Eurosphere roundup: France Adopts a New Biometric ID Card; Greece debt relief; and more…

“A Time Bomb For Civil Liberties”: France Adopts a New Biometric ID Card

from Updates by maira
This post has been authored by Angela Daly, international legal fellow
On Tuesday March 6, the French National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) passed a law proposing the creation of a new biometric ID card for French citizens with the justification of combating ?identity fraud?. More than 45 million individuals in France will have their fingerprints and digitized faces stored in what would be the largest biometric database in the country. The bill was immediately met with negative reactions. Yesterday more than 200 members of the French Parliament referred it to the Conseil constitutional, challenging its compatibility with Europeans’ fundamental rights framework, including the right to privacy and the presumption of innocence. The Conseil will consider whether the law is contrary to the French Constitution.1

MAIN FOCUS: Debt cut deal relief for Greece | 09/03/2012

from euro|topics
The Greek finance ministry announced early on Friday morning that 85.8 percent of its private-sector lenders – banks, insurance companies and funds – have agreed to the debt write-down deal for Greece. Athens plans to force the remaining holders of Greek bonds to participate using legal instruments. This is the first major step towards resolving the euro crisis, some commentators write optimistically, while others see the subjugated Greeks facing 15 years of poverty.


MAIN FOCUS: Greece holds breath over debt restructuring | 08/03/2012

from euro|topics
The deadline for the Greek debt restructuring runs out today, Thursday, at 9 pm. Around half of the holders of Greek bonds have already signalled their willingness to accept a write-down, but Athens is hoping to achieve an approval rate of 75 to 90 percent. In any case debt restructuring will be cheaper than insolvency, commentators write, even if it means yet another home stretch without home in sight.

EU propaganda video, Anya Topolski

from open Democracy News Analysis – by Anya Topolski
Can you get much more transparent than this?
A few days ago the EU Directorate General for Enlargement released, only to recall it three days later, this video clip, entitled Growing Together, aimed at young audiences with the intention of promoting EU policies.


The Fiscal Treaty Alone Cannot Solve the Debt Crisis

from Ideas on Europe by euro-thoughts
Far from being a bold, decisive solution to the Eurozone debt crisis, the new fiscal treaty is almost entirely beside the point. Assuming one is prepared to indulge in a fantasy world where all it takes to make sovereign states forget their national interests and all it takes to make politicians forego tax cuts in aid of re-election is a written commitment to do so, there are still the small matters of housing bubbles, divergent economic trends and regulatory failure that played a part in the Eurozone crisis and have yet to be addressed. As I have argued previously, the sovereign debt crisis in the Eurozone cannot be traced to one single cause and each of its victims is suffering for distinct reasons. Look, for instance, to Ireland, where the strictest fiscal compact would have been ineffective in preventing that country from requiring a bailout in November 2010. The reason for this is that Ireland was a top student in the course of sticking to the Stability and Growth Pact, heading into the financial crisis with a debt and deficit of 28.3% of GDP and +.2% of GDP in 2007. The same can be said ofSpain, arguably one of the toughest cases amongst the Eurozone?s peripheral states.


Portugal Gradually Shuffles Its Way Up Towards The Front Of The Debt Queue

from A Fistful Of Euros » A Fistful Of Euros by Edward Hugh
Well, a weekend during which Greece seems to have been finally able to pass muster on its bond deal, while Mario Draghi has given the official ?all clear? on the debt crisis seems to be as good a moment as any to have a look at where the country which many investors consider likely to be the next to enter the restructuring process is up to.

And now what? Greece after its official creditor-led default, Vassilis K. Fouskas

from open Democracy News Analysis – by Vassilis K. Fouskas
Following Greece?s recent mammoth 206 billion euros bond swap, people wrongly believe that the private bondholders of the Greek debt lost money and that the country is on a path to recovery. The only solution for Greece remains a debtor-led default and exit from the euro-zone under the leadership of a radical democrat political movement.

