Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Green tax, Airlines problems and Biofuels sustainability

Ministers to debate expanding list of 'green' tax breaks

EU member states have sent their finance ministers to Brussels today (13 November) to discuss a proposal, first tabled by Britain and France in July, to reduce Value Added Tax (VAT) rates on certain environmentally friendly goods.

Current EU VAT rules, spelled out in the 2006 VAT Directive, allow for reduced rates for energy consumption in order to give poorer households access to energy. The rules also allow for reduced rates for a variety of goods and services, but 'green' considerations have traditionally not driven the selection of items on the list.

In July, France and Britain announced their support for an extension of the reduced VAT list to products such as energy efficient light bulbs and insulation materials.

While the support of France and Britain, which has been traditionally opposed to new tax laws originating in Brussels, may give a boost to the measure, reducing or harmonising VAT rates across the EU is difficult since the unanimous backing of all 27 EU member states is required.

France intends to push for agreement on the VAT issue during its presidency of the EU from July to December 2008...France may also push for penalties on imports from countries with high pollution levels, such as China. (lol) (source)

My comment:
Great! I like the idea, I hope they put it in Reality the right way! And I want EU as social as possible, of course : )

Airlines to face tougher CO2 targets following MEPs' vote

Airlines must reduce CO2 emissions by 10% when they join the EU's carbon cap-and-trade scheme in 2011, the European Parliament said in a vote, an outcome which disappointed both airlines and environmentalists.

The proposal involves imposing a cap on CO2 emissions for all planes arriving or departing from EU airports, while allowing airlines to buy and sell 'pollution credits' on the EU 'carbon market'.

  • All airlines flying to and from EU territory should join the scheme in 2011. MEPs thereby rejected the Commission's proposal that international flights should be given an extra year and ignored threats from third countries, including the US, that they would instigate legal action if the EU attempts to unilaterally force them to comply with the scheme;
  • military flights and planes weighing less than 20,000kg, such as business jets, would be excluded. (source-btw read this one, it's fun!)
My comment: Cool! Though I don't see why business jets should be excluded! Nor the military ones...But I like that they forced that measure on everybody, not just one EU flights, as that would be very unfair. If you use our air, you'll play according to our rules. Right?!

Turkey cry over REACH rules

Turkish manufacturers are experiencing difficulties as a result of the EU's REACH chemicals regulation, according to Turkish exporters, who argue that the country should fulfil its pre-accession duties, but "not be discriminated against by the EU at the same time", EurActiv Turkey reports. (my comment:well, if you export to the EU, it's normal to have to obey its laws, i think. Otherwise, it would be discrimination against the producers in the EU)

UN panel to address sustainability of biofuels

Assessing the environmental and social impacts of biofuel production and the sustainable recycling of metals are likely to top the agenda of a new global think tank on resource efficiency, set up by the United Nations on 9 November.source
My comment: Finally, something remembered to put some science into the picture. Eh, well, better late than never.

Friday, November 23, 2007

EU vs. Gazprom round N, China's new renewable toys and the latest on CO2 storage

Once upon the time, I talked about the battle of EU with Russia/Gazprom. Back then, it was something that looked funny to me, because, of course, nobody called it like this. But now, it seems like I was right. Check out this:

EU-Russia gas battles 'only beginning', says report

With Gazprom actively seeking stakes in the European and particularly the German energy market, a new report warns about a 'clash of agendas' between the EU and Russia that will increasingly undermine the security of Europe's energy supply.

"While the EU is challenged by issues related to gas supply, Russia is fighting the challenges related to access to the market. This clash of agendas is threatening Europe's security of supply", says the European Energy Markets Observatory 2007, published by the consultancy Capgemini.

The report points to increased efforts by Gazprom, Russia's state-owned energy giant, to gain "control of the whole value chain" of the EU's energy supply, citing a number of new gas infrastructure projects and important pipeline ventures agreed jointly with Germany's E.ON and Italy's ENI. Alexander Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Gazprom's Management Committee, seemed to confirm the trend.

