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

Friday, February 29, 2008

Crime and Punishment in Europe

EU threatens Italy with fines over waste crisis
18 January 2008

Since December 2007, over 100,000 tonnes of rubbish, including toxic waste, have piled up in the city of Naples and the surrounding region of Campania. The EU has promised to continue ongoing legal action against Italy over its shaky waste legislation, including possible financial penalties.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas told the Parliament on 15 January that the Commission "will continue the infringement procedure against Italy started in June 2007 for breach of Community waste legislation. It is ready to take further legal steps should the current breaches of Community legislation continue, using all available measures under the Treaty, including the possibility of imposing fines", he said.

In summer 2007, a previous waste crisis in the Campania region made international headlines and prompted EU infringement procedures (EurActiv 27/06/07).

Italy's Campania region, which includes the city of Naples, has suffered from periodic waste collection and disposal crises. The Camorra, a notorious criminal organisation, controls most of the waste disposal industry in the region. The organisation has undermined the construction of environmentally sound landfills and incinerators for decades, because these would undermine the profitability of its illicit operations, according to press reports.

Despite evidence of criminal activity, Dimas placed most of the blame for the situation on the Italian authorities. "Frequently-cited speculation about the role of organised crime should not be used to hide the fact that the more direct cause for the waste crises appears to be the lack of action and the lack of political will to adopt the measures necessary for solving the waste management problem", he said.

In addition, the resignation yesterday (17 January) of Italy's Justice Minister Clemente Mastella over bribery allegations against his wife has sent shockwaves through the Prime Minister's office. The affair threatens to undermine the fragile ruling coalition of the Prodi government, for Mastella's resignation also signals the departure from government of several important Prodi allies. source
My comment: Well, we have the same problem here and it's not the mafia to blame. It's the mayors and politicians that never bother with the trivial until it gets out of control. And when it does, they are all sooo helpless. I hope Italy handle the situation, because it's terrible to see this happening in European country.

Erika oil-slick trial sets 'ecological prejudice' precedent
17 January 2008

In a landmark decision that could set a legal precedent, the French energy giant Total and three other parties have been charged for their role in the sinking of the Erika ship, which caused a major oil spill in 1999.

The sinking, in December 1999, of Erika – a 25-year-old, rusting, single-hulled oil tanker – caused the leakage of more than 20,000 tonnes of toxic fuel oil, polluting 400km of France's coastal area, destroying the marine environment and killing tens of thousands of seabirds.

The catastrophe sent a shockwave not only through France, but across the whole of the European Union, spurring the Commission to adopt a series of strict preventive measures to take action to improve maritime safety, known as the Erika I and II packages . The measures included the complete banning of single-hull oil tankers from carrying heavy fuel oil in the European Union as of 2003 and the gradual elimination of all EU single-hull tankers by 2015.

An even tougher third package is currently being examined by the European Parliament and the 27 member states.

In a ruling on 16 January 2008, the Criminal Court of Paris condemned the world's fourth largest oil group Total SA to a fine of €375,000 – the maximum allowable penalty for maritime pollution – claiming "ecological prejudice" caused by the sinking of the Erika.


The case represents the first time that a French court has handed down a conviction for environmental damage and the landmark ruling could establish a legal precedent for suing companies or persons over major ecological disasters.

Cargo owners that charter a ship are usually precluded from responsibility under international maritime law. However, the Court ruled that only Total's subsidiary, Total Transport, would be let off as the ship's legal charterer. Total SA, on the other hand, was found guilty of recklessness in its vessel inspection and vetting procedure.

Erika's Italian owner Guiseppe Saverese and its Italian manager Antonio Pollara were also found guilty and fined €75,000 each – the maximum penalty for physical persons. According to the Court, the two men had committed a fault by cutting down on maintenance work on the Erika in order to save money, despite heavy corrosion of the ship's structures.

The Italian maritime certification company RINA, which judges blamed for issuing a navigability certificate to the ship without undertaking the necessary checks "under the pressure of commercial constraints", was also fined the maximum amount for a company, €175,000.

The four parties were also told to pay out nearly €200 million in damages to some one hundred plaintiffs in the case, including the French state, the regions, environmental protection groups such as Greenpeace, fishermen and hotel owners.

Eleven other accused parties, including the ship's Indian captain Karun Mathur and Total's former security chief Bertrand Thouillin, were let off the hook. Accusations of "putting other people's lives in danger", which could have led to prison sentences, were dropped against everyone.

The case is however not yet over, as Total and the other convicted parties still have ten days in which to appeal the decision. This would lead to a suspension of sanctions and a new trial in around one year. source
My comment: I hope this serves for an example to all the companies that tend to be negligent in their duties toward their crews and the Nature as a whole. We saw what happened with a Bulgarian ship that sinked near Ukrain. Only one man survived. Why? Because no one controls those ships and their condition. Maybe now, the companies that own them will take care of them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Science in Europe this month

EU ethics group advises against cloning animals for food
23 January 2008

In a recent opinion, the European Group on Ethics for science and new technologies did not find any argument to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring. Instead, it recommends promoting public debates on the impact of cloning farm animals on agriculture, the environment and society at large.

In March 2007, the Commission asked the EU's Food Safety Authority (EFSA ) for a scientific opinion on the implications of animal cloning on food safety, animal welfare and the environment. In particular, EFSA was asked to determine whether meat and milk from cloned animals are safe to eat.

In parallel, the EU executive also asked the European Group on Ethics for science and new technologies (EGE ) to give an opinion on the ethics of cloning.

These requests for opinions came shortly after the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated in a draft risk assessment published on 28 December 2007, that meat and milk products from cloned cattle, pigs and goats were safe for consumption.

Cloning is not a commercial practice in Europe and products from clones are not known to have entered the European food chain as yet. However, according to the Commission , products from clones are "on the verge of widespread commercial use" and are "expected to spread within the global food chain before 2010".

The EFSA's draft opinion on the safety of cloning, published on 11 January 2008, states that "it is very unlikely that any difference exists in terms of food safety between food products from clones and their progeny compared with conventionally-bred animals."

