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

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The road back to coal

Back to coal or forward to nuclear energy? You'll find a series for posts on the choices Europe makes in her desperate struggle with oil and gar cartels. Please, don't be quick to judge. My comments are below...

Europe Turns Back to Coal, Raising Climate Fears

About 50 coal-fired power plants, like the one in Bergheim, Germany, are scheduled to begin operating in Europe in the next five years.

April 23, 2008

CIVITAVECCHIA, Italy — At a time when the world’s top climate experts agree that carbon emissions must be rapidly reduced to hold down global warming, Italy’s major electricity producer, Enel, is converting its massive power plant here from oil to coal, generally the dirtiest fuel on earth.

Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel from coal will rise to 50 percent.

And Italy is not alone in its return to coal. Driven by rising demand, record high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over energy security and an aversion to nuclear energy, European countries are expected to put into operation about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years, plants that will be in use for the next five decades.

In the United States, fewer new coal plants are likely to begin operations, in part because it is becoming harder to get regulatory permits and in part because nuclear power remains an alternative. Of 151 proposals in early 2007, more than 60 had been dropped by the year’s end, many blocked by state governments. Dozens of other are stuck in court challenges.

The fast-expanding developing economies of India and China, where coal remains a major fuel source for more than two billion people, have long been regarded as among the biggest challenges to reducing carbon emissions. But the return now to coal even in eco-conscious Europe is sowing real alarm among environmentalists who warn that it is setting the world on a disastrous trajectory that will make controlling global warming impossible.

There have been protests here in Civitavecchia, at a new coal plant in Germany, and at one in the Czech Republic, as well as at the Kingsnorth power station in Kent, which is slated to become Britain’s first new coal-fired plant in more than a decade.

Europe’s power station owners emphasize that they are making the new coal plants as clean as possible. But critics say that “clean coal” is a pipe dream, an oxymoron in terms of the carbon emissions that count most toward climate change. They call the building spurt shortsighted.

“Building new coal-fired power plants is ill conceived,” said James E. Hansen, a leading climatologist at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. “Given our knowledge about what needs to be done to stabilize climate, this plan is like barging into a war without having a plan for how it should be conducted, even though information is available.

“We need a moratorium on coal now,” he added, “with phase-out of existing plants over the next two decades.”

Coal’s Advantages

Enel and many other electricity companies say they have little choice but to build coal plants to replace aging infrastructure, particularly in countries like Italy and Germany that have banned the building of nuclear power plants. Fuel costs have risen 151 percent since 1996, and Italians pay the highest electricity costs in Europe.

In terms of cost and energy security, coal has all the advantages, its proponents argue. Coal reserves will last for 200 years, rather than 50 years for gas and oil. Coal is relatively cheap compared with oil and natural gas, although coal prices have tripled in the past few years. More important, hundreds of countries export coal — there is not a coal cartel — so there is more room to negotiate prices.

“In order to get over oil, which is getting more and more expensive, our plan is to convert all oil plants to coal using clean-coal technologies,” said Gianfilippo Mancini, Enel’s chief of generation and energy management. “This will be the cleanest coal plant in Europe. We are hoping to prove that it will be possible to make sustainable and environmentally friendly use of coal.”

“Clean coal” is a term coined by the industry decades ago, referring to its efforts to reduce local pollution. Using new technology, clean coal plants sharply reduced the number of sooty particles spewed into the air, as well as gases like sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide. The technology has minimal effect on carbon emissions.

In fact, the technology that the industry is counting on to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions that add to global warning — carbon capture and storage — is not now commercially available. No one knows if it is feasible on a large, cost-effective scale.

Under optimal current conditions, coal produces more than twice as much carbon dioxide per unit of electricity as natural gas, the second most common fuel used for electricity generation, according to the Electric Power Research Institute. In the developing world, where even new coal plants use lower grade coal and less efficient machinery, the equation is even worse.

Without carbon capture and storage, coal cannot be green. But solving that problem will take global coordination and billions of dollars in investment, which no one country or company seems inclined to spend, said Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

There are a few dozen small demonstration projects in Europe and in the United States, most in the early stages. But progress has not been promising.

At the end of January, the Bush administration canceled what was previously by far the United States’ biggest carbon-capture demonstration project, at a coal-fired plant in Illinois, because of huge cost overruns. The costs of the project, undertaken in 2003 with a budget of $950 million, had spiraled to $1.5 billion this year, and it was far from complete.

The European Union had pledged to develop 12 pilot carbon-capture projects for Europe, but says that is not enough.

Many have likened carbon capture’s road from the demonstration lab to a safe, cheap, available reality as a challenge equivalent to putting a man on the moon. Norway, which is investing heavily to test the technology, calls carbon capture its “moon landing.”

Plants that could someday be adapted to carbon capture cost 10 to 20 percent more to build, and only a handful exist today.

Then there is the problem of storing the carbon dioxide, which is at some level an inherently local issue. Geologists have to determine if there is a suitable underground site, calculate how much carbon dioxide it can hold and then equip it in a way that prevents leaks and ensures safety. A large leak of underground carbon dioxide could be as dangerous as a leak of nuclear fuel, critics say.

As for its plant here, Enel says it will start experimenting with carbon-capture technology in 2015, in the hopes of “a solution” by 2020.

In the meantime, it and other new coal plants will be spewing more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than ever before, meaning that current climate predictions — dire as they are — may still be “too optimistic,” Mr. Sachs said. “They assume the old energy mix, even though coal will be a larger and larger part.”

An Efficient Plant

On many other fronts, the new Enel plant is a model of efficiency and recycling. The nitrous oxide is chemically altered to generate ammonia, which is then sold. The resulting coal ash and gypsum are sold to the cement industry.

An on-site desalination plant means that the operation generates its own water for cooling. Even the heated water that comes out of the plant is not wasted: it heats a fish farm, one of Italy’s largest.

But Enel’s plan to deal with the new plant’s carbon emissions consists mostly of a map of Italy with several huge white ovals superimposed — subterranean cavities where carbon dioxide potentially could be stored.

The sites have not been fully studied by geologists as yet to make sure they are safe storage sites and well sealed. There is no infrastructure or equipment that could move carbon into them.

Unhappy Neighbors

In the towns surrounding Civitavecchia, the impending arrival of a huge coal plant, with its three silvery domes, is being greeted with a hefty dose of dread.

The group says that Enel has won approval for a dangerous new coal plant by buying machines for a local hospital and by carrying out a public relations campaign. Enel advertisements for the project show a young girl erasing a plant’s smokestack.

Most people who took part in a 2007 local referendum voted no, but the plant went ahead anyway, the group said.

The European Union, through its emissions trading scheme, has tried to make power plants consider the costs of carbon, forcing them to buy “permits” for emissions. But with the price of oil so high, coal is far cheaper, even with the cost of permits to pollute factored in, Enel has calculated.

Stephan Singer, who runs the European energy and climate office of WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, in Brussels, said that math was shortsighted: the cost of coal and permits will almost certainly rise over the next decade.

My comment: Kind of shameful of the EU? Maybe. What I'm thinking however is not so much about the coal, but to the math. They say coal will be over in 200 year, in contrast with oil and gas, that will be over in 50. At what use? Because currently the coal are not so much used, but it there are many new coal plants, how do we know when they are going to be over. Because if we double the use of coal by 4 in the next years, then we have a predicted reserve of 50 years. As much as for oil. So the problem isn't solved, it isn't even postponed, it's just masked. Personally I prefer nuclear plants. Clean, safe and out of the reach of energy cartels.

But notice the funny thing-a NASA expert(yeah, NASA, which is obviously the best energy counselor in USA) comment the coal plants. And how dirty they are. And how bad everything is. When the oil is just as bad. But the oil is US, the gas is Russian, while coal are pretty well spread out. Just as uranium.

