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Sarkozy promises EU budget contribution freeze; threatens empty chair policy over Buy European Act

10 Apr 2012

Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Thursday that he would freeze France’s contribution to the EU budget if re-elected at the Presidential elections in May, a move he said would save the country €600m a year.

In an interview with Le Jounal du Dimanche, Sarkozy reiterated his pledge to introduce a Buy European Act if foreign public procurement markets were not opened to European companies. He said, “I simply call for reciprocity. Otherwise, French public procurement markets will only be open to EU companies. When General de Gaulle pursued an empty chair policy in 1965, he obtained a Common Agricultural Policy, and advanced Europe”.

He added that France would also suspend its membership of the Schengen area if greater controls on immigration to Greece from non-EU countries were not secured. “A 120km border between Greece and Turkey is not sufficiently guarded” he said, “it’s within my right to call for sanctions. If no changes occur within a year, I will suspend our participation in the Schengen treaty. Since France has the most generous social welfare programme, we are strongly affected by these policies”.

The French Presidential campaign officially started yesterday. Sarkozy continues to lead in first round polls, with 28.5% of voting intentions, compared to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande’s 27%. In the second round polls, Hollande maintains his ten point lead on Sarkozy, with 55% of votes. A new study reveals that far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen is the most popular candidate among young 18-24 year-old voters, as 26% of them intend on voting for her in the upcoming elections. Meanwhile, centrist candidate Francois Bayrou has slipped under 10% in polls, as he struggles to win over his 2007 supporters
Paris Match Le Monde BBC HLN Le Figaro Reuters Le Monde 2 Le Figaro 2 Le Journal du Dimanche Le Journal du Dimanche 2

EU structural funds major factor behind €6 billion hole in Madeira’s public finances.
Facebook to receive a £10m EU grant for a plant in Sweden

The Sunday Telegraph had a feature on Madeira’s economy, noting that grants from the EU structural funds, which require match funding from local governments or business, have contributed to the local Madeiran administration’s debt, worth over €6 billion, nearly double the per-capita public debt of mainland Portugal. Much of the EU cash has been spent on infrastructure for which there is no demand.  

Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports the European Commission and Swedish local authorities have earmarked nearly £10m to subsidise Facebook – a company currently valued at around $100bn (£63bn) – for plans to build giant server halls in Northern Sweden. Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe is quoted saying, "It's telling that EU funds meant to improve the life of Europe's poorest citizens are being used to support a thriving American company in one of Europe's richer member states."
Open Europe research Telegraph Sunday Telegraph

Greek mainstream parties continue to lose ground in polls ahead of elections. New Democracy rule out Greek governing coalition with Pasok
The Greek parliament will be dissolved on Wednesday, according to Kathimerini, marking the official start of the campaign ahead of the elections which are likely to take place on 6 May.

In what was widely seen as his first election campaign speech, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras dismissed the prospect of forming a coalition with the Pasok party, warning that it would create a weak government.

Meanwhile, Dow Jones reports that the combined support for the two mainstream political parties in Greece, New Democracy and Pasok, has reached an all-time low of 32.4%, according to a poll conducted by GPO for Mega TV. Iran has stopped selling oil to Greece as part of its pre-emptive response to the EU’s July oil embargo on the country. Greek dockworkers are set to go ahead with a two day strike starting today.

The Spanish government announced yesterday that it plans to save €10bn by increasing the efficiency of health and education spending, despite spending in these areas being controlled by regional governments.
FT Kathimerini Kathimerini 2 Kathimerini 3 WSJ Dow Jones Süddeutsche Le Monde Les Echos Irish Times Les Echos 2 Telegraph FT 2 Le Monde 2  Les Echos 3 Le Figaro Guardian CityAM WSJ 2 Reuters Guardian 2 Les Echos 4 CityAM 2 Welt La Tribune Les Echos 5 La Tribune 2 ZeroHedge Bank of Italy Lavoce: Boeri and Garibaldi FAZ FT Weekend FT Weekend 2 Taloussanomat FT: Editorial WSJ: Feldstein WSJ: Review & Outlook Observer: Leader Independent on Sunday: Chu Irish Independent: Kinsella Times: Larsen

Portuguese banks’ borrowing from the ECB reached a record high of €56.3bn in March, up from €47.5bn in February. The Bank of Italy's monthly balance sheet reveals that in March, Italian banks’ borrowing from the ECB reached €270bn, up 39% from February and 776% from a year ago.
Guardian Les Echos

14 countries object to Commission’s attempt to scrap ‘right to reside’ tests for welfare claimants
Sweden has objected to the Commission’s attempt to scrap the ‘right to reside’ test, currently employed by the UK, which determines whether a citizen from another EU country is eligible for various welfare benefits. Swedish Welfare Minister Ulf Kristersson is quoted by Radio Sweden saying that this could also force Sweden to change its rules, adding ”We and another 13 countries have demanded that this should be a matter of political discussion in the EU, and that we don’t take decisions via the backdoor which undermines a country’s right to decide for itself.”  
Radio Sweden Open Europe research

Die Welt reports that a new Forsa poll puts that the German governing CDU/CSU-FDP coalition ahead of the SPD-Greens for the first time in two months, although Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition would not have a majority. The poll also puts the Pirate Party ahead of the Greens for the first time, at 13%.
WSJ Welt Sueddeutsche Zeitung

The Mail on Sunday reports that British farmers could be forced to spend around £28 million revamping their pig sheds due to a new EU directive. A DEFRA official said: “It is too early to make any comment about the new rules.”
Mail on Sunday

Friday’s Welt reported that Peter Friedrich, the Minister for European and International affairs in the Baden-Wurttemberg regional government has insisted that Germany’s 16 federal states ought to be involved in discussions on implementing the ‘fiscal treaty’ given that they will be affected by its provisions such as the constitutionally embedded debt brake.
Welt

The Independent on Sunday quoted Sharon Bowles, the Lib Dem MEP who chairs the European Parliament's powerful Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, suggesting that EU Commissioner Michel Barnier is likely to back down on plans to make bond-issuers rotate credit rating agencies.

Prague Monitor notes that, during his visit to Paris yesterday, Czech President Vaclav Klaus reiterated that the Czech government had rejected the EU fiscal pact because it would transfer national control over its national budget to Brussels.
Prague Monitor Independent on Sunday

The Sun reports that complying with an EU’s system for collecting statistics on goods exported from the UK, the ‘Intrastat Classification Nomen-clature’, is contributing to £80bn worth of red tape.
Sun

Draft EU Directives drawn up by EU Coiffure and UNI Europa Hair & Beauty, representing employers and workers in the hairdressing industry, seek to ban hairdressers from wearing high-heals and rings.

Sun Mail

The Independent reports that two of Britain’s largest lobbying firms have offered to help clients advance their interests under the new European Citizens’ Initiative, set up to increase public participation in EU policy-making. Organisations are currently banned from helping clients petition for policies.
Independent

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