detract from the economic and structural reforms needed in the eurozone, and may throw up more problems in the longer term; making it ultimately self-defeating.”

In response to the ECB’s failure to sterilise all of its purchases of eurozone government bonds, Raoul Ruparel was quoted by the Telegraph, CityAM and the WSJ saying, “The fact banks seem to be hesitant to commit to even one-week ECB deposits highlights just how uncertain the situation has become – banks are keen to hold on to any liquidity given that the situation is now so serious it can change from day to day.” Raoul was also quoted in Canadian weekly The Financial Post and Polish daily Rzeczpospolita, discussing the eurozone crisis. 

EU officials threaten strike action over pay and conditions
21 November Irish Independent 20 November Sunday Telegraph

Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe was quoted in the Sunday Telegraph and Irish Independent arguing that the EU officials’ move was unjustified “at a moment when all European governments are cutting their budgets, also at the instigation of the EU.”

Commission proposes granting legal migrants easier access to the EU
18 November AP

Mats Persson was quoted by Associated Press arguing that the EU will need workers in the future, due to its ageing population, but added that “it's going to be very difficult for [EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia] Malmström to push this through,” due to domestic political constraints.

5.    Please support Open Europe

Open Europe is a small, lean operation which relies entirely on individual donations. We produce cutting-edge research on all aspects of EU policy, targeting both politicians and the media to campaign for radical reform of the EU. We unearth high-impact stories and hold high-profile events, and, despite being a small team, we are quoted and interviewed several times a week in the media.

We believe there is a better way forward for Europe, and we need your help in trying to make our vision a reality. If you support our work and would like to help us continue to do it, please click the link below to find out how you can donate.

Thank you for your support.


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