My over-all opinion- I don't like coal. At all. But I like energy independence and I like thinking out of the box. If the technology is clean enough, knowing that CO2 permits are basically free till 2012 and that carbon storage is just a dream at the moment, I think it's not so catastrophic. I don't like it, but maybe sometimes we have to do the damage in order to understand we're doing it and start undoing it.

And one note-the best carbon storage on Earth are plants. Why don't we just use the photosynthesis with modified steps? Sounds like the best bet. Spreading sheets over house just like solar panels, that will also produce energy and carbon probably as ash? It's just a thought.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Lisbon threaty everyone!

An overview of the path of the Lisbon Treaty trough Europe. I know it looks like too much to readm, but actually I made sure all the articles are seriously shortened. I think it's rather interesting to read how different countries ratified the Treaty and what were their concerns on the way. In any case, 13 of 27 are ready. 14 more to go!
(the articles are chronologically ordered from April to May)
  • Ahern resignation raises EU Treaty hopes (3 April 2008)
  • UK Lords set to rule out EU Treaty referendum
  • Polish Parliament ratifies new EU Treaty
  • Bulgaria ratifies Lisbon Treaty
  • Austrian MPs approve EU Treaty amid protests
  • Majority of Irish still undecided about EU Treaty
  • Barroso courts the Irish ahead of EU Treaty referendum
  • Lisbon Treaty gets Portugal's nod of approval
  • Clear votes for new EU Treaty in Denmark, Austria and Germany
  • New EU Treaty wins approval of Baltic duo ( 9 May 2008)

Ahern resignation raises EU Treaty hopes

3 April 2008

Yesterday's revelation (2 April) that Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern is to resign on 6 May could increase the chances of a 'yes' vote in June's referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, according to Irish government officials.

In a shock announcement outside the Irish parliament, Ahern outlined his hopes that his resignation would "re-focus the political dynamic in this country". Allegations of corruption have plagued Ahern's third term as prime minister, provoking a slide in his popularity ratings.

There had been widespread fears in Irish political circles that the June referendum would become a vote on Ahern and his alleged financial wrongdoings.Irish government officials, who did not wish to be named, expressed their relief over the announcement, claiming it would refocus Irish voters on the issues at hand in the Lisbon Treaty referendum.

"One of the problems with referenda on European treaties is that they tend to become votes on domestic issues," said Jackie Davis, communications director at the European Policy Centre.

Ahern, one of Europe's longest-serving prime ministers with three consecutive election victories and 11 years in power, is best-known internationally for his role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland.
He had also been mentioned in European circles as a potential candidate for the newly-created post of EU president in 2009 (EurActiv 09/01/08). source

My comment: Poor guy, I get the feeling he was a scape-goat for Europe. But if he really loves Europe (or he's really messed with some wrong-doing), he's better off the government. And if those corruption stuff are fiction, he could be a great EU president.

UK Lords set to rule out EU Treaty referendum

3 April 2008

Tory hopes for a referendum on the EU Reform Treaty were dealt a serious blow on Tuesday (1 April), as several Liberal Democrats (LibDems) said they would align themselves with the ruling Labour party when the ratification bill is submitted to a vote later this year.

15 LibDem peers signalled their willingness to vote with those of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party during a debate on the Treaty in the House of Lords.

Lingering Tory hopes to push through a referendum had rested on the LibDems as Labour does not have a majority in the House of Lords as it does in the House of Commons, which already approved ratification last month (EurActiv 06/03/08).

The debate in the upper chamber followed well-established lines, with members of Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Labour party largely speaking in favour of the new Treaty, saying that it provides for a stronger, more efficient and more transparent EU. Referring to the opt-outs the UK secured after much political wrangling, Baroness Ashton of Upholland, the Labour leader of the House, said that the treaty "provides the flexibility to ensure that when something is not in the UK's interests, we will be able to choose whether to participate".

"The Lisbon treaty strengthens the framework for co-operation without undermining the role of member states," she pointed out, adding that the EU should not be seen as an alternative to UK foreign policy "but as an important means of implementing it".

The Treaty of Lisbon must be ratified by all 27 EU member states for it to come into force. Thus far, Bulgaria (EurActiv 25/03/08), France (11/02/08), Hungary (18/12/07), Malta (30/01/08), Romania (05/02/08), Slovenia (30/01/08) and most recently Poland have ratified the new Treaty (EurActiv 02/04/08), all by parliamentary vote. Ireland is the only country certain to hold a referendum on the Treaty, scheduled for June. source

My comment:Very correct observation-if we don't like something, we can change it. If there is a document to change. If all there is is a talk, we can do nothing about it. That's why I'm so pro the Treaty, it will give us a point from where to start.

Polish Parliament ratifies new EU Treaty

2 April 2008

The Polish Senate today (2 April) followed the lower house of Parliament in approving a bill to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, ending weeks of dispute between Prime Minister Donald Tusk and the nationalist opposition led by the Kaczynski twins.

The ratification bill passed both chambers by overwhelming majority, with 74 out of 97 senators and 384 out of 452 deputies voting in its favour.

The bill will now be sent to the president, Lech Kaczynski, who said he would ratify the bill "with the greatest pleasure".

Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed this decision, saying this vote "symbolises Poland's confidence in our common European project, and shows that she wants to play an active part in building a Europe, which is strong, democratic and efficient".

A parliamentary majority in favour of the Lisbon Treaty seemed uncertain after Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the president's twin brother and current leader of the opposition Law and Justice (PiS) party had insisted on adding a preamble to the ratification bill that would guarantee Poland's sovereignty over the EU on major decisions. source

My comment:Check out what was the fight for:

Kaczynski had also insisted on an opt-out from the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights, obtained at an EU Summit last year when he was in power (EurActiv 19/10/07). The Prime Minister was concerned that the Charter would limit Warsaw's ability to maintain its traditional Roman Catholic family policy, which only recognises marriages between a man and a woman. The President and his twin brother also feared that the Charter could open the door for Germans to reclaim individual ownership rights on land granted to Poland after World War II. source

Funny, ain't it? Gay marriages to be the problem of the European constitution.

Bulgaria ratifies Lisbon Treaty

25 March 2008

The Bulgarian Parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favour of the new EU Treaty, bringing the total number of countries having ratified the text to six.

199 MPs supported the treaty while 15 opposed its ratification in last Friday's vote in Parliament (21 March).

Speaking ahead of the vote, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev hailed the new treaty, declaring that "a new foundation and instruments have been found to make the EU more effective, more transparent and more accessible".

The Slovenian Presidency and the Commission welcomed the decision, with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso praising "the commitment given to early approval of the treaty by both the Bulgarian Government and Parliament".

The new treaty is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2009 provided that all 27 member states have ratified it by then. source

My comment:The funniest thing is that only Bulgarians didn't know about the Ratification. I of course applaud that, but I didn't know it, not before reading it in EuroAktiv. And I watch TV! Weird. Anyway, this is good, good work Serge :)

Austrian MPs approve EU Treaty amid protests

10 April 2008

The lower House of the Austrian Parliament voted on Wednesday (9 April) to approve the Lisbon Treaty, rejecting calls from two minority far-right groups to hold a referendum on the matter.

The treaty was approved by the lower House of Parliament on Wednesday (9 April) by a wide coalition of Social Democrats, Conservatives and the opposition Green Party.

The vote took place despite the opposition of two minority far-right groups – the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and Federal Future Party of Austria (BZÖ) - which called for a referendum to be held on the issue. About 1,500 protesters from the "Save Austria" movement took the streets of Vienna on Tuesday, handing in a petition signed by over 100,000 people to demand a referendum.

The eight-hour Parliamentary debate was colourful, the German news agency DPA reported, with opposition deputies waving Austrian football scarves as a sign of protest. But ultimately, the treaty was easily approved by a sweeping majority of 151 votes to 28.

