31 July 2015

Schäuble’s proposals to restructure Commission receive mixed response in Germany

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports that German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s proposals to restructure the European Commission by hiving off its supervisory and enforcement roles to a new, politically independent authority, have met with a mixed reaction in Germany. The concept was endorsed by the Economic Council of the CDU and by Bild, whose deputy editor-in-chief Béla Anda writes today that “Whenever Europe lurches into crisis, leading EU politicians always conjure up a recipe to get out of it: More powers for Brussels instead of for Berlin! It is good that Wolfgang Schäuble is questioning this mechanism, and that he wants to curtail the power of the Commission.” However, the idea was not endorsed by Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel while the Greens’ co-chair Simone Peter accused Schäuble of “assiduously pursuing his agenda of a German Europe.”

Commenting on the proposals for The Times, Open Europe co-Director Raoul Ruparel argues that while Prime Minister David Cameron would “welcome a wide-ranging debate”, he should “be cautious about plans to create a more political commission. What the UK would not want is an overtly political commission, dominated by the Eurozone, pumping out more regulation.” Open Europe’s blog weighing up the proposals was cited by Swedish daily Dagens Industri.

Source: Open Europe blog Bild: Anda Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung The Times Dagens Industri

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Ministers consider using military bases to deal with lorries stranded by Calais crisis

Ministry of Defence land could be made available to help relieve traffic problems in Kent caused by the migrant crisis in Calais, the BBC reports. Britain and France have pledged additional security measures and police to protect the tunnel. At least ten people have lost their lives attempting to access the Channel Tunnel since June.

Source: BBC The Daily Telegraph The Times Daily Mail

IMF steps back from participating in third Greek bailout unless significant debt relief agreed

The Financial Times reports that, according to leaked IMF documents, IMF staff have advised the IMF board against joining the third Greek bailout for now. The documents state that the IMF “cannot reach staff-level agreement at this stage” and that Greece no longer meets two of the four criteria for receiving such a larger bailout – ability/willingness to implement reform and debt sustainability. As such the fund will only decide whether to take part in the bailout after Greece has “agreed on a comprehensive set of reforms” and after the Eurozone has “agreed on debt relief”. This means the IMF may not decide on whether to join the bailout for a few months or even into next year.

After meeting for over 12 hours yesterday, SYRIZA’s central committee agreed to back Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ calls for an extraordinary party congress in September to decide how the party should proceed in government and examine the bailout agreement. The committee rejected the prospect of an internal referendum to decide whether the party should accept or reject the new Greek bailout. The emergency congress will allow Tsipras to bring in new members and capitalise on widening support and may see a split of the party. Ahead of the meeting Deputy Prime Minister Yiannis Dragasakis said he hoped SYRIZA is “heading for the refoundation of a new party”.

The Athens Stock Exchange is expected to reopen on Monday following a weekend of IT tests at Greek banks. In an interview with Polish Radio Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe suggests that, since a bailout agreement is unlikely to be found in time for the ECB to be repaid on 20 August, EU states “can expect a Greek request for a second bridge loan”.

Source: Kathimerini The Financial Times The Wall Street Journal Reuters Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Wolhgemuth: The ECB’s ‘money for free’ policy will only undermine structural reform in the Eurozone

Michael Wolhgemuth, Director of Open Europe Berlin, pens a full page op-ed in today’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung with 19 institutional and personal signatories discussing the risks of the European Central Bank’s close to zero interest-rate policy. He writes, “In the long-term, risks of an extremely loose monetary policy are enormous and cannot be justified by uncertain expectations of short-lived stimuli. The longer interest rates remain so low and the more the central bank balance sheet keeps growing, the greater the pressure on the ECB to continue its policy of free money. If states remain on this drip too long, they will not be able to give up the drug voluntarily…Also, the ECB will no longer be able to enforce structural reforms – even if it wanted to.”

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Süddeutsche: “The Sympathetic Mr Juncker” too soft on debt and deficits

Cerstin Gamellin and Alexander Mühlauer, the Brussels and Europe Correspondents of Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung comment in today’s paper on Berlin’s frustration at the looser fiscal attitude allowed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. “It’s become astoundingly quiet as regards the household deficits of France, and also Italy and Spain. It’s not even been a year since the Commission was threatening blue letters and billions in fines over their chronic failure to adhere to the deficit rules. The numbers have barely changed since then, but the attitude has:  there is more understanding, and more time to reform and save. This can be attributed to the new top personality in the Commission: its President, Jean-Claude Juncker.”

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung: Gammelin & Mühlauer

Farage calls for business or sporting figure to lead Out campaign

UKIP leader Nigel Farage announced yesterday that his party will not lead the official campaign for Britain to leave the EU, suggesting it could be led by a business or sport figure instead. “In the absence of anybody else, UKIP is going to take the lead in this country and launch in September a major ground campaign,” Farage said. “This is not a dramatic bid by me or others in this room to think UKIP will get the official designation for the No campaign. We won’t, and we won’t apply.”

Source: The Financial Times City AM

Süddeutsche: German influence within the Commission on the rise

Süddeutsche Zeitung notes that German staff account for 10.2% of European Commission posts, holding more key positions than any other EU country. In addition, nine of the 28 EU Commissioners, including the President, have cabinets headed by Germans.

Source: Süddeutsche Zeitung

Germany needs up to half a million immigrants a year to deal with declining population

Germany’s Institute for Employment Research (IAB) – a subsidiary of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) – estimates  that German’s labour force will shrink by 20% in the next 35 years due to demographic challenges. “We need approximately 400,000 to 500,000 immigrants a year to keep our labour-force constant until 2050,” Herbert Brücker, the IAB’s migration expert told the Rheinische Post, “However, I only consider net immigration of about 200,000 people to be realistic,” he added.

Source: Reuters Deutschland

Handelsblatt: Sanctions on Russia are full of holes and hurting German business

German business daily Handelsblatt assesses the impact of a year of EU sanctions on Russia, noting that “instead of achieving their intended political effect, the economic sanctions against Russia are hurting German companies doing business in the country.” Eckhard Cordes, Head of a German lobby group, the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations, said, “China, India, Korea, Latin America and even the Swiss are not participating, which is why the sanctions are full of holes.”

Source: Handelsblatt

Russia continues to probe NATO airspace

NATO aircraft have had to conduct over 250 emergency deployments this year to counter Russian aircraft on the edge of NATO airspace. This is the highest number for an equivalent period since the cold war.

Source: The Financial Times