The EU's dependancy on Russian gas is increasing steadily, and is expected to go from 25% (the current level of dependency) to 50% by 2030, according to the Commission.

Colette Lewiner, one of the authors of the report, told Reuters that the planned construction in Europe of numerous new fossil fuel power plants, most of which rely on imports of oil, coal or gas (notably from Russia), is incoherent with respect to the EU's objective of increasing supply security while decreasing CO2 emissions. source

Well, couldn't agree more! We either go green or buy gas from Russia, there's no middle way. But anyway, better Russia than USA.

China set to take global lead in renewable energy

The emerging Asian superpower is poised to surpass world solar and wind manufacturing leaders in Europe, Japan, and North America in the next three years, the Worldwatch Institute said in a new report released on Wednesday.

At current growth rates, the report says China will likely achieve - and probably even exceed - its target of obtaining 15% of its energy from renewables in 2020, up from 8% currently. By 2050, it could even reach 30%, according to the report, "Powering China's Development: The Role of Renewable Energyexternal ", published on 14 November.

"More than $50 billion was invested in renewable energy worldwide in 2006, and China is expected to invest over $10 billion in new renewables capacity in 2007, second only to Germany," the report points out.

It says a combination of ambitious targets, strong government policies and the manufacturing performance of Chinese companies could enable China to quickly "leapfrog" competitors in industrialised countries. source

My comment: Well, very well said again! All you need is an idea, few billions and decisive government. No question ask, no answers given.
EU plans inclusion of CO2 storage in carbon trading scheme

Industrial greenhouse gases prevented from entering the atmosphere through the use of so-called carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology are to be credited as not emitted under the EU emissions trading scheme, according to Commission plans to be put forward next year.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a method whereby CO2 released during energy production from fossil fuels is captured, transported and stored in underground geological formations. CCS is seen as a key component of EU efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

But the technology is expensive and faces public scepticism in terms of the safety of long-term underground CO2 storage. It remains uncertain whether CCS will become commercially viable in time to contribute significantly to the EU's commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. source

My comment:Doesn't it sound little bit like a joke? EU keep on putting off and off the limits it put itself on. It's ridiculous. Why we should care about the jerks in the BMWs? Give them a fine and let them figure out the problem. As for storage, I wanna know, who guarantees me that after storaging the CO2, it will stay there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Europe and the World

EU considers 'pause for thought' on GMOs

EU environment ministers have failed to agree to force Austria to lift a national ban on GMOs, highlighting deep divisions among the 27-member bloc over the issue.

For the third time in a row since 2005, the environment ministers failed, on 30 October 2007, to find a qualified majority for or against a Commission proposal to lift restrictions on the provisional prohibition of the use and sale in Austria of two genetically modified (GM) varieties of maize. It will now be up to the Commission to make the decision.

The Commission proposed forcing Austria to drop its national ban onimporting two types of GM maize (MON810 and T25) and processing them into food and feed in order to conform to WTO rules (see EurActiv 19/12/2006). (source)

On that you may want to check this too.

My comment: Now, this is an important one! I was considering publishing it in a separate post but I don't have the time. Please, do check the sources on this as I think it's EXTREMELY important! I don't understand how WTO can force any country to import things that that country finds not safe for it's population. I hope Austria holds steady on this. It's not even question of GMo /which I think unsafe/ but of not interference with a country's internal politics! You simply can't force a country to open its market for something. Especially when that something has the same property of creating its own market like the cocaine! It's wrong! And yeah, so WTO can't protect the interest of Austria, but it can do it for USA and the rest?! Come on! That's wrong!!!

EU overtakes US in productivity growth

For the first time since 2001, the EU has outstripped the US in
productivity growth, according to a recent competitiveness report from
the European Commission that sees Europe 'on a growth path'.

The EU hailed its best economic performance since 2000 with growthrates
at 3% and worker productivity growing strongly at 1.5% in
2006,according to the Commission's annual competitiveness report,
published on 5 November. Productivity grew stronger in the EU than in
the US (1.4%) in what the Commission hopes is a "long-term trend". (source)

My comment: YAY! Go, Europe, go! No need to tell this is probably mostly due to the emigrants from the new members...

