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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Business and Administration

In today's edition:
  1. Ministers back 'Single Sky' amid airline scepticism
  2. Twelve wise men to rethink Europe
  3. MEP: 'Radical' electoral reform 'badly needed' for 2014
  4. Parliament resurrects controversial 'EU symbols'
  5. Barroso embraces new UK commissioner
  6. New website reveals EU funding beneficiaries
Few interesting articles on the way the EU functions. I'm most happy about Single Sky, the European symbols and the new website. Also the new commissioner-she looks like a fine person.

Ministers back 'Single Sky' amid airline scepticism

10 October 2008

Transport ministers yesterday (9 October) gave the go-ahead to the launch of the development phase of the EU's next-generation air traffic management system. But airlines slammed the EU for giving higher priority to a "burdensome" emissions trading scheme than to realising the 'Single European Sky', which they say could significantly reduce aviation emissions.

The decision by EU transport ministers aims to kick-start the five-year development phase of the SESAR project – the technological component of bloc's 'Single Sky' programme – in a bid to provide a more modern, efficient, safer and greener air traffic management system.

European airlines welcomed the move, saying European ATM inefficiency was estimated to cost the airline industry €5 billion a year according to Peter Hartman, CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and current chairman of the Association of European Airlines (AEA).

He added that the amount of CO2 emissions which could be avoided by an efficient system was "a staggering 16 million tonnes annually, a huge step towards the industry's environmental objective of carbon-neutral growth".

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Commission on 8 October, EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani had underscored the urgency of updating Europe's air control system "first and foremost for the wellbeing of our citizens," but also as a means of cutting airlines' fuel bills and preserving the environment by reducing emissions.

The aim of the second package, presented by the Commission in July, is to speed up implementation of the single sky, notably by setting a binding target date of 2012 for member states to establish cross-border cooperation by setting up so-called 'functional airspace blocks' (FABs ). Under this scheme – already established under the first package of single sky legislation – two or more countries can agree to integrate their upper airspace and designate a single service provider to control air traffic in that block.

But, speaking at the same conference, French Socialist MEP Gilles Savary, who is also vice president of the European Parliament's transport committee, immediately highlighted MEPs' concerns that the Commission had failed to move away from its "bottom-up" approach, whereby it is left to member states to decide on how to restructure.

According to him, sensitive issues such as sovereignty, the evaluation of progress on FABs and the introduction of penalties mean that the dossier "will lead to in-depth debate" and may not be agreed in first reading.

But airlines and airports are pleading with the EU to move the dossier forward as soon as possible. The current situation represents a "Europe-wide problem with only losers," stressed the AEA's Hartman.

The industry further lashed out at the EU for having taken so much time to implement SES in the first place, saying discussions had been ongoing since the 1960s whereas "it took us only one and a half years to create a European Trading Scheme for aviation". source

My comment:I'm totally pro single sky-this is a good . But I don't see the connection with the CO2 trade scheme. They are absolutely different and the only thing common for them is that they are about air-planes.

Twelve wise men to rethink Europe

14 October 2008

Details of the composition of a planned but somewhat controversial reflection group in charge of anticipating long-term challenges to the Union are starting to emerge. It now appears that the nine wise men will in fact be twelve, as the chairman of the Group Felipe Gonzalez had not included himself and his two deputies in his proposal to the French EU Presidency.

Former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez, who was chosen to chair the group at the 14 December 2007 EU summit, wisely eliminated British obstructions regarding the scope of the group's mandate by proposing that Richard Lambert, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry and former editor of the Financial Times be a member of the group.

But Gonzalez had surprised the presidency by proposing a list of nine people, on which himself and his two deputies, namely former President of Latvia Vaira Viėe-Freiberga and former Nokia CEO Jorma Ollila, did not appear.

Diplomatic sources later explained that this did not mean that Gonzalez and his deputies were phasing out, but that the group would instead consist of twelve 'wise men' instead of nine.

Among the other members, the most well-known names are those of historic leader of the Polish anti-communist movement 'Solidarność' and former Polish President Lech Wałęsa and former Italian Competition Commissioner Mario Monti. The remaining figures are Lykke Friis of the University of Copenhagen, Nicolas Notat, the French former leader of the CFDT trade union, Wolfgang Schuster, a German conservative and mayor of Stuttgart, Rainer Muenz, an Austrian economist, Rem Koolhas, a Dutch architect, and Kalypso Nicolaidis, a Greek professor. source

My comment: I approve only Mario Monti, because he's a tough guy proved with his loyalty to the EU. The rest are somewhat weird choices. When you make such a group, you'd want to have proven professionals in it. Not some totally unknown people. And I don't see any scientist in the group. True, those guys can be very intelligent, I just don't know them. And I cannot accept the "wise men" idea. Since when only men are wise? Why should they all be men? I'm not saying there should be a quota or something. But this definition for me is utterly sexist and the lack of even ONE woman in the groups is in the least, very sad.

MEP: 'Radical' electoral reform 'badly needed' for 2014

13 October 2008

A radical overhaul of European Parliament elections was proposed last week by the MEP Andrew Duff, the Parliament's rapporteur on electoral reform.

The Duff report recommends the creation of "semi-open" transnational lists, where voters choose between candidates on party lists, not simply candidates of different parties. "Semi-open" lists already exist in the electoral systems of Belgium and Finland, for example.

In effect, this would mean that any given candidate in any country could be elected by all European voters.

Duff acknowledged that the proposal was "quite federalist" and would be "controversial". But he argued that "in the context of quite a profound democratic crisis, we badly need such bold proposals to connect the citizen to the post-national parliamentary democracy we are trying to construct here".

As well as creating transnational elections, the Duff report would set the minimum voter age at 16 and the minimum candidate age at 18. It would also strengthen the Parliament's powers in assessing the eligibility and credentials of candidates.

