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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Energy in Europe, 03,2009- the fight for Nabucco

A fun one. I ordered the articles chronologically, so that you can follow the development all the way from the beginning. Don't worry, all the articles are shortened. The resume is in bold. The most important articles is the last, though I'm sure you'll get the idea just by skipping trough the titles.
  1. No EU funding for Nabucco, says Merkel
  2. EU 'very concerned' about new gas row
  3. Barroso's stimulus plan revamped at Nabucco's expense
  4. MEP: Parliament will stop Barroso's stimulus plan
  5. Nabucco removed from EU energy project list
  6. Poland defies Germany over Nabucco pipe
  7. EU leaders clinch deal on five billion stimulus plan /Nabucco included/

No EU funding for Nabucco, says Merkel

3 March 2009

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday (1 March) confirmed her country's opposition to funding the flagship Nabucco gas pipeline project with European money, stressing that the problem is not financing but finding the gas to feed the pipeline.

Speaking to the press following an extraordinary EU summit on Sunday (1 March), Merkel said that the Nabucco gas pipeline must not be subsidised with public money.

There is no need for financial support for Nabucco as there are no shortage of private investors, she said. The problem with Nabucco is where the gas will come from, not where the investment will come from, Merkel added.

Germany doubts the feasibility of the project should the pipeline fail to link up with Iranian and Iraqi gas fields. source

My comment: Not exactly a surprise for me, since Germany is well connected to Norway's gas grids (and thus is little bit more secured from Russia's moods) and from the other side, Germany is a good friend to Russia. Of course, since I also dislike the project (as long as Iran is out of it), I don't mind.

EU 'very concerned' about new gas row

6 March 2009

The European Union is 'very concerned' about the risk of a new gas crisis after recent comments from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Commission chief José Manuel Barroso said yesterday (5 March).

"We are very concerned with the latest news from Ukraine and the comments of the [Russian] prime minister [Vladimir Putin]," Barroso told a news conference after receiving Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev.

Hours before, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would halt gas deliveries to Ukraine if payment were not received by Saturday, and this could also affect supplies to Europe.

A January dispute between Russia and Ukraine led to Russian gas supplies to Europe being severed for almost two weeks, triggering the EU's worst-ever energy crisis.

Stanishev, speaking alongside Barroso, said a situation where countries are held "hostage" on gas supplies is unacceptable. Bulgaria was the most affected country during the January gas crisis.

Barroso made it clear that the Commission would not accept the reopening of nuclear units at the Kozlodui nuclear power plant, which Bulgaria had closed as part of its accession deal. But he but said that the Commission will examine demands by Sofia for additional decommissioning funding. Barroso also said that the Commission could provide support to Bulgaria by granting of over 500 million Euros in the form of preliminary payments along European programmes.

Stanishev said these demands were legitimate, as Slovakia and Lithuania had been benefiting from more generous decommissioning assistance.

Putin made his statements after Ukraine's SBU security service tried yesterday (5 March) to gain entry to the offices of the authority overseeing Ukraine's gas pipelines. It was the second such incident in as many days apparently connected to Ukraine's gas deals with Russia.

Timoshenko, addressing her cabinet, said the security forces were out of control and acting at the president's behest. Yushchenko's spokesperson said the SBU's first raid on Naftogaz had acted within the law.

In the meantime, Gazprom received a payment from Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz. source

My comment: So, the fun continues. Russia and Ukraina are again on the edge. Bulgaria seems to add up to the tension in the EU against a new row between the two countries. I wonder if the only motivation for this is the security of our country, but in any case, I prefer to judge the actions, not the motivation. And we all lose from such family scandals.

Barroso's stimulus plan revamped at Nabucco's expense

10 March 2009

A Commission plan to spend five billion euro on clean energy and broadband Internet infrastructure projects has been redrafted. According to the new version, seen by EurActiv, a number of countries will obtain more funding, at the expense of the EU's flagship Nabucco pipeline project.

The sum allocated to Nabucco has now been downsized to €200 million, while several countries will receive more financial support than initially planned. Bulgaria and Greece will get €40m instead of €20m for the Haskovo-Komotini gas interconnection, while an expansion of gas storage capacity in the Czech Republic will get €35m instead of €25m.

Infrastructure to allow reverse gas flows in the event of disruptions in 12 EU countries will receive 75 million euro instead of 20. Moreover, France is given more money (150 rather than 100 million) to reinforce its network as part of an Africa-Spain-France axis, and a France-Belgium connection will obtain €200m instead of €100m, as initially planned.

A number of new projects will also see the light of day: Slovakia-Poland, Hungary-Croatia and Bulgaria-Romania gas interconnections, each worth €20m. The GALSI gas pipeline between Algeria and Italy will now receive €100m.

In total, gas interconnectors will benefit to the tune of €1,360bn, instead of €1,025bn. Electricity interconnectors also gain an additional €10m, for a Malta-Italy electricity interconnection, with offshore wind projects receiving an additional €5m, for the North Sea grid.

However, CCS (carbon capture and storage) projects will be depleted by €100m, obtaining €1,150bn instead of €1,250bn, the draft shows.

In total, the new financial rescue blueprint provides €3,750bn for energy projects, compared to €3.5bn in the earlier version. source

My comment: Compare with the last article for the actual agreement. As for me, I think Nabucco and CCS shouldn't be a priority. So, I don't see a reason why this isn't a good plan. Well, besides that Eastern Europe again gets a very small part of it. Just notice how Eastern countries get with 10 millions more, while Western countries get with 100 millions on project more.

MEP: Parliament will stop Barroso's stimulus plan

13 March 2009

The European Parliament will mobilise a majority against Commission President José Manuel Barroso's five billion euro stimulus plan, Claude Turmes, vice-president of the Green / European Free Alliance Group in the European Parliament, told EurActiv in an interview.

Turmes made clear that he is against the Commission's recent proposal to reallocate five billion euro of unspent EU money, mostly to support energy projects.

He attacked it on two grounds: that it will not be able to play the role of a recovery package, as the projects foreseen will take a long time to be put in place, and that in fact the initial plan has been "twisted" by Germany and the UK, so that countries with weak economies, especially in Eastern Europe, will only get "peanuts".

The MEP believes that the European Parliament, which is due to co-decide on the stimulus plan after the spring summit of EU heads of state and government on 19-20 March, will "stop Mr Barroso and his ideas about the recovery plan". source

My comment: No comment, really. Check the source for the whole article where you can find an interesting comment for the EIB.

Nabucco removed from EU energy project list

17 March 2009

Mention of the Nabucco gas pipeline has been deleted from a list of projects to be financed by a five-billion euro EU stimulus plan, it emerged after a meeting of the bloc's foreign ministers yesterday (16 March).

EU officials confirmed yesterday that the pipeline, once considered a flagship EU venture, had disappeared from the list of energy projects to be financed under the plan.

The move was apparently made at the request of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who insists that no public money should be spent on a project in which Berlin has little interest.

Under a revised version of the plan, Nabucco has been diluted under a wider common heading, the 'Southern gas corridor', which also includes an offshore pipeline, ITGI, to be built between the Greek Ionian coast and Italy, and other projects in the southern region. source

My comment: Don't be quick to celebrate, Nabucco hasn't disappear yet as:

Poland defies Germany over Nabucco pipe

18 March 2009

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said Central and Eastern European countries will push for the Nabucco gas pipeline project during an EU summit on 19-20 March in Brussels.

The Polish request was supported by Romania, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

Asked to comment on the news coming from Brussels, Turkey's Energy Minister Hilmi Guler said his country is determined to build and even finance Nabucco. source

My comment: I told you. By the way, I understand why they are doing it-South Stream wouldn't help their countries, it's fair to provide an alternative for them. But shoud it be Nabucco? Anyway, here's the end:

EU leaders clinch deal on five billion stimulus plan

20 March 2009

European Union leaders approved a plan today (20 March) to spend five billion euro on energy and broadband Internet infrastructure, after weeks of squabbling over which projects should receive funding.

"It's all agreed," Polish EU Affairs minister Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told journalists before the end of the summit.

