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Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

10.01.11: Core EU states put squeeze on Portugal to accept bail-out - 0 views

  • Major European powers are putting the squeeze on Portugal to follow Greece and Ireland and knock on the doors of EU and IMF bail-out resources.

    Reports over the weekend quote senior European sources as saying Berlin, Paris and other core eurozone capitals are leaning heavily on Lisbon to apply for a financial rescue, although the Portuguese government continues to deny that any pressure is being mounted.

  • The eurozone core fears that if a firewall is not built around Portugal, investor nervousness could spread to Spain, a much larger economy than those of the two states - Greece and Ireland - that have already been bailed out.

    However, formal negotiations with Lisbon have yet to begin, the source continued, and discussions have yet to match the pace of similar talks ahead of the Greek bail-out last May or that of Ireland last November.

    Should Portugal decide to ask for a rescue, the bill would amount to between €60 and €80 billion, the source said.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

17.12.10: EU's big three call for long-term budgetary restraint - 0 views

  • The EU's three largest member states - Germany, France and the UK - are set to publish a text on Saturday (18 December), calling for spending restraint in the bloc's long-term financial framework (post 2013).

    Initiated by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the letter will call for a freeze in the long-term spending plan, excluding inflation, and also seek to rein in the bloc's 2012 and 2013 annual budgets.

  • The move puts the group of large member states on a direct collision course with the Brussels-based EU institutions, already battered after their call for a six percent rise in next year's EU budget was cut in half by national capitals.

    With the commission not set to publish formal proposals on the multi-annual financial framework until June 2011, the EU institution may also perceive London's latest initiative as a move to undermine its right of initiative. Still undecided, the framework's period is likely to cover 2014-2020. It is then broken down into annual budgets.

    Poland and other eastern countries may also be horrified by the attempt to curb future EU payments of which newer member states are large recipients. But other EU members are also set to sign the austerity-letter, with Austria, Italy and Finland among the names suggested by diplomats.

  • European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso sought to downplay the letter's significance.

    "We know different groups of member states sometimes try to position themselves," he said. "What is important in the end is the commission's proposal that is being put forward [next June], and then the discussions on the basis of that proposal."

    European Council President Herman Van Rompuy was also phlegmatic. "If there are letters, we are very polite people, we read our letters we receive," he said.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

25.11.10: Tough problems for the Hungarian presidency - 0 views

  • The incoming Hungarian presidency of the European Union is bracing itself for an unexpectedly difficult six months (Jan-June 2011) at the helm, likely to test the diplomatic skills of the presidency first-timers to the full.

    The ongoing fight to shore up eurozone stability, together with calls for EU treaty change and acrimonious EU budget talks are among the prickly issues on the packed agenda, with Turkish accession talks and the Roma ethnic question also potential flashpoints.

  • Some EU and member state officials have been alarmed at what they perceive as a concentration of power under Herman Van Rompuy, the bloc's first president of the European Council, the body representing EU leaders.

    "Mr Van Rompuy has taken on a number of issues that should instead be run by the rotating presidency, helped by the current political limbo surrounding the Belgian government," one Polish official said earlier this month.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

09.11.10: Disagreement over EU agricultural policy and funding - 0 views

  • Poland's top farm official has slated the EU's agricultural policy, or CAP, as "two-speed" and common "only in name," calling for a new system with reduced direct payments for farmers and increased money to help restructure the sector.

    Speaking to journalists on Monday (8 November), Marek Sawicki from Poland's conservative Peasant Party also threw his support behind one option outlined in next week's European Commission proposal on CAP reform, and slammed the contents of a recent Franco-German position paper as purely "cosmetic."

  • Direct payments for farmers in newer member states are strongly linked to farm size, while those in the EU15 countries receive funds calculated using a complicated system that takes into account historic stock or crop levels.

    This has resulted in huge variations in direct payment sizes, with per-hectare payments for Polish farmers amounting to roughly €150, compared with while €300 for French farmers.

  • "It is no secret that at the moment we have two speeds in Europe. There are old and new member states and they move at different speeds," he added. "There's 27 different common agricultural policies, but only the name is common."

