Angela Merkel: Let’s discuss possibility of returning powers to member states from Brussels
In a recent interview with German media, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that “We can also think: are we going to give [any EU powers] back [to member states]?” Merkel added that the German government discuss this issue after September’s elections, and underlined that ‘more Europe’ could mean better co-operation between member states and not the strengthening of the EU institutions in Brussels. Her intervention comes after a trip to Berlin by the pro-reform Fresh Start group of Conservative MPs where they reportedly “received a sympathetic hearing”.
In response to the comments, Open Europe Director Mats Persson was quoted by the Times as saying that “Cameron will this autumn have the first real opportunity to make a bold move on European reform.” Mats was also quoted by the Telegraph, the Sun and by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which described him as “one of the domestic architects of [Prime Minister David] Cameron’s EU policy”. Open Europe's Pieter Cleppe was quoted by Dutch magazine Elsevier and Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat discussing the comments.
As reported by the Times, two areas of UK-German agreement on EU reform could be rules on EU migrants’ access to welfare and the burden of EU regulations on business. Mats was quoted by the Times and Mail discussing the potential for EU reform. On his Telegraph blog, Mats argued that, “Merkel may try to use her next mandate to kill two birds with one stone – keep the UK in the EU, and achieve pro-competitiveness reforms.”
Are Labour confused over how to deal with EU free movement rules?
Following Labour shadow immigration minister Chris Bryant’s speech – in which he accused some companies of not doing enough to employ British born workers – Mats Persson argued on his Telegraph blog that “There’s no way under EU law to ensure that British companies hire British workers for 'British jobs'… is [Bryant] encouraging companies to violate EU rules?” Mats also appeared on Sky News.
Open Europe’s Pawel Swidlicki appeared on BBC News discussing higher than expected employment figures for Bulgarian and Romanian migrants. In a feature on the BBC website, Pawel is quoted as saying, “Free movement has been broadly beneficial for the UK but it needs to be delicately handled… The public need to be reassured not only that people who have not paid into the system are not abusing it, but also that this cannot happen.” Pawel was also quoted by Gazeta Prawna and by Polskie Radio.
UK threatens Madrid with EU legal challenge following Gibraltar border controls
A dispute over an artificial reef between Gibraltar and Spain led to Madrid imposing stringent border controls on the territory, described as “disproportionate” by the UK government, which threatened to lodge a legal challenge with the EU. Open Europe’s blog post examining whether the UK had a case under EU free movement rules was cited by the BBC’s Europe editor Gavin Hewitt on his blog, while Mats Persson was quoted by Reuters discussing the issue.
Eurozone returns to modest growth but questions over the long-term viability of the euro remain
The eurozone finally exited its longest recession in history, growing 0.3% in the second quarter of this year. The expansion was led by German and France which grew 0.7% and 0.5% respectively, although countries such as Cyprus lagged, contracting by 1.4%. Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel argued in City AM that “This remains a crisis of divergence, and Germany is, for the most part, increasing the gap… Differing needs will inevitably transform into political and social divisions if they continue unchecked.” Raoul also appeared on BBC Five Live discussing the figures.
Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud could still destabilise Italian coalition government
Following the Italian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Silvio Berlusconi’s conviction for tax fraud, discussions over a potential presidential pardon ensued although Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has since backed away from the possibility. The prospect of early elections or the breakdown of the coalition government has been dismissed by all sides. Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta appeared on numerous media outlets in the aftermath of the decision including BBC News and BBC World Service, and was quoted by the WSJ discussing the potential fallout of the ruling.
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One national capital that won't be queuing up to endorse EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding’s rumoured bid for the Commission presidency next year is Budapest. Following deteriorating relations, the Hungarian government issued a press release claiming that “Viviane Reding is either extremely ignorant, or she is lying out of political interests."
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