MAIN FOCUS: Absolute majority for Fico in Slovakia | 12/03/2012

from euro|topics
Robert Fico’s social democratic Party Smer emerged from Slovakia’s early elections with an absolute majority on Saturday, while the ruling conservatives lost two thirds of their electoral base. Fico must put aside his arrogant, populist ways and tackle the rampant corruption in the country, commentators write.


TARGET 2 is essential ? German objections are groundless

from Ideas on Europe by Protesilaos Stavrou

Following my previous article titled ?What Bundesbank and Target 2 tell us about the fate of euro countries?, in which I describe the implicit dimensions of the objections that were recently raised by the chairperson of the Bundesbank, Mr. Weidmann, I shall now elaborate on the reasons that make the TARGET 2 payment system essential to the existence of the European monetary union (the Eurozone), proving that the objections of the German economic elite are nothing more than demagogy that serves political ends.


Austerity with democracy is possible, Markha Valenta

from open Democracy News Analysis – by Markha Valenta
So why are we in Europe going down the path of a deeply self-deceptive and hypocritical race to the bottom, where trans-European solidarity is a non-starter, since it can only be a barrier to a European political elite now intent on pursuing the next phase of our liberalization by means of national difference, hierarchy and power politics? Isn?t it clear that what Greece is today, we could all quite easily be tomorrow?

MAIN FOCUS: US election campaign distracts Europe | 07/03/2012

from euro|topics
Super Tuesday has brought Mitt Romney a series of important victories in the race for the US Republicanpresidential candidacy, although Romney was unable to shake off his closest rival Rick Santorum. By focusing too much on the electoral circus, Europe is ignoring the transfer of power in China and neglecting its own problems, commentators write.


MAIN FOCUS: Europe forces itself to economise | 02/03/2012

from euro|topics
With the exception of the UK and the Czech Republic, the EU heads of state and government have signed the fiscal pact for more budget discipline at their summit meeting today, Friday. But piling cuts upon cuts is unsocial, commentators write, expressing fears that the pact could jeopardise growth in Europe.

What will the next Conservative manifesto say on Europe?

by Open Europe blog team
Over on Conservativehome we have an article highlighting the importance of and looking at potential senarios for the next Conservative election manifesto:

EUCO: Fiscal compact TSCG

by Grahnlaw
The fiscal compact, officially the Treaty on stability, coordination and governance in the economic and monetary union (TSCG), was signed yesterday by 25 of the 27 governments of the EU member states. Only the Czech Republic and the United Kingdom chose to exclude themselves at this stage.


Thousands protest cuts in Europe

from BBC News | Europe | World Edition
Protests against austerity measures are held across Europe, ahead of a key EU summit on Thursday.

European unemployment: grim and grimmer

from FP Passport by Joshua Keating
Eurostat has just released January unemployment numbers for the 17 Eurozone countries and its not a pretty sight. The overall joblessness rate for the eurozone was 10.7 percent in January, up slightly from December. Spain continues to have the highest unemployment rate at 23.3 percent, followed by Greece at 19.8 percent and and Ireland and Portugal, both at 14.8 percent. Austria has the lowest rate at 4 percent. Here’s the full breakdown:

IIF on a disorderly Greek default

by Open Europe blog team
A leaked document from the Institute of International Finance (IIF) has been doing the rounds recently and has some rather alarming statistics regarding the cost of a disorderly Greek default in it (see here for full doc). The document is well worth a read if not just because it sheds some valuable light on the thinking inside an institution which, up until the few months ago, very few people had any knowledge of.


MAIN FOCUS: ECB again helps banks with fresh funds | 01/03/2012

from euro|topics
The European Central Bank on Wednesday lent 800 European banks roughly 530 billion euros at very low interest. The move is once more aimed at bolstering ailing banks and guaranteeing the supply of credit to the economy. This is a major opportunity for banks to restructure, write some commentators, while others say the flood of money will only postpone the collapse of weakened banks.


A promise from Occupy London: this is only the beginning, Occupy London

from open Democracy News Analysis – by Occupy London
Yesterday night, the eviction of the tent city at St Paul’s Cathedral, the symbolic heart of Occupy London, got underway. Here is a statement published today by the occupiers.


