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Eurobriefs - The latest from Brussels


Safe in whose hands?

Labour MEPs backed a European Parliament proposal for an ‘integrated European Armed Force’, to be known as SAFE: Synchronised Armed Forces Europe. Hans-Gert Pöttering, the European Parliament’s President, said, “SAFE can broaden the debate on the right steps towards closer synchronisa-tion, bringing in those people who cannot yet conceive of a European army.”

Yet Europe Minister Caroline Flint said in a letter to the Guardian on 17 February, “Let me be clear – there are no plans for a European army.”

Burden sharing

The European Commission wants Britain to “share the burden” of the 70,000 asylum seekers who cross the Mediterranean into the EU each year. Its plans include harmonisation of asylum laws and transfer of asylum seekers to Britain from “hotspots” such as Italy.

Poll sense

AN FT/Harris poll found that 54 per cent of British adults oppose the right of EU citizens to work in Britain, stronger opposition than in any of the other four European countries polled: Germany, Italy, Spain and France. Both Dutch and German governments have put plans for further enlargement on hold, fearing a popular backlash over foreign workers and rising unemployment levels.

Wider still and wider

The EU is debating Montenegro’s application for EU membership. Several member countries are worried Albania, Bosnia and Serbia would soon follow if Montenegro is considered for entry.

An EU official involved in the talks said, “The Dutch said that the Lindsey refinery dispute has proved that enlargement and free movement of workers can be difficult to sell to EU electorates ... the British defend free movement and enlargement but if even they cannot sell it to their own people, who else can?”

Running down the post

The government department for trade, known as BERR, reported in 2008 that the main cause of Royal Mail’s losses was compliance with three EU postal services directives, designed to end national postal monopolies by 2010.