Telecoms turnaround

first_imgMaking the move from negotiator to telecoms firm.People in public life are often criticised for double standards, for straying outside the rules they have themselves created (witness the recent scandal over Patricia Scotland, the UK’s chief legal advisor, employing an illegal immigrant to clean her home). Perhaps it is entirely to be expected that Filip Švab, who was the chief negotiator on telecoms for the Czech Republic during its EU presidency, should join telecoms giant AT&T as ‘external affairs director’ on 1 October, thus ensuring that he will experience the consequences of legislation he helped to draw up. The appointment has, nevertheless, prompted speculation in the blogosphere. Švab, in his former role, helped broker a provisional deal between national governments and MEPs on a detailed package of reforms to EU telecoms regulation. The texts are now being closely scrutinised to assess their similarity with draft amendments to the package drawn up by AT&T. Švab is following the precedent set by his immediate predecessor, Charles Levaillant. Formerly telecoms attaché in France’s permanent representation to the EU, Levaillant left the post after last year’s French EU presidency to join Vivendi / Universal, another fierce lobbyist on the telecoms package. Rumours circulate that Jörgen Samuelsson, telecoms attaché in Sweden’s permanent representation, is considering a similar move once his country’s presidency comes to an end. A popular explanation for the trend is that, having experienced six months in the hot seat, officials are reluctant to go back to being just one among 27. Fair enough, so long as they stick to doing one job at a time.last_img read more

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French confection: Get ready for summit fudge on eurozone rules