After the FDA final assessment, the US Department of Agriculture still asked American farmers to voluntarily keep their cloned animals off the market. Its stance is backed by the federation of the nation's dairy manufacturing and marketing industries and their suppliers, who argue that it would be prudent to wait until all major foreign trading partners have reviewed and approved the same cloning technology in their respective countries and consumers have become comfortable with the idea of buying milk from cloned cows.

In an Opinion adopted on 16 January 2008, the European Group on Ethics for science and new technologies (EGE ) said it "does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring".

The EGE opinion on ethical aspects of animal cloning for food supply states that "considering the current level of suffering and health problems of surrogate dams and animal clones, the EGE has doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified. Whether this applies also to progeny is open to further scientific research."

If, however, cloned meat and other food products derived from cloned animals were to be introduced into the European market, the EGE argues that:
  1. The safety of food products for human consumption must be guaranteed;
  2. the guidance on animal welfare provided by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) must be followed, and;
  3. EU legislation on the traceability of animals and their food products should be enforced, including traceability of imports and global trade.

In addition, the EGE recommends conducting further studies and analyses on the long-term animal welfare and health implications for clones and their offspring as well as taking proper measures to preserve the genetic heritage of species of farm animal and address intellectual property and product labelling issues. source

My comment: Well, you know, the same as before. It's not the meat, it's the decreasing variety of the genetic pool that we should worry about. And anyway, I prefer to eat EU food.

Scientists warn of rising Mediterranean Sea level
22 January 2008

If current trends continue, the Mediterranean Sea level could rise by up to half a metre in the next 50 years, with catastrophic consequences for coastal areas, Spanish scientists have warned.

The Mediterranean Sea level has been increasing "between 2.5 and 10 millimetres per year since the 1990s and if the trend continues, the level of the Sea will rise between 12.5 centimetres and a half a metre in next the 50 years," argue the authors of a study entitled 'Climate Change in the Spanish Mediterranean', published on 18 January 2008.

The authors reveal that the rapid increase in the level of the sea coincides with a considerable increase in temperatures during the same period.

The study, conducted by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO ), argues that if the trend continues, even a smaller increase would have "very serious consequences", whereas an increase of a half a metre would be "catastrophic" for coastal areas.

The scientists underline that even though it is too soon to ascertain whether this trend is going to continue in the coming decades, the growing rate of increase in sea levels has been a global phenomenon since the 1990s.

The EU has been taking measures to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, which contribute to global warming, since the early 1990s. Since the turn of the millenium, it has adopted a number of new policies and measures, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS ), in the framework of the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP ).
source
My comment: Well, it's not so much considering it's over 50 years, but anyway, it's alarming.

Study reveals potential of recycling for CO2 reduction
22 January 2008

Research shows that establishing EU-wide legally binding recycling targets for municipal solid waste could save up to 144 million tonnes of CO2 per year.

A study conducted by German consultancy Ökopol calculates, for the first time, the CO2 emission reduction potential of establishing EU-wide legally binding recycling targets for municipal solid waste (MSW).

The European Parliament has asked for such binding targets in its first reading of the EU framework directive for waste.

According to preliminary figures in the study, the current EU average MSW recycling rate of 37% saves some 160 million tonnes of CO2 every year. Presently, the EU minimum target is 50%. If every member state reached at least that by 2020 and those who are already above the target did not diminish their efforts, then CO2 emission savings would improve by 88 million tonnes.

If all member states reached the current maximum achieved by the Netherlands (65%) by 2020, an additional 144 million tonnes of CO2 would be saved every year.


The data used in the study was taken from existing life-cycle assessments and 2005 Eurostat waste statistics and assumed that incineration rates remain constant. A complete final version of the 'CO2 emission saving potential of EU recycling targets' will be published at an international conference on waste and climate change in London on 31 January 2008.
source
My comment:Hm, I wonder how realistic this survey is. After all, the plans for reducing the emissions from
cars failed, the one for the aviation is very weak and even those for the industry won't work. Ok, I'm really pissed today. Probably should stop commenting in such bad mood.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Europe this month

Germany's Nokia workers may receive EU help

21 January 2008

The EU may offer funding to Nokia workers set to lose their jobs when the cellphone giant closes its plant in Bochum to shift production to Romania, Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced at the weekend. Meanwhile, Industry Commissioner Guenter Verheugen pledged that this case would prompt a rethink of state subsidies.

The company said the move will cost up to 2,300 jobs at its Bochum plant. A number of part-time workers at the site have already been dismissed, according to German newspaper reports.

"It is precisely because we know how difficult transformation is that we mobilise our social and globalisation funds so that member states do not have to absorb these changes on their own," Barroso said.

The company has been accused of ingratitude, because it had accepted 88 million euros in German state subsidies in the past. German officials have demanded to know whether Nokia would benefit from its move to Romania, part of which could come from German payments.

The Commission has denied subsidising the new Nokia plant, and pointed out that both Germany and Romania would receive EU funding. "It is true that we support infrastructure in economically less-privileged regions, also in Germany," Barroso said. Germany is the largest contributor to EU funds.

Nokia has defended its plans, saying the plant was not competitive and insisted that it will go ahead with the move. The company is refusing to enter discussions with German authorities about keeping the Bochum plant in operation, Nokia spokeswoman Arja Suominen told reporters on 17 January in Helsinki. source

My comment: Well, as much as I dislike Nokia and Romania, I guess I can't say anything positive on the issue. But then, it's all about the money, so we can't exactly blame them. I mean, Romania is the cheaper option currently, so it's in the best interest of the company. But then, I think, it must compensate the German workers. And of course, to move using European money is absurd, but it was absurd to give them the money on the first place. Oh, whatever.

French unions reach agreement over 'flexicurity'

17 January 2008
Employers' and trade unions are set to agree a compromise over the modernisation of the labour market in France, paving the way towards a distinctive 'French approach' to the Danish 'flexicurity' model.

EU member states adopted a number of common principles on flexicurity in December 2007 (EurActiv 05/12/07). The Commission adopted a 'Communication on flexicurityPdf external ' on 27 June 2007, outlining ways for member states to adapt their labour markets to the pressures of globalisation, while at the same time tackle the social challenges of the 21st century.

