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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Science in Europe, GM fiasco again, 2009

Xmas is over, back to work :)
Today:
  1. Nanotech at risk of repeating 'GM food fiasco'
  2. Commission to name 'chief scientific advisor'
  3. EU to offer 'incentives' for alternative antibiotic research
  4. EU to review nanomaterials policies
Shorties:
  • Europe to triple funding for energy research
  • Business group wants tax breaks for innovative start-ups
  • Experts slam EU's 'fractured' research policy
Quote of the day:This is the whole problem of GM in Europe and in world, that only corporation make a risk assessment, usually with only their interests in mind. And while the society is led by pseudo-scientists, it's always confused and the decisions are made by lobbyists.Does this seem to be right? I don't think so!

Nanotech at risk of repeating 'GM food fiasco'

29 September 2009

Decision-making on nanotechnology maust become more democratic or Europe risks repeating "mistakes" made in managing genetically modified foods, according to a new report on science policy.

Experts warn that current methods of involving the public are "marked by mixed motives and confused practices," and call for a radical shake-up of how Europe engages the public.

Scientists and politicians often cite the public debate on genetically-modified foods as a case study of how communication failures can hold up technological progress. Many of the interest groups with concerns about GM foods remain deeply sceptical of nanotechnology.

The 'Deepen ' report, which brings together findings from a three-year European research project involving ethicists, philosophers and the social and political sciences, says regulators and industry need to be more open with the public when crafting governance plans for new technologies.

Codes of conduct on nanotechnology are also important, according to the report, although the public is consistently wary of self-regulation by industry.

Research has found that, just as with genetically-modified foods, most non-scientists accept that a degree of risk is inevitable when introducing new technologies.

However, it warns the public is "concerned about the motivations driving technology," and are suspicious that the risks will be spread across society while the benefits will not be distributed equally.

He said the public is keen to be involved in deliberating on the far-reaching questions science is addressing and that policymakers must find new ways to ensure public views are used to inform science policy.

source

My comment: Ok, what part of the word "scientist" I don't understand? Because I really don't get how "ethicists, philosophers and the social and political sciences" can be called scientists! The whole discussion on GM should be led by real scientists - biologists, ecologists, economists, people who can make real risk assessment! How could a philosopher know what a GM pollution can do to the nature in a region? How could s/he knows what losses will come from eventual escaping of genes in the environment??? This is the whole problem of GM in Europe and in world, that only corporation make a risk assessment, usually with only their interests in mind. And while the society is led by pseudo-scientists, it's always confused and the decisions are made by lobbyists. Does this seem to be right? I don't think so!

Commission to name 'chief scientific advisor'

25 September 2009

Following in the footsteps of Barack Obama in the United States, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso plans to appoint a chief scientific advisor to assist the incoming EU executive in making tough decisions on everything from GMO authorisations to addressing climate change.

The new job, to be created after the new-look EU executive is sworn in, forms part of an ongoing period of major reflection inside the Commission, which is re-organising its directorates in charge of science, research and innovation.

The adviser would have the power "to deliver proactive, scientific advice throughout all stages of policy development and delivery," Barroso explained, reflecting "the central importance" he attaches to research and innovation.

Speaking to EurActiv, a Commission official familiar with the matter said that the size, role, mandate and level of operation of the EU's new chief scientific advisor still needed to be determined. The position could involve a single person, a group of people or a restructuring of existing Commission's directorates-general and commissioners, the source said.

Underpinning this major reflection period are "the consciousness of upcoming major political questions that imply scientific knowledge" and a willingness to take better account of scientific facts in decision-making, the official explained, listing climate change, renewable energies and pandemics as an example.

But while the idea behind the EU chief scientific advisor is to explain the scientific facts on which decisions are taken, the final choice will always be political, the official acknowledged.

Inspiration for Barroso to propose a scientific advisor may have come from the United States. source

My comment: A political job? Oh, thank you, that's exactly the person who can be a scientific adviser. I don't understand why politicians are so afraid of specialists, after all if you need a political opinion, you don't need a special adviser for this! On the contrary, if you want to know what science tells about something, you have to have a person/group, that is able to make the research and present an educated opinion independent from corporative interests - something that scientists and commission usually giving the opinion are unable to do. You have to have a trusted person that is responsible for the independence of the opinion. And you cannot require a politician to be scientifically accurate. Or at least it's harder to do it. And I don't see why a scientific adviser should be related to environment science. How an ecologist can make risk assessment of nanotechnology, which concerns mostly human health? Or how a climate specialist can discuss GMO pollution of the environment? For such job, one needs specialists who should be responsible for their opinion on the long run. Someone to sue if their assessment is wrong. I liked very much something I read - that in USA, if they sign something and it turns our wrong, they will be sued. While in Europe, you can say or do whatever and never to be responsible for it. That's wrong!

EU to offer 'incentives' for alternative antibiotic research

1 October 2009

The European Union is stepping up the fight against hospital bugs amid fears that antibiotic-resistant bacteria could spark a plague of infectious disease which will paralyse healthcare systems.

Later this month (9 October), European health ministers will look at how financial incentives can be used to boost research into new antibiotics.

Governments are concerned that the effectiveness of current antibiotic medicines is on the wane, making the development of new drugs a matter of urgency.

Scientists have been engaged in an arms race against bacteria since the 1960s when the first strain of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) was identified. Bacteria have evolved resistance to traditional antibiotics, forcing doctors to use harsher versions.

Experts are now worried that resistance to even the strongest antibacterials could emerge, forcing the cancellation of operations and the temporary closure of hospitals.

The problem is particularly acute in hospitals and nursing homes, where infections spread quickly between ill patients and can enter the bloodstream during surgery.

Sweden, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, is pushing for tougher rules on the use of existing antibiotics, fearing that misuse will accelerate the development of resistance.

In a strongly-worded draft document, it says access to effective antibiotics is essential to stemming the spread of potentially lethal hospital bugs. Sweden wants EU countries to agree to a wide range of measures designed to keep current antibiotics available for as long as possible.

In addition, health ministers are keen to accelerate the development of alternative antibiotics, recognising the urgent need for new tools in the running battle with resistant hospital bugs.

If Swedish proposals are accepted, governments and the EU executive will have a year to come up with new incentives to attract public and private funding for R&D projects focused on developing new antibiotic medicines. Public-private partnerships will be one of the options on the table, as ministers seek to bring industry and academia together to tackle the problem. source

My comment: This is the second article from this kind I read this week. And I don't believe it more than the previous one. The problem isn't that they lie about antibiotic resistance being a major problem and threat! Not at all. The problem is that the this resistance, at least according to me, isn't due so much to the (mis)use of antibiotics during flus and so on. The real problem is that the meat we eat is full of antibiotics. So even if we don't take any antibiotic, bacteria will still continue to grow resistant to antibiotics - after all, a human can get a limited amount of infections during our highly sterile lives. While the situation is not the same with the millions pigs that are being butchered each year. They grow injected with antibiotics and hormones, fed with GMO food, and of course, bred in questionable conditions. Where is it more likely for a resistant bug to develop?And even if we leave the meat alone, hospitals are the real paradise for infections and resistant bugs to thrive. And people with weak immune systems are the perfect incubators for the bugs. In short, even if they limit the access to antibiotics of people, something I severely oppose (because the access to medicines, shouldn't be connected to the access to doctors), but even if the do what the want, the situation simply won't change. And the action that is required is much more severe than what our dear political leader suggest. We have to rethink our whole food processing industry and hospital care.

EU to review nanomaterials policies

13 October 2009

The EU executive plans to respond positively to the European Parliament's call for a number of EU policies and regulations covering health and environmental safety issues related to nanomaterials to be reviewed.

"The Commission will review all relevant legislation within two years to ensure safety for all applications of nanomaterials in products with potential health, environmental or safety impacts over their life cycle," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas, addressing a nanoregulation conference on 9 October.

"Many different Commission services must contribute in response to the broad range of requests," he added.

The statement represents the first response to MEPs' call for a clear regulatory and policy framework on nanomaterials (EurActiv 28/04/09).

According to sources, the Commission has adopted its response to the Parliament's request, but is yet to officially send it. As on many other EU policy areas, there is internal disagreement on the matter within the EU executive. While its departments for environment and health back stronger legislation and precautions on the matter, the department for enterprise and industry could do with less stringent or specific legislation.

Steffi Friedrichs, managing director of the Nanotechnology Industries Association (NIA), stressed that nanomaterials are fully covered by REACH. Even the information aspects of nanomaterials are already covered by the legislation, as a nanomaterial is distinct from the bulk form of a substance, she added.

Meanwhile, she said she could support a mandatory reporting scheme if a clear science-based definition was developed taking into account the specific characteristics of nanomaterials.