Germany has finally agreed to include the Nabucco gas pipeline in the list of projects, earmarking as much as 200 million euro for a risk-sharing facility, intended to help secure loans from banks at better conditions than those offered on the market.

Merkel apparently gave in to pressure, requesting in exchange that sums be spent quickly to help Europe's economic recovery in the short term. Indeed, the adopted document envisages spending two billion euro on energy projects in 2009, and another 1.975bn in 2010. A total of 3.975 is to be spent on energy projects.

This may however mean that the funding for Nabucco and other projects, favoured by Eastern European countries, could be lost. "East European countries are usually slow in absorbing EU funding," a diplomat told EurActiv.

As the overall sum is capped at five billion, almost half a billion euro were taken from a project to develop broadband in rural areas and from projects on tackling agricultural challenges.

A comparison with previous versions of the EU executive's proposal shows that two East European countries badly hit by the recent gas crisis have received modest increases to their sums – Slovakia will share 30m euro with its neighbour (instead of 25m) for a gas interconnector with Hungary, and Bulgaria will get 45m instead of 40m for another interconnector with Greece. Infrastructure to permit reverse gas flows between a number of Central and Eastern European countries will be allocated 80 million instead of 75.

In what looks like compensation, Germany gets 50m euro more for a single project: an offshore wind project in the North Sea.

To make up for the increased sums for gas and offshore wind projects, a number of Western countries agreed that five carbon storage projects be downscaled to 180 million euros instead of 200m, again in comparision to the previous draft.

But doubts still remain regarding the financing secured for the plan.

The ball will fall now in the European Parliament's court to approve the plan and its financing scheme. One group of MEPs has already signalled that they will not let the plan go ahead unchecked, and may well seek to amend it. source

My comment: So, surprise surprise, everybody got what they wanted, but some got even more. And more or less, Eastern Europe was screwed big time, but in the end, we really contribute way too little to the common budget. I think. Then, I might be wrong, since the new members doubled the size of the EU. In any case, they took from the important projects, like broadband internet and gave to the energy ones-usually supported by the local mafia. Let's hope that in the least, the pan-European gas network will be closer to reality now.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

EU administration in March, 2009-questions about Tony Blair and transparency

Today:
  1. Sarkozy vague on Barroso's EU future
  2. UK silent over Iraq war decisions
  3. Czech lower House approves Lisbon Treaty
  4. Swedes to prioritise transparency at EU helm
  5. Commissioners tipped to run in EU elections
Very interesting articles. Especially number 2 and number 4. Interesting, because number 2, especially, questions the choice of Tony Blair for a candidate for the Presidency, since the UK don't want to provide records over the decision to join the war in Iraq.

Sarkozy vague on Barroso's EU future

3 March 2009

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has recommended waiting until Ireland votes on the Lisbon Treaty for a second time before endorsing a candidate to succeed José Manuel Barroso as next president of the European Commission.

Speaking at the conclusion of an extraordinary EU summit on Sunday (1 March), Sarkozy declined to give unreserved support for the former Portuguese prime minister.

Sarkozy said "I think if we want to be a little clever, we should better wait for the Irish to vote [before appointing a new Commission president] rather than deciding before they vote."

Sarkozy then reiterated his personal liking for Barroso.

Barroso has made no secret of the fact that he is seeking a second term as Commission president and he received support from his political family, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), at a summit in October last year. source

My comment:I personally like Baroso, maybe because he's scorpio like me, or maybe because he looks kind of politically balanced. And in any case, I prefer him than Tony Blair!

UK silent over Iraq war decisions

26 February 2009

The UK government on Tuesday (24 February) said it would block the release of records of cabinet discussions on the legality of invading Iraq, using its power to do so under the Freedom of Information Act. Brussels insiders see the move as an attempt to shelter former prime minister Tony Blair and preserve his chances of getting a top EU job.

Justice Minister Jack Straw said keeping the March 2003 cabinet minutes secret was essential to maintaining "effective cabinet government". Straw was foreign secretary from 2001 to 2006.

Diplomatic sources told EurActiv that the opening of national inquiries into the decisions that led the British and Dutch governments to support the US-led invasion in Iraq may be extremely relevant to this year's race for EU top jobs.

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair is widely seen as one of the strongest candidates to take the job of permanent EU president, a position created under the Lisbon Treaty, which still needs to be ratified by all EU member states. A few days ago, Alain Minc, a member of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's inner circle of advisors, told a public event that Sarkozy will back Blair's nomination for the position.

While still in office, Blair resisted demands to disclose information regarding decisions taken on the eve of the Iraq war.source

My comment: I agree that those records are very relevant for the elections. The war in Iraq qas a huge mistake, and the backing it got from Europe should be inspected very closely. Without taking the issue to the next logical level, I still have to say that attacking another nation without a very good proofs that you have to do it is a serious crime, and some people go on Tribunal for them. After all, what is the difference between murdering thousands of Iraqi people and killing thousands of Albanians. I don't support neither of them, I must be clear on that. I don't support ANY war, but to defent your own land and citizens. In a very strict meaning of the last. And back where we started, if that person is going to become our first President, it's CRUCIAL to know how he reasoned in that situation and why he made that decision.

Czech lower House approves Lisbon Treaty

18 February 2009

The lower House of the Czech parliament today (18 February) approved the European Union's Lisbon Treaty, taking a key but not final step towards ratifying the text.

Deputies from both government and opposition ranks voted to adopt the document, which aims to reform the EU's institutions to make them more flexible after the bloc's expansion.

The treaty must still be ratified in the upper House, the Senate, where it may sit for weeks or even months as many right-wing senators are demanding that the country first ratifies a plan to host a US missile defence shield base. source
My comment: It would have been very good, if it wasn't ridiculous. I mean, what is it to vote on the US missile defence shield base, when the USA decided to hold on this? Or they probably conside sending a petition to Obama? This is so humiliating!

Swedes to prioritise transparency at EU helm

18 February 2009

The European Ombudsman yesterday (17 February) expressed his conviction that the incoming Swedish EU Presidency would make progress on making the EU more transparent and accountable to its citizens. Meanwhile, MEPs insisted that "no legislative documents should be kept secret" under a reformed access to documents policy.

"Transparency is a big issue this year," EU Ombudsman P. Nikiforos Diamandouros told EurActiv, insisting that "all three [EU] institutions agree that access to documents must be revisited".

Diamandouros said 36% of citizens' complaints in his annual report for 2008, set to be presented on 27 April, concern transparency and access to documents. 70-75% of these address the European Commission, with the remainder primarily regarding the EU's recruitment office (EPSO) and the European Parliament.

The Ombudsman conceded that the "vast majority" of the 3,500-4000 complaints he receives each year from citizens are inadmissible, because they should be dealt with at national level.

Asked whether he wished to continue beyond the end of his current mandate in June, Diamandouros said he had not yet decided whether to reapply, but would make up his mind within a month.

Meanwhile, members of the European Parliament's committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs yesterday adopted a report calling for a "more transparent system of information for the public and a common interface for registers of documents".

MEPs approved a text drafted by UK Labour MEP Michael Cashman regarding the revision of a 2001 Regulation on the right of public access to EU documents. The Parliament is currently working in tandem with the Council to revise the legislation.

The committee demanded that legislative dossiers be made completely public, including the positions of national delegations to the Council, and called on the EU institutions to make sure that "all documents" are contained in their registers.

If adopted, legal service opinions would have to be made public when they deal with legislative procedures, and the EU institutions would no longer be able to keep legislative documents secret on the grounds that they could undermine decision-making processes.

Moreover, the report calls for documents originating from a national government and received by the EU institutions to be disclosed too.

The report further establishes a scale for classifying documents. Should their disclosure be considered harmful to EU or national interests, files could be held back as "EU restricted" or "EU top secret," but only if they do not concern legislative procedures and satisfactory reasons for doing so are given.