The French debate centres on the labour market reforms introduced by the government of President Sarkozy, elected in spring 2007.

After four months of negotiations between social partners regarding the modernisation of the labour market, the major employers' unions reached a compromise with the trade unions on 11 January 2008.
he agreement, which must be formally accepted by a majority of unions in order to enter into force, gives employers and employees the opportunity to mutually agree to break long-term, open-ended contracts. In such cases, the breaking of the contract must be validated by the employer within a fortnight.

Moreover, the text of the agreement provides for new fixed-term contracts for managers and engineers carrying out specified tasks, valid for a period of 18 to 36 months.

The text also provides for an extension of trial periods – renewable once – from one month to two for blue-collar workers and three months to four for those in management.

The unions agreed to increase severance pay for salaried employees who have been working with a company for over a year, and gave them the opportunity to transfer various rights between jobs, including training, health insurance and contingency funds.

The French trade unions Force Ouvrière, CFTC and CFE-CGC approved the agreement on 14 January, while the CFDT is expected to follow suit on 17 January. source

Commission defends biofuels in face of mounting criticism

21 January 2008

The EU's energy and agriculture commissioners have joined hands in defending the bloc's commitment to biofuels, following calls by a UK parliamentary committee for a moratorium on the promotion of the controversial alternative to fossil fuels.

The UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) today (21 January) joined a growing chorus of criticism over the promotion of biofuels for use in the EU's transport mix, arguing against any further promotion of the fuels at EU level.

Despite their ability to offset greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from road transport, "at present most biofuels have a detrimental impact on the environment overall", said the EAC's chairman Tim Yeo.

The EAC's conclusions reflect those made by the Commission's own scientists (EurActiv 18/01/08), who have questioned the environmental sustainability of growing crops for energy use. Environmental NGOs have strongly criticised the EU's 10% goal, calling for tougher safeguards or even an outright moratorium on production (EurActiv 11/01/08).

But EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said that the Commission "strongly disagrees" with the EAC's conclusion. Biofuels are "delivering significant greenhouse gas reductions" compared to oil, Piebalgs said in a statement, which lists a number of arguments to support the EU's policy. source

My comment:Well, I have my doubts in biofues. I know it's all about energy dependency, but that shouldn't come in all cost. And researches show that biofuels may endanger the environment more than they can save it, not because they are wrong, but because humans tend to do all for the money. As the articles below show.

Parliament loosens restrictions on EU chemicals exports

17 January 2008

The European Parliament has voted in favour of granting EU companies temporary authorisation to export certain pre-approved chemical substances without the explicit consent of importing countries, saying the move will provide export opportunities for EU chemicals makers without compromising environmental safeguards.

In 2003, the EU became party to the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, which stipulates that exporting countries must first receive the explicit consent of importing nations before being allowed to export certain chemical substances.

But problems with the PIC procedure emerged when EU companies encountered long delays – sometimes lasting several years – in receiving authorisation from importing countries. And in a February 2006 ruling, the EU Court of Justice annulled the EU's implementing regulation of the Rotterdam Convention because of a faulty legal basis.

Under the new regulation, endorsed in a 15 January plenary vote by an overwhelming majority of MEPs, if third countries do not reply to authorisation requests within two months, EU companies can receive 12-month export approvals as long as the substances in question have already been licensed in the importing country.

In its initial proposal, the Commission argued that certain banned or restricted chemicals should also be subject to import approval exemptions if importing countries did not respond to requests within three months. But the "Greens succeeded in getting rid of this clause in the final first reading agreement", according to the group's press service.source:EuroAktiv

My comment: Yeah, again, all for the money :)

Parliament urges restraint on car CO2 cuts

16 January 2008

Carmakers should have an extra three years' breathing space to implement reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, according to a report adopted by MEPs.

CO2 reductions should be addressed through improvements in vehicle technology alone, but this will require more time than current Commission proposals allow for, MEPs stressed in a non-binding legislative report, drafted by German Liberal MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis and backed by a broad majority on 15 January.

Because the development of new models usually takes between five to seven years, MEPs said car manufacturers should have until 2015 to achieve an average output of 125 grams of CO2 per kilometre driven. The Commission had proposed a target of 130 grams per kilometre by 2012 through vehicle technology, with a further 10g/km reduction expected to come from improvements in other areas including tyres, fuels and eco-driving.

Parliament's report further underlines carmakers' argument that the slow pace in cutting CO2 emissions over the past decade is partly down to an increase in vehicle weight caused by stringent new safety standards set at EU level. MEPs therefore suggest that the Commission develop a system that allows cars to emit additional CO2 if these are a result of legally binding safety measures.source

My comment: Again, all for the money and all for Germany! It's absolutely unacceptable the behaviour EU is showing recently and I hope the mange to realise they can't protect few companies and in the same time, be bad with others. Even if those companies are in Germany. If we want to play green, we should do it without regard of "national competitiveness". Not everyone cares about the problems of German car-makers.

Friday, February 22, 2008

A pharmacy trust under inspection from EC

Big pharma groups raided in EU antitrust probe

17 January 2008

The Commission has raided the offices of a number of top pharmaceutical companies to find out whether anti-competitive practices in the sector have hindered innovation and blocked the entry of cheap generics on the European market.

Sector inquiriesexternal are investigations that the Commission may decide to carry out in economic sectors that do not seem to be working as well as they should or when there are indications of anti-competitive practices.

The information obtained is used to understand how the market works and why it works that way. Based on the inquiry, the Commission may open company-specific investigations to ensure that Community rules on restrictive agreements and abuse of dominant position are respected (Articles 81 and 82external of the EC Treatyexternal ).

Sector inquiries have already been conducted, for example, on energyexternal and financial servicesexternal .

In a DecisionPdf external adopted on 15 January, the Commission said it had "indications of commercial practices by pharmaceutical suppliers including notably patenting or the exercise of patents which may not serve to protect innovation but to block innovative and/or generic competition". The decision launched a major inquiry into competition in the European pharmaceuticals sector.

