Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 17th December, 2012
Tom Spencer is one of those rare birds: a green, federalist, pro-European Conservative. This meant that things were not always comfortable for him when he was leader of the Tory MEPs in the European Parliament, but in a sense it was as well that he stood down from his seat; he would have been hung, drawn and quartered (metaphorically speaking, of course) by the Party now. Tory MPs at Westminster — including government Ministers, who ought to know better — have been trumpeting the case for Britain’s leaving the EU. At least it was good to see The Economist, as well as the more predictable Observer, recently demonstrating why neither the Norway nor the Switzerland option is feasible for the UK. As guest speaker at the annual Christmas Dinner of the European Movement in London in an Italian restaurant in Bloomsbury this evening, Tom pointed out that Norwegians pay more per capita into the EU budget than Brits do, but have absolutely no say in the formulation of rules and regulations relating to the European single market, by which they must abide. He also declared with the sort of emphatic certainty that is his trademark that there will be an In-Out referendum on Britain’s EU membership in 2016 or 2017. And despite the efforts of political personalities such as London’s Mayor Boris Johnson — who Tom described as “highly intelligent, but not very nice” — he believes UK voters will vote to stay in once the case for the benefits of membership — and the perils of pulling out — is firmly put. That is certainly what happened in the 1975 referendum on confirming Britain’s then very young membership of the European Economic Community. At the start of the campaign, opinion polls suggested the voters were 2:1 against staying in, but the actual vote was 2:1 in favour. That was thanks to the efforts of political activists including a then much younger Tom, and heavyweight politicians from all three main national parties. Will the line-up next time be as impressive and as broad church? And will the European Movement — now definitely weaker — be a motor for the referendum campaign, or does a new body, like the one-time “Britain in Europe” need to be created? It’s not too early to be thinking of answers to those questions.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: Boris Johnson, Britain in Europe, Conservative Party, EU, European Movement, European Movement in London, Norway, Switzerland, The Economist, The Observer, Tom Spencer | Leave a Comment »
Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 17th December, 2012
Ireland is scheduled to take over the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on 1 January, followed by Lithuania in July 2013 and Greece in January 2014. Whilst the third, in particular, might raise some eye-brows in fact all three governments in Dublin, Vilnius and Athens are well advanced in their plans and priorities. Here’s what the European Movement has to say about it in its latest Euro-briefing:
The Programme of the next 3 EU Council Presidencies.
Last week the next 3 Presidencies of the Council of Ministers, the so-called ‘Trio’ of Ireland, Lithuania and Greece, presented in Brussels their work programme. In the next 18 months the main priorities of the Council are to further restore the economic stability across the EU and to build strong foundations for sustainable jobs and for long lasting economic growth. The Irish Presidency, which will take over the helm on 1 January 2013, will focus on issues related to the Digital Agenda, the EU’s Single Market, multi and bilateral trade agreements (such as EU-US Trade Agreement) and the Banking Union. The new Presidency will be working closely together with the European Council and the Commission in order to set up long-term plans and operational programmes. Due to the financial, economic and sovereign debt challenges of the past three years, the EU has been working on creating the conditions for economic recovery and to re-launch growth and investment. Support for job creation and social cohesion, with special emphasis on youth unemployment, will be the focus of the forthcoming Presidencies.
Starting off, the Irish Presidency will be working to agree on the remaining proposals of the Single Market Act (SMA I) and to progress proposals for the second Single Market Act (SMA II). The aim is to improve the competitiveness of the EU’s industry. The Irish Presidency will put a strong emphasis on supporting the development and competitiveness of the SME sector, reducing red tape, as well as facilitating cross-border trade and access to finance. This is one of the aims of the EU’s new COSME initiative (Programme for the Competitiveness of Enterprises and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) and of the Entrepreneurship Action Plan (to be published on 19th December 2012), which includes proposals on insolvency and second chance and entrepreneurial education.Top priority will be given to dossiers like public procurements and moving forward on the Digital Agenda, particularly in the areas of eCommerce (e-signatures and e-Identification), Intellectual Property Rights, cyber security and low-cost high-speed broadband. The implementation of the EU’s Digital Agenda and the better functioning of the Digital Single Market offer huge potential for job creation in a yet to be fully taped area of economic activity. The Digital Agenda can foster cross-border commerce as well as new developments within the IT sector.
With regards to the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the upcoming Presidencies of the Council plan to work on completing the banking union and setting up a Single Supervisory Mechanism. The Council will also continue efforts towards fiscal consolidation and a better co-ordination of the Member States’ economic policies. The so-called ˜two pack” on economic governance will be one of the main priority areas (if final agreement with the European Parliament hasn’t already been reached under the Cypriot presidency). Ireland will steer the third European Semester of scrutiny of member states’ economic and fiscal policies and ensure that Member States, through the Annual Growth Survey process, stay on track to reach the objectives of sustainable economic growth and social cohesion as set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy.
In recognition of the important role research, development and innovation play in achieving sustainable growth and improving the EU’s competitiveness, the Council aims to conclude negotiations on the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme (which is a key EU funding programme, supporting European growth and innovation efforts in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy) and will also work to advance the completion of the European Research Area.
On trade, opening new markets with third countries through Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) will be a priority. Ireland will organize an informal Council in April 2013, which will focus on trade relations ahead of a formal Council in June. The Presidency would like to see a mandate adopted during the next six months to launch talks for a free trade agreement with the United States. The Irish also hope that further progress could be made towards concluding FTAs between the EU and Japan, Singapore and Canada.
Last but not least, the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) for 2014-2020 will have to be discussed again by the European Council in February or March. Implementation of many of the Presidencies’ priorities depends on adopting a 7-year EU budget that is both fit for purpose and can support economic recovery and growth by underpinning areas such as regional cohesion and development and innovation.
For more details on the Presidential Programme, please visit:
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: EMU, EU, European Movement, Greece, Horizon 2020, Ireland, Lithuania | Leave a Comment »