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

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Italy’s Trash Crisis again and again

Beautiful Italy again under fire. And very rightfully so. Because mafia or not, trash is trash and should be thrown out. But not literally out. Like in Italy. I very much sympathize Italy, because for some reasons Sofia was under tons of trashes a year ago. The problem was solved by opening the already full dump, but it's not really solved, as they are no new dumps and no incineration factory being built. So, the crisis was just postponed while our mayor becomes a prime-minister and then he'll probably just make it illegal to close a dump when there isn't a new one and everything will settle. So, talking about mafia, huh? I wish Italia luck! It's such a shame that beautiful country to be buried under garbage. And I hope EC manage to make them act.

Italy taken to court over 'inadequate' waste plans

7 May 2008

Measures taken to address the waste crisis in the Naples region are "inadequate" and are putting citizens' health at risk, the European Commission claims.

Italy is being taken to the European Court of Justice for failing to put in place waste collection and treatment plans in the Campania region as required under the EU's Waste Framework Directive, the Commission announced on Tuesday (6 May).

"The piles of uncollected rubbish in the streets of Campania graphically illustrate the threat to the environment and human health that results when waste management is inadequate," said EU Environment Minister Stavros Dimas.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has also reported growing health problems in the region due to improper handling and incineration of waste.

Waste crises are not new to Campania, where waste disposal is a lucrative business controlled largely by the 'Camorra' mafia.

The crisis has eased recently since the appointment of a new 'Waste Emergency Commissioner' for the region in December 2007, the Commission said. However, it believes the measures introduced "are inadequate to address Campania's waste problems in the long term and prevent a repeat of the unacceptable events seen over the past year."

Italian authorities have failed to give "a clear timetable for the completion and entry into operation of the sorting plants, landfills, incinerators and other infrastructure needed to resolve the region's waste problems," the Commission added.

The waste crisis in Naples "is not a crisis coming out of the blue," Dimas insisted at a Parliament hearing in January. "It is the culmination of a more than 14-year-old process of insufficient implementation of European waste legislation for which Italy has repeatedly been condemned by the European Court of Justice."

In a related case, the European Commission sent a warning to the Lazio region on Tuesady (6 May) for failing to adopt regional waste management plans. Fines could be slapped on the region if it does not comply, the Commission warned. source

European Commission Sues to Force Italy to Take Out the Garbage

Published: May 7, 2008

After years of warnings, and a spell of hot weather that did nothing to improve the stink of tons of uncollected trash around Naples, the European Commission filed suit against Italy on Tuesday, charging that it had failed to meet its obligation to collect and dispose of its rubbish.

“The piles of uncollected rubbish in the streets of Campania graphically illustrate the threat to the environment and human health that results when waste management is inadequate,” Stavros Dimas, the European Union’s environment commissioner, said in Brussels, referring to the southern region around Naples. “Italy needs to give priority to putting in place effective waste management plans.”

The suit, filed before the European Court of Justice, is aimed at pressing Italy to take more serious action against a problem that has enraged southerners, embarrassed national pride and influenced recent national elections. If the court rules against it, Italy could face substantial fines, more than a dozen years after Naples faced the first of its regular trash crises.

During the campaign for an election he won last month, the prime minister-elect, Silvio Berlusconi, repeatedly promised to finally clean up the mess — and the court case may prove an early challenge to his new center-right government. To show his determination, Mr. Berlusconi, about to begin his third term as prime minister, has said he will hold his first cabinet meeting in Naples and visit three times a week until the crisis is resolved.

But, over many years, the problem has been difficult to tackle, in part because politicians have been reluctant to take on the organized-crime groups that have dumped refuse — some of it toxic — for many years.

Amid protests and protection by local politicians, the nation has also had trouble choosing where to create new dumps as old ones filled up. All the dumps around Naples are now officially considered full.

Over the weekend, temperatures rose and local residents, as they often have, set fire to dozens of piles of trash, as both a protest and a way to banish stink and possible threats to health. A reported 1,400 tons of trash lay uncollected, from a high of 4,500 tons in March. Last year, schools closed and firefighters fought hundreds of fires in a similar crisis.

The European Commission also demanded that the region of Lazio, which surrounds Rome, comply with an earlier court order requiring it to adhere to a waste management plan.

The trash crisis is one of several serious problems, ignored for years by Italy’s paralyzed political class, that are worsening as well as bumping up against European regulations. One issue is Italy’s high public debt, over the European Union ceiling of 3 percent of gross domestic product.

European regulators are also questioning a proposed bailout of 300 million euros, about $465 million, for the nation’s ailing airline, Alitalia, as possibly illegal state assistance. Italy has until May 19 to justify the loan. For years, various deals to buy the airline, teetering into bankruptcy, have failed. source

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Europe's economy in may

In today's post :
  1. EU downbeat on economy amid rising inflation
  2. €2 billion poured into EU pharma innovation
  3. Patents: The next battleground for climate change
  4. European Commission Considers SMS Roaming Price Cap
My comment: The economy might goes down, but people still try to get the most out of it. Which is good. As I said, I truly hope that crisis will be over soon, because I miss the mad investments and innovations.

EU downbeat on economy amid rising inflation

29 April 2008

Slower growth and record-high inflation are the gloomy economic forecasts for the EU's near future, according to Commission estimates presented on 28 April.

Growth in the EU is expected to cool down from 2.8% to 2% this year and to 1.8% in 2009, Commissioner for Economic Affairs Joaquin Almunia announced yesterday. This is half a percentage point lower than predicted in last autumn's forecasts, he added.

Among the reasons for this downturn, Almunia cited an overall "less favourable global environment," with a US recession looming, ongoing financial turmoil and rising commodity prices for oil and energy.

"The financial turmoil is proving deeper, wider and longer-lasting while the downturn in the US looks set to be more pronounced and protracted than assumed in the autumn forecast," Almunia said.

Despite the expected slowdown, prospects for the EU remain much more positive than for the bloc's main competitors, namely the US and Japan, according to the commissioner. Moreover, Almunia expressed his confidence that growth would pick up pace again from the third quarter of this year onwards.

However, Almunia added that the rising inflation, which - fed by rising food and energy prices - is set to to hit 3.6% this year, poses a key problem for future growth. On a more positive note, he said he expected inflation to fall to 2.4% in 2009.

For the eurozone, inflation is expected to hit 3.2% this year, which would be the highest since the euro's launch in 1999.

The Commission's predicted economic slowdown is also set to have a negative impact on some member states' deficit. Within the eurozone, Almunia identified France as the "most worrying" example, with the deficit forecasted to reach 2.9% this year and 3.0% in 2009 - the maximum allowed under the Maastricht criteria for financial stability.

Italy and Portugal also remain countries of concern with their deficits predicted to rise to 2.4% (in Italy) and 2.6% (in Portugal) respectively in 2009.

Outside the eurozone, Hungary, the UK and Romania are likely to perform the worst. In Hungary, the deficit is expected to shrink further but likely to remain clearly above the 3% reference (4% in 2008 and 3.6% in 2009), confirming previous assessments that the county would not be ready to join the eurozone beyond 2012 (see EurActiv Links Dossier on 'Enlargement and the Euro').

The Commission also said it had an eye on Romania where the deficit is expected to rise to 2.9% this year to reach 3.7% in 2009.

In the UK - which has not indicated that would adopt the euro anytime soon, the deficit is set to rise to 3.3% this year and for the year to come, which will lead to the opening of a deficit procedure by the Commission on 11 June, Almunia announced.

Positive news was delivered to Slovakia and Poland, where the Commission announced the closure of deficit procedures on 7 May (Slovakia) and 11 June (Poland). source

My comment:Unfortunately, the crisis is hitting hard. I can't but hope that everything will be back to normal sooner than expected.

€2 billion poured into EU pharma innovation

5 May 2008

A joint Commission-pharma industry research initiative to speed up the development of new drugs and cut down development costs began operating on 30 April 2008.

Announced in the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for Research (FP7), Joint Technology Initiatives (JTIsexternal ) are meant to establish long-term, public-private partnerships on specific research areas, combining private-sector investment with national and European public funding.

One of the six areas in which JTIs could be established is innovative medicines. The aim of the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is not to produce new drugs, but to conduct research into tools to develop new drugs, overcome bottlenecks in the development of innovative medicines and boost investment in European biopharmaceutical R&D.

It currently takes up to 10-13 years to develop a drug and bring it to the market. Only one potential drug in 10,000 reaches the market and one drug costs up to €800 million to develop.