Europe’s Empty Fiscal Compact

from Today’s Zaman, your gateway to Turkish daily news :: Interviews by Martin Feldstein
CAMBRIDGE ? The driving force of Europe’s economic policy is the ?European project? of political integration. That goal is reflected in the European Union’s current focus on creating a ?fiscal compact,? which would constitutionalize member states’ commitment to supposedly inviolable deficit ceilings. Unfortunately, the compact is likely to be another example of Europe’s subordination of economic reality to politicians’ desire for bragging rights about progress toward ?ever closer union.?

Spain students protest cuts, police violence

from Hurriyet Daily News
Thousands of students blocked roads and crowded the streets of Spanish cities on Wednesday in anger over.

Merkel?s Next Crisis by Joschka Fischer

from Today’s Zaman, your gateway to Turkish daily news :: Interviews
BERLIN ? With Europe bogged down by the financial crisis and its national governments failing or being voted out of office across the continent, Germany has looked like an island of prosperity and stability. Chancellor Angela Merkel has appeared to be the embodiment of the new strength of old Europe?s problem child, a country admired by some and hated by others.


Perspectives for the western Balkans in light of the ongoing European crisis, Milan Marinkovic

from open Democracy News Analysis – by Milan Marinkovic
All western Balkan states depend heavily on their cooperation with the EU. If the EU crumbles under the weight of the economic crisis, what fate awaits the countries of the former Yugoslavia?


Greek debt report reinforces doubts on bail-out deal

from Public Affairs 2.0 by fhbrussels
It?s no surprise that the ?disciplinary? elements of this week?s Greek bail-out deal have been badly received by many in Greece. Strengthening of the Commission Task Force in Athens to provide an ?enhanced and permanent presence? to oversee Greek government measures, and deposit of quarterly debt repayment funds in an escrow account to ensure their availability are difficult for anyone to accept. It?s as bad as having the IMF dictate your economic policy!

Are bailouts acts of solidarity?

from Ideas on Europe by Protesilaos Stavrou
The word ?solidarity? has been widely used all these crisis years, ever since oodles of taxpayer money were put to bail out unsustainable entities, like over-leveraged banks and reckless sovereigns. The rise to prominence of this particular word is not at all coincidental since politicians always use euphemisms to present in a positive way, actions or policies that are otherwise hard to accept and digest.

Greece: misjudgment to breakdown, Daniel Nethery

from open Democracy News Analysis – by Daniel Nethery
A series of conversations with young Athens professionals convinces Daniel Nethery that Greece’s problems are more complicated than easy diagnoses often allow.

European R&D ? Why is it lagging behind?

from Ideas on Europe by Erik Dale
With the latest technology news coming from Asia or the US, it is disheartening to see that Europe is, as it has been from many decades, falling behind in one of the most pivotal points for the Union?s future success,Research & Development (R&D). Whether its investments in new technologies for energy efficiency, the latest tablet computers from Google or Apple, or the car in your garage, they all point in the same direction ? European R&D in not living up to it?s potential.

MAIN FOCUS: Headwind for German government’s Greece plans | 28/02/2012

from euro|topics
Germany’s Bundestag approved the second bailout package for Greece by a large majority on Monday. The package is aimed at securing financing for the heavily indebted country until the end of 2014. However not all representatives of Chancellor Merkel’s conservative-liberal governing coalition voted in favour. This highlights the growing scepticism about financial aid for Greece also among the general public, which according to commentators jeopardises Merkel’s re-election.

European Foreign Policy between debt crisis and renationalisation

from Ideas on Europe by ecfr
The ECFR European Foreign Policy Scorecard 2012 stirred up quite some debate among foreign policy experts ? both online and offline. We will cover some of the reactions on this blog. The first in this series is from Andrej Matisak who interviewed several scholars about the impact of the debt crisis on EU foreign policy and whether ?renationalisation? also affects CFSP. The blog post originally appeared on Matisak?s Blog (A Stamp on the World)
1. How much is the position of the EU as a global foreign policy player influenced by the debt crisis? Is the EU rather part of the problem than part of the solution?
2. We have heard many statements that we need ?more? and ?deeper? cooperation. Does this also apply to the CFSP or is ?renationalisation? the main trend in European foreign policy?

