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Open Europe awarded 2012 International Affairs think tank of the year by Prospect

20 Jul 2012

Open Europe has been judged as the International Affairs think tank of year in Prospect's 2012 think tank awards. The judges cited Open Europe's "work on the EU budget and the Common Agricultural Policy for its recommendations that more be spent on the weaker countries and on research and development." They added, "It has produced steady, perceptive commentary on the eurozone, particularly in a report on Spanish banks in April.” The jury also highlighted Open Europe’s work on a potential Greek euro exit and its recent "Trading Places" report." The runner-up was Chatham House.

Conservative MPs launch blueprint for “fundamental” reform of the UK-EU relationship

The Fresh Start group of Conservative MPs launched its green paper on EU reform last week which sets out a range of options to either reform or repatriate EU policy areas. The launch was attended by Foreign Secretary William Hague. The three Conservative MPs who founded the EU Fresh Start initiative - Andrea Leadsom, Chris Heaton-Harris and George Eustice - wrote an article on Conservative Home setting out the case for “fundamental reform.” Last week, the Government also announced that it was launching an official ‘balance of competencies’ review of EU powers.

In an op-ed in the Telegraph following the launch, Open Europe Director Mats Persson argued:

“to show he can be trusted on Europe…David Cameron must get to work right away. First, in the ongoing talks over the EU’s long-term budget, he should use his veto to insist on UK economic support being limited to the poorer member states, ending the irrational redistribution of money among richer countries. This would save taxpayers billions. Second, under a loophole in EU law, he could instantly bring more than 100 crime and policing laws back under the control of MPs. Last, as the eurozone presses ahead with a “banking union”, he is right to explore safeguards against its 17 members writing rules for all 27 EU states.”

Mats was also cited making the case for renegotiation in Gazeta Wyborcza, Dutch magazine Trouw, the Sun, Canadian news magazine MacLeans and Le Figaro. The FT cited Open Europe’s recent report looking at alternative trading arrangements should Britain decide to leave the EU.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Telegraph, Prime Minister David Cameron said he wants to negotiate a “new settlement” with the EU in which powers are returned to Britain but that he would not campaign for an ‘out’ vote in a referendum on EU membership. The Telegraph cited Open Europe’s blog post suggesting that David Cameron ought to frame the renegotiation of the UK’s membership as a bid to save the UK’s EU membership, which would be a more powerful negotiation position.

Responding to figures showing that a majority of UK exports now go outside the EU, Open Europe’s Christopher Howarth argued in City AM that Britain should seek to both explore growth opportunities outside Europe and reduce unnecessary EU regulation. Christopher was also quoted in the Express and Telegraph.

MPs on Local Government Committee recommend repatriating regional policy

Following a special inquiry, MPs on the Parliamentary Select Committee for Communities and Local Government decided to adopt Open Europe’s recommendation to repatriate regional policy back to the UK. Open Europe submitted both written and oral evidence to the inquiry.

Mats was interviewed by BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 programme discussing why regional development policy should be devolved back from Brussels to the UK and other wealthier member states, while the Belfast Telegraph cited Open Europe’s findings that for every £1 Northern Ireland received from the EU’s structural funds, it contributed £1.58 into the common pot via general taxation. Open Europe’s Stephen Booth was cited by the Sunday Telegraph arguing that the UK should push for repatriation of the funds in on-going EU budget talks.

Open Europe takes to the witness stand

Over the last three weeks Open Europe has given evidence to a number of parliamentary committees - Mats Persson gave evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs committee’s inquiry into the future of the EU and the UK Government’s EU policy, while both Mats Persson and Stephen Booth appeared before the Lords EU Home Affairs, Health and Education Sub-Committee to give their views on the EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM).

Spanish bailout agreed, but little difference to borrowing costs

Spanish borrowing costs rose significantly this week despite the Spanish parliament approving another €65bn austerity package and eurozone finance ministers giving final approval for the Spanish rescue package, following a strong majority in favour of it in the German parliament. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Spain to protest the increasing austerity, while Spanish regions also voted against the plans to toughen their deficit targets for 2013-14. Open Europe's blog post discussing a new draft agreement under which Spain would be allowed to request that part of its €100bn bank bailout be used to purchase sovereign debt was cited by the Guardian and the Telegraph’s eurozone live blogs.

Professor Henkel: It will take a “Fukushima of the euro” to change the public debate in Germany

Open Europe held a breakfast roundtable discussion in London together with the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF) entitled “Standing Alone? What next for Germany within the eurozone?” The speakers were Professor Hans-Olaf Henkel, Professor of International Management at the University of Mannheim and one of Germany's most prominent Euro critics, and Open Europe’s Director Mats Persson. The discussion was chaired by OMFIF Chairman David Marsh.

Professor Henkel argued that a solution to the eurozone crisis would be for Germany to leave the euro, taking the stronger eurozone economies with it. The event was covered by German newspaper Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten and Spanish daily ABC, and also by Professor Henkel himself writing in Handelsblatt. Check out our events page for a summary of the debate.

Berlusconi’s comeback may have huge implications for Italy’s future in the Eurozone

Following the news that former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced he would again stand in next year’s Italian elections, Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta argued in CityAM, “If there is one thing Berlusconi knows better than many Italian and European politicians, it is how to tell people exactly what they want to hear. And you can bet that he is well aware that riding the anti-euro (and anti-austerity) tiger can pay off in votes these days.”

Check out our website for our all our media appearances.

And finally…

An investigation of public expenditure in Sicily found that back in 1984, Sicily decided to buy two killer whales from Iceland, at a cost to the taxpayer of over 200 million of Italian lire - i.e. over €100,000. They were supposed to be admired by tourists visiting a water park in Sciacca, in the province of Agrigento - on the south-western coast of the island. A real shame that the park was never finished and the killer whales had to spend the rest of their lives in a swimming pool, at a cost of 6 million of Italian lire - i.e. over €3,000 - a month.

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