Thursday 5 March 2015

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The only certainty is uncertainty

Posted by on 01/03/15
by Brendan Donnelly, Director of the Federal Trust and Treasurer of the European Movement UK/// During the referendum on voting reform in 2011, it was sometimes claimed by advocates of the present British electoral system, misleadingly known as “first past the post,” that it tended to produce definite outcomes, with clear Parliamentary majorities for the [...]

The United States of America Questions the Credibility of the European Union

Posted by on 25/02/15
By Andrew Duff If you are American you do not have to be Senator John McCain, who wants to arm the Ukrainians, to question the validity of Europe’s fond belief that reliance on soft power fits the bill for the 21st century.

Betting on Brexit

Posted by on 24/02/15

Think the UK is leaving the EU? Wanna bet? Well, from Thursday, you can.

Ladbrokes will start taking bets on the UK leaving the EU, giving Eurosceptics and Europhiles alike the chance to put their money where their mouth is. The company is already taking bets on the date of the referendum.

The current favourite, with odds of 4/6 is no referendum before 2018.

David Cameron’s preferred choice, 2017 gives you odds of 7/4.

But, if you fancy real bang for your buck a 2015 referendum is 25/1.

Open Europe and Ladbrokes will be hosting a launch party for the new market in London this week, if you fancy a flutter.


Photograph courtesy of Mikey. Published under a Creative Commons license.


An EU Federalist Out of the Closet- Interview with Andrew Duff

Posted by on 22/02/15

Federalism has become such a dirty word in EU politics, and federalists are accused of so many evils that some EU’s federalists are now hiding in the closet and will not freely admit their affiliation. The nationalists view the Federalists as the bad boys of EU politics who are trying to turn the EU into a United States of Europe while the federalists view the nationalists as a hindrance to the European project.

Federalists believe that deepening European integration is the direction to build the EU, which best benefits the citizens of Europe and gives Europe as a whole a strong voice on the world stage.  The federalists are the builders of a federal united Europe and the nationalists want to tear the building down to a loose confederation. Nationalists want economic union but no coordination of any other policies.

Federalists are the mud of choice for certain experts who accuse them of being sinister, dark, faceless bureaucrats who are attempting to build a United States of Europe in violation of the citizen, democracy and the sovereignty of the nation state. They have even become fodder for conspiracy theorists.   Federalists do want to build a United States of Europe because they believe that only in unity will Europe have prosperity and protection from the world’s ills. Contrary to being accused of being non-democratic, federalists want to ensure their union is democratic and for the citizen.  Part of the problem is that many have failed to recognize that “democratic” just like “federalism” has come to encompass a varied interpretation in the political vernacular.

While the nationalists have their national pride, and proudly defend their nation, federalists as Andrew Duff alluded hide in the closet. Federalism is such a negative word in EU politics that leading federalists deny being federalists.

Since Federalism is both misunderstood and reviled I thought it a good idea to question the EU’s leading federalist Andrew Duff, who has come out of the closet and agreed to discuss some of these issues.  Andrew Duff was director of the Federal Trust, the EU’s leading think-tank and he was president of the Union of European Federalists.  If that is all not federalist enough, he helped found the Spinelli group to help ensure that the EU progress along federal lines.  Hold on to your seats for what is coming next because it gets even better. Andrew Duff is the EU’s constitution specialist who helped draft several EU treaties and oversaw the drafting of the Fundamental Law to revise the Lisbon treaty.  He is the EU’s James Madison and one of the chief architects of a United States of Europe. Andrew Duff is not only a federalist out of the closet, he is leader of the pack.

Erika Grey

European federalism is misunderstood in Europe, virtually unheard of in the United States and yet federalism is the ideology that drives the European Union and many EU federalists have held and hold leading positions in the EU institutions. Why do you think that with such a sophisticated and educated group of adherents to the ideology, which includes journalists, is European federalism misunderstood within the EU nations and virtually unheard of around the world?


It’s an extremely good question and I ask myself that a lot. I think that it’s not quite fair to say that federalism has disappeared. It is there inside the atmosphere still and the British even who seem to be especially opposed to the federal idea in the EU context are responsible for promoting it in the empire: in the British Empire. After all, South Africa, Canada, Australia, Italy, India, Nigeria, are all federations and all of these bases were a gifted federalism at the end of empire, but the Brits have not ever embraced it- either internally in the UK- and as a result of that the UK is experiencing huge tensions between the component nations. [This is] despite the fact that the Brits and the Americans were responsible for imposing a federal constitution on Germany after the war.

