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

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Economics in July, 2008-no to clones meat!

In today's edition some exciting news. Enjoy!
  1. Brussels unperturbed by new national energy giant
  2. Banana deal raises chances for WTO breakthrough
  3. EU still struggling with employment of older people
  4. Obama, Vague on Issues, Pleases Crowd in Europe
  5. European Drug Watchdog Supports New Pill by Bayer
  6. Europe Fails to Endorse Milk and Meat From Clones

Brussels unperturbed by new national energy giant

24 July 2008

The merger of French energy companies Gaz de France and Suez has created a new national 'champion', triggering accusations of protectionism from some of the country's neighbours. But the Commission expects the new giant to respect its obligations under EU competition law.

On 22 July, GDF Suez appeared as a listed company on global stock markets as the new third largest gas and power provider in the world.

The French government, with an 80% share in GDF, will remain a majority shareholder in the new company, which many consider to be essential for the country's energy security.

But the merger has raised concerns in France about impending job losses and higher energy prices. It also comes at a potentially awkward moment for Brussels, where plans to further liberalise the EU's energy market were put forward in September 2007 (EurActiv 20/09/07). Currently the subject of a heated debate between Council and Parliament, the so-called 'third energy liberalisation package' is designed to increase cross-border competition in the Union's electricity and gas sectors while lowering prices for consumers.

But the Commission is downplaying fears that the merger will lead to anti-competitive behaviour. There is "no reason to believe" that GDF Suez will contravene their legal obligations, said the EU's spokesperson on competition issues Jonathan Todd on 23 July.

The merger was the subject of an in-depth investigation by the Commission's competition authorities, which in November 2006 approved the deal under the condition that the companies sign up to stipulations to prevent market abuse.

Meanhwile, attempts by the Spanish government to require that all mergers in the energy sector be pre-approved by its national energy regulator were shot down last week by the European Court of Justice (EurActiv 18/07/08).

Spain's Finance Minister Pedro Solbes reacted to the ruling by calling on the EU to clarify the conditions under which national governments can intervene and influence cross-border mergers in the energy sector. source

My comment: What really bothers me here is that GDF is 80% property of the government. While I don't mind this as an economical fact, I don't see how the government will agree to the liberalisation of the energy if it hurts its own interests. So far I assumed it's in private hands and I was surprised the government is so eager to please those hands. Now I see it only pleases itself. Which is kind of wrong. Who controls it's antimonopol obligations? And why Bulgaria had to privatise its electricity companies?

Banana deal raises chances for WTO breakthrough

28 July 2008

A week of intense discussions in Geneva has brought World Trade Organisation countries closer to a global trade pact. But disputes between the world's emerging economies threaten to scupper chances of achieving a deal this week.

Negotiations appeared to move a step closer towards successful completion on Sunday (27 July) when Latin American countries announced they had reached a deal with the EU, resolving a long-standing trade dispute on banana imports.

"The 16-year-old bananas wars are finished. We can finally leave behind the most difficult dispute in the history of the GATT and the WTO," Costa Rica's WTO ambassador Ronald Saborio Soto told Reuters.

The banana dispute had been a key sticking point in agricultural negotiations, preventing a wider deal on the treatment of tropical goods and the question of erosion of preferences that are crucial to the conclusion of an overall global trade pact (EurActiv 18/07/08).

African, Caribbean and Pacific countries immediately denounced the deal as unacceptable, threatening to block the whole negotiations unless they saw changes. The problem is that EU tariff cuts for Latin American producers automatically imply a loss of market share for ACP producers, who currently have preferential access to the EU.

But the EU and the US are adamant a deal be reached by the end of July and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab has accused emerging economies of attempting to scupper a fragile balance of compromises put on the table on Friday.

The USTR was also targeting China with her statements, after Beijing negotiators angered other developing countries by demanding that some of its key agricultural and manufacturing sectors be excluded from tariff cuts.

EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said India also represented a "potential pothole" after the country's "fiery negotiator" caused outrage with African and Latin American nations by insisting on a special safeguard mechanism allowing it to raise its farm tariffs if imports surge.

