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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Social Europe-or few cases in which the EU rules!

In this edition:
  1. Commission backs pan-EU pension schemes for researchers
  2. EU must foster Black Sea cooperation, say ministers
  3. Study calls for more accountability of EU corporations
  4. EU vets reject plans to lift US poultry ban
All of those articles are about key decisions by the EU and my comments are bigger than usually. I recomment particularly the 3d and the 4th articles since they are very IMPORTANT! I called this post "Social Europe" because it really represents my vision of Europe-EU that cares about the health and well-being of its citizens.

Commission backs pan-EU pension schemes for researchers

28 May 2008

After EU leaders agreed at the Spring Summit to step up efforts to improve working conditions for researchers, the Commission has presented upgraded plans to boost researchers' mobility, including pan-EU pension schemes targeted at researchers.

In the March 2008 Spring Summit, leaders of the 27-nation bloc committedPdf external to creating a "fifth freedom", standing for the "free movement of knowledge". This would, according to the summit conclusions, be done by removing barriers to the cross-border mobility of researchers, students, scientists and academic staff and by providing researchers with "better career structures".

In 2005, the Commission adopted a RecommendationPdf external on the European Charter for Researchers and a Code of Conduct for their recruitment to provide researchers with long-term career prospects by creating more favourable conditions for their mobility in support of EU competitiveness (see EurActiv 08/09/05).

Despite repeated political commitments and numerous Commission initiatives, progress at national level to improve the mobility of researchers remains slow and the take-up of the voluntary Researchers Charter has been limited.

Improving employment and career prospects for researchers is part of the EU's strategy to fight the 'brain drain' to the US.

According to them, the mobility of researchers is considered so crucial to the EU's economic growth and competitiveness that the Commission finds it justified to start with them.

The EU executive's new policy documentPdf external urges member states to join together in a partnership for better careers and more mobility for researchers. This communication is one of five policy initiatives constituting the follow-up to the 2007 review of the European Research Area (ERA).

Presenting the Commission's proposals on 27 May, Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik said he expected "rapid, measurable progress" by the end of 2010 on the four priority points of action, which are already part of the 2005 RecommendationPdf external on the Researchers Charter:

  • Open recruitment by national research institutions of all EU researchers;
  • improved social security and transferability of supplementary pension rights, eventually including pan-EU pension schemes targeted at researchers;
  • better employment and working conditions linked to contractual terms, salaries and opportunities for career development;
  • improved training, including entrepreneurial aspects linked to intellectual property management, project funding bidding, and setting up a company.

A proposal for a directive covering the supplementary pension rights' portability is currently under negotiation (see EurActiv 24/01/2008), but is unlikely to address the 'transferability' of such rights. Therefore, the Commission Communication on researchers mobility states it would be "desirable in the medium term to explore the feasibility of measures to ease transfer of supplementary pension rights for highly-mobile workers, including researchers."

In addition, the communication argues that pension providers should be encouraged to open up "pan-EU pension schemes targeted to researchers" and companies should be encouraged to use pension providers in other EU member states. source

My comment: There are few things I like about this news. Obviously, research is really crucial field for every country, especially in the current situation of the market with vanishing resources and increasing demand. I like that Europe has made it its priority to create that 5th Freedom. But I do agree the implementation is sucky-especially after the whole week of writing a project for a scientific grant- trust me, you've never seen so much bureaucracy.

What I like even more is the idea of Pan-European pension, especially since many scientists in my Faculty spend around 10 years of their lives in various places abroad. That's quite much and if the loose those years or have to switch their home-country, in which cases it can get ugly. But i have one question- pensions in different countries are different. How would you set the pan-European level of payments and will make sure no one would be screwed? Because European countries are on quite different standard of living. Tricky, huh? And of course, which is the last pan-European thing involving money that EC implemented?

EU must foster Black Sea cooperation, say ministers

28 May 2008

The EU needs to "make sense" of the multitude of existing initiatives covering the Black Sea region in order to guarantee peace and energy security, said participants attending the 'Fostering democracy and development in the Black sea region' conference in Brussels on May 26.

The Black Sea region is increasingly viewed as one of the keys to reliable oil and gas deliveries to the European and global market.

The Black Sea Economic Cooperation was established in 1992 after a Turkish initiative, with the participation of Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine. (huh, since when Serbia and Montenegro has something to do with the Black sea???)

In 2001 Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Georgia established Blackseafor, an organisation specialised in search and rescue operations, minesweeping, environmental protection and the organisation of goodwill visits.

The Black Sea Forum was established in Bucharest in 2006 after a Romanian initiative, with the participation of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine.

Lastly, the 'Black Sea synergy' is a EU initiative launched in 2007.