In addition, according to the Commission, the IMI "is all the more important as Europe was once known as the 'world's pharmacy'". Until 1998, it said, seven out of ten new medicines originated from Europe, whereas today the number is only three out of ten.

In line with the recommendations of the strategic research agendaPdf external for the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a first call for proposalsexternal for research projects in the areas of brain disorders, metabolic and inflammatory diseases was launched on 30 April 2008. Some €123 million will be granted to the most promising research projects in these areas later this year. In the future, IMI calls will also cover cancer and infectious diseases.

The IMI, a public-private partnership between the European Commission and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), will fund research into these five fields of diseases with some €2 billion over the next five years. The aim is to address current long delays or bottlenecks in the pharmaceutical R&D process.

The identified bottlenecks for which better tools are required to speed up the discovery and development of new drugs are:

  • Safety evaluation: speeding up identification of new products with the best benefit–risk ratios and a greater likelihood of success;
  • Prediction of efficacy: the development of biomarkers that can be used as tools to understand the biology of a disease and the effects of a new pharmaceutical compound;
  • Knowledge management: supporting safety and efficacy of projects as well as information sharing, modelling and simulation tasks, and;
  • Gaps in education and training: supporting the medicine development process.

Projects involving a variety of stakeholders - academia, research centres, SMEs, patient groups, public authorities and competitors in the research-based pharmaceutical industry - will thus be funded on these issues up to 2013 to improve the drug development process for new medicines for cancer and brain disorders and inflammatory, metabolic and infectious diseases.

The initiative also foresees the establishment by 2013 of a European Medicines Research Academy (EMRA), "a pan-European platform for educating and training current and future professionals involved in biomedical R&D, including regulatory officers".

Professor Hans-Georg Eichler, senior medical officer at the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) said the current drug development process is indeed inefficient and that the "ongoing paradigm is not sustainable". He said IMI is the EU equivalent of the United States' Critical Path Initiative, which incidentally has received zero funding so far.source

My comment: I find the creation of such institutions somewhat scary, but we all want EU to become a player again. Especially knowing the poor safety-standards in USA's FDA (see After The Pink Goat for frequent bashes of FDA's stupidity and arrogance). Let's hope our version will be at least more health-friendly.

Patents: The next battleground for climate change

7 May 2008
Alison Brimelow, President, European Patents Office (EPO)

Using patents to block competitors must not be allowed to creep into the eco-innovation sector as many believe it has in the area of communication and information technologies, writes Alison Brimelow, the president of the European Patents Office.

The following text was contributed by Alison Brimelow and is reproduced below in its entirety.

"Climate change, though much debated, remains a disputed subject. A steady stream of headlines warning of worsening impacts of climate change is putting all of our societies under pressure to speed up efforts to reduce mankind's contribution to this looming crisis, yet serious minds differ on the subject. But the existence of a possible threat in itself acts as a stimulus to innovators, and eco-innovation may prove the next battle ground for the reputation of patents.

Against this background the EPO, with the European Commission and the Slovenian EU Presidency, have made patents and eco-technology the focus of the European Patent Forum, which takes place in Ljubljana in early May. The EPF is the first major conference ever to tackle the question of how the patent system needs to be adapted to foster innovation in the climate sector.

At the heart of the debate are the questions of cost and access to new technologies. The former is a huge concern for the developing world countries whose ability to contribute to combating global warming is obviously constrained by the cost and availability of green technologies.

We can all agree that the patent system must not become an obstacle to the development of green technologies in Europe. In other words, the practice of using patents to handicap or block the efforts of competitors must not be allowed to creep into this sector as many believe it has in the area of communication and information technologies. Here, multiple patents owned by different patentees cover individual products and can serve as real obstacles to moving the technologies forward. Supporters of a "soft IP regime" are likely to advocate the introduction of the price mechanism to save clean technologies from the affliction of these so-called "patent thickets". In other words, patent owners can ask to be paid for the use of patented know-how but they cannot block it.

Initiatives such as Eco-Patent Commons managed by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development have already been launched to boost the spread of clean technologies. Companies participating in this project are making available patents on clean technologies free of charge. A slightly different approach is planned for the "Green Intellectual Property Project," which will pay a proportion of patent-derived income into a trust fund for supporting the development of patent-protected green technologies.

At the very least, the European Patent Forum does much to put the spotlight on a vital aspect of Europe’s bid to lead the world towards effective actions to mitigate the perils of climate change. It should also demonstrate the EPO's determination to lead thought and debate on this mission while underlining the indispensable contribution that invention has made and will continue to make.source

My comment: No comment, really. I think a patent should give rights but also responsibility-you obtain the right to be paid for your invention, but also, you share your invention with the world. All of it.

European Commission Considers SMS Roaming Price Cap

May 7, 2008

Caps on the price of sending an SMS from a mobile phone while abroad came a step closer Wednesday, when the European Commission launched a two-month public consultation into its rules on mobile phone roaming charges.

Mobile phone manufacturers, network operators and consumer groups have been invited to submit comments about the effectiveness of the regulation on roaming charges for voice calls that came into force last year.

As well as seeking general feedback on the impact of the European Union law, the Commission also asked stakeholders whether regulation is necessary for data roaming services and SMS in light of current retail prices and market developments.

The results of the consultation will influence the Commission's decision whether or not to extend the existing roaming law to include data and SMS roaming charges.

A report published by the European Regulators Group in January showed that on average across the E.U., users had to pay €5.24 per megabyte of data and €0.29 for an SMS sent while roaming in the third quarter of 2007. The Commission suspects that this is disproportionately high compared to data and SMS prices when sent from a person's home country.

The existing roaming law requires operators to offer customers a "Eurotariff" for voice calls when roaming in other E.U. member states, and introduced ceilings of €0.49 per minute for making calls and €0.24 per minute for receiving calls. These will decrease to €0.46 and €0.22 respectively on Aug. 30, and to €0.43 and €0.19 on Aug. 30, 2009.

The roaming regulation is limited to voice calls and expires on June 30, 2010 unless the European Parliament and the Council decide, on the basis of a proposal from the European Commission, to extend it beyond this date.source

My comment:As someone who uses the Eurotariff I can't express my gratitude for it. And I can't say operators lost from it-last year, I made a 35euros bill on roaming. Not much, but it is for me and I wouldn't do it, if I didn't know I speak cheaply with home. If it was still like 2 euros a minute, I'd simply have turned off my phone. Which would actually do me lots of good but that's another story. I hope the same is passed for sms and data. So that we can be really free!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Europe on energy!

What's new?
  • EU in quest to secure Middle East gas supplies
  • Greece seals pipeline agreement with Russia
  • Oil and gas firms pinned on transparency
  • Oil companies attacked for resisting climate targets
  • EU eyes offshore wind power boost
  • European fund to support post-2012 climate projects
I shortened significantly the articles so I suggest you actually read them as they are very interesting.
I personally recommend the second article, as it's very clear about the actuality of Nabucco and South Stream. They are even almost objective.
And please read the 3d article on Transparency of oil companies. It's very interesting and fun. There is a least of the most and least socially transparent companies.

EU in quest to secure Middle East gas supplies

6 May 2008

The EU is keen to secure gas supplies for its flagship Nabucco pipeline from countries in the Mashreq region, which includes Iraq, Jordan and Syria. Meanwhile Russia's participation in Nabucco, which skirts Russian territory, has effectively been ruled out.

EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs and External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner yesterday (5 May) met with representatives from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to discuss gas pipeline linkages.

While no specific deals were reached in the Mashreq talks, the EU is hoping to link up its gas grid with the Arab Gas Pipeline, which currently brings 10 billion cubic meters (BCM) of gas from Egypt through Jordan to Syria.

The Arab Gas Pipeline is set to be linked up to the Turkish gas grid by 2009, and later with the Nabucco pipeline, which is scheduled for completion by 2013(EurActiv LinksDossier). A total of 7 BCM of gas could then be sourced annually from Mashreq countries, according to the Commission.

The discussions are part of EU efforts to reduce its dependence on Russian gas supplies, and follow hot on the heels of separate talks to secure gas provision from Iraq and Turkmenistan.

Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy monopoly, currently supplies up to 40% of the EU's natural gas demand, but that figure is set to reach 60% by 2030.

Russia "has shown no interest" in feeding its gas into Nabucco, Piebalgs told journalists in Brussels on 5 May.

