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Friday, June 19, 2009

Business in Europe, June, 2009-anti-discrimination too expensive?

Today:
  1. Ministers agree SME 'impact assessment' for new laws
  2. Businesses urge EU to drop anti-discrimination plans
  3. Irish demands on workers' rights causing EU Treaty headaches
  4. Commission issues jobs plan ahead of election
  5. EU makes business case for renewables

Quote of the day:You have to see how under-represented women are in both EP and EC, to believe it. You think we're living in modern time, we have equal opportunities, but we don't! People prefer to elect men. People prefer to see men in charge. They don't do it directly, banning women from politics, but they do it passively, when they elect only men. Sexism is so deep within our minds. Imagine how deep is our discrimination against disabled people then!

Ministers agree SME 'impact assessment' for new laws

29 May 2009

All new legislation should be vetted to ensure it does not make life difficult for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to industry ministers from across Europe meeting in Brussels yesterday (28 May).

It was agreed that thorough impact assessments and cost-effectiveness analyses should be carried out on national legislative and non-legislative proposals to determine their potential impact on business.

Describing SMEs as the backbone of the European economy, ministers said they should be "respected and considered" when setting up framework conditions for industry.

The Competitiveness Council, which continues its work today (29 May), said that companies should be given adequate time to adapt to any new requirements before legislation is introduced, in accordance with the 'Think Small First' principle contained in the Small Business Act introduced last June.

Ministers also asked the European Commission to monitor the impact on business of the REACH regulations on chemicals, "especially SMEs, taking into account the current economic situation".

Discussing the impact of the financial crisis on small companies, the Competitiveness Council said banks should be encouraged to resume "normal lending activities" as a condition of state support.source

My comment: I don't see a problem in this, as long as this analysis won't affect the legislation. Because obviously, any new requirement to the business will come at a financial cost, you cannot avoid this. You can minimise it, but in some cases, you just have to accept it and move on. If the EC is to consider both SMEs and big corporations, in the end we'd all be stuck and nothing will be done. I don't underestimate the value of the SMEs for the economy or for the people, because after all SMEs really represents the least protected part of European's economy. I just think that eventual costs should be softened, not evaded. We have to keep moving!

Businesses urge EU to drop anti-discrimination plans

27 May 2009

Citing the ongoing recession, EU employers' group BusinessEurope has called on the European Union to withdraw a directive aimed at fighting discrimination, causing outcry among social NGOs.

Philippe De Buck, director-general of BusinessEurope, called on EU ministers meeting on Thursday to ensure that social legislation does not put companies under further strain.

The demands were spelt out in a letter to the Czech minister for industry and trade, Vladimir Tošovský, as he prepares to chair a two-day meeting of the 27 ministers in charge of competitiveness and research policy in the EU’s member states.

Germany and Britain are expected to be most reluctant to back the plan when ministers discuss the Commission's proposal, EU officials said.

"We call for the anti-discrimination directive to be withdrawn and for ideas about introducing legislation on EU collective redress to be dropped."

Small businesses in particular have questioned the practicality of the proposal, saying it was open to legal interpretations in the case of disabled persons. "Will all restaurants now have to have a wheelchair ramp? " asked Anja Weisgerber MEP, vice-president of the SME circle for the centre-right EPP-ED group in the European Parliament.

The Czech Republic, which holds the rotating EU presidency, will present a progress report on the disability aspect of the discussions at a meeting of employment ministers on 8 June. The report will serve as a basis for discussing the directive as a whole, said Radek Honzák, a spokesman for the Czech Presidency.

The calls caused outcry among European social NGOs. Conny Reuter, president of the Social Platform, said the European Parliament had repeatedly called for such proposals. 89% of respondents to a Commission consultation on the issue were in favour of the anti-discrimination plans, he stressed.

Katharina Von Schnurbein, the Commission's spokesperson on social affairs, defended the proposal, saying the claims about costs had been exaggerated by business organisations.

German business group BDI had evaluated the implementation costs of the last anti-discrimination directive, adopted in 2000, at 1.73 billion euros, she said. But the figures had later been contradicted by the German anti-discrimination office, which estimated the implementation costs at only 26 million euros.

