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New German opinion poll shows majority believe euro membership carries more disadvantages than advantages; Lagarde faces backlash over comments that Greeks not worthy of sympathy

28 May 2012

In an interview with Leipziger Volkszeitung, German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich reiterated that German assistance for Greece was not unconditional, arguing that: “We're not willing to pour money into a bottomless pit… Anyone who wants to see help and solidarity from us has to accept that we expect a certain amount of seriousness and a certain amount of reasonableness”. An opinion poll commissioned by German state TV ZDF published on Friday showed that 79% of respondents rejected eurobonds as a solution to the crisis.  Support for euro membership appears to be waning as 50% of respondents (up from 43% in February) say they believed  Germany’s euro membership carried more disadvantages than advantages. According to the poll, 45% took the opposite view (down from 51% in February).

A series of new polls ahead of Greece’s re-run elections on June 17 show the centre-right New Democracy party, which supports the conditions attached to the bailouts, ahead on 25.6% and 27.7%, a 0.5% and 5.7% lead on anti-bailout SYRIZA party. New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras warned yesterday that "If Greece terminates the loan agreement, it will remain isolated for many years internationally. It will not have food, medicine, or fuel. It will live in a constant blackout."

IMF director Christine Largarde’s comments in an interview with Saturday’s Guardian - in which she said that she had more sympathy for victims of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa than Greeks hit by the economic crisis and claimed that tax evasion in Greece was rife - have provoked a furious reaction in the country. PASOK leader and former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said that “Nobody has the right to humiliate the Greek people during the crisis, and I say this today specifically addressing Ms Lagarde … who insulted the Greek people”. Lagarde subsequently qualified her comments by saying she was “very sympathetic to the Greek people and the challenges they are facing”, and that she had been referring to tax evasion among the most privileged.
GuardianTelegraph Telegraph 2 Le FigaroLe Figaro 2Le MondeLes EchosLes Echos 2Les Echos 3Saturday's GuardianEditorial: GuardianSüddeutscheSpiegelBBCIHTSaturday's TimesLes Echos 4IHT 2KathimeriniTelegraph 3Le Figaro Les Echos 5Les Echos 6 BBC 2Saturday's SunZDFReutersDMNDPA

Cameron urged to be “more aggressive” in EU budget talks;
Budget could be cut by 15% under regional policy reform proposal
The Guardian reports that Andrea Leadsom, co-leader of the Fresh Start group of Conservative MPs, has urged the Prime Minister to be “more aggressive” in his negotiations with other EU leaders on the long-term EU budget. In a forthcoming paper, the group notes that the EU's overall budget could be cut by 15% if the EU’s structural funds were reformed so that they were distributed by the EU only to countries whose gross national income is less than 90% of the EU average, citing figures from Open Europe. Britain would have been handed back £13bn of the £33bn it contributed during the current budget period from 2007-2013 had the plans been in place.

The article notes that David Cameron made an informal agreement with former French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the UK would not push too hard for reform of the budget, which would leave the Common Agricultural Policy and the British rebate unchanged.

Meanwhile, Conservative Home profiles the Fresh Start group and the All Party Parliamentary Group for EU reform, noting that both groups have discussed Open Europe research into various EU policy areas that will result in a “White Paper" proposing options for reform.

In an interview for BBC News George Eustice MP argues that if there were an in-out referendum on the UK’s EU membership "the vast majority who are somewhere in the middle don't get given the option they want".
GuardianOpen Europe research: structural fundsFresh StartConservative HomeBBC

Madrid hopes to recapitalise Bankia with ECB help;
Catalonia asks central government for financial assistance

The Spanish government is racing to raise the €19bn required to recapitalise Spanish bank Bankia, nationalised earlier this month. El Pais reports that Madrid is considering recapitalising the bank with government bonds, which would then be used as collateral for ECB cash. This would force the central bank to become further involved in eurozone bailouts. The proposal is likely to be opposed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  

Meanwhile, Artur Mas, President of Catalonia, Spain’s wealthiest region, has asked the central government for financial assistance to repay its €13bn debt.
GuardianLes EchosSaturday's IndependentSaturday's GuardianSaturday's TimesFT WeekendTelegraphLe MondeLe Monde 2Sunday TimesLes EchosIHT

Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel is quoted in the Telegraph commenting on the proposal to allow the ESM to lend directly to banks, saying it had merit but that “I question how quickly it could get off the ground and, even if it raised tens of billions in its first year, that would barely cover Spain”.

May and Clegg clash over euro contingency plans

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, disclosed on Saturday that the Government is drawing up plans for emergency immigration controls to curb an influx of Greeks and other EU nationals if the euro collapses. However, the Telegraph reports that Nick Clegg described the idea as “far-fetched”, “apocalyptic” and “deeply unhelpful”. He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show that the foundations of the eurozone are “weaker than anyone could have predicted”, but urged Greece to stay in the euro and stick with its austerity programme.

Meanwhile, in the Mail on Sunday, James Forsyth noted that Clegg had not cleared his recent speech in Berlin on the eurozone crisis with Downing Street. In the Sun, Trevor Kavanagh writes, “Europe is the real Coalition fault line – and always has been since the Tories and Lib Dems climbed into bed together on May 11, 2010”.
TelegraphTelegraph 2Saturday's TelegraphSaturday's Mail Saturday's Express Mail on Sunday: ForsythSun: KavanaghTimes: Emmott

The Irish Times reports on polls which show that support for ‘Yes’ in Ireland’s 31 May referendum on the fiscal treaty is currently 39%, compared to ‘No’ on 20% with many yet to decide. The Sunday Telegraph reports that “
privately ‘Yes’ campaign strategists fear their opponents are building momentum that could tip the outcome against the treaty.”
Irish TimesTelegraphIrish IndependentIrish TimesIrish Times

The Observer reported that a survey, carried out by the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, has found devastating falls in bird numbers. Experts have linked the fall to the EU’s farming policies of the last 30 years, which saw hedgerows removed, draining of wetlands and ploughing over of meadows in order to boost food production.
ObserverOpen Europe research: CAP

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has suggested changes to the Italian Constitution that would model Italy on the French system.
FT Weekend

Mortgage costs could rise if Greece leaves the euro, mortgage broking firm Anderson Harris has warned. Economists from Capital Economics, a consultancy, have also said the escalating crisis in the Eurozone could see an increase in the cost of home loans by as much as 3.6% to 4.5%.

France’s Pirate Party will field more than one hundred candidates at the legislative elections on June 10.
Le FigaroTelegraphLe Monde

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