A series of unannounced inspections started immediately after the Commission decision, at 3pm, at the premises of a number of both innovative and generic pharmaceutical companies operating in Europe. The raids were co-ordinated with the competition authorities of those member states where the inspections took place.

At the very least, the UK's GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, France's Sanofi-Aventis, US pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer and the Swiss company Novartis AG have said their offices have been investigated. As to generic producers' offices, at least Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd headquarted in Israel and the US-based Wyeth were visited.

According to the EU executive, the inquiry was launched because fewer new pharmaceuticals are being brought to market, and the entry of generic pharmaceuticals sometimes seems to be delayed. "Market monitoring suggests that these developments result from anti-competitive practices," said Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

Anti-competitive and innovative practices include an innovative pharmaceuticals company buying a generic one off the market, abusive patent litigations delaying the entry onto the market of cheaper generics, a company using its dominant position to block its competitor from launching new products and an innovative pharma company paying a generic company for not launching a generic, Commission officials said.

"Such practices may limit consumer choice, reduce economic incentives to invest in research and development of new products and damage public and private health budgets," states the Commission decision.

The inquiry will examine:

  • whether agreements between pharmaceutical companies, such as settlements in patent disputes, infringe the EC Treaty's prohibition of restrictive business practices (Article 81external ); and;
  • whether companies may have created artificial barriers to entry, either through the misuse of patent rights, vexatious litigation or other means, and whether such practices infringe the EC Treaty's ban on abuses of dominant market positions (Article 82external ).

This is the first time a Commission sector inquiry has begun with unannounced inspections rather than with requests for information, because "the kind of information the Commission will be examining in this inquiry, notably concerning the use of intellectual property rights, litigation and settlement agreements covering the EU, is by its nature information that companies tend to consider highly confidential. Such information may also easily be withheld, concealed or destroyed," said the Commission.

"If we have proof of anti-competitive behaviour, we won't wait until the final inquiry report, but will immediately launch company-specific anti-trust cases," said Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

According to the Commission, the number of new medicines reaching the market has considerably decreased over time, from an average of 40 novel molecular entities per year between 1995 and 1999 to an average of 28 between 2000 and 2004. "Patent protection in pharmaceuticals is huge and still the sector is going down," noted Commissioner Kroes.

source

My comment: Well, it becomes a common practice for EU companies to negotiate in secret and abuse the market. I hope the EC will find a way to counteract such activities, because we must not be a country of companies, but a country of the people.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Europe to ban biofuels from forest lands

Europe May Ban Imports of Some Biofuel Crops

PARIS — In a sign of growing concern about the impact of supposedly “green” policies, European Union officials will propose a ban on imports of certain biofuels, according to a draft law to be unveiled next week.

If approved by European governments, the law would prohibit the importation of fuels derived from crops grown on certain kinds of land — including forests, wetlands or grasslands — into the 27-nation bloc.

The draft law would also require that biofuels used in Europe deliver “a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings.” That level is still under discussion.

Currently, most of the crops for biofuels used in Europe consist of rapeseed (commonly known as canola in the United States) grown in parts of Europe, according to Matt Drinkwater, a biofuels analyst at New Energy Finance in London. Europe also imports some palm oil from Southeast Asia, soy from Latin America, ethanol from Brazil, and produces some ethanol domestically using wheat and sugar beets, he said.

The ban would primarily affect palm oil and possibly the Latin American imports.

Amid rising prices for gasoline and diesel and worries about climate change, countries around the world have started using more fuels produced from crops or agricultural wastes.


But a flurry of studies has discredited some of the claims made by biofuel producers that the fuels help reduce greenhouse gases by reducing fossil fuel use and growing carbon-dioxide-consuming plants. Growing the crops and turning them into fuel can result in considerable environmental harm.

Not only is native vegetation, including tropical rain forests, being chopped down in places to plant the crops, but fossil fuels, like diesel for tractors, are often used to farm the crops. They also demand nitrogen fertilizer made largely with natural gas and consume huge amounts of water.

Already, the draining and deforesting of peatlands in Southeast Asia — mainly to make way for palm plantations — accounts for up to 8 percent of global annual carbon dioxide emissions, said Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

In Indonesia, he said, more than 18 million hectares of forest, or 44 million acres, have already been cleared for palm oil developments. Environmental groups say the developments are endangering wildlife like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, and putting pressure on indigenous peoples who depend on the forests.

Last week, scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Washington also warned that biofuel production can result in environmental destruction, pollution and damage to human health.

Experts say certain types of fuels, particularly those made from agricultural wastes, still hold potential to improve the environment, but they add that governments will have to set and enforce standards for how the fuels are produced. With its new proposal, Europe appears to be moving ahead of the rest of the world in that task.

The draft law probably would have the greatest impact on palm oil growers in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Mr. Drinkwater.

“Some developments in Southeast Asia will almost certainly be blocked by these provisions,” he said, adding that the rules would make it much harder to plant on recently deforested land or to export fuels whose production process cause significant amounts of greenhouse gases to be released.

But farmers growing corn for ethanol could also be affected, because the European rules contain provisions on preserving grasslands, said Mr. Drinkwater.

The text, which could change before European commissioners meet on Jan. 23 to adopt a final version, also emphasizes that areas like rain forests and lands with high levels of biodiversity should not be converted to growing biofuels.

The European Union does not want to completely abandon biofuels because they could still contribute to reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels.

On Monday, in answer to a reporter’s question, an organization representing major growers of crops for biofuels in Malaysia said the E.U. should be cautious before imposing new rules. It said that farmers in the region were adopting more sustainable practices, and warned that restrictions on imports could cause trade tensions.

The draft law also says that biofuels should be tracked from origin to use “so that biofuels fulfilling the sustainability criteria can be identified and rewarded with a premium in the market.”

