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New Open Europe report: How to safeguard free movement in Europe; Sarkozy appeals to hard right by threatening to suspend EU open border policy and calling for a “Buy European Act”

12 Mar 2012

With the EU’s principles of free movement and open borders coming under increasing attack, including from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Open Europe has today published a new report arguing that EU policies relating to external and internal immigration, including free movement of workers and people, have, on balance, worked in the UK’s interest, and that EU migrants come to the UK to work, not to claim welfare benefits. However, the report also notes that EU free movement in particular has been subject to poor political management.  

Open Europe argues for a reformed, more transparent system that gives member states more discretion in enforcing safeguards against undue strains on public finances and welfare systems, and that for future EU enlargements, tighter transitional controls might be necessary, based on more objective criteria such as relative GDP per capita, rather than the arbitrary time-limited controls used up to now. Open Europe’s report will be presented at tomorrow’s meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on EU reform.  

At a campaign rally yesterday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told supporters that he had set two ultimatums for Brussels; temporarily withdrawing France from the Schengen treaty, which establishes free movement within the borders of 25 member states, unless greater restrictions on immigration and structural reforms to the treaty were introduced within the next twelve months, and a “Buy European Act”, which would require EU governments to favour European products in their purchases. Sarkozy pledged to introduce the legislation unilaterally if the Commission refused, thus breaching current EU law. Sarkozy argued that Schengen “should not be controlled by technocrats and courts”, but by a “political government of Schengen similar to that for the euro”.  

Speaking on France 2 this morning, Pierre Moscovici, Francois Hollande’s campaign manager, said Sarkozy’s pledge gave the impression of someone who “is not a French president…but almost a Conservative British Prime Minister”. Hollande told Le Monde that the measure was “incoherent”, adding that Sarkozy “had criticised me for wanting to renegotiate an ungratified European treaty, but now threatens to withdraw from three treaties”. Last December, the French Socialists passed a Senate motion which rejected “all questioning of the principle of free movement within the borders of the Schengen area”. Today, Henri Guiano, Sarkozy’s special adviser, stressed that the proposal did not constitute an attack on free movement, but on “permeable European borders”, pointing towards Italian and Greek mismanagement on non-EU migration.
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Schäuble: No one can rule out that Greece will need another bailout;
Greek centre-right party plays down prospect of forming coalition government
Eurozone finance ministers will meet in Brussels today to sign off on the second Greek bailout and discuss increasing the size of the eurozone bailout funds, although Germany is still opposed to the latter. The IMF announced on Friday that it will contribute €18bn in new money under the second Greek bailout, as well as €10bn remaining from the first bailout. Open Europe’s response to Greek package was cited by DPA, theGuardian and Zerohedge.  

Kathimerini reports that ahead of April’s elections, Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos is set to become the new leader of PASOK. Over the weekend, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras played down hopes that he would form a coalition with PASOK. Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel is quoted by the Guardian and the Guardian live blog saying, "It wouldn't be surprising to see the new government attempting to renegotiate some, if not all, aspects of the package…that is precisely why suggestions that this package offers a clear solution to Greek woes are premature."  

In an interview with Italian daily La Repubblica yesterday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said, “If we were facing a similar crisis [as Greece is] we would do everything to remain in the eurozone…Greece’s minimum wages have now been cut to the level of Spain’s. One should listen to Estonians, Slovenians or Slovakians: the reforms Greece has been asked to implement are less than half those accepted by those countries after 1989.” He also warned, “Nobody can rule out that Greece will need another [aid] package.”  

Separately, the Bank for International Settlements said yesterday that European banks could deleverage by €221bn as part of their attempts to meet the stricter capital requirements, according to City AM.
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Social democrats triumph in Slovakian elections as anti-bailout party loses half of its seats
Slovakia’s social democratic SMER Party gained 44% of the vote at yesterday’s elections, winning an absolute majority in the Slovakian Parliament. The elections were held early after the previous coalition government collapsed over the country’s contribution to the eurozone bailouts. Richard Sulik’s Freedom and Solidarity party, which opposed the bailouts, lost around half of its seats. SMER leader Robert Fico has said he will be a reliable partner for the EU, arguing that: “we draw so much money from the EU that we have to demonstrate our solidarity”. However, Fico’s campaign promises of increased social spending could clash with his commitment to reducing Slovakia’s budget deficit, and may also violate the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact.
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Finnish Foreign Minister: “We should move forward” with EU military HQ without the UK
EUobserver reports that Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja has complained about the lack of political will among EU member states to make progress towards a common EU foreign policy. Citing the UK's opposition to creating a joint command centre in Brussels for EU military operations as an example, he said, “The UK is reluctant to go ahead with this but everybody else wants to, so we should move forward.”

Der Spiegel reports that, in a joint letter to the Danish EU Presidency, the finance ministers of nine EU member states – including Germany, France and Italy – have argued, “We are convinced that a financial transaction tax should be introduced at the European level and we would welcome if the Presidency speeds up the negotiation process.”
Der Spiegel Irish Times Süddeutsche  

In a draft letter seen by the BBC, seven top EU airline companies, including British Airways, Airbus and Virgin Atlantic, are urging politicians to consider a ‘compromise solution’ for the recently introduced EU carbon tax which they fear will seriously effect jobs and trade, suggesting putting the tax on hold until a global plan for carbon emissions is reached.
BBC FT CityAM WSJ EurActiv Welt Le Figaro  

Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal has said “there’s no need” for a new EU Constitution as called for by his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle.
Jyllands Posten Reuters  

EUobserver reports that the External Action Service (EEAS), headed by Catherine Ashton, will spend €15m on private security firms this year in an effort to protect diplomats overseas.


Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, a member of the Commission appointed by the UK Coalition Government to look into the possibility of a British Bill of Rights replacing the European Convention on Human Rights has resigned, claiming that he had been pressured not to argue in favour of the UK Parliament having the right to override the Strasbourg Court, and that “it’s now clear that it’s been intended all along to issue a report in favour of the status quo.”
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