Wolf-Michael Catenhusen, head of Germany's 'NanoKommission' and author of a report on the regulatory aspects of nanotech, recommended adjusting the REACH registration mechanisms to nanomaterials and introducing a legal framework that deals with the specific properties of these tiny materials. This could be done by adding a "nano chapter" to REACH, for example. source

My comment: Covered by REACH, but not really. Do you see any labels of nanomaterials used? And they use them, you can be sure. Especially in cosmetics. And do we know where the little guys go once they happily sink into our skin? No, not really. We know only that they are not immediately dangerous (which is pretty obvious - no industry will kill its customers). But there are a range of wider questions - where those nanomaterials go, do they accumulate, how do they react with other substances (or other nanomaterials). It's not that simple and these issues should be made official.

Shorties:

Europe to triple funding for energy research

6 October 2009

Europe will tomorrow (7 October) launch a campaign to triple funding for energy research to eight billion euros ($11.7 billion) a year in a technology race with Japan and the United States, a draft document shows.

Solar power should get 16 billion euros over the next decade and up to 30 energy-sipping 'Smart Cities' should be built with the backing of around 11 billion euros, added the report by the European Union's executive, the European Commission.

In total, at least 50 billion euros of additional funding is seen over the next 10 years to ensure a wide range of technology emerges to help the EU meet its goal of cutting greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. source

Business group wants tax breaks for innovative start-ups

13 October 2009

Europe's chronic shortage of finance for young innovative companies will cause it to fall further behind global competitors, according to a business lobby group which wants governments to back entrepreneurs through tax incentives.

In a detailed report on boosting innovation in the EU, BusinessEurope calls for the expansion of risk-sharing products offered by the European Investment Bank, which would assuage the reluctance of banks to gamble on new technologies.

An integrated venture-capital market should be established within the EU, according to the report, which goes on to describe the kinds of tax breaks new firms need to bring new inventions to market.

It commends France for its 'Jeune Entreprise Innovante' scheme, which began in 2004 and offers tax exemptions for SMEs that invest more than 15% of their total annual expenditure on R&D. Firms qualifying for the initiative are exempt from all corporation tax and capital gains tax for eight years after their establishment. source

Experts slam EU's 'fractured' research policy

8 October 2009

An expert group established to advise the EU executive has criticised European research policy for being driven by national concerns rather than community spirit.

In its first annual report, the European Research Area Board (ERAB ) warns Europe will fall further behind global competitors if it fails to resolve long-standing difficulties regarding its fragmented research strategy.

"We are concerned by the fractured state of the ERA today. It is still too much driven by inward-looking national priorities, too much centralism and suboptimal institutional and legal frameworks," the report says. source

Monday, December 21, 2009

From Copenhagen to Nopenhagen, Climate, 2009

Today:
  1. Ministers cautious on EU-wide CO2 tax proposal
  2. France, Germany to call for EU border tax on CO2
  3. Climate summit yields no progress on CO2 targets
  4. Court decision threatens to unravel Europe's carbon market
  5. HSBC: World climate business revenue $2 trln by 2020
  6. EU lists industries exempted from carbon trading
Well, sorry for the long time off, but you know. Sometimes we all have to work :)
Quote of the day:: Ok, first - note the Al Gore statement. I really dislike that person, even though I support the greening of the economy (and improving its efficiency), so I'm not very surprised by his words. But I don't understand how he has the face to say them. I mean, what is he praising the Chinese for? For stalling the negotiations, for refusing to give any concrete numbers or measures?Come on!

Ministers cautious on EU-wide CO2 tax proposal

5 October 2009

The European Commission's plans to introduce an EU-wide carbon tax to leverage money for financing a post-Kyoto climate treaty received a positive but cautious welcome from finance ministers last week.

Meeting in Sweden on 1-2 October, the Commission floated the idea of imposing a carbon tax on sectors outside the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS; ) for the first time at ministerial level.

Taxation Commissioner László Kovács indicated that the Commission had been encouraged to propose the legislation next year at the earliest.

"The introduction of a new tax in the European Union has never been easy and particularly it's not easy in the time of a financial and economic crisis," Kovács said. "But it is evident that climate change is an even more disastrous global challenge than the current financial and economic crisis."

The EU ETS only covers around 45% of the EU's greenhouse gas emissions, leaving out major emitting sectors, notably agriculture and transport. The Commission has been drafting a proposal to review the current Energy Taxation Directive in order to address these and small industrial installations excluded from carbon trading (EurActiv 29/09/09).

As taxation is the sole competency of the member states, any EU proposal will require unanimity in the 27-state Council of the European Union. The taxation commissioner stressed that the EU executive is under no illusions that it will be possible to get a deal before the UN climate conference in Copenhagen.

Nevertheless, the EU hopes to use the possible adoption of the new market instrument to leverage greater commitments from other countries in the negotiations, which have stalled on funding in particular.

source

My comment: Ok, cutting the crap, I must say that I support entirely this initiative. We all saw what happened in Copenhagen - absolutely nothing! Then, taxes are all that is left to achieve our goal. And not the taxes that Sarkozy imposed to french people - the carbon tax which is absolute nonsense, but the taxes for the real polluters, the guys that are pushing and pushing to break any international deal on global warming. Why this is the best way to succeed?Well, simply because when producers are united, it's hard to do anything. But import tax will create a drift between local producers and "outsiders" and even more - if we start taxing products from countries with worst standards than our own (which I hope is the idea of the exercise), then companies will be discouraged to change the location of their productions. And the local companies will be indirectly subsidized. And the local company is under the control of local government and thus local population. If it pollutes homeland, it will have problems. Everyone will be happy and we finally have the chance to change something.

France, Germany to call for EU border tax on CO2

18 September 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the two countries will table a proposal "in the coming days" to correct possible trade and competitiveness distortions created by a future international climate change agreement in Copenhagen later this year.

According to the French president, the idea of a carbon adjustment tax is making inroads among European leaders as international negotiations at UN level fail to pick up pace.

Sarkozy said the idea was now "progressing" among EU leaders "because it is more and more understood, not as a protectionist measure," but as a way to "rebalance the conditions of free-trade and competition".

"Otherwise, it is a massive aid to relocations. We cannot tax European companies and exempt others," Sarkozy insisted.

The final statement of the EU summit yesterday put the pressure on emerging economies to raise their financial contributions to fighting climate change in the developing world. "All countries, except the least developed, should contribute," the statement said.

The European Commission estimates that total funding to help developing nations switch to low-carbon energies and adapt to the expected increases in floods and storms due to global warming "could amount to about EUR 100 billion annually by 2020".

source

My comment: Precisely. I just don't get one thing. Most of the developing countries are hardly polluters on their own - most of them pollute only because big "western" corporations relocate their productions to a place that the pollution cannot be seen. So where exactly are those subsidies supposed to go? To the developing nations or to the companies who choose to stay there. Because it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, to pay to producers who don't want to meet the standards, just because they are located in developing nations. If it is local producer - I agree. It's fair to help locals. But to subsidize international companies simply don't make sense. Especially if they do not invest those money into clean technologies.

Climate summit yields no progress on CO2 targets

23 September 2009

Despite hopes that China would unveil targets to cut greenhouse gas emissions and break the deadlock in global climate talks, President Hu Jintao told a United Nations summit that Beijing will put a "notable" brake on the country's soaring carbon emissions.

The leader of the world's biggest emitter promised that China would cut "carbon intensity," or the amount of carbon dioxide produced for each dollar of economic output, over the decade to 2020.

A follow-up treaty to the Kyoto Protocol is supposed to be finalised at talks starting on 7 December in Copenhagen, but diplomats have made almost no progress towards an agreement - a point stressed repeatedly by world leaders gathering in New York yesterday (22 September).

His pledge was perceived as going in the right direction as China had previously rejected rich nations' demands for measurable curbs on its emissions, arguing that economic development must come first while millions of its citizens still live in abject poverty. However, the promise disappointed those who had expected China to unveil sound targets.

Nobel laureate and former US Vice-President Al Gore praised China for "impressive leadership" and said Hu's goals pointed to more action.

Backed by India and other developing nations, China argues that rich nations emit more per person and enjoyed emissions-intensive industrialisation themselves, so they have no right to demand that others behave differently: unless they are willing to pay for it.

In a summary of Tuesday's talks among world leaders, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that there was convergence on five key issues, including enhanced measures to help the most vulnerable and poorest adapt to the impact of climate change as well as setting emission reduction targets for industrialised countries.

Addressing the summit, UN General Assembly President Ali Treki, a veteran Libyan diplomat, said poor countries, which are least responsible for the problem of climate change, often suffered first and foremost from its impact.

source

My comment: Ok, first - note the Al Gore statement. I really dislike that person, even though I support the greening of the economy (and improving its efficiency), so I'm not very surprised by his words. But I don't understand how he has the face to say them. I mean, what is he praising the Chinese for? For stalling the negotiations, for refusing to give any concrete numbers or measures? Come on! And yeah, on the article - I agree with China that they have the right to emit, but we have the right to make them pay for it. Because when we polluted, we didn't know what we're doing. On the contrary, not it is very clear that pollution is bad. We didn't have the technologies (or made sure we won't have them), but now, there are such technologies that won't stop the progress while ensuring efficiency and decrease of emissions. So, I don't think they have a reason not to use them, behind simply stubbornness and of course, money.