Piebalgs comments were made the day after the commissioner visited Moscow for discussions on better EU-Russia energy cooperation in advance of an 8 June meeting of G8 energy ministers in Japan.source

My comment: The key word here is "Some consider South Stream to be a rival to Nabucco". Some! For me, those some are decreasing in numbers every day. Because the situations gets more and more obvious. We're tied with Russia. I'm sick of repeating that and I feel like I'm getting the wrong signal. I love Europe more than anything, but the facts are facts. We have to deal on them, not on ideology. And I find it little strange that Europe prefers Arab gas. Not that I mind it, the gas is gas, but the regions is very insecure, so it's not exactly a move that secure our supply. It's more a bluff in the face of the big R than else. But bluffs are part of the politics :)

Greece seals pipeline agreement with Russia

30 April 2008

Russian President Vladimir Putin is ending his term by sealing a deal on the South Stream gas pipeline, a project perceived as a rival to the EU's flagship Nabucco pipeline aimed at decreasing Europe's dependency on Russian gas.

Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis signed an agreement with Moscow on Tuesday (29 April) to start construction on the South Stream pipeline.

South Stream was launched in 2007 by Italy's Eni and Russia's Gazprom. It is designed to pump 30 billion cubic metres of Russian gas a year to Europe, under the Black Sea via Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia and Croatia to Italy. Under the plans, one of its branches will go through Hungary, which recently joined the project, and reach Austria.

Speaking to reporters after the signing ceremony in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin derided EU efforts on Nabucco. "Realising the South Stream project doesn't mean that we are fighting some other alternative project," he .

Nabucco in the doldrums

By contrast, Nabucco would bring gas from the Middle East and Asia to Europe via Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria. The project is geopolitically significant because it will bypass Russia, but the project, scheduled to be completed by 2013, has encountered financing problems and a lack of political will from some member states.

Russia attaches importance to the South Stream project, estimated to cost some €10 billion, because it bypasses Ukraine and would probably make Nabucco redundant.

Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov labeled the resources of Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan countries insufficient. The only way to fill the Nabucco pipeline is with Iranian gas, he said.

Russia reasserting ties with South Eastern Europe

Gazprom is also very close to finalising an energy agreement with Serbia. As part of the deal, Gazpromneft will acquire a 51% stake in Serbia's state-owned oil company, NIS, for €400 million.

Russian friendship with Greece and Serbia has historic roots. Russia's relations with EU members Hungary and Bulgaria have also perceptibly improved.

Senior EU statesman sought to head South Stream

Gazprom is also obviously looking for a senior EU statesman to head the South Stream project. Italy's outgoing prime minister, Romano Prodi, has declined Putin's offer, an Italian cabinet source recently disclosed. Such an appointment would mirror German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's appointment to Gazprom's Nord Stream pipeline.The position is still open. source

My comment: I like especially the last paragraph. I mean obviously Gazprom is not so self-obsessed as they like us to believe. It could be just a political stunt, but then, what isn't? I like this article because it's very revealing and almost objective. Especially in its Iranian part...

Oil and gas firms pinned on transparency

29 April 2008

Leading oil and gas companies do not report sufficiently about their activities in host countries, particularly on payments made to governments for resource extraction rights, leaving the door open to corruption, said Transparency International (TI) in a new report.

The 2008 Report on Revenue Transparency of Oil and Gas Companies, published on 28 April, evaluated 42 leading oil and gas firms operating in 21 countries based on publicly-available reports.

"The tragic paradox, that many resource-rich countries remain poor, stems from a lack of data on oil and gas revenues and how they are managed. Companies must do more to increase transparency," said Huguette Labelle, the chair of TI.

Foggy data has also frequently been singled out as a cause of uncertainties about future oil availability, with companies often blamed for inflating reserves. In April, the European Commission launched a public consultation on whether changes should be made to the management of emergency oil stock by EU member states (EurActiv 23/04/08).

"When companies and governments are fully transparent everyone can track revenue flows, holding public officials to account and discouraging corruption," TI said.

Companies were rated according to their reporting standards in three categories: high, middle and low.

A list of some of the state-controlled and international oil companies that were rated:

  • High: Shell, StatoilHydro, Petrobras.
  • Middle: BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, Eni, Gazprom, Repsol, Sonatrach, Total.
  • Low: China National Petroleum Corportation, Exxon-Mobil, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation, Lukoil, Petronas, Petroleos de Venezuela, Saudi Aramco.

According to TI, the question of transparency has never been more critical as oil prices reach record highs and industry revenues in OPEC countries alone are expected to reach nearly US$1 trillion in 2008. source

My comment: I'm kind of surprised Gazprom made it to the middle, but oh well. I can't comment that-it's too utopic. We all know what money are in the oil industries, we can't expect them to just reveal themselves. At best, they'll throw some dust in our eyes. But it's a good idea to track them. At least to know what we're dealing with. And as for the low performers, notice Lukoil :) What a surprise. Or the Saudi Aramco.

Oil companies attacked for resisting climate targets

30 April 2008

Claims made by oil companies that an EU target to slash greenhouse gases emitted during the production, transport and use of fuels by 10% by 2020 is unachievable are false, according to a new report published by green NGO Friends of the Earth.

The Commission has proposed revising its 1998 Fuel Quality Directiveexternal defining EU-wide specifications for petrol, diesel and gas oil used in transport, so as to better reflect the latest developments in fuel and engine technology and to step up the fight against climate change (EurActiv 01/02/07).

The proposed amendments would permit higher volumes of biofuels to be used in petrol and that would oblige fuel suppliers to ensure that greenhouse gases produced by their fuels throughout their life cycle (i.e. production, transport and use) are cut by 1% per year between 2011 and 2020 (Article 7a) (see LinksDossier on the Fuel Quality Directive).

The NGO insists that oil companies have the means to achieve the target, which the Commission is proposing to include in a review of its 1998 Fuel Quality Directive, even without having to resort to "harmful" biofuels.

In its report, published on 29 April, it calculates that oil companies, which have been resisting the proposal, could in fact achieve cuts in greenhouse gas emissions of between 10.5% and 15.5% through reduced gas flaring and venting, energy efficiency improvements and fuel switching in refineries. And this "without the need for agrofuels which can have negative environmental and socials impacts and have not been proven to reduce emissions overall".

"The oil industry is saying that it lacks the financial and technological resources to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions, but according to our research it has the potential to meet, and even exceed, the 10% CO2 reduction target of the directive," said Darek Urbaniak, extractive industries campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe.

Pointing to the "record profits" of over $125 billion announced by oil companies in 2007, Paul de Clerck, corporates campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, added: "Despite their sky-high profits oil companies are not willing to bear the costs of reducing emissions. It seems that since these investments are not profitable, companies will not make them unless they are forced by a regulatory body.""

The European oil industry association Europia has not commented directly on the report's conclusions, but it insists that the industry's efficiency record is "very good".

The group further highlights the inconsistency between promoting higher quality fuels and biofuels on the one hand and introducing a lifecycle approach on the other. Such an approach puts highly-upgraded refineries, capable of more complex conversion techniques, at a disadvantage because they are often more energy-intensive, it explains.

Europia therefore concludes that fossil fuels should, at present, be excluded from the emission reduction targets until these unresolved issues have been addressed. source

My comment:Funny, huh? If it wasn't sad. I still think EU and EC should take the hard road and make the caps obligatory for everyone and then sponsor the industry to IMPROVE(or give back the money for the improvements to the companies) the emissions of its factories. It's gonna be rough and tough, but it'll get there and everyone will end up happy. I mean if we're gonna pay the industries , because that's what we're doing one way or another, it better be for what we want and not what they want.

EU eyes offshore wind power boost

28 April 2008

The European Commission has launched a public consultation to identify key barriers to the large-scale uptake of offshore wind energy and help draw up an action plan later this year.

According to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), offshore wind "will be one of the key components" of the delivery of the EU target to source 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The potential for offshore wind energy is considered huge, especially in the North Sea and the Atlantic where the winds are strongest and most stable. A recent Norwegian study estimated that a potential 14,000 TWh could be harvested in the waters off the Norwegian coast alone.

According to EWEA, 50 GW of offshore wind could be installed by 2020 if offshore was to grow at the same rate as onshore wind has done in the past fourteen years. However, it said this is unlikely to happen due "lead times for planning, lack of physical infrastructure, long project development times and short-term supply chain bottlenecks".

Challenges already widely known

According to De Keulenaer, the technology to build offshore wind farms is already widely available. "The issue is how you make the constructions stay where they should," he said.

Ferran Tarradellas, a spokesperson on energy at the European Commission, says there are still "many unknowns" which the consultation should help identify. Among those, he says there are still "many questions" regarding conditions of access to the power grid for renewable electricity produced from offshore wind farms.

He also says there are "many differences between EU member states" on legislation relating to environmental impact studies prior to the approval of large offshore wind projects.

