Fortnightly Open Europe bulletin: 21 April 2011
- Open Europe’s report on the EU’s €12bn a year aid budget sparks debate around Europe
- The rise of True Finns could be a sign that EU leaders’ euro gamble is unravelling
- Open Europe in the news
- Please support Open Europe
1. Open Europe’s report on the EU’s €12bn a year aid budget sparks debate around Europe
Open Europe’s report looks at how much the EU spends in external aid and where, identifying five key problem areas. These include a lack of poverty focus, with only 46% of EU aid reaching lower income countries compared with 74% of UK aid. EU aid is also subject to unnecessary administration and transaction costs, with money being recycled between national governments, the EU and other international bodies, such as the United Nations or World Bank, up to three times before it reaches those in need. Open Europe also identified problems with poor project selection, such as €460,000 awarded to a Belgian cultural organisation to run a project in Burkina Faso and Mali called “I dance therefore I am”, which gave local teenagers artistic dance training.
The study sparked debate around Europe with UK Development Minister Andrew Mitchell saying, “This report underlines the very reason why we are pressing for reforms of the way the EU spends aid.” Citing Open Europe’s report, Ben Knapen, the Dutch Europe Minister, called on the European Commission to clarify the use of EU aid.
To read the press release, click here
To read the report, click here
Please leave your comments on our blog: http://openeuropeblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/eu-external-aid-who-is-it-for.html
2. The rise of True Finns could be a sign that EU leaders’ euro gamble is unravelling
The Finnish general elections saw the populist, anti-euro True Finns party win a record 19% of the votes. The party – which mixes leftist economic policies with social conservatism and strong nationalism - will likely be given a place in the next government alongside the National Coalition Party and the Social Democrats. In an interview, True Finns leader Timo Soini said “The politics of the EU is the fundamental reason [for the party’s success].”
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Open Europe argued that the rise of the True Finns could be a warning shot to EU leaders of things to come, and a sign that EU leaders’ eurozone “gamble” is starting to unravel. Open Europe argues that:
“When European Union leaders forged their monetary union without a full political and economic merger, they gambled on two vital factors: That economic forces could be kept in check, and that national democracies could be managed. Over the past 16 months, we have been reminded time and again exactly how big and how irresponsible those gambles were”.
“As much as taxpayers in rich countries don't like to pay for other governments' mistakes, voters in poor countries also don't like being told what to do by people they never elected and can't vote out of office. Will EU politicians' second gamble turn out as ill-judged as their first? Time will tell. But one thing is clear. The political price that European leaders are paying to keep their flawed project afloat continues to rise.”
To read the article please click here
Please leave your comments on our blog:
On April 29, between 3pm and 4.30pm, Open Europe will participate in a panel discussion in WashingtonDC, hosted by the Heritage Foundation. The topic will be “Debts and Deficits: Warnings and Lessons from Europe for the Next U.S. President”.
The discussion can be viewed online via this link:
4. News in brief
EU proposed budget increase to cost the UK an extra £680m in 2012. The European Commission has presented its proposal for the EU’s budget in 2012, calling for a 4.9% increase to the budget, equal to €6.2bn, bringing the total EU budget up to €132.7bn. If approved, the UK’s contribution would increase by £680m. (BBC, 20 April)
MEPs vote to keep business class travel. MEPs voted against three measures which could have seen salaries frozen and travel allowances cut. Among the rejected measures was a proposal to end MEPs business class travel for journeys less than four hours. (Telegraph, 10 April)
5. Open Europe in the news
EU budget increase could cost the UK an extra £680m in 2012
21 April Express Politics.co.uk 20 April Newsnight: Persson WSJ 15 April Express
Open Europe Director Mats Persson was quoted by the BBC, the Express and on Politics.co.uk arguing that "The commission is either completely misreading or wilfully ignoring the public mood around Europe…Just like national governments, the EU has to adapt and find ways to re-shuffle and prioritise the funds available in the current economic climate. Almost everywhere you look there is fat that can be cut from the EU budget - from the 50 or so EU quangos to the wasteful farm subsidies to cohesion subsidies to Europe's richest regions".