The measures are part of a plan for Europe to implement a binding target of making 10 percent of the transport fuels consumed by 2020 from renewable sources — most of which are expected to be biofuels.source:NY Times

My comment: It's not very surprising I'm strongly pro this plan. I hope this will pass, though I can see many reasons why it probably won't. But let's be positive :) I just think the part with the grassland should be included only if this grassland is important part of the local environment. Because otherwise, grassland is pretty much everything you see grass on, so it's not really specific. Well, anyway, I think this is definitely the way to more balanced and intelligent energy production. And we have to show developing countries that the price is not all that matters to us.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Europe to ban biofuels from forest lands

Europe May Ban Imports of Some Biofuel Crops

PARIS — In a sign of growing concern about the impact of supposedly “green” policies, European Union officials will propose a ban on imports of certain biofuels, according to a draft law to be unveiled next week.

If approved by European governments, the law would prohibit the importation of fuels derived from crops grown on certain kinds of land — including forests, wetlands or grasslands — into the 27-nation bloc.

The draft law would also require that biofuels used in Europe deliver “a minimum level of greenhouse gas savings.” That level is still under discussion.

Currently, most of the crops for biofuels used in Europe consist of rapeseed (commonly known as canola in the United States) grown in parts of Europe, according to Matt Drinkwater, a biofuels analyst at New Energy Finance in London. Europe also imports some palm oil from Southeast Asia, soy from Latin America, ethanol from Brazil, and produces some ethanol domestically using wheat and sugar beets, he said.

The ban would primarily affect palm oil and possibly the Latin American imports.

Amid rising prices for gasoline and diesel and worries about climate change, countries around the world have started using more fuels produced from crops or agricultural wastes.


But a flurry of studies has discredited some of the claims made by biofuel producers that the fuels help reduce greenhouse gases by reducing fossil fuel use and growing carbon-dioxide-consuming plants. Growing the crops and turning them into fuel can result in considerable environmental harm.

Not only is native vegetation, including tropical rain forests, being chopped down in places to plant the crops, but fossil fuels, like diesel for tractors, are often used to farm the crops. They also demand nitrogen fertilizer made largely with natural gas and consume huge amounts of water.

Already, the draining and deforesting of peatlands in Southeast Asia — mainly to make way for palm plantations — accounts for up to 8 percent of global annual carbon dioxide emissions, said Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

In Indonesia, he said, more than 18 million hectares of forest, or 44 million acres, have already been cleared for palm oil developments. Environmental groups say the developments are endangering wildlife like the orangutan and the Sumatran tiger, and putting pressure on indigenous peoples who depend on the forests.

Last week, scientists at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Washington also warned that biofuel production can result in environmental destruction, pollution and damage to human health.

Experts say certain types of fuels, particularly those made from agricultural wastes, still hold potential to improve the environment, but they add that governments will have to set and enforce standards for how the fuels are produced. With its new proposal, Europe appears to be moving ahead of the rest of the world in that task.

The draft law probably would have the greatest impact on palm oil growers in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, according to Mr. Drinkwater.

“Some developments in Southeast Asia will almost certainly be blocked by these provisions,” he said, adding that the rules would make it much harder to plant on recently deforested land or to export fuels whose production process cause significant amounts of greenhouse gases to be released.

But farmers growing corn for ethanol could also be affected, because the European rules contain provisions on preserving grasslands, said Mr. Drinkwater.

The text, which could change before European commissioners meet on Jan. 23 to adopt a final version, also emphasizes that areas like rain forests and lands with high levels of biodiversity should not be converted to growing biofuels.

The European Union does not want to completely abandon biofuels because they could still contribute to reducing Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels.

On Monday, in answer to a reporter’s question, an organization representing major growers of crops for biofuels in Malaysia said the E.U. should be cautious before imposing new rules. It said that farmers in the region were adopting more sustainable practices, and warned that restrictions on imports could cause trade tensions.

The draft law also says that biofuels should be tracked from origin to use “so that biofuels fulfilling the sustainability criteria can be identified and rewarded with a premium in the market.”

The measures are part of a plan for Europe to implement a binding target of making 10 percent of the transport fuels consumed by 2020 from renewable sources — most of which are expected to be biofuels.source:NY Times

My comment: It's not very surprising I'm strongly pro this plan. I hope this will pass, though I can see many reasons why it probably won't. But let's be positive :) I just think the part with the grassland should be included only if this grassland is important part of the local environment. Because otherwise, grassland is pretty much everything you see grass on, so it's not really specific. Well, anyway, I think this is definitely the way to more balanced and intelligent energy production. And we have to show developing countries that the price is not all that matters to us.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A battle won for Europe-France to ban GM maize and more

France suspends GM maize, citing new scientific evidence

14 January 2008

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on 11 January 2008 that his country would invoke an EU safeguard clause enabling it to suspend the marketing and growth on its territory of a GM crop that has EU-wide authorisation.

The crop in question is a variety of maize, MON 810, produced by the US biotech giant Monsanto. The strain contains a gene allowing the maize to defend itself against the European corn borerexternal which regularly destroys maize harvests all over Europe. MON 810 has so far been the only genetically modified crop to have market authorisation in France, one of Europe's largest maize growers.

The decision came after France's 'Provisional High Authority on GM Organisms' presented, on 9 January 2008, the conclusions of its study on the effect of the MON 810 crop on health and the environment. The committee, composed of 15 scientific experts, announced that it had found "new scientific facts relating to a negative impact on flora and fauna". However, not all its members signed the final declaration, arguing that they did not have enough time to conduct the study.

These "new scientific facts" include cross-pollination of GM and non-GM fields at local level and negative effects on insects, a species of earthworm and micro-organisms.

Under EU law, the Commission has 60 days to decide on the validity of the new scientific evidence discovered by the French committee on GMOs. If the Commission does not consider the evidence produced to be valid, it can force France to lift its ban, unless a qualified majority against such a decision is reached in the Council of Ministers.

Austria, Germany and Poland have previously invoked the safeguard clause without success, as the Commission has never substantiated their applications. Moreover, EU environment ministers have repeatedly failed to reach a qualified majority for or against the Commission's proposals to lift the national bans.

All the commissioners are set to debate GMOs in early February 2008 to clarify the EU executive's policy stance on the issue. source

My comment: Well, Monsanto, sorry :) Seriously, that's lovely, especially if the evidences are sound. Which I hope, of course. Though, it's kind of hypocritical of me to want to see the science down, but what I really want is food and crops that are safe for everyone and everything. On US soil, Monsanto can do whatever it wants, but on EU soil, it should behave.