Austria created EU history when the far-right FPÖ leader, Jörg Haider, entered the government after winning a landslide victory in the 1999 general election. EU heads of states panicked and isolated Vienna diplomatically, threatening to use the Article 7external of the Nice Treaty which allows EU member states, voting by a qualified majority, to suspend the rights of a country in case of "a serious and persistent breach of fundamental rights" (EurActiv 11/01/06).

Under pressure, Haider stepped down as the party chairman in 2000, forming the new BZÖ party and bringing an end to Austria's diplomatic isolation. source

My comment: Good that the Neonazzi are not that stupid to not ratify the Treaty.

Majority of Irish still undecided about EU Treaty

16 April 2008

60% of Irish people are still weighing their options for the 12 June referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, according to a poll published ahead of a visit to Ireland this week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

Only 28% of Irish citizens are certain to vote in favour of the Lisbon Treaty, while 12% said they would reject it, according to the poll, published by the Irish Sun newspaper on Monday (14 April).

But although the number of undecided voters has decreased from 72% to 60% compared to a similar poll in December, the outcome of the referendum is still far from certain.

An earlier poll in March showed a much lower proportion of undecided voters, with 31% saying they were unsure about how they would vote (EurActiv 03/03/08).

The indecisiveness seems largely due to the lack of knowledge about the treaty: Only 6% said they fully understand it, while 25% said they had no understanding of it at all and 40% very little understanding, according to the poll.

In an attempt to rally support for the treaty, Merkel delivered a pro-European speech at the National Forum of Europe in Dublin yesterday (14 April), saying that "the Lisbon Treaty offers the best preparation for Europe's future" and allows the EU to "continue to flourish".

The Lisbon Treaty would increase the power of smaller EU states such as Ireland, the chancellor pointed out, as a new majority voting system allows them to block bigger countries such as Germany. The new majority voting system is rather "a problem for the bigger states," she said.

Addressing the sceptics, Merkel added: "I can only say that if everything remains as it is now, your concerns will definitely not be better addressed."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told journalists that Merkel's speech was the kick-off for a pro-European campaign in Ireland this week, followed by Commission President Barroso visiting on Thursday (17 April).

The pro-European Ahern said he will step down in May to fight allegations of financial irregularities but his likely successor, former foreign minister Brian Cowen, has pledged to make securing a "Yes" vote his top priority (EurActiv 03/04/08). source

My comment: Isn't it great to have Angela Merkel to come in person and speak in your country? I'd say it is and I sincerely hope Ireland will say Yes to the Treaty!

Barroso courts the Irish ahead of EU Treaty referendum

18 April 2008

Three days after the German Chancellor, Commission President José Manuel Barroso paid a visit to Ireland in a move seen as an attempt to rally support for pro-EU forces ahead of the Irish referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 12 June.

Speaking at the National Forum of Europe yesterday (17 April), Barroso said he had not come here to "try to tell you how to vote". But he expressed his hope that Irish citizens would vote in favour of the new Treaty.

"The eyes of Europe, if not the world, will be on you on 12 June," the EU chief said, referring to the fact that for the treaty to enter into force, it will require ratification by all 27 member states. Ireland is the only one set to hold a referendum on this issue.

The latest poll revealed 60% of the Irish were still undecided on how to vote, with only 28% 'certain' to vote in favour of the new Treaty (EurActiv 16/04/08).

Referring to Irish sensibilities over their corporate tax policy, Barroso stressed that its tax sovereignty would not be affected by the new Treaty. "No member state, either under the current rules or under the Lisbon Treaty, can be obliged to accept a tax proposal to which it objects," he said.

Meanwhile, some 10,000 farmers were protesting in the streets of Dublin against EU trade liberalisation, which they claim will destroy the industry. Industry representatives made it clear that the outcome of the negotiations by Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson at a UN Conference in May will have a huge impact on the way farmers vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

But Barroso emphasised the need to conclude talks on a new world trade agreement, saying it would be in the interest of Irish farmers to see a quick resolution. source

My comment: No comment, really! What has the Treaty to do with the market liberalisation? It would happen with or without the Treaty...

Lisbon Treaty gets Portugal's nod of approval

24 April 2008

The Portuguese Parliament has overwhelmingly voted in favour of ratifying the EU's new Reform Treaty – named after the country's capital, where it was signed by European leaders last December.

Despite 'no' votes from the Communist party, Green Party and Left Bloc of extreme leftists, on 23 April Portugal became the ninth EU country to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.

The three leftist groups voted against ratifying the text, arguing that it goes against Portugal's sovereign interests and should therefore be subject to a popular referendum. But they were largely outnumbered and, in the end, Parliament approved the text by 208 votes to 21.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed his country's approval of the Treaty and commended the Portuguese government's role in garnering a European consensus on a follow-up to the rejected EU constitution.

"This is another important step towards our objective of a new treaty in force by 1 January 2009," said Barroso. source

My comment: :) One more!

Clear votes for new EU Treaty in Denmark, Austria and Germany

25 April 2008

The ratification process for the new Treaty gained momentum yesterday (24 April) as the Danish and Austrian parliaments approved the text, which also easily passed Germany's lower House. The votes in Vienna and Copenhagen mean the Treaty has now been adopted in 11 out of 27 countries.

In Denmark, parliament ratified the new Treaty with a clear 90-25 majority, while 64 MPs, including Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, were absent during the vote. The populist Danish People's Party, which has otherwise backed Rasmussen's minority government in recent years, voted against ratification.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed the support for the Treaty in Austria and Denmark, saying "the ratification process is now well advanced and I look forward to its successful conclusion".

Meanwhile, the lower House of the German parliament, the Bundestag, approved the treaty with 515 MPs voting in favour and only 58 against it - a considerably higher show of support than the required two-thirds majority. A second and final vote is now expected to take place in Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, next month.

Speaking ahead of the vote, Chancellor Angela Merkel described the treaty as 'good for Europe' and a 'win for Germany'. It would provide a solid basis for Europe to move forward, said the chancellor, who was one of the main driving forces towards agreeing the treaty.

Bavarian MEP Peter Gauweiler of the Christian Socialist Party (CSU) was among the few not to join the pro-European chorus, announcing that he planned to take legal action against ratification of the Treaty before the country's highest court. "What the Treaty brings Brussels in terms of new competences is not compatible with our democratic principles," Gauweiler told the Saarbrücker Zeitung. Simlar feelings are being voiced by the eurosceptic Czech parliament. It asked the nation's Constitutional Court yesterday (24 April) to review whether or not the Lisbon Treaty is constitutional. The proposal was initiated by the right-wing Civic Democrats of Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek. Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who founded the party, is also a critic of the treaty but has pledged not to block its ratification. source

My comment: I don't understand. The Treaty is against which democratic principle???

New EU Treaty wins approval of Baltic duo

9 May 2008

The Lisbon Treaty yesterday (8 May) passed through the Latvian and the Lithuanian Parliaments by large majorities, increasing the number of countries having approved the text to 13 out of 27.

In Latvia, 70 out of 74 MPs voted in favour of the Treaty, while Lithuania's assembly approved it with an 83 to five majority amid 23 abstentions. The document now only requires the signature of each country's president to be finally adopted.

Lithuania, which joined the EU in 2004 together with Latvia and eight other countries, was the first member state to ratify the ill-fated EU constitution in November 2004, months before it was rejected by voters in France and the Netherlands.

The EU welcomed the steps, with the Slovenian Presidency saying that "each ratification is an important step forward on the path to the ultimate goal".

The last of the three EU Baltic states, Estonia, is also expected to follow suit this month.

Apart from Latvia and Lithuania, the Lisbon Treaty has already been ratified by Hungary, Slovenia, Malta, Romania, France, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovak Republic, Portugal, Denmark and Austria. source

My comment: I sincerely hope 13 won't be a fatal number here, but a lucky one! God Speed Dear Treaty!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thoughts on the new European president.

