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Monday, March 24, 2008

Newsbits from EU

In this edition:

  1. New nanotech research code of conduct proposed. 7 principles for safe and harmless for the society dealing with nanotechnologies.
  2. Universities to face tough times on financial support. Request for more clarity where the money goes.
  3. EU small business act to never happen. The request for protectionism of European business face too much critics.
  4. Pay tension coming with economy falling calling for guarantee of average wage all across Europe and a report on gender wages in which gets obvious women are still on the low end when it comes to wages and quality work.
  5. Last but not least- request for cost-effective climate policies that actually make sense!
Enjoy :)

Commission cautious on nanotech research

12 February 2008

The Commission has called on member states to respect the precautionary principle in research on nanoscience in order to anticipate its potential environmental, health and safety impacts.

With nanotech products already under mass production in areas such as food, electronics and cosmetics, the political debate on regulating nanotechnologies has only just begun. A lack of scientific knowledge and the absence of evidence of the health and safety hazards of nanotechnology, however, make regulation impossible.

No government in the world has, to date, developed a specific nanotech regulation.

"Member states should apply the precautionary principle in order to protect not only researchers, who will be the first to be in contact with nano-objects, but also professionals, consumers, citizens and the environment in the course of N&N research activities," states the Commission code of conduct for responsible nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N) research, adopted on 7 February 2008.

The Commission recommends that member states follow the general principles and guidelines for actions outlined in the code "as they formulate, adopt and implement their strategies for developing sustainable nanosciences and nanotechnologies (N&N)".

The code of conduct recommends that all N&N research activities be conducted in respect of a set of seven principles. According to these, all activities should:

  • Respect fundamental rights and be conducted in the interest of the well-being of individuals and society;
  • be safe for people and the environment;
  • be ethical and contribute to sustainable development;
  • be conducted in accordance with the precautionary principle;
  • be guided by the principles of openness to all stakeholders, transparency and respect for the legitimate right of access to information;
  • meet the best scientific standards, including integrity of research and good laboratory practices, and;
  • encourage maximum creativity and flexibility for innovation and growth.

In addition, the code suggests that "researchers and research organisations should remain accountable for the social, environmental and human health impacts of their work". source

My comment:Sounds good to me!

Universities urged to identify full costs of their activities

13 February 2008

Universities, the budgets of which are currently "black boxes", need to define the full costs of their activities to justify the use of public and private money, said Education Commissioner Ján Figel, who believes univesities should be paid "for what they do".

"If a university is serious about attracting fresh funds, its budget can no longer be a black box," said education Commissioner Ján Figel, addressing European higher education experts gathered in Brussels to debate the long-term financial sustainability of European higher education institutions. "Public and private parties need to know how their money is spent," he added.

An ongoing EUA 'funding project' compared the income, expenditure flows, accounting systems, legal frameworks and progress towards full cost accounting of a group of European universities. The project's initial resultsPdf external reveal a huge diversity of national funding patterns and the development of full costing models in Europe. In addition, the findings show a lack of common understanding of the financial terminology used. Moreover, they reveal a lack of coherence in defining the full costs of activities.

According to Commissioner Figel, universities should become responsible for their own long-term financial sustainability by "tapping public and private sources". In addition, he said that "public spending needs to be a function of outputs rather than inputs. Universities need to be paid for what they do and not just for what they are or have been". source

My comment: You can read what I wrote on the issue here. I'm really afraid of the responsibility to society they are all talking. I mean, it's obvious some universities abuse the money they get, but I think a clear estimation of the waste/products should be made. Yes, obviously money should be given for certain output, but what is interesting is how we measure the output. Articles, products, projects? Because if it's just articles, we'll see the individual battle in referee journals to get on bigger scale. I think we'll all loose from that. It's hard enough to get published now. For me, a project should go on a commission not only peered-reviewed but also including financial and broader experts to decide whether what it does is important to science, to society and if the financial background is justified. Though again, the scientific experts should be international and possibly not from exactly the same field as otherwise, we can see corruption in both directions.

EU Small Business Act dismissed as 'paper tiger'

8 February 2008

Commission plans, due in June, to draw up a European Small Business Act inspired by the US model have been heavily criticised as another "paper tiger" by SME organisations, who are calling for binding measures instead.

The forthcoming proposals, outlined by EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen at a hearing on 6 February, were quickly dismissed as empty words by UEAPME, the European SME organisation.

While the Commission's full proposals will not be on the table before June this year, Verheugen already gave indications as to their substance, rejecting for instance one of the main features of the US scheme whereby a 23% share of public procurement contracts is reserved for SMEs.

And while the EU can do more to simplify its rules and regulations, SME policy, Verheugen went on, should remain an issue to be primarily dealt with at national level. "Let me be clear, SME policy remains largely the preserve of national authorities ."

Meanwhile, the Commission announced the launch of a new service for SMEs, the Enterprise Europe Networkexternal (EEN), to provide advice on assistance and help companies of all sizes find business partners in countries other than their own. source

My comment: When good ideas go bad :) Or boring...We shouldn't follow blindly US policies but get the best and throw out the rest. My opinion.