At a recent conference in Norway, Hans Vestergaard, sales director at Vestas (a Danish company leading the world market for wind turbines), said permitting procedures should be made "more uniform and less time consuming within the EU". It also pleaded for "a European grid and tariff" to be applied to wind power.

Other bottlenecks identified by Vestas include the limited availability of vessels equipped with the massive cranes needed to erect the ever-larger wind turbines and the corresponding harbour facilities that are needed to equip the ships.

EWEA has long called for the EU to develop a specific policy for offshore wind. In a report published in December 2007, it said the technology was still facing "many uncertainties", including:

  • Technological development and deployment;
  • Planning and authorisation to allow large-scale wind farms to be built;
  • Developing the necessary electricity grid infrastructure, and;
  • Better integrating large-scale production of renewable electricity into the power exchange mechanisms between member states.

"If barriers are timely and adequately removed, up to 40 GW of offshore wind energy could be operating in the European Union by 2020," Blanchard said. This, he added, could supply up to 4% of Europe's electricity, "an essential contribution for the EU to reach the 20% target by 2020".source

My comment: I'm waiting to see this European Energy Grid. It sounds so cool! As for technologies-obviously they are existing, we just need the money and the will to build them.

European fund to support post-2012 climate projects

29 April 2008

The European Investment Bank (EIB) and four other public financing institutions have launched a 125 million euro fund to boost investment in clean energy projects that are to generate 'carbon credits' after 2012.

The 'Post-2012 Carbon Credit Fund', which is the first of its kind, will exclusively purchase and trade 'carbon credits' generated after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The aim is to support the market value of environmentally worthwhile projects amid uncertainty over the actual form that the carbon credit trading regime will take after 2012.

"By assuming the inherent regulatory risk, the Fund will give a clear signal to the market of the EIB and its partners' confidence in the development of a post-Kyoto regime while directly supporting environmental projects," the group said in a statement on 28 April.

The Fund will contract credits from projects, for delivery as far away as 2022, under the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI) schemes, which allow industrialised nations to offset carbon emissions at home by funding "clean" projects in the developing world.

EIB President Philippe Maystadt said the fund would help the EU to remain "at the forefront of international efforts to combat climate change".

"As the EU's financing arm, our role is to support these efforts by promoting environmental lending and developing carbon markets. This fund, combined with other EIB carbon and climate change initiatives, positions the Bank as a significant contributor to global climate change efforts," he added. source

My comment: A step forward, I'd say. Although the mechanism of financing is still somewhat unclear to me. But guys-that's the making of history!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Energy unbundling, people!Or something like it...

What Brussels decided on the liberasation of energy and the future of energy market in Europe.
  • Brussels sets tough conditions for 'Third Way' on energy
  • Traders and governments at odds over renewables trading
  • MEPs back EU plans to dismantle energy behemoths
  • Europe's energy revolution taking shape?
  • EU seeks more protection for energy consumers
My comments are below. My over-all impression is that things are still far from settling. Which I find disturbing...

Brussels sets tough conditions for 'Third Way' on energy

5 May 2008

The European Commission has put forward detailed conditions for national champions in France and Germany to retain ownership of energy transmission assets in an attempt to strike a compromise over its controversial proposals to open up gas and electricity markets.

In its third liberalisation 'package' proposals unveiled on 19 September 2007, the Commission left member states with two options to complete the liberalisation of the EU energy sector:

  • Forcing big energy firms to sell off their power transmission and gas storage assets in order to keep these activities fully separate from energy production ('Ownership unbundling'), or;
  • allowing them to maintain ownership of their transmission assets but leave their management to an Independent System Operator (ISO) responsible for taking investment and commercial decisions.

France and Germany have vehemently opposed the plans and formed a blocking minority with the support of six other member states (Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Luxembourg, Latvia and the Slovak Republic).

Together, they tabled an alternative proposalPdf – called the 'third way' – which, they argue, would guarantee a similar result by introducing safeguards to ensure the independence of energy grid operators (EurActiv 01/02/08).

In a set of amendmentsPdf circulated in late April, the Commission specifies the conditions under which it could accept the so-called 'Third Way' trumpeted by eight EU countries as an alternative to splitting the production and transmission businesses of large integrated energy firms.

Under the proposed amendments, obtained by EurActiv, former state monopolies such as E.ON in Germany and EDF in France would be allowed to retain ownership of their power grids.

However, they would have to leave their management to an independent subsidiary, the transmission system operator (TSO), with "the power to independently adopt its annual investment plan and to raise money on the capital market, in particular through borrowing and capital increase".

Every year, the TSO would be required to submit a ten-year investment plan to the energy regulator at national level, based on existing supply and demand forecasts.

The TSO would also have a supervisory body "in charge of taking all decisions which may have a significant impact on the value of the assets" of the vertically-integrated company.

EU member states would be allowed to appoint one member of the supervisory body with "a veto right with respect to decisions that in his view may significantly reduce the asset value of the transmission system operator". The other members would be appointed by an independent trustee, who must not have been involved with the vertically-integrated group for at least five years prior to his appointment.source

My comment: If that's not nationalization of the energy sector, I don't know what it is. I think it's for good. The idea isn't so much to harm the national monopolist, but to open the way for the European energy grid. Which isn't so bad I think.

Traders and governments at odds over renewables trading

29 April 2008

The Commission's proposal to boost EU renewable energy use to 20% by 2020 is fuelling disagreements between energy traders and member states over the best regime for promoting renewables trading without undermining existing national support schemes.

On 23 January 2008, the Commission unveiled plans to boost the EU's use of renewable energies by 20% by 2020 as part of a wider climate and energy 'package' (see EurActiv LinksDossier and related coverage).

The proposals set differentiated renewables targets for each member state as part of the overall 20% target, whereby member states have the option to conduct cross-border trade in renewable energy certificates, so-called Guarantees of Origin (GOs), rather than subsidising renewable energy at home.

"The EU can only reach the overall target of 20% energy consumption from renewable sources in a sustainable and efficient manner if an internal trade mechanism for Guarantees of Origin forms an integral part of the legislative framework," says a 16 April letterPdf by the European Federation of Energy Traders (EFET).

The EFET letter is addressed to Green MEP Claude Turmes, Parliament's rapporteur on the Commission's proposal to revise the EU's renewable energy regime.

Initially, the Commission had planned to make GO trading mandatory. But Brussels apparently backed down under pressure from member states like Germany and Spain, who argued that a mandatory trading requirement would undermine internal renewables support schemes like feed-in tariffs. Such schemes can boost the prodcution of solar, wind, hydro and other renewables by guaranteeing producers a buy-back price that is higher than the market price for electricity (EurActiv 16/01/08).

Under the current proposal, member states may invest in renewable energy production in another member state in exchange for GOs that count towards the renewables target. But the trading is to be voluntary, not mandatory, and the Commisson has attached the condition that a country must have already reached its own interim target before being allowed to receive investments and transfer GOs to another member state.

Despite the change, Germany in particular remains concerned that it would end up effectively subsidising the renewable energy obligations of other member states if its own renewable energy firms sell off too many GO certificates.

Berlin has allegedly suggested to the Commission that the directive limit trading even further and include an 'opt-in' for those member states wishing to trade, rather than an opt-out for those that do not.

EFET argues that the issue could be addressed by harmonising national renewables support schemes so that GO trading could develop as part of normal internal market activity.

The European Renewable Energy Council (EREC), however, argues that it is too early for such a move given existing distortions in the EU's internal electricity market.

"It seems premature to call for competition in the renewables power segment at a time of non-competition in conventional power," EREC said in a position paper, which argues that "there is no evidence that a harmonisation of RES support mechanisms would deliver any benefits at this stage".

While Berlin and EFET may not see eye-to-eye on trading, both are concerned that energy firms could take governments to court for restricting their trading activities. They say the exemptions included in the proposal for restricting GO trade do not provide sufficient legal certainty.

In a technical annexword attached to its letter, EFET argues that the proposed renewables directive is plagued by "fundamental inconsistencies and breaches of primary EC law".source

My comment: Am I wrong or they are really proposing to trade GOs? Is that the same as certificate of origin? Because if it is, I'm soooooooooo against. The point of this was to prevent doing more damage than good, how did we end up in competition protection and stuff over a market that isn't even existing? Weird!

MEPs back EU plans to dismantle energy behemoths

7 May 2008

A Franco-German alternative to the Commission's electricity market liberalisation proposal was rejected by a narrow margin yesterday (6 May) during a key vote in Parliament's Industry Committee. MEPs also voted against a Commission substitute plan to put in place a strict regulatory regime policed by an Independent System Operator (ISO).