EU must help the heterogeneous countries along the Black Sea coasts to find ways to guarantee and strengthen peace, without leaving aside issues such as human rights and fundamental freedoms, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht stated. De Gucht hosted the event, organised by CEVIPOL – Centre d'étude de la vie politique (ULB) and the Embassy of Bulgaria.

Strategic thinking about the future of the Black Sea is shaped by security concerns, especially energy security, several participants stressed.

With the Black Sea becoming adjacent to the EU with the accession of Bulgaria and Romania, the EU can now involve the latter as well as candidate country Turkey and the countries covered by the European neighbourhood Policy (Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Moldova) in addressing its problems. source

My comment: In the Positions to that article, somebody said that he didn't understand why Western EU countries should be interested in the Black Sea. Well, for those who share his opitnion I'll put it clearly. Currently there are many gas/oil projects that indend to supply resources to central Europe and even Italia-like South Stream, Nabucco, Burgas-Alexandopulis and so on. That resources go into EUROPE! EUROPA! EU! So, if there's not oil/gas in Germany and Italia and Poland, just think of the many industries that would be in deep sh*...well, trouble. When one is part of an Union, one shouldn't think only of him/herself. And the Black Sea region is only getting more and more important. Thus...be smart, people. Be smart and follow your best interests.

Study calls for more accountability of EU corporations

30 May 2008

Corporations should be held liable in Europe for human rights abuses and environmental damage incurred outside the EU, according to a new legal study presented by a civil society network in the European Parliament on 29 May.

The study, unveiled by the European Coalition for Corporate Justice (ECCJ), recommends a set of policy proposals aimed at making companies based in Europe legally responsible for abuses committed by subsidiaries or subcontractors abroad.

In today's globalised world, it is developing countries that all too often carry the burden of these ill-treatments as they hope to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) by relaxing social norms.

What the ECCJ hopes to push through is 'foreign direct liability' - the notion that parent companies in Europe not only get the economic benefits of operations abroad but also have a legal responsibility for the negative effects they can cause to people and the environment.

Furthermore, under the proposals favoured by the ECCJ, large companies would take on increased corporate social accountability by reporting on all social and environmental risks relating to their activities.

Extra-territorial prosecution is already allowed in the EU under the Brussels Convention, but the ECCJ wants the law to be extended to corporations and executive directors.

The proposals would be advantageous, according to economist Noreena Hertz of Cambridge University: "Currently there is no legal framework in place for corporations," she said. "This would give them one." She dismissed the myth of corporations being anti-regulation, instead arguing this would give them a head-start on the global laws envisaged to cover the issue.

Commenting on the issue, a representative of BusinessEurope told EurActiv that EU companies with operations abroad are expected to respect the law of the host country, and in countries where human rights standards were lacking, companies set higher standards to compensate.

Howitt hopes the proposals will put added pressure on the Commission to include action on the issue in its renewed Social Agenda due to be published on 25 June. source

My comment: I sincerely hope this proposal would be made a LAW! It's the best way to stop Carbon leakege and any other type of leakeges from Europe and to guarantee that we won't develop on the backs of third world slavery. So please please make it a law.

EU vets reject plans to lift US poultry ban

4 June 2008

National experts from the EU's member states have thrown out Commission plans to lift a ban on imports of chicken treated with chemicals, reviving trade tensions between the EU and the US ahead of a major summit next week (10 June).

A vote in the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) on 2 June saw 26 national experts reject the proposal to allow the use of four currently banned anti-microbal substances for the decontamination of poultry carcasses.

Only the UK abstained from voting. The others were not convinced by the Commission's arguments that the chemicals have been cleared by the European Food Safety Agency; that the carcasses would be rinsed with potable water after treatment, thereby removing any possible residues on the final product; or that consumers would be fully informed via clear labelling.

The vote comes as a blow to EU Enterprise Commissioner Günter Verheugen, who last month promised his American counterparts that he would find an agreement in favour of lifting the 11-year ban on US poultry, which is generally treated with these processes, before an EU-US Summit on 10 June.

The issue is seen as a major test case for the new "Transatlantic Economic Council" (TEC) process, which aims to remove remaining regulatory obstacles hampering trade and investment between the two economic giants.

Members of the European Parliament welcomed the decision. "Member states made this decision in tune with the opinion of European consumers, who don't want to bow to American commercial pressure and sacrifice their food production standards and rules," said Monica Frassoni, co-president of the Greens/EFA Group.

The dossier will now be handed over to European agriculture ministers, who are expected to confirm their experts' position within the next three months. source

My comment: That's cool! Really cool! I mean, we can't just put in danger our lives in order to compromise with US regulations or desires and I'm utterly happy some people are finally understanding it. Trade doesn't mean everything is ok if there are buyers for it. It means responsibility, quality products and prices correspoding to the demand and so on.

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