Growth in Europe ? The key is to reallocate resources

from Ideas on Europe by Protesilaos Stavrou
After several years in recession, stagnation or anemic expansion, characterized by massive cuts in public and private spending, the issue of ?growth? has naturally perhaps been brought to the foreground. The question that every political group seeks to answer is how do we recover from this crisis? The views on the issue are of course vastly diverse, reflecting the ideological differences between politicians; yet there is a common belief shared by all parties, which is that fiscal consolidation (austerity) is not a solution per se ? everybody knows that, even if they are not wiling to accept it at this stage for political or tactical reasons.

The European Council 1-2 March 2012 trailer (= synthesis report)

by Grahnlaw
The only document submitted to the European Council 1-2 March 2012, according to the relevant EUCO web page, is the annotated draft agenda (English version, dated 23 January 2012). The latest EUCO background noteis for the meeting 30 January 2012.

MAIN FOCUS: Irish to vote on EU fiscal compact | 29/02/2012

from euro|topics
The Irish government announced on Tuesday that it would put the EU fiscal compact to a referendum. If the pact is rejected the country will lose its entitlement to loans from the ESM bailout fund. The decision puts Ireland’s economic recovery at risk, commentators warn, and call on opponents to the pact to at least work out reasonable alternatives.

Irish Attorney-General: there must be a referendum

from The European Citizen by Eurocentric
Ireland is set to have a referendum on the Fiscal Stability Treaty in June after the Irish Attorney-General advised that the treaty warranted one. The government has been hoping to avoid a referendum ? the watering down of the treaty?s language on requiring constitutional debt breaks to only preferring them while also accepting normal legislation with the same content was clearly an attempt to avoid referendums by ensuring that countries could introduce the changes domestically by a package of legislation.

The enduring logic of regional integration

from Ideas on Europe by Erik Dale
Eurosceptics have always questioned it. Nationalists oppose it. Politicians fear loosing control over it. Regional integration has always sparked debate. The financial crisis, the negative effects of globalization and the friction between different cultures that are forced to interact more frequently and more deeply than at any point in our previous history has accelerated this debate. Criticism of regional integration is now more widespread than it has been since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet the logic of regional integration is enduring and remain what powers Europe to go into the future.

The EU’s PNR Directive in Parliament

from The European Citizen by Eurocentric
As well as Sophie in ?t Veld reporting on the proposed EU-US PNR Agreement on Monday, Timothy Kirkhope (ECR) presented his draft report on the EU?s own Passenger Name Record regime. The PNR Directive is technical, but it involves a huge amount of data collection on people not suspected of a crime, and the processing of data to create models used to identify unknown criminals. The law poses major questions on data protection, and there are also issues of how necessary and effective the system is, and how much of the costs airlines (and therefore consumers) will bear to pay for the system. I?ll divide this post into outlining and discussing the proposed directive and briefly looking at Kirkhope?s report to the Committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs.

UK banks and the ECB ? part 2

by Open Europe blog team
We’ll get back with a take on today’s ?529 bn of loans by the ECB to 800 banks, via the so-called LTRO, soon.

But first, something different. Remember, we’ve long been critical of the ECB’s backhanded QE, which has created a range of zombie banks in weaker euro economies (reliant on ECB funding to survive). See here, here,here, here, here and countless other examples of when we’re looked at this issue. So it’s odd that we’re now literally taking the ‘oh it’s not so bad’ view in a discussion about whether the ECB is ‘bailing out’ banks. Well, at least UK banks.

What is cheap ECB liquidity actually solving?

by Open Europe blog team
The ECB held its second three year long term refinancing operation (LTRO) this morning. Overall 800 banksrequested ?529bn in funding. The market and wider reaction has been mixed ? the amount was well within expectations although the number of banks was much higher (up from 523 last time). The larger number of banks is widely being seen as positive since it suggest smaller banks took part this time – and they are more likely to lend directly to businesses – while on average banks asked for less liquidity.


