4 January 2016

Merkel’s sister-party backs red-card veto for national parliaments

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian sister party, the CSU,  has backed the ‘red card’ – a key demand in the UK’s EU renegotiation – in a leaked position paper seen by Die Rheinische Post. The paper entitled, “Building Europe Together” states, “A veto right for a group of national parliaments against European legislation may be a useful means to strengthen their position.” The CSU also notes that it does not rule out EU Treaty Change, and calls upon the creation of a mechanism allowing a country to orderly exit the Eurozone.

Separately, Dutch financial daily, Het Financieele Dagblad comments in its leader today, “Given the fundamental choice the EU is facing, it’s strange that only the British population can have a say about it. The future of the EU deserves a serious political debate in all countries.”

Source: Open Europe Intelligence Reuters Deutschland Het Financieele Dagblad Leader

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Polish foreign minister suggests Poland could compromise on EU rules on migrants’ benefits access in exchange for greater NATO presence in Central and Eastern Europe

In an interview with Reuters, asked whether Britain could offer Poland something to soften its opposition to  David Cameron’s proposals to restrict EU migrants’ immediate access to UK in-work benefits, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Wasczykowski responded by saying, “Of course. Britain could offer something to Poland in terms of international security. We still consider ourselves a second-class NATO member-state, because in central Europe … there aren’t, aside from a token presence, any significant allied forces or defence installations,  which gives the Russians an excuse to play this region. Britain could support our expectations related to an allied military presence on Polish territory.”

However, the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs subsequently issued a statement claiming that Minister Waszczykowski clearly stressed that, “We are able to discuss restricting access to benefits on the condition that they will be restricted to all those living in the UK at any given time in Great Britain and there will not be any geographical segregation or based on time… If Great Britain decided to limit benefits for all its residents then we would not protest as this would be treating everyone equally.” Open Europe’s Stephen Booth is quoted by the Washington Post as saying that David Cameron cannot go into the EU referendum with nothing on migration or access to welfare, since these are cited as among the biggest concerns of the electorate.

Source: Reuters Polish Foreign Ministry Statement The Washington Post

Rift between Polish government and European Commission grows following passage of new media law

Following the approval of a controversial new media law last week by the Polish parliament which gives the government a significant degree of control over public media, EU Digital Economy Commissioner Günther Oettinger told Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung that, “There are many reasons for us to activate the ‘Rule of Law mechanism’ and place Warsaw under surveillance.” He added that the European Commission will consider initiating such action at its next sitting on January 13th. If activated, the Rule of Law mechanism – in place since 2014 – could eventually result in the offending member state losing its voting rights at the Council of Ministers.

Meanwhile, in an interview with Bild, Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski hit back, arguing that “We only want to cure our country from certain diseases. The previous government was implementing a left-wing concept.”

Source: Politico Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung Bild Gazeta Wyborcza Die Welt

Majority of CFOs back UK staying in EU although support falls from last year

A survey of 137 Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) from FTSE 350 companies by Deloitte found that 62% support staying in the EU, down from 74% last year. 28% said their decision will depend on the outcome of the renegotiation. Meanwhile, a Financial Times survey of 100 economists has found that none of the respondents believed Brexit would boost UK growth this year, while 67 thought it would deteriorate it. Overall, 76 believed that leaving the EU would harm the UK’s economic prospects with 18 believing it made little difference and eight believing it would improve the UK’s outlook.

Separately, a survey by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) found that 40% of accountancy firms believe Brexit would hinder their prospects for this year, down from 50% in 2015. 55% said the fallout of the EU referendum would have little or no impact on their businesses, up from 46% at the end of 2014.

Source: The Financial Times Reuters The Daily Telegraph

Six newly-elected Conservative MPs come out for Brexit

The Times reports that six newly elected Conservative MPs – Anne-Marie Trevelyan James Cleverly, Craig Mackinlay, Royston Smith, Paul Scully and Scott Mann – have today come out in favour of withdrawal from the EU, pre-empting any deal struck by the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, The Sunday Times reports that six cabinet ministers have privately told the paper that they think David Cameron would have to quit if the EU referendum is lost.

Separately, according to Sky News, Vote Leave has claimed that only a fraction of the CBI’s members are supportive of its stance on the referendum.

Source: The Sunday Times The Times The Times 2 Sky News The Sun on Sunday: Rose Observer: Starmer

Sweden introduces ID controls at Danish border for first time since 1950s

Sweden will be checking the IDs of people crossing its border by bus, ferry or train as of Monday,  in response to the migration crisis. Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen warned that Copenhagen may now follow suit, controlling its southern border with Germany. “We will decide what’s best for Denmark,” he said.  Meanwhile, Horst Seehofer, Premier of Bavaria and leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s sister party, the CSU, has called for the number of refugees allowed to enter Germany each year to be capped at a “maximum” of 200,000. “This number is manageable, and will allow integration to work.  Anything that goes beyond that, I think, is too much,” he told Bild Am Sonntag.  Meanwhile, The Daily Telegraph reports that France has announced the construction of a new refugee camp five miles from the cross-Channel ferry port of Dunkirk.

Open Europe’s Nina Schick appeared on the BBC’s World Service discussing how the “temporary” border controls across the EU are testing the legal limits of the Schengen agreement, while Pieter Cleppe told Polish Radio that EU plans to force member states to comply with EU border control policy could backfire badly.

Source: Polish Radio Süddeutsche Zeitung Bloomberg The Daily Telegraph

Catalonia heads towards fresh elections after failure to secure governing coalition

It looks almost certain that Catalonia will need to hold new elections after political parties failed to secure a governing coalition. The CUP party finally decided against supporting current Catalan President Artur Mas. The move came after the party held a vote a week ago on whether to offer its support, which came out tied.

Source: The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal

Tsipras warns creditors he will not accept unreasonable demands on pension reform

In an interview with Real News, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has warned creditors that when it comes to pension reform his government “will honour the agreement to the letter but without accepting unfair demands”. He added that the government has “no obligation to find the money exclusively from pension cuts” – which are expected to deliver €600m in savings this year. Greece is due to send its proposals to creditors today with agreement targeted later this month. In an interview with Kathimerini Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said that there will be “successes but also defeats” in negotiations with creditors this year. Writing in the same paper Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras warned, “A new period of backsliding today is out of the question.”

Source: Kathimerini The Financial Times

Head of Russia’s largest bank hits out at ECB regulatory approach

The head of Russia’s largest bank Sberbank has said in an interview with the Financial Times that, “European banking will have a very, very difficult period of time now” because “the regulatory policy is quite difficult”. He also hit out at the ECB for forcing the bank’s Eurozone subsidiary to raise further capital.

Source: The Financial Times