Mandelson also conceded that the EU is under pressure from its own members to gain important concessions from its partners, with countries like Ireland, France and Hungary saying the average 60% cut in farm tariffs it has offered is excessive compared to the possible gains in non-agricultural market access (NAMA).. source

My comment: The Banana Wars! Lol! It's like I'm in KOL! Oh, well, that article was just for your information. If you ask me WTO should be gone and countries should be free to impose whatever regulations they want to. And all the deals should be bilateral. Better to fight with money, than fight with missiles.

EU still struggling with employment of older people

23 July 2008

Although European labour markets continued to recover in 2007, employment rates across Europe are still a long way short of the targets the EU set itself via the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs in 2000. Workers aged over 55 continue to face the greatest difficulties, new data reveals.

The overall employment rate in all the 27 EU member states rose to 65.4% last year, up from 64.5% in 2006 and 62.1% in 2000, according to figures published on 22 July by the Commission's statistical body Eurostat. However, the data continues to reveal a large gap between north and south.

While the Scandinavian countries along with the UK and Austria top the list, with employment rates of over 70%, Italy, Romania and Malta are performing the worst, with rates remaining below 60%.

It must be added, however, that the countries with the most positive figures also rely more strongly on part-time workers than those struggling the most. In the Netherlands, almost every second worker (46.8%) is only employed part-time, while this is only the case for 2.6% in Slovakia.

Prospects are even less promising when it comes to the employment of people aged over 55. Although the positive trend continues, with figures up from 43.5% in 2006 and 36.8% in 2000 to 44.7% last year, the EU's 50% target seems out of reach.

On the other hand, the Union is nearing the 60% target set in 2001 for female employment. For 2007, Eurostat reports an employment rate of 58.3%, up from 53.6% in 2000.

When it comes to differences between male and female employment, the bloc's northern countries again outperform their southern counterparts. While Finland (4 percentage points), Sweden (5) and Lithuania (6) record the smallest gaps, Malta (37), Greece (27) and Spain (22) occupy the bottom of the list. source

My comment: That was in case you care about numbers. For me, it's obvious why southern countries are less employed-first, there are so many illegal immigrants that are working instead of the lazy local guys and second, the hot weather predisposes to laziness. I personally think one should work as much as he/she really needs and if he/she is satisfied with his/her current situation, then he/she should be left alone.

Obama, Vague on Issues, Pleases Crowd in Europe

July 25, 2008

PARIS — For Senator Barack Obama, who came to Europe once in the last four years, making a stop in London on his way to Russia, the response of many Europeans to his potential presidency has been gratifying — emotional, responsive, replete with the sense of hope he seeks to engender about a more flexible, less ideological America.

European governments and politicians are not so sure.

On Thursday evening in a glittering Berlin, Mr. Obama delivered a tone poem to American and European ideals and shared history.

But he was vague on crucial issues of trade, defense and foreign policy that currently divide Washington from Europe and are likely to continue to do so even if he becomes president — issues ranging from Russia, Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan to new refueling tankers and chlorinated chickens, the focus of an 11-year European ban on American poultry imports.

Europeans admire Mr. Obama’s political skills, and welcome his apparent readiness to respect opposing points of view. For many here, that raises the prospect of a sharp break with the policies of the Bush administration, especially in its first term, when the United States chose to ignore the Geneva Conventions at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, rejected the Kyoto accord on global warming and invaded Iraq, starting a war that some of America’s European allies opposed.

Pierre Rousselin, the foreign editor of Le Figaro, a French newspaper,said after the speech. “The economy and world politics there are still questions. There will be a difference, but very quickly Obama will be faced with concrete questions, like Afghanistan.”

Eberhard Sandschneider of the German Council on Foreign Relations said, Mr. Obama “tried to use all the symbolism of Berlin to indicate that as president he would reach out to Europe,” Mr. Sandschneider said. “But between the lines he said very clearly that Europe needs to do more,” especially on Afghanistan and Iraq.