The cost of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions

16 January 2008

The US needs "strong, coordinated, economy-wide action" in the form of a comprehensive abatement programme to prevent a sharp increase in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), a recent study by McKinsey suggests.

Annual GHG emissions in the US are projected to rise from 7.2 gigatons in 2005 to 9.7 gigatons in 2030 – an increase of 35% - according to a US government analysis cited by McKinsey. Moreover, growth in emissions would be accompanied by a gradual decrease in the absorption of carbon by US forests and agricultural land.

Continued expansion of the US economy, rapid growth in the buildings-and-appliances and transportation sectors and increased use of carbon-based power for electricity generation are seen as the main drivers of projected emissions growth, according to McKinsey.

In 2030, this would lead to a situation whereby the US exceeds the GHG emissions reduction targets contained in the economy-wide climate change bills currently before Congress by up to 5.2 gigatons, the study predicts.

The US could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 4.5 gigatons by 2030 by using a comprehensive abatement programme and high-potential emerging technologies, at a marginal cost of less than €50 per ton, while maintaining comparable levels of consumer utility, the study points out. source

My comment: The reason why I post this here is that I realise I have many US readers. I hope this will stimulate them to find a way they could contribute to the decreasing of the emissions. There are so many ways, just find the best fitting you. You can find more on this in the article.

Six areas selected for 'lead market' initiative

Published: Thursday 10 January 2008

eHealth, protective textiles, sustainable construction, recycling, bio-based products and renewable energy: These are the six areas with high growth and innovation potential identified by the Commission for its lead market initiative.

Lead marketsexternal are high-growth potential markets for research and innovation-rich goods and services. The concept was introduced into EU terminology by the 'Aho report' on Creating an innovative EuropePdf external (January 2006).

The report was the outcome of a small expert group chaired by the former Finnish prime minister, Esko Aho, and appointed by the October 2005 Hampton Court European Council to consider what new efforts are needed in the field of research and innovation to achieve the Lisbon goals.

Lead market initiatives will focus on areas where public authorities can facilitate industry-led innovation by creating favourable legal and regulatory frameworks, setting standards, improving access to risk capital, providing support for research and acting as a launch customer. source

My comment: No comment, really! I think the areas are well chosen. But I must admit I'm very upset by this article (not the same as the one above-this one is again on GM food) which I will comment separately probably. The point is, EC tries incessantly to please US on GM and cloned food and that breaks my heart. Why? Why can't we follow our own path? Ok, more one that later, when my sadness has abated and I'm able to argument myself.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

The new president

Candidate list for new EU top job gets longer

9 January 2008

Tony Blair, Jean-Claude Juncker, Jose-Maria Aznar, Aleksander Kwasniewski and now Bertie Ahern: the Irish Taoiseach has recently joined the list of potential candidates for the newly-created post of EU president in 2009.


The Lisbon treaty, signed in December 2007, will create the new post of a permanent president to head the Union for a period of two and a half years (renewable once) and thus replace the current system of rotating six-month presidencies between member states.

In addition, the position of High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently held by Javier Solana, will be upgraded and merged with the post of Commissioner for External Relations.

"I like Europe, I like dealing with Europe," said Ahern when questioned by the Irish Times about a possible Brussels position, although he admitted that he had not given a huge amount of thought to it so far.

Ahern also stated that he was second only to Luxembourg's long-serving prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker when it comes to experience on the EU stage and that "maybe a small minority" of his colleagues "would like to see me give some of my time to a role."

Negotiations over the three major political jobs – EU President, High Representative (who will act as the EU's de facto foreign minister) and President of the European Commission – are set to begin in the second half of 2008, when France takes over the EU presidency.

Although the new treaty contains a clear job description for the two new posts, their functions are still "deliberately unclear", said Igor Sencar, the current Slovenian Presidency's EU ambassador, in an interview with the US Chamber of Commerce to the EU.

"Only time and political realities will show what the President's role would be, or rather at which end of the spectrum between a purely ceremonial post and a fully-fledged leader at the EU level he or she will be placed," Sencar pointed out.

"It is probably too early to say what kind of problems might occur regarding the creation of this post", he added.

Juncker, who is among the candidates under consideration as the Union's president, made it clear even before the new treaty was agreed that "the EU does not need a president who solely congratulates the US president on his birthday".

None of the candidates considered to be in the race for one of the three top posts have openly declared their willingness to run, but political haggling behind the scenes has already begun.

Several countries, including heavyweights France and Germany, have repeatedly expressed their appreciation of Jean-Claude Juncker.

However, French President Nicolas Sarkozy can also picture former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the position, as he stated last summer after meeting Blair in Paris.

"He is a remarkable man, the most European of all the British", Sarkozy said. "I do not know what his intentions are but that one could think of him as a possibility would be quite a smart move," he added.

Sarkozy was backed by the new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who said that "Blair would be a great president".

The filling of the three jobs is likely to be the result of political bargaining between member states, taking into account country size, political colours and EU credentials, which de facto makes it impossible that two personalities with the same nationality or party affiliation will both gain senior positions. source

My comment: Well, I hope Tony Blair never becomes a president. Why? Because of his love for USA. And isn't it funny the Nicolas Sarkozy exactly is behind him??? The Bush lover?! I'm so sick of this sh*ts. Seriously. Can't they just stand for what define us as europeans. They get a big No from me. And not because I'm americanophob, but because I feel they should protect our interests on first place. That's what a president should do. My vote goes to the irish and the french candidates.

Check out the commentaries of the blog for more info on the issue.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

EU industries to go greener, pollution in Spain, biomonitoring and of course, SUV under fire

Business criticises green industry plans

8 January 2008

A Commission proposal aimed at toughening up emissions legislation for industrial installations has come under fire from business leaders, who say it could force power stations and other plants to shut down.

The 1996 Directiveexternal 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.

Permits are issued by the competent authorities in member states and require industrial operators to apply Best Available Techniques (BATs) - the most cost-effective techniques to achieve a high level of environmental protection.