In its third liberalisation 'package' proposals unveiled on 19 September 2007, the Commission left member states with two options. The first is to force big energy firms to sell off their power transmission and gas storage assets in order to keep these activities fully separate from energy production ('ownership unbundling'). The alternative is to force firms to transfer the management of their distribution operations to an Independent System Operator (ISO) responsible for taking investment and commercial decisions.

By rejecting both the 'third way' and the ISO option, the Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee has effectively given its backing to full ownership unbundling as proposed by the Commission in its third package.

But the narrow margin of the rejection of the third way amendment to the Morgan report - 26 MEPs voted against it, while 22 were in favour and three abstained - may be an indication that France and Germany and the six other member states who support them will continue to push for compromises to full ownership unbundling during upcoming negotiations.

France and Germany's energy giants, notably RWE and EDF, remain vehemently opposed to the breaking up of their assets through unbundling, which they claim is illegal and would not lead to lower prices and more competition, as argued by the Commission.

"The national element will have considerable weight in this vote," Vidal-Quadras told EurActiv in an interview. But the MEP also expects a more "European logic" to prevail as the discussions move forward, implying that Parliament, Council and the Commission could still strike a compromise agreement - possible in heated last-minute negotiations - in order to prevent the third package from failing entirely.

France, so far unwilling to budge on the unbundling issue, has already indicated that it "could live without this package," and the eight member states who oppose unbundling possess enough votes to form a blocking minority in the Council (EurActiv 17/04/08).

The Commission meanwhile has signalled its willingness to compromise on the third way proposal under the condition that a series of tough conditions are taken on board (EurActiv 05/05/08).

Energy ministers will try to reach a political agreement on the file on 6 June. source

My comment: Hm, hm. I liked the ISO option, but obviously other people don't. Oh, well, so really, this is a dead lock. Either the decision is changed or it's vetoed. I don't like it like this.

Europe's energy revolution taking shape?

Published: Friday 9 May 2008

As the EU’s energy liberalisation drive heats up, European consumers may be wondering when and in what shape the EU's new energy policy will begin to transform the way energy is produced and consumed, and if the change will mean lower prices or higher industry profits.

The unbundling saga

On 6 May, Parliament's Industry (ITRE) Committee voted in favour of breaking up large energy firms through ownership unbundling, meaning the separation of a firm's power generation assets from its distribution assets (EurActiv 07/05/08).

The outcome of the vote was widely seen as a setback for Germany and France, who had put forward a proposal for a 'third way' on energy liberalisation that was rejected by a narrow margin of MEPs. The committee's rejection of the proposal came shortly after it emerged that the Commission would only consider the third way if strict conditions - too strict, according to Berlin and Paris - were added to the proposal (EurActiv 05/05/08).

Although the liberalisation package is focused on technical and regulatory aspects of the EU's electricity and gas markets, "fully competitive markets are an essential pre-requisite" for a "new energy path towards a more secure, sustainable and low-carbon economy, for the benefit of all citizens," according to the Commission press release that accompanied the 19 September proposals.

Brussels is thus concerned that a delay in the adoption of the liberalisation proposals may have a negative impact on the wider climate change efforts outlined in the climate and energy package.

Shaky investor certainty and lack of investment are at the heart of these concerns, as continued control over national and regional energy markets by a limited number of energy firms creates few incentives to invest in electricity grid upgrades and other infrastructure investments necessary to boost the efficiency of energy production and transmission, according to the Commission.

Europe is also struggling to find the cash necessary to fund renewables and expensive 'clean' technologies like CCS.

UK Liberal MEP Chris Davies, Parliament's rapporteur on a Commission proposal for a legal framework for CO2 storage, argues that the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) could be leveraged to solve the financing problem.

In addition to adopting a position on the third way proposal, MEPs also voted in favour of consumer protection measures designed to bring down energy prices for consumers in the EU (EurActiv 08/05/08). National authorities should "mandate electricity undertakings to introduce pricing formulas which increase for greater levels of consumption," according to a proposed amendment backed by MEPs from all political groups.

Currently, large energy consumers like industrial installations can negotiate with power suppliers for lower energy prices. The amendment, if adopted in the final text of the proposal, would "turn the system on its head," according to UK Liberal MEP Fiona Hall, one of the supporters of the amendment.

Large consumers would instead pay higher prices in order to motivate energy efficiency improvements, while consumers who use less energy, such as low income households in particular, would in turn pay lower prices.

In response to queries about whether industries would oppose such moves, Hall told EurActiv that "this should not be the concern. Climate change should be the concern," she said.

MEPs, backed by the EU consumer organisation BEUC, are also in favour of allowing regulators to impose temporary price caps on energy in the event of sudden price hikes. source

My comment: Ok, that's not so bad. I mean the second part-it makes sense to stimulate people to economize the energy by decreasing the price of small consumers. At least it makes sense to me. I wonder how the big consumers will accept that. But I agree with the guy-this shouldn't the major concern.

EU seeks more protection for energy consumers

8 May 2008

Amid concerns over rising energy prices, the Commission is preparing a new online information pool on the rights of energy consumers, while MEPs in the Parliament's Industry Committee have voted for stronger consumer protection measures in the EU's energy market liberalisation drive.

Industries and private households are in theory able to freely choose their energy supplier following the entry into force of EU directives in 2004 and 2007, but energy consumers continue to complain about high prices and a lack of supplier choice.

Partially in response to these concerns, the Commission on 5 July 2007 launched a new initiative for a European Charter on the Rights of Energy Consumers (EurActiv 06/07/07).

The charter, which is non-binding but compiles existing EU energy consumer rights in a single text, was criticised by the European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC) for lacking teeth, while the German Centre for European Policy (CEP) argued that the charter would undermine freedom of contract and disturb market development (EurActiv 30/07/07).

Consumer issues are also addressed in the Commission's 'third package' of proposals to liberalise the energy sector (EurActiv 20/09/07).

The rights of energy consumers are outlined in the EU's 2003 directives on electricity and gas liberalisation, but Europeans have a "limited" awareness of their rights, according to the Commission, which on 6 May set in motion the creation of a European Energy Consumer Checklist.

The checklist will compile information in an online database about local and regional energy markets. The information will be presented in the form of responses by member state authorities to a collection of 'frequently asked questions' about various aspects of retail energy markets. The list of questions, which are being prepared by the Commission, has not been finalised.

A new Citizens' Energy Forum is also being established by the Commission as a platform for debating consumer protection issues between "stakeholders active on all aspects of retail markets," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs announced in Brussels on 6 May.

The forum will include "energy regulators, competition authorities, national bodies competent for enforcing energy consumer rights, member states' energy and consumer administrations and industry and consumer associations, from both European and national levels," he said.

While the checklist and the forum constitute non-binding measures, MEPs in the Parliament's Industry Committee on 6 May voted in favour of a series of consumer-related measures to be added to the Commission's third energy package.

In addition to guarantees relating to access of information, MEPs want to give consumers a legal right to withdraw, without penalty, from contracts with electricity providers and to obtain compensation for poor service quality.

MEPs are also calling for the provision of 'smart meters' to consumers within 10 years of the entry into force of the third package. Such meters provide more detailed information on energy consumption, both to consumers and utilities.

Amendments to protect the poorest citizens were also endorsed by MEPs, who want member states to "implement appropriate measures to achieve the objectives of social and economic cohesion which shall lower the cost of energy to low income households and guarantee the same conditions for those living in remote areas," the amendment said.

While MEPs did not vote in favour of a system of state-regulated energy tariffs, which are popular in France, the committee did vote in favour of allowing national authorities to set temporary (one month or less) price caps in the event of sudden hikes in energy prices. source

My comment: What about the internet access? On some places the only provider is the local telecom which is not exactly willing to lower the prices and improve the quality. And what choice of energy provider, that's an absurd. In Bulgaria we have like 3 providers each of which is working in its region of the country and the only choice people have is to move. Is that a choice, really?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ireland says NO, but talks on the future president continue...

In this edition:
  • Ireland shows EU establishment the red card
  • Citizens sign up to petition for Ms. Europe
  • EU Treaty: Czechs send backup Presidency plans
  • East Europeans to enter competition for top EU job
  • My over-all comment- the Treaty may have problems, but obviously the post of President is way too delicious to be forgotten so easily. Enjoy.

Ireland shows EU establishment the red card

13 June 2008 | Updated: Monday 16 June 2008

The citizens of the only EU country to hold a popular vote on the Lisbon Treaty have rebuffed the Union's entire political class with a resounding 'no' to the reform text, throwing the EU into yet another political crisis.