The Brits have not ever thought of themselves as European federalists, that’s a pity. But, I still think that the logic of the EU, if you go right back to the end of the war, is as you say federalist and what we have to do is to return to the spirit and the logic of the founding fathers of the EU. I think that can be done, but it needs clear thinking and courageous leadership and unfortunately we haven’t an awful lot of all of those things.

Erika Grey

Can you provide a one sentence definition of European Federalism?


It is about coordinate government at different levels addressing the issues of different scales of complexity, but coordinate with each other so that the center is not supreme. It’s not going to impose itself upon the provincial state levels.

I think that is misunderstood, and I thinks it’s misunderstood even in Brussels at present because at present we’re in a semi-federal pre-federal construct. The Commission is obliged to try to coordinate national policy to centralize the coordination of national policies. But, I do not think that is federal. That’s not a truly federal solution. In order for there to be one, one has to have something that approximates to a federal government. It is that we haven’t got.

Historically I think we are in a limbo, trapped in a limbo between a confederal system of governance, which we know isn’t working very well on the one hand, and a federal union between prefigured, we’ve sort of kind of seen it through the cloud, but we haven’t got the courage to progress towards it.

Erika Grey

While others shy away and have retreated from being labeled a federalist you are smiling in a photo with a sign above you that reads, “I am a federalist,” and you look rather content in the photo. If you were in Juncker’s and Guys Verhofstadt’s shoes at the time of the elections, and running for the Commission presidency would you too have avoided being labeled a federalist or denied being one?


No, absolutely not I’ve always been prepared to come out of the closet, and indeed of course as you know I lost my seat in the last elections, and part of the reason that I lost is because I’m an outed federalist.

Erika Grey

The nationalist and populist parties that gained in the EU elections have noted the “arch federalists” and speak of federalists as the villains in EU politics.  The Bruges group alleges that Federalists are sinister as they build the EU federation into a United States of Europe. How does it feel to be cast as a sinister political villain, and see your peers avoid being labeled as federalist and deny their affiliation?


Well I think it would be sinister if there were a plot, a conspiracy to do this. But, I don’t see that, or at least if there is a conspiracy to create a federal super state in Europe then I would probably be a part of it. I would probably been told, but there isn’t. It is important that we are transparent in what we do, that we’re very democratic, that we are prepared to face up to comment, criticism, and to take on the nationalists. I think if you counter poise the nationalists and the federalists you can see more clearly the political dynamics, which move the EU, than if you only have a look into terms of left and right or poor and rich or south and north or east and west. There is lots of other ways to looking at the EU in order of its complexity. But, a key dynamic is federalist and nationalist and I’m quite happy to argue that case.

Erika Grey

You became director of the Federal Trust in 1993, when you were about 43 years old. At the age of 32 in 1982 you were elected to the City Council in Cambridge and at the age of 34 you made your first attempt to get elected to the EU Parliament, which at the time was only a forum for debate and a consultative body. In that year Alterio Spinelli was still serving as an MEP and the Single European Act had not yet been decided. Gaston Thorn was Commission President and the single market white paper of 1985 had also not been launched. The European Community comprised of only 10 members and was still in its infancy. What started your interest in European federalism and in the European Community in those early years?


Well it’s a long time ago, but I think I started to – in fact I’m certain that I started to- be interested even before then. I think I was anxious to be a member of the European Parliament even before it had been created.

My experience as a student in 1968, I was 17 in 1968, and was just on the way from school to Cambridge.  But, I spent a lot of it time in Paris at that time as well and so I had first-hand experience of the sense that things were changing fast and that politics of the post war generation were under pressure and that the dynamics were moving. It was a very turbulent time.  It was a very exciting time and clearly the experience of the students in Germany, France, Italy, Britain, Amsterdam, I remember was a very post national experience. We were sharing each other’s demonstrations, manifestos, the discourse between students was very European, and I found that experience very enriching…if it could be continued, built on, that was a good thing to try to do. It wasn’t far from that to start the federal experiment or to join in the federal campaign that had always been there. I met Monet and Spinelli and that was also a great inspiration.

Erika Grey

I read where you previously stated, “I have always wanted to be in the European Parliament, I think even before the Parliament was first thought of.” …Can we expect to see you running in the next MEP election?