Court decision threatens to unravel Europe's carbon market

23 September 2009

Estonia and Poland have scored deeply significant wins in their battle with the EU over carbon quotas. In a decision that threatens to scupper Europe's cap and trade scheme, the Court of First Instance annulled the European Commission's decision to lower the carbon emission quotas of both countries.

The court said setting carbon limits is a matter for member states rather than the EU. The ruling could force the European Commission to review its quotas and undermine the fledgling carbon market.

Estonia and Poland have been fighting for more generous national caps on industrial carbon emissions, arguing that their industry would be hamstrung under the EU scheme.

A Commission spokesperson said the EU executive would consider appealing the decision, which was described as "extremely disappointing". An appeal process could take more than a year.

Under the scheme countries get a certain allowance of carbon emissions rights which they apply to industry, such as power plants and steel mills.

"The Commission exceeded its powers" by imposing a ceiling on carbon emissions, said the EU Court of First Instance, Europe's second highest court, in its statement.

Poland, Estonia and other East European countries argued that the Commission had unfairly trimmed their quotas, or national allocation plans (NAPs), under the second trading phase of the scheme from 2008-12.

The news sparked concern among EU carbon market participants that the ruling, if upheld, could cause an unravelling of the market, which depends on a tight cap on emissions.

If their cap is raised, as Poland and Estonia want, the price of EU allowances (EUAs) could tumble. In addition, several more countries have objected to their quotas, including Czech, Hungary, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania.

source

My comment: Ok, first I think such decisions should be made on a fixed formula including the population and the GDP. That's all. Only this could guarantee fairness of the process. And yeah, there probably should be some extra allowances for countries with bad economy, but that's all. Because if the allowances are based on "needs", what's the point. If industries don't invest into clean technologies, there always will be the need of more allowances, which if the EC allow, then the whole idea becomes pointless. So, I hope there will be some sense and people will realise what's going on. After all, when a country enters the EU it not only gets the rights but also the obligations. And if you don't like something, then you have to face all of the countries and tell them your pain and to decide together what to do. Everything else is wrong.

HSBC: World climate business revenue $2 trln by 2020

21 September 2009

Global revenues from climate-related businesses such as energy efficiency rose by 75% in 2008 to $530 billion and could exceed $2 trillion by 2020, HSBC Global Research estimated on Friday (18 September).

In the 2006 Stern Review on the economics of climate change, climate-related revenues were forecast to climb to $500 billion by 2050.

The climate sector has surpassed the size of the global aerospace or defence industry, with the United States, Japan, France, Germany and Spain accounting for 76% of global climate revenues, the report found.

For revenues to rise to $2 trillion, the way energy is generated and used needs to change and continued government support is needed.

The four core investment pillars will be low-carbon energy production, energy efficiency, control of water, waste and pollution and climate finance, the report said.

Energy efficiency recorded the highest investment returns in the year to date at 30%, followed by carbon finance at 24%. source

My comment: I'm not sure if this is good news, because numbers like these feed the anger of climate skeptics, but after all, before the same numbers came from petrol-based industries or war-industries and so on. It's just the natural evolution of economy - the winners cannot stay the same forever. If or when they do, it's quite depressing.

EU lists industries exempted from carbon trading

21 September 2009

Experts from the 27-member bloc agreed on a list of industries ranging from plastics manufacturing to iron and food processing that will be largely exempted from CO2 trading after 2013 for fears that their inclusion would move production abroad.

National experts agreed on a list of 164 sectors deemed to be at risk of relocating their activities to foreign countries that have not adopted greenhouse gas emission restrictions similar to the EU's. The threat is dubbed "carbon leakage" because industries and their related polluting emissions would simply move abroad without any benefit for the environment.

The list, covering the most carbon-intensive industries such as steel, cement and chemicals, represents 77% of the total manufacturing emissions under the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS). These will continue to get a higher share of their emission allowances (EUAs) for free after the EU ETS has been revamped in 2013, after which date the power sector in the EU-15 will be obliged to pay for all its permits.

The Commission's calculations are based on two criteria: the intensity of trade with third countries and the increase in production costs as a result of complying with the directive. This approach qualified a range of industries for permit exemptions, ranging from plastics and iron to food processing and weapons manufacturing.

Observers say member states have been pushing heavily to protect industries vital to their national economies, with environmentalists in particular attacking the Commission for tailoring the criteria to suit the interests of national capitals.

The list will apply for five years until 2014, but the EU executive says new sectors could be added in the meantime. source

My comment: Idiots, what more can I say. But then, without an import tax/duty, there isn't another way to stop the industries from relocating. Or at least part of them - not for everyone will be cost effective to go to China.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Carbon nonsense, 2009

Today:
  1. IEA calls for massive investments in carbon capture
  2. Brussels to propose mandatory EU energy savings goal
  3. UN climate talks: China envoy slams rich countries
  4. EU promotes smart metering in fight against global warming
  5. Parliament set to strip CO2 caps from EU air pollution law
Shorties:
  • EU lines up multi-million carbon capture projects
  • Health 'forgotten' in climate talks
Quote of the day:And if it's not working, then there isn't much sense into investing billions in it. If we have to finance any doable technology, let's finance space exploration or interstellar travel - imagine all those resources that float in space and we badly need them. But no, they prefer to finance CCS. And also note, this technology will benefit mostly the private sector. Then why the hell the government is financing it?!

IEA calls for massive investments in carbon capture

14 October 2009

The world will need to set up 100 CO2 capture and underground storage projects by 2020 to ensure that the fight against climate change remains affordable, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said yesterday (13 October).

The agency's roadmap says that between $2.5 and $3 trillion of additional investment will be needed worldwide within the next four decades to launch the technology commercially. This would require building 100 demonstration projects by 2020 and over 3,000 by 2050, it said.

The agency notes that the challenge will be to integrate those individual stages of carbon capture and storage (CCS) that have already proved technically viable and to scale them up. At present, only five fully integrated, commercial-scale CCS projects are operational, in Norway, Algeria and North America.

The effort must be led by the developed world, with OECD governments increasing funding for demonstration projects from $3.5 to $4 billion annually over the next decade, according to the report. It nevertheless points out that there is a pressing need for rapid development in coal-intensive developing countries.

The IEA therefore calls on developed countries to make available $1.5-2.5 billion to fund CCS demonstration in developing countries. It stresses that the short timeframe and the massive scale of investment required make wide international collaboration indispensable.

The report was presented at a ministerial meeting of the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum (CSLF) in London. The forum brought together energy and environment ministers to discuss ways to accelerate the commercialisation of CCS.

In a statement, the 15 ministers called on negotiators at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen this December to "recognise the importance of CCS in mitigating climate change and in achieving the Convention's ultimate objective of stabilisation of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system".

They argued that the technology should be recognised in any mitigation strategies and technology incentives that might emerge from an agreement in Copenhagen.

The US is earmarking over $4 billion for CO2 capture, a figure which is to be matched by $7 billion from the industry.

The EU is planning up to 12 demonstrations on its territory by 2015. The first six projects to receive EU funding are currently being debated by member states. source

My comment: I'm sorry, what exactly "(CCS) that have already proved technically viable" means? Because I don't know of CCS that is working. And if it's not working, then there isn't much sense into investing billions in it. If we have to finance any doable technology, let's finance space exploration or interstellar travel - imagine all those resources that float in space and we badly need them. But no, they prefer to finance CCS. And also note, this technology will benefit mostly the private sector. Then why the hell the government is financing it?! I'm so angry about all those money which will flow into some unknown (or even known) CCS company instead of real scientists that can really make a change to our society and our life. True, CCS will be useful, but it will keep the statuesque instead of changing our life for real. Imagine if we could invest all those money into clean technologies, like solar panels or wind generator, or even in better things that will come out later, what a difference this could make to our life. But no, almost free electricity is no good for anyone, right?

Brussels to propose mandatory EU energy savings goal

13 October 2009

The European Commission plans to impose binding energy-efficiency targets on EU member states, according to a draft of the EU's revised Energy Efficiency Action Plan obtained by EurActiv.

Entitled '7 Measures for 2 Million New EU Jobs', the draft seeks to simplify the 2006 Action Plan for Energy Efficiency by concentrating on a few effective measures.

It acknowledges that the EU is set to fall short of its 2020 target to slash energy consumption by 20%, instead achieving only 11% by the deadline.

The most controversial initiative in the draft is a plan to introduce mandatory energy-saving obligations on member states "in line" with the EU's aspirational goal of using 20% less energy in 2020. The paper suggests that the targets could be either sector-specific, potentially limited to buildings, or cover all aspects of the economy.

However, the Commission stops short of specifying whether the EU should set an absolute cap on each member state's emissions by 2020 or whether the savings would be in relation to their projected energy consumption. The final shape of the plan will emerge after an impact assessment has explored these options, as well as the likely need for burden-sharing measures between member states.