Based on the BATs, which are set at EU-level, the permits include precise limit values for atmospheric pollutants that cause acid rain and smog, such as sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), dust and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Nevertheless, the current directive allows authorities to take into account the technical characteristics of the installation concerned, its geographical location and the local environmental conditions when drawing up emission limits – a flexibility that the Commission believes is being abused.

Indeed, although member states were given eight years (until October 2007) to ensure that their existing industrial installations are fully compliant, according to the Commission, just 50% of installations in the EU have been granted permits so far.

Commission plans to revise the existing rules on emissions from industrial installations across the EU are under attack from business leaders for being overly costly and lacking flexibility.

The proposalPdf external , presented by the Commission on 21 December 2007, seeks to ensure that existing rules on industrial emissions are better complied with, after a reviewexternal revealed that only 50% of industrial installations in the EU have thus far been granted permits containing limit emission values.

Under the new plans, installations would only be able to diverge from the use of "best available techniques" (BATs) under specific conditions, meaning that governments will no longer be able to grant increased flexibility to certain installations according to their location or design.

It is this provision that constitutes the major sticking point for industry, which relied on such exemptions to keep certain older plants alive. The Commission says it will investigate the possibility of introducing more flexibility through the development of EU-wide rules on emissions trading for NOx and SO2 – similar to those in existence for CO2 – although no such provisions are included in the legislative proposal.

Minimum emission limits for large combustion plants would be strengthened under the new rules, and medium-sized plants generating between 20 and 50 MegaWatts (MW), as well as activities such as the production of wood-based panels and preservation of wood – until now excluded from the scope of the directive – would also be subjected to limit values, in order to ensure that all member states receive the same high level of environmental protection.

Furthermore, the proposal introduces minimum provisions on environmental inspections of installations, a review of permit-granting conditions, and reporting of compliance. Incentives for the development and promotion of environmentally-friendly technologies are also included. source

My comment: Well, it was about time to see some change in this sector. Again, I don't understand why EU should give so much power to companies and local authorities to decide. What I mean is, local companies have tighter relation (and by relation I mean mostly corruption) with local governments. If we want the new rules to get in action, we must ensure they will be forced everywhere and to everyone, not just to those that won't pay enough. Of course, we have to stay in touch with business, because they are the producing part of our society and there are essential to our survival and development, but we must make sure they obey our regulations and fulfill our requirements.

Spanish study feeds into pesticide controversy

8 January 2008

As the EU's pesticides package moves into the final stages of adoption, new research shows that all Spaniards are affected by at least one type of pesticide, fungicide or insecticide classified internationally as potentially harmful to human health.

The Commission proposed in July 2006 to tighten pesticide usage and authorisation rules in Europe, as concerns over the health and environmental impact of such plant protection products grows.

Whereas environmental and health NGOs welcome the initiative, farmers and pesticide producers have expressed concern that the measures will lead to more red tape and remove harmless substances from the market.

In its first reading on the package, in October 2007, the Parliament voted to expand the scope of substances banned from use in EU pesticides production (see EurActiv 24/10/07), while EU-27 agriculture ministers, who met in December 2007, are said to have reached a political agreement on the dossier (see EurActiv 19/12/07).

However, there have been conflicting press reports about the outcome, as the full text of the Council agreement will only be made public in January 2008 when a common position is finalised and sent to the Parliament for a second reading.

The Spanish study, carried out by the University of Granada, examined the contamination levels of certain persistent organic pollutantsexternal in a sample of the adult population (387 individuals) and tried to find determining factors associated with such levels. People from both urban and semi-rural areas were part of the sample.

According to the results, published in late 2007, 100% of Spaniards carry at least one type of harmful chemical in their bodies. The researchers also detected more of these potentially harmful substances in women than in men and more in adults than younger people. They also found that diet is an important factor in the concentration of these substances.

Higher concentration in women and older people is "possibly due to the great persistence of these substances in the environment, which results in their biomagnificationexternal in the food chain and in their bioaccumulation over time," explained Juan Pedro Arrebola Moreno.

The researchers took a sample of each volunteer's fatty tissue via surgery, and asked questions about their place of residence, lifestyle, eating habits and activities throughout their life. The six substances sampled included compounds related to industrial processes, such as PCBsexternal , and fungicidesexternal used to prevent spread of fungi in crops as well as insecticides.

The substances, which can enter the body through food, water and air, tend to accumulate in human fatty tissue through which they enter into the organism, with potential significant adverse effects on human health. These include cancers and damage to reproductive or immune systems.

Regarding the importance of diet as a factor in the concentration of these chemicals in the body, the study argues that the "ingestion of some aliments, particularly those of animal origin and high fat content, triggers a greater presence of these toxic substances in the human organism." source

My comment: Well, I have been to Spain enough times to know that food there is simply not all right. It's not even ok. We made a simple steam vegetables meal and we couldn't eat half the quantity we eat in Bulgaria. We felt so full and I didn't get hungry for hours. And people always complain to get overweight in not time while eating normal quantities of food in Spain. So, obviously there is a problem with the food. I hope this research continue, because I feel it's important people to be aware what they are eating.

Ministers press for quick progress on human biomonitoring

20 December 2007

EU environment ministers have asked the Commission to press ahead with an EU pilot project that will test human blood for pollutants in support of environmental and health policy.

The conclusionsPdf external on environment and health, adopted by the EU-27 environment ministers on 20 December urged the Commission to ensure adequate funding for the EU pilot project on human biomonitoringexternal (HBM). The Commission is invited "to implement this project as early as possible [...] to provide data to develop, adapt and evaluate environmental policies".

The European pilot project in human biomonitoring, launched in the framework of the EU Action Plan on Environment and Health 2004-2010, aims to measure pollutants in human tissue and fluid. The data can be used to support both environmental and public health policy and help policymakers to identify priorities.

The ministers also invited the Commission to support the development of a database on environment-related health problems to enable better understanding of "multi-cause environment and health relationships".