I would like Parliament to carry on in the place that I left off, was forced to leave off, to try to create for a certain number of MEP’s a pan European constituency, which would elect some of them from transnational political party lists. The idea of this was approved in the Parliament in a fairly ambiguous way, but I think it’s the key to growing strong federal parties to compete with national political parties, which in the past have had sort of a monopoly on the campaigns: a grip on the election campaigns of the European Parliament.  It means that those campaigns have been very national and completely isolated from one another.

I would like to think that my idea of trans-national lists for a pan European seat will in the end win through. If that happens I will certainly seek to put up for the European Parliament again, but for a national political party, no I think I’ve tried that.

Erika Grey

You have spoken of your mission, you are obviously a man with a life mission, can you in your own words tell us your mission and why it is so important to you?


We need to create a Europe, which can punch its weight in global affairs in the interests of our values and principles that we want to project elsewhere. I would like a Europe that will be able to square up to the great challenges that we now face in climate, security, prosperity; things whose scale and complexity have transcended the scale of the nation state.

We have out grown the old classical state. We need to create an intergraded regional community that can improve upon the performance of the nation state and will provide the public with goods that it deserves and hear and respond to the anxieties and the aspirations of the citizen in a way that the old states cannot anymore.

If we’re going to do this it’s critical that the form of a government that we create at this level is federal.  If it is not it will be centralized, it will be prone to presidencies– Germany becoming in charge of the EU. It has to be fundamentally and profoundly very democratic and the only way it could be that is if it’s federal.


This is the first interview in a series.  The next titled, “The [EU] Constitution Belongs To The People: Interview With Andrew Duff, will deal with The Fundamental Law treaty itself and reveal glimpse of what the EU will look like moving forward as well as take you inside the mind of the man who orchestrated the writing of it.


The UK’s GDS meltdown couldn’t happen in Brussels, right?

Posted by on 22/02/15
I freely admit: I’ve been a fanboy of the UK’s Government Delivery Service (GDS) since studying their design principles. Those principles are still good. Everything else, it turns out, was not. I was not the only information architect in Brussels dazzled a few years ago by GDS’ approach which, according to internal reports seen by [...]

Immigration and the Job Market in the UK

Posted by on 30/01/15

In a recent poll about the nation’s economic anxieties, the Guardian and ICM found out that 46 % of respondents consider ‘Immigrants undercutting workers’ as the primary motive behind the present state of British economy. The Guardian cites Martin Boon, director of ICM Research: “Ten years ago immigration would have been in the second half of the top 10 of Britons’ list of concerns. Now it is in the top three.”…)

There’s no doubt about one thing – the surge of immigrants during the last decade has radically changed the British job market. During the first decade of the 21st c., net immigration to Britain , i.e. the balance of people arriving over those who leaving, was on average under 200,000 per year. This figure stands in stark contrast to those of the preceding decades – in the 1980s, it was about 10,000, in 1990s – 50,000. It’s estimated that the surge of immigrants has delivered what can be considered the biggest change of the British population in the nation’s modern history.

The various concerns regarding the subject of immigration and its connection to the British job market were voiced during the 2014 EU elections, where questions like “Do immigrants take jobs from British people?” popping up. Some surveys, like the one conducted by the ONS’s Labor Force, would suggest immigrants to be responsible for the current economic shrinking – the report in question stated that while EU visitors have an employment rate of 77.2%, Briton’s chance to eb employed has fallen to 72.4%.

The idea that foreign-born workers hurt the wages of the British ones has therefore become a kind of consensus in British politics. To cite the Home Office and Business Department report: “Using a simple supply and demand model, immigration will tend to lower the wages of workers who are considered to be ‘substitutes’ to the immigrants.”…)
But that’s not all – a 2009 study by London School of Economics has also pointed to the fact that the surge of immigrants is hurting most the unskilled job market, having a “significant, small, negative impact on average wages.”…)

Is blaming immigrants for the current economic situation fair? The negative view promoted by the studies mentioned above is challenged by other empirical inquiries into the state of the British job market. Jonathan Portes, head of the National Institute for Economic and Social Research, concludes: ” […] there is some evidence that migration, while having some positive impact on wages overall, might have a small negative impact for the low-paid. But these impacts appear quite small – other factors, like general labour market developments, or the minimum wage, appear to be considerably more important.”…)

