EU considers loans in return for economy overhauls

The European Union is considering whether it could encourage countries to make long-term economic changes by offering them loans at below-market rates, an EU official told reporters in Brussels today.

The idea is to spur reform in areas like labor policy, vocational training or the judicial system, the official said on condition of anonymity because the proposal is still in early planning stages. The loans could be most attractive to smaller countries that don’t have reliable market access, while bigger nations might benefit from looser budget targets in exchange for reform commitments.

National diplomats will get their first look at the plan next week during a preparatory meeting for an EU leaders’ summit in December. At the summit, heads of government aim to settle on a framework for designing so-called contractual agreements that would supplement existing EU budget rules.

The sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone that began in Greece in late 2009 prompted EU leaders to back unprecedented levels of economic and regulatory coordination. The 17-nation currency bloc has agreed to new budget rules, put the European Central Bank in charge of bank supervision and pledged to create a common system for managing struggling banks.

EU President Herman Van Rompuy floated the prospect of European financing for countries that promised reforms under a road map last year to strengthen the region’s long-term future. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who leads Europe’s biggest economy, said that only a “limited” pool of as much as 20 billion euros ($27 billion) could be made available for countries that sign economic-reform contracts.

ESM Proposal

If the contractual agreements proceed, they would be aimed at countries that aren’t already bound by a fully fledged rescue program or sanctions tied to macroeconomic imbalances, the EU official said.

There aren’t yet any fixed proposals about where the money for loans might come from. Preliminary ideas include the European Stability Mechanism or a similar new vehicle that could raise money in the markets and lend to individual nations on behalf of the currency bloc. The overall proposal could be extended to nations that plan to join the euro as well as those already using the common currency, the official said.

The euro area’s recovery came close to a halt in the third quarter as German growth slowed,France’s economy unexpectedly shrank and Italy extended its record-long recession. Gross domestic product in the euro area rose 0.1 percent in the three months through September, cooling from a 0.3 percent expansion in the second quarter, the EU’s statistics office in Luxembourg said last week.

This article first appeared on ThE Unit and has been reproduced with the editor’s permission.

EU uses new budget powers to demand more austerity in Italy and Spain

Spain and Italy have been warned that their budgets for 2014 are in breach of European Union rules as Brussels uses new powers to force governments to revise spending plans before national parliaments vote on them.

France was also cautioned that plans for painful economic reforms represent only “limited progress” as the European Commission exercised new eurozone powers in a historic shift of sovereignty away from elected governments.

“Because in an economic and monetary union, national budgetary decisions can have an impact well beyond national borders, member states have given the commission the responsibility,” said Olli Rehn, the commission vice-president in charge of the euro.

“I trust that they will thus be taken on board by national decision makers.”

Germany, Europe’s largest and most successful economy, was also criticised for making “no progress” in following EU recommendations to help its eurozone neighbours by spurring domestic demand and imports.

Despite disappointing growth figures and mounting concern that eurozone austerity policies are killing off recovery and locking southern European countries into protracted slump, the commission ruled that “further consolidation in euro area countries is necessary”.

For the first time, the EU’s Brussels executive has reviewed draft national budgets before national legislatures have voted on them, flexing political muscles aimed at preserving stability for Europe’s single currency and at preventing a future eurozone debt crisis.

“This a historic moment,” said an EU diplomat. “One has to ask whether the eurozone’s voters yet appreciate what a huge shift in sovereignty this is away from national parliaments to conclaves of finance ministers and commission officials.”

Italy and Spain, the third and fourth largest economies in the 17-strong eurozone, were upbraided for breaking debt reduction targets in breach of spending caps that are enshrined in the Maastricht Treaty that created the euro.

Backing off demanding the revision of budgets or penalties for now, Mr Rehn said he was “inviting” governments and parliaments to bring their budgets for next year into compliance with the rules as interpreted by the commission. “This exercise is much more about partnership than penalties,” he said.