The Parliament's full plenary will vote upon the Cashman report in Strasbourg in April. source

My comment: Now that is something very important! I absolutely agree that transparency is essential. And not only access, but also, ease of the access. Because many of those documents are available, it's just too hard to get them. I think EU institutions should not only admit, but also implement, the fact that a democracy can be working only if people can participate and are encouraged to do so. And if the beaurocratic burden is too big, they simply won't do it, and the governing organs won't be effective. I think all of the documents should be public, except for military and intelligence ones, but those are national documents and they will hardly have some relevance for the EU policy in the next 10 years. But then who knows, I might get surprised!

Commissioners tipped to run in EU elections

6 February 2009

Some members of the European Commission are set to quit their jobs to run in next June's elections to the European Parliament, sources in the EU executive told EurActiv.

Viviane Reding (information society), Louis Michel (humanitarian aid), Janez Potočnik (research), Danuta Hübner (regional policy) and Ján Figel' (education) have already informed Commission President José Manuel Barroso of their intention to return to their home countries to campaign for the European Parliament elections, a top official said.

According to the Commission's internal code of conductPdf , members of the college need to inform the president of their intention to participate in an election campaign and the role they expect to play in that campaign. The president, taking into account the particular circumstances of the case, shall decide on whether the envisaged participation in the election campaign is compatible with the performance of the commissioner's duties.

Johannes Leitenberger, a Commission spokesperson, explained that commissioners are not asked to step down for merely putting their name on a party list. However, they must leave if they plan to lead active campaigns, he said. source

My comment: I don't have a comment, really. I just regret that the research commissioner will leave, but I guess he found something more important than European policy. Seriously, how could there be something more important than Europe? If it's a question of life or death for your country, of course, you should go back and save it. But to do it only for elections, is nonsense.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The fight against GMO continues.

Today:
  1. EU meeting on GM maize ends in deadlock
  2. EU fails to lift French, Greek GM crop bans
  3. Ministers back right to refuse GM crop cultivation
  4. 'Alien' genes escape into wild corn
  5. EU urged to impose GMO limits on 'clean seeds'
The fight with GMO is very important to me and that's why you can imagine how what this post is for me. So, I hope you enjoy it. And I must say, I'm so far pleased by the EU stance on the issue. It really makes me proud. Because Europe should never succumb to the pressure from USA. After all, there is no reason why consummers desires should be less important than farmer's ones.

EU meeting on GM maize ends in deadlock

26 February 2009

A meeting of EU biotech experts ended in deadlock yesterday (25 February) after failing to agree on whether to allow more cultivation of genetically-modified crops, which are hugely controversial in Europe.

The applications for two GM maize types will now be sent to EU ministers for a decision.

The GM maize types considered at the meeting were Bt-11 maize, engineered by Switzerland's Syngenta, and 1507 maize, jointly developed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International (a unit of DuPont Coand Mycogen Seeds) and a unit of Dow AgroSciences.

"This decision only adds to our frustration," said Syngenta in a statement.

New modified crops for cultivation are the most contentious GM issue in Europe, and none have been approved since 1998.

However, a string of modified products have been approved for import since 2004 for use in food and animal feed.

But environment group Greenpeace said the stalemate reflected the need to tweak the EU's process for authorising GM crops, something already recommended by environment ministers.

"EU member states have every right to maintain total control over what is grown on their own territory until the recommendations for a review of the GMO process are taken seriously by the Commission," he added. source

My comment: My heart cries for Syngenta...Haha, fat chance :) Anyway, I absolutely agree with the decision and I think that no GMO products should be offered on EU market until complete labelling scheme isn't implemented along with draconian control over the content of food.

EU fails to lift French, Greek GM crop bans

17 February 2009

A European Commission expert committee on GMOs yesterday failed to reach agreement on lifting French and Greek national bans on GM crop cultivation, leaving the decision to the EU Council of Ministers, which has only once found a qualified majority on the issue so far.

Following the Greek and French national bans on GM maize MON810, the Commission had asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to examine new scientific evidence and judge whether the bans were justified.

As EFSA found no scientific justification for the bans, the Commission asked its committeeexternal on genetically-modified food and feed and environmental risk to order the two countries to repeal their national bans.

However, meetingPdf external on 16 February, the committee failed to reach a qualified majority for or against the proposals.

As the members of the committee are representatives of the EU member states, the Council is set to face a similar deadlock.

National bans have previously been introduced by Hungary and Austria and the ministers have never managed to find a qualified majority for or against them, except once in 2007, leaving the final decision to the EU executive, which has then always ordered member states to lift the bans.source

My comment: This one provides some background to the story. Anyway, I firmly believe every country should have the right to ban GMOs and the option to allow them, if that country is able to prevent genetic contamination of the region.

Ministers back right to refuse GM crop cultivation

3 March 2009
Attempts by the European Commission to force Austria and Hungary to allow the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) maize on their territory were rejected yet again by EU environment ministers yesterday (2 March).

Environment ministers from the 27-member bloc found a qualified majority against a Commission proposal to force Hungary and Austria to repeal bans on growing genetically modified MON 810 maize, which is developed and marketed by US company Monsanto.

The crop has been authorised for cultivation in the EU and received the backing of EFSA, the European Food Safety Authority.

Twenty-two member states, representing 282 votes out of 345, voted against forcing the lifting of the bans.

French Environment Minister Jean-Louis Borloo welcomed the vote, which he argued paves the way for a similar decision not to lift French and Greek national bans on MON 810 cultivation later this spring.

Meanwhile, the European bioindustry association EuropaBio expressed its "profound disappointment at member states' failure to defend the GM authorisation procedure, science and Europe's farmers".

Environment groups Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE) welcomed the vote, describing it as a "victory for the environment, farmers and consumers, and a major embarrassment for the Commission".

"For the fourth time, EU governments have rejected a Commission proposal to lift national bans on GM crops. What part of 'no' does the Commission not understand?," asked Greenpeace EU GMO policy director Marco Contiero.

Last December, EU environment ministers concluded that long-term environmental risk assessment of GMOs should be improved and member states allowed to establish GMO-free zones (EurActiv 09/12/08).source

My comment: I totally support the Greenpeace opinion-what part of the NO the Commission doesn't understan? Yes, we know who's pushing and pushing for that approval, but who cares?! If the GMOs are safely grown all over the world, why do Monsanto needs Europe? Oh, yeah, because it's the biggest market on the world. Well, guess what, we don't want to grow them here. I don't want to bother about one more thing killing Bulgarian nature. And as for farmers desires-why should their desires be more important than my and our desires? And GMOs might be safe for humans, but they are not safe for the Nature and the article below tells it all.

'Alien' genes escape into wild corn

  • 21 February 2009

NOW it's official: genes from genetically modified corn have escaped into wild varieties in rural Mexico. A new study resolves a long-running controversy over the spread of GM genes and suggests that detecting such escapes may be tougher than previously thought.

In 2001, when biologists David Quist and Ignacio Chapela reported finding transgenes from GM corn in traditional varieties in Oaxaca, Mexico, they faced a barrage of criticism over their techniques.

But now, Elena Alvarez-Buylla of the National Autonomous University in Mexico City and her team have backed Quist and Chapela's claim. They found transgenes in about 1 per cent of nearly 2000 samples they took from the region (Molecular Ecology, vol 18, p 750).

The escaped transgenes are common in a few fields and absent in others, he says, so gene-monitoring efforts must sample as broadly as possible.

What's more, not every detection method – or laboratory – identified every sample containing transgenes. Monitors should use many methods to avoid false negatives, says Gepts. source

My comment: More on this. Now, do you still think GMO are safe? They are not. They cannot be contained. And they are naturally adapted to fight and kill local strains of the plant. Should that happen? Should Mexico with its many types of corn be robbed of its natural treasures? I don't think so. Variety in Nature is a mechanism to fight diseases. If you have only one variety, you're begging for a catastroph.

EU urged to impose GMO limits on 'clean seeds'

3 March 2009

The European seed industry yesterday (2 March) called on the European Commission to come up with a "long-awaited" proposal for thresholds to label the accidental presence of GMOs in conventional seeds, arguing that their presence is in any case "unavoidable".

The lack of thresholds, the industry argues, has lead to an "inadequate patchwork of different rules in different countries" and thus to the absence of a EU single market for seeds.

