European Commission

EU preparing to reject France’s 2015 budget say officials

France — Link

Brussels may be willing to use new compliance rules to tell Paris to rewrite its 2015 budget, triggering a crisis.

The new French EU commissioner’s austerity 'bodyguards'

France — Analysis

France’s Pierre Moscovici has been named as the new European Union commissioner for economic and monetary affairs in Brussels. At first glance it appears a clear-cut triumph for President François Hollande who has installed his former finance minister in a key economic post at the heart of the EU despite German opposition. It is also a sign that the new European Commission president Claude Juncker wants to display his independence from German chancellor Angela Merkel. But as Ludovic Lamant reports, Juncker has also shaken up the Commission's structure and placed two economic hawks alongside the French commissioner. Some observers believe their main role is to stop the French “social democrat” being too soft on member countries struggling to cut their deficits – and in particular France.

French socialist has 'good chance' of taking top EU economic and monetary post

France — Link

Diplomatic sources say former finance minister Pierre Moscovici is close to being appointed to Jean-Claude Juncker's new commission.

The prospects for Juncker's pledge of a pan-European minimum wage

International — Analysis

The European Commission’s incoming president, centre-right politician Jean-Claude Juncker, caused surprise this summer when he pledged his support for a continent-wide minimum wage. Juncker, who will take up his post in November, has not yet detailed the potentially complicated practical framework for applying the minimum wage, a move which runs against the tide of the blanket austerity policies until now championed by Brussels. While Juncker faces numerous obstacles to succeed with the scheme, not least from European treaty texts, the idea that raising low incomes would be beneficial to economies appears to be gaining support even from the most unexpected quarters. Mediapart’s Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports on the arguments for and against, and in just what form a pan-European minimum wage might finally see the light of day.

Outcry as future European Commission set for massive male domination


Future European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, due to take up his functions this autumn, already faces an immediate problem as he composes his list of 28 European commissioners. For out of the 23 nominations so far officialised, only four are women. That represents five less than the outgoing commission, whose female contingent have now co-signed an open letter to Juncker demanding he find at least ten women. As Mediapart’s Brussels correspondent Ludavic Lamant reports, there is increasing uproar over the issue, notably among members of the European Parliament to who Juncker must submit his final list of commissioners for approval.

European elections special: where the candidates to head the EU Commission stand on the controversial transatlantic trade treaty

International — Interview

The free trade treaty currently being hammered out between the European Union and the United States is a major issue in this week’s elections of members of the European Parliament, which in France will be held on Sunday. For this year also sees the departure of EU Commission president José Manuel Barroso, and for the first time the new head of this key EU body will be appointed from the political grouping that does best in this week’s continent-wide elections. Here, Mediapart's Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant questions all of the parties’ declared candidates for the post of Commission president - Martin Schulz, Guy Verhofstadt, Alexis Tsipras, José Bové and Jean-Claude Juncker – and hears their conflicting views on the transatlantic free trade deal.

European Right's 'disastrous' choice of Jean-Claude Juncker as Euro election head

International — Analysis

The former Luxembourg prime minister has just been voted by Europe's mainstream right-wing parties to be their lead candidate ahead of May's European elections. Under new EU rules now in place this means the veteran politician could well become the president of the European Commission later this year. But for many observers Jean-Claude Juncker is indelibly linked to a dated vision of Europe that belongs to the last century. And as Dan Israel and Ludovic Lamant report, he is also closely identified with the financial secrecy of his native country.

France jumps EU law and follows UK with mass surveillance of air travellers


Earlier this month, the French parliament gave its definitive approval to a bill of law fixing France’s defence programmes, objectives and budget for the period 2014-2019. When it was presented earlier this year, this wide-ranging legislation drew headlines over its sweeping cuts in defence jobs and spending. More recently, it caused controversy over its introduction of real-time monitoring of internet and mobile phone communications by police and intelligence agencies. However, as Louise Fessard reports, its plans for mass surveillance don’t stop there: it contains a provision, largely overlooked, that will see the creation of a database that records details of all airline passengers travelling to and from France, based on the ‘Passenger Name Record’  system which uses profiling techniques that are the target of fierce criticism from civil liberties bodies, not least the the European Data Protection Supervisor, the EU’s watchdog for the protection of personal privacy.

EU summons France, UK to reduce Channel Tunnel prices

International — Link

The European Commission has issued a 'reasoned opinion' to France and the UK to reduce 'excessive' tunnel transport charges, or face proceedings.

Mercenary members cause EU to flop again in its attempts to wage war on tax evasion

International — Analysis

European leaders met this week at a summit intended to decide upon aggressive policies to tackle tax evasion, but the results were far from conclusive, not least because of continuing opposition from Austria and Luxembourg on introducing a yearly automatic exchange of bank account information between member states. Mediapart’s Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports on the outcome of Wednesday’s talks, and examines whether the European Union is truly capable of acting as the umbrella organisation to halt a tax drain that is estimated to cost its members a combined 1 trillion euros per year.

EC calls for private sector competition to manage social security services


The national social security services of European Union member states are to be opened up to private sector competition according to the terms of a proposed European Commission directive on public procurement. The directive, presented in December 2011 by European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier, and due to be submitted to the European Parliament later this year, requires governments to launch a yearly invitation for tenders to manage sectors of their compulsory social security services, most of which until now have been managed according to the principle of social solidarity. Surprisingly, the proposal, contained in an annexe of the 246-page text of the directive, was until this month unnoticed by MEPs, several of whom have now mounted an urgent campaign to have it removed. Mediapart's Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports. 

Hollande's 'baffling' cold shower approach to European growth


French President François Hollande, whose election campaign was hallmarked by his proposals for tackling the economic crisis by countering austerity measures with growth-led initiatives, has made his support of the European Union’s ‘Compact for Growth and Jobs’ one of the pillars of his policies in Europe. But now the French socialist government is coming under attack for what is perceived by some EU officials as a "contradictory" and "baffling" approach to the European economy. For while outwardly promoting growth, France is joining Germany in limiting an increase in payments to the EU’s 2013 budget to less than half that proposed by the European Commission itself, and which will reduce aid otherwise available to a number of struggling economic sectors. Mediapart's Brussels correspondent Ludovic Lamant reports. 

The staggering public cost of rescuing Europe's banks


In what was a largely unreported announcement in Decemeber, the EU Commission revealed that more than 4.5 trillion euros of state aid was authorized to fund the rescue of Europe's financial sector since October 2008. More than 1.1 trillion euros was actually used in 2009. Analysis and comment by Martine Orange.