What will Cameron and Merkel do if Sarkozy loses?

from FP Passport by Joshua Keating

European Council and Single Market: ambitious enough?

by Grahnlaw
Ahead of the spring European Council, the joint letter from the twelve prime ministers David Cameron (United Kingdom), Mark Rutte (Netherlands), Mario Monti (Italy), Andrus Ansip (Estonia), Valdis Dombrovskis (Latvia), Jyrki Katainen (Finland), Enda Kenny (Ireland), Petr Ne?as (Czech Republic), Iveta Radi?ová (Slovakia), Mariano Rajoy (Spain), Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden) and Donald Tusk (Poland) to the president of the European Council (EUCO) Herman van Rompuy and the president of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso was titled A plan for growth in Europe.


Hungary’s struggles for freedom and democracy, László Bitó

from open Democracy News Analysis – by László Bitó
The greatest concern with regard to EU criticism aimed at influencing the political course of Hungary is that without a good understanding of the political realities, even the best intentions may unintentionally play into the hands of Jobbik. Meanwhile Government statements are meant to convince those who are disturbed by the usurpation of power to give up all hope for the next forty years. Now the situation is more complex and in a way more precarious than in 1956.

EUCO challenge: growth despite budget balancing

by Grahnlaw
We already looked at the summary offered by the European Council. Since I enjoy the luxury of being able to blog about yesterday’s news, I’ll try to discuss what EUCO said about economic growth, competitiveness and jobs.


Breathing life into EU2020 necessary for growth, competitiveness and employment

by Grahnlaw
After the European Council (EUCO) summary we noted a few key points in the intergovernmental Treaty on stability, coordination and governance in the economic and monetary union (TSCG, ?fiscal compact?) before discussing that the national leaders condemned themselves to achieve economic growth, enhanced competitiveness and new jobs within tighter budget limits, practically without money.

EU2020 from failure to action

by Grahnlaw
The heads of state or government reminded themselves of the comprehensive Europe 2020 growth strategy. In the European Council 1-2 March 2012 conclusions (EUCO 4/12, available in 23 languages) they assessed their own work to date:


Brits in Brussels ? speaking the right language?

from Blogactiv by UK in Europe
By Phillip Souta
At the end of a low-key European Council meeting last week, David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said that Britain had formed an ?unprecedented alliance? of like-minded states focused on boosting growth through completion of the single market and other reforms. The 20 February letter co-signed by him and 11 other EU leaders including Mario Monti of Italy and Mariano Rajoy of Spain was the latest example of UK driven letter-diplomacy.

Germany is gearing up for a major debate on the future of Europe, so must Britain

by Open Europe blog team
A few weeks ago Lord Owen, the former Foreign Minister, gave a speech, reworked for the Spectator here, in which he very eloquently set out the future challenges for Britain in an EU that is rapidly changing as a result of the euro crisis.


Homeric Similes And Spanish Debt

from A Fistful Of Euros » A Fistful Of Euros by Edward Hugh
?Nihil sapientiae odiosius acumine nimio? (Nothing is more hateful to wisdom than excessive cleverness)
Petrarch, ?De Remediis utriusque Fortunae?
Like Leo Messi charging his way through a packed Real Madrid defence, twisting now this way, now that, never stopping without being stopped, so did the Spanish sovereign debt surge forward, breaking directly into the red zone near the penalty box, provoking confusion and consternation amongst horrified EU officials and regulators forced to look on as it blindly sought to touch down somewhere well beyond the authorised 100% finishing line.

Leadership or a lack of alternatives? ? A Swedish perspective

from Ideas on Europe by ecfr
Sweden came out as one of the  EU foreign policy ?leaders? in our ECFR scorecard. We thought leadership is a combination of resources, projects and alliance-building. But there might be another reason why Sweden punched above its weitht as Björn Fägersten, a researcher at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, explains:

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