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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Science in Europe in October, 08

In today's edition:
  1. Ministers ask EU to guarantee access to space
  2. EU security research seeks respect of civil liberties
  3. Commission seeks end to EU-27 'research labyrinth'
  4. Europe hopes world will follow mercury ban
  5. Ministers back EU fisheries reform plans
Read the lst one to see how France messes the good ideas once again. What's wrong with those people?

Ministers ask EU to guarantee access to space

26 September 2008

In a resolution adopted this morning (26 September), European ministers responsible for space underlined the strategic importance of guaranteeing the continent's political and technological independence on space and unveiled their ambition to make Europe one of the world's leading space powers.

The joint resolutionPdf external , adopted by EU competitiveness ministers and representatives of the European Space Agency (ESA) in the European Space Council on 26 September, sets out the broad lines and priorities for European space policy in the years to come.

The four main priorities identified for future EU space activites are:

  • monitoring climate change
  • Lisbon strategy for growth and jobs
  • improving security
  • space exploration

But ministers also particularly urged the bloc to focus on the implementation of the EU's two flagship programmes for satellite radio navigation (Galileo) and global monitoring for environment and security (GMES).

While their resolution reiterates the fact that GMES and Galileo are civilian systems under civilian control, it nevertheless says synergies between civilian and defence space programmes must be improved.

It further stresses that the overall aim of Europe should be to become one of the world's main space powers. It also repeatedly inisists on the importance of guaranteeing Europe's strategic independence in this field, be it political or technological.

Meanwhile, the ministers recognised that Europe is currently dependent on overseas suppliers "for selected critical space technologies and components". Therefore, they called on the EU to design "mitigation strategies" and to take "practical steps" to put an end to this dependency.

A European Space Agency ministerial council on 25-26 November is expected to turn today's resolution into concrete programmes.source

My comment:Yeah, very informative :) Like we didn't know we're dependent over those "companies". I recently stumbled upon the site of one space company, it was very...plain. Obviously when you earn billions from space contracts, you prefer to keep it simply. Oh,well.

EU security research seeks respect of civil liberties

30 September 2008

Europe needs to strike the right balance between enhancing security and preserving civil liberties, stressed politicians on the occasion of the third European conference to showcase concrete applications of security research for citizens.

"We must enhance security but we must also avoid 'big brother is watching you' solutions," said Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen on 29 September, adding that the risk of terrorist attacks should not limit European citizens' freedoms.

He acknowledged, however, that striking the right balance "remains challenging in a Europe with such historical diversity," while "non-technological research work" was also necessary to achieve the equilibrium.

The European Security Research and Innovation Forum (ESRIFexternal ), launched last year to support civil security policymaking with the appropriate technology and knowledge base, has also reached the same conclusion. Mid-term resultsPdf external after its first twelve months of activity, published this month, state that only "legitimate solutions enhance security while respecting fundamental rights and liberties".

Therefore, care must be taken "to ensure that our desire to enhance security does not itself erode those liberties which we seek to protect. A culture of fear would not improve European security," noted Gijs de Vries, chairman of the ESRIF.

Discussions at the European Security Research Conference (SRC)external , taking place on 29-30 September, are focusing on security of citizens, protection of sensitive infrastructure, crisis management and border security. The event brings together a range of public and private security stakeholders, which might join forces for an EU research project in the field.

For the first time, security research has become an integral part of EU research policy. It features as an independent thematic research area in the EU's Seventh Research Framework Programme (FP7), for which some €1.4 billion has been earmarked for the period 2007-2013.source

My comment: Lol, I recently read an article about "security" in UK. It looks like Big Brother is Always Watching there. I certainly hope that other, more democratic societies won't except this life-style.And it's good to have those forum, to discuss the issue, especially if it's not only for the fun of talking and spending taxpayers money.

Commission seeks end to EU-27 'research labyrinth'

25 September 2008

The EU executive is calling on member states to take seriously its recent call for joint priority-setting and joint action on science and research policy and implement a coherent EU framework for scientific cooperation with non-EU countries if it is to remain a leading actor, particularly in the field of information and communication technologies (ICT).

"Our international partners are attracted by Europe as a model of regional integration, but they are faced with a multitude of governmental actors and research priorities when they want to engage in concrete cooperation," said Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik, presenting a Commission proposalPdf external for an EU framework for international scientific cooperation on 24 September.

According to Potočnik, the EU 27 need to get their act together and "transform Europe's research labyrinth into a European Research Area [ERA] open to the world, attracting the best brains and contributing to address global challenges".

Indeed, the absence of a common strategy at European level "has led to duplication of effort and often a waste of resources".

The overall aim of the proposal is to encourage EU countries to work together with the Commission to identify and agree on joint scientific cooperation activities with partners in important third countries. Brussels stressed key partners would be those with whom cooperation brings "clear added value for Europe in addressing key global challenges" and promoting both EU policy goals and global sustainable development.