The commission’s Italy verdict is political dynamite in a situation where Enrico Letta, the country’s prime minister, is besieged in parliament by coalition disputes over tax reductions and Left wing opposition to austerity cuts.

Italy has the second-highest level of gross government debt in the eurozone, which is projected to rise to 133pc of the economy, second only to Greece, but it is in line with an annual target requiring annual debt to be under 3pc of annual GDP.

“We count on strong and effective delivery of these commitments by the government and parliament,” said Mr Rehn. “Every day this year has been a politically sensitive moment in Italy. We just have to do our job.”

Fabrizio Saccomanni, the Italian finance minister and a technocrat imposed on the Italian government at the behest of EU officials, could be fatally weakened by the Brussels intervention, especially after Mr Rehn ruled out an exempting €3bn in investment spending that the Italian government has included in its 2014 budget.

Mr Saccomanni warned that Italy could not take the investment spending from the national budget to meet EU rules because the cut would threaten the country’s already weak economic recovery and inflame opposition to austerity.

“We could have taken even more restrictive measures to reduce our public spending, but I imagine there would be even more cries of pain. I believe our approach is balanced,” he said. “It is not necessary to change the budget.”

Spain was told that its “draft budgetary plan is at risk of non-compliance with the rules, as the headline deficit target may be missed and the recommended improvement in the structural balance is currently not expected to be delivered”.

France was given the green light on its budget but the commission warned that next year’s budget leaves “no margin” for deviation and reforms “constitute limited progress” in addressing structural targets.

“A significant set of measures on top of those already specified will be needed to ensure that the target for 2015 is reached,” said the commission.

The commission also cautioned Finland, Malta and Luxembourg, asking the three countries to review their 2014 budgets to ensure that they meet eurozone targets.

This article first appeared on ThE Unit and has been reproduced with the editor’s permission.

Don’t lift curbs on Romanian migrants, Tories tell Cameron

Tory MPs will challenge David Cameron over Romanian and Bulgarian migrants today – urging him not to throw open Britain’s borders from next year.

Backbench support is coalescing around a plan to extend restrictions on new arrivals from the two eastern European countries, due to expire on January 1, for a further five years.

Dozens of Tory MPs are likely to back the measure and put huge pressure on the Prime Minister to defy the European Union over its cherished free movement rules.

The proposal will be heard by a committee of MPs today and could come before a full vote in the House of Commons within weeks.

Nigel Mills, the MP for Amber Valley in Derbyshire, is spearheading the campaign. His proposed changes to the Government’s Immigration Bill currently passing through the House of Commons would extend restrictions until the end of December 2018.

Extending restrictions on migrant workers would provoke squeals of outrage – and likely legal challenge – from Brussels.

But supporters say it would prevent huge pressure being placed on public services, including the NHS, and on jobs at a time when many British workers are struggling to find employment.

It would also allow Mr Cameron to make a defiant stand over two crucial issues for his supporters – Europe and immigration – where he is seen to be leaking support to Ukip.

Last night Mr Mills warned the economy ‘cannot cope’ with another large influx of migrants.

He said: ‘The Government is putting through a very worthwhile Immigration Bill which introduces a number of measures most people concerned about immigration will welcome.

‘But what we don’t have are any measures on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants, which is what people mention if you ask them about immigration.

‘Quite rightly, people want to know what will happen from January. The unofficial forecast would mean a quarter of a million people coming here over the next five years.

‘People are quite rightly concerned about whether public services can cope, about what benefits they will claim and about the number of jobs they will take.’

There is no official estimate of possible new arrivals in the UK when working restrictions are dropped for 29million Romanian and Bulgarian nationals, but migration campaigners predict it could be 50,000 a year.

Any movement of this order would decimate Mr Cameron’s pledge to cut yearly net migration to the ‘tens of thousands’ by 2015.

Currently that figure stands at 176,000 which is down from more than a quarter of a million in 2010 but still short of Mr Cameron’s target.

