Tag Archive for European Union

EU Parliament Report: Mass Surveillance of Personal Data in EU Member States

EU-MassSurveillance

In the wake of the disclosures surrounding PRISM and other US surveillance programmes, this study makes an assessment of the large-scale surveillance practices by a selection of EU member states: the UK, Sweden, France, Germany and the Netherlands. Given the large-scale nature of surveillance practices at stake, which represent a reconfiguration of traditional intelligence gathering, the study contends that an analysis of European surveillance programmes cannot be reduced to a question of balance between data protection versus national security, but has to be framed in terms of collective freedoms and democracy. It finds that four of the five EU member states selected for in-depth examination are engaging in some form of large-scale interception and surveillance of communication data, and identifies parallels and discrepancies between these programmes and the NSA-run operations. The study argues that these surveillance programmes do not stand outside the realm of EU intervention but can be engaged from an EU law perspective via (i) an understanding of national security in a democratic rule of law framework where fundamental human rights standards and judicial oversight constitute key standards; (ii) the risks presented to the internal security of the Union as a whole as well as the privacy of EU citizens as data owners, and (iii) the potential spillover into the activities and responsibilities of EU agencies. The study then presents a set of policy recommendations to the European Parliament.

EU Parliament Study: Oversight of Security and Intelligence Agencies in the European Union

EU-IntelligenceOversight

This study evaluates the oversight of national security and intelligence agencies by parliaments and specialised non-parliamentary oversight bodies, with a view to identifying good practices that can inform the European Parliament’s approach to strengthening the oversight of Europol, Eurojust, Frontex and, to a lesser extent, Sitcen. The study puts forward a series of detailed recommendations (including in the field of access to classified information) that are formulated on the basis of in-depth assessments of: (1) the current functions and powers of these four bodies; (2) existing arrangements for the oversight of these bodies by the European Parliament, the Joint Supervisory Bodies and national parliaments; and (3) the legal and institutional frameworks for parliamentary and specialised oversight of security and intelligence agencies in EU Member States and other major democracies.

IMF Fiscal Affairs Department Cyprus Options for Short-Term Expenditure Rationalization

Increasing public spending had contributed to a substantial deterioration of public finances in Cyprus over recent years. To address fiscal imbalances, the government introduced an initial set of fiscal reform’s in late 2012. However, additional measures are needed to ensure the sustainability of public finances. The size of the necessary adjustment will depend, among other things, on the magnitude of spillovers from financial sector restructuring.

European Central Bank Paper: Shadow Banking in the Euro Area

Shadow banking, as one of the main sources of financial stability concerns, is the subject of much international debate. In broad terms, shadow banking refers to activities related to credit intermediation and liquidity and maturity transformation that take place outside the regulated banking system. This paper presents a first investigation of the size and the structure of shadow banking within the euro area, using the statistical data sources available to the ECB/Eurosystem.

European Commission Green Paper on Shadow Banking

The FSB has roughly estimated the size of the global shadow banking system at around € 46 trillion in 2010, having grown from € 21 trillion in 2002. This represents 25-30% of the total financial system and half the size of bank assets. In the United States, this proportion is even more significant, with an estimated figure of between 35% and 40%. However, according to the FSB estimates, the share of the assets of financial intermediaries other than banks located in Europe as a percentage of the global size of shadow banking system has strongly increased from 2005 to 2010, while the share of US located assets has decreased. On a global scale, the share of those assets held by European jurisdictions has increased from 10 to 13% for UK intermediaries, from 6 to 8% for NL intermediaries, from 4% to 5% for DE intermediaries and from 2% to 3% for ES intermediaries. FR and IT intermediaries maintained their previous shares in the global shadow banks assets of 6% and 2% respectively.

Council of Europe Committee of Ministers Declaration in Support of Whistleblowing Websites

Freedom of expression and the right to receive and impart information and its corollary, freedom of the media, are indispensable for genuine democracy and democratic processes. Through their scrutiny and in the exercise of their watchdog role, the media provide checks and balances to the exercise of authority. The right to freedom of expression and information as well as freedom of the media must be guaranteed in full respect of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5, hereinafter “the Convention”). The right to freedom of assembly and association is equally essential for people’s participation in the public debate and their exercise of democratic citizenship, and it must be guaranteed in full respect of Article 11 of the Convention. All Council of Europe member States have undertaken, in Article 1 of the Convention, to “secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms” protected by the Convention (without any online/offline distinction).

U.K. Embassies Preparing for Collapse of Euro

As the Italian government struggled to borrow and Spain considered seeking an international bail-out, British ministers privately warned that the break-up of the euro, once almost unthinkable, is now increasingly plausible. Diplomats are preparing to help Britons abroad through a banking collapse and even riots arising from the debt crisis. The Treasury confirmed earlier this month that contingency planning for a collapse is now under way.

European Parliament Study on Crowd Control Technologies

This study grew out of the 1997 STOA report, ‘An Appraisal of the Technologies of Political Control’ and takes that work further. Its focus is two fold:(i) to examine the bio-medical effects and the social & political impacts of currently available crowd control weapons in Europe; (ii) to analyse world wide trends and developments including the implications for Europe of a second generation of so called “non-lethal” weapons.

EU Leaders Pushing For Centralized Treasury, Greater “Economic Convergence”

The proposal, put forward by Herman Van Rompuy, the European Council president, would be the clearest sign yet of a new “United States of Europe” — with Britain left on the sidelines. The plan comes as European governments desperately trying to save the euro from collapse last night faced a new bombshell, with sources at the International Monetary Fund saying it would not pay for a second Greek bail-out. It was also disclosed last night that British businesses are turning their back on Brussels regulations to give temporary workers full employment rights, with supermarket chain Tesco leading the charge. Meanwhile, David Cameron is attempting to face down a rebellion tomorrow by Tory MPs in a vote over staging a referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU. Ministers expect 60 or 70 MPs to defy the party’s high command and back the call for a referendum, while some rebels claim the final toll could be up to 100 — about a third of the parliamentary party.