The second measure in the draft targets buildings as the highest priority. The sector represents 40% of Europe's energy consumption, but so far little has been done to harness the immense savings potential.

The Commission proposes to refurbish 15 million buildings by 2020. Insulating the millions of existing buildings and fitting them with double-glazing and appliances using less energy would save Europe 66 million tonnes of CO2, while creating 300,000 direct and 1.1 million indirect jobs each year, it says.

The draft does not earmark any money for the project, only referring to support from the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). It states that funding would have to be found from the EU's next Financial Perspectives, and unused money from the economic recovery fund could be used for the start-up phase before 2013.

Moreover, the Commission invites member states to set up a National Energy Efficiency Fund and use revenues from emissions trading to improve the efficiency of their buildings. source

My comment: Oh, yeah, this is the sad true. The EU is big on words but very little on actions. I like the idea of insulating buildings especially if it's for free, but we all know it's not for free and even more - it is quite expensive endeavor. At least in Bulgaria it is. And what's even more, I don't get why the decent citizens have to pay for the emissions of big companies?! Because let's face it - Europe is unable to fulfill its duties, because of the lack of political will! It's not citizens who should pay for that with improving efficiency but the big polluters - steal industry, power plants and so on. I'm not saying that buildings shouldn't be insulated, I totally agree with that step. The point is that this should be either payed entirely by the governments (though that again means our money) or by the private sector. I don't care. But it's not fair to make people pay because our governments are not willing to make the big guys pay!

UN climate talks: China envoy slams rich countries

7 October 2009

China hit out at rich nations at international climate talks in Bangkok yesterday (6 October), saying failure to honour past climate commitments was undermining UN-led efforts to try to seal a broader pact in December to fight global warming.

Yu said Annex 1, or rich, nations seemed to be shifting their positions to meet the stance of the United States. Washington wants any steps to cut emissions to be effective under domestic law but has been ambiguous on whether any new climate pact from 2013 should be internationally binding.

The United States never ratified Kyoto, which binds 37 industrialised nations to emissions targets during its first commitment period from 2008 to 2012.

The shape of a post-2012 climate agreement is a key focus for delegates from about 180 nations meeting in Bangkok. Officials are trying to bridge differences over a draft negotiating text that will allow all countries to deepen efforts to slow the pace of climate change.

Key to that issue is rich nations toughening their commitments to cut emissions from 2013.

Developing nations, including China, say rich countries are historically responsible for most of mankind's greenhouse gas pollution in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution and that they have the right to expand their economies to help fight poverty.

Many developing nations want industrialised countries to cut emissions by at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2020. Current pledges are far below that.

Yu said China was disappointed rich nations were trying to dishonour what was agreed in major climate talks in Bali in 2007.

Those talks set a two-year deadline to agree on a new climate framework and formalised two negotiating tracks. One of those tracks would focus on emissions reduction commitments during a second commitment period from 2013.

The Bali talks also crafted a clause just for the United States that recognised all industrialised countries had to take action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and that these efforts should be comparable.

Yu said the US commitments should be comparable to the European Union, Canada and other rich nations. source

My comment: Ok, I won't comment this too much. I also think that all countries should have comparable commitments, but as we see, no country is willing to make any commitment, with the EU proudly on the top of the non-willing. So this whole article is nonsense. People need to understand that emissions should be limited trough cleaner technologies and improving efficiency and even more. But we have to be willing to do it. Notice something that some people don't comment - the very existence of Kyoto means that nations knew about the climate change and at some point, they were committed to limit emissions because they were convinced it's necessary. I don't believe that has changed, at least not with the current state of the warming! Then what's their problem, the technologies are better, the society is much more likely to accept the changes that such emissions require, then why everyone is hiding and avoiding a decision! This is weird and wrong.

EU promotes smart metering in fight against global warming

12 October 2009

The European Commission is calling on member states to support the rollout of technologies to boost energy efficiency, estimating that household energy bills would drop by 10% thanks to smart metering devices. However, no common standards for the devices are currently available.

Brussels adopted on Friday (9 October) a long-awaited set recommendations intended to increase the use of intelligent technologies in the fight against climate change.

At the same time, the EU executive is encouraging the industry to commit to ambitious targets for reducing the carbon emissions of the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector.

Member states are invited to adopt common standards for smart metering systems by 2010 in order to facilitate their deployment across Europe. By the end of 2012, a timeframe should be agreed for the rollout of smart devices in households and offices.

Easy-to-use and pervasive metering devices embedded in specific home electronic equipment - such as televisions, washing machines and computers – or applied to the overall energy consumption of a household are believed to play a crucial role in increasing awareness among citizens and reducing energy consumption, with beneficial effects on climate change.

source

My comment: I'm so waiting for the new smart metering. I mean this will be a blessing for the people who use electricity for heating. If we talk about normal homes with central heating, smart metering will be useful, but not so important. But for people that use electricity for heating, this is essential! And I can't believe those devices are not on the market yet. And they still make only recommendations.

Parliament set to strip CO2 caps from EU air pollution law

9 October 2009
European legislators have sounded the alarm against controlling CO2 emissions in a revised directive on industrial air emissions, fearing that it would doom the draft law to certain failure.

German MEP Holger Krahmer (ALDE), who is steering the revision of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive through the European Parliament, told electricity industry representatives yesterday (8 October) in Brussels that he would not bow to the demands of environmentalists who want to add CO2 performance standards to the new directive.

The revised directive, combining seven existing EU air pollution laws, will require some 52,000 industrial installations to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil and water. The law sets limit values for pollutants that cause acid rain, but it does not touch CO2, which is regulated via the EU's emissions trading scheme (EU ETS; see EurActiv).

But green groups, unconvinced of the cap-and-trade system's capacity to curb carbon dioxide emissions, have been upping the pressure on the EU institutions to control these within the industrial pollution directive (EurActiv 26/08/09).

"I hear loud and clear demands for CO2 standards," Krahmer said. He encouraged electricity operators to lobby against the proposal as it would undermine the workings of the EU ETS.

More generally, electricity operators warned that the new legislation would cause security of supply problems. The industry is concerned that requiring large combustion plants to comply with stricter pollution standards would make investments in efficiency too expensive and force some plants to shut down prematurely.

But Wenning pointed out that the Commission's impact analysis had revealed the draft's overall benefit to society, including to health and the environment. She noted that a negligible 0.03 eurocent increase in electricity prices was not enough to substantiate the industry's claims.

But electricity operators argued that the EU does not as yet have a common electricity market, meaning that the picture is different for each member state. As a consequence, some of them could encounter large costs, Eurelectric warned.

Drawing up their first-reading position in June, the 27-member states in the EU Council of Ministers called for greater flexibility, inserting a transition period for existing plants to phase in lower NOx SO2 and dust limits by the end of 2020 (EurActiv 26/06/09). source
My comment: Lies, lies, lies. Should I comment? Not at all. After all, had local government imposed the new ecology requirements, it wouldn't matter what the sector thinks, this would be the law! But not if it comes from the EU.

Shorties:

EU lines up multi-million carbon capture projects

7 October 2009

The European Commission last week proposed six carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects that are to receive a total of €1.05 billion to help commercialise the low-carbon technology.

The selected demonstration projects will receive EU funding for developing the technology used to trap CO2 emissions from power plants and industrial installations burning fossil fuels. The list was presented to member state experts last Thursday (1 October).

The Hatfield power plant in the north of England, Vattenfall's Jaenschwalde plant in Germany, Endesa's Compostilla plant in Spain, the Maasvlakte plant in the Netherlands and Belchatow in Poland would receive up to €180 million each, according to reports. In addition, Porto Tolle in Italy is lined up to receive €100 million.

A French CO2 transport project was dropped from the list as it did not meet all the requirements, sources told EurActiv.

Member states have two weeks to reject the proposal before it moves on to the European Parliament.

In addition to the recovery funds, the EU is funding the fledging technology from the 'new entrants reserve' of its emissions Ttading scheme . But the industry says that the emerging principles on how to distribute the 300 million carbon allowances set aside for CCS and innovative renewable projects do not make full use of the money.

source

Health 'forgotten' in climate talks

7 October 2009

Doctors and environmentalists believe the impact of climate change on public health has been largely ignored by policymakers as global leaders step up talks ahead of December's Copenhagen summit.

Health NGOs in Brussels are pushing for greater attention to be paid to the increase in infectious diseases and chronic illnesses that accompany changes to the climate, with campaigners fearful that world's poorest populations will be worst hit. source

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

On the day after - the new Commission and more, 2009

Today:
  1. New EU treaty enters into force, sparking reform
  2. Barroso unveils new EU Commission line-up
  3. Portfolio attributions puzzle Eastern EU countries
  4. First, the new rights of the national parliaments!
  5. France to keep EU farm chief under close watch

This is a post I meant to publish right after the post on the Lisbon Treaty, but as you may have guessed I'm quite busy these days and I hardly find time for anything. Or something like this. Anyway, now that I have at least 3 processors calculating for me, I feel more free to blog :)

To the person who kindly left me a comment that I'm idiot - maybe I am, maybe I'm not. But in any case I have the right to write in my blog and you have the right to read it or to leave. So, please skip the negative comments, I wouldn't approve a comment from 3 words one of which offensive.  If you disagree with me and want to discuss it - leave an argumented comment and I will reply. 