Germany plans law against foreign takeovers

Germany plans to introduce a law preventing takeovers of strategic industries, in a move directed against sovereign wealth

funds orginating in countries such as Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and China. The law also targets hedge funds and state holdings from non-EU countries, such as Russia's Gazprom.

The law would give the German federal governement the right to veto any foreign investment amounting to 25% or more of a company's stakes. When such an investment is notified, the government would have four weeks to
either approve or veto it. In cases of secretive investments on stock markets, the governement would have three months to decide and could even call for a roll-back of the deal - a move that is intended to encourage foreign investors to notify partial takeover bids. (source)
My comment: Well, it's the normal thing to do-if foreign investors control industries that are essential to the life, they can easily put a country on its knees. So I'm with that idea!

One Europe, one tax: plans for a common consolidated corporate tax base

A Commission plan to introduce a common consolidated corporate tax base (CCCTB) is likely to benefit large enterprises but smaller companies will be "out of their depth" when choosing between national and European systems, according to a new Deutsche Bank Research paper by Frank Zipfel.

The 25 September paper admits that the plan to harmonise the corporate income tax base, due to be unveiled before the end of the year, could potentially help companies cut their tax compliance costs.

However, he fears that the CCCTB will cause higher administrative costs for public sector authorities in the participating countries.
Moreover, he warns that a CCCTB involves "considerable curtailment of the member states' tax autonomy", and as decisions relating to taxes require unanimity, he believes that "the chances of a CCCTB being realised for the EU-27 are rather small". (source)
My comment: I'm not sure if that can be done currently, but I'm sure it should be done! So the least we can do is to start working for it...

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Europe and the Nature

EU environment ministers have acknowledged the dramatic increase in
water scarcity and droughts in Europe and called on the Commission and
member states to step up their efforts to implement existing directives.(source)

A draft regulation currently being discussed within the Commission sets
out fees for the market authorisation of chemical substances by the
European Chemicals Agency, established as part of the REACH chemicals
regulation. (source)

Most member states have missed a deadline to issue pollution permits
for industrial installations as mandated by a 1996 directive. The
Commission, which is currently drafting a proposal to revise
the directive, may impose stricter rules and has warned that the
implementation delay could lead to infringement proceedings.

The 1996 Directive on Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC)
introduces a permit system to prevent and limit pollution from
large-scale industrial installations. Sectors covered include
everything from metals, chemicals and paper to processed food, oil
refineries and large-scale pig and poultry farms.

The permits include precise emission limit values and are to
be issued by the competent authorities in the member states. When
drawing up the limits, the authorities are required to take into
account reference documents (BREFs) compiled on the basis of Best
Available Techniques (BATs), agreed upon at EU level.

Although the transposition of the IPPC directive into national law
was due in 1999, member states were given a transition period until
October 2007 to ensure that their existing industrial installations are
fully compliant. (source)

With less than eight months remaining before it must come up with a
universal model to make users of all transport modes pay for the
negative effects they inflict on society – including air pollution, CO2
emissions, accidents and congestion – the European Commission has
invited stakeholders to take part in the controversial debate.(source)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another look at the treaty:what's it, who's on, and who's out

Ok, because I write so often about our treaty, i'm offering a little more analysis on it, which i found in EuroAktiv. Enjoy.

The EU's Reform Treaty has actually produced two treaties: "a treaty on the EU, which contains most of the institutional provisions, and a second treaty on the functioning of the Union", write Daniel Gros and Stefano Micossi of the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

Although the road to the Reform Treaty has been painful, the final agreement – in which "most of the substance of the failed Constitution has been preserved" – will serve the EU well, believe the authors.

The October commentary remarks that the treaty's two-level structure is an "important innovation", providing for a fundamental law on which everyone must agree, and "specific policies on which dissent is normal and can thus be modified more easily". The authors claim the new treaty improves decision-making through the permanent, elected presidency for the Council, as well as its

institutionalisation and new voting mechanism based on majorities of countries and population, thus providing "a better equilibrium between big and small countries".

