Daily Press Summary
Labour urges business leaders to speak up for EU membership; Douglas Alexander to propose new ministerial council for single market
In a speech today, Labour’s Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander will call on business leaders “to speak up for Britain’s place in Europe.” He will say, “The starting gun on the campaign to keep Britain in Europe has already been fired. Now is the time to speak out.” The Guardian reports that he will insist that Labour would make the case for reform, with plans for countries outside the Eurozone to have permanent observer status at Eurogroup meetings and at a new ministerial council covering the single market.
Merkel offers personal guarantee EU-US free trade agreement will not undermine European standards
In an interview with Welt am Sonntag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that concerns over the EU-US free trade agreement TTIP would “be justifiable if it led to the undermining of European standards. However, we will maintain our very high European standards for consumers and the environment. That is what I stand for.” Meanwhile, FAZ reports that Reiner Hoffmann, the head of the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) has written to the Chancellor complaining that the newly negotiated EU-Canada free trade agreement CETA is not acceptable, and calls for either a renegotiation or a rejection of the agreement.
Welt am Sonntag FAZ
The Express cites Open Europe research which found that an EU migrant worker with two children earning the minimum wage can see their basic income of just under £200 a week topped up with an additional £330 in tax credits and other in-work benefits.
Open Europe research Express
Hill: EU bank break up plans could be scrapped
EurActiv reports on a letter from European Commissioner for Financial Services Lord Hill to Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans in which he states scrapping EU plans to separate bank trading activities from their deposit taking businesses “could be an option next year if member state support does not pick up.” A revision of occupational pensions rules and proposed investor compensation rules could also be dropped. In the letter, Lord Hill also says he will also ask for an analysis on the cumulative impact of all EU rules since the 2007-09 financial crisis.
EurActiv EUobserver FT
On Friday FAZ reported that, according to unnamed ECB sources, the ECB discussed a bond purchase programme of over €1 trillion last week, with those in favour pushing for a decision at its next meeting on 22 January. The article also suggested that the ECB could focus purchases on riskier debt.
In an interview with Welt am Sonntag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “The Commission has said…that what is on the table to date [in terms of reforms in France and Italy] is still insufficient. That's something that I agree with”. French Finance Minister Michel Sapin said France was not doing reforms to “please” other EU leaders, while Italian officials said the comments were “regrettable”.
Welt am Sonntag: Merkel Le Figaro Euractiv Thelocal.de Reuters
Eurozone finance ministers to discuss potential extension to Greek bailout today
The Greek parliament has passed the 2015 budget which sees almost no government deficit for the first time in decades. Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said Greece is exiting “the era when bond markets were closed to us and we needed bailout loans to survive.” Eurozone finance ministers meet in Brussels today to discuss the Greek bailout and will consider whether to give Greece an extension of between one and six months to allow the final bailout review to be completed and further reforms to take place. However, so far Greece has resisted pressure to request such an extension.
Kathimerini FT WSJ WSJ 2 Süddeutsche FAZ Kathimerini 2 Kathimerini 3 Le Figaro European Voice
Merkel slams Russia, while G7 faces up to prospect of further bailouts for Ukraine
In an interview with Welt am Sonntag, German Chancellor Angela Merkel slammed Russia for “creating problems” in Moldova and Georgia while also accusing it of trying to make some Balkan states “politically and economically dependent”. Separately, the G7 is considering a further $4bn bailout for Ukraine as its foreign currency reserves dropped below $10bn, the lowest level for a decade. Early stage discussions suggest up to half the funding could come from the EU. EU finance ministers will discuss the issue at their meeting tomorrow in Brussels.
Welt am Sonntag: Merkel FT Welt BBC FT 2 WSJ WSJ 2 WSJ 3
Switzerland and EU reach temporary agreement on access to research funding
Swiss scientists will be able to draw on EU funding for another two years, under a stop-gap agreement signed by the EU and Switzerland. The EU had suspended Switzerland’s participation in new research projects after the Swiss government failed to extend the EU-Swiss agreements on free movement to Croatia. If the EU and Switzerland do not reach agreement on migration by the end of 2016, the research agreement will “be automatically terminated”, the European Commission said.
Süddeutsche reports that Germany intends to participate in projects worth up to €89bn funded via the EU’s new €315bn investment fund, including €24bn towards the government’s plans to expand broadband coverage.
Süddeutsche Open Europe blog
The Irish Times reports that EU/IMF/ECB Troika inspectors were given a “severe rebuke” by senior Irish officials and told to “butt out” of the local political debate after they questioned the recent revisions to Ireland’s water charges regime – introduced at the Troika’s behest in order to help the country meet its EU fiscal targets after its bailout.
Irish Times Irish Times 2
The Sunday Times reported that the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that the 2015 annual budget will increase by £2.4bn which would increase the UK’s gross contribution by around £400m. In addition, member states’ rebate on their customs and sugar levy contributions to the EU budget is being cut from 25% of the total amount to 20%.
Former Irish junior Finance Minister Brian Hayes, currently an MEP and member of the European Parliament's Economic Committee, has told the Irish Independent that new proposals for an EU Common Consolidated Corporate Tax Base “could end up as an effort to harmonise company tax by the backdoor. That would once again put Ireland under unfair pressure on its 12.5pc rate of company tax.”
A report by the Financial Services User-group, which is made up by representatives of various trade union organisations overseen by the European Commission, has said that the EU’s Asset Management industry is “producing a huge welfare loss for EU investors” and does not offer “good value” due to poor returns and high fees. The report also criticises the industry for a lack of transparency.
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