Now on to the Lisbon Treaty and the new Council. This post aims to inform you on the new things the Lisbon Treaty offers to Europe and also the new Commission that Barroso had the bad idea to make. Enjoy:

"Most notably, they (the national parliaments) will have the right to raise objections to European Commission proposals via the so-called 'yellow and orange card' procedure: 

  • If one third of national parliaments agree that an EU legislative proposal breaches the subsidiarity principle, the EU executive is then obliged to reconsider it. This is known as the 'yellow card'.
  • If the Commission maintains its proposal but a simple majority of national parliaments continue to object, the Commission refers the objection to the Council and Parliament, who will then decide upon the matter. This is known as the 'orange card'.

However, national parliaments cannot ultimately veto a new proposal, merely express their disapproval. 

The Lisbon Treaty also:

  • Gives national parliaments an enhanced right to information.
  • Gives national parliaments new powers to scrutinise policy in the areas of freedom, justice and security, with powers for one or more national parliaments to veto proposals.
  • Increases the time allowed for national parliaments to scrutinise draft law from six to eight weeks. If a parliament objects within that timeframe, it is then invited to send "a reasoned opinion stating why it considers that the draft in question does not comply with the principle of subsidiarity".
  • Includes a new clause describing all the formal functions of national parliaments in relation to EU affairs. "
How the EU Commission wants to draw national parliaments into EU legislation, see in the source site. source
My comment: These new rights are clearly a good thing for national parliaments, I just wonder how they will make the most out of it. Because we know parliaments and how the function. It's all about making noise and simulating work. They could put the EC in trouble, but then, we chose our parliaments, unlike the EC, so it's our obligation to chose intelligently. (Subsidiarity is an organizing principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority- the idea that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate or local level (wikipedia). Meaning that the parliament has the power to question the actions of the EC if they think this threaten the power of local authorities)

New EU treaty enters into force, sparking reform

1 December 2009

The European Union's Lisbon Treaty comes into force today (1 December), bringing to life the bloc's plans to overhaul its institutions and gain a greater role on the world stage.

Much depends on how the EU's new leaders define their jobs in the coming years and the willingness of member governments to put European needs above narrow national interests.

"The treaty will strengthen the EU at a time when it needs strengthening and at a time when the Europeans are increasingly perceived as has-beens on the world stage," said Hugo Brady of the Centre for European Reform think-tank in London.

Daniel Gros, an analyst at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies think-tank, said there would be many good organisational changes under the treaty but the bloc would not carry more weight in international diplomacy overnight. 

The treaty creates the post of president of the Council of EU leaders for a renewable 2.5-year term. EU heads of state and government have chosen Belgian Prime Minister Herman Van Rompuy for the role, which he will take up on 1 January 2010.

The EU's high representative for foreign affairs gains new powers and will head a new EU foreign service. EU leaders have selected Briton Catherine Ashton for the role. The high representative answers to EU governments but is also a vice-president of the European Commission and manages the EU executive's external aid budget.

The Eurogroup of finance ministers from countries that use the euro currency is formalised for the first time and must elect a chairman for a renewable 2.5-year term.

The European Court of Justice will be given more power by being allowed to rule on whether national legislation on justice and home affairs is compatible with EU laws, except for Britain and Ireland, which secured opt-outs.

The European Commission, the EU's executive, will have fewer members from 2014. Each of the EU's 27 nations now appoints a commissioner but the size will be capped at two thirds of the number of member states.

The number of seats in the European Parliament will be increased to 751 from 736. 

EU decision-making will continue to be based on weighted voting as agreed in the 2000 Nice Treaty until 2014.  After that, voting will be based on a "double majority" system requiring 55% of member states representing 65% of the EU population to pass a decision. 

From 2014 to 2017 any country can ask to revert to the old rules in any vote. States just short of a blocking minority may invoke a mechanism to delay EU decisions for several months.

The treaty allows decision-making in more policy areas by majority voting, notably in justice and home affairs. Foreign and defence policy, tax matters and EU budget and revenue decisions will continue to require unanimity.

Britain and Ireland won the right to opt out of closer police and justice cooperation, but not to stop other member states moving ahead without them.

National parliaments will be given a say in drafting EU laws. They will review draft proposals, and if a third of them reject one, the European Commission will have to change it.

The treaty gives binding force to an existing Charter of Fundamental Rights in all member states, except Britain and Poland, which won opt-outs.

The new provision will require EU institutions to respect citizens' civil, political economic or social rights.

A new right of Citizens' Initiative will enable groups who can muster one million signatures to call upon the European Commission to put forward new policy proposals, thus creating citizens' participation in EU decision-making.

National parliaments  gain an increased role in EU decision-making, with the treaty giving them eight weeks in which to argue their case if they feel a draft law oversteps European Union authority.

The treaty has important provisions in a number of new policy areas, reinforcing the EU's ability to fight international cross-border crime, illegal immigration, and trafficking of women, children, drugs and arms.

The treaty introduces as objectives a common energy policy and fighting climate change. Strengthening the EU's role on climate change will mean that Europe continues to take the lead in combating global warming. 

Member states have a NATO-style mutual defence clause under which EU countries react jointly to any attack or natural disaster.

Last but not least, the treaty introduces a formal possibility for a country to leave the EU under negotiated terms. source

My comment: Ok, one thing isn't clear to me. Everything sounds great, but didn't Ireland win the EC to stay at its current volume? I thought it did. Because it's strange to decrease the EC to 18 Commissioners but Ireland always to have 1. I think something is wrong here, but I'm not sure what. Maybe they mean that this is according to the Lisbon Treaty and not according to the additions to it. Or maybe I'm wrong and we're all fucked. I find it fair that each country will have a portfolio for which to be in charge. Because otherwise, I don't see how small Bulgaria will have a professional in the EC. And the same goes for all the other small countries.

But anyway, as you can see there are many good things that will come with this Treaty. However, it's up to decide to what extent the new EU will serve us.  

Barroso unveils new EU Commission line-up

27 November 2009

European Commission President José Manuel Barroso unveiled the EU executive's new line-up on Friday (27 November), handing Finn Olli Rehn the key economic policy portfolio and giving Frenchman Michel Barnier a controversial role in overseeing regulation of the financial sector.

The 27-person team , which represents almost 500 million people, is likely to take office early next year. It will serve for five years, but first needs the European Parliament's approval.

The nomination of the Commission, a powerful regulatory body, follows the naming of a new EU president and foreign policy chief as well as ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, intended to make EU decision-making smoother (EurActiv 20/11/09).

Almunia, a 61-year-old socialist, gained a reputation for independence and fiscal prudence as economic and monetary affairs commissioner. Rehn, 46, oversaw the accession of Romania and Bulgaria as EU enlargement commissioner.

"Both men are [among] Commission President Barroso's top lieutenants and they are seen as safe pairs of hands," an EU diplomat said.

"In making these appointments, Barroso keeps tight control on two top jobs and keeps Paris, Berlin and London's hands off them."

Europe's economy has started to recover after the global crisis. The EU faces a decision on when to stop emergency financial measures that were used to prop up the economy, and needs to tackle soaring budget deficits.

As competition commissioner, taking over from Neelie Kroes of the Netherlands, Almunia will be asked to enforce strict rules on state aid, prevent protectionism and uphold the EU's single market.

The appointments in full:

  • José Manuel Barroso (Portugal): President
  • Joaquin Almunia (Spain): Competition
  • Catherine Ashton (UK): Foreign Affairs High Representative
  • Michel Barnier (France): Internal Market and Services
  • Olli Rehn (Finland): Economic and Monetary Affairs
  • Dacian Ciolos (Romania): Agriculture
  • John Dalli (Malta): Health and Consumer Policy
  • Karel De Gucht (Belgium): Trade
  • Stefan Füle (Czech Republic): Enlargement
  • Connie Hedegaard (Denmark): Climate Action
  • Maire Geoghegan-Quinn (Ireland): Research and Innovation
  • Janusz Lewandowski (Poland): Budget/Financial Programming
  • Guenther Oettinger (Germany): Energy
  • Janez Potocnik (Slovenia): Environment
  • Neelie Kroes (Netherlands): Digital Agenda
  • László Andor (Hungary): Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion
  • Maria Damanaki (Greece): Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
  • Johannes Hahn (Austria): Regional Policy
  • Rumiana Jeleva (Bulgaria): International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response
  • Siim Kallas (Estonia): Transport
  • Cecilia Malmström (Sweden): Home Affairs
  • Andris Piebalgs (Latvia): Development
  • Viviane Reding (Luxembourg): Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship
  • Algirdas Šemeta (Lithuania): Taxation and Customs Union
  • Antonio Tajani (Italy): Industry and Entrepreneurship
  • Androulla Vassiliou (Cyprus): Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
  • Maros Sefcovic (Slovakia): Interinstitutional Relations and Administration
source
My comment: "Health and Consumer Policy"?!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What the FUCK! Ok, sorry to be so explicit, but in the last Commission, the Consumer Policy or whatever it was called then made a major break down on the common European marker by protecting the consumers in number a way, so that they feel safe in cross-border shopping.What exactly do Health and Consumers have in common?! I see this as a way to undermine the good direction in which this portfolio was going under Meglena Kuneva and to turn it into well nothing. And this goes for all the positions. The Romanian candidate who has to be in charge for agriculture is married to a French woman! How is this for independence?! I'm sorry, I like Barroso, but for me, this isn't a Commission who has to make the EU stronger, but something that just have to pass trough the EP. And that's a shame. And I'm not even commenting on Bulgarian position. 