Europeans are wary about Mr. Obama’s call for more European money for defense and more soldiers for the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. They worry that he will not alter what they see as President Bush’s unbending bias in favor of Israel.

And, despite what appears to be his sensitivity to European concerns, they perceive Mr. Obama as largely uninterested in Europe, even though he is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee responsible for the region. As the newspaper Le Monde pointed out on Thursday, Mr. Obama has never asked to meet the European Union’s ambassador in Washington.

But European leaders are particularly concerned about Mr. Obama’s positions on trade, taken during the bruising Democratic campaign against Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, which seem to many to veer toward protectionism.

Europe’s trade commissioner, Peter Mandelson, last month urged both Mr. Obama and his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, to reject “the false comforts of populism” and abandon “the protectionist and antitrade rhetoric” that dominated the primaries.

Mr. Mandelson noted that Mr. Obama had pledged to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and had opposed a new trade deal with Colombia. “A crisis of American confidence in globalization,” Mr. Mandelson said, “could knock it off course.”

Mr. Obama in his address spoke of the need for Europeans and Americans to recognize common challenges in an easily traveled world of radical Islam, nuclear proliferation, carbon emissions, violence, poverty and genocide.

But he offered more tepid support for free trade, even as negotiators in Geneva, including Mr. Mandelson, try to break an impasse that has dogged global trade talks for seven years. He said he wanted to “build on the wealth that open markets have created” but only if trade agreements were “free and fair for all,” a phrase that suggests fidelity to the trade-wary stance of one wing of the Democratic Party.

Europeans are upset about a recent decision by the Pentagon to order a new round of bidding for a $35 billion contract for aerial refueling tankers. A European-led consortium won the lucrative contract, beating Boeing, earlier this year. But Boeing and its Congressional supporters managed to have the bid reviewed and ultimately overturned.

The Europeans are unhappy with a five-year, $289 billion farm bill that maintains sizable subsidies for American farmers, even as the Europeans vow to review their own farm subsidies as a spur to trade talks. The United States complains that the European ban on American poultry costs American farmers about $200 million a year. The Europeans do not like the chlorine bath Americans use to disinfect their chickens, an argument that is less about safety than about taste.

He referred repeatedly to “European” people and values, drawing a contrast with the Bush administration, which has often sought to recruit individual European countries, like Britain and Poland, to support its policies, while doing less to cultivate ties to the broader European Union. Washington views the European Union as being dominated by France and Germany and less eager to follow America’s foreign policy.atters.”

Mr. Obama indulged in “some pro-German demagogy on nuclear weapons to get applause,” Mr. Védrine said. But he said Mr. Obama’s call for more European engagement in Afghanistan would not go over so well.

Even on Iran, where so far Washington and the main European countries have cooperated in their effort to prevent Tehran from getting a nuclear weapon, Mr. Obama refuses to rule out a military option — a position that, as Le Monde said, “is judged unproductive by most Europeans.” source

My comment: I don't like Obama. Not that I like republicans more. I prefer a democrat for president, but Mr. Obama looks very immature in some fields and that worries me. He's very populist and that's not good when it comes down to actual work. The world isn't all black and white and it requires massive understanding to make it work for you. Anyway, I like the word "Europeans"! I really do :)

European Drug Watchdog Supports New Pill by Bayer

July 26, 2008

LONDON (Reuters) — Bayer’s experimental anticoagulant Xarelto, its biggest new drug hope, has been recommended for approval by the European Medicines Agency, lifting the German company’s shares.

The drug watchdog said on Friday that its Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use had backed Xarelto for the prevention of blood clots after hip or knee surgery.

Recommendations for marketing approval by the committee are normally endorsed by the European Commission within a couple of months.

Bayer, which estimates that global sales of the drug could reach 2 billion euros ($3.14 billion) for all indications, said it was particularly pleased by the speedy positive opinion.

Bayer shares rose 3.6 percent, to $87.50, in New York trading as investors welcomed the green light, which reinforces Bayer’s reputation for having a promising new drug pipeline.