The Commission's in-house experts, farmers and EU agriculture and environment ministers have all concluded over the past ten years that there is a need to establish thresholds. But while the EU executive has initiated drafts on the issue, it has yet to table an official proposal. According to sources, this is due to the personal resistance of Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas to "everything that is related to GMOs".

"Adventitious presence (AP) of GMOs in conventional seed is technically inevitable and unavoidable," said Olivier Lucas, head of scientific affairs at RAGT, a French breeding and seed production company. "Meanwhile, most member states apply [the principle of] zero tolerance to the presence of GMOs in conventional seeds," he added.

In the current situation, "our company works in total legal uncertainty," Lucas said, adding that the analytical process for detecting hazardous GMOs in traditional seeds is extremely expensive, further hampering his company's business.

Asked what kind of threshold the industry could accept, Lucas explained that the current unavoidable presence ranges from 0.1% to 0.9%. If all seeds currently produced were made legally marketable, the threshold would need to be around 0.9%. In the Commission's first draft proposal, dating from 2003, this level was considered far too high by environmental NGOs, which asked for no more than 0.1%.

While most member states apply the zero tolerance principle, in practice they apply different AP tolerance levels, Lucas continued. "The levels accepted are 0.1% in France, 0.5% in the UK and 0.9% in Romania," he explained.

Kofoed added that if no threshold was set, certified seeds bred and produced by seed companies would become so expensive that farmers would start producing their own, without any traceability or certification on their quality or GMO content.

The Commission is currently finalising impact studies on the establishement of seed thresholds. source

My comment: Hm, I agree there should be a treshold and it's not very wise from mr. Dimas to avoid the discussion. It's disgusting to hear that the GMO pollution is unavoidable, because it can only tell you how much GMOs are grown in Europe. That certainly makes me nervous. But there should be a treshold and I think 0.1% is a good one. Because, if 1% is a proof that there is a GMO pollution, then 10 times less should be the statistical margin for GMO free products.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Climate and Europe, 02.2009

Today:
  1. Global business groups say climate deal 'possible'
  2. EU unveils strategic disaster prevention plan
  3. US shift spurs on global mercury pollution deal
  4. Green groups call for mercury labelling of fish
  5. Parliament paves way for wider eco-design product list

Global business groups say climate deal 'possible'

20 February 2009

Business organisations from across the world, including Europe, the United States, China, India and Brazil, have offered their support for a global climate change agreement at this year's UN meeting in Copenhagen.

"Business is committed to supporting a successful outcome at the COP15 in Copenhagen, which we believe is possible in spite of the economic downturn," read a joint statement from the climate change roundtable of business representatives, adopted in Copenhagen on 17-18 February.

Signatories include business organisations from the EU, China, Brazil, Canada, India, Denmark, Kenya, South Africa, Japan and the US.

In their joint plea, the groups called for the establishment a global framework to tackle climate change that includes all countries and "gives equal attention to mitigation, adaptation and deforestation". This framework, they added, should "develop measurable, reportable and verifiable methodologies" to monitor greenhouse gas reductions and "make them a priority".

Businesses warned, however, about the poor state of the economy, saying that "without economic recovery, the global community's ability to take ambitious actions to address climate issues could be compromised".

The business organisations argued that the technologies to tackle to climate change are already mostly there, but governments could "do better with supporting policies, such as standards, public-private partnerships, government procurement, etc.". They also called for increased focus on energy-efficiency and the removal of "counter-productive taxes and tariffs" at a time when protectionism seems to be gaining ground due to the crisis.

"We must step up funding for R&D, innovation and training, and promote enabling frameworks to reduce costs for technology transfer and commerce," they added. source

My comment: That looks to me like the attack being the best defence. Though I must applaud the initiative, of course, and I cannot but agree with the idea to "step up the R&D", since that is EXACTLY what we should do. I just think they say it for the wrong motivation, but then, sometimes one does the right things for the wrong motivation and in the end, what s/he thinks matter only to him/her.

EU unveils strategic disaster prevention plan

24 February 2009

The European Commission yesterday (23 February) adopted a package of proposals to improve knowledge of both natural and man-made disasters and forge common external and internal strategies for tackling risk with Community funding.

The two communications imply that disaster prevention must be integrated into other EU policies, including development policy, and seek areas where EU-level action brings added value to national responses, which are often most suited to dealing with specific local situations.

The proposals do not cover emergencies related to conflicts or acts of terrorism. Nor do they advocate the creation of new instruments, but say the Community approach should "explicitly seek to build on measures that have already been taken at European level".

The Communication on the Prevention of Natural and Man-made Disasters says a common response would be effective in areas of action such as establishing a Europe-wide inventory of existing information and best practices, developing guidelines on hazard and risk-mapping, and improving access to early warning systems.

Concerning funding, the EU executive wants to establish an inventory of existing Community instruments that could be used to finance disaster prevention activities and to list the measures for which member states could apply for EU funding. Furthermore, risk prevention should be integrated into Community funding when the next financing perspectives are defined, it says.

The EU should invest in research to better anticipate and prevent risks, according to the Commission, as well as develop early warning systems. To this end, the EU executive suggests creating regional action plans, including awareness-raising campaigns, beginning with the Caribbean region.

The communication also promotes information exchange, for example by setting up networks between disaster-prone countries and regions. source

My comment: An article I think one must consider when reading this one is the following. It's about what a solar flare could do to our electronic world-more or less, it could create a very dramatic situation. And that's why I think this new initiative should be supported, but not only to such European money, it must create a clear and working network and to be able to correlate monitoring and early alarming. And of course, to manage aid at later times. The whole thing really isn't as stupid as it seems. It is important.

US shift spurs on global mercury pollution deal

2 March 2009

Thanks to a dramatic shift in the position of the United States, environmental ministers from over 140 countries agreed to begin negotiating a treaty to control global mercury pollution last week at a meeting of the UN Governing Council in Nairobi, Kenya.

US President Barack Obama's administration supports the creation of a legally binding document to control mercury pollution, in contrast with the Bush administration, which had stubbornly refused to enter into any agreement.

Green groups, including the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the Zero Mercury Working Group, praised this agreement as a "breakthrough".

"The treaty will ensure that the EU and other countries of the world make a serious commitment to reduce global mercury emissions, supply and demand," claimed Elena Lymberidi, coordinator of the EEB's 'Zero Mercury' campaign .

The industry association stated that the agreement to negotiate a treaty is in line with its "long-standing commitment to share best practices globally for reducing the use and emissions of mercury from mercury-cell chlor-alkali facilities".

The chlor-alkali industry is known for using the mercury cell process , during which mercury is used to support chemical reactions that produce chlorine and caustic soda.

The treaty aims to reduce the supply of mercury, minimise its use in products and processes and lower atmospheric mercury emissions. To achieve this, participants in the UN gathering agreed to "enhance the capacity for the environmental storage [of mercury]".

This is likely to translate into a major reduction of human exposure to mercury, as the US is responsible for 40% of mercury emissions. The agreement follows the adoption of an EU regulation to ban all exports of mercury from the EU in 2011.source

My comment: Haha, I was wondering what the EU regulation would be good for, but it looks like USA bought it. Those are great news, even if I don't understand exactly the process. But this really is a step in the right direction. I hope USA won't expect something in return, because after all it was a EU initiative, if they chose to obey it, that's their choice.

Parliament paves way for wider eco-design product list

18 February 2009

MEPs yesterday (17 February) backed European Commission proposals to extend the scope of the Eco-design Directive and the Ecolabel, but rejected proposals to include food products in the plans.

The European Parliament's environment committee voted on a report to cover all products with an impact on energy use, such as windows, insulation materials and water-using devices, in the EU's Eco-design Directive (EurActiv 24/10/08). Currently, only devices that directly use energy are part of the scheme.

MEPs, however, rejected a proposal from the rapporteur, Romanian MEP Magor Imre Csibi (ALDE), to go as far as including all products except means of transport. This would have effectively mandated the Commission to set minimum energy requirements for food and clothes, for example.

The committee consequently requested the Commission to come up with a proposal by 2012, extending the scope only to "non-energy-related products" with "significant potential for reducing their environmental impacts throughout their whole life-cycle".

