Monday, August 20, 2007

Open Europe press summary: 20 August 2007

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One in four Labour voters less likely to vote for Brown if denied referendum on EU Constitution

An ICM poll for the Mail shows that 24% of Labour supporters would be less likely to vote for Gordon Brown at the next General Election if they are denied a referendum on the EU Constitution. Some 13 per cent of Labour voters would even consider switching to the Conservatives. The poll also showed that more than eight out of ten of the wider public want a national vote on the treaty, and more than half say the EU already has too much power over their lives. A leader in the Mail argues. “It is widely recognised that the changes to the treaty are mainly cosmetic. It would have a profound and damaging influence on this country’s future. That is why the failure to hold a referendum would present such a danger for the otherwise sure-footed Mr. Brown.”

Telegraph Mail EUobserver

Campbell: “less likely” that Lib Dems will support referendum – but too early to make final decision

Sir Menzies Campbell was interviewed on Westminster Hour on Sunday. On the question of a referendum on the revised EU Constitution, he said it was “much less likely” that the treaty merited a public vote. However, he emphasised that “we can’t make a final decision on that until we see the final document”, and said that “line by line scrutiny” would be necessary for a ratification through Parliament. He concluded that the decision on a referendum “cannot be taken until the document has gone through the IGC”.

Comment: Campbell has left himself a great deal of wriggle room on this issue through his stance of ‘wait and see what emerges’ in negotiations. Also, it’s worth bearing in mind that his insistence on “line by line” scrutiny of the text may well be an unattainable goal, as the new Treaty will be placed before Parliament on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis.

As a result of the Government’s shabby handling of the issue, and the fact that when MPs return they will have just eight working days before the final agreement in October, there will be a good liberal angle of attack on Brown’s undemocratic stance. But Campbell should also be aware that turning his back on a referendum could look inconsistent, having personally called for a referendum on what is exactly the same text. Moreover, a u-turn on this promise would probably split the party: as a recent poll shows, 88% of Lib Dem voters are in favour of a referendum.

A Lib-Dem u-turn on a referendum would be major strategic mistake – it would be a gift to David Cameron, allowing the Conservatives to stand up the idea that the Lib Dems are in Brown's pocket and will do anything for seats in the cabinet...

BBC Westminster Hour

Open Europe’s briefing note: Why the Liberal Democrats must keep their promise to back a referendum

Amato group welcomes revised version of EU Constitution

The Times reports on the assessment of the so-called Amato group (led by the former Italian Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, and including Lord Patten, the former Conservative minister and European Commissioner) on the revised EU Constitution, which judged that “The proposed new treaty and supplementary protocols take over almost all the innovations contained in the constitutional treaty. They only leave aside the symbolic changes which were introduced by the constitutional treaty – such as the title of the treaty or the symbols of the union.”

The article quotes Neil O’Brien, Director of Open Europe, as saying: “Amato’s group consists of the people most intimately involved in the constitution process. They say that the new treaty is basically just the rejected European constitution in disguise, and they would know. The Government’s attempt to pretend that this is a different document has been exploded by other EU leaders admitting that it’s exactly the same. Now they are falling back on a ludicrous claim that Britain has signed a different treaty to other member states, which is just a fantasy. The Government say that it is different because the UK has various opt-outs and safeguards. But they are the same safeguards as in the original version, on which they promised a referendum.”

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said "There will be no transfer of power away from the UK on issues of fundamental importance to our sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, Open Europe's "Guide to the constitutional treaty" was reported in Saturday's Telegraph. The report argues that the supposed UK "safeguards" that the Government are using to justify avoiding a referendum will not prevent Britain from being affected. Neil O'Brien is quoted as saying that "Ministers refuse to make it available in a consolidated, readable form, and hope that the complexity will hide what is really going on, allowing them to wriggle out of their promise of a referendum. That would be a pretty pathetic outcome from a process which was launched in the hope of bringing Europe closer to the public and restoring trust." The research was also mentioned in Christopher Booker’s column in the Sunday Telegraph.

Times Telegraph Sunday Telegraph

Failures of EU Emissions Trading Scheme

The Sunday Telegraph reported on Open Europe's recent research on the failures of the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), noting that the report "is also critical of the decision to allow cheap credits from outside the EU to be traded in the scheme. This will only help peg the price of carbon credits to the floor." The article also notes that "The Carbon Trust, an agency set up to combat climate change, has not minced its words about the way Germany is effectively using the ETS to subsidise its brown coal power stations - the worst polluting power stations of all."

Sunday Telegraph EDI

The EU Transparency Directive causing confusion

The FT notes that the EU’s Transparency Directive, which requires companies to issue reports, known as interim management statements, mid-way between their half-year and full-year results, are causing confusing among companies as to how finance teams are meant to meet the standards that are set out.


Sub-prime crisis used to strengthen EU’s economic governance?

In the Telegraph, former EU Commission economist Bernard Connolly looks at the global financial turmoil triggered by the sub-prime crisis in the US, arguing that “the EU quite deliberately created the most dangerous credit bubble of all: EMU. And, whereas the mission of the Fed is to avoid a financial crisis, the mission of the ECB is to provoke one. The purpose of the crisis will be, as Prodi, then Commission president, said in 2002, to allow the EU to take more power for itself. The sacrificial victims will be, in the first instance, families and firms (and banks and investors) in countries such as Ireland and Club Med. Subsequently, German savers (or British taxpayers) will bear the burden of bailouts that a newly-empowered ‘EU economic government’ will ordain”.

Telegraph - Connolly

EU biofuel policy “a mistake”, new study says

The BBC website reports on a new study, published in Science, which criticises the EU’s target of having10% of petrol and diesel coming from renewable sources by 2020. The study, which is written by several different researchers, discards the goal as an ineffective way to curb carbon emissions, instead suggesting that reforestation and habitat protection is a better option. They note that forests could absorb up to nine times more CO2 than the production of biofuels could achieve on the same area of land. The researchers also claim that the policy actually could lead to more deforestation as nations turn to countries outside of the EU to meet the growing demand for biofuels.


Hugh Pope of International Crisis Group has a comment piece in the WSJ arguing that "the EU-Turkey accession process is not, as one French politician has portrayed it, a breakable flirtation or engagement. Like two towns that have grown into each other, Turkey and Europe, once distinct, now overlap to an extent that cannot be undone."


German coalition parties shift focus

In the FT, Bertrand Benoit looks at the German grand ruling coalition consisting of SPD and CDU, noting that memos prepared by the two parties’ electoral departments have revealed that more focus now will be put on the domestic agenda and on fighting each other for poll ratings.


The front page of Le Monde reports on a "morose return" for Nicolas Sarkozy from his holidays with financial crisis and rising bread prices - a cartoon on the front page depicts Cecilia Sarkozy as Marie Antoinette.

Le Monde


French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has made a surprise visit to Baghdad to demonstrate solidarity with the Iraqi government, a move welcomed by Washington.

Le Figaro

Kazakhstan and China have agreed to build pipelines to carry oil and gas from fields near the Caspian Sea.



The Conservatives plan to return to their “soft” agenda, focusing on the elderly, the environment and public services, after last week’s focus on tax-cutting measures.

Telegraph BBC Today

The Times reports that Gordon Brown has shelved controversial plans to change the UK’s voting system for general elections.