Cindy Boesel,

The Picture of Self-Employment in the EU

Posted by on 20/01/15

Self-employment hasn’t managed to successfully lure away a great share of the unemployed population for only somewhere around 14percent of European workers choose this job option. The figures vary however, as you head further into Eastern Europe, whose workforce have possibly been spurred on by dire poverty and war-ravaged locales to go out and make something out of their lives. Technology advancements have impacted the labour markets in the region, so piecemeal choices of a new mode of work that are quite insecure or entrepreneurial in terms of innovation are being lauded upon, and that is not always a safe-option to bet on for the long haul for workers. As you grow older, in the United Kingdom, there is increasing likelihood that you will choose self-employment over those from the apprenticeship age bracket, that even though when it rises high, grows undependable.

Similarly, men are more likely to be self-employed than women, and the number who have pursued this option post a university degree is steadily increasing, but the picture is still not that positive because most of them are not that academically qualified as of yet. For the German market specifically, the self-employment rate is quite high for high-skill occupations, higher than it is for United Kingdom, but for eastern European shores these figures spell out into the agriculture and retail domain, which centres on a low-skilled workforce.

Policies directed towards the encouragement of business growth to help lower the recession levels in the country, has been somewhat helpful towards self-employment rates nationally. So, perhaps countries with high unemployment rates, such as Spain, Greece and Italy can pick up on this and contribute to how self-employment can act as a more stable opportunity of employment. Particularly, in Spain, which has the highest youth unemployment rates in the EU, has witnessed a surge in the young trying their luck at self-employment.

Training for self-employed workers is posing as a barrier to self-growth in employment. Advisory services, mentor programmes and guidance for small businesses or other such highly successful entrepreneurial activity is not always in place, structurally for major European economies. This, coupled up with cash inflow to manage their expenses, obtaining insurance, concerns over pensions, often make it challenging to enjoy the greater flexibility that self-employment gives you. Labour market conditions of the present require workers to shed their inhibitions over traditional employment routes and get creative over how to earn employment, and it is not only for those interested in journalism or the creative and performing arts, professionally.

Open Europe embraces digital change

Posted by on 18/12/14
Open Europe has moved. We are revamping and massively upgrading our digital presence to become even better. Enjoy our new website, where it will be easier for you to consume, share and engage.

Reforming rules on in-work benefits doesn’t require treaty change

Posted by on 11/12/14
Following David Cameron's speech on immigration, much has been made of his comments that the package of measures he proposed to reform EU free movement would require treaty change.

In some cases, the speech was ambiguous about what exactly was being proposed. For example, did Cameron really say EU migrants will need a job offer before coming to the UK? This is important because it has legal implications regarding whether some, all, or none of the proposals require treaty change, changes to secondary EU legislation or simply changes to domestic law. Although, politics will of course also play a major part.

In addition, some have questioned whether the proposal, outlined by Professor Damian Chalmers and our Research Director Stephen Booth and adopted by Cameron, to limit EU migrants' access to in-work benefits for a certain period of years could be achieved without treaty change, as the authors claim.

Today we have published  Chalmers' and Booth's assessment of the legal implications of the measures proposed in the Prime Minister's speech and a restatement of the case for why access to in-work benefits can be restricted via amendments to EU legislation rather than a treaty change.

Safe to say much of this is legally complex, but below is a summary of a summary of a longer legal note by Professor Damian Chalmers, which you can read in full here.


David Cameron's speech can be divided into four broad types of demand:

1. Four-year restriction on EU migrants’ access to in-work and child benefits

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “once they are in work, they won’t get benefits or social housing from Britain unless they have been here for at least four years.”

This could be achieved via amendments to EU legislation: This is the most legally complex of the proposals but we argue that it does not require Treaty change for two reasons. Firstly, access to in-work benefits is currently granted in EU law by virtue of a piece of secondary legislation, rather than by the Treaty article on free movement of workers. Secondly, the Treaties grant considerable discretion to the EU legislature (the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament) to place restrictions on access to such benefits provided that the legislation facilitates free movement more generally (which the relevant Directive would continue to do), the restrictions are based on objective criteria and are not disproportionate to the objectives they pursue.

b) “If their child is living abroad, then there should be no child benefit or child tax credit at all no matter how long they have worked in the UK and no matter how much tax they have paid.”

Depending on what is sought this could be achieved under domestic law or amendments to EU legislation but if the objective is a hard and fast residence requirement this could be achieved via amendments to EU legislation rather than Treaty change.

