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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.

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