    To balance this out, Mr Sawicki wants direct payments for farmers in all member states to be reduced in size, while EU funding under the policy's 'rural development' pillar should be increased. Payments for Polish farmers are already split roughly evenly between the two funding channels.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

06.11.10: Albania and Bosnia to get visa-free travel before Christmas - 0 views

  • EU interior ministers are on Monday (8 November) expected to lift visa requirements for Albanian and Bosnian citizens despite limited progress in terms of democracy, the fight against organised crime and corruption in the two countries.
  • To Bosnians and Albanians, the news is sweet after they were left behind last year when Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro got on the visa-free list. Kosovo, on the other hand, has little prospect of catching up as it is not even recognised by all EU member states.

    On the EU side, some capitals are unhappy about the developments. The Netherlands is opposing the move, saying there has been too little progress in terms of democratisation, organised crime and corruption in Albania and Bosnia and pointing to the political chaos in both countries. France is also reluctant, fearing a massive influx of migrants.

    The EU commission has given reassurances that Tirana and Sarajevo will make it clear that visa-free travel is not a ticket to asylum or residence in the EU after problems with Macedonian asylum seekers last year.

    But even if France or the Netherlands votes No or abstain on Monday, the decision will be adopted by qualified majority.

    The commission itself shares Dutch concerns. In the 2010 accession progress reports on the two countries, to be published on Tuesday and seen by EUobserver, neither Albania nor Bosnia win much praise.

    "Bosnia and Herzegovina has made limited progress in addressing key reforms. Incompatibilities between the Bosnian constitution and the EU convention on human rights were not removed, despite the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights," the document says. It also criticises Bosnia for lacking "a shared vision by the leaders on the overall direction of the country and on key EU-related reforms."

    On Albania, it says the political stalemate after 2009 elections is the biggest obstacle to progress. It adds that Albania has made too little headway to be granted the status of EU candidate country, for which it applied in 2009. "Activities of organised crime groups in Albania, having impact outside of the country, remain an issue of serious concern. Further strenghtening of co-operation at the international level is necessary, including in particular with neighbouring countries," it says.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

03.11.10: EU leaders back 'limited' treaty change, budget cap - 0 views

  • Britain and other European Union countries put their weight behind Franco-German calls for tougher eurozone rules at a summit today (29 October), agreeing on "limited" changes to the EU's main treaty in return for a cap on the EU budget.
  • Officials struggled to deliver the message that legal tricks could accommodate both Germany's push for treaty change and conflicting calls from several other countries which had rejected the idea.

    Regarding treaty change, the key word is "simplified", officials explained. A simplified provision, enshrined in Article 48, Section 6 of the Lisbon Treaty, allows member countries to unanimously adopt a decision amending all or part of the main elements of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU), which governs how the Union carries out its work.

    Such a procedure would avoid the need to call a constitutional convention, experts explained. In addition, the European Parliament would only be "consulted" instead of enjoying full voting rights as part of the normal co-decision procedure.

    The changes to the treaty are to be settled by mid-2013, before the expiry of the present emergency fund agreed earlier this year to deal with crises such as the one that hit Greece. The objective is to replace that with a permanent mechanism.

    The simplified treaty change procedure will not enter into force until it is approved by member states in accordance with their constitutions.

    Most EU countries are expected to ratify the decision by a simplified procedure in their parliaments. As for Ireland, it remains unclear whether a change effected in this way would require another referendum.

  • UK Prime Minister David Cameron appears to have been instrumental in forging a deal, lending his backing to Franco-German calls for treaty change in return for keeping a lid on the EU's 2011 budget.

    11 member states, including Britain, France and Germany, will send a letter to the European Commission and Parliament today saying that their plans to increase the EU budget by 5.9% in 2011 are "especially unacceptable at a time when we are having to take difficult decisions at national level to control public expenditure".

    The letter was signed by the leaders of the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Slovenia and Estonia.

    The bloc's finance ministers had earlier voted for a limited increase in the EU budget of 2.9%. "We are clear that we cannot accept any more than the 2.9% increase proposed by the finance ministers," the leaders say in the letter.

    Cameron argued that a planned increase in the EU budget would cost his country's taxpayers the equivalent of one billion euros. The 2.9% rise would still cost them £435m (500m euros).

    Parliament to fight back

    By agreeing to cap the budget, EU leaders set themselves on a collision course with the European parliament, which has the power to approve or reject the proposed budget.

    Negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council, which represents the 27 member countries, over the EU's 2011 budget kicked off on 27 October (see 'Background').

    "If Cameron is prepared to give up the British rebate [...] then we can for sure discuss a reduction of the budget," said Martin Schulz, leader of the Socialist & Democrats group in the European Parliament, speaking to EUX.TV, the European policy news channel powered by EurActiv.

    "The European budget is not to be compared with national budgets," said Schulz. "There are no own resources. We have no European taxes. We have no own money. It is money coming from the member states. We can make no debts. The British budget must be reduced because there is enormous debt. Europe has no debts," he said.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

28.10.10: EU leaders give green light to tweak treaty in order to allow for the creatio... - 0 views

  • European Union leaders have come to a consensus that the bloc's treaty must be changed, although only in a limited fashion, in order to allow for the creation of a permanent bail-out fund for member states.

    "Today we took important decisions to strengthen the euro," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy told reporters at a press conference in the early morning hours of Friday (29 October).

  • Initially horrified at the Franco-German demand for a wholesale re-writing of the EU rulebook only a year after the Lisbon Treaty had been approved, the other EU leaders are now warming to the idea of a "limited" tweaking of the treaty in a way that they hope will avoid major political fall-out.

    "Heads of state and government agree on the need for member states to establish a permanent crisis mechanism to safeguard the financial stability of the euro area as a whole and invite the president of the European Council to undertake consultations with the members of the European Council on a limited treaty change required to that effect," the draft conclusions of a two-day summit in Brussels read.

  • "No country is opposed in principle to a moderate treaty change but they want to know what the political and legal consequences of this would be," said one source close to the discussions.

    Two moves have been tentatively agreed. EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy is to be tasked with exploring whether such a limited change can be done via a simplified revision procedure, in which EU leaders can make the change without having to call a full Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) - involving negotiations between the governments, consultations with the European Parliament and the participation of the European Commission, which could open a Pandora's Box of other new proposals.

    Mr Van Rompuy would also explore whether legally this can be done without the tweak having to be presented to national parliaments for approval, which would almost certainly grind down the process, or even further, whether such a move would provoke referendums in some countries, notably Ireland, which maintains a constitutional requirement that any shift in powers from Dublin to Brussels be approved in a vote by the people.

    He would report back to the European Council in December.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

28.10.10: Battle over treaty change divides Europe ahead of summit - 0 views

  • Just one year after the second Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty - one of the most bitter political battles in EU history - France and Germany are coming into an EU summit ready to pitch the idea of rewriting the legal pact.

    As the premiers and presidents of the bloc's 27 states arrive in Brussels on Thursday (28 October) for a two-day summit intended to endorse new fiscal rules, a last-minute deal between two of the EU's most powerful countries has caused shocked and anger across the continent.

  • Last week at a bilateral pow-wow in Deauville, France, President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel cut a deal in which Berlin backed Paris in its desire to water down sanctions to be imposed on excessive-spending EU countries.

    In return, Paris endorsed Berlin's push for a change to the EU treaty in order to set-up an EU bailout fund and default mechanism.

    Ms Merkel is adamant that her country cannot endorse a repeat of the emergency bail-outs cobbled together this spring.

    Germany is the main bankroller of the €110 billion loan to Greece and of the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), the yet-to-be-tapped €440 billion rescue mechanism for the eurozone as a whole. Both of these funds have an expiry date of 2013 and Berlin is looking to see that something more substantial replaces them before then.

    The default mechanism would signal to investors that they, rather than taxpayers alone, would be on the hook for at least part of the costs of the bankruptcy of a country. The mechanism is designed to deal with sovereign defaults without setting off a cascading panic in the markets similar to the Greek debt crisis that shook Europe in spring.

    The idea is highly controversial, with even the reticent European Central Bank chief Jean-Claude Trichet voicing steadfast opposition.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

19.10.10: Spectre of treaty change accompanies new eurozone agreement - 0 views

  • Eurozone finance chiefs have backed new rules for stricter fiscal discipline, including automatic penalties. Meanwhile, France and Germany have spoken out in favour of a permanent bail-out fund that would require a change to the EU treaties.