This one is dedicated to our eventual new President. Mind the title of the first article. You get the impression that Blair is really loved politician, right? Wrong, the poll is made among Europeans(some of them) and what? AMERICANS! So Blair get 15% of US vote, surprise surprise. Just don't be manipulated by it. My comments are below.

Blair and Merkel top EU-wide poll

7 April 2008

A poll by Harris Interactive found most European citizens consider German Chancellor Angela Merkel to be the most influential leader in Europe, while Tony Blair is currently the preferred candidate for the job of EU President. However, a large proportion say they would prefer the job not to be created at all.

A majority of French (68%), Spanish (57%) and Germans (57%), regard Germany as the leading country in Europe today, according to the survey, published on 4 April. The poll explored a variety of issues, including who has the potential to be the next President of Europe. It was conducted online among a total of 6,478 adults (aged 16-64) in France, Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Italy and the United States.

Asked about concrete leaders, Europeans strongly favour Angela Merkel, who leads the chart in European countries. She is considered to be the most influential leader in Europe by 38% of the French, 29% of the Germans, 30% of the Spanish, 27% of the Italians and 18% of the British. Nicolas Sarkozy scores 18% in his own country, 10% in Germany, 16% in Spain, 13% in Italy and 9% in Great Britain. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has a modest rating of 1% in France, 3% in Germany, 7% in Spain and 11% in Italy. A big difference is obvious regarding the perceptions of the Americans, who consider Brown the most influential leader in Europe with 23%, compared with 8% for Merkel and 9% for Sarkozy.

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso is considered to be the most influential European leader by 8% of the French, 11% of the Germans, 6% of the Spanish and 11% of the Italians. 6% of the Americans see him as the most influential leader in Europe.

Jean Claude Juncker of Luxembourg is the only leader considered to be a possible contender for the job of president, according to the ranking. But he is credited with only 1% in France, 2% in Germany, 1% in Italy and less than 1% in Spain and the UK.

Asked "If you were to vote today for a President of Europe, who would you chose?," most Europeans answered "Former British PM Tony Blair". Blair is considered fit for the job by 8% of the French and Spanish, 4% of the Germans, 13% of the British and Italians and 15% of the Americans. Former Spanish PM Felipe Gonzalez scores high in his country (24%), but is almost entirely neglected by the other nations. The names of two Eastern Europeans appear: Vaclav Havel, the former president of the Czech Republic, and Bronislaw Geremek, a Polish politician, but their scores are modest.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, strongly supported the idea of "President Blair" towards the end of last year. But several opinion makers have rejected the notion that Tony Blair could ever be the first Council president. Some argue that Mr. Blair forfeited the right to be considered a true European when he followed the US into the Iraq war, which brought about divisions along an 'Old Europe-New Europe' fault line.

Moreover, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht recently poured cold water on Blair's bid to become the European Union's first full-time president. De Gucht said Belgium would not accept a candidate from a country that does not fully participate in all EU policies, including the euro currency and the bloc's passport-free zone. Britain has opted out of both and also maintains its so-called 'red lines' on policing, justice and internal affairs.

Meanwhile, a large proportion of Europeans believe "there should be no President of Europe": 21% in France, 32% in Germany, 46% in the UK, 14% in Italy and 16% in Spain.

Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, which EU leaders agreed upon in December after the failure of a proposed EU constitution, the heads of state and government are to choose a president of the European Council for a two-and-a-half year term, renewable once. The Lisbon Treaty, which is set to be ratifird by 1 January 2009, also envisages retaining the presidency of the European Commission. source

My comment: Americans Vote for EU PRESIDENT???!!!!!! I'm sorry, but do I get something wrong here! When did USA get to be a part of EU? Because as far as I'm concerned it is not! That's idiotic. And if Angela Merkel gets to be a candidate for a president, my vote goes for her. I absolutely agree that Tony Blair cannot be considered full-time European after all the ass-licking for USA that he did in the past years. We don't want that for Europe, I don't want that for Europe. We deserve a president that will follow our directions of development and not go to lick the private parts in a doggy style of the next US president. And I kind of prefer that there's no European president also. It looks like this is kind of suspicious position for a non-power post.

The Lisbon Treaty: Playing Presidential poker?

8 April 2008
Dominik Hierlemann, Bertelsmann Stiftung

The Treaty of Lisbon will change the way European politicians govern and cooperate in the future, says Dominik Hierlemann of the Bertelsmann Stiftung. But with unclear definitions of the new leadership roles, the top EU positions could prove confusing for the bloc's citizens, he warns in a March paper.

Hierlemann raises a number of issues surrounding the precise roles of the Council President, Commission President and High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs to be introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, and in particular that of the first President of the European Council, set to be chosen in the autumn.

The author identifies competition between the three positions as a potential source of conflict - citing the possible reduction of the Commission President's role to that of "top administrator" as an example, which he warns "would be completely erroneous".

Outlining the Council President's function as set out by the Lisbon Treaty, Hierlemann describes how he should facilitate EU citizens' understanding of the European institutions and enhance both the bloc's visibility and its leadership potential.

But the nature of the Council President's mandate remains unclear, he says, arguing that the future president should play an influential role in the European debate, determining the top issues to be tackled. The figure chosen is to be elected on the basis of a qualified majority for two-and-a-half years and can be re-elected once, he explains.

But the external representation of the position remains uncertain and it is unclear whether the President will stand as "Mr. or Mrs. Europe" or become "more of a king or queen presiding over the quest for internal compromises," believes Hierlemann.

As far as the EU rotating presidencies are concerned, their role will be altered by the Treaty, the author explains, predicting that the rotating presidency will focus more on the internal issues of the individual member state, turning the appointed country into a mediator between policymaking at EU level and the member states.

Hierlemann concludes that there is a need to define both the objective of the rotating presidencies and the relative position of the heads of state and government in the new set-up, particularly as their impact on EU policymaking appears to have been weakened by the new Treaty.

Moreover, the rotating presidencies should place greater emphasis on one specific issue to communicate to other member states, he adds. source

My comment: Yeah, definitions, we all need definitions. And that article kind of confused me even more. I really should read the whole Treaty.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

EU administration 04 or how Shell turned out more responsible than EU

In today's post:
  • Shell backs carbon pricing in 2050 energy scenario
  • EU sees 'huge scope for cooperation' with Central Asia
  • Why energy must be at the core of EU security thinking
  • France in renewed push for EU-wide corporate tax
  • EU raps Germany over Volkswagen law
My over-all comment: Interestingly that Shell, a company, is more socially responsible than the whole EU. That's about the second article. As for the others, well, I liked the third, because it's what I think too on energy in Europe. I hope soon enough people will get it that trade cannot be done on dependency-it needs equal partners getting equal benefits. And Russia is much more reliable than some Asiatic republics.

Shell backs carbon pricing in 2050 energy scenario

8 April 2008

In the context of soaring global energy demand, demographic pressures, fossil fuel supply constraints and environmental degradation, Shell has come out in favour of a 'new coalition of interests' in support of less energy-intensive development.

Big oil companies usually refrain from commenting on future energy supplies. But some are now starting to signal that oil reserves are declining fast. In a 2006 campaign, Chevron said: "It took us 125 years to use the first trillion barrels of oil. We'll use the next trillion in 30."

A report released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) last year warned that the world will face an oil "supply crunch" within the next five years (EurActiv 10/07/07).

In its last Global Scenario, released in 2005, Shell highlighted the methodology and planning needed to address the challenges of increasing demand for fossil fuels and tightening state control over supplies of hydrocarbons.

With energy demand set to double by 2050 while supplies decrease and pressures on the environment grow, Shell has presented two alternative scenarios that outline a global response to these three 'hard truths'.