Portfolio attributions puzzle Eastern EU countries

1 December 2009

Public opinion and politicians alike are questioning the weight and importance of the portfolios attributed to their national commissioners, a roundup by EurActiv's network in Eastern Europe reveals

'Weightless role' for Hungary

For his part, Andor said he was happy with the decision, claiming employment, social affairs and inclusion was one of the portfolios he had been expecting to receive. 

The ruling socialists also said that they were happy with the portfolio attribution. 

'Business' or 'economy' seat for Slovakia?

In Slovakia, national politicians were puzzled by the portfolio attributed to Slovakia, since not everyone knew what exactly the portfolio of inter-institutional relations encompasses.

Indeed, Fico had in recent moths claimed that energy portfolio was his country's "highest priority". On Friday, however, he announced that Barroso had found for Šefčovič "something even better" than energy. 

Polish 'chief of accountants'

In Poland, the choice of Janusz Lewandowski for the post of budget commissioner is seen differently depending on political colour.

"Janusz will be not an European accountant, but the chief of all accountants in the Commission. Every change in the budget will require his improvement. He has real influence on the money and the functioning of the Union," Polish MEP Krzysztof Lisek (European People's Party; EPP) argued in the daily 'Polska the Times'.

According to representatives of Law and Justice (PiS), the biggest opposition party, Lewandowski's nomination was not the best decision for Poland.

Is the Romanian commissioner 'French'?

In Romania, the appointment of Dacian Cioloş as future commissioner for agriculture and rural development came in the midst of political turmoil heightened by the presidential elections, the run-off of which take place on 6 December . 

The Romanian media widely quoted Western publications which said that Cioloş was in fact "the second French commissioner," as he had studied and lived in France for a long time and was backed by France for the job.

Enlargement lost importance for Prague? 

Czech Commissioner Stefan Fuele obtained the coveted enlargement portfolio, in which Slovakia, Bulgaria and Latvia had expressed an interest (EurActiv 25/11/09).

ODS, the centre-right party of former Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, said that while it sees the enlargement portfolio as more important than that of multilingualism or social affairs [the portfolio currently held by Czech Vladimír Špidla], the Czech Republic could harbour greater ambitions.

However, according to observers, the statement has to be interpreted mainly as an attack to the Social-democrats, for having secured a 'less important' portfolio for Špidla five years ago.

The Czech press also questioned the value of such an assignment "at a time when the European Union in fact is not going to enlarge". 

'Slap in the face' for Bulgaria

The country where the national commissioner portfolio attribution caused the biggest storm is undoubtedly Bulgaria. As Rumiana Jeleva was made responsible for humanitarian aid and crisis response, centre-left opposition leader Sergei Stanishev said the decision represented "a slap in the face" and the first defeat for the new centre-right government in its dealings with Brussels, according to Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria.

Disappointment over the modest portfolio came against the background of previous high-profile statements from Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who had forecast that Jeleva would be assigned the energy, enlargement or regional policy portfolios.

For her part, Jeleva said her portfolio was "satisfactory" as it carried "great political importance". 

Former Bulgarian Commissioner Meglena Kuneva refused to comment on the portfolio attributed to her successor, but wished her luck. source

My comment: Yeah, as you can see, I'm not alone in my well almost hatred to the new portfolios. I really find them weakly distributed, not so much on national grounds, since Rumiana Jeleva was never going to be a good commissioner if you ask me, but because Bulgaria isn't the only Eastern country who get screwed. As you can see, most of the Eastern member states didn't receive what they expected and are quite disappointed. Poor Czechs (I'm not really sorry for them though) got enlargment "at a time when the European Union in fact is not going to enlarge". This isn't of course true, since we have Croatia and Island close to getting into the EU and and Macedonia and Serbia who are starting the talks. But still, it's fun. And very sad that we're all so upset by the choice of mr. Barroso. 

France to keep EU farm chief under close watch

2 December 2009

Michel Barnier, France’s newly-appointed commissioner in charge of the internal market, said he would keep the work of his colleagues in the new EU executive under close watch, citing the new farm chief Dacian Cioloş as a case in point.

In particular, France will make its opinion heard on all major upcoming reforms, especially on farm policy, said Barnier, who was agriculture minister before being elected to the European Parliament in May this year.

"He will be independent but I will give him my opinion," Barnier said, insisting on the need to "preserve farm regulations because feeding people is not a service like any other".

source
My comment: Ok, this is very shameful statement. "He will be independent..."?! Of course HE WILL BE INDEPENDENT. This is just job, not the French one! Indeed a shameful statement for  both sides. I sincerely hope it's not only me who sees it. This is a great lack of respect for another country's business even if we're talking about Romania and France. What would happen if Bulgaria got the Energy portfolio and the Russian Prime Minister said "They will be of course independent but I'll give my opinion" (not that he has to give his opinion, it's automatically taken by the whole EU usually). This is really humiliating. What a start for the new EC.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Lisbon Treaty on the road to success, 2009

Today:

  1. Resounding Irish 'yes' to EU's Lisbon Treaty
  2. Czech court buoys EU Lisbon Treaty chances
  3. Prague's EU rank 'weakened' by Lisbon Treaty stance
  4. Germany ends Lisbon ratification saga
  5. Barroso weighs options for new-look EU executive
  6. Klaus signs, Lisbon Treaty fully ratified
Short fun:
  1. Bulgaria seeks EU regional portfolio, PM says
  2. Poland blocks Finnish politician from EU top job
  3. Barroso unveils five-year plan with 2020 horizon
  4. Sweden plans October summit on top EU jobs

Ok, since the Lisbon Treaty is already a fact, I'm not commenting on this post (well, except for the idiotism of Klaus and Cameron - I couldn't help myself). The idea is to simply show you the latest steps Europe made to make the Treaty come into life, because it was a long and torny road for us. So let's all remember the past few months and to wish well to the new Treaty. I really put my hopes in it, even if I'm extremely disappoint by the portfolio Bulgaria got - climate and disasters. Although it will involve a lot of money, I'm not sure that Jeleva will be able to do what Kuneva did for consumers. She's just not a fighter, not yet at least. But maybe she'll surprise me. I can only hope she will. 

Anyway, God Speed, Lisbon Treaty!

Resounding Irish 'yes' to EU's Lisbon Treaty

3 October 2009

Irish voters have approved the EU's reform treaty by a margin of two to one, lifting the EU out of institutional limbo after years of democratic setbacks and blockage. All eyes now turn to Eurosceptic Czech President Václav Klaus to sign the treaty.

The final result shows 67.1% of the electorate voted in favour of the Treaty, with 32.9% voting against. This represents a 20% swing towards the 'yes' campaign compared to the 2008 referendum. Turnout was 58%, an increase of around 6%.

In Brussels, political parties from across the spectrum are turning up the heat on Czech President Václav Klaus to sign the Lisbon Treaty into law, with European Commission President José Manuel Barroso saying all Europeans had now backed the Lisbon Treaty, either directly or indirectly.

Klaus said he would delay his approval to await a ruling on a constitutional complaint filed by 17 senators against the treaty (EurActiv 30/09/09).

Final ratification is also due in Poland, where President Lech Kaczyński had said he was willing to ratify the charter if Ireland voted 'yes'.

A summit of EU leaders is planned in Brussels on 29 October, at which Klaus is expected to come under heavy pressure to ratify.

With the 'yes' vote due to be confirmed, the chances of Europe taking a great steps to become a better organised Union with a stronger voice in world affairs dramatically increase.

The treaty would give the EU a long-term president and stronger foreign policy chief. source

Czech court buoys EU Lisbon Treaty chances

7 October 2009

The Swedish EU Presidency is today (7 October) expected to apply maximum pressure on the Czech Republic to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, riding on a wave of positive developments after the Irish 'yes' vote, including the removal of a hurdle by the Czech constitutional court on Tuesday.

The Czech Republic's Constitutional Court rejected on Tuesday a challenge against a law related to the EU's reform treaty, lifting a secondary hurdle to the pact's final ratification in the country.