    Under the previous set-up, eurozone governments which flouted rules limiting the size of their public deficit could only be sanctioned following a majority decision by their peers. As a result, scofflaws regularly got away without punishment.

  • The new "reverse majority" system agreed in Brussels on Monday (18 October) flips the framework on its head, with penalties automatically applied unless a majority of states oppose the move.

    Governments will be given a six-month period of grace in order to fix their excesses in a softening clause pushed through by France.

    Paris, as well as Warsaw and Rome had initially opposed the idea of automatic sanctions, while Germany insisted any reforms would not be credible unless they had some teeth.

  • This move would require an EU treaty change agreed by a fresh inter-governmental conference, coming hot on the heels of the newly-agrees Lisbon pact.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

EurActiv.com - EU talks 'can be unblocked', says Turkish negotiator | EU - European Inf... - 0 views

  • Ankara believes that stalled negotiations on Turkey's EU accession can be unblocked swiftly if the Cyprus talks make headway, the minister of European affairs and Turkey's chief EU negotiator, Egemen Bagiş, told EurActiv in an exclusive interview.
  • Five chapters of Turkey's EU accession negotiations are currently being blocked by France, while three are being held by Austria and Germany. 

    The chief negotiator said his country had been promised full membership and was therefore requesting "nothing less, nothing more". 

    "I checked the 100,000-page acquis," Bagiş said, referring to the EU's lengthy body of approved legislation. "There's nothing besides membership. There is no alternative to membership. It doesn't exist." 

    "What President Sarkozy used to say […] does not exist," stressed Bagiş, adding that "his colleagues promised me not to use those insulting, those horrible phrases again". 

    Although he insisted that the Cyprus problem was not directly related to Turkey's accession negotiations, he admitted that a positive development in the island's reunification talks could lead to an unblocking of Turkey's negotiating chapters. 

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

09.06.09: Sarkozy vows to change Europe after EU elections success - 0 views

  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said his party's victory in Sunday's European elections showed that French people wanted the EU to change and has said he would come up with initiatives in that respect "in the days to come."

    In a communique published Monday (8 June) on the French president's website, Mr Sarkozy said that his centre-right UMP party's victory showed French people's "recognition for the work accomplished during the French presidency of the European Union [in the second half of last year] and their support for the efforts undertaken by the government to bring to an end an unprecedented global crisis".

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

29.05.09: Sarkozy cancels Sweden visit over Turkey - 0 views

  • French President Nicolas Sarkozy has cancelled a visit to Sweden scheduled for next Tuesday (2 June) in order to avoid a clash on the question of Turkey's EU membership just days before the European elections and a month before Stockholm takes over the EU's rotating presidency.
  • But the French president, who is an outspoken opponent of Turkey's entry to the European Union, did not want to highlight the strong divergence of views on this topic with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Le Monde reported on Thursday (28 May).

    Sweden favours further EU enlargement, including to Turkey. On Monday this week, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt told Le Figaro newspaper that the EU had "a strategic interest" in Turkey's EU integration and warned against "closing the door" to Ankara.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

21.05.09: Macedonia counts on EU help in dispute with Greece - 0 views

  • The Prime Minister of Macedonia, Nikola Gruevski, met with Nicolas Sarkozy on Friday (May 15) at the Elysee Palace, after visiting Brussels two days earlier. The key goal is visa abolition for this small landlocked country of 2 million people. Macedonia is proud of its achievements in becoming a leader in the region considering the matter. "We have met all the conditions in order the European Commission to propose visa liberalisation, Gruevski tells Le Monde. The decision should be reached in late autumn. Hopefully, as of Jan. 1 2010, our citizens will freely travel the Schengen zone." According to officials in Skopje, over 450.000 biometric passports have been already issued.
  • At NATO Summit in Bucharest last April, Greece vetoed Macedonia’s accession to the Alliance. The country was admitted in the UN in 1993 under the interim reference – The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In November of 2008, Skopje filed a motion before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. "Greece does not only want for us to change our name, but also the passports, Constitution, naming of our language, our identity," Mr Gruevski says. In order to lift the Greek obstacle, the Premier believes that Brussels should influence on its member country. “Macedonia is not sufficiently powerful to deal with this alone, he says. That is why we are in Paris. We need support, but ask for nothing we haven’t deserv
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

13.03.09: France and Germany unite positions ahead of summit - 0 views

  • France and Germany on Thursday (12 March) agreed that the emphasis at the upcoming G20 meeting in London should be on greater financial regulation and rejected calls coming from the US to increase spending as a way to deal with the crisis.