MEPs also backed the Commission's proposal of July 2008 to make the voluntary EU Ecolabel less bureaucratic and less expensive. The Parliament wants to ensure that the Commission and member states provide proper funding for awareness-raising campaigns and that particularly small and medium-sized enterprises have better access to the flower label.

Moreover, the Parliament urged the Commission to consider the inclusion of reduced animal testing and better environmental performance as criteria for awarding the label. source

My comment: A good one too. I also think that it wouldn't work if they included food. All I want from food is firm control over the content and labelling. But then, that's a big one.

Green groups call for mercury labelling of fish

12 February 2009

Environmental NGOs have called for fish and seafood products to carry labels indicating their level of mercury content, claiming that eating fish can be "hazardous".

"The proposed European Union regulation for labelling foodstuff, currently being considered in the European Parliament, should include advice for vulnerable groups about the mercury content of fish and seafood," the NGOs assert in a report released on 10 February.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) gave its backing to the call, insisting that the labelling of certain fish products "should be instituted without delay".

"All governments should agree on launching an International Negotiating Committee (INC) to start work immediately on a global mercury treaty next week [at the United Nations convention in Nairobi]," says Elena Lymberidi, coordinator of the EEB's Zero Mercury campaign.

To protect consumers against the risks of mercury ingestion, the Commission stated that "member states should be provided with all the relevant information to be able to issue consumer advice" and "consumers are entitled to receive concrete information where possible".

In particular, the EU executive stressed that "pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding should not eat more than one portion per week of large predatory fish, such as swordfish, shark, marlin and pike". Moreover, parents should be aware that young children "should not eat tuna more than twice per week".

Given the high levels of mercury pollution to which fish are exposed in the sea, the NGOs' report claims that eating fish can be "hazardous".

Indeed, it has been shown in a reportPdf external by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEA) that the consumption of fish is by far the most significant source of ingestion-related mercury exposure in humans.

Ivan Bartolo, spokesperson for the Sea Fish Industry Authority (SFIA), said the "EU-wide legal limits in place for mercury have been set following rigorous scientific assessments".

As for the risk of mercury ingestion, Bartolo said "it is true that specific groups, such as pregnant women, need to be aware of advice from their national food authority". "But in all other cases, we would encourage everyone to eat at least two portions of seafood a week, because of the overwhelming health benefits of eating fish," he added. source

My comment: Very very interesting. I wasn't aware that the situation is so serious, but I noticed that the spanish clams I'm eating are very odd. They are simply different from those one year ago, though my guess is that when it comes to mercury, they had the same exposure. I think the pollution is much more extensive than the mere mercury, but in any case, it's important to know this. The bad news is that our government didn't warn is. So much about member states activity.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

News on energy unbundling in Europe, 02.2009

Today:
  1. Ministers give nod to EU energy security agenda
  2. EU energy market talks edge forward
  3. Electricity operators inaugurate regional cooperation centre

Ministers give nod to EU energy security agenda

20 February 2009

EU energy ministers yesterday (19 February) broadly confirmed the European Commission's draft energy security roadmap, endorsing six priority infrastructure projects, efficiency measures and "indigenous" sources of energy, such as renewables and nuclear, to secure more reliable supplies for the future. However, disagreements remained about the financing of the projects.

The Energy Council broadly endorsed the Commission's proposed Second Strategic Energy Review, reaffirming their support for six infrastructure projects to improve gas and electricity interconnections and promote large-scale offshore wind:

  • A yet-to-be-defined Southern gas corridor;
  • diversying LNG supplies;
  • electricity interconnection with the Baltic region;
  • the Mediterranean Energy Ring;
  • North-South gas and electricity interconnections within Central and South-East Europe, and;
  • the North Sea and North West Offshore Grid.

Ministers also reiterated the need to create an external energy policy, with emphasis on developing cooperation with Russia, countries along the Southern Corridor and the Mediterranean region.

Renewable energies, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and nuclear power were also highlighted as key to providing a more secure energy future.

With an eye on the ongoing credit crunch, the ministers urged the Commission to prepare a Sustainable Energy Financing Initiative in cooperation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to "mobilise large-scale funding from capital markets for investments" in energy efficiency measures and clean energies.

Ministers held a discussion over lunch about the allocation of €3.75 billion of unspent EU money to electricity and gas interconnections, offshore wind and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects (EurActiv 29/01/09).

The Commission modified its proposals on the eve of the ministerial meeting in response to criticism from several member states regarding the sums they were offered under the plan. The revised proposal shifs money away from coal-based energy production by downgrading the support foreseen for CCS projects from €250 to €200 million. The Nabucco pipeline project also saw its funding lowered from €250 to €200 million.

Germany, the Netherlands and the UK appeared to lose out most in the Commission's modified plan, government sources told EurActiv. France, Italy and Belgium, on the other hand, emerged as winners.

Mauri Pekkarinen, Finnish minister of economic affairs, said there was "reasonable agreement" over the projects, but many countries questioned the decision to leave out energy-efficiency funding. The absence of money for bioenergy was also noted by a minority, including France, Finland and Portugal. source

My comment: Could you guess that France and Italy would be the winners? Well, I could. It's not so bad, considering that they are giving the most money for the EU. Anyway, I'm glad to hear that CCS and Nabucco got less funding, because they are simply non-essential projects. Interesting, they don't mention the other arguable question, like the gas interconnection and so on. I think it's most important to create a pan-European electricity and gas-network. The better connected we are, the less likely that Russia or anyone else will use electricity or gas as a weapon.

EU energy market talks edge forward

19 February 2009

Deadlocked talks between the EU institutions on the third energy market liberalisation package took a step forward yesterday (18 February), as the Czech EU Presidency tabled amendments to the Council's position on ownership unbundling.

MEPs involved in the different proposals under discussion told journalists today (19 February) that the atmosphere was "constructive", in marked contrast to previous meetings.

Morgan said MEPs are worried that the amendments represent a Czech government position rather than the views of the Council as a whole. "We expect the Council to back up the efforts of the presidency," she said.

Nevertheless, Czech Presidency sources said the proposed changes are only minor as a "substantial change" would be rejected by the member states.

Separation of energy companies' generation and transmission assets ('ownership unbundling') remains the biggest stumbling block, with the Parliament insisting on full unbundling for electricity and a third option, involving a strong independent transmission operator, for gas. But the Council, under pressure from France, maintains that the third option should apply to both gas and electricity.

The Council originally suggested that directors should have a six-month break when moving from one part of a vertically-integrated company to another, and that top managers should have a break of around three years. But Morgan said the Council is now willing to be flexible.

Bulgarian Socialist MEP Atanas Paparizov, the Parliament's rapporteur on conditions for access to the natural gas transmission network, expressed optimism that the Council's position on a ten-year investment plan would change. The Parliament wants to make the plan obligatory, while the Council and the Commission are both in favour of a voluntary plan. source

My comment: Note how France presses for the third option on electricity. Why? Because France exports electricity. I think this is a good moment to see the strength of the Union. Because obviously, France is a big and powerful country willing to lead the others. However now the Union has 26 other members. And they could give a good opposition to France if they want to. Of course, they don't want to, but it's not that point. The point is that the more members there are, the better the balance would be between them. I hope the manage to get those Transmission operators for both things, with the hope that this will lead to paneuropean electricity and gas grids. We need them too badly. As for the top-managers, I hope the council stay firm on that, because in the USA, this is one of the top reasons for corruption-managers and presidents jumping back and forth. And we don't want that here!

Electricity operators inaugurate regional cooperation centre

19 February 2009

The first regional centre for technical cooperation between several electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) was inaugurated yesterday (18 February) in Brussels, after starting operations on 16 February.

French and Belgian TSOs RTE and Elia established a company, Coordination of Electricity System Operators (Coreso). to provide grid forecasts and support real-time monitoring of electricity flows on the grids of the Central Western European region. During its first phase, the centre will provide national control centres with integrated forecasts every afternoon for the next day, but from July onwards, it will operate around the clock with constant monitoring. The operators emphasised that it is the first technical centre to be operated by multiple TSOs.