Mats also appeared on the BBC’s Newsnight programme saying that the UK Government needed to take a far more proactive approach in pushing for changes to how the EU budget is spent, not only its overall size. Stephen Booth was quoted in the Express. A comment piece in the WSJ cited examples from Open Europe’s report “Another 50 Examples of EU Waste”.
EU freedom of movement under pressure
20 April Al-Jazeera: Persson
Mats Persson appeared on Al-Jazeera discussing the row between France and Italy over migrants coming from North Africa and the implications for the EU’s Schengen Agreement.
The Price of the Euro in Finland: The single currency is exacting ever-higher political and economic costs
20 April Time Blogs: Schuman 19 April WSJ: Persson 18 April Newsnight: Persson
Following the gains made by the populist True Finns party in Finland, Mats Persson penned an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal and appeared on BBC Newsnight, arguing that Europe is entering “unchartered territory” both in terms of the willingness of taxpayers in stronger eurozone economies to underwrite governments in weaker ones, and the extent to which citizens in weaker member states will put up with EU-backed austerity measures. Mats was also cited by Michael Schuman on his Time Magazine blog.
Open Europe briefing: Less than half of the EU’s external aid goes to the world’s poorest countries
21 April Elsevier blog: Joosten 20 April Welt Wirtualna Polska Main Post Nieuwsbank 19 April Dutch Foreign Ministry press release Conservative Home Telegraaf Nieuwsblad Elsevier Elsevier II AD Geenstijl.nl Nieuws.nl Nu.nl Powned TV Il Giornale18 April Daily Mail Express 17 April Sunday Times Telegraph NOTW Express.be Milliyet
Open Europe’s report on the EU’s aid spending featured widely in the UK and European press, and was cited in the Telegraph, Sunday Times, News of the World, Mail, Sun, Express, on Conservative Home, in German newspapers Welt and Main Post, Belgian newspapers Express and Het Nieuwsblad, in Dutch newspapers De Telegraaf, Elsevier and AD, by news agency Nieuwsbank, news sites Niews.nl and NU.nl, politics blog GeenStijl.nl, PownedTV, Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Polish news site Wirtualna Polska, and twice in Turkish daily Milliyet.
Stephen Booth was quoted in the Telegraph arguing, "The EU's aid budget suffers from poor accountability and unnecessary bureaucracy, and, most critically, less than half the money spent goes to the world's poorest people". He added, "National contributions to the EU aid budget should be made voluntary. At a time when funds are tight, it is vital that governments get value for money".
Portugal needs debt restructuring, not a bail-out
12 April Spectator: Persson 11 April Conservative Home: Persson BBC Radio Scotland 10 April LBC
Mats Persson argued in an opinion piece on the Spectator’s Coffee House blog that “a bail-out will do little to solve Portugal’s underlying problems… It is finally starting to dawn on people that a large amount of the debt circulating the system will never realistically be repaid…All this means that the government is putting British taxpayers’ money on the line, but the UK remains exposed to meltdowns in the eurozone in future”.
Mats also authored a piece on Conservative Home arguing that the main political lesson to be learnt from the UK’s involvement in the Portuguese bail-out was not to give up vetoes over sensitive areas of EU policy without first thinking through every possible consequence, such as the Labour government in 2001 giving up the veto over the part of the EU treaties which is now being used to justify the euro bail-outs.
Meanwhile, Raoul Ruparel appeared on LBC radio discussing the Portuguese bail-out and the future of the eurozone, and on BBC Radio Scotland, discussing the similarities and differences between the Irish and Icelandic economic crises.
How the EU elite got it wrong on the euro
11 April Telegraph blog: Hannan
Conservative MEP Dan Hannan referenced Open Europe’s report “They said it: How the EU elite got it wrong on the euro” on his Telegraph blog, highlighting how politicians, journalists and others failed to predict how the eurozone would evolve.
6. Please support Open Europe
Open Europe is a small, lean operation which relies entirely on individual donations. We produce cutting-edge research on all aspects of EU policy, targeting both politicians and the media to campaign for radical reform of the EU. We unearth high-impact stories and hold high-profile events, and, despite being a small team, we are quoted and interviewed several times a week in the media.
We believe there is a better way forward for Europe, and we need your help in trying to make our vision a reality. If you support our work and would like to help us continue to do it, please click the link below to find out how you can donate.
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