A group of senators close to Eurosceptic President Václav Klaus had complained against an amendment of the parliament's rules of procedure which requires both Houses to approve any potential shift of national competences to Brussels by a simple majority vote. They insisted that a qualified majority should be required instead, making it harder to transfer more powers to the EU.

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer welcomed the ruling, a government spokesperson announced. 

Meanwhile, the Czech Constitutional Court still has to pronounce itself over another motion by a group of senators which questioned the conformity of the Lisbon Treaty with the country's constitution.

The first hearing on that challenge is expected at the end of October.

EU leaders would like the Lisbon Treaty to enter in force by 1 January 2010. However, extending the mandate of the Commission until the end of the year could prove insufficient should Klaus continue to play for time. 

One option would be to opt for a Commission under the Nice Treaty, with less than 27 members. source

Prague's EU rank 'weakened' by Lisbon Treaty stance

7 October 2009

Czech President Václav Klaus's obstruction of the Lisbon Treaty is undermining Prague's influence in the EU and damaging the credibility of Czech politicians in a way that may have a long-lasting effect, warns David Král, director of the Europeum Institute for European Policy, in an interview with EurActiv.cz.

The Czech analyst said Klaus's "hatred" for the Lisbon Treaty was increasingly antagonising politicians elsewhere in Europe as well as on the national scene.

"What I am afraid of is of further and more important weakening of our influence and our negotiating position in the EU, because this playing with the ratification is absolutely incomprehensible and illogical," said Král.

"This obviously lowers the credibility of Czech politicians and it may have a long-lasting effect. Once we are stigmatised it will be very hard to get rid of the stigma."

With Polish President Lech Kaczyński widely expected to sign the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty today (7 October), the Czech Republic will become the only country not to have ratified, despite the text having been approved by a qualified majority of two-thirds in both chambers of the Czech parliament.. source

Germany ends Lisbon ratification saga

24 September 2009

A businessman's last-ditch effort to stop the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty has failed after the country's president, Horst Köhler, signed the additional reforms needed to finalise the ratification process. 

The president's signature was the final step in Germany's ratification of the Lisbon Treaty, after the reforms received wide approval in the parliament's lower and upper chambers - the Bundestag and Bundesrat respectively - earlier this month.

The domestic reforms are designed to increase German politicians' involvement in European lawmaking after high-profile petitions to the country's constitutional court on the treaty's compatibility with German law had stalled the process (EurActiv 12/02/09).

The constitutional court said claims made by Dieter Spethmann, a former chairman of large German steelmaker Thyssen, were illegitimate.

Spethmann had deemed the reforms "careless and superficial" and demanded a provision be added rendering the treaty valid only under a ruling issued by the same federal court in Karlsruhe in June.

Under the new laws, Germany's federal government is now expected to inform MPs about all EU matters "comprehensively, as early as possible, continuously and in writing".

A new veto right can be employed by the country's national parliament in areas where the EU's decision-making touches German spheres of interest.  source

My comment: Hm, please read in the source article how David Cameron wrote to Klaus to hold the signing of the Treaty so that when he wins the British elections, he'll make a referendum and kill the Treaty! That's horrible. Then ask me why I think Britain should be out of the EU. 

Barroso weighs options for new-look EU executive

24 September 2009

With the dawn of the second Barroso Commission, EurActiv examines how portfolios may be restructured in a new-look EU executive. The likeliest high-profile changes include new commissioners for climate action and migration.  

However, no concrete decisions will be made until the EU knows the institutional basis upon which the new commission will proceed, as leaders of the 27-member bloc nervously await the results of Ireland's second referendum on 2 October.

As a result of this waiting game, Barroso should have the entire month of October to negotiate with EU leaders on the make-up of his second college, said Antonio Missiroli, a director at the European Policy Centre (EPC) think-tank in Brussels.

Barroso's early reappointment means he has "more leverage in reshaping the structure of the Commission" than other presidents normally enjoy, he told EurActiv.

Moreover, should Lisbon be ratified, the Commission president will have to negotiate the novel situation of competing for prominence and power with the two new EU 'top jobs' – the permanent president of the European Council and the high representative for foreign affairs.

Before his reappointment, Barroso confirmed he was envisaging a commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and civil liberties, including citizens' and minority rights.  

Barroso also said he is envisaging having a commissioner for internal affairs and migration, and another one for "climate action".

The climate action commissioner is likely to prove strategically popular, both with politicians and the general public. However, it remains to be seen which specific directorates will fall under that remit, besides those currently under the environment portfolio.

The outcome of December's global conference on climate change in Copenhagen will have a big impact here, according to Alfons Westgeest, managing partner at Kellen Europe.

The justice, fundamental rights and civil liberties portfolio, viewed by many as Barroso's gift to the European Liberals, is also reflective of the growing debate on migration issues at EU level, and should go some way towards resolving problems within the current justice and home affairs (JHA) DG. 

Under the current arrangement, the JHA Commission is "both judge and jury," controlling justice issues but also holding responsibility for the rights of immigrants and social minorities, according to Mark McGann, CEO of Weber Shandwick Belgium.

McGann believes "it makes absolute sense from a legal as well as a political perspective to split that portfolio," a point echoed by the EPC's Antonio Missiroli, who said that "this duality had become a little bit embarrassing".

As for the new migration and security job, Missiroli cautioned that "putting these headings together risks sending the wrong message, i.e. that migration is a security issue," a fact that Barroso is no doubt aware of as he tries to handle this sensitive issue.

Rumours are rife that Barroso may create a new 'digital' portfolio to replace the current information society brief, as desired by current Infosociety Commissioner Viviane Reding (EurActiv 23/06/09). Such a move would strengthen the commissioner's hand in enforcing competition in the telecommunications market as well as addressing the thorny issue of digital copyright.

In a separate development, Brussels think-tank Bruegel recommended in a recent report the creation of a commissioner for the knowledge economy, responsible for "the three sides of the knowledge triangle: higher education, research and innovation" (EurActiv 23/09/09). source

Klaus signs, Lisbon Treaty fully ratified

3 November 2009  

Czech President Václav Klaus again surprised friends and foes alike by signing his country's Lisbon Treaty ratification today (3 November) at 15.00 CET, just hours after the Czech Constitutional Court had given the text its green light. The EU's reform treaty is now fully ratified and is expected to enter into force on 1 December.

Klaus, a staunch Eurosceptic, announced he had signed the Lisbon Treaty at Prague Castle, just a few hours after the Czech Constitutional Court ruled that the treaty is compatible with the country's constitution. source

Other fun:

Bulgaria seeks EU regional portfolio, PM says

18 September 2009
In the next European Commission, Bulgaria would like to obtain the regional policy portfolio, the country's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told EurActiv in an interview. source /pity for Meglena Kuneva, and shame for Boyko Borissov/

Poland blocks Finnish politician from EU top job

9 September 2009

Poland has refused to support former Finish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen's candidacy as EU foreign policy chief, on the grounds that he works for Gazprom on the Nord Stream pipeline project. EurActiv Poland reports. source /idiots/

Barroso unveils five-year plan with 2020 horizon

4 September 2009

In his quest to win parliamentary support for a new term at the helm of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso today (3 September) published a 41-page document, contrasting both in length and substance with the short letter which helped him win the blessing of the EU's heads of state and government in June. source

Sweden plans October summit on top EU jobs

2 September 2009

Provided that the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by then, the 29-30 October European summit in Brussels will discuss nominations to all EU top jobs, including a high-profile permanent EU president and foreign policy czar, the Swedish EU Presidency said yesterday (1 September). source

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Happy Lisbon Treaty!

With some delay due to my heavy schedule, Happy Lisbon Treaty to everyone in Europe!

Although the controversy around it definitely left me a bad feeling, I still think it is a good thing for Europe, something that will unite us even more and that will open new opportunities for us.

Of course, I absolutely disagree with the two new faces on the EC, especially the British one (and not because she's a woman, but because she is British!), but I guess some things cannot be changed so easily. Let's hope that both Ashton and Van Rompuy will serve Europe first and then, to other people. But still, I think that their choice was very shameful for Europe. 

Anyway, the new Treaty has good sides, as the new powers for the Parliament, so not everything is lost. I hope that 10 years from now, this day will make us proud and happy, that we managed to move on from our disagreements and create something that is better than us. 

Nazdrave!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Environment in Europe, November 2009 - carbon tax is coming

Today:
  1. Barroso's green industrial agenda fails to impress
  2. EU countries reject ban on bluefin tuna
  3. Sarkozy renews pressure for CO2 border tax
  4. Commission says farmers need help to cut carbon
  5. EU moves to tackle carbon trading fraud
Quote of the day: I really fail to understand the idea behind VAT - ok, let's all fill the government's coffers, I don't mind. But why business can recover VAT? What's the point of the business not paying the whole VAT, while I should pay the whole thing and never recover it? This is one of the most disgusting taxes. Because you pay it on EVERYTHING. And you pay it EVERYWHERE. And while some people are able to recover what they paid (or even to steal it) the decent citizens can only pay.