The objective is to enhance the security of European grids, minimising blackouts caused by disruptions in certain sections of national grids. The founding TSOs have idenfied Coreso's regional reach as its added value, allowing information sharing and harmonisation of procedures via close cooperation.

The ultimate aim is to minimise blackouts by detecting grid hotspots, maintaining short-term equilibrium. Coreso can propose measures to optimise grid security, but national operators retain the right to make final decisions.

RTE and Elia are inviting other TSOs in the region to join, but the ultimate aim is to move into a "new phase in the integration of European markets," strengthening cooperation between different electricity regions. To this end, the National Grid, a British TSO, is expected to join Coreso in a matter of weeks, and Germany's Vattenfall has expressed interest in becoming a minor participant.

Coreso will not only facilitate market coupling, but also help achieve the greater penetration of renewable energies foreseen across Europe.

Cooperation between electricity system operators is increasing in Europe as the EU negotiates its Third Energy Liberalisation Package, which aims to fully open the bloc's electricity and gas markets. source

My comment: Nice! And I mean it. This is simply adorable piece of technology and it's nice to see national companies cooperating into it. And in the end, this will benefit citizens the most, because it will make sure they will always be electrified. Very very nice! (As for the renewables, I absolutely agree such monitoring stations are essential for the volatility of the energy renewable provide-imagine that there are very strong winds in Norway-having this station, you can reroute the generated electricity in Germany or even Bulgaria chosing the best routes and this way guaranteeing the safety of the grid and optimal use of the resources.Check here for a review about Romania's plans: (Romania)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Green Europe, 02. 2009

Today:
  1. EU to help cities go 'green', buy clean buses
  2. MEPs divided over congestion charges for trucks
  3. Poles seek funding for zero-emission plant
  4. Ministers to reject industrial pollution 'safety net'

EU to help cities go 'green', buy clean buses

12 February 2009

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is developing a financing facility to help cities improve their energy efficiency and buy cleaner bus fleets. An initial 15 million euro is foreseen to assist cities in developing the projects, but actual financing could reach "billions", EurActiv has learnt.

"We have two basic lines of action. One is energy efficiency and the other is public transport," said Mario Aymerich of the EIB.

"The intention is to use new technologies like hydrogen or hybrid buses to be implemented in cities" using green public procurement rules, the official told a conference in Brussels yesterday (11 February).

Funding will go to projects that can demonstrate their ability to deliver on the EU's so-called 20-20-20 policy of reducing greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020, and covering 20% of its energy needs with renewables by the same date, he explained.

The EIB is currently working with the European Commission to set up a 15 million euro fund to offer cities "technical assistance" in developing projects. The facility has not yet been officially approved, but this should be announced "in the coming days," Aymerich said.

According to Aymerich, "the new element of this facility is that, instead of financing up to 50% of the total cost of projects, we could arrive up to 75% of the total cost".

Last year, the EIB lent more than ten billion euro to the energy sector, with more than 20% going to renewable energy projects. An additional 2.6 billion euro was granted for urban public transport systems, it said.

The bank will also help cities to set up public transport authorities where required. "The role of this kind of authority is crucial," Aymerich said, noting that public transport authorities are commonplace in western countries but not in central and eastern European states that have recently joined the EU.

Aymerich added that the EIB will adapt its funding mechanism to meet cities' needs. source

My comment: This is a wonderful idea, but I think the funding is very VERY insufficient! Compare the billions of already granted projects to the millions of planned ones. If that's all the funding they are envisioned, then this is simply a joke. And what the hell means to "set up an authority" in Eastern Europe. I'm not sure what "authority" means in the case, but if it's not connected with money, it's useless.

MEPs divided over congestion charges for trucks

12 February 2009

Despite opposition from conservative MEP's, the European Parliament's transport committee yesterday (11 February) adopted a report backing national governments' right to charge heavy goods vehicles for the noise, pollution and congestion they cause.

The report nevertheless only partly supports the inclusion of congestion as a chargeable external cost of transport.

According to the adopted compromise national governments may only apply congestion charging to trucks on two conditions. First, they must conduct a cost-benefit analysis and submit an action plan setting out their measures to reduce congestion before applying the charge, and, second, a similar charge must be imposed on private cars too.

Meanwhile, noise and air pollution costs could be charged following standardised formulas and respecting certain maximum limits, MEPs said.

However, the committee decided not to allow member states to charge trucks for costs related to CO2 emissions, climate change or road accidents.

Finally, MEPs want to oblige member states to reinvest charging revenue into researching cleaner vehicles, better infrastructure and alternative modes of transport. source

My comment: I totally agree with this. After all heavy trucks don't go into city centres and thus. they cannot be charged for congestion. And since countries are getting heavy funding by the EU for the CO2, then it doesn't make sense to impose that charge on trucks. A good one, and notice how the center-right parties opposed it. That's why I'll vote left for the EU Parliament.

Poles seek funding for zero-emission plant

18 February 2009

Two leading Polish industrial companies are applying to receive EU funds for a project to build the world's first combined zero-emission power and chemical plant, to provide a sustainable solution to the country's heavy dependence on coal.

The joint project, by chemicals producer ZAK and energy producer PKE, would use state-of-the-art technology to turn coal into synthetic gas, which is then converted into electricity and heat, or chemicals. The carbon produced in the process would be captured and stored underground.

The plant would be built in Upper Silesia, one of Europe's most polluted regions, possibly in cooperation with neighbouring Czech Republic.

The new technology could therefore help Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and others which suffered severe supply disruptions during the gas crisis between Russia and UK reduce their dependence on Russian gas," he added.

The companies are pushing for the project's inclusion on a list of 10-12 EU-funded carbon capture and storage (CCS) demonstration plants. They argue that it will enable the testing of some 20 different technologies, identified as crucial for the 'de-risking' of CCS by the European Technology Platform for Zero Emission Fossil Fuel Plants (ZEP) , while cutting its total CO2 emissions by 92%.

Andrzej Siemaszko, Poland's coordinator for the 7th Framework Programme (FP7), suggested exploring the transportation of captured carbon through a Czech-Polish pipeline from Ostrava to the mesozoic reservoirs stretching from the Baltic Sea through Poland. He said this was the largest onshore reservoir and perfect for carbon storage due to its porous sediment.

The project has broad political backing from the Polish government, and Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek is also a supporter. ZAK and PKE are looking into forming partnerships with companies such as Shell, GE and Siemens, which have experience of the proposed technologies and leverage at European level.

The companies estimate the project would cost around €1.3 billion and are hoping to cover half of this with EU funding for CCS demonstration projects and potentially with some additional money from the structural funds. They are also in talks with the Polish government for financial support.

The project should be up and running by 2015, according to EU objectives. source

My comment: Yup, Polish people quickly figured out how to take European money and to turn them into profit for Poland. Now, I'm not quite sure, but I think Bulgarian coal are too expensive at the moment, so they cannot be alternative to Russian gas for our country. Although I don't see a reason not to support this CCS project /except for my "love" for Polland, of course/. I mean, if they are going to support other projects, this is just as good as them. And in my eyes, they are all bad. From merely technological point of view, we must investigate them. But I don't think we should use that technology for our climate change fight. Because theyare again using limited and polluting resources, when we can use unlimited and unpolluting resources. They are again creating energy dependency, just the country we'll be depending on are different. Not a good deal, if you ask me.

Ministers to reject industrial pollution 'safety net'

2 March 2009

A proposal, backed by Germany and Austria, to place a cap on noxious emissions spewed out by a wide range of industries, including steel, chemicals and processed food plants, is set to be voted down by EU environment ministers today (2 March) over concerns that the measure would be too costly.

The proposed recast of the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) Directive would require some 52,000 industrial operators to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil or water.

Environment ministers from the 27 EU member states are to debate broadening the scope of the directive to new industrial sectors, such as large industrial farms or waste incinerators.

Power plants and refineries with a capacity of between 20 and 50 MW are also to be included in the scope of the revised text (only those of 50 MW and above were regulated under the previous version).