The proposed strategic framework particularly highlights the need to strengthen cooperation with non-EU countries in the area of information and communication technologies (ICTexternal ), a sector in which Europe is already considered a strong exporter. source

My comment: Um, wasting of funds? I just talked to a friend who get a contract on European money for a ok, to put it mildly, idiotism. Or to put it harshly-a scientific fraud. Ok, maybe it's not a direct fraud, since they do the work that was approved as interesting. The point is that in physics, it's so hard to get funding for something that's not serious. And in psychology, it simply happens. And they're talking about wasted funding? Where is that funding? Something is very wrong in that system!

Europe hopes world will follow mercury ban

25 September 2008

EU Ministers in the Competitiveness Council yesterday (25 September) adopted a regulation banning all exports of mercury from the EU in 2011, wrapping up a key part of a European strategy to limit emissions of the toxic heavy metal into the environment.

"Let us hope that other countries will follow our example and support our goal of cutting the global supply of this dangerous substance," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, welcoming the Council's final rubber stamp on the regulation.

Following yesterday's adoption, all mercury exports from the EU will stop as off March 2011. The new legislation also requires that the remaining surplus of mercury needs to be put into safe storage as of the same date.

The Council's adoption follows a compromise deal struck between the three EU institutions earlier this Spring after debate on when the ban should enter in force and whether it should have also included imports (EurActiv 22/05/08).

Demands by the Parliament to impose a ban on mercury imports were rejected as impractical and importing mercury will therefore still be possible. Meanwhile the export ban enters in force earlier than initially proposed by the Commission (October 2011).

Mercury is a highly toxic substance and its contamination comes from a wide variety of sources, such as waste recycling and industrial facilities involved in cleaning non-ferrous metals and natural gas. In the EU, the chlor-alkali industry remains the largest single user of mercury and has already committed to either close or convert its mercury plants by 2020 at the latest. source

My comment: Not bad. At least one date is stet earlier and not later than planned. And mercury is dangerous, so there's no question why it should be banned. I just don't understand why it's so easy for it, but for other dangerous substances, it's such a major problem. But anway, good work.

Ministers back EU fisheries reform plans

30 September 2008

EU fisheries ministers yesterday asked the Commission to "kick-start preparations immediately" for widespread reform of the Union's fisheries policy. Meanwhile environmental groups repeated calls for bloc's fleet to be reduced in size.

Earlier this month, Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg announced plans to "fully review" the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) because "it does not encourage responsible behaviour by either fishermen or politicians" in its current form (EurActiv 18/09/08). The reform, which will focus on resource conservation and fleet policy, is scheduled for completion by 2012.

Ministers this week broadly backedPdf external the commissioner's proposals, launching a debate that will also involve industry and other stakeholders and continue into 2009. They were meeting informally on the sidelines of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (29-30 September) at the request of the French EU Presidency.

Welcoming governments' support, Borg told ministers that "an economically, socially and environmentally healthy fishing industry depends on healthy fish stocks and on fishing fleets being in balance with their fishing opportunities". "Ecological sustainability is therefore fundamental," he explained.

But some EU governments do not want reform to go as far as the Commission is suggesting, with France in particular arguing that discussions should move away from overcapacity and focus on the modification of existing quotas rather than their abolition.

However, the Pew Environment Group arguesexternal that substantial reductions in the fishing capacity of the EU fleet are still "urgently needed". "The existing overcapacity of fishing vessels" and member states' "reluctance" to match fleet sizes to the fishing opportunities available is a "principal driver" of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, which "inevitably leads to unprofitable fishing operations and greater incentives to bend or break the rules," said Uta Bellion, EU marine programme director at Pew.

Nevertheless, the NGO welcomed the adoption by ministers of a regulation to prevent IUU fishing in EU waters. "We commend the Council for taking this first step in tackling the scourge that is IUU fishing," said Bellion. But "given that 40%" of fishing in the bloc's waters is "estimated to be IUU", she expects the Commission to put forward proposals for an EU control and enforcement regulation, calling on the Council to support her demands.

Meanwhile, ministers calledPdf external on the Commission to "develop the ecosystem approach to management of the marine environment," backing a communication from EU executive on the matter. They also discussed the EU executive's proposed cod recovery plan, which they aim to adopt at their November Council meeting.

For its part, the Commission will produce a Green Paper early next year to trigger the public debate, while a summary of the consultation will be published at the beginning of 2010. This would allow the EU executive to table reform proposals by the end of that year with a view to their entry into force in 2012. source

My comment:Notice the title. Minister back report plans. Not reforms. But the very plan of reform! This is ridiculous and not working. Especially with the lack of support by major countries like France. But oh, well, it's a start.Even if it's a bad start.

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