2. Tighter restrictions on EU jobseekers

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “We want EU jobseekers to have a job offer before they come here and to stop UK taxpayers having to support them if they don't.”

This depends on exactly what is proposed. If he meant that any EU citizen must have a job offer before they can come into the UK, this would certainly require Treaty change.

However, read in combination with the pledge to “stop UK taxpayers having to support them”, the proposal is better interpreted as suggesting that no social benefits will be granted to jobseekers. EU law already establishes that jobseekers are not entitled to social assistance and therefore such a reform would not require changes to EU legislation.

b) “We also want to restrict the time that jobseekers can legally stay in this country. So if an EU jobseeker has not found work within six months, they will be required to leave.”

In principle, the UK can already do this under its domestic law. EU law only grants a right of residence for more than three months to those who are employed, self-employed, and economically self-sufficient as well as their family members.

However, the ECJ has ruled that individuals cannot be expelled as long as they “can provide evidence that they are continuing to seek employment and that they have a genuine chance of being engaged”. While the onus is on the individual to prove this, clarifying what this condition means could be achieved by amending EU legislation. A hard and fast six month deadline would likely require Treaty change.

3. Abuse of free movement

David Cameron mentioned two proposed reforms:

a) “stronger powers to deport criminals and stop them coming back…and tougher and longer re-entry bans for all those who abuse free movement including beggars, rough sleepers, fraudsters and people who collude in sham marriages.”

Those deported at the time of conviction can be refused re-entry under existing EU law. Indeed, the German government has said it will use its domestic law to impose re-entry bans of five years for those who commit benefit fraud. The potential difficulty is for those EU citizens with family in the UK, who may be able to appeal deportation under the rights to family life guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

In the case of significant criminal offences where the individual has served a long prison term, the deportation may be several years after the offence, and it is open to the individual to argue that they are a reformed character. This poses difficulties as the individual threat to public policy must be a present threat. Albeit this requirement is currently imposed by an EU Directive, we believe that, if the provision were repealed, there is a strong chance that the ECJ would reinstate it as a Treaty requirement.

b) “We must also deal with the extraordinary situation where it's easier for an EU citizen to bring a non-EU spouse to Britain, than it is for a British citizen to do the same. At the moment, if a British citizen wants to bring, say, a South American partner to the UK, then we ask for proof that they meet an income threshold and can speak English. But EU law means we cannot apply these tests to EU migrants.”

This would likely require Treaty change: There are a number of judgments where the ECJ has stated that refusing to grant a non-EU national family member residence would violate the Treaty because it would discourage the EU citizen from exercising their rights to free movement.

Alternatively, it would be possible for new EU legislation to harmonise requirements on family reunification between EU citizens and non-EU nationals, so that the latter could only join the EU citizen in another member state if they meet certain requirements. However, this would entail harmonisation in an area (non-EU migration) where successive UK Governments have sought to limit the EU’s influence. Concern to prevent marriages to citizens from other member states being used as a vehicle for marriages of convenience can be addressed through tightening up existing EU legislation.

4. Tighter restrictions on migration from new EU member states

David Cameron proposed:

“So we will insist that when new countries are admitted to the EU in the future, free movement will not apply to those new members until their economies have converged much more closely with existing Member States.”

The UK could use its existing veto over new countries joining the EU to insist on these terms.

40 days and 40 nights of Jean-Claude Juncker

Posted by on 10/12/14
By Andrew Duff Juncker’s first forty days of his five year mandate have been anything but uneventful. But Juncker and his team will need lots of good luck to avoid real trouble ahead.

La dangereuse course au temps de D Cameron

Posted by on 04/12/14

Que se passe t il entre les Britanniques et l’Europe ? ou plus précisément entre David Cameron leur premier ministre et l’Union européenne ? en annonçant vouloir limiter l’immigration entre européens, ce dernier a jeté un pavé dans la mare, une nouvelle bombe contre l’union européenne.

Plus qu’un bras de fer, c’est une vraie confrontation, qu’entame David Cameron avec l’Union européenne, un rapport de force avec les autres états membres et surtout avec les citoyens de l’Union. Car en souhaitant limiter la circulation et l’installation des Européens sur le territoire britannique, officiellement pour des raisons sociales, il porte un coup à la citoyenneté européenne, à son concept et à ses contenus. C’est très lourd car la citoyenneté européenne est un des fondamentaux de l’Union européenne.

