La Treizième Étoile: 21/02/10 - 28/02/10 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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Britain 'will join the Euro one day' confesses Mandelson

Saturday, 27 February 2010
Lord MandelsonPeter Mandelson, the former British EU Trade Commissioner, has reportedly said that “Britain will join the Euro one day” during a speech delivered in Paris on Friday.

"We already have a Eurozone providing a single central bank, currency and monetary policy which one day I believe Britain will be part of. It's not going to be soon but we will do it," he said after delivering a speech on globalisation.

Lord Mandelson was part of the movement behind the scenes at Number 10 in support of the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s desire to take the UK into the single currency and has often spoken in favour of Britain’s entry.

Such a statement so soon after the Greek crisis that threatened the currency’s standing in the world itself carries great significance, even if such a move to drop the Pound and adopt the single currency is unlikely to take place any time soon.

Britain is due to hold a General Election before June and Labour will not win that on the ticket of adopting the Euro. The opposition party, the Conservatives have repeatedly stated they would never adopt the Euro.

Paul Nuttall, an MEP for the UKIP party while also serving as its chairman, is quoted as saying in response to Lord Mandelson’s remarks: “he has got to be kidding. The political elite of this country are so wedded to their love affair with the EU that nothing, especially economic reality will get in the way.

Ashton announces belated Haiti visit - a defence of our High Representative

Thursday, 25 February 2010
Poor old Baroness Ashton. Since her appointment as the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, she has been subjected to a barrage of criticism that is surely undermining her credibility in what is the second most powerful role in the EU...

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Iceland on track to join EU as Commission says negotiations should begin

Wednesday, 24 February 2010
The Commission has today delivered its opinion on the application of Iceland to join the 27-Member Bloc – advising that accession negotiations should begin.

In a statement released this morning, the Commissionacknowledges Iceland's adherence to the common values of the Union, such as democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights.

Reykjavik, Iceland (Photo:
"[We] identify challenges ahead on the road to accession. Following today's recommendation by the Commission, it is now for the Council of the European Union to decide on the opening of accession negotiations with Iceland” it reads.

Stefan Füle, the new Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy, said this “is an important step in the accession process and provides guidance to Iceland in its efforts to become an EU member. I am confident that Iceland will show determination in addressing the challenges highlighted in the opinion."

It should be noted that the "opinion" from the Commission still requires the approval of EU governments before talks can start, but Iceland submitted its application for EU membership to the Council on 17 July 2009 who then 10 days later asked the Commission to provide an opinion on the application.

As the basis of its opinion, the Commission sent a 350 page questionnaire on all EU-relevant policy areas to the Icelandic authorities. Based on full and detailed answers from Iceland and additional information from EU Member States, international organisations and local and international non-governmental organisations, the Commission has drawn up a thorough analysis of Iceland's current situation and medium-term prospects.

The small island, located in the North Atlantic, became independent from Denmark in 1944 and is currently home to some 320,000 people.

Last July, Iceland's parliament voted to apply to join the EU after ruling that the benefits of joining outweighed the disadvantages in particular to its fishing industry.

According to Commission figures, in 2008, more than 54% of Iceland's imports came from the EU and 76% of its exports went to the EU.

To become a member of the EU, an applicant country must meet the political and economic criteria laid down by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993 and adopt the entire body of EU law, which is collectively known as the "acquis communautaire".

Through its participation in the European Economic Area (EEA), Iceland has participated in the single market for more than 15 years and has already taken on a considerable part of the acquis.

However, the Icelandic authorities will need to make serious efforts to achieve full alignment with EU law, in particular in the areas of fisheries, agriculture and rural development, environment, free movement of capital and financial services.

An agreement will also have to be sought in the Icesave dispute where Iceland needs to repay the Netherlands and Britain to the tune of some €4 billion following the collapse in 2008 of the country’s largest bank, Landsbanki. In addition, the country’s currency, the Icelandic krona, lost about half its value in the financial crisis, and public opinion is divided as to how (and if) Iceland should repay the two EU members. A referendum on this question has been scheduled for March 6th and failure to find an agreement may lead to these countries vetoing the application.

Ossur SkarphedinssonIcelandic Foreign Minister Ossur Skarphedinsson, left, has reportedly welcomed the EU recommendation, saying "I appreciate the confidence in Iceland expressed by the EU Commission in this balanced, constructive and broadly speaking very positive report".

Seven other countries are in the queue to join the EU, but only three have opened formal negotiations - Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey. As reported earlier, Croatia is farthest advanced in the process and could join as early as 2012. EU officials have already ruled out Iceland gaining a "fast-track" membership and joining at the same time.

It could be argued that the greatest opposition to EU membership lies in Iceland itself, which has jealously guarded its independence for decades. But the financial crisis has wrought havoc, almost destroying the national currency, and public opinion has swayed towards the EU as a route back to prosperity.