But the issue is raising concerns about security of energy supply, as it would create extra costs to upgrade oil refineries.

Moreover, a proposal by the European Parliament and the European Commission that would require pollution limits to be applied as a kind of "safety net" is raising concerns about the extra costs it would generate for industry.

Under the proposal, specific limit values would be defined as a kind of "safety net" by the Commission, with the help of national experts using the so-called 'comitology' procedure.

But the diplomat said there is broad agreement that this would create too much rigidity for industry

The Parliament, however, appears to see things differently. In January, its environment committee approved the introduction of EU-wide emission limits in the proposed new directive. They said minimum emission limit values, which must not be exceeded, are needed to avoid having to resort to large-scale exemptions .

The full House will vote on the revised directive on 12 March.

Consensus, however, is emerging over the strengthening of a procedure that mandates the use of the cleanest available technology in specific industrial sectors in order to limit pollution.

Best Available Techniques (BATs) refers to the most effective and available emission reduction technology, as documented in European BAT Reference Documents (BREFs)," explains the EU's Council of Ministers in a briefing note.

"The Commission believes that member states have [allowed] too much divergence from BAT in the permits they deliver to industry. The proposed recast directive therefore envisages a more prominent role for BREFs in order to reduce the scope for national authorities to deviate from BAT in permitting," it continues.

"There appears to be a consensus on the need to strengthen the role of BREFs," according to a negotiation documentprepared last November by the French Presidency of the EU. source

My comment: For what it's worth, I support the Europe-wide cap on emissions. This way, the most polluted countries will have a chance. But then, it really must be done in a way accounting for the particularities of every country. Which mean they will probably corrupt it in the end. I also support a Europe-wide BAT, I hope that gets approved. It's important to make companies the best technologies, not the cheapest one. Because thi is the only way to make those BAT also cheap!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Research in Europe , 02.2009

Today:
  1. Commission's 'smart projects' plan divides the Union
  2. Commission to launch European Research Council review
  3. Europe-wide pension for researchers mooted
  4. EIT chief hits back at ‘monopoly’ criticism

Commission's 'smart projects' plan divides the Union


24 February 2009

A recent plan by the European Commission to allocate five billion euro of so-called "unspent EU money" to clean energy and broadband projects antagonised the bloc's foreign ministers yesterday (23 February) and embarrassed its initiators too, EurActiv has learned.

At yesterday's meeting of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, foreign ministers even disagreed over what "geographic balance" implies, sources told EurActiv.

In the view of Western countries, the energy projects package presented by the EU executive is a "balanced" one. But for the richest countries, a balanced proposal implies that they get returns, in the form of projects, to match their bigger contributions to the EU budget.

Eastern countries have a different understanding. As one Bulgarian official put it, Sofia sees "no coherence, no balance and no policy" in the Commission's proposal. Bulgaria will push for a "geographic balance" in the allocations, he added, to make sure that "the lessons learned from the gas crisis are reflected in the final decision".

In fact, Bulgaria and Slovakia, the countries worst hit by the crisis, were allocated only modest sums under the EU executive's plans to reallocate five billion euro of unspent EU money (EurActiv 29/01/09). Under the proposal, Bulgaria was allocated €20m for the Haskovo-Commotini gas interconnection with Greece, and Slovakia €25m for the Velky Krtis-Ballasagyarmat interconnector with Hungary.

But this time around, Bulgaria's criticism was echoed by Greece, Portugal and Spain, all of which also saw the package as unfair.

Other Western countries are raising objections too. Britain is uncertain about the timeframe and believes that money could be committed by 2010, but not spent. Germany would like to see a different list of projects, and Belgium and Denmark are unhappy that projects for "smart energy cities” have been dropped, sources said.

The Commission, the initiator of the project, found itself under fire not only over the content of the proposals but also for not having secured financing, EurActiv revealed recently (EurActiv 19/02/09). Now, under pressure from Germany, Austria, the UK and the Netherlands, the EU executive has been forced to abandon its plans to use funding from the so-called 'margin' between the 2008 annual budget and the ceiling for the EU's long-term financial framework for 2007-2013. Instead, it will try to find the money from elsewhere. source

My comment: Well, people, it's now or never! I also support the Bulgarian opinion that the proposals are not fair. What's even worst, I find some of them absolutely stupid. Like the CCS ones. They are in the list probably only to regain the balance the Western countries are seeking. Don't get me wrong, I also think that the more you contribute, the more you should take, but there also must be a balance, otherwise, poor countries would never get a thing and they will remain poor. And that wasn't the point of the EU funds. And in the case with Bulgaria and Slovakia, I am actually very disappointed by the EC decision. Because this time, we really deserved those money. Check my post on the crisis for reference. It was really upsetting to see all the Western countries turning their back to Bulgaria and Slovakia. And it's not because they are not relying on Russian gas, but merely because they have another route to get the same Russian gas. Well, I hope next time Mr. Putin decides to be the severe master, to stop their gas for a change. Then, we'll talk.

Commission to launch European Research Council review

25 February 2009

EU Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potočnik is to establish a high-level panel of experts to review the work of the European Research Council (ERC), it emerged yesterday (24 February).

Potočnik met experts from the EU and US, who are expected to be appointed to the review group by the Commission within days.

They will review the progress made by the ERC since its establishment in 2007 and provide advice on its future direction. Since the ERC's inception, the Council has considered some 11,000 grant applications and allocated over €850 million to 575 successful applicants.

The panel is expected to meet between February and July, and will draw up a report over the summer to enable the European Commission to offer an initial response in the autumn.

Commissioner Potočnik described the review of the ERC's structure as an important step in its development.

All the members of the review group have held senior positions in national government, research institutes or prestigious European academic establishments. source

My comment: All very nice, but what exactly senior positions in national governments have to with science??? I'm serious, I'm very glad to hear there is a development on ERC, because we'll I'm a scientist and I definitely would prefer European scientists to stay in Europe. But I don't like the way they are mixing science and politics. The ERC must be considered for the scientific results, for the correct allocation of funds and the clarity of its financial reports. And that's all.

Europe-wide pension for researchers mooted

13 February 2009

A pan-European pension fund for researchers and a system of "portable grants" are among a raft of new measures contained in a European Parliament report aimed at boosting scientists' career mobility.

The proposals are outlined in a report designed to make careers in research more attractive.

Member states and the Commission should also review the legal position of PhD students across Europe to assess whether a uniform PhD student status could be introduced under employment legislation, the committee said.

To boost mobility and exchange between scientists, the committee urges member states to introduce portable grants, which would allow researchers to conduct research in another member state if facilities are not available in their home universities or institutes.

They also propose a "research voucher" scheme, which would see research institutions and universities receive funding from another member state for hosting researchers from that country.

The report says the profile of scientific research in the general budget should be raised in order to achieve the target of training 600,000 more researchers, on average, by 2010. Member states must also encourage European scientists working outside the EU to return by increasing their salaries.

The report will be considered at the Parliament's plenary session in Strasbourg in March. source

My comment: Everything sounds good to me. True, mobility in science is quite good even now, but the more the better. And the problem with the pensions is very important in every aspect of European economy. Because if you want people to be able to move feely, you must ensure them that their work will give them social benefits everywhere in the Union. And not the tons of problems they currently get when they work for a while somewhere and then they try to return home or to go somewhere else.

EIT chief hits back at ‘monopoly’ criticism

18 February 2009

The chairman of the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), Martin Schuurmans, has denied claims by a leading academic that the institute's flagship innovation projects will become "monopolies of knowledge".

Speaking at the first of six European Policy Centre debates marking the European Year of Creativity and Innovation, Bengt-Åke Lundvall, a professor at the business studies department of Aalborg University in Denmark, compared the Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) to Airbus, saying the lack of competition would lead to less innovation.

"I always criticise what I call Airbus Syndrome – the idea that if we put all our eggs in one basket, things go better than if we have competition. I completely disagree with this," he argued.

Schuurmans rejected this stinging criticism, insisting that KICs would lead to more efficient use of existing research activity by bringing together a critical mass of scholars, students and industry.