Bayer had previously said it expected Xarelto to go on sale in Europe by the end of the year.

Citi analysts said progress with Xarelto showed Bayer was making a transition from a reorganization play — after its 17 billion euro acquisition of Schering in 2006 — to a growth story driven by a maturing pipeline of new medicines.

Outside Europe, regulatory filings for Xarelto have been submitted in more than 10 countries, including Canada and China. It is expected to be submitted for approval soon in the United States, where it will be marketed by Bayer’s partner Johnson & Johnson.

Although the initial use of Xarelto will be in preventing blood clots after hip- and knee-replacement surgery, the big commercial potential lies in using it to prevent strokes in people with atrial fibrillation, a common heart arrhythmia.

The medicine, which is also known by the generic name rivaroxaban, is taken as a single tablet, once daily. source

My comment: No comment, really! I just hope this medicine works.

Europe Fails to Endorse Milk and Meat From Clones

Published: July 25, 2008

BRUSSELS — The European Food Safety Authority pulled back on Thursday from giving milk and meat from cloned animals a clean bill of health, making it less likely that such products could reach store shelves in Europe anytime soon.

The final report from the authority, an independent advisory body, was less reassuring about safety than a draft in January. An earlier assessment by a European ethics committee was negative.

The European Commission, which must decide whether to approve such products, will take both reports into account.

The findings also contrast with those of the United States Food and Drug Administration, which concluded this year that such products were safe — although a voluntary moratorium on marketing them remains in place.

Europeans seem likely to take an even more cautious approach, similar to that followed with genetically modified crops — which has led to years of trade friction with the United States. Surveys show resistance in Europe to biotechnology remains high, especially when it comes to food.

While cloning animals is still a young and inefficient technology, scientists expect it to improve. In theory, the procedure can produce meatier cows or pigs that are better able to resist diseases.

But in its statement Thursday, the authority said that “uncertainties in the risk assessment arise due to the limited number of studies available, the small sample sizes investigated and, in general, the absence of a uniform approach that would allow all the issues relevant to this opinion to be more satisfactorily addressed.”

A spokeswoman for the authority, Karen Talbot, acknowledged that there was a change of emphasis in the new findings, which followed months of consultations with industry bodies, trade and farming associations, consumer groups and nongovernmental organizations. She said “ after the consultation, they have acknowledged more clearly what they do know and what they don’t know.”

The chairman of the authority’s scientific committee, Vittorio Silano, said that for cattle and pigs, food safety concerns were “unlikely.” But, he added, “the evidence base, while growing and showing consistent findings, is still small.”

The opinion Thursday is one of three pieces of advice that will be considered by the commission, which would have to give authorization for food from cloned animals to be marketed within the 27-nation European Union.

Another opinion emerged in January in a report by the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies.

It said that there were “doubts as to whether cloning animals for food supply is ethically justified.”

It added that it did “not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring.”

The food safety authority’s report Thursday also noted health and animal welfare problems associated with cloning. In practice, the process produces a relatively high proportion of deformed animals that cannot survive, although such rates will probably decline as the technology improves.

The third element to be considered by the commission is an opinion survey, which is expected to be available in the fall.

During its consultation process, which began after the draft report was released, the food safety authority said that it had received 285 submissions from 64 interested parties, including individuals, organizations and national risk-assessment bodies.

In January, the F.D.A. concluded that meat and milk from clones of cattle, swine and goats were as safe to eat as food from conventionally bred animals. It asked the cloning industry to adhere to a voluntary moratorium on putting cloned products into the food chain to prepare for a smooth transition.

The European Commission said the latest opinion pointed to unresolved issues. source

My comment: A report I'm very happy with. For once, we act rationally and make a decent risk assessment. What I mean is that you can't decide whether something is safe solely on the reports of the company that requires it. There should be independents studies. And if there are not, you have to make them. Food is important part of our life, we can't act just for the sake of the industry. It's people and their health that is essential.

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