More generally, the EU executive was told to increase funding for research, demonstration and awareness programmes aimed at providing more effective prevention and responses to hazards and science-based decision-making. source

My comment:Very well :)

EU proposes clean vehicle procurement plan

20 December 2007

As part of its drive to promote more sustainable urban transport, the Commission has revived a proposal requiring government authorities to ensure that their public transport fleets and other public-utility vehicles, such as garbage lorries or delivery vans, are clean and energy efficient.

As of 2012, public authorities will be obliged to include environmental criteria when acquiring vehicles, including life-cycle costs for fuel consumption and CO2 and other pollutant emissions, if proposals presented by the Commission on 19 December are approved by member states and Parliament.

The new plans would cover all road vehicles, rather than just heavy-duty ones, and would apply to all vehicles procured by public authorities, rather than just one quarter of them.

According to Commission estimates, the inclusion of lifetime costs for fuel, CO2, NOx, non-methane hydrocarbons and particulate matter (PM) would push the price of a normal bus up from around €150,000 to €594,030 – meaning that it would become more interesting to pay a higher price up-front for a cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicle with lower fuel energy consumption and emissions.

A study by the consultancy firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC) estimates that energy savings of 22% of the vehicles covered could be achieved by 2017 under the new measure, as well as a 29% reduction in CO2 emissions. source

Commission plans CO2 fines for carmakers

Thursday 20 December 2007

Automobile manufacturers will have to slash their average fleet emissions or face hefty fines, according to new legislation presented by the Commission, which has already come under fire from Germany, manufacturers and green groups.

With cars accounting for around 20% of total European carbon-dioxide emissions, the Commission, last February, proposed introducing new binding legislation (EurActiv 7/02/2007) that would compel vehicle manufacturers to cut average emissions from new cars from current levels of around 160 grammes of CO2 per kilometre to 130g/km by 2012, through vehicle-technology improvements.

The February Communication also required other players, including tyre-makers, fuel suppliers, repairers, drivers and public authorities, to contribute, in parallel, to a further 10g/km reduction.

In concession to Europe's powerful automobile lobby, an average 130g/km target for car CO2 emissions will be implemented by setting laxer limits for heavier vehicles, such as SUVs and luxury models (EurActiv 30/08/07).

According to a draft Regulation, presented by EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas on 19 December, all new vehicles registered in the EU after 2012 – whether produced domestically or imported – will have to respect a "limit value curve of permitted emissions of CO2", based on their weight.

This means that cars weighing more than two tonnes, such as the Porsche Cayenne or the Land Rover, would still be allowed to emit more than 150g/km, while emissions from lighter cars, such as Renault's Twingo, which weighs less than 900kg, would be capped at as little as 110g/km.

Nevertheless, the calculation method used in the Regulation ensures that manufacturers of larger cars will have to make proportionally bigger cuts than producers of smaller vehicles, according to the Commission.

  • Flexibilities

The envisaged system would enable manufacturers to make up for the production of larger cars by producing smaller, less-polluting ones too.

What's more, for those manufacturers specialising in larger or more powerful vehicles, such as Porsche, whose average CO2 emissions currently stand at 282g/km, the Commission proposal leaves the door open to a "pooling" system, whereby manufacturers can team up in order to share out the burden of meeting their goals.

Also, independent manufacturers, who sell fewer than 10,000 vehicles per year, like Jaguar, and who cannot or do not wish to join a pool, can instead apply to the Commission for an individual target.

Special purpose vehicles, such as those built to accommodate wheelchair access, are excluded from the scope of the legislation.

  • CO2 penalties

Manufacturers who overstep their CO2 limits will be subject to financial penalties, the Commission announced.

The fines will be phased in over four years following the entry into force of the legislation, starting at just €20 per gram of carbon dioxide that each car emits over the target in 2012, and rising to €95 in 2015.

source

My comment: Well, you know it already. For me, this is to lax for the big cars. I decided to start a campaign against big automobiles. I know they are required on the field, I'd buy myself a 4x4 for going to my villa, but driving them in the city for me is unacceptable. Not to mention the german cars that are not SUV but still burn like crazy. That shouldn't be allowed, but of course, go tell Germany. Whatever. Now it's up to us and what we want to buy.


Monday, February 4, 2008

The programme of our new, Slovenian presidency

Slovenia outlines 'demanding' EU presidency programme

9 January 2008

Ensuring the smooth ratification of the EU's new Reform Treaty, pushing ahead with ambitious energy and climate goals and stabilising the Western Balkan region, notably through the prospect of EU accession, will be among the top priorities for Slovenia as it takes over the reins of the 27-country bloc for the coming six months.

According to Prime Minister Janez Janša, Slovenia's presidency will seek to ensure the smooth ratification of the recently-signed Lisbon Treaty so that it can enter into force by January 2009, ahead of European Parliament elections. Janša urged member states to weigh up carefully which path they choose for ratification, as a number of countries, including Portugal, which handed over the rotating EU Presidency to Slovenia on 1st January, are still considering holding potentially risky referenda on the document (EurActiv 14/12/07).

Aside from this, the Slovenian Presidency will also be working hard with the Commission to finalise the energy-climate package, including the details of how to share out the burden among member states for implementing the EU's goals in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and raising the share of renewable energy (EurActiv 10/12/07).

The prime minister also said that his country would work towards fully implementing the objectives of the last three-year cycle of Europe's Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs, but cautioned that the European economy is likely to face a rougher ride in 2008 than in 2007, notably following the financial market turmoil that followed the US sub-prime mortgage crisis this summer (EurActiv 10/10/07).

In terms of foreign policy, the future of the Western Balkans was high on the agenda, with Slovenia stressing its commitment to helping countries in the region join the EU. "We need to find solutions that will stabilise the region in the long term," Janša said.

Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel also said he believed Serbia should sign a pre-membership pact as soon as possible. But the Commission and other EU members object to signing any agreement until Serbia cooperates fully with the UN war crimes tribunal and extradites former war criminals such as Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb military commander wanted on genocide charges (EurActiv 7/11/07). source

My comment: It sound pretty decent to me. Well, I don't put too much faith on the Western Balkans, but it's worth to try. Who knows...Especially with the new old Serbian President-Tadic.
 

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