Greek crisis would not stop Bulgaria adopting Euro in 2013 says Buzek

Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Bulgaria's aspirations to join the Eurozone and adopt the Single Currency in three years may be rewarded, the European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek suggested today.

Bulgaria has the opportunity to become member of the Eurozone in 2013. I would welcome this kind of development,” Jerzy Buzek said after meeting the Bulgarian President Georgi Parvanov in Brussels this morning.

Georgi Parvanov (left) and Jerzy Buzek at the Parliament in Brussels, 23/02/10 (Photo: Parliament Press Service)The economic crisis and its impact on countries already in the Eurozone, a subject that topped the agenda of the meeting between the two officials, will not foil Bulgaria's plans for joining the Eurozone as scheduled, Mr Buzek said.

The current situation in Greece, where the country's authorities had to admit it had provided incorrect information and revealed it had much larger budget deficits than it should (12% GDP instead of the maximum 3% GDP), has triggered fears about the stability of the Eurozone and evoked concerns that it may end up foiling Bulgaria's aspirations to join the Euro in three years.

It is thought that Bulgaria would be among the countries most at risk from any potential future spillovers from Greece's problems since Greek banks control 28 percent of the Balkan country’s market, but the country which joined the EU in 2007, posted the smallest budget deficit among the 27 member states last year, according to the finance ministry.

In fact, it is expected to be the only EU nation to balance its budget in the 2010 financial year.

On 11th January 2010, the Bulgarian Prime-Minister Boyko Borisov said that his country would apply for ERM II membership in the end of the month and has set the deadline for entering at the end of June, when the Spanish Presidency of the European Union ends.

The Commemorative 1.95583 Leva coin issued in April 2005 (Photo: Wikipedia)As laid down in the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, countries must be members of ERM II for two years before they can formally join the Eurozone. During the ERM II period, the candidate country establishes and runs economic policies that align its economy to that of the Eurozone to ease the transition.

Bulgaria believes that it could be ready for Euro entry by 2013, and is very enthusiastic to adopt the single currency - so much so that on the occasion it joined the EU in April 2005, the Bulgarian National Bank issued a commemorative coin with a face value of 1.95583 Leva, pictured above left, giving it a nominal value of exactly 1 Euro.

'As long as I'm PM, Britain will stay firmly in Europe's mainstream': Brown

Monday, 22 February 2010
UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown has used a speech attended by the leaders of European countries to attack the Conservative Party and reaffirm his commitment to keep Britain at the heart of the European Union.

Addressing the Progressive Governance Conference on Friday, attended by the leaders of Spain, Greece and Norway amongst others, Mr Brown said "So let me reassure you today; as long as I remain Prime Minister, Britain will stay firmly in Europe’s mainstream, never in its backwaters, and we will resist the attempts of the Conservatives to pull Britain into isolation and irrelevance."

This was a reference to the decision last year of Conservative leader David Cameron to withdraw his party's MEPs from the European People's Party (EPP) grouping at the European Parliament, which is still the biggest party in the House with 265 MEPs.

Instead, they have formed a new group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which has surrendered the Conservatives' voice at the heart of a powerful group in favour of a grouping on the sidelines.

"The obsession of the Tories with narrow nationalism is totally out of tune with the modern world," Mr Brown continued, "because people today know that no one country can solve terrorism or conflict or poverty or climate change on their own, that there is no firm line separating what happens 'over there' from what happens 'over here'."

Reaffirming his pledge for greater EU interaction if he remained in charge in June, Mr Brown acknowledged that "We [Britain] are, of course, the true internationalists - the people who know we are stronger together than we ever could be apart."

The EU has still not been at the forefront of Mr Brown's priorities however - one notable example is when he belatedly signed the Lisbon Treaty delaying his trip to Lisbon so he could appear before a Commons select committee, which meant he missed the signing ceremony attended by all 26 other leaders of the EU member states back in December 2009.

One glance at the opinion polls within the last 12 months and you would have little trouble in predicting Labour is likely to lose the election, expected on 6th May.

Such a scenario would bring to an end 13-years of centre-left government and opening up the possibility of a changed relationship between Britain and the European Union. David Cameron has repeated expressed his dislike of the Britain's role in the EU.

Mr Brown, however, still believes he can win but polls suggest the best he can hope for is to limit the Conservatives to a result short of an overall majority, and then try to form a coalition with the centre-left Liberal Democrats, Britain's third and most pro-EU party.

In a YouGov poll published in yesterday's Sunday Times, Labour's score increased by two points to 33%, while the Tories slipped one point to 39% and the Liberal Democrats went down one point to 17%. This gap of 6% is the smallest recorded in the last 12 months.

Last election:

Click here to see which six MEPs were elected.