Open Europe

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Open Europe
Open Europe logo.png
Formation 2005; 13 years ago (2005)
Legal status Private company
Purpose Original research into the UK's relationship with the EU
Headquarters London, United Kingdom Brussels
Raoul Ruparel and Stephen Booth
Affiliations Open Europe Berlin, Stockholm Network
Website Open Europe
Open Europe's London Office
William Hague giving a speech to Open Europe on 16 July 2013
Open Europe's EU War Game negotiation simulation with former Irish PM John Bruton

Open Europe is a socially and economically liberal pan-European think tank and campaign group with offices in London and Brussels and an independent partner organisation in Berlin operated by staff from a number of EU states. The think-tank promotes retaining a close UK relationship with the EU, high levels of EU migration, as well as liberal economic and political reform of the remaining European Union.[1]

The think-tank was set up in 2005 prior to the Lisbon Treaty by a group of British business to oppose further centralisation of power in the EU. It was a proponent of a flexible model for further European integration, allowing for EU member states to integrate with each other to different degrees and for powers to also be returned from the EU to member states.[2] Open Europe is an advocate of a close UK relationship with an economically liberal EU Single Market. It has consistently advocated high levels of EU migration into the UK and strongly defends EU's freedom of movement. Although supporting the UK's EU membership it decided not to openly support David Cameron's campaign to stay in the EU adopting instead a neutral stance in the 2016 EU referendum in the UK.[3]

Open Europe conducts research; organises events; sends out a daily European press summary compiled by a multilingual pan EU research team. It is active on social media.

Open Europe was awarded "International Think Tank of the Year 2012" by Prospect magazine.[1]


Open Europe was launched on 20 October 2005 by Rodney Leach in London by business people to oppose the return of the then EU Constitutional Treaty that became the Lisbon Treaty, Open Europe's stated aim was "to contribute positive new thinking to the debate about the future direction of the European Union".[4][5] Rodney Leach and many of the founding supporters of Open Europe had previously backed the Business for Sterling campaign to stay out of the Euro. The think tank opposed the Lisbon Treaty and supported granting a referendum on the treaty through its "I Want A Referendum" campaign.

Realignment from Eurosceptic to Pro-EU think tank[edit]

While originally described as Eurosceptic from 2010 onwards under the Directorship of Mats Persson it championed the UK remaining in a liberal EU, campaigned for more EU immigration, cooperation with Germany, further single market integration while eschewing UK only reforms, seeking instead to further the interests of the EU as a whole rather than solely championing UK interests. While Open Europe's Chairman Rodney Leach came to support the UK leaving the EU Mats Persson and many of the pan European staff did not.[6] As a result, Open Europe did not support a referendum on the UK's EU membership instead providing intellectual support for David Cameron's EU reform agenda. The think tank describes itself as an economically and socially liberal pan-European think tank committed to maintaining close UK/EU relations and EU migration after Brexit.


Its legal form is private company limited by guarantee without share capital.[7] It is run by *Raoul Ruparel, a special advisor at the UK Department for Exiting the EU,[8] Co-Director; [[Stephen Booth (political science graduate[9])|Stephen Booth]], Co-Director (2015–present)[10]

Supporters and funding[edit]

Until November 2014, Open Europe listed its financial supporters on its website.[11] No current list of the organisation's funding sources is publicly available.

Prior to 2014 Open Europe stated that neither the organisation nor its research was funded by any government, the EU,[12] NGO or public company.[citation needed] Open Europe stated it was funded by private donations[13] and a full list of Open Europe's supporters used to be available on its website.[11] Simon Wolfson the Chief Executive of Next has supported the think tank in the past.