"It is clear that anti-discrimination policies cost something," Von Schnurbein told EurActiv, "but they also protect honourable people". source

My comment: I simply cannot believe my eyes, while I'm reading this. So, business is begging for anti-discrimination policies to be dropped down. What do you think about it? Because I'm furious! I urge you to read the source page, because there are many valuable opinion in there. Discrimination is a crime, how could someone possibly claim a law cannot be introduced because it costs money! Ok, let's all shoot each other on the street because it's less expensive than to go to a court!!! And please note the difference between the claimed cost and the actual cost. I don't know about you, but for me there is a major difference between few millions and few billions! I think people are just trying their luck in this-whether the EC will bend over or it will stay firm. And for me, it's clear that they should stay firm. The time of discrimination should be over. You remember that feminist that asked on a EU meeting the 5 men - no women, is this how you imagine the EU? It was ridiculous, and the Czech prime-minister (I think) responded quite cheerfully "Well, we're men, what do you expect-Martians?", but the problem is quite serious. You have to see how underrepresented women are in both EP and EC, to believe it. You think we're living in modern time, we have equal opportunities, but we don't! People prefer to elect men. People prefer to see men in charge. They don't do it directly, banning women from politics, but they do it passively, when they elect only men. Sexism is so deep within our minds. Imagine how deep is our discrimination against disabled people then!

Irish demands on workers' rights causing EU Treaty headaches

20 May 2009

The guarantees granted to Ireland last year in exchange for a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty are creating difficulties as EU diplomats scramble to finalise agreements ahead of June's European summit in Brussels.

EU leaders made a number of promises to the Irish government last December in exchange for a pledge to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in 2009 (EurActiv 12/12/08).

These included a guarantee that each EU member state would retain a commissioner (originally, Lisbon would introduce a rotating commissioner system); legally-binding protocols on neutrality, taxation and ethical issues; and a declaration on workers' rights.

However, diplomatic sources told EurActiv that while the legal wording for the "commissioner guarantee" and protocols are nearing completion, the declaration on workers' rights is proving more problematic.

Despite the fact that the declaration will not be legally binding, it appears a number of EU countries are reluctant to include any such text, as they believe it could cause difficulties at national level, particularly at a time of rising unemployment and economic recession.

A compromise solution may be that the text simply makes reference to current EU guarantees for workers' rights, the source indicated.

However, such a move is likely to be pounced upon by anti-Lisbon campaigners as a sign of EU inaction, according to the source.

Meanwhile, a poll published earlier this week found that Irish public opinion is swinging in favour of the treaty, with 52% saying they will vote 'yes' and 29% predicted to vote 'no' in the forthcoming referendum. source

My comment: Can you blind-guess which countries are opposing workers rights? Oh, well, nothing new here. I hope they manage to amend it in a very positive way. This way the "No" of Ireland will mean something for all of us. Because the commissioner guarantee is certainly a good one, otherwise, small countries would be generally screwed even with the best intentions of the Lisbon treaty. I wonder why those changes weren't made before we all voted on the Treaty. Yes, maybe it would have been impossible to balance all of the demands of the member states, but still, the commissioner guarantee isn't a bad one, if the EU won't enlarge too much more. They certainly can divide the responsibilities of the Commission a little, to fit the number, but I agree it's impractical is we admit all of the ex-Soviet republics and Turkey. Oh, well, I guess we all know what that means :) At least for Turkey, I don't mind Ukraine, but Russia will mind, so...

Commission issues jobs plan ahead of election

4 June 2009

A €19 billion plan to kick-start Europe's job market during the economic crisis has been welcomed by SMEs, but was dismissed by unions and business groups as misguided.

In a communication designed to curb the threat of mass unemployment, the EU executive is to make €19 billion available to support people hit by the economic crisis.

The plan was published as millions of voters prepare to cast their ballot at the European elections this week, starting with the UK and the Netherlands today (4 June).

Business and NGO lobbies, however, dismissed the plan as lacking ambition. BusinessEurope said the European Commission did not to go into far-reaching regulatory approaches in different areas such as short-term work, while the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said the strategy was merely a reworking of existing programmes.

The plan, released yesterday (3 June), includes loans to those struggling to find the necessary credit to start a business. A range of training schemes for small businesses and apprenticeships for young unemployed people are proposed, as well as programmes to help match jobseekers with vacancies.