'Scramble' versus 'blueprint'

The first and more pessimistic 'scramble' scenario is characterised by a 'flight to coal' and nationalisation of energy resources in the context of increasing global competition for energy supplies.

In this scenario, "demand-side policy is not pursued meaningfully until supply limitations are acute. Likewise, environmental policy is not seriously addressed until major climate events stimulate political responses," according to Shell.

An alternative and more optimistic 'blueprint' scenario, favoured by Shell, would be more pre-emptive and feature greater global co-operation between governments and the private sector.

A CO2 pricing mechanism accompanied by a functioning global carbon market would be a key feature of the blueprint scenario, as this would drive sustainable development in other areas, notably renewable energies and carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, which Shell considers fundamental for providing 'clean' energy from fossil fuels.

The company's decision to back one scenario over another for the first time in its history "is not altruistic," according to Jeremy Bentham, Shell's Vice President for the Global Business Environment.

Shell says it is looking for a favourable and stable investment climate amid concerns that under the scramble scenario "the whole [energy] system will derail," said Jeroen van der Veer, the company's chief executive.

In the blueprint scenario, global CO2 emissions would be capped by 2020 and subsequently begin to decline to 2000 levels by 2050, according to Bentham, who believes this timeframe to be "realistic for achieving a global consensus on a meaningful set of agreements" to harmonise key energy systems.

If the blueprint scenario is not realised, necessary investments in the energy sector will be impeded, he warned.

Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, warned during the conference that the EU is facing a "very important financial problem" in providing the funds necessary to stimulate more clean energy developments.
"We don't have the amount of investment necessary at our disposal," he said.

Commenting on the issue of rising energy demand, Fatih Birol, the International Energy Agency's (IEA) chief economist, pointed to a "new story" in which rising energy prices no longer have a downward pressure on demand.

During previous oil supply disruptions (notably in the early 1970s and late 1980s) characterised by increases of $40 per barrel of crude oil, global fuel demand declined by 3% to 4%. But the current spike in oil prices has been accompanied by a 4% increase in demand, an unprecedented situation that points to the "end of price elasticity," according to Birol, who questioned the Commission's assumption that rising energy prices strengthen energy demand reduction policies.

Green MEP Claude Turmes generally spoke in favour of Shell's blueprint scenario, but questioned the extent to which CCS technologies could be relied upon to provide cleaner fossil fuel alternatives.source

My comment: That's what I'm talking about! Not altruism but INSIGHT! If one has the courage to look into the future and see what lies ahead of us, he/she would know the way we should act. Not cowarding behind lack of finances and lack of will and fear from loosing industries. The industries come and go according to the needs of time, but people are what is the driving force of everything. And if people are dead or on the brink of extinction, there would be no industry, not economy and certainly no market. Unless we count the market of death for a market. Even though I don't the exact reason for this statement of Shell, I hope it will make companies reconsider their approach toward their "market".

EU sees 'huge scope for cooperation' with Central Asia

11 April 2008

A high-profile European Union delegation held meetings with the foreign ministers of the five Central Asian states in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, on 9-10 April. The two-day talks focused on the implementation of the EU-Central Asia strategy adopted nearly a year ago and touched upon energy issues and human rights.

The EU troika visiting Central Asia was headed by Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel and included External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who is representing the EU's next presidency. Ferrero-Waldner expressed confidence that the talks with the foreign ministers of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan will boost cooperation between the EU and Central Asian countries.

"There is a huge scope for cooperation, and our relations are growing rapidly now," she said. "We will take concrete and practical steps to develop initiatives in the area of education but also the rule of law."

Speaking to RFE/RL from Ashgabat, Ferrero-Waldner insisted that Central Asia is becoming an increasingly important energy partner for the European bloc.

"Central Asia is a key partner in the energy market and [there is] a huge potential here," she said. "But we are also stepping up our cooperation on the renewable energies, which is another important topic between us. And, of course, [we are talking] about diversifying our supply routes and the diversification of export routes."

The region is key to Europe's ambition to diversify its energy supplies, which are currently heavily dependent on Russia. Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are home to some of the world's biggest oil and gas reserves. But human rights groups are urging the EU to seize the opportunity to put pressure on Central Asian governments over human rights.

"Human rights are, indeed, a very important part for us [in] our external relations, and therefore we really want to see an even better commitment," Ferrero-Waldner said. "Of course, we are aware of different historical and cultural contexts in Central Asia when compared to the European Union and that reforms in the area of democratisation, rule of law, and human rights will take a certain time." source

My comment: That's ridiculous. I really don't understand that absurd drive of EU to run away from Russia. I mean, with what Turkmenistan is better or more reliable than Russia? Except that it's smaller and more dependent. Trade should be between equal. And what the fuck means EU is aware of the historical differences? Because for me, this means, it's ok to not care about human rights as long as you provide us with gas. Totally not ok!

Why energy must be at the core of EU security thinking

7 April 2008
Jozias Van Aartsen, Former Dutch foreign minister

"Europe must respond to the growing assertiveness of energy-producing countries with a much more coherent strategy of its own," writes Jozias Van Aartsen, a former Dutch foreign minister, in a March article for Europe's World.

This new policy will have to "reach beyond the EU's borders into south-east Europe, the Caucasus, the Middle East and north Africa," argues the author.

Van Aartsen notes that that "no democracy can be truly sovereign unless, broadly, it enjoys independence in energy," going on to claim that "many European countries fail to provide affordable energy to their citizens, leading to preventable deaths, mostly from cold in winter, economic losses and sometimes even political turmoil".

The solution, believes Van Aartsen, lies in a "collective effort to improve the situation". The long-term goal should be to "develop an integrated market stretching from Europe to central Asia, the Middle East and north Africa," he argues.

The objective is "not just to make connections between the EU and major energy producers in this region," but also to "develop long-term energy security in order to promote industrial development, economic expansion and political stability in partner countries".

In order to achieve these aims, countries would have to be "willing to integrate their energy markets and tackle problems from a common perspective, rather than every state looking after itself," Van Aartsen says. "They would also have to make basic commitments to democratic values," he adds, citing the European Energy Community, which "groups the EU with former Yugoslavian states and Albania that are still outside the Union," as an example of this.

An invigorated energy community, argues the author, could "become a new zone of international prosperity" and a "vehicle to extend peace and prosperity to an even greater number of states". Moreover, "it could provide a solid basis for increased investment, economic integration and political co-operation in non-energy areas," he adds.

On the thorny issue of EU-Russia energy relations, Van Aartsen claims "we have a chance today of engineering a win-win solution" because "whatever the headlines, the EU is stuck with Russia and Russia is stuck with the EU – neither has an alternative". The solution, he argues, is to find a way to depoliticise the relationship, ideally through a legal agreement, and maintain equitable investment relations in the energy sector.

Van Aartsen concludes that “the challenges of climate change increase the pressure on the Union to act". "The EU must accept that our neighbours' energy security is our own energy security," he argues, adding: "We must embrace interdependence and extend energy security guarantees to all our neighbours." source

My comment: SEE! My words! From an energy expert! Hopefully someone will listen for a difference.

France in renewed push for EU-wide corporate tax

9 April 2008

Economy Minister Christine Lagarde said she would push to introduce a common consolidated corporate tax when France takes over the EU Presidency in July this year.

"It has been going on for a long time, it's an issue that we are determined to push," Lagarde said on the margins of a tax forum organised by the European Commission on Monday (7 April).

The idea has received the backing of EU Taxation Commissioner Laszlo Kovacs, who said he would put forward the proposal in the autumn.

Under plans currently being considered by the Commission, businesses operating in several EU states would calculate their tax base according to a single EU-wide formula with profits re-distributed to countries in which the company has operations. The profits would then be consolidated – or re-allocated - according to a number of criteria determining the size of operations in each country: payroll, value of assets, sales, etc.