Mr Mills pointed to 2004 when Labour ministers did not adopt temporary restrictions on migrant workers from Poland and seven other new EU countries. More than a million migrants  arrived in Britain  despite official predictions that just 13,000 would come.

A Home Office spokesman said last night: ‘This government has extended transitional controls to the maximum period of December 31. There is no power to extend them further as we are bound by the terms of the Accession Treaties negotiated by the previous Government.

‘We are focusing on cutting out the abuse of free movement between EU member states and addressing the factors that drive European immigration to Britain.

‘We are working to ensure our controls on accessing benefits and services are among the tightest in Europe to protect the UK from abuse.’

Eight out of ten newly qualified Bulgarian doctors are planning to work abroad, a study has shown.

In a questionnaire put to graduates from Bulgaria’s largest medical school in Sofia, the majority said they planned to leave their country, with preferences for working in Britain and Germany.

One vascular surgeon told the BBC he could earn seven times more in the UK. But most Bulgarian doctors cite their reason for wanting to move as being due to corruption concerns within their own health service.

This article first appeared on ThE Unit and has been reproduced with the editor’s permission.

EU cap on credit card could actually cost shoppers here €100m in charges

Banks and credit card companies have been told to absorb new costs instead of passing them on to consumers.

The call came after Mastercard claimed that moves by the EU to cut the charges on credit card payments will actually end up costing shoppers here a combined €100m a year.

Fees charged by banks for processing credit and debit card transactions – known as interchange fees – are a lucrative revenue stream.

The EU commission has proposed a new cap on the charges that banks can apply for accepting Visa and Mastercard payments.

The commission believes that capping these fees will bring savings of €6bn for retailers across the EU, which will then be passed on to shoppers.

But Dr Tony Foley of Dublin City University has produced a report that says the new rules will impact on nine out of 10 credit and debit cards being used in Ireland.

A report written by Dr Foley said that over a five-year period Irish consumers will end up shelling out an extra €500m for using debit and credit cards because of the EU changes.

PROFITABLE

This will amount to €42 a year for a typical credit card user, the economics lecturer calculated.

And for holders of debit or Laser cards, which can only be used if there is money in the bank account, there will be a cost of €4.60 per card.

He claims the new EU rules will actually increase costs to consumers and small firms.

“The ultimate likely effect is that consumers and small business will end up shouldering the shortfall,” he said.

Commission officials are recommending a limit on fees charged by banks to just 0.2pc on the value of a debit card transaction and 0.3pc on credit cards. Currently, the fee can be as high as 1.7pc.

Consumers’ Association chief Dermott Jewell called on banks and card companies to absorb the cut in fees.

“The credit card business is highly profitable and it is about time charges were driven down,” Mr Jewell said.

Meanwhile, savvy consumers are making sure they have the funds to pay for Christmas without resorting to credit cards.

New research shows that one in four people have been saving all year to fund the festive spending.

Just one in 14 people will use their credit card to cover the bills for Christmas, the research carried out for the bank by Millward Brown shows.

 

This article first appeared on ThE Unit and has been reproduced with the editor’s permission.

Europe for Citizens programme

Report on the proposal for a Council regulation establishing for the period 2014-2020 the programme “Europe for Citizens”

(COM(2011)0884 – C7-0000/2011 – 2011/0436(APP))

This report by Hannu TAKKULA (ADLE, FI) was written for and adopted by the Committee on Culture and Education. The opinions were sought from the Committee on Budgets, the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and the Committee on Petitions. Only the latter committee declined. The report is concerned with the proposal for a Council regulation establishing for the period 2014-2020 the programme “Europe for Citizens”. This follows the current programme (2007-2013).

The aim of the Commission’s proposal for Europe for Citizens (2014-2020) is to “strengthen remembrance and enhance capacity for civic participation at the Union level”. It is the only programme devoted to the promotion of these goals at the Union level. The report perceives its budget of EUR 229 million to be modest and yet supporting one of the most visible programmes currently under consideration by the European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education.