Since the resignation of David Cameron the group is nominally independent and does not have a partisan affiliation. It had a partnership with the Conservative Party's Fresh Start Project which used the group's publications as a basis for discussion, and some of its funders are also big supporters of the Conservative Party from the business world.[13] Its Swedish former Director, Mats Persson, became a special adviser to David Cameron after leaving Open Europe helping to coordinate the failed campaign to stay in the EU.[14][15]

Open Europe is a member of the Stockholm Network of economically liberal think tanks.[16]


Open Europe regularly publishes original research[17] aimed at promoting new ideas among key EU policy makers, business people and academics.[citation needed]

Throughout the eurozone and European debt crises, Open Europe has produced ongoing research and commentary, including on the Greek, Irish and Portuguese bailouts and a number of briefings on the state of the Spanish economy.[18]

Open Europe sends out a daily press summary, compiled by a multilingual research team, covering the key news from around Europe.[19]

Open Europe holds regular seminars and discussions on EU reform. Speakers at Open Europe events have included William Hague, David Lidington, Mark Hoban, Maroš Šefčovič, Alexandr Vondra, John Bruton, Carl Bildt, James Brokenshire, Gisela Stuart, Sir Stephen Wall, Alberto Alesina, Vincent Cable, Miguel Arias Cañete Otmar Issing, Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, Lord Myners, Elmar Brok, Antonio Sáinz de Vicuña, Lord Trimble and Derk-Jan Eppink.[citation needed]

The organisation conducts polling on EU-related issues, both at a national level and European level, including a two-part Open Europe/ YouGov Deutschland poll on "German Voters Sentiments on Europe" ahead of the German federal election, 2013,[20][21] and an Open Europe/ ComRes poll investigating the UK electorate's relationship with the EU.[22]

Open Europe worked with the Fresh Start Project of Conservative MPs researching ideas for EU reform.[23]

In 2013 Open Europe organised public simulated negotiations over reform of the European Union, and the UK's relationship with it, in a so-called "wargame".[24]

EU Reform Conference[edit]

On 15–16 January 2014, Open Europe and the Fresh Start Project organised a "Pan-European Conference for EU reform" for delegates from the UK and Europe.[25] The Conference was opened by the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne delivering his first set-speech on Europe while in Government,[26] and marking the first major speech on Europe by a senior UK Conservative Minister since the UK Prime Minister David Cameron's 'Bloomberg' speech in January 2013.[27]

Additional speakers included Maria Damanaki the European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs;[28] Paschal Donohoe, Irish Minister for European Affairs;[29] Rachida Dati, a Member of the European Parliament, the Mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris and Deputy President of the French Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) Party;[30] Frits Bolkestein, Former European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services; Peter Norman, Swedish Minister for Financial Markets;[31] and Klaus-Peter Willsch, a German CDU Politician and member of the Bundestag.

Dr Imke Henkel of German weekly Focus labelled the conference" potentially historic" by "leading towards a constructive British Europe policy, which provides the important impetus towards the necessary reforms of the European Community”.[32] Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Iain Martin called it a “a hugely uplifting gathering”, which "would simply not have taken place before the euro crisis almost brought about the collapse of the single currency".[33]

Work for All Party Parliamentary Group for EU Reform[edit]

In the UK, Open Europe acted as the secetariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for EU Reform. Their work has included concluding a series of reports on EU subjects and the UK's relationship with the EU. Subjects include Financial Services,[34] Social and Employment law,[35] Agricultural Policy,[36] Immigration,[37] Trade,[38] the EU budget,[39] Criminal Justice[40] and Regional policy.[41]


Open Europe states that its vision is "of a slimmed-down, outward-looking EU, which: facilitates and encourages free trade, internally and globally; is democratic, transparent and accountable to citizens; doesn't interfere in areas better – or equally well – handled locally or nationally; regulates far less but far better; is flexible enough to let powers flow back from the EU to its member states, and to let countries integrate with each other to different degrees. Open Europe believes that an adaptable EU is the right way to reconcile the historic demand of some member states for more integration and the deep-felt desire of many voters for less."[4]

The organisation was sometimes labelled as "eurosceptic," but was in favour of the UK remaining a member of a reformed EU.[42] However, despite its former director campaigning for the UK to remain in the EU it was nominally neutral in the UK EU referendum campaign in 2016.[3]

The think tank has published several studies on the impact of regulation, including a 2010 study analysing more than 2,000 Impact Assessments. It estimated that in 2009, EU regulation introduced since 1998 cost the UK economy £19.3 billion, accounting for 59% of the total cost of regulation in Britain in that year.[43] The study also estimated the cumulative cost of EU regulation since 1998 at £124 billion, 71% of the total cost.[44] A March 2010 blog entry by David Rennie on The Economist's website criticised Open Europe's 2010 study, arguing that the findings were "tendentious" and that comparing a cumulative figure to annual GDP was "an insult to the intelligence."[45]