IMF, EU, European Central Bank “Troika” Greece Debt Sustainability Analysis October 21, 2011

Since the fourth review, the situation in Greece has taken a turn for the worse, with the economy increasingly adjusting through recession and related wage-price channels, rather than through structural reform driven increases in productivity. The authorities have also struggled to meet their policy commitments against these headwinds. For the purpose of the debt sustainability assessment, a revised baseline has been specified, which takes into account the implications of these developments for future growth and for likely policy outcomes. It has been extended through 2030 to fully capture long term growth dynamics, and possible financing implications.

Google Admits Providing European User Data to U.S. Intelligence Agencies

Google has admitted complying with requests from US intelligence agencies for data stored in its European data centers, most likely in violation of European Union data protection laws. Gordon Frazer, Microsoft UK’s managing director, made news headlines some weeks ago when he admitted that Microsoft can be compelled to share data with the US government regardless of where it is hosted in the world. At the center of this problem is the USA PATRIOT ACT, which states that companies incorporated in the United States must hand over data administered by their foreign subsidiaries if requested. Not only that, but they can be forced to keep quiet about it in order to avoid exposing active investigations and alert those targeted by the probes.

Greek Debt Downgraded to Junk Status

The bonds of so-called peripheral euro-region nations, including Greece, Ireland and Spain, fell relative to benchmark German bunds after Greece’s credit rating was cut to junk by Moody’s Investors Service. German government bonds rose as investors shunned all but the safest assets following the downgrade and Citigroup Inc. said Greek debt will now be removed from some indexes. The ranking was lowered four steps to Ba1 from A3 by Moody’s, which cited “substantial” risks to economic growth from austerity measures tied to a 110 billion-euro ($134.5 billion) aid package from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The lower rating “incorporates a greater, albeit, low risk of default,” the ratings company said in a statement yesterday in London. The outlook is stable, it said.

US, EU Worried That Greece Debt Crisis Will Spread

The Obama administration is pressing its European counterparts to act more quickly and decisively to contain the Greek financial crisis before its fallout undermines a recovery in Europe and spreads across the Atlantic to the U.S. After a Friday morning conference call among finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and Italy—President Barack Obama spoke by phone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to reinforce that message. “We agreed on the importance of a strong policy response by the affected countries and a strong financial response from the international community,” Mr. Obama told reporters.

Kaczynski Often a Source of Tension Within E.U.

Lech Kaczynski, who died Saturday in a plane crash in western Russia, rose from childhood fame as an actor to become president of Poland. He was 60. Half of an unusual tandem of power, Mr. Kaczynski was elected president in 2005 from the nationalist-conservative Law and Justice Party, led by his identical twin, Jaroslaw, whom he later appointed prime minister. Swept into office as voters repudiated the group of former Communist officials who had dominated the country’s politics for much of the preceding decade, Mr. Kaczynski and his brother struggled at the top. They frequently put Poland on a collision course with its European Union partners and Russia, while polarizing voters at home with a shift to the right.

Greece bailout plan a “big win” for IMF

The euro zone’s decision to include the International Monetary Fund in any Greek rescue plan extends the Fund’s influence to a large swath of the world economy—and gives a political boost to its managing director. Over the past two years, the IMF has worked with the European Union to bail out EU members, including Latvia and Hungary. Now it is clear that the IMF mandate reaches also to Portugal, Spain and other troubled members of the 16-nation euro zone, said Domenico Lombardi, a Brookings Institution expert on the IMF. “Any possible (economic) contagion to Portugal and Spain (from Greece) should be under control,” because of IMF and euro-zone involvement, he said.

IMF Warns Wealthiest Nations About Debt Levels

The global economic crisis has left “deep scars” in the fiscal balances of the world’s advanced economies, which should begin to rein in spending next year as the recovery continues, the No. 2 official at the International Monetary Fund said Sunday. In a speech at the China Development Forum in Beijing, John Lipsky, the deputy managing director of the I.M.F., offered a grim prognosis for the world’s wealthiest nations, which find themselves at a level of indebtedness not seen since the aftermath of World War II. For the United States, “a higher public savings rate will be required to ensure long-term fiscal sustainability,” Mr. Lipsky said.

Climate Change and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS): Looking to 2020

The European Union’s (EU) Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) is a cornerstone of the EU’s efforts to meet its obligation under the Kyoto Protocol. It covers more than 10,000 energy intensive facilities across the 27 EU Member countries; covered entities emit about 45% of the EU’s carbon dioxide emissions. A “Phase 1” trading period began January 1, 2005. A second, Phase 2, trading period began in 2008, covering the period of the Kyoto Protocol. A Phase 3 will begin in 2013 designed to reduce emissions by 21% from 2005 levels.

German MPs: Greece could sell islands to cut debt

Greece should consider selling some of its islands as one option to reduce debt, two members of the German parliament in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition said. Josef Schlarmann, a senior member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, and Frank Schaeffler, a finance policy expert in the Free Democrats, were quoted on Thursday as saying that selling islands and other assets could help Greece out of its crisis.

Goldman Sachs faces Fed inquiry over Greek crisis

The contentious role played by Goldman Sachs in Greece’s debt-saddled financial crisis is under scrutiny by financial regulators in the US, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, revealed yesterday. Goldman has come under fire for helping the Greek government to structure complex derivatives deals early in the decade and “borrow” billions of dollars in exchange rate swaps, which did not officially count as debt under eurozone rules. Critics say such conduct contributed to unsustainable public finances which have destabilised the euro.