"At present, we are obliged to accept member-state decisions on the candidates eligible for European elections," said Duff, "but the Parliament is of sufficient authority and experience that it should have its own autonomy to decide who should and shouldn't be here".

Duff accepted that in order to be adopted, the system would require unanimity in the European Council as well as treaty changes. Member states have previously blocked similar initiatives, and it remains to be seen what sort of reception the Duff report will receive in European capitals. source

My comment:I don't see how this would happen. True, in a united EU it makes sense to have unified list of candidated across all countries. But in the current fragmented situation, that's simply impossible. No German person would vote for a Bulgarian candidate, for example. You can exchange the two nationalities with any other you would like. It simply won't happen.

Parliament resurrects controversial 'EU symbols'

10 October 2008

The so-called 'symbols of the Union', namely the EU flag, anthem and motto, were formally recognised by the European Parliament yesterday (8 October).

The symbols, which were a central feature of the defeated European Constitution but subsequently removed from the Lisbon Treaty to increase its likelihood of Europe-wide ratification, were recognised by a large majority of MEPs (503 to 96).

In practice, the vote means that:

  • The EU flag will be displayed in all Parliament meeting rooms and at official parliamentary events.
  • The anthem, based on Beethoven's 'Ode to Joy', is to be performed at the opening ceremony following each European election and at formal sittings.
  • The EU motto, 'United in diversity', will be reproduced on all Parliament's official documents.
  • The celebration of Europe Day on 9 May is recognised in Parliament's rules of procedure.

A number of MEPs expressed disapproval of the symbolic move given the "sensitivity" of the current impasse in Ireland after the Lisbon Treaty defeat. Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott, a well-known opponent of the Lisbon Treaty, said it "was not the right moment" for the Parliament to send out such a message. source

My comment:I love it! I sincerely love it. Not a great surprise given the name of the site, but I still needed to say it. I love European symbols and I don't think they are a sign of European nation-we can never be a true single nation-we're too different. But for me, those are symbols of peace, understanding and tolerance. They are symbols of the better future that lies ahead.

Barroso embraces new UK commissioner

6 October 2008

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso welcomed the arrival of Baroness Ashton, who was nominated on Friday (3 October) to replace Peter Mandelson at the trade portfolio.

Mandelson's resignation to join the UK government as business secretary came as a big surprise in Brussels on Friday (3 October).

And his replacement by Baroness Ashton of Upholland, who up till now had been the Labour party's chief in the UK House of Lords, was welcomed by President Barroso.

However, her time as EU trade commissioner may not last for long, as the current team's mandate will end in October 2009.

Ashton will now have to face questions from members of the European Parliament in a traditional hearing before she can assume her new role.

In a statement, Barroso said he was "very satisfied with the profile of the commissioner," noting that "she was responsible for the successful passage of the Lisbon Treaty in the House of Lords".

"She has very solid economic experience," said Barroso's spokesperson, Johannes Laitenberger, at the Commission's standard press briefing on Friday. "She has very solid legal experience, and she has dealt with aspects of trade issues before."

In fact, Ashton's work experience has more to do with labour and education issues than trade. "She was previously Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Skills, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Constitutional Affairs and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, where her responsibilities included the trade implications of legal professions," noted the Commission in a statement.

Mandelson's tenure as trade commissioner was marked by the collapse of the so-called Doha Round of global trade talks, which was supposed to offer new market opportunities to developing countries.

And not all in Brussels were disappointed to see him leave. "Commissioner Mandelson, unfortunately, failed to ensure that the EU put development ahead of self-interest in its trade relations with its former colonies," said Luis Morago, the head of Oxfam's Brussels office, in a statement. source

My comment:Good luck to the lady! I can only be happy when I see people loyal to the EU entering the Commission. Because very often, it looks like there are only people committed to the business. Their own business :(

New website reveals EU funding beneficiaries

3 October 2008

The European Commission yesterday (2 October) launched a website making details of the beneficiaries of EU funding publicly available for the first time.

The 'Financial Transparency System' search engineexternal - part of the wider transparency initiative launched by Administration and Anti-Fraud Commissioner Siim Kallas in 2005 - gives "free access to details of who receives EU funds managed directly by the Commission" and the executive agencies it sets up to manage EU programmes.

"Very few public administrations […] open their books in the way we are now doing," said the EU commissioner responsible for budgetary issues, Dalia Grybauskaitė. The website provides "complete, reliable, comparable and user-friendly access to financial records on grants, contracts and other forms of EU support," Grybauskaitė continued.

The Commission and its executive agencies give around €10 billion of financial support to EU-funded programmes every year. Beginning with the 2007 financial year, the new website details some 28,000 beneficiaries of EU research, education and culture, energy and transport programmes, among others. It will list this year's beneficiaries in 2009.

The search engine "allows users to analyse and compare information on beneficiaries and policy areas more easily," stated the EU executive. Data is organised according to criteria like the country of the beneficiary, the Commission department which awarded the funding and the amount of money concerned.

Commissioner Kallas said "we have always claimed that EU programmes benefit individuals, companies and civil society across and beyond the 27 member states". But the new website would prove this, enabling "any EU citizen to check what and when they want," providing "a very effective form of accountability," he added.

Earlier this year, a communication from the EU executive sought to establish common rules defining the role of regulatory agencies to boost "their transparency and effectiveness" (EurActiv 12/03/08).

The website will be enhanced to give details of the Commission’s procurement contracts for day-to-day administrative issues in 2010.

Meanwhile, a separate portal went online on 30 September, giving details of payments to member states from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. Governments must make details of all other agricultural payments available by 30 April 2009. source

My comment:Nice! I like this kind of sites, since they are so useful for checking people and companies. Really really nice :)

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