But smaller countries fear they could lose out under the "sales by destination" formula currently being examined by the Commission. Under the formula, taxes would be levied in the country where the sale is made instead of the country where the product is manufactured, resulting in losses of tax revenue for smaller EU nations.

The proposal, which has long been under consideration in Brussels, is certain to run into opposition from a number of countries, including the UK, Ireland and several newer EU member states which have a lower corporate tax base (EurActiv 11/04/07).

Under current EU rules, taxation issues need to attract the unanimous backing of all 27 member states in order to win approval.

The proposal, which was initially planned for the first half of 2008, was delayed due to fears that it might frustrate the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, EU officials said.

But Kovacs has already made it clear that he would not allow the veto power of a few countries to block the project. In comments made a year ago, he said he would envisage, "as a last resort", going ahead with a pioneer group of states under the so-called 'enhanced co-operation' mechanism. This would allow a minimum of eight states to push forward with the initiative even if it were blocked by others. source

My comment: Good. Every move toward the Union is good. As long as it doesn't really hurt the members, but I don't see how this is going to seriously hurt any country. Because it will stimulate production from which we all will benefit. And I kind of don't understand the all-cost veto of Ireland. I mean, why?

EU raps Germany over Volkswagen law

11 April 2008

The German government has not done enough to abide by an EU Court ruling overturning a law that effectively protects Europe's largest car manufacturer from hostile takeovers, a Commission spokesperson said on 10 April, warning of further legal action.

The disputed law was ruled illegal by the European Court of Justice in October 2007, on the grounds that it went against the free movement of capital by restricting the opportunity for investors to participate in the company.

The law contained a number of provisions intended to guarantee the German federal government and the Land of Lower Saxony a lasting influence over Volkswagen, independently of the shares that they held. Notably, it stipulated that other shareholders cannot hold more than 20% of voting rights in the company even if they hold a higher proportion of its capital.

In January, the German government presented changes to the law, but failed to do away with a 20% blocking minority on decisions relating to large transactions, which means that resolutions can only be passed if they represent 80% of the shares – 5% more than foreseen under German law. The provision effectively allows Lower Saxony to block all resolutions and exercise full control over Volkswagen, even though it owns little more than a fifth of the company shares.

"They haven't fully complied with the court judgment," according to the Commission, which adds that the letter did not represent the start of a formal infringement procedure. Nevertheless, the Commissioner warns Germany that he reserves the right to take the government back to EU court if it fails to address the issue.

However, in a letter sent on 10 April, German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries replied that she could not see how "the blocking minority hinders the free movement of capital".

The removal of the 20% blocking minority would come as a boon to Porsche, which has signalled its intention to raise its 31% share of Volkswagen to a majority holding – a move resisted by Lower Saxony.

In a parallel move, Germany's ruling coalition has opened the path to measures to block foreign state-controlled investments. The plan would create a German equivalent of the US Committee on Foreign Investments, which would be allowed to scrutinise acquisitions involving a stake of more than 25% of a German company by foreign sovereign wealth funds.

The move comes amid growing fears that these investment funds could be used by countries like China and Russia to obtain political influence in strategic sectors, such as energy and defence. The EU has also announced that it is working on a voluntary code of conduct, which it hopes will be agreed internationally (EurActiv 14/03/08). source

My comment: Ok, I don't know what to think on that. I'm not such a fan of free trade, so, I'm not very bothered, especially when we know what kind of impact has the industry on EU politics. But still it's weird that a province can hold the majority votes on a company. Right?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Science and ecology in EU 04.08-or green disasters

In today's issue, you can see how the dream of Green Europe is dying. Not very definitively, but it's well heading that way. I'm quite ashamed of some of the articles below. I hate it when the lack of vision and responsibility wins. Because this is exactly what's happening. I don't hate industries or something, quite the opposite. But industries cannot be left without any regulations. They should be monitored, because the laws of competition are different from the laws of health and life. Ok, I'm very affected.
  • EU pushes for better knowledge transfer
  • Ministers to discuss role of forests in energy scramble
  • Ambitious' EU eco standards in the making
  • MEPs want tougher waste recycling targets
  • Cracks appear in EU maritime safety strategy
  • Green groups slam MEPs backing of chemical classification overhaul
  • UN meeting agrees on climate roadmap

EU pushes for better knowledge transfer

11 April 2008

The Commission is hoping that a non-binding Recommendation on intellectual property and knowledge transfer managment will make EU national systems more coherent and boost transnational academia-industry cooperation to turn more research into lucrative business results.

As a follow-up to its spring 2007 Communication on knowledge transfer, the Commission adopted, on 10 April 2008, a specific, non-binding RecommendationPdf external aimed at helping member states to adapt their national policies on the management of intellectual property (IP) and knowledge transfer (KT) activities.

The aim of the recommendation is to improve KT in particular at trans-national level, as several individual initiatives taken at national level lack coherence and hamper transnational knowledge transfer and wider exploitation of research results.

"European universities and research organisations are very good in producing new scientific knowledge but less good in converting knowledge in money," said Michel Claessens, the acting spokesman of Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik.

"This Recommendation is important as it makes the link between research and competitiveness," agreed Denis Dambois of the Commission's research directorate-general.

Dambois explained that in order to turn research into competitiveness and welfare, research results need to be translated into socio-economic benefits, useful products, new jobs and companies. "There are a number of knowledge transfer mechanisms that enable us to do so, but which are a bit underutilised in Europe," he added, listing R&D collaboration with industry, licensing from universities to industry and the creation of spin-off companies as examples. "In all these activities, the management of intellectual property is something very central and should be managed on a proper and professional way."

The main part of the Recommendation consists of a list of key principles for public authorities to help establish or adapt their IP and KT policies, including on funding aspects.

A "Code of Practice" annexed to the Recommendation gives universities and public research organisations "operational principles which they should rely on when developing or reviewing institutional policies". source

My comment: Ok, I agree Universities must stop shying off the industry. I'm glad at least that it's just a recommendation, not a requirement. And that he admits EU universities are great in creating knowledge. I only thought it's what they do, fight for knowledge, not for commercial activities. Anyway, I know the point is to stimulate universities to fight for public financing and not to rely on the government to pay them. But still, it's kind of weird they try to push so hard for the US system. If they manage the patent regulations for the whole EU to make them simple and not so time and money expensive, I'm sure we'll quickly catch up with USA. But to try to translate their system in EU-no, thanks!

Ministers to discuss role of forests in energy scramble

11 April 2008

Responding to climate change and energy concerns while conserving forests and biodiversity will be among the topics of discussion during an informal meeting of environment ministers this weekend in Slovenia.

"There are indications that in certain regions the increased use of wood for energy has already shifted management towards intensification of production, which may negatively impact biodiversity," says a background paper prepared by the Slovenian EU Presidency for the 11-14 April informal Council meeting.

The Commission is proposing a 10% increase in biofuels over the next 12 years as part of efforts to achieve a 20% share of renewable energy use by 2020. But there are growing concerns about the biodiversity and climate change impacts of more biofuels cultivation, both within the EU and in developing countries like Brazil and Indonesia, where the cultivation of biomass for biofuels production has boomed.

In the EU, the targets are "likely to create a greater market for forest biomass to meet increased demand for feedstock. The rate of utilisation of forests is therefore likely to rise," says the background paper.

The Slovenian Presidency argues that "bioenergy" can only be considered sustainable if it creates "no additional pressures on forest biodiversity, soil, water and other forest resources, including the greenhouse-gas sink potential of forests".

Member states are in discussions about the appropriate sustainability criteria that should be used to guide the EU's biofuels and biomass production drive. Many EU countries want to set stricter sustainability criteria (EurActiv 01/04/08), and there has been some speculation that the EU may revise its targets due to fears of intolerable hikes in food prices, mass deforestation and water shortages (EurActiv 14/03/08).