Veut il vraiment quitter l’UE ?

C’est en tout cas la menace qu’il brandit depuis plusieurs années. Il annonce même un référendum sur le la question du maintien ou  non du Royaume-Uni dans l’UE. Mais en même temps il ne prend pas de risque. Car son référendum n’aurait lieu qu’en 2017 après les élections législatives et… seulement si sa majorité est réélue. Autrement dit, si les conservateurs perdent les élections il n’y aura pas de referendum.

Des conservateurs anti européens ?non pas seulement. le Royaume-Uni connait une poussée tes forte du parti anti européen d’extrême droite UKIP. Mais c’est un parti qui, s’il a des députés au Parlement européen n’a pas réussi a s’associer avec d’autres mouvements similaires dans les Etats membres. Il n’y a pas, par exemple, d’alliance avec le Front national. Mais, il y a également des eurosceptiques au sein d’autres partis en grande Bretagne. Notons toutefois, que les chefs d’entreprises, les militants travaillistes et centristes sont pour, non seulement un maintien dans l’Union mais pour un approfondissement. Ils sont dans une stratégie opposée à celle de Cameron.

Quelle est la strategie de  Cameron?

A mon avis il en a plusieurs. Une première est d’obtenir ce qu’il appelle «  un nouvel accord avec l’UE ».  Son idée est clairement affichée d’avoir  un nouvel «équilibre entre Bruxelles et Londres ». Mais alors il remet en cause le Traité de Maastricht et de fait l’appartenance du RU à l’UE.

Une autre est de faire patienter les anti européens et les eurosceptiques. Il sait au fond de lui que son pays ne peut quitter la Communauté des Européens. il ne veut pas non que les britanniques aient  a se prononcer par un vote pour ou contre l’Europe. Il sait que le jeu est dangereux. Ce que le Royaume-Uni perdrait en quittant l’UE. Ce serait irréversible et surtout il pourrait être pris au mot.

En repoussant le referendum après 2017, il espère que l’opinion changera et reconnaitra l’intérêt communautaire. Il lui faudra alors aller plus loin. et sans doute faire un pas vers la monnaie unique.

Les européens réagissent

Chez les Européens la coupe commence à déborder. Il y a comme un certain ras le bol de la position des Britanniques. Leur souci « c’est eux et jamais l’intérêt communautaire ». Des voix s’élèvent pour signifier que l’on ne laissera pas le Royaume-Uni détruire l’Europe. C’est le cas, par exemple, du ministre des affaires étrangères polonais.


Une question est désormais dans les esprits : “jusqu’à quel prix sommes nous prêts à payer pour garder le Royaume uni dans l’Union“? Pas si cher que cela finalement. Et Cameron le sait. Sa marge de manœuvre est réduite. Car pris au mot, son referendum il peut le faire maintenant et ne pas attendre 2017. L’Union, quand à elle, avec ses nouveaux dirigeants, au Conseil, à la Commission et au Parlement continue à avancer et pourrait bien connaître en peu de temps un nouveau regain d’intérêts.


6 arguments Cameron can make to help his EU free movement reform

Posted by on 03/12/14
Polish Europe Minister Rafał Trzaskowski's comments on Monday's Newsnight, where he said David Cameron’s plans to stop EU migrants from claiming benefits for the first four years after they arrive in Britain would be a "red line" for Warsaw, were widely cited in the UK media, much like Polish Ambassador Witold Sobkow's response to our initial report which heavily influenced Cameron's immigration speech.

As expected all along, Poland will be the biggest single obstacle to the changes.

Some of the reluctance is understandable. Following Poland's accession into the EU after having spent too long on the wrong side of Europe's historic dividing lines, Poles understandably do not want to accept anything that smacks of 'second class' status within the EU. While many Poles may privately think the proposals are reasonable, they also expect their government to stand up for the interests of Poles abroad, and any Polish government will find this hard to sell domestically, including a Law and Justice-led one (the issue has already lead to interesting discussions within the ECR group).

So how should Cameron deal with this? Here are six arguments he can make:

1. These reforms are the best way to let free movement stand: Cameron defended the principle of free movement in his speech and he did not pledge to impose an 'emergency brake' or quotas despite substantial domestic pressure, as to his credit Trzaskowski recognised. This reform package will allow the UK to stay signed up to free movement rules - a key Polish objective.