The report laments the fact that the Commission has adjusted its proposal so that Article 352 TFEU is the programme’s sole legal base. Such an approach means that the European Parliament only has the choice of accepting or rejecting the text, but not amending it. Nonetheless, the committee will only adopt the text subject to the following amendments:

  •  amend the legal base to reflect the European Parliament’s views, i.e. dual legal base: Articles 352 and 167 TFEU. This is appropriate for a programme with two objectives regarded as equal in importance but distinctly covered by different Articles of the TFEU, namely Articles 167 and 352.
  •  strengthen the remembrance part of the programme, including common history, cultural heritage, and identity, by highlighting this in the general objectives;
  •  emphasise the importance of small grass-roots and bottom-up initiatives and issues identified by citizens as being of major interest to them; consider the future potential of projects equally, not just their short-term high-impact;
  •  minimise budget allocation to the Commission’s own ‘corporate communication’ activities, so that funds are spent where they matter most;
  •  ensure that the role of sport organisations is highlighted in the proposal;
  •  ensure, as far as possible, a geographical balance in the distribution of funds.

The European Parliament voted to approve this report on 19th November 2013 with 565 for, 84 against and 36 abstentions.

To read the report, click the following link: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=REPORT&reference=A7-2012-0424&language=EN

This article first appeared on ThE Unit and has been reproduced with the editor’s permission.

A Speech For Greece

Dear Friends,

My name is Jim Reynolds and I am a Vice-Chairman representing the Campaign for an Independent Britain.On behalf of our organisation I come to Greece in full hearted friendship for the Greek people and for our colleagues from all over Europe, who are fighting for the return of democratic self government to their countries and deliverance from their debt slavery , enforced by that imperial project, the Euro currency.

We in the Campaign for an Independent Britain are from all parties and none. We come from right, left and centre and all we want is our country back. Our organisation was formed in 1969under a different name as a cross party coalition opposed to Common Market entry in 1973. It is an umbrella group supported by public donation to which other Eurosceptic organisations are affiliated. We campaign for the restoration of full national sovereignty to the United Kingdom by its withdrawal from the obligations of the Treaties of the European Union and the repeal of the European Communities Act 1972 as amended so that Parliament may legislate freely and may co-operate with other nations as it thinks fit. We are a broad church of political opinion but will not tolerate racists or extremists and rejects any organisation known to be motivated by anti-democratic intentions.

Our country has been betrayed by certain Prime Ministers. Edward Heath in 1972 took us into what was then called a Common Market on a narrow vote in Parliament of 309 to 301 whilst concealing from all MPs the terms of entry. Harold Wilson in 1975 claimed he had secured new terms of membership and aided by a heavily financially funded campaign, the full support of the BBC and almost all British newspapers he secured a 67% vote by 65% of the electorate to stay in

In 1983, the men who later became our Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown gained their seats in Parliament for the first time by promising, if elected, to take us out of the European Union but changed their tune when elected. Over many years we have printed and distributed thousands of factual leaflets on many subjects and organised public gatherings and films. We have a website www.freebritain.org.uk. In 2010 after our most recent general election to Parliament we supplied every member of our House of Commons and House of Lords a booklet entitled “A House Divided”(Jim please hold up a copy) which asked whether our Parliament can serve two masters, the Nation and the European Union I have brought a number of copies with me to make available to you. It tells of the lies and deceits perpetuated in order to gain public support and the loss of Parliamentary sovereignty.Turning now to those countries of Europe that have joined the EU, something very strange has happened to the countries of Europe over the last fifty years through the deceit of our politicians –the leaders who should be serving the interests of their own peoples who elect them. By meeting together with politicians from other countries in the EU they have increasingly discovered that, as a class, they have more in common with each other and with the bankers than they do with the people they are supposed to serve. Little by little they have created a super state structure to which they have given their loyalty and obedience which should only be to their own countries and peoples.