A Council working group has been established to discuss the issue in greater detail and is scheduled to submit a report to member states on 7 May. The debate is set to continue throughout the year, with the French EU Presidency seeking a deal on the renewables proposal before the end of 2008. source

My comment: Mmm, ok, great, are they telling me it's ok to cut the forests in order to meet the goals? Because that's absurd. And here, in Bulgaria, the forests are already decreasing very rapidly. I can't agree with that and I think there should be very strict limitations on the origin of wood, as well as the origin of biofuels.

Ambitious' EU eco standards in the making

10 April 2008

Current standards and labelling schemes for appliances and office equipment are insufficient in the light of the EU's climate change agenda and need to be expanded to a range of non energy-consuming products, according to draft Commission plans seen by EurActiv.

Brussels wants to expand the scope of the EU's Eco-Design Requirements for Energy-Using Products (EuP) Directive to include non energy-using products as a central part of a new action plan on SCP and SIP.

A "framework for the setting of eco-design should be available for all products which have a significant impact on the environment", according to a draft directive to revise the scope of the 2005 EuP Directive. The draft is dated 18 March, and has since been submitted for consultation to the different services (DGs) of the Commission.

The Commission has not yet specified which products would be affected by the new rules, and extending the scope of the existing directive "makes it necessary to introduce the definition of 'product'".

Nonetheless, windows, baths, showers and taps are cited in a separeate draft communication on the SCP and SIP action plans. The greenhouse gas (GHG) impact of windows, for example, could be reduced by one-third through better insulation standards, it says.

Brussels laments that existing rules for 'energy-using products only account for 35/40% of the environmental impacts of products', and that there is a lack of coordination between regulatory instruments and voluntary initiatives, as well as a disconnect between different national and regional schemes.

Along with new labels and standards, the Commission is set to propose fiscal incentives and more 'greener' public procurement rules in order to stimulate demand and uptake of cleaner products.

There are concerns in Brussels circles that the action plans will spark a contentious debate between industry sectors about the scope of a new definition for products that will be affected by the standards. And a repeated delay of the action plans, originally scheduled for December 2007, has given rise to speculation that the Commission has struggled to define a coherent strategy (EurActiv 21/02/08).
My comment: Nothing new in here. Lots of good intentions and lack of will to put them in action. I don't see why the industry should be against green labeling. Can't they see that will be actually good for them, because it will give them something to be ahead of their competitors? Yes, it will require some investments but so what, investments are constant in every business. If you want to be the best, you have to invest. Then, what's the difference?

MEPs want tougher waste recycling targets

9 April 2008

Recycling targets should be increased and incinerators subjected to efficiency criteria when burning waste for energy 'recovery' purposes, according to MEPs who voted on a controversial revision of EU recycling rules on 8 April.

By 2020, 50% of the EU's household waste and 70% of construction waste should be recycled, according to a majority of MEPs in the Parliament's Environment Committee. These targets should, according to MEPs, accompany member-state efforts to stabilise waste production by 2012 (based on 2009 levels).

The vote is part of the Parliament's second reading on the revision of the EU Waste Framework Directive, a controversial piece of legislation that is plagued by widely differing waste and recycling practices across the EU.

At EU level, member states and Parliament have locked horns on the level of recycling targets, the kind of hierarchy that should be used to determine waste handling and the classification system that should be used to distinguish waste incineration from recovery.

Countries like France which possess a large number of incinerators want their facilities to be classified as 'recovery' operations, since part of the incineration process produces energy. Importantly, such a classification would qualify such facilities for EU financial support under environmental state aid rules.

But a number of Green MEPs on the environment committee are sceptical after having previously proposed that incinerators should be classified as recovery operations only if their principal purpose is energy production.

In their 8 April vote, MEPs accepted, by a narrow margin, a Commission compromise on the matter. Incinerators would be classified as recovery operations only if they respect energy efficiency criteria established by Brussels. The criteria would need to be reviewed after two years, according to the vote.

MEPs also stuck to their insistence that a five-stage waste hierarchy should be strictly adhered to, with any departures justified on the basis of life-cycle 'thinking'. Imposing an obligation to conduct an actual life-cycle assessment or analysis was deemed too costly and bureaucratic by the committee, however. source

My comment: In the positions below the articles, one got the impression, companies are very scared of any new rule. I really don't understand it like this. Incinerators are essential for the level of garbage-production at the moment. Though for me, even more essential, besides they being clean and efficient, is to decrease that garbage-production. It's simply unbelievable how much plastic bags on accumulate for one week. This should be one of the main directions for Ecology in Europe.

Cracks appear in EU maritime safety strategy

7 April 2008

While international efforts to clean up shipping made significant progress last week with a compromise on cutting air pollution from ships, a meeting of European transport ministers today (7 April) could see EU ambitions to tackle maritime pollution scaled down.

The International Maritime Organisation's environmental committee agreed, on 4 April, to slash the maximum level of sulphur content in marine fuels from 4.5% to 0.5% by 2020.

The move, which should be confirmed by IMO governments in October, was long awaited by the EU. Indeed, the bloc has been pushing for a global deal on cutting harmful pollutants emitted by ships, including not only sulphur, but also nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and other greenhouse gases. It has notably criticised progress within the UN agency for being too slow and says it will go it alone if things are not speeded up (EurActiv 17/04/07).

No agreement has yet been reached on tackling carbon dioxide, but the Commission nevertheless welcomed the "unbelievable" progress achieved on sulphur.

But the EU executive is likely to be less enthusiastic later today (7 April) once the bloc’s 27 transport ministers have discussed its proposals to tackle pollution at sea.

Indeed, the majority of member states look set to reject outright two draft texts containing new rules on flag state compliance and the civil liability of shipowners. The two proposals are part of a broader 'Erika III' package on maritime safety, named after the infamous single-hull tanker that sank off the coast of France in 1999, causing a catastrophic oil spill.

The Commission wants to make IMO rules on 'flag state obligations' – i.e. the duties of countries to ensure that ships flying their flag meet certain safety standards – mandatory for all member states, with the introduction of regular audits and assessments.

It also wants to make ship operators fully liable for damage to third parties and establish a compulsory insurance scheme to ensure they are financially able to compensate them in the event of accidents and pollution.

But, in both cases, at least 10-12 member states are arguing that too many additional costs would be generated for their administrations and that the issues would be better dealt with at IMO level. This would leave a much larger degree of discretion to member states.

With only a handful of countries, including France, Italy, Bulgaria and Spain, eager to back the Commission's plans, the Slovenian Presidency looks to have a tough job on its hands to achieve a compromise, even on a "softer" text. source

My comment: That is OUTRAGEOUS!!! I mean the second part, with the first, I completely agree. But how could they not want to back this regulation. I'm familiar with the ERIKA case and everyone who is, should be backing the proposition. Because the situation in which no one is responsible for the damage its ships are doing is kind of weird. Very comfy for the countries that could easily blame the owners and the owners will blame the staff and the staff will be dead, and of course, no one to blame. I can't believe I'm reading that!

Green groups slam MEPs backing of chemical classification overhaul

4 April 2008

Environmentalists heavily criticised Wednesday's (2 April) approval by Parliament's environment committee of a new law harmonising EU chemical classification practices with international standards. They say it will fail to protect consumers and workers from dangerous chemicals.

The draft law, which will revise EU rules on the classification, labelling and packing (CLP) of dangerous chemicals, was approved by the committee with only minor changes, despite demands from the Greens to extend chemical labelling rules to some lower-hazard substances.

Green and centre-left MEPs, who were outvoted by 48 to 10, also failed to include a passage calling for separate label requirements for persistent, bio-accumulative and toxic substances.

The environmental NGO ChemSec called the vote a "weak show", regretting that the main driving force appeared to be an "early deal rather than a convincing result".

