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Cameron to target EU rules on access to benefits as part of new EU settlement

06 Sep 2013

David Cameron told the Times, “Could the problems with welfare tourism...be part of...making sure we have a European relationship that works for Britain? Yes of course it can…I think we particularly need to look at the rules on benefits.” Open Europe’s Director Mats Persson was quoted on the front page of the Times, as saying, “This is an issue that ranks highly among the UK public’s concerns about the EU and meshes with what Cameron actually can achieve in Europe. The Germans are sympathetic to giving countries more control over who can access benefits, in order to maintain confidence in EU free movement.”

Significantly, Cameron could find an ally in German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that the repatriation of EU powers is “a sensible idea,” and that “if other countries pursue this line of thought, we won’t close ourselves to it.” However, Mr Seibert later added,
“There are no [German] government plans to ally with anyone against Brussels. Open Europe was quoted by Bloomberg arguing that “Merkel is convinced that Cameron is one of the few EU leaders who understands the ‘global race’” for economic growth. In a piece for the Evening Standard, Lord Simon Wolfson cited Open Europe’s estimates that EU regulation introduced since 1998 would cost the UK £184 billion between 2010 and 2020.

Exclusive Open Europe poll: A majority of Germans agree euro membership should be slimmed down

With the German elections only two weeks away, Open Europe and its German-based partner organisation, Open Europe Berlin, have published the first in a three-part series about Germans’ views on Europe. The exclusive poll, conducted by YouGov Deutschland, shows that there’s limited public appetite for more eurozone integration in Germany.

55% of Germans agree that Germany should keep the euro, but membership should be restricted to a select group of more similar countries. A clear majority of German voters also do not think the next German government will have the mandate to grant additional financial assistance to struggling eurozone countries after the elections. 

The poll received extensive coverage across Europe. It featured in the FT twice, in a dedicated article and an editorial, and was cited by Reuters, the Times, the Telegraph and Guardian live blogs, Deutsche Wirtschaftsnachrichten, French business dailies Les Echos and La Tribune, and a number of Greek and Cypriot news outlets. Open Europe’s Nina Schick was widely quoted as saying, “The question is if the next German Chancellor is prepared to press ahead with more eurozone integration anyway, risking the gap between voters and politicians widening further.” Mats Persson discussed the findings on his Telegraph blog.

Meanwhile, the rise of Germany’s anti-euro AfD party is also generating a lot of interest – as the party might have a decisive impact on the shape of the next German government. Mats Persson wrote on his Telegraph blog, that, somewhat ironically, the rise of AfD party “could be bad news for David Cameron” and his plans to negotiate a new settlement for Britain in the EU – because it could strip Angela Merkel of a centre-right majority and force her into a coalition with the centre-left SPD.

The cat is out of the bag: Greece will need a third bailout

A growing number of senior eurozone politicians have admitted that Greece will not be able to stand on its feet when its second bailout programme expires at the end of next year, and will need further financial assistance.  Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel was quoted by the Telegraph discussing whether the prospects for Greece outside the euro may actually be improving, while Mats Persson, on his Telegraph blog, criticised the idea of funding part of a third Greek bailout via EU structural funds, because this would be “the wrong type of funding for Greece.”

In other news...

Can an April Fool’s day story trigger a European Commission investigation? Apparently yes. A few weeks ago, the Commission sent the Belgian government a request for information about, among other things, plans to build a second runway at Charleroi airport. Fairly standard procedure, except for one small detail. The plans for the new runway had been 'disclosed' by a Belgian news site in its April Fool’s day story this year!

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