Commissioners deny receiving "golden one-off payments"
Open Europe's findings that European Commissioners leaving office later this year will receive more than £1 million (€1.2 million) in pensions continues to receive coverage across Europe.
Open Europe's Sarah Gaskell was interviewed by Danish TV, Polish TV and was quoted in Danish daily Politiken as well as on EUobserver. Swedish Radio picked up on Margot Wallstrom's pension of almost £1.8 million (€1.937 million), and featured one of Wallstrom's party colleagues criticising the size of the package.
EUobserver quotes Commission spokesperson Valerie Rampi denying that Commissioners receive "golden one-off payments", adding "Everyone who has worked as a commissioner is entitled to pension rights, like you and me...Open Europe did not discover anything new, it is all public and online."
On his Telegraph blog, Bruno Waterfield argues, "Open Europe figures on the pay and perks of Commissioners can all be found on the Europa website but it is timely to remind us of them as millions of people are thrown out of work. How many of us could expect a £1.8 million hardship payment after 10 years in our jobs? This is what Swedish Communications Commissioner Margot Wallstrom will get when she leaves this year. The economic crisis has not had any identifiable impact on the career opportunities of those who rule us and got us into this mess. It might be my leftie class warrior background but I can not help but think it should."
European Parliament to pay German PR firm €28 million to boost turnout in elections
The FT notes that the European Parliament has paid PR-firm Scholz & Friends European Agenda €28 million to mount a campaign aimed at getting more people to vote in the European elections in June. Lutz Meyer, one of the founders of the firm, is quoted saying that the EU enjoys better brand awareness than clothing label Armani, but that it is currently associated with red tape, corruption and inefficiency - a perception he wants to change. According to the article, the firm will produce billboards to be put around Europe featuring two options, such as chicken breasts packaged with a dozen warning signs next to another with none, in order to show that the EP makes decisions which affect people.
House of Lords committee warns UK must follow EU asylum rules even if opting out
The House of Lords EU Committee has warned that the Government's decision not to opt-in to the EU Directive on Reception Conditions for Asylum Seekers would still leave the UK obliged to follow the existing Directive on Reception Conditions.
Lord Jopling, Chairman of the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on Home Affairs, stated: "The Home Office claims that by not opting-in to the new Directive setting out reception conditions for asylum seekers the UK will automatically cease to be governed by the current Directive. We have serious doubts. This is not just a technical issue. We need to know whether there will continue to be an EU law on the subject applying to the UK, or whether the Government will be free to act as they wish. We have explained how this can very simply be put beyond doubt. The Government and the Commission should follow our suggestions."
Brown to face accusation of "economic nationalism" after speech to European Parliament
The FT reports that Gordon Brown will today make a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg as part of a round-the-world trip designed to build consensus before the G20 meeting next week.
However, Bruno Waterfield's Telegraph blog reports that Joseph Daul, a senior French MEP close to Nicolas Sarkozy, will lead a chorus of criticism directed at Mr Brown's hypocrisy for attacking protectionism (in the US and elsewhere in Europe) after his own "British jobs for British workers" slogan. Mr Daul, as leader of the EPP group, will speak directly after Mr Brown and a draft of his speech reads, "Mr Brown, it is not enough to condemn protectionism abroad, it is also necessary to avoid, at home, advancing slogans like 'British jobs for British workers'! Because, this puts your fingers in a trap of a very dangerous economic nationalism".
European governments consider legal curbs on bank bonuses
The Guardian reports that continental European governments have today launched a concerted drive to impose legal curbs on executive bonuses at bailed-out banks in advance of the G20 summit. France and the Netherlands followed moves in Germany by drafting legislation on excessive boardroom pay, and following success by the French government in forcing top executives at the bailed-out bank Societe Generale to renounce bonuses worth millions of euros awarded just five days ago.
According to DPA, Luxembourg PM and Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker has said that in all EU member states "there should be a minimum wage", adding that monetary union should be accompanied with a "European social model".
Conservative MEP to apply for full membership of the EPP
UK Conservative MEP Christopher Beazley has announced that he is applying for full membership of the European People's Party in protest at David Cameron's decision to pull the Conservatives out of the European Parliament's main centre-right grouping, according to PA. Mr Beazley had already announced that he would not stand in the European elections in June in protest.
Mark Mardell's BBC blog reports that the Conservatives are looking for European partners with which to form a new party and on the BBC Today programme, Conservative MEP, but non-member of the EPP, Dan Hannan said, "What this is about is creating a bloc of parties who, instead of wanting to give more and more powers to Brussels, want to push powers down to the lowest possible level. Once you do that you break the cartel, a federal Europe ceases to be inevitable and becomes just one among a series of competing ideas."