Catherine Ganzleben from the European Environmental Bureau (EBB) also expressed frustration with the outcome, criticising MEPs' failure to set a high international standard for implementing of the UN's Globally Harmonised System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals.

On the contrary, Cefic, which represents the European chemical industry, welcomed MEPs endorsement of the new law. Cefic's Johan Breukelaar hailed the vote as a "step into the right direction".

The law must still be approved by Parliament's full assembly and by member states before coming into force. source

My comment: Yep, this post will definitely be unpleasant for my green soul. Anyone thinks this is fair? Because it's not! It's easy and shameful. I really can't say anything else, I'm stupefied by this lack of will and social responsibility.

UN meeting agrees on climate roadmap

9 April 2008

Gathered for the first major climate talks since the UN Climate Change Conference in Bali last year, delegates from 162 countries agreed on a timetable for the conclusion of a global climate pact by December 2009.

The UN Bangkok Climate Change Talks ended on 4 April, with an agreement on an 18-month work plan for negotiations on long-term greenhouse gas emissions targets. The programme also addresses stronger mitigation measures, adaptation to the impacts of climate change, the development and use of new low-carbon technologies and financing mechanisms.

Delegates agreed that the use of emissions trading, as well as the Clean Development Mechanism and Joint Implementation, should continue after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012 – a move welcomed by UN climate chief Yvo de Boer as an "important signal to businesses", who have been asking for clarity on this issue.

No other major breakthroughs were achieved. Instead, the meeting concluded with an agreement on holding seven more meetings until December 2009, when all 189 signatories to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) will gather in Copenhagen in the hope of thrashing out the final details of the post-2012 climate framework.

Three of these meetings will be held in 2008. The first of these takes place in Bonn, Germany in June, followed by Ghana in August and finally Poznan, Poland in December. source

My comment: Weak, simply weak...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Europe in science-04.08

Two not-connected articles on science this month. The first is about our beloved mission Galileo and the second about the breast cancer epidemic in Europe.

I'm very glad that Galileo will have its go finally. I heard today on EuroNews that its accuracy will be few cm, while with GPS its actually meters. For those that don't know what Galileo is-it is a positioning system, just like GPS, but obviously better and European.

What impressed me more, however is the second article. It claims that breast cancer may be (and probably is) connected with the hormones our bodies gather from all hormonally active chemical we get in touch with. And that would mean not only medicaments, but also food or cosmetics! And this is where I start worrying because we all use cosmetics and we all know the nice commercials in which they explain how the product makes the skin younger with some obscure (but very pretty) mechanism.
I'm asking, who guarantees us that this mechanism is safe?!

Galileo a step closer to orbit

8 April 2008

The path for the EU's satellite navigation system to become operational by 2013 has been cleared after member states agreed implementation rules outlining a timetable and industrial tendering plan as well as a clear division of roles and responsibilities between the three EU institutions.

The EU-27 transport ministers agreed, on 7 April 2008, on a general approach external for the Galileo Implementation Regulation, which sets out the legal basis for the implementation of the budget (€3.4 billion) for the period 2007-2013 and a new management structure for the project.

Slovenian Transport Minister Radovan Žerjav said the agreement presents "a clear signal to Europe and the whole world that we are still firmly committed to providing all European citizens and enterprises with a high-quality satellite-navigation service by 2013".

According to the compromise, the Galileo programme development and deployment phase comprising the construction and launch of the first satellites and the establishment of the first ground-based infrastructure is to begin in 2008 and end in 2013. The exploitation phase - management, maintenance, standardisation and marketing of the system - should begin at the latest in 2013 when the system is expected to become operational.

The deployment phase will be financed entirely by Community funds, though according to the agreement, it will be possible to form public-private partnerships or other forms of contract with the private sector after 2013.

The procurement and industrial tendering of the infrastructure will be split into six main work packages: system engineering support, ground mission infrastructure completion, ground control infrastructure completion, satellites, launchers and operations. A number of additional work packages is also foreseen.

On the governance side, the 'Galileo Interinstitutional Panel' (GIP), consisting of representatives of the Council, Parliament and the Commission, will decide on the annual work programme. It will also follow the implementation of contract agreements and ensure the overall governance and political control of the project.

The Commission will act as the manager of the programmes, while the Galileo Surveillance Authority (GSA), set up as a Community agency, will ensure the security accreditation of the system. GSA will also ensure the operation of the Galileo security centre and contribute to the preparation of the commercialisation of the system.

As for future revenue generated by the system's commercial services, the draft Regulation stresses that this "must be collected by the European Community in order to ensure that its earlier investments are recovered". "However, a revenue-sharing mechanism could be stipulated in any contract concluded with the private sector," it states.

The text backed by ministers has already received tentative approval from Parliament representatives in informal trilogue negotiation rounds, which also involved the Commission and the Council. It was approvedexternal in a vote in Parliament's Industry Committee today (8 April). Parliament's plenary vote is expected to take place by end of April to ensure the timely kick-off of the long delayed EU flagship project. source

Avoiding chemical exposure 'only way to halt breast cancer'

4 April 2008

The breast cancer epicemic cannot be reversed without considering women's exposure to chemical cocktails throughout their lives, argued Professor Andreas Kortenkamp of the University of London, presenting new scientific evidence to the European Parliament.

"There is a breast cancer epidemic in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe, and also in Western Europe the figures continue to rise," Kortenkamp told to EurActiv as he presented a study external in the Parliament on 2 April.

Kortenkamp, the head of the Centre for Toxicology at the University of London, said medical doctors agree that better mammographic screening alone cannot explain the rise. Instead, he says, there is now "compelling evidence that natural and pharmaceutically applied hormones play a role in breast cancer, for instance, hormone replacement therapy (HRT)". HRT, he said, "raises concerns about environmental chemicals and chemicals in consumer products that are hormonally active and behave biologically, in just the same way as the natural estrogens".

The chemical industry has long argued that trace amounts of chemicals found in peoples' blood do not necessarily constitute a health risk as they are usually found in extremely low concentrations. And toxicologists are divided over how to interpret the data collected by so-called 'biomonitoring' studies.

But Professor Kortenkamp cited new evidence about how these chemicals act together as mixtures. "If you combine a very large number of chemicals at very low doses, you can see significant hormonal effects with them. It can even happen that the hormonal strength of natural estrogens can be modulated."

Kortenkamp said he hoped the report would be taken seriously and "turned into political, regulatory action about these chemicals". He acknowledged that in science there is always something to be further explained or clarified, but said he believes that there is already enough scientific evidence to start regulatory action while at the same time continuing scientific research in parallel. "You can't wait for perfect clarity. That would be really unethical."

Chemicals are not the only risk factor in breast cancer, as women's decisions on when to have children also play a role. Likewise radiation, genes and alcohol also have a role to play, noted Kortenkamp. He added, however, that reducing exposure to chemicals is the only risk factor authorities can influence.

He described the EU's chemicals legislation REACH as one arena where legal action to regulate hormonally active chemicals can take place.

In the framework of REACH, a candidate list of chemicals that present the most cause for concern over public health and the environment is currently being drafted for publication in autumn 2008. The first chemicals on that list will be the ones to be put on a priority list and need to go through special scrutiny before they are authorised. The priority list will be drafted based on the candidate list and is due for publication in June 2009.

"We would like to see hormone disrupting chemicals put on the candidate list," said Lisette van Vliet, toxics policy advisor at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL). "Chemicals that mimic estrogen and destroy hormones need to be removed from the market or substituted by safer substances. REACH can help us to do this," agreed MEP Avril Doyle. However, the industry has criticised the fact that, within REACH, a chemical could be banned even when equally performing or reliable alternatives do not exist.

Hormonally active chemicals can be found in drugs (like hormone replacement therapy, HRT and the pill), personal body care products, plastics or food. source


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