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Hollande gains allies for renegotiating the fiscal treaty; Slovakian PM: “Hollande’s opinions are very close to our opinions.”

16 Mar 2012

During an appearance on France 2 last night, Socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande reiterated his intention to renegotiate the fiscal treaty. Yesterday he told journalists in Paris that “the fact that some have started to think about possibilities, renegotiations and annexes, proves there is a growing awareness that this treaty is flawed. As far as I am concerned, I am for renegotiating the treaty from the start [of his term in power]."

In an interview with Le Monde, Sigmar Gabriel, the Chairman of the German Social Democrats (SPD) defended Hollande’s position, “Francois Hollande is not saying that he is fundamentally opposed to the fiscal pact. He is saying, and he is absolutely right, that the pact comes only half the way that Europe must go.” However, in a separate interview with Der Spiegel, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the parliamentary leader of the SPD, cautioned against opposing the fiscal treaty, “in Germany, only the Left party can afford to oppose everything…As a potential party of government, the SPD has a different standard” he argued.

Hollande’s pledge to renegotiate the fiscal treaty was also endorsed by the Secretary General of the Spanish socialist party, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who deemed it “necessary to conduct a negotiation to complete the treaty so that there is growth in addition to austerity.” EUobserver reports that Slovakia’s newly elected Prime Minister Robert Fico also voiced support for a renegotiation of the treaty, claiming “Hollande’s opinions are very close to our opinions.”

In an interview with Le Figaro, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon accuses Francois Hollande of not being a “convinced European”, as he opposes the fiscal treaty and EU political governance. Fillon also calls for a common EU policy on migration, and the appointment of a “pilot” to govern the Schengen area.
Le Figaro: Fillon Le Monde Nouvel Observateur Le Figaro Spiegel: Steinmeier EurActiv EUobserver Economist El País

Pawel Swidlicki: Lib Dem leadership must respond to party’s voters’ views on Europe;
Economist: EU needs more democracy but European Parliament is flawed

Writing on Liberal Democrat Voice’s the ‘Independent View’, Open Europe’s Pawel Swidlicki argues that in view of this weeks’ poll which found that a majority of both UK voters and Lib Dem voters want to see more national as opposed to EU oversight over a number of policy areas, including crime and justice, social and employment law and agriculture, the party leadership must respond, and that it has “a valuable opportunity to capture the centre ground… and fashion a new, vibrant and more nuanced narrative that moves beyond the tired in/out debate”.

Pawel argues that such a new vision for UK-EU cooperation could be based on the principles of localism, which have been overwhelmingly endorsed by the Coalition, and the Lib Dems in particular. Under this model, the EU would focus more on its core competencies of boosting trade and the Single Market and less on political institution-building, while national parliaments would be accorded a more prominent role in EU affairs, which would increase democratic accountability and transparency.

The Economist’s Charlemagne argues that the European Parliament lacks democratic legitimacy and requires reform, concluding that its “754 MEPs should be sharply pruned, as should its inflated costs. Its workings involve too many cosy deals among Europe’s big party alliances. Instead, “national parliaments need to be more involved in the EU’s work, starting with closer scrutiny of its policies. The Danish system, in which the Folketing [Danish Parliament] agrees to ministers’ negotiating mandates before they go to Brussels, is a good example”.
LDV: Swidlicki Economist: Charlemagne Open Europe Research: European Localism Open Europe Research: EU Social Law Open Europe Research: Justice and Home Affairs Open Europe Research: CAP YouGov-Cambridge poll

IMF signs off on €28bn share of Greek bailout despite Brazilian opposition;
German MP raises questions over potential leveraging of ESM without parliamentary approval
The IMF board signed off on its €28bn share of the second Greek bailout package yesterday. Greece will have ten years to repay the loans, longer than under the first bailout. The Brazilian representative Paulo Nogueira Batista abstained from the vote on the package, saying that the restructuring was “too little, too late,” adding, “they have gained some breathing space but I don’t think that the medium-term prospects for the country have fundamentally been altered for the better.” The latest data reveals that unemployment in Greece rose to 20.7% in the last quarter of 2011.

A Public Issue poll for Kathimerini shows that the current governing parties continue to lose ground in the polls. New Democracy support fell to 25%, while Pasok support remained at 11%. The Democratic Left polled at 15.5%, the Coalition of the Radical Left at 12% and the Communist Party at 11.5%. The newly formed right-wing Independent Greeks gained 6.5%.