Germany and other EU countries urge revision of milk quota reforms to halt plunging milk prices
According to AFP, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia have issued a joint call to re-consider increases in milk quotas. France has also joined the initiative, with French Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier quoted saying: "If it was up to me, we'd keep the milk quotas in some form or another". However, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel rejected the calls, saying "I am not going to reopen the agreement ... I'm not going to step back". Reportedly, last November, the 27 EU agriculture ministers had agreed to lift milk production quotas by one percent per year before scrapping them altogether in 2014-2015.
Russia threatens to review relations with the EU
EurActiv reports that Russian PM Vladimir Putin yesterday threatened to review his country's ties with the EU after a European Commission plan to modernise Ukraine's gas pipeline system failed to include Moscow, and the FT quotes him saying, "If the interests of Russia are ignored then we will have to start re-examining the principles of relations with our partners".
Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko is quoted saying, "Unfortunately we found that the prepared document makes not a single mention of Russia as a principal supplier or a strategic partner to Ukraine and to the European Union as a gas supplier...We are of the view that the success of the project is possible only with the active participation of all interested parties."
World Trade Organisation predicts 9% fall in world trade
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) predicted yesterday that the volume of world trade would fall by nine percent this year, the largest contraction since the Second World War, reports the FT. The WTO's Director-General Pascal Lamy also urged leaders of the G20 not to raise trade barriers.
Writing in the FT, Gideon Rachman argues that the communique issued at the end of last year's G20 rejected protectionism and urged a completion to the Doha round of trade talks. However, since then, the Doha round has not been completed and 17 of the G20 countries have taken protectionist measures.
On his Telegraph blog, Dan Hannan MEP responds to a profile of William Hague in yesterday's Guardian supplement and questions whether there are any circumstances under which "Guardianistas" wouldn't join the Euro, and goes on to point out that, the "people who matter in Britain" [on joining the Euro] are the voters.
Disagreements linger on date for new Commission President decision
According to Der Standard, disagreement has risen on when to elect the new European Commission President as French President Sarkozy is in favour of doing this in the autumn, while European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering prefers 15 July. Reportedly, the core of the dispute is that if the Lisbon Treaty is not approved in the second Irish referendum, the Treaty of Nice will provide for less Commissioners than member states, which Sarkozy wants to prevent by only electing the new President after the vote in Ireland. Also according to the paper, current Commission President Barroso has already asked for a "prolongation" of his mandate until the end of the year, as Ireland will probably only vote in September or October.
EU downgrades employment summit
An EU summit on employment on May 7 in Prague has been downgraded in status and will no longer host EU leaders, according to EUobserver. According to Bruno Waterfield's Telegraph blog, the summit was cancelled amid fears of protests and one official close to talks said that, "Mr Sarkozy was most emphatic that he did not wish to provide French people or trade unions with another opportunity to protest". He goes on to say that, "Only last week, the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso was insisting that it would be a "fundamental error" not to hold the summit."
Poland may not replace Commissioner Hubner
Polish Commissioner Danuta Hübner is to leave her job in order to run in the European Parliament elections in June, and her position may be filled with representatives of other countries who are already holding an office in Brussels, according to an interview with Polish PM Donald Tusk by Rzeczpospolita. Polish PM Donald Tusk has said that sees no need to find a Polish replacement for the position for six months.
According to Euronews, the Czech government faces a vote of no-confidence later today. To win the vote, Topolanek must convince four out of the seven independent members of the Czech parliament to back him. He would also need the support of all the members of his own coalition.
Euronews Wiener Zeitung Reuters WSJ Kyiv Post
The European Commission is expected to today set a limit for some countries to get control of their public deficits. Greece will be given until 2010 to meet the target, France and Spain until 2012 and Ireland and the UK until 2013.
The EU has signed a free trade deal with South Korea that will eliminate 97% tariffs on traded goods between the two partners, a move that the principal South Korean negotiator says will "encourage the world to reject the temptation of protectionism.
The Governor of the People's Bank of China, in an essay posted on its website, yesterday proposed replacing the US dollar as the international reserve currency with a new global system controlled by the International Monetary Fund.
Open Europe is an independent think tank campaigning for radical reform of the EU. For information on our research, events and other activities, please visit our website: openeurope.org.uk or call us on 0207 197 2333.