A total of 53.4% of Irish voters rejected the Lisbon Treaty, with just 46.6% voting in its favour. Turnout was not as low as initially predicted with 53.1% of the electorate turning up at the urns.

With a total of 862,415 votes against, the Lisbon Treaty, which would have affected all the EU's 495 million citizens, was effectively rejected by 0.175% of the bloc's population, throwing the EU into an existential crisis.

While many are put out that the whole EU project could be stalled by such a small number, many pro-referendum campaigners argue that the opinion of the "silent majority" had not really been taken into account. They say that had referenda been held in several other EU countries, the results would probably have been largely similar.

Perhaps the biggest paradox, highlighted by Ireland's leaders, is that the vast majority of Irish citizens are not anti-European and largely acknowledge that their country has benefited hugely from EU membership.

However, after a one-month campaign marred by the resignation of former Prime Minister Bertie Ahern over corruption allegations, a majority of the Irish voted against the 'eurobabble' proffered by the 'yes' camp and an almost unreadable text, which even Ahern's successor Brian Cowen admitted he had not read.

In an apparent failure to understand the real problem behind the vote – the lack of communication between Brussels' ivory towers and Europe's citizens – EU leaders rushed to make strong statements and give advice on the best way out of the crisis.

With the Slovenian Presidency drawing to a close, it will be now mainly in the hands of the incoming French Presidency to lead the search for a way out. Ironically, it was France that threw the EU into a similar state of chaos when its own citizens rejected the now-defunct Constitution in 2005.

The intention of the French appears to be to ensure that ratification continues. In the meantime, a re-run of the referendum could take place, as happened after the Irish first rejected the EU's Nice Treaty in 2001.

Unless another, more original solution emerges…

Excluding Ireland?

One of the most radical ideas being expressed is that Ireland should leave the EU. But Jouyet has dismissed such 'fantasies', saying "we cannot take a country out of Europe that has been there for 35 years". He instead suggested that an alternative legal arrangement for "a specific type of co-operation" now had to be found, which would allow the rest of Europe to move on. If Ireland were left in the freezer while Europe advanced, it could be the makings of an "à la carte" Europe.

At the forthcoming EU summit on June 19-20, the UK, France and Germany are all expected to express their desire to continue the ratification process, as are the Czech Republic, Poland and Sweden.

EU leaders are also expected to ask Ireland how it intends to proceed. That would put the pressure on Dublin to seek certain changes, opt-outs or assurances on the treaty text so that it could then put it to a second referendum. Or Ireland could find a way to allow the others to proceed with the key reforms without it.

If the EU fails to find a quick way out of the crisis, it is likely to be weakened internationally, notably in its dealings with powers such as Russia and Iran. Indeed, a key aim of the new Treaty was to lend more credibility to the EU as a political heavyweight in the international arena.

The Lisbon Treaty foresees the establishment of a permanent EU Council President and an External Action Service as well as a strengthening of the role of the EU's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy.


My comment: Now...I'm very sad from Ireland's decision, mostly because it was based on totally wrong reasons. I mean, I can understand to turn down something you don't like and present your arguments. But to turn down something you haven't read, because you hadn't have the nerve to read it is funny. Or to turn it down simply because someone said it would be a good idea for the sovereignty of Ireland. All the reasons behind that No are brutally idiotic and I can't say anything else. I kind of approve the EU decision to move forward with the ratification, because for me, something should first be created and then changed to a better working form. You can't simply create a 400 pages legal document that would read easily and will sound sensibly. As long as there aren't any OBVIOUS wrong ideas it should be accepted and then if the necessity arises, to be changed. I'm not saying we should go for a compromise, but it's one to compromise with the CONTENT of a document, and other thing to compromise with the FORM and the PR of the document. And Ireland did the second. Unfortunately. So, now, let's see how the EU will proceed.

Citizens sign up to petition for Ms. Europe

5 June 2008

In just one day, over 1,000 signatures were collected for an internet petition demanding that heads of state and government appoint at least one woman to the four top positions in the EU.

Danish Socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose launched the citizens' initiative, the 'Females in Front' websiteexternal . Her aim is to collect one million signatures from European citizens, in the hope of influencing the decision that ultimately will be taken by the heads of state and government of EU countries.

Within the next 12 months, four EU leadership positions must be filled: President of the EU Council of Ministers, President of the European Commission, President of the European Parliament and High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy .

"At least one of these posts should be held by a woman," insists Ms. Schaldemose. She added that with one or more women in top positions, the EU would become far more representative of its citizens, which would also increase the legitimacy of the European Union.

One woman has frequently been pinpointed as a potential candidate for the top EU job – German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Recently Commissioner Margot Wallström published an articleexternal in the Financial Times entitled "Europe's old boys need to make way for women," which lists several other names.

According to Stanley Crossick, a veteran EU policy analyst and founding chairman of the European Policy Centre (EPC), Merkel is the only person who has "the authority and ability" to ensure the importance of the troika and would also contribute to another desirable criterion, which is gender balance (see his postexternal on Blogactiv for a full analysis). A recent opinion poll (EurActiv 07/04/08) indicated that Angela Merkel was perceived by EU citizens as the most influential leader in the Union. But so far Ms. Merkel has shown no intention whatsoever of leaving national politics to opt for the EU top job. source

My comment: Haha, absolutely cool! I mean, I agree there should be a woman, but I don't agree we should gather signatures in order to make them choose her. I think this should come naturally, not to be required. Whatever, I support.

EU Treaty: Czechs send backup Presidency plans

3 June 2008

The Czech government yesterday (2 June) sent out its programme for the EU presidency starting in January 2009 in two versions in case not all countries ratify the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the year.

The Czech Republic wants to be prepared for an EU without the Lisbon Treaty due to the situation in Ireland, where its approval in a referendum on 12 June is uncertain.

The Czech Republic has yet to approve the Lisbon Treaty. On the initiative of the governing eurosceptic Civic Democratic Party (ODS), the Senate has asked the Constitutional Court to examine whether the treaty is consistent with the constitution.

Vondra also voiced specific concerns regarding his country's EU presidency if the treaty comes into force in 2009 as planned. "There must still be a role for the prime minister of the presiding country," Vondra said, referring to the Treaty's creation of a new position of permanent president to chair EU Council meetings.

If the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by all countries on time, the Czech Republic may be the first to experiment with "cohabitation" between the future permanent president of the Council and the head of state or government of the country holding the rotating EU presidency. Up till now, the division of roles and responsibilities between the two has remained unclear.

But according to Vondra, it is crucial for the Czech Republic to look for a balance between roles assigned to EU countries, existing institutions and newly created officials.

The Czech Deputy Prime Minister also voiced his views on the profile of the future 'Mr. Europe' role. "The future permanent chairman of the European Council should not be any European president," Vondra said. "If anything, he should fulfill the role of a moderator of a discussion, not of a steam roller who would crush the rest by his body or force of his ideas," Vondra said, adding that no specific names had been mentioned.

A low-profile president acting as a moderator rather than a leader is generally the preferred profile of those opposed to a more federalist EU.

Last week, the Czech Republic, France and Sweden submitted a joint 18-month programme for the EU presidency, with energy security and the climate as the top priorities. source

My comment: Well, I am kind of on their position, that the president shouldn't be that powerful. I mean, I don't like so much power in the hands of one person.

East Europeans to enter competition for top EU job

4 June 2008

The new member countries from Central and Eastern Europe will fight hard to get one of the three prominent EU jobs created by the upcoming Lisbon Treaty, according to Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a former Polish European Affairs Minister who is now chairman of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET).

Speaking to Brussels journalists on Tuesday (3 June), Sariusz-Wolski said he expected the three top EU jobs to be distributed upon along "five axes: North-South, East-West, old-new, left-right, small-big".

Sariusz-Wolski said he did not include the President of the European Parliament in the package deal, explaining that he did not want member sates to interfere in the institutions internal affairs.

Speculation around who will be appointed to the new positions has been rife in Brussels and EU member state capitals with a number of names being floated already .

However, these plans would likely collapse altogether if the Irish reject the Lisbon Treaty in a decisive referendum on 12 June.