In any other age this would have been called treason and would have been punished as such. They are people who dress like us, look like us and talk like us but whose loyalty is elsewhere –to that strange anti-democratic structure in Brussels. What was presented to us as a free association of sovereign nations co-operating in

trade always was intended to develop into a super-state, a single despotism over all the peoples of Europe.

Britain was slowly enmeshed in this plot against its own people by its political class -but not without a struggle. As a country, we had spent all of our money and much of our blood to free the countries of Europe from fascism and the natural goodwill of democrats

towards their fellows in other European countries was gradually subverted to this evil project.

One man who saw this clearly in the Forties was our then Labour Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin.

A man of the working class, he was intensely suspicious of the early moves towards European integration. He knew enough of Greek mythology to coin a keenly true but amusing mixed metaphor. He said of the European project.

“If you open that Pandora’s box, you don’t know how many Trojan horses will come flying out”.

Unfortunately for us and for Europe, Ernest Bevin was overruled by American pressure. Britain was bankrupt and the Americans controlled the flow of dollars. In fact, we have evidence thatthe CIA funded the European Movement from the beginning, just as the American government today puts diplomatic pressure on our country, telling us that we must stay in the EU.

Well, whilst the Trojan Horse was originally a Greek stratagem against the Trojans, there are now whole herds of them from Brussels within the walls of Greece today –and in every EU country. Wherever you see that ring of stars announcing another project assisted by the EU, a little bit of your country has been shaped to suit the policy makers of Brussels. Around all these projects –and the ones you don’t see or hear of –are the people who do well out of them. Some of them are gradually entrapped bit by bit, often unwittingly at the time, into giving their first loyalty to their Brussels paymasters.

The Commissioners in Brussels and the heads of government of other EU countries are far away and, whilst we can rage about what they do, there is little we can do to affect them. They are hermetically sealed in a world of privilege beyond our reach. It was our own, treacherous politicians who delivered us into the hands of these people.

In doing it they became more like them, as prophetically described by the poet G.K. Chesterton eighty years ago.

“They have given us into the hand of new unhappy lords,

Lords without anger and honour who dare not carry their swords.

They fight by shuffling papers; they have bright dead alien eyes.

They look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies”.

Brussels has not taken any power from our countries which has not been handed over by our own politicians and officials. Sometimes in the mistaken belief that it was somehow for the peace and good of Europe –we have let them do it. Sometimes we were just too late to stop them. Now is the time to insist that they take back the power –our power to rule ourselves -and bring it home where it belongs –each in our own country.

And if they won’t do it, then throw the rogues out!

By meeting together, co-ordinating our efforts and sharing information, we can each be much more effective in in our own countries where the real fight is.

I mentioned Ernest Bevin, the socialist politician of the Nineteen Forties, as one who understood the dangers of the European project. The last British politician to stand against the creation of the EU superstate was very different politically –Margaret Thatcher. The President of the EU Commission, Jacques Delors, had proposed more or less what we have now –The EU Commission as the executive government of the EU, the so-called EU

parliament as its token democratic assembly and the European Council of heads of government as its senate.

To each of these proposals in turn, Mrs Thatcher said “No!” “No!”

“No!” and so was betrayed by the eurofanatics in her own party whose loyalty was to the EU and not to the most solemn oath they had sworn to their own sovereign and country. That is the rottenness at the heart of every EU member state, not just Britain.

If we had been meeting just over a month ago on October 28th, we could have joined with our Greek friends in celebrating “No!” day, the anniversary of Greece’s short response to the ultimatum by the Italian dictator Mussolini. The admiration which Britain then felt for Greece standing up to a much bigger country is reflected today in our support for your campaign to restore your country’s honour and self government. It is a common struggle which we share, so I share the sentiment of Lord Byron

“The mountains look on Marathon –

And Marathon looks on the sea;

And musing there an hour alone,

I dreamed that Greece still might be free;

For standing on the Persians’ grave,

I could not deem myself a slave”