first_imgPARIS — Appreciate the irony. As it threatens to leave the European Union, the U.K. is proving a master at the gamesmanship without which no EU summit could be deemed successful. And France is helping it.Negotiators are working hard to allow the European Council to agree at its February 18-19 meeting on a final deal on the demands presented by U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. The French government, supported by Germany, has raised objections to the draft agreement put forward by European Council President Donald Tusk.At the heart of the apparent dispute are differences on the future interaction of the eurozone with non-euro EU members, notably on a topic that is dear to the City of London: financial regulation. No go to soloAllowing the U.K. to go solo on financial regulation would compromise the very idea of a single market, critics noted. “What we want to protect is the foundation of the single market, where rules are the same in all 28 EU countries, whatever products including financial products,” Sapin said last week.The irony is that in the past the U.K. has been one of the main proponents of a united, liberalized single market. And the European commissioner tasked with fostering a capital markets union is British representative Jonathan Hill.The most recent compromise brought U.K. regulating activity back within the single rulebook.The “single rulebook” line also caught the eye of financiers in London. The latest draft text circulated last week said “different provisions within the rulebook … may be necessary” to accommodate the U.K.’s needs but fell short of a complete carve-out for the City that some bankers had hoped for.“The weakest part of the deal is that covering ‘euro safeguards,’ namely protections Cameron is seeking for the City of London, so that it will not be subject to euro area inspired legislation that is detrimental to its interests,” wrote Mujtaba Rahman, head of Europe for the consultancy Eurasia Group, after the draft text was leaked. “This agenda ran into serious opposition in Paris and Berlin, reflecting deep French and German mistrust over the U.K.’s real intentions — to be used as a backdoor mechanism to protect the narrow interests of the City and U.K. financial services, or impede deeper eurozone integration.”Others, however, pointed out that the deal would be in line with the status quo, which allows British policymakers to differ from EU regulations. “We can live with that,” was the verdict of one banker. Cameron was so happy with the original draft that he said if the U.K. was out of the EU, he would advocate joining it on the Tusk terms. Both Brexit and “In” advocates begged to differ. The anti-EU tabloid press and some of Cameron’s own Tories took him to task for not obtaining any serious concessions. Supporters of Britain in Europe said it didn’t matter anyway because the case for membership stands on its own merit.France, on the other hand, had to show that it was able to draw some “red lines,” even though they were unlikely to be stepped over in the first place.The U.K. had two main requests concerning its interaction with the eurozone. The first was to have a say on monetary union decisions that would have an impact on the British economy. The second was to be able to devise regulation that would differ from that of the EU as a whole. In the first case, London is afraid it would be left out. In the second, it worries it will be roped in.The compromise on eurozone policy that Tusk suggested was to allow non-euro members to refer decisions taken by finance ministers to the European Council if they felt they ran against their interests. That’s nothing like the “veto on eurozone decisions” the French government said it would not accept — and was not demanded by the U.K. in the first place. The clause is just a possibility to open a debate at the top — a long way from being a veto.The second area of financial dispute — regulation — is more complicated. The original Tusk draft seemed to allow the British government to set different rules for its financial industry than the rest of the EU. In techno-speak, U.K. authorities could have designed regulation outside the so-called “single rulebook” agreed five years ago at the onset of the European Banking Authority — tasked with ensuring “effective and consistent” banking and prudential regulation across Europe.European Central Bank President Mario Draghi was reported to be not amused. And Frédéric Oudea, the chief executive of Société Générale who also heads the French Banking Federation, wrote a letter to both French President François Hollande and Finance Minister Michel Sapin to raise his industry’s concerns. The more fundamental question for EU leaders is how to let Cameron leave the summit with a credible story to tell back home, both on the eurozone matters raised by the French and on the migrant benefits part of the deal, which concerns countries like Poland.Jacob Nell and Melanie Baker, analysts at Morgan Stanley, argued that, under the new regime, the differences between the U.K. and other member countries would have to be cleared at the political level. “The French insisted on language that will prevent the U.K. from interfering with the operation of the eurozone,” they wrote last week. ”The U.K. mechanism for enforcement is not a veto but elevation to the heads of state, where issues will be decided by political bargaining. So each side has secured statement of its principles and agreed to political bargaining as the dispute resolution mechanism.”More tweaks can be expected in the next few days to reassure critics, with a wording that will amount to some legal fudge.Deadline dramaBut even as they worry about parts of the wording, the City of London also dislikes the sheer uncertainty created by the lack of a date for the referendum. A deal — any deal — in Brussels this week would remove that obstacle by allowing David Cameron to set a date, most likely June 23.Analysts say the drop-dead day to decide on that date is March 3 given U.K. procedures on calling a referendum. That means that even if negotiations drag on beyond this weekend, there is still scope to clinch a deal and have a summer vote.The more fundamental question for EU leaders is how to let Cameron leave the summit with a credible story to tell back home, both on the eurozone matters raised by the French and on the migrant benefits part of the deal, which concerns countries like Poland.center_img That is not the issue where EU leaders are expected to spend most of their time at the summit. The question of migrant benefits is politically more sensitive, and of greater importance in the referendum campaign Cameron will launch as soon as the deal is clinched.French President François Hollande said there is work still to be done to secure a deal to help keep Britain in the EU, a presidency source told Reuters after a visit to Paris by Cameron.“The idea on financial matters is to have an agreement among sherpas well before the summit,” said a French financial ministry official. “If we leave it up to the heads of state it could become a butchery.”France had to show that it was able to draw some “red lines,” even though they were unlikely to be stepped over in the first place.The run up will be full of talk about brinkmanship, showmanship, poker games (variant: liar’s poker), tense discussions, diplomatic battles and irreconcilable differences. The reality is that everyone will blink together at the end, and the irreconcilable will be reconciled. The EU’s time-tested, talk-threaten-and-fudge model will work wonders again.But first, a bit of theater. On one hand, French protests are good for Cameron. Nothing like a squealing French government to please U.K. tabloids and show them how hard the prime minister fought – and how real is his “victory.” On the other hand, any such victory cannot have an obvious loser. The hope of everyone, on that part of the deal, is that the ultimate agreement will be so hard to understand that it will allow everyone to fake happiness. Also On POLITICO France’s Sapin: UK won’t get any veto over euro By Hortense Goulard France’s Brexit gambit By Pierre Briançonlast_img read more

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