Barroso's green industrial agenda fails to impress

7 September 2009

The EU will embark on a radical decarbonisation of its transport and electricity sectors to retain leadership on climate change in the run-up to 2020, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said as he outlined the EU executive's priorities for the next five years. But environmentalists remain sceptical.

In particular, he said more efforts were needed "towards decarbonising our electricity supply and the transport sector – all transport, including maritime transport and aviation, as well as the development of clean and electric cars".

Moreover, the former Portuguese prime minister pledged to launch "a major initiative" to assess each Community policy in light of climate change, making the changes necessary to help the EU to slash emissions and adapt to climate change.

In the context of the current recession, the Commission should concentrate on designing a favourable regulatory environment to foster the uptake of low-carbon technologies by European businesses, particularly SMEs, Barroso said. A modernised industrial base using environmentally-friendly technologies and benefiting from energy-efficiency improvements would give the EU first-mover advantages and provide more jobs, he argued.

Barroso identified a new European supergrid for electricity and gas as one of the "next great European projects" to meet growing energy demand in a sustainable way. In addition, he highlighted the current Commission's leadership in launching the Nabucco pipeline project as well as progress towards Baltic interconnectors. source

My comment:I'm sorry, what Commission's leadership in Nabucco?! Where? The leadership of Nabucco is and always was in the hands of USA. I don't think this was ever an European project, since half of the member states are against it! Anyway, read the complete article for some good rhetoric, as for me, I believe only actions. And those actions are still missing. I only hope to see the electricity and gas supergrids starting soon, because they really are the next BIG thing!


EU countries reject ban on bluefin tuna

22 September 2009
EU member states yesterday (21 September) failed to support proposals aimed at temporarily banning international trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna in order to preserve the species, as a result of opposition from Spain, Malta, Italy, France, Greece and Cyprus. The bloc's environment ministers will have their final say by the end of the year.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas regretted the decision, while Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said it was now up to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) "to assume its full responsibility to ensure the recovery of bluefin tuna".

EU member states can still review their position before the Convention meets in March 2010, when the final decision will be taken.

Monaco is the first country in the world to have stopped the sale of bluefin tuna and is sponsoring the proposed ban on the species. Several other European states, including the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and northern countries, have declared their support for such a ban and have been encouraged by lobbying from environmental groups.

Temporary bans have been imposed by the Commission before, in 2007 and 2008, when it stated there was a need to protect tuna as a "fragile resource" following "substantial overfishing by the EU fleet in 2007". source

My comment: I don't understand this, the practice shows that once under a ban, the tuna shoals are very quick to recover and thus, such ban would obviously be only temporary, until the bluefin tuna has recovered! Thus the producers (well, the fishers) has the greatest interest of preserving the resources. This is an absolute nonsense. Not to mention how irresponsible it is.

Sarkozy renews pressure for CO2 border tax

14 September 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy repeated calls to impose a European tax on goods imported from countries with less stringent environmental laws as he outlined plans for a new carbon tax on French households and industries last week (10 September).

In a speech, Sarkozy said he would put his weight behind convincing his European colleagues that the EU needs a carbon tax at its borders to safeguard the competitiveness of its industry.

The president said that he would not accept a system where European countries impose constraints on their industries for climate protection while allowing imports to continue from countries that do not respect the same rules.

Sarkozy has repeatedly called for such a border adjustment mechanism since negotiations over the EU's climate and energy package, agreed last December.

But Sarkozy will have a hard time convincing the 27-member bloc that border tariffs are the way to fend off unfair competition resulting from the EU's progressive climate policies. Sweden, which currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, has warned that protective measures would block any progress towards a new global climate treaty in Copenhagen in December .

But Sarkozy claims his call is not about protectionism but fair competition. He said he was encouraged by the US, where the House of Representatives included a provision for a border carbon tariff in its draft climate bill.

Moreover, he pointed to a WTO report which said that a carbon tax at the EU's borders would be allowed under international trade rules if member states put in place national carbon tax plans.

Sarkozy said border carbon tariffs would complement the French carbon tax well. Despite much political controversy, the president is pushing forward with his plan to levy a new tax on oil, gas and coal consumption by households and businesses.

The president announced that the tax would be set at €17 per tonne of carbon emissions from next year, rising gradually. The new tax would add 4.5 cents to the price of a litre of diesel, four cents to a litre of petrol and around 0.4 cents to a KWh of gas.

source

My comment: I also don't think that this is protectionism - after all, if we commit to decrease our emission, we must be sure we'll get the same from the other countries. If they are not willing to contribute to the common goal, then we have to have a way to force them to do it. After all, we already have done this with the energy saving light bulbs produced in China. So, nothing new on the horizon. WTO also agree we have the right to do it (which is kind of suspicious, right?). So, I support Nicolas in this. As for the taxes in France, I find them somewhat high, but I guess it's not that high for them. And it's great that they excluded electricity - this is very positive sign for nuclear energy.

Commission says farmers need help to cut carbon

16 September 2009

European farmers must slash agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020, primarily by producing biomass and storing carbon in the soil, but they risk ruin without outside help, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said yesterday (15 September).

European agriculture emissions have already fallen by 20% since 1990 due in part to there being fewer cattle and also to better technology and farm management.

But the heat is on to find other ways to reduce emissions, ahead of a major global climate summit in Copenhagen in December and to meet tough goals already set for the next decade.

Mariann Fischer Boel, the EU agriculture commissioner, said on Tuesday (15 September) that the farm sector should cut emissions of methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.

Farmers can also fight emissions by supplying more biomass to produce energy and renewable materials, she said.

Fischer Boel said Europe's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Health Checkexternal and Economic Recovery Packageexternal had helped set aside more money for farmers to fight climate change.

But she said Europe would "almost certainly" have to make changes to the CAP, mainly after 2013, to give farmers much-needed support to reduce emissions. source

My comment: Everything sounds great, I just hope that this won't be just one more source of income for poor farmers (and one more drain for taxpayers). Because we subsidize them kind of too much these days. It seems that being a farmer in some regions of Europe is a very good idea, while in others, it's pure nightmare. Funnily enough I kind of want to be a farmer one day. Not because of the money, but simply for the pleasure of producing your own food. That's nice. Anyway, I hope this initiative can lead to better quality of the food we eat, because a big part of the pollution comes from fertilizers and hormones, antibiotics and so on. If we can limit them without hurting the production too much, that would be nice!

EU moves to tackle carbon trading fraud

1 October 2009

The European Commission has presented measures to fight VAT fraud in carbon permits to regain the credibility of its emissions trading scheme ahead of crunch climate talks in December.

The EU executive proposed on 29 September an express solution to stop "carousel fraud," which has seen criminals steal billions from EU governments by means of VAT receipts for items like mobile phones and computer chips. These criminals have recently moved to the EU carbon market (see EurActiv LinksDossier ).

In a simple case, known as 'the missing trader' fraud, a trader buys carbon credits in one member state without having to pay VAT and then sells them in another country, charging VAT. Afterwards the importer disappears instead of paying VAT to the government.

The Commission proposes to combat this by temporarily applying a "reverse charge mechanism" to greenhouse gas emission allowances, as well as other "particularly fraud sensitive goods": computer chips, mobile phones, precious metals and perfumes.

Under the mechanism, the supplier does not charge VAT. Instead, the customer becomes liable for paying the tax, and declares and deducts it at the same time without effecting payment to the treasury. This removes the opportunity to commit fraud as carbon traders do not exchange VAT every time they sell carbon credits.

During the summer, several member states already took action against suspected fraud cases in carbon trading.

The Dutch government opted for the approach now proposed by the Commission. France exempted emissions allowances from VAT completely, while the UK set the rate at zero.

The Commission is now proposing a harmonised EU response to the problem. Applying the mechanism would nevertheless remain optional for member states.

The proposed measure is only temporary, and the Commission regards it as an opportunity to assess the usefulness of a sector-targeted application of reverse charging. source
My comment: I really fail to understand the idea behind VAT - ok, let's all fill the government's coffers, I don't mind. But why business can recover VAT? What's the point of the business not paying the whole VAT, while I should pay the whole thing and never recover it? This is one of the most disgusting taxes. Because you pay it on EVERYTHING. And you pay it EVERYWHERE. And while some people are able to recover what they paid (or even to steal it) the decent citizens can only pay. If you ask me, that should be the only tax we pay, apart from health and pension insurances and road taxes. I mean seriously, the country earns so much out of it, and the taxes on the fuels, why should they take parts of the salaries too? And note - I'm in no way libertarian. I just prefer to pay once, trough higher VAT, than to have to fill forms, to prove my income and so on. After all, if I have more money, I'll spend more, thus paying more trough VAT. And if the business doesn't have the right to recover VAT, then my payment will go directly in to the coffer. And it would be fair for everyone.
As for VAT fraud trough emissions I think that emissions should be exempted from VAT until the scheme becomes financially viable and also, until we have common VAT for the whole EU. Otherwise, you simply cannot stop frauds.

 

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