Writing in FTD, German MP Frank Schäffler highlights the possibility that the ESM, the eurozone’s permanent bailout fund, could be leveraged without the expressed permission of the Bundestag, under a complex provision in the ESM treaty.

A separate article in the FTD reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel has put forward German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble as a candidate for the Eurogroup chairmanship, although France opposes the plan.

El País reports that the Spanish entrepreneurs’ association, CEOE, has predicted that Spain’s deficit at the end of this year will be 6.1% of GDP, meaning that the recently revised target of 5.3% of GDP will be missed. Separately, the WSJ reports that house prices in Spain have resumed their steep fall, dropping by 11.2% in the last quarter of 2011. Spanish banks still have an exposure of €400bn in loans to the construction and real estate sector, many of which could face losses if prices continue to fall rapidly.
FT WSJ Telegraph Les Echos Les Echos Les Echos La Tribune Les Echos Les Echos BBC Monde Les Echos La Tribune FT 2 Les Echos Les Echos2 Kathimerini WSJ 2 EUobserver FT 3 FTD Süddeutsche Kathimerini Les Echos EUobserver Le Figaro Irish Times Les Echos FT 4 WSJ 3 WSJ 4 Welt Frank Schäffler Weblog FAZ La Stampa Repubblica La Tribune El País Expansión El Mundo

Greek Central Bank official: Only by creating euros can Greece avoid the implosion of its financial system
Belgian magazine Trends quotes an anonymous official at the Greek Central Bank (GCB), criticising the emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) programme (which involves the GCB providing loans to banks which cannot gain enough funding from the ECB), saying, “Greece now creates its own euros…All Greek banks are de facto broke, it’s as simple as that. These zombie banks would only remain alive through the ELA injections.” The official adds, “Inside the ECB system, the only collateral which is still being created – for euros – is the guarantee of the Greek state. I don’t know what you think, but according to my humble opinion that guarantee is as good as worthless”.

Hungarian PM: “We will not be a colony”
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacted angrily to a freeze on EU funds following Hungary’s persistent budget deficit. Orban told a crowd of 100,000, "we will not be a colony… Our rightful demand is to have the same standards apply to us, which apply to other [EU] countries." Hungary is forecast to run a deficit of 3.6% next year, which is higher than the 3% limit under the EU’s Excessive Deficit Procedure rules. Orban’s comments alluded to the relaxation of Spanish deficit targets from 4.4% to 5.3%. EU's monetary affairs commissioner Olli Rehn told the BBC that "different deadlines" meant direct comparisons of the Spanish and Hungarian cases were not valid.
Guardian EUobserver BBC EurActiv FT WSJ

Bild reports that the early regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen have provisionally been scheduled for the 13 May, which is also a possible date for the Greek national elections. The paper argues that the elections will determine the future of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Bild Süddeutsche Süddeutsche 2 Welt Welt 2 Welt: Krauel

In a letter to the Economist, Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU Foreign Minister Baroness Catherine Ashton, argues, “Although the Lisbon Treaty changed the EU, it is equally important to see what did not change. EU foreign policy remains the business of its member states, so any progress can only be achieved if there is consensus. The idea that [Ashton] can forge her own foreign policy against the will of member states is unrealistic.”
Economist: Letters

Stewart Jackson MP writes in the Express about the possibility of an EU rebellion by Conservative MPs saying “For many backbenchers any hint of a commitment to prop up the euro with their constituents’ cash will be incendiary and make the 81-strong EU referendum rebellion last year seem like a minor Parliamentary spat.”
Express: Jackson

The Guardian reports that EU plans to ban fishing discards are resisted by a group of EU member states, who say they will block reforms aimed at conserving waning fish socks.

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that the police practice of “kettling” protesters is lawful, arguing that the form of containment was “the least intrusive and most effective tactic” for officers. The ruling confirms a 2005 judgment made in a UK court.

At least half of EU member states are opposed to a Dutch proposal to sharpen EU rules on family reunification, reports RTL.

In two separate rulings yesterday, the European Court of Justice ruled that hotels providing recorded music in their rooms must pay royalties on the basis that offering television and radio broadcasts to “a fairly large number of persons" was commercially motivated, while dentists playing music to individual patients need not, as it did not constitute a profit-making venture.
BBC News Irish Independent Irish Times

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