2. The UK cannot become a contribution-based system overnight: We hear this argument a lot out of Warsaw: "If the UK is concerned that its welfare model is too open, it can re-design it to bring it into line with those on the continent - tomorrow if it so wished. It can be done unilaterally and has nothing to do with the EU."

There are several problems with this position. Re-organising the UK's entire welfare system would be an absolutely massive undertaking - politically, economically and administratively. It would basically involve re-writing the UK's entire postwar settlement. This may or may not be desirable, but it simply won't happen any time soon, especially as a result of EU pressure. For one, the UK public won't have it.

Cameron could even bat the ball back in Warsaw's court by arguing that "It would be super-easy for you to adopt more ambitious emissions reductions. You just need to replace your dependence on coal with renewable energy, and you're in line with the rest of the EU. It can be done unilaterally and has nothing to do with the EU."

3. The UK shouldn't have to choose between keeping its welfare model and staying in the EU: The logical extension of the argument above is that only a French or Germany style insurance system is compatible with EU membership. Clearly, giving the EU an effective veto over such a sensitive area is not politically sustainable - in addition to being awfully discriminatory against the UK. Changing the rules around in-work benefits on the other hand is a pragmatic way to in effect bring the UK into line with continental systems without challenging the country's entire political order.

4. Poles and other EU migrants in the UK could be worse off under such a system: Ironically, if the UK were to adopt a continental model and scrap in-work benefits and tax credits for low-wage earners entirely, it would hit EU migrants in the UK much harder than the introduction of a temporary qualification period as it would permanently reduce their income. Is this really a more desirable outcome from the perspective of the Polish government and other opponents of Cameron's proposals?

5. Workers on low wages do not contribute significantly to the welfare pot: While the vast majority of EU migrants come to the UK to work and make a positive contribution to the UK economy, as our research showed, workers on low-wages pay very little in income tax and national contributions due to the UK's generous tax free allowance (£10,000 per year and rising) and national insurance contributions threshold (£153 per week). This means that far from funding their own benefits, these workers, especially if they have dependent children, can actually be a net burden on the public purse. Furthermore, despite their misleading name, tax credits in the UK are a cash benefit funded via general public spending and are not correlated to individuals' tax payments.

6. The principle enjoys widespread public support across the EU: The basic principle of establishing a link between contributions and right to access benefits enjoys wide-spread support in other EU member states as the YouGov polling below demonstrates:

Finally, tone is also vital. Cameron made a big mistake by singling out Poles earlier this year leading to the deterioration in relations as revealed in the leaked Wprost tapes, a mistake which he avoided making again in his immigration speech last week. The rules will apply to everyone from the rest of the EU and not one particular group or country. 

Sarkozy wins back party leadership, but road to French presidential election remains very long

Posted by on 01/12/14
Nicolas Sarkozy took a further step on the road to his political comeback over the weekend, as he won back the leadership of France’s centre-right UMP party. The former French President secured 64.5% of votes in an online survey of UMP members, finishing well ahead of former Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire (29.2%) and outsider Hervé Mariton (6.3%).

Sarkozy was always going to win, but the outcome is most certainly below what he was hoping for. In 2004, he had sailed through the leadership election with over 85% of the vote. Still, he holds again the reins of his “political family” – to use his own words – and has already made at least two interesting announcements:
  • The UMP will change name before the next round of local elections in March 2015. 
  • He will set up a committee of former UMP prime ministers to help him manage the party – although the idea has reportedly not gone down particularly well with François Fillon, one of the former prime ministers supposed to sit on this committee. 
On this blog, we have noted how Sarkozy’s political comeback has the potential to really spice up the French debate over Europe. The former French President has this year repeatedly spoken of returning half of the EU’s powers to national governments. He also wants to scrap the EU’s passport-free Schengen travel area in its current form and replace it with a more selective ‘Schengen II’, which could only be joined by countries adopting the same immigration policies.

Sarkozy’s political strategy looks pretty clear: take a tougher, more ‘realist’ stance on Europe and immigration to stop the UMP losing voters to Marine Le Pen’s Front National. What is far from clear at this stage, though, is whether the new line will draw unanimous support from the rest of Sarkozy’s party.

Another important point to keep in mind is that the victory in Saturday’s party leadership poll does not automatically make Sarkozy the centre-right candidate for the 2017 French presidential election. A separate ‘primary election’ is due in 2016, when Sarkozy is going to face at least one much tougher rival: former French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé.