The Polish MEP praised French President Nicolas Sarkozy for changing his country "in the right direction", in particular for improving its relations with the US, reassessing France's role in NATO and resuscitating the "St. Malo spirit of effective defence". /could I find a good word for the Polish betrayal?, sorry, but I don't understand why Poland should be such a good US puppy/

The head of AFET said he hoped for a "better chemistry" between the EU and the USA following the US elections. He also said he hoped the EU will stop being "a payer and not a player" in world affairs. source

My comment: I don't understand how this guys can be so disgusting. I find such ambitions rather untasteful and ugly. It seems to me that Poland cares only about itself, which is wrong. And that love for the USA-ugly, very very ugly.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A move in the right direction

I won't comment that article (or even edit it), I just want to say I'm happy to see one more step in the direction of unified education. But because I'm working on a contract with our Ministry of Education, I sincerely hope that the bureaucracy will be decreased eventually in the future. It's very sad to have to spend a week on fillingforms and other paper junk.

EU removes barriers to qualifications transfer

24 April 2008

Having your educational and professional qualifications recognised in another country came a step closer to realisation on 23 April 2008, as the presidents of the Council and the Commission signed a joint recommendation on boosting the mobility of learners and workers across Europe.

The move follows a Commission recommendation in 2006 to set up a new European Qualifications Framework (EQF) to facilitate the recognition of qualifications across borders (EurActiv 07/09/06).The EQF will integrate the Bologna Process for higher education and the Copenhagen Process for vocational and educational training, thereby making qualifications more transparent and understandable.

The aim of the EQF is to promote lifelong learning and mobility across Europe by facilitating the transfer of educational and professional qualifications across borders. Concretely, it will act as a reference framework with eight levels of qualifications that can be recognised and transferred.

In order to make the new scheme work both in the educational and the professional fields, it will be based on learning outcomes (what a person knows and is able to do) rather than learning inputs (the length of study or experience).

"There is considerable momentum behind the EQF," said a Commission official, adding that with national qualifications frameworks already being developed, the "implementation process is well underway".

There are two target dates for member states to adhere to: 2010 is earmarked for all national systems to relate to the EQF, and 2012 for all new qualifications issued by member states to contain a clear reference to the EQF.

It is important to note that since the Commission has no competence over education in the EU, the EQF will be implemented on a voluntary basis. While all member states have signed up to the framework, the degree of implementation may vary. So far, only Greece and Cyprus do not have complementary national qualification frameworks.

The main job sectors that have come out in favour of the proposal, according to the Commission, are the construction, ICT, tourism and sports industries, as they already have a large amount of mobility and would like this to be increased.

But the Commission further adds that the benefits of the EQF will only become apparent once it has been fully implemented. Likewise, the increased mobility of learners and professionals will only become evident by about 2012, it says. source

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Vision of the future-or what will be the life after the crisis

We all the world is facing a crisis. It's already undergoing it actually. So here I offer few articles on the issue. Not very optimistic, but better know the evil and kill it on time, than put the pink eyeglasses and miss the moment.
  • 'Era of cheap food is over,' says EU
  • Bulgaria seeks more EU funding for nuclear phase-out (kind of out of the context, but I couldn't let it out of my blog. It's my country after all)
  • EU eyes raise of emergency oil stocks as prices soar
  • Energy: The end of the world as we know it

'Era of cheap food is over,' says EU

23 April 2008

EU consumers should get used to paying more for food as prices for meat, grain, cereal and a range of agricultural commodities are set to increase further, according to EU officials and MEPs debating the issue in Strasbourg yesterday (22 April). The EU's current push for biofuels came under repeated scrutiny during the discussion.

Sharp increases in food prices in recent months have sparked riots in a number of countries, including Haïti, Mexico, Egypt, Morocco, Senegal, Uzebkistan, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand and Indonesia. EU consumers have also seen dramatic increases in prices for basic foodstuffs.

Rising global populations and demand for food, climate change related crop failures, higher fuel and fertilizer prices, speculation on commodity markets, dysfunctional global agricultural markets and greater biofuels production are widely seen as the causes of the crisis.

EU policies, most notably export subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and more recently the bloc's proposed target to increase biofuels use by 10% by 2020, are also coming under increasing scrutiny. There are concerns that the combined effect of these measures acts as a disincentive to boost greater agricultural output in developing countries, notably in Africa.

"We won't see food prices going back down to former levels," EU Development Commissioner Louis Michel told a Strasbourg audience of MEPs convened to discuss the global food crisis.

The "huge rise" in food prices is a threat to global stability, according to Michel, who announced an increase in EU spending on food aid to developing countries.

But Michel also stressed that solving the crisis is "far beyond the EU's ability", pointing to structural problems in world agricultural markets and, in particular, a lack of purchasing power in poorer countries.

Empty bellies

Global average food prices have risen by 83% in the past three years, according to the World Bank, which notes a particularly sharp increase in the past six months. While EU citizens have to dig deeper into their pockets to meet rising costs, in many poor nations - where hundreds of millions of families and individuals live on less than one euro per day - the increase means the difference between poverty and starvation.

Josette Sheeran, executive director of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), has compared the crisis to the 2004 Asian tsunami, and is calling for "large-scale, high-level action by the global community, focused on emergency and longer-term solutions".

'Hedge foods'

Growing demand for previously unaffordable meat and other 'luxury' foods in rapidly developing nations like China, India and Brasil is frequently cited as one of the main drivers of higher prices.

But during their debate, a number of MEPs also pointed to increased food commodities speculation and profiteering in the wake of the recent melt-down of global financial markets. The implication, according to a number of Socialist MEPs in particular, is that players on the financial markets have scrambled to find new profits, and are deliberately driving down food supplies while pushing demand in order to boost the price of food commodities.

Calls for greater regulation of financial markets have raised red flags in Brussels, where the EU's Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson recently warned against using the crisis as an excuse for greater agricultural protectionism (EurActiv 21/04/08).

Bashing biofuels

There are growing concerns that a greater shift from food production towards biomass-for-biofuels production will further aggravate food shortages and price concerns.

Italy's outgoing prime minister, Romano Prodi, most recently addressed the issue at the International Energy Forum in Rome on 22 April. Competition between food and fuels is creating a conflict that could result in "disastrous social conflicts and dubious environmental results," he said.

The office of Gordon Brown, the UK prime minister, also promised on 22 April to "push for a change" in the EU's biofuels policy if a UK government review finds that the policy is counter-productive in terms of food prices and environmental sustainability.

Brussels meanwhile continues to defend its biofuels proposals.

"Biofuels have become a scapegoat for recent commodity price increases that have other causes – poor harvests worldwide and growing food demand generated by increased standards of living in China and India," EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs wrote in a blog post on 28 March.

A number of MEPs have also cautioned against 'throwing out the baby with the bath water', arguing that biofuels have only a marginal impact on food price hikes and that structural changes to world food markets, as well as greater agricultural output from Africa, would largely cancel out the food price impact of biofuels production.

The GMO solution?

While most MEPs agreed during their debate that greater agricultural productivity is needed to address the crisis, views differed sharply about the benefits of using biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) crops in order to boost harvests in the EU and in developing states.

There is also speculation that the extent of the price hikes may push EU consumers towards a generally more favourable view of GM crops. EU citizens "hearts may be on the left, but their pockets are on the right," said MEP Neil Parish, chairman of the Parliament's agriculture committee, the International Herald Tribune reported.

But a collection of EU consumer, family farm and environmental groups remain opposed to GM crops. In a statement issued to MEPs as part of the debate, the groups argue that "there is little evidence to suggest that weakening the GMO regime in Europe will address [the crisis]. Price increases have occurred all over the world – even in the US which has the most permissive system of GM approvals". source

My comment: The final point is very very good. Obviously some corporations are using the crisis very smartly to make Europe accept and admit GM crops. I pray that won't happen. I know it's not so dramatic, but this is simply unfair. The bad cannot win just like that. Sometimes this happens for a while, but I hope this time it wont. I'll do all I can to make people understand why GM should be opposed. Not because the technology is bad, but because it will make Europe HUGELY dependent over USA crops. It will make us slaves. It will ruin the biodiversity of our lovely continent. It will force us to eat it, when we don't want to. And we'll be forced to accept the approval of highly corrupted system as FDA. Which is the worst. Maybe if we had an independent institution to run the test, I could trust them. But not like that.

Bulgaria seeks more EU funding for nuclear phase-out

22 April 2008

Bulgaria is negotiating with the European Commission to double its compensation for the early closure of four units of its Kozloduy nuclear power plant, the Bulgarian Economy Minister Peter Dimitrov said on 20 April.

Back in 1992, at a G7 summit, it was decided that units one, two, three and four of Kozloduy nuclear power plant (NPP), along with Bohunice NPP in Slovakia and Ignalina NPP in Lithuania, had to be closed as they presented a high level of risk.