    During a meeting of their cabinets in Berlin, the two countries "underlined their determination to pursue and strengthen the co-ordination of their economic policy in the face of the financial and economic crisis and to work together so that such a crisis does not reproduce itself," reads a joint declaration of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

19.02.09: "Montenegrin EU application blocked" - 0 views

  • PODGORICA -- Montenegro's application for EU candidate status has been blocked in the EU Council of Ministers, Podgorica-based daily Vijesti reports on Thursday.

    This took place before the European Commission even presented its opinion on the country's readiness to gain candidate status.

    Referring to information published by the EU press agency, Agence Europe, the daily says that several member states within the Enlargement Working Group, above all Holland, Spain, France and Belgium, object to the issue being shifted to the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), and then to the Council of Ministers.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

05.01.09: EU efforts to broker a ceasefire in the Palestinian territorities - 0 views

  • The Czech EU presidency this weekend retracted its support for Israel amid the ground attack on Gaza, while France switched its criticism from Israel to Hamas.
  • Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who last week complained about Israel's disproportionate use of force, laid the lion's share of blame on Hamas in an interview on Monday.
  • The melee of EU diplomats will also be joined on Monday by Tony Blair, the former British leader and current special envoy of the Middle East quartet (the EU, US, UN and Russia).
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

09.12.08: France Warns Macedonia over 'Name Row" - 0 views

  • Even if Macedonia meets all the necessary reform requirements, Skopje cannot progress in its EU bid unless the 'name row' with Greece is solved, France has warned.
  • Despite acknowledging the fact that the country has met many criteria to move forward, and the Enlargement’s Commissioner’s evaluation that Macedonia has “plenty of potential to advance in EU integration,” Brussels decision-makers warn again that this could be overshadowed by the political unwillingness of EU member states.
  • Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, reiterated that the Commission had presented benchmarks this spring as a criteria that has to be fulfilled before Macedonia starts accession talks with the bloc.

    “But in meantime, it is true that the EU Council functions on the basis of unanimity and this is also the essential factor concerning the decision on opening accession talks with FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia),” Rehn said.
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

17.11.08: France 'overstepped mandate' on missile shield moratorium - 0 views

  • Prague and Warsaw have poured cold water on French calls for a moratorium on a planned US missile shield in Europe, with both capitals saying that president Nicolas Sarkozy overstepped his mandate.
  • "I don't think that third countries, even such good friends as France, can have a particular right to express themselves on this issue," Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on Saturday (15 November)
  • The Polish leader described Mr Sarkozy's comments as his "own point of view, [with] no impact of the future of the project," according to AFP, adding that "The question of the anti-missile shield is governed by an agreement between Poland and the United States."
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

14.11.08: Sarkozy wants new EU-US-Russia security accord - 0 views

  • With Russia's backing for the G20 summit, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proposed a new security and defence arrangement between the EU, Russia and the US to be agreed at a summit mid-2009, calling both on Moscow and Washington to refrain from deploying missiles until that date.

    Mr Sarkozy was speaking at a press conference on Friday (14 November) following the EU-Russia summit held in Nice, alongside his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

  • "As acting EU council president I propose that mid-2009 we gather for instance within the OSCE [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe] to lay the basis of what might be a future EU security arrangement ...which would of course involve the Russians and the Americans," Mr Sarkozy said, backing an idea originally proposed by his Russian counterpart.
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    Sarkozy wants new EU-US-Russia security accord
Prof. Dr  Wolfgang Schumann

17.10.08: Barroso and Sarkozy plead for permanent EU presidency - 0 views

  • European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Nicolas Sarkozy - currently chairing the EU - have urged the need for a permanent EU presidency to replace the rotating system.

    "We need a president of the Council [the institution representing EU member states] that does not change every six months," Mr Barroso told journalists at the end of an EU leaders' meeting in Brussels on Thursday (16 October). "To lead [EU] member states, we need a very strong presidency."

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