Open Europe has published a number of studies on regulation of the financial markets.[citation needed] In 2009, the group published impact assessments on the EU’s AIFM Directive on stricter regulation for hedge funds and private equity firms.[46][47][48]

In a 2008 assessment of the EU’s Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package, the group claimed the policy had contradictory elements, pursued carbon reduction a very expensive way, and was insufficiently flexible.[49] It recommended that the EU instead adopted overall targets for cutting carbon emissions, but then allow each member state to meet these targets in whatever way it considered the most cost-effective.[50][51] When the European Commission proposed dropping binding renewable energy targets for Member States in favour of an overall emissions reduction target in 2014, Open Europe wrote that its 2008 recommendation had been vindicated and that "the binding renewables targets have been an expensive failure."[52]

In 2008, research by Open Europe claimed that 96 percent of the text of the Lisbon Treaty is the same as the rejected European Constitution, based on a side-by-side comparison of the two texts.[53]

Open Europe is opposed to the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union, saying it wastes money, distributes it inequitably, not enough goes to environmental protection, it de-insentivises modernisation, and represents a major waste of resources that could be spent elsewhere. The group advocated full liberalisation, but conceded in a 2012 report that this was not politically realistic, and so proposed a compromise.[36] They proposed a system of "agri-environmental allowances" which would be allocated according to environmental criteria and administered nationally. After complying with minimum standards, farmers would be free to opt out. EU level funding for rural development should be limited to only the poorest members states. Some agriculture related R&D funding would continue.

Over the years the organisation claims to have exposed numerous cases of EU waste and mismanagement involving EU subsidies, arguing strongly for wholesale reform of the EU’s Budget.[54]


Writing in The Daily Telegraph in 2014, journalist Louise Armitstead argued that Open Europe had "developed a reputation for coming up with practical solutions" and showed there was "increasingly a solid and practical case for reform. Free trade and pro-markets politicians like Osborne can now criticise Brussels with a real chance of being listened to."[55]

In December 2012, Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ran a feature on Open Europe, with its London correspondent writing that Open Europe is "leaving its mark on the British discussion about Europe like no other." He added that it "dishes it out to all sides. EU critics eagerly seize on calculations of how much Brussels regulations have cost the UK or how much member states could save from reforming the EU's regime of agricultural subsidies. However, the same people are left disappointed when Open Europe produces figures and arguments advocating against Greece being forced out of the euro, or when it defends the freedom of movement for European workers which is controversial to many in Britain."[56] In 2012 The Guardian's live blog describing Open Europe as "indispensable",[57] while in the same year Polish daily Rzeczpospolita described Open Europe as "an influential liberal think-tank".[58]

The UK Independence Party and some politicians who want Britain to leave the EU have criticised the think-tank for advocating an "à la carte approach [which] is not on offer".[59]

In March 2010, David Rennie writing in a blog on The Economist's website, praised the group for being a "Eurosceptic campaign group" that was capable of "spoon-feeding lazy journalists" and "controlling British coverage of the EU" but also noted the group was "assiduous" and "admirably multilingual".[45] In 2012, however, Rennie noted that Open Europe had by then fallen in with the Euophile consensus saying "the hostility of earlier reports" was "muted" under Open Europe's then director, Mats Persson, and that the group had "worked to shake off an early reputation as a partisan campaign group, which concentrated exclusively on negative aspects of the European project".[13] He credited the group for eschewing "the nationalism of many eurosceptic groups" and defending the concept of freedom of movement, but added that the organisation "remains as much a campaign group as think tank."[13]

In 2008, The Spectator's political editor James Forsyth called Open Europe "the very model of a modern think thank, brilliantly mixing research and campaigning."[60]