Gros and Micossi argue that the democratic control mechanisms are improved too, with the new treaty making national parliaments and the European Court of Justice the "gatekeepers of subsidiarity", and even providing for powers to be returned to the member states "with a simple decision of the Council".

Who got what:

  • Poland managed to include the so-called Ioannina clause in a Protocol. This allows for a minority of member states to delay key decisions taken by qualified majority in the Council "within a reasonable space of time", even if they do not dispose of a blocking
    minority. However, the clause is not included in the actual Treaty text, which means that member states can alter this provision without having to go through the cumbersome procedure of Treaty change.

  • Italy obtained an extra seat in the European Parliament, putting it back on equal footing with the UK, but giving it one seat less than France.

  • The UK defended its "red lines" and received wide-ranging opt-outs on cooperation in justice and home affairs. The UK and Poland also opted out of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. source

So much about what' it, now let's see who's thinking what.
Obviously, in UK there will be a problems as G. Brown is firm on not having a
referendum on it, while offering full parliamentary debate. In France "61% of the surveyed want a referendum and 68% of those who answered said that they would vote in favour of the
treaty and only 32% of respondents said that they would vote against." (source), in Ireland, which is bound to ask the people by its constitution, we have "25% of Irish citizens would vote in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, while 13% would vote against. An overwhelming 62% of those asked are undecided, with little more than a year left until the 1 January 2009
deadline to ratify the new treaty" (source), Italy got its extra MEP's seat /distribution was "unacceptable" before/ (source).

And yeah, the priorities of EU announced by (source) "The European Commission has released its political programme for the coming year, with a core focus on issues such as growth and jobs, climate change, energy and migration – confirming its desire to move on
from matters of institutional reform."

Thursday, November 8, 2007

God speed to our lovely treaty!

Here's our treaty deal! Let's enjoy it while we can. The funny part is that it really looks like all got what they wanted. It's kind of nice knowing our union satisfies our needs to such extent. But then, i hope this is the last time when the EU is being black-mailed by its members. It's high time we understood this is our union, we have to work for it, not against it. And yes,i'm speaking of Poland. Though, future could prove me wrong, who knows...

Treaty reform: over and done with…at last

Last week's treaty summit may mark the end of an entire phase of the European integration process in which progress has chiefly been made through institutional "giant leaps forward", argues a post-summit analysis from the European Policy Centre (EPC).

The 22 October paper remarks that leaders appear determined to "move on" following the lengthy reform process, and are seeking parliamentary approval instead of referenda on the new treaty wherever possible.

The EPC highlight the main results of the treaty agreement:

  • A five-year suspension of infringement proceedings against Austria over the application of quotas for foreign students at its medical schools.
  • Bulgaria won the right to call the EU single currency 'evro'. (yeah!!!)
  • A "largely symbolic" redistribution of seats between Spain, France, Italy and the UK for the 2009-14 European Parliament.
  • Poland's demand for the 'Ioannina compromise' on delaying decisions was satisfied in a special Protocol, which is "reasonable and workable".
  • Poland was given the same right as Germany, France, the UK, Italy and Spain to have a permanent Advocate-General in the European Court of Justice.
  • Parliament will have a say in the appointment of the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
Regarding the Polish election result, the EPC paper believes that the new government will "play a more constructive role inside the EU" and diffuse tensions with Russia by toning down the rhetoric on meat exports and postponing a decision on missile defence.

The paper predicts that with the posts of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, President of the European Parliament, Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Head of the WTO all available at roughly the same
time, June 2009 will be "a big horse-trading jamboree".

The paper concludes that the new treaty is the "best possible institutional deal that could have been reached in the current circumstances" and its provisions are unlikely to be altered for a long time, meaning that the EU can now concentrate on issues of substance, symbolised by EU leaders' rapid shift to policy discussions on the summit's final day.



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