In 1999, following strong pressure from Brussels ahead of the decision to open accession negotiations, Bulgaria agreed to close units one and two. In the meantime Bulgaria modernised units three and four and had been claiming they were safe. However, in October 2002 Sofia again bowed to pressure and agreed to close units three and four the night before the country's EU accession. This greatly aided the conclusion of the negotiations.

Units five and six of the Russian-built Kozloduy NPP are considered safe and will continue to operate.

Slovakia and Lithuania joined the EU ahead of Bulgaria in 2004, and thus secured better conditions for the early closure of their nuclear reactors. Unlike Bulgaria, these countries are closing their units after their accession. This allowed them to obtain additional decommissioning funding at the EU summit in December 2005, when the EU budget was approved. In addition to the amounts already committed, Slovakia obtained another €375m and Lithuania €865m.

At the same summit, under the British Presidency, Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishhev asked for €280m in extra funding, without success.

The European Commission confirmed that talks are being held at a working level but insisted that amounts had not yet been discussed. The EU has allocated €550m to the decommissioning of the four units, Minister Dimitrov said, according to the Focus agency, of which €350m has already been absorbed.

"We have never been against the prolongation of the support scheme (for decommissioning the Kozloduy NPP units)," Commission spokesperson Ferran Tarradellas told EurActiv. But he added that such prolongations would need justifiying after 2009.

Bulgarian officials often use the term "compensation" regarding the early closure under EU pressure of the nuclear units. However the European Commission prefers to consider the amounts as financial assistance for the decommissioning process rather than compensation.

Before shutting down Kozloduy NPP units three and four, Bulgaria was an important exporter of electric power in the region. Now Bulgaria has lost this strategic position. As a result the Balkan region is experiencing a power deficit, especially in Albania. Bulgarian officials have repeatedly said the country has lost many billions of euros due to the early closure of its nuclear units.

Bulgaria is planning to build a new nuclear power plant in conformity with Western standards, on the Danube island of Belene, but the project will take several years to become operational. The power shortage in the Balkan region has inspired some politicians and the nuclear lobby in Bulgaria to campaign to re-launch units three and four. Recent opinion polls show that many Bulgarians are in favour of re-starting units three and four of Kozloduy NPP. However the European Commission has made it plain that the conditions have not changed since the signature of the Accession Treaty.

The decommissioning of nuclear power plants is a substantial global concern as well as an EU one. The Commission estimates that around a third of the EU's 145 currently operational nuclear reactors will need to be decommissioned by 2025. Wide variations exist in the decommissioning strategies and funding methods of different EU countries.

In a recent communication to the European Parliament and the Council, the Commission expresses concern that in some countries plant operators are providing insufficient funding for decommissioning. The Commission says this runs counter to the 'polluter pays' principle and could amount to market-distorting state aid.

There are also concerns regarding the level of independent oversight for funds in several member states, which the Commission says could give rise to inaccurate cost estimates and the poor financial performance of funds.

The Commission concludes that "these concerns could be better addressed by independent oversight of the decommissioning funds" rather than further EU or national legislation. But it adds that harmonised EU decommissioning strategies for future nuclear constructions should be "rigorously pursued".

Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said on 1 February that Bulgaria should seek allies in the EU and convince them that units three and four of Kozloduy NPP are safe and can be made operational again. However he implied that such an effort would involve certain risks. ''I will never give up championing this cause with any means at my disposal that would not result in Bulgaria's total isolation in the EU," Stanishev added. source

My comment: I just want to say why we use the term "compensation" and not the other. It is because the reactors were safe. They were carefully inspected and decided SAFE. Financial assistance for the decommissioning implies that they were out of their life-expectancy and needed to be shut down. However this isn't the case. That's why we're desperate for the money. Anyway, I find the article to be very nicely written.

EU eyes raise of emergency oil stocks as prices soar

23 April 2008

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on whether changes should be made to the management of emergency oil stocks held by EU member states as oil prices edged closer to $120 a barrel on Tuesday (22 April).

The consultation will seek input into the "shortcomings" of the current system in the face of the growing risk of oil supply disruptions caused by rising global demand for oil, the Commission said on Tuesday. The consultation is open until 17 June.

"While oil consumption is increasing worldwide, supply is more and more concentrated in a handful of countries, many of which are exposed to high geopolitical risks," the Commission said in an annexPdf external to the consultation documentPdf external . These, it added, include "wars, internal conflicts, export or import embargos and terrorism".

On Monday, armed militants attacked two Shell pipelines in Nigeria, lowering the country's oil output and fuelling an oil price surge. Prices on US and European markets approached $120 a barrel on Tuesday.

Many EU countries, especially in Eastern Europe, are ill-equipped to deal with potential crises. Under current rules, all countries are requested to hold 90 days worth of oil in order to cope with a possible supply disruption. But member states in Central and Eastern Europe, which joined the bloc more recently, were granted a transitional period to comply with the rule.

According to the Commission, there is a need to clarify roles between the Commission, member states and the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA). While the IEA foresees clear tasks in cases of supply disruptions, nine EU countries (Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovenia) are currently not members of the Paris-based agency, the Commission underlined.

It said such "confusion" on the distribution of roles may lead to delays in making emergency oil stocks available. "In three countries, all stocks are held by the government or an agency. In eight countries, all stocks are held by the oil companies, while the majority of member states have a mixed system," the Commission said.

In that context, the overall level of stocks may also need to be raised, the Commission added. "If the difference between the ‘nominal’ 90 days stocks and the really available level of stocks in a crisis is significant, the request of the Parliament to increase the stock obligation to 120 days might be a very reasonable proposal."

Meanwhile, a reportPdf external by ex-IEA chief Claude Mandil for the French government, called for more solidarity between EU countries on energy security. source

My comment: No comment, really. Nor Bulgaria, nor Lithuania or any of the other countries are that susceptible to crisis as that article claims. But whatever. I have the feeling the problem is being over dramatised.

Energy: The end of the world as we know it

Published: Friday 18 April 2008
Michael T. Clare, Professor, Hampshire College

The rising cost, increased demand and limited supply of oil as well as the slow development of alternatives are all leading to a new world order that will be based on supply and demand economics - with power resting with oil and gas-abundant states, argues Professor Michael T. Clare of Hampshire College in a 17 April commentary for Middle East Online.

The price of oil is currently $110 a barrel and is only set to rise due to shrinking energy supplies and an intensifying wrangle over its distribution, says Clare. Many years ago, energy was abundant and was not seen as a hot political issue. But now, claims Clare, former "Third World" countries like India and China are beginning to industrialise their economies, leading to a massive surge in global energy consumption - of some 47% in the last 20 years, according to the US Department of Energy.

This would not be such a frightening prospect, believes Clare, if we were able to produce enough fuel. Yet the opposite is h

appening, with a noticeable slowdown in global energy supplies coming at a time of rising demand, he adds. This development, he believes, coupled with powerful emerging energy consumers, will lead to a new world order. He summarises this change as: "rising powers/shrinking planet."

Clare suggests the new world order will be characterised by violent international competition for shrinking fossil fuel stocks and a shift of power from energy deficient states, like the US and China, to energy surplus states like Russia and Saudi Arabia.

Clare believes there are several major forces that will drive this change:

  • There will be an intensifying of the competition between older and newer economic forces for energy supplies;
  • the dwindling supply of primary energy supplies will lead to global energy shortages which will be a constant cause of conflict, and;
  • alternative energy sources are being developed much too slowly.

According to the US Department of Energy, fossil fuels will account for the same amount of world energy in 2030 as in 2004, whereas the increase of renewables will be a mere 8.1%. Additionally, the Department of Energy revealed that global emissions of CO2 will rise by almost 60% in the next 25 years, which draws Clare to conclude that all hope of averting climate change are virtually lost.

Moreover, Clare believes a steady shift of power and wealth from energy deficient states to energy surplus states will contribute to creating a new world order. He reveals that net earnings of oil exporting states in 2006 were almost $1 trillion, with this figure set to rise in the coming years. These earnings have been deposited in "sovereign wealth funds", owned by oil-rich countries such as those in the Gulf region, and are being used to buy up large stakes in key sectors of the US economy, which has gladly accepted petrodollars to shore up its own ailing economy, observes Clare.

Lastly, claims Clare, the growing risk of conflict in the world is enabling major powers to use military force to satisfy their objectives in search of energy resources. He concludes by suggesting the "energy-centric" world will dominate people's lives as power will lie in the hands of those who control distribution of fossil fuels, "ending the world as we know it". source

My comment:Enjoy the bright Future! Or best, pray it won't happen.


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