The Irish government accused Open Europe of "meddling" in the Irish debate, claiming a poll of Irish voters showing they did not want to be made to vote a second time on the Lisbon Treaty was "biased". Speaking during a debate with Open Europe’s Lorraine Mullally on Irish radio Newstalk, Europe Minister Dick Roche claimed the suggestion that Nicolas Sarkozy was reported to have said there should be a second referendum was "complete nonsense". He denied there had been any discussion on a second referendum at that stage. However, a second referendum was held in the fall of 2009. In January 2014, the Irish Minister of State for European Affairs, Paschal Donohoe, was a keynote speaker at Open Europe and Fresh Start Project's Conference for EU Reform.[29]

In 2005, Peter Mandelson attacked the group in an interview in The Guardian. He said that the real agenda of the group was "less integration, less strength embodied in our single market and fewer opportunities to build our economic strength." He argued that "Those are the people who are most insidious since they maintain a pretence of being open to Europe but actually want to lead Britain away from and out of Europe."[61] Open Europe, however, has openly stood up for the basic single market, as it defended the basic principle of free movement within the EU, when responding to the confusion about the link between EU law and the strikes at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire in 2009.[62] Since Mandelson attacked Open Europe in 2005, in 2012 he presented it with the "International Think Tank of the Year Award" at the Prospect 2012 Think Tank Awards hosted annually by Prospect magazine. The judges "questioned whether its analysis gave way at times to ideology," but commended the think-tank for its "astute recommendations" on EU reform, concluding that "it has produced steady, perceptive commentary on the eurozone."[63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "The winners of Prospect's 2012 Think Tank of the Year Awards". Prospect. London. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  2. ^ Persson, Mats (10 July 2012). "Britain should pick-and-mix over Europe instead of apeing Norway". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 18 July 2012. 
  3. ^ a b "Our vision". Open Europe website. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Our Vision". Open Europe. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  5. ^ "Open Europe's launch – 20 October 2005". Open Europe. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  6. ^ "Spectator June 2016"
  7. ^ "Open Europe Limited". Companies House. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Meet the Open Europe team" (Retrieved 3 October 2015)
  11. ^ a b "Internet Archive Wayback Machine – Open Europe, Supporters". Archived from the original on 11 November 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  12. ^ Vogel, Toby (19 July 2012). "An independent streak". European Voice. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  13. ^ a b c d Rennie, David (2012). "The Continent or the Open Sea? Does Britain have a European future?" (PDF). Centre for European Reform. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  14. ^ "List of Special Advisers in post at 17 December 2015" (PDF). Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  15. ^ "Mats Persson, Sweden, The Alpha Think-Tanker". Politico Europe. Retrieved 5 March 2016. 
  16. ^ "Think Tank Details". The Stockholm Network. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Open Europe Research – Monetary Union and the Euro". Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  19. ^ "Daily Press Summary". Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  20. ^ "New opinion poll: German voters say next German chancellor should back efforts to devolve EU powers to member states". Open Europe/You Gov Deutschland. 17 September 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  21. ^ "German voters say next Chancellor lacks mandate to press ahead with further financial support for eurozone – a majority agree euro membership should be slimmed down". Open Europe/You Gov Deutschland. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  22. ^ "New Open Europe/ComRes poll: UK public overwhelmingly supports new EU relationship over withdrawal – but UKIP is set to win European elections" (PDF). Open Europe/ComRes. 28 May 2013. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  23. ^ "Pan-European Conference for EU Reform". Open Europe. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  24. ^ Griffiths, Peter (11 December 2013). "'War game' highlights risks of Britain's EU exit". Reuters. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  25. ^ "Pan European Conference for EU Reform". Open Europe. 15 January 2014. Archived from the original on 18 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  26. ^ "Extracts from the Chancellor's speech on Europe". HM Treasury. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  27. ^ "EU Speech at Bloomberg". Cabinet Office and Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  28. ^ "Ms Maria DAMANAKI speaks at the Pan-European Conference for EU reform organised by Fresh Start Project and Open Europe, London". European Information and Research Network on Parliamentary History. 15 January 2014. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  29. ^ a b "Minister Donohoe to address Open Europe Conference in London". Merrior Street: Irish Government News Service. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  30. ^ "Rachida Dati backs Cameron on EU". BBC News. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  31. ^ "Norman: Tragedi om Storbritannien lämnar EU". Sveriges Radio. 15 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  32. ^ "Wie die Engländer lernen wollen, Europa zu lieben". Focus. 21 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  33. ^ "Leadership hopeful George Osborne gives the Tories some meat on the EU". Sunday Telegraph. 18 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  34. ^ "UK Government should use EU Treaty negotiations to secure "emergency brake" on financial laws". Open Europe. 5 December 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  35. ^ "New Open Europe report: Repatriating EU social policy for jobs and growth". Open Europe. 9 November 2011. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  36. ^ a b "New Open Europe briefing: How to make the EU's farm policy work for jobs, growth and the environment". Open Europe. 27 February 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  37. ^ "New Open Europe report: Bad management by the UK Government and the European Commission risks undermining public support for EU free movement". Open Europe. 12 March 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  38. ^ "Leaving the EU would raise more questions than answers". Open Europe. 10 June 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  39. ^ Swidlicki, Pawel; Anna Kullmann; Mats Persson (2012). "Seizing the moment: Aligning the EU budget with Europe's economic needs" (PDF). Open Europe. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  40. ^ "How the Coalition can repatriate 130 EU crime and policing laws overnight". Open Europe. 29 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  41. ^ "New Open Europe briefing: Bringing EU regional policy back to the UK could save £4.2 billion". Open Europe. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  42. ^ Watt, Nicholas (10 June 2012). "Britain should stay in EU, says report by Eurosceptic thinktank". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 January 2014. 
  43. ^ Groom, Brian (2010-03-29). "Tories' red tape aims miss target, says study". Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  44. ^ Sarah Gaskell; Mats Persson (2010). "Still out of Control? Measuring eleven years of EU regulation" (PDF). Open Europe. ISBN 978-1-907668-15-9. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  45. ^ a b "Open Europe: the Eurosceptic group that controls British coverage of the EU". The Economist. 31 March 2010. Retrieved 15 January 2014. 
  46. ^ Jones, Sam (2009-09-21). "EU rules would see hedge funds go overseas". Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  47. ^ Cahill, Tom (20 September 2009). "Europe Fund Law 'To Cost $2.8 Billion' in Year One, Survey Says". Bloomberg. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  48. ^ Persson, Mats (2009). The EU’s AIFM Directive: Likely impact and best way forward (PDF). London: Open Europe. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  49. ^ The EU Climate Action and Renewable Energy Package: Are we about to be locked into the wrong policy? (PDF). London: Open Europe. 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  50. ^ Walsh, Bryan (3 November 2008). "Will Green Progress Be Stalled by the Bad Economy?". Time. New York. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  51. ^ "EU's 'wasteful' climate package to cost €73 billion: lobby – News". Point Carbon. 2008-10-12. Retrieved 2013-10-21. 
  52. ^ "New Open Europe Flash Analysis: An admission of an expensive failure – the EU proposes new energy and climate change targets". Open Europe Flash Analysis. Open Europe. 22 January 2014. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  53. ^ A guide to the constitutional treaty (PDF). London: Open Europe. 2008. Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  54. ^ Browne, Anthony (13 March 2007). "EU loophole allows city 'farmers' to reap millions in subsidy harvest". The Sunday Times. London. Retrieved 29 November 2010. 
  55. ^ Armitstead, Louise (18 January 2014). "The EU is ripe for change, says Open Europe". Retrieved 23 January 2014. 
  56. ^ Buchsteiner, Jochen (20 December 2012). "Austeilen nach allen Seiten" (PDF). Frankfurter Allegemeine Zeitung (in German). Archived from the original on 22 January 2014. Retrieved 22 January 2014. 
  57. ^ "Eurozone crisis live". The Guardian Live Blog. London. 28 November 2012. 
  58. ^ "Balcerowicz: rescue in the eurozone is no substitute for reform". Rzeczpospolita. Warsaw. 29 August 2012. 
  59. ^ Willoughby de Broke, Lord (13 July 2012). "EU on the menu". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 
  60. ^ Forsyth, James (12 September 2008). "Neil O'Brien to head Policy Exchange". The Spectator. Coffee House. Retrieved 24 January 2014. 
  61. ^ Watt, Nicholas (17 March 2006). "New Labour will die if it is frozen in aspic". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  62. ^
  63. ^ "Think Tank of the Year Awards 2012". Prospect Magazine. 11 July 2012. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 

External links[edit]