Pay tensions mount as economy edges towards crisis

6 February 2008

Under the threat of an economic downturn, trade unions and employers adopted a harsher tone at their bi-annual meeting with the current and forthcoming Council presidencies.

Against the backdrop of a looming crisis in world financial markets and following a moderate upswing in the EU economy, European social partners met the present and upcoming EU presidencies on 31 January.

In an update of its World Economic Outloookexternal published on 29 January, the International Monetary Fund stated that "the financial market strains originating in the US sub-prime sector - and associated losses on bank balance sheets - have intensified, while the recent steep sell-off in global equity markets was symptomatic of rising uncertainty." The IMF added that "growth has [...] slowed in western Europe, and confidence indicators have generally deteriorated". The IMF lowered its growth projection for the euro area to 1.3%, down from 2.3% in 2007 and only half the average annual growth rate over the last ten years.

In its "Global Employment Trends 2008Pdf external ", issued on 22 January, the International Labour Organisation warned that, in the EU and other developed economies, "the impact of such a small decrease in growth is immediately reflected in labour markets," adding that "labour market indicators for the region [...] showed signs of some stagnation between 2006 and 2007," with the increase in employment "the smallest in five years".

In a June 2007 Policy BriefPdf external , the OECD warned that inequality of earnings had widened across the EU.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) called for a revision of the EU's broad 'Economic Policy Guidelinesexternal ' in order to allow more significant wage increases:

ETUC General Secretary John Monks said: "ETUC is deeply concerned about the threat of growing social inequalities in Europe: between rich and poor and men and women, and between workers with secure employment compared to those with precarious work and poverty wages. Vulnerable workers must not be made the victims of current global conditions. Europe risks being perceived as a one-way street where the share of wages is always going down. We cannot allow that to happen."

The Social Platform, which brings together social NGOs from all over Europe, supported ETUC, calling "on ministers and the EU to guarantee an adequate minimum income to all people across Europe and to ensure an individual right to social protection and a pension disconnected from employment records". source

My comment:That sound so good. Especially the last part. I can't see it happening for now, but anyway, I believe this is the future. I'm sure of it actually. I just hope it's the near enough future. And for reference, the average salary in Bulgaria is probably 250 euros. Where again is the moderation of wages?A little bit more one that here:

EU gender report finds women opting for low-paid sectors

24 January 2008

While increasing numbers of women are working, they remain underrepresented in sectors considered crucial for economic development which are usually better remunerated, notes the Commission's annual report on equality between women and men.

"Overall, despite their better educational attainment, women's careers are shorter, slower and less well-paid: it is clear that we need to do more to make full use of the productive potential of the workforce," said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla as he presented the Commission's fifth annual reportPdf external on gender equality on 23 January 2008.

The fact that some member states face high segregation in occupations as well as sectoral segregation is considered a particular problem as well. "In consequence of segregated labour markets, there is an under-representation of women in sectors crucial for economic development and usually well remunerated. For example, only 29% of scientists and engineers in the EU are women." source'

My comment: That's sad. Very sad. I can understand the part-time work part (see the source), if I had a child, I wouldn't work full-time too.But the other things are very very upsetting. Segregation should exist nowadays

EU finance ministers call for 'cost-effective' climate policies

11 February 2008

EU economics and finance ministers want to ensure that the bloc's climate change policies do not undermine public finances and job growth. The EU's carbon market and other 'market-based instruments' are the preferred option for cutting the bloc's carbon emissions, according to the ministers' draft conclusions, to be adopted on 12 February.

"A key challenge will be to ensure that the transition to a low-carbon economy is handled in a way that is consistent with EU competitiveness, sound and sustainable public finances and that contributes positively to broader growth objectives consistent with the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs," states a draft version of an Ecofin Council notePdf to the Spring European Council, scheduled for 13-14 March.

"Any policies that have significant budgetary implications should be considered by finance ministers," says the note, which argues that decisions on how to spend revenues obtained from CO2 permit auctioning in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) should be left to member states.

Citing a "wide range of costs" related to cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in EU countries, the Ecofin Council considers energy efficiency improvements as among the cheapest options for reducing GHG emissions, with renewables tagged as the more costly option in the short term "even if the cost of renewable energies can be reduced in the longer term".

Market-based instruments, such as the EU ETS and environmental taxes, as well as more 'clean' technologies, should be the "centrepiece of Europe's efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions," says the note, which is based on a 30 page reportPdf external "on the efficiency of economic instruments for energy and climate", adopted by the Council's Economic Policy Committee. source

My comment:I totally agree actually.You can read a very interesting interview on the 3 pillars of the new industrial revolution here. It says that after the fossil fuels finish in 2020-2030 the things will simply get rough. An action based on 3 pillars-using renewable energy, storing it and distributing it Europe wide- is needed. This sounds very very sensible to me!

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