How that duel will end is anyone’s guess, but recent opinion polls suggest that Juppé would have a better chance of victory in case of an ‘open primary’ – where members of smaller centrist parties can vote alongside with UMP members to elect a single centre-right presidential candidate. Sarkozy has so far spoken in favour of an ‘open primary’, although he looks reluctant to involve the Democratic Movement (MoDem) in the exercise. The centrist party led by François Bayrou actually endorsed François Hollande in the run-off of the 2012 presidential election against Sarkozy, and Bayrou has made no secret of his support for Juppé as the centre-right candidate in 2017.

Finally, Sarkozy remains (directly or indirectly) involved in a series of pending legal cases that may well dog his campaign.

The road to 2017 is still very long. 

Objectifs et actions de la Commission Juncker.

Posted by on 29/11/14

Quels sont les objectifs et quelles vont être les actions de la Commission Juncker ?

Extraits de la chronique RCF du 12 novembre 2014

D’abord redonner des couleurs a une Union inquiète et fébrile. La montée des nationalismes est, avant d’être une source d’inquiétude pour le système démocratique européen, le résultat d’un immobilisme et d’une incapacité à faire de l’Union une puissance plutôt qu’un simple marché. Le défi est là pour Juncker qui qualifie lui même “sa” Commission de celle de “la dernière chance”.

Pour y arriver il a définit devant le Parlement européen 10 priorités et ouvert 5 grands chantiers. L’ensemble tournant autours de trois axes principaux: Compétitivité et emploi en Europe, une Europe au service de ses citoyens et capable d’agir sur la scène internationale.

On n’est pas étonné de voir que la croissance est inscrite dans le projet de la nouvelle commission.

Elle en est même le thème central. il y a aussi une poursuite dans la mise en oeuvre depuis 2010 de la stratégie de réponse aux crises de 2008 et 2009. Une croissance qui se veut intelligente en utilisant les leviers de l’éducation, de la formation et du numérique, durable en agissant sur l’environnement, la biodiversité et l’énergie et inclusive car il s’agit de réduire la pauvreté et les inégalités sociales qui de développent dans les 28 états membres de l’Union européenne.


Cameron’s speech: The response (so far) from around Europe

Posted by on 29/11/14
The big speech has been delivered - you can read our response here, but below we round up the reactions from around Europe - remember, the changes Cameron set out today based on Open Europe's research will require agreement from other EU leaders.

European Commission

A Commission spokesperson said after the speech that:
"These are UK ideas and they are part of the debate. They will have to be discussed without drama and should be discussed calmly and carefully."
This is a welcome shift from the dark days of Viviane Reding and Laszlo Andor.


No German politician has been brave enough to put their heads above the parapet yet but the German media headlines aren't exactly helpful:

Spiegel online goes with “Demands to Brussels: Cameron blackmails the EU”, ARD’s headline is “Cameron's demands: EU membership is only conditional”, Focus titles their article “With these demands Cameron blackmails the EU”.

This list could easily be continued -the actual substance of Cameron’s speech has been crowded out in most parts of the German media landscape. We suspect that might change though when it becomes clearer that Cameron may just have saved free movement. 


As we saw with the Polish Ambassador's response to our report on Monday, this is a delicate issue, with Warsaw ultra-sensitive to any measures that are seen as "discriminatory". Cameron wisely prepared the ground by discussing his speech with Polish PM Ewa Kopacz whose office today issued a statement which which argued that:
"Poland will not agree to changes undermining the principles of the EU's single market, specifically the free movement of people... which should as such be maintained in its current form."
This can be seen as a holding position - the Polish government is holding its cards to its chest although former Polish Europe Minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz was more forthright, tweeting that:
"Cameron's plan will definitely not pass in its entirety at the ECJ. But this will already be after the UK elections. Weak response by the Commission." 
Czech Republic

The response by the Czech Europe Minister Tomas Prouza is the toughest we've seen so far - he suggested that Cameron wanted to tax people differently according to their nationality - even though tax credits is a cash subsidy and are not correlated to tax paid. He also tweeted a picture of Czech WWII pilots who fought in the RAF pointing out that they hadn't "worked" in the UK for over 4 years.

Most EU leaders seem to be holding fire though. Plenty of other reactions to come no doubt...