"Competition is essential. You will see this later in how we build the KICs. What I really want to ensure is that we stay away from thinly spread networks," he said, while stressing the EIT would be a catalyst for step-change in how the EU uses its innovation capacity.

"There is enough capacity in Europe. It's about using this capacity wisely in order to have maximum impact," he said. According to the EIT chair, the KICs will be "webs of excellence" and will include bringing scientists together onto a single site. Each community will have four to six "major nodes", where staff could come to work together face-to-face.

For each KIC, one of the participating research institutes could take the lead for a number of years and bring researchers to its campus. All universities involved in the KICs would benefit from more publications, research output and staff development.

KICs will have a lifetime of between seven and 15 years, and will spend a total of €50 million to €100 million per year. However, Schuurmans acknowledged that the EIT budget is lower than he would have liked.

In selecting the KICs early next year, the EIT will focus on sustainable energy, climate change and the information society. Schuurmans said the EIT was also under pressure to extend its remit to include healthcare and food. source

My comment: Lol at the airbus syndome. And on the "you'll see later". But I partly agree with the KIC's idea. Obviously comptetition is crucial, but we're in information age and there is so much research to be done, it's hard to imagine that could be done by one or even 10 people. We need that critical mass. On many places on the world. And we need the feeling of unification, because competition, as good as it is, transformed science into a mob. You can publish if you don't cite the bosses. Thus, you inevitably make their papers even more important. This isn't so bad, because good things are good. But citing becomes useless as a way to measure the quality of science. And that's not good! And one thing I don't like in KIC-the populism. How could EIT be under pressure to include food in research?! What foot?Oh, yes, food like in Sygenta. Well, thank you very much. I don't want my taxes to go for the next generation of GMo's polluting the Earth.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Business in Europe, 02.2009

Today:
  1. EIB rolls out SME funding scheme
  2. Brussels to fund ‘Erasmus’ for SMEs
  3. Commission cuts red tape for micro-enterprises
  4. Companies push for 'very low-energy buildings'

EIB rolls out SME funding scheme

13 February 2009

The European Investment Bank (EIB) is ramping up its support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by making up to €30 billion available over the next three years and providing technical assistance to microfinance institutions.

EIB President Philippe Maystadt said loans would be given to banks, which would then pass credit on to small businesses. He said SMEs have been hardest hit by the current downturn and jobs are in jeopardy due to the lack of credit available from banks.

However, an initial attempt to establish a European Microfinance Fund had not attracted sufficient funds from member states due to "a lack of solidarity" and governments' insistence on attaching strict conditions to money they lend, he added.

Maystadt insisted the new scheme is not aimed at increasing the liquidity of banks, but would encourage financial institutions to loosen the supply of much-needed credit to SMEs.

To mitigate the risks taken by banks in lending to businesses, the EIB will take on half of the risk, thus reducing the capital requirements of lending institutions. source

My comment:No, it's not intended to the bank, AT ALL! Well, if not else, it would really help small businesses-I guess it's a win-win situation. It's good to see that people start realising the only way to survive is to help each other. Because the tendency for nationalisation surely doesn't represent a happy future for banks, even for EIB.

Brussels to fund ‘Erasmus’ for SMEs

20 February 2009

Entrepreneurs will be paid up to €1,100 per month to move to other EU countries to learn from experienced business owners as part of a pilot project designed to encourage young business owners to make more of the internal market.

The scheme is part of the Small Business Act which was unveiled in July 2008 and will help 870 entrepreneurs to spend between one and six months in another EU member state in 2010.

People starting their own businesses will be paired with established SMEs with the help of local chambers of commerce and other intermediary organisations.

Funding for expenses varies according to the cost of living in member states and ranges from €560 in Latvia to €1,100 in Denmark, but entrepreneurs keen to avail of the scheme will be expected to raise additional funds and demonstrate that they have a viable business plan.

“New entrepreneurs will gain competences and perspectives that will prove invaluable during the business start-up phase, while also enhancing potential cross-border activity and thus the probability of success,” said Ben Butters, Director of European Affairs at Eurochambers.

Maive Rute, Director for Promotion of SMEs’ competitiveness, European Commission, said the project is similar to the long-running Erasmus programme which allows students to spend a year studying abroad.

She said it will strengthen links between EU citizens and foster an entrepreneurial spirit among younger people.

Businesses across Europe continue to focus on their national market rather than exploiting commercial opportunities elsewhere in the EU, with just 8% of SMEs exporting their goods and services within the EU.source

My comment: Now, that's what I call fun. I haven't been in Erasmus, though that would have been nice, but then, it's not very easy to go in another country when there's no one to take care of the dog. Anyway, I find this new initiative for very promising. Even if it's somewhat unrealistic-without an incentive for the "old" businessmen, there simply won't be enough volunteers to make the program work. But it's cool, because this way, you can meet another cultures, find out the rules in other countries and in the end, bring the good things in your home-country by requesting the same conditions from the government. That's cool, right?!

Commission cuts red tape for micro-enterprises

2 March 2009

The European Commission plans to ditch accounting requirements for the EU's smallest companies in an effort to ease the administrative burden and save each business up to €1,200 per year, or a total of €6.3 billion.

Member states will be allowed to completely abolish financial reporting obligations for micro-enterprises as part of the European Economic Recovery Plan, which was originally unveiled in November 2008.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Charlie McCreevy saidexternal the move will ease the burden on small businesses at a time of economic uncertainty, but it will be up to member states to decide whether to implement the proposal.

He called on the European Parliament to give its full and rapid backing to the Commission's plan.

The EU executive said these companies have limited resources but have been expected to comply with the same demanding regulations faced by larger companies.

To qualify, companies must meet two of three requirements set out by the Commission:

  • A balance sheet total of not more than €500,000;
  • A net turnover of not more than €1,000,000, and;
  • Not more than ten employees. source
My comment: I don't get it, what do they mean by "abolish financial reporting obligations"? Surely every company must make a financial report at the end of each year, right? Obviously it's aimed to help small companies, but still, it's somewhat unrealistic to expect member-state not to require documentation from companies. Or maybe I didn't understand correctly. Anyway, I'm glad to see so many steps to help SMEs. Because after all, banks my happily crash, but the whole thing is affecting families. And it's not fair people to pay for the rotten system.

Companies push for 'very low-energy buildings'


18 February 2009

Governments need to communicate more clearly their objectives on improving the energy consumption of buildings, to give construction companies more certainty about future demand, according to a survey to be published later today.

EuroACE, the federation of companies producing energy-saving goods and services, will publish the results of its new survey on very low-energy buildings today (18 February). The study argues that the EU could reduce CO2 emissions by at least 36 Mt per year in 2020 while saving 568 PJ of energy if all new buildings were to be constructed as very low-energy buildings from 2012 (see EurActiv LinksDossier).

The survey was conducted in five member states - Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom - which were deemed to have the most advanced national strategies to promote low-energy building. Together, these countries are home to half of EU citizens, and the results were therefore seen to be a conservative representation of the current state of the sector across the Union as a whole, considering that energy savings potential is considerably higher in the Eastern member states than in a country like Denmark.

Dyrbøl said that all member states answering the questionnaire identified a clearly communicated long-term policy framework as crucial.

The EU's Enery Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) did not give national governments appropriate incentives to devise such strategies as it only required them to revise their building requirements every five years, without an obligation to actually strengthen them, she argued. She said, however, that the EPBD seemed to have an impact beyond its ambitions just by asking EU countries to look at their building codes.

"We have identified at least eight countries which have made a plan on how their energy requirements will be strengthened up to 2020," Dyrbøl said, stressing that "ambitious European legislation" like the current recast of the EPBD is still urgently needed to guide the development of low-energy building. source

My comment: That's very intersting, because here, in Bulgaria, I think all the new buildings come with a certificate for energy efficiency. And there is not an opt-out from this. It's another question what exactly this sertificate means in reality, but all the building come with external insulation and good window frames, which leads to a great energy savings, especially in a country with a cold winters as ours. Obviously, sometimes good things can be done even with the wrong motivation. And what's even more fun is that the actual drive in Bulgaria isn't ecology, it's business!

 

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