Open Europe Fortnightly Newsletter
(07/07/2012) David Cameron wrote in the Sunday Telegraph that "what I want – and what I believe the vast majority of the British people want – is to make changes to our relationship" with the EU. "As I have said, for me the two words 'Europe' and 'referendum' can go together, particularly if we really are proposing a change in how our country is governed, but let us get the people a real choice first," he wrote. William Hague added that there may be a "very powerful" case for an EU referendum "once we know whether we can get a better relationship with Europe."
Nearly 100 Conservative MPs had written to the Prime Minister requesting an EU referendum in the next Parliament. Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the UK should consider leaving the EU if re-negotiation fails, and added, “For my own part, life outside the EU holds no terror.”
Meanwhile, it was announced that the Foreign Secretary will speak at next week’s launch of the ‘Options for Change’ green paper on EU reform prepared by the ‘Fresh start’ group of Conservative MPs.
Open Europe was quoted in the FT as saying that “Steps towards greater eurozone integration and an increasingly sceptical UK public mean that the UK will almost certainly have to change its relationship with Europe, including new membership terms, which may have to be put to a referendum sooner or later.” Open Europe’s Director Mats Persson appeared on Sky News and was quoted by Reuters and EurActiv discussing the different referendum options.
Open Europe’s recent report outlining the potential alternatives to EU membership if the UK decided to leave the EU altogether was quoted by Channel 4 News and Austrian daily Die Presse. The Independent cited Open Europe’s recent report on CAP reform as an example of a policy area that could be either fundamentally reformed or devolved back to the UK.
Open Europe's Twitter feed offers “exceptional commentary on the euro-crisis”
Leading American financial magazine Barron’s has selected Open Europe’s Twitter account as one of five that “consistently provide great information and trenchant analysis” on the Eurozone crisis. Barron’s describes Open Europe as “a think tank based in the UK that deploys a small army of research analysts fluent in more than a dozen languages to keep tabs on the crisis, both reporting and commenting on the news.”
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Nineteenth EU crisis summit sees some limited progress but no breakthrough
At last week’s EU summit, the nineteenth since the outbreak of the crisis, Italy and Spain obtained concessions from Germany on short-term measures to lower their borrowing costs. EU leaders also agreed on longer-term plans for greater integration in the euro area, including making the ECB the eurozone’s banking supervisor by the end of the year.
Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel was quoted by the Telegraph as saying, “These measures will only buy a small amount of time.” On his Telegraph blog, Mats Persson noted that the impact of the EU summit on market stability would depend on whether the deal could actually be implemented in practice. Raoul also appeared on LBC and Al-Jazeera English's Inside story programme, while Open Europe’s Pieter Cleppe was interviewed by Reuters, ITN and Xinhua – both discussing the outcomes of the summit.
In an interview with Dutch weekly HP/De Tijd, Open Europe’s Vice-Chairman Derek Scott discussed the future of the euro. Writing in City AM, Open Europe’s Pawel Swidlicki argued that in terms of domestic politics, with each successive EU summit, Chancellor Angela Merkel was running out of room for manoeuvre across a range of fronts.
Ahead of the summit, Open Europe published a briefing note analysing the potential impact on the UK of the plans for a fiscal and banking union in the eurozone. Open Europe concluded that none constitutes a realistic short-term, or even medium-term, solution to the crisis. The briefing was cited by the Telegraph, Spanish daily El Mundo, Polish daily Rzeczpospolita and Austrian daily Der Standard. Mats Persson was quoted in the Times.
Germany would hate to see the UK leave the EU
In a letter to the FT, Mats Persson argued that “At last week’s summit, Angela Merkel may have got a taste of what an EU without Britain would be like…Germany needs the UK inside the EU tent to balance the more protectionist southern bloc, and to uphold a rules-based system where goods and services can be traded freely across borders.” Writing for the Guardian’s Comment is Free, Pawel Swidlicki argued, “If push comes to shove, Germany may prove more susceptible to UK arguments for revised membership terms than it is willing to admit publicly.”
Open Europe event: The Franco-German alliance: Where does it stand after the French elections?
Open Europe hosted a panel debate in London, entitled, “The Franco-German alliance: Where does it stand after the French elections?” Speaking on the panel were, CSU Bundestag MP Thomas Silberhorn, who has voted against the eurozone bailout funds, Senior Fellow in European Politics at the LSE, Maurice Fraser, and the UK Correspondent for Libération, Sonia Delesalle-Stolper. The debate was covered by Reuters.
Check out our events page for a summary of the debate.
New Open Europe briefing: Funding needs of Spanish banks could top €110 billion
Following Spain’s request for a rescue package for its banks of up to €100bn, Open Europe published a new briefing looking at the funding needs of Spanish banks and the Spanish state. The briefing argues that, taking into account that Spanish house prices may drop by another 35%, the country's banking sector could need an immediate €110bn capital injection to withstand potential losses – substantially above the recent official estimates.
The briefing received widespread media coverage, and was cited by Bloomberg, Zerohedge, the Telegraph, City AM, the Washington Times, Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Italian news site Linkiesta, Swedish business dailies Dagens Industri and Affärsvärlden, Swiss daily Le Temps, Finnish daily Kauppalehti, Latvian daily Lietuvos Rytas and German daily Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten.
Italy repays £307m of EU structural funds following investigation by anti-fraud watchdog
Italy was asked to reimburse £307m of EU structural funds, after the EU’s anti-fraud watchdog OLAF found widespread “irregularities” surrounding upgrade works on a stretch of the Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway in southern Italy. Open Europe’s Vincenzo Scarpetta was quoted in the Telegraph as saying, “The fact that this money has been recovered is good news, but also shows how vulnerable EU subsidies are to fraud and mismanagement. Instead of asking for more cash, the Commission and MEPs should make sure that taxpayers know where every penny of their money going via Brussels is spent.”
UK to contribute €1.6 billion to EIB capital increase
Commenting on the news that the UK was prepared to provide over £1bn to help recapitalise the European Investment Bank in order to allow it to stimulate growth in the EU, Open Europe’s Christopher Howarth was quoted in the Times, Telegraph and Mail as saying, “This feels an awful lot like spending for the sake of spending without doing anything to solve the eurozone crisis. We fear this won’t be good use of taxpayers’ cash.” Mats was also quoted by the Guardian.
The combination of Mario Monti’s ‘victory’ over Angela Merkel at the EU summit combined with Italy’s win over Germany in the Euro2012 semi-final arguably went to the heads of the editors of Italian daily Libero, a centre-right paper which is politically very close to Silvio Berlusconi. The following day, the paper’s front page ran with the headline 'VaffanMerkel', a fusion of the name of the German Chancellor and a very impolite Italian equivalent of 'get lost'.