Key points of the EU jobs plan:

  • Redirecting €19 billion of planned expenditure under the European Social Fund to help people to stay in work or move towards new jobs, through upgrading skills, encouraging entrepreneurship and improving public employment services under the Fund;
  • Reallocating €100 million from the existing EU budget which – when combined with funding from international financial institutions, particularly the European Investment Bank – will provide more than €500 million for the creation of a new EU microcredit facility. These micro-credits will support those at risk of not obtaining funds to set up a business, such as the recently unemployed, and reinforce employment in micro-businesses facing the credit crunch;
  • A commitment to provide at least five million apprenticeships across the EU for young people;
  • Support for schemes to maintain viable employment through short-time work and training;
  • Immediate help for the unemployed to avoid the risk of long-term unemployment and the loss of relevant skills, including proposals that an early opportunity for training or work should be provided to each unemployed person;
  • Help to get the most disadvantaged back into jobs, for example, through lower non-wage labour costs, recruitment incentives and the promotion of low-skilled job opportunities in household and care services;
  • New online 'match and map' service to help jobseekers match their skills to job vacancies throughout Europe;
  • A focus on skills upgrading and a better match with labour market needs, with a Commission sector-by-sector analysis of EU labour market needs today and for the future, including green skills;
  • A practical toolkit to help companies, workers and their representatives better manage and anticipate business restructuring, and;
  • A guide for training in small businesses to help SMEs maintain and obtain the skills they need.

Announcing the plan, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the EU was taking swift action to deal with the crisis, including its social dimension.

However, the strategy was criticised by unions and left-leaning politicians. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) said the Commission was responding to an exceptional situation by proposing to continue its existing policy agenda. ETUC called for 1% of GDP to be invested in greening the economy and policies to secure the labour market. source

My comment: Check here for some unemployment numbers. As for the news, I can only shrug. I mean, it sounds good, but I see a list of very definite steps with small numbers next to them and one big 19 billion euro amount, that I have no idea where it will go. They gave some very broad description, but I want to see it divided on member-states, on projects, on professions. It's so broad and so uninformative, it can easily go to oil industry or automakers-I'm sure they will find a way to fit it. It looks horribly nontransparent to me and I fear those money will simply disappear without a trace.

EU makes business case for renewables

3 June 2009

The EU could create more than 400,000 additional jobs by boosting its policies in support of renewable energies and delivering on the bloc's 2020 target, a new study published by the European Commission argues.

The study, on the impact of the EU's renewable energy policy, stresses that reaching a 20% share of renewables in the bloc's energy mix would add 0.24% to total gross domestic product (GDP) in the EU economy as a whole. Meanwhile, the green energy sector could see the creation of 2.8 million new jobs and 1.1% GDP growth, the Commission argues. The latter are significantly higher figures than those for the economy at large, with the study also looking at the impact of a robust renewables policy on other sectors of the economy.

The EU executive acknowledges that while more support for innovative energy solutions such as photovoltaics, offshore wind and second-generation biofuels will stimulate investment in the sector and fuel trade in renewables technologies, this does not come without a cost.

For example, with investment in conventional energy plunging, higher energy costs as a result of increased use of renewables will take their toll on the economy, as consumers and governments alike will have lower budgets. In this scenario, the industry as a whole could lose its competitive advantage.

Nevertheless, the study argues that strong investment overrides the negative impact of the renewables sector. While slashing greenhouse gases and ending Europe's dependence on imported fuel have been most obvious reasons to promote renewables so far, the Commission says that these latest results make the case for competitiveness too.

The study explains, however, that the 2020 target for renewables will not be achieved with current support policies (EurActiv 30/04/09). A 'business-as-usual' approach will only deliver a 14% share of renewables by 2020, it claims. source

My comment: Oh yeah? Sorry to doubt this conclusions. I wonder how such wonderful results will happen if there are no strong policies on the issue, if money simply disappear in nonsense projects as CCS and if in the end, there are no money for renewables, because they give them all for gas projects? I cannot understand why the Commission won't decide finally what it wants, because what we see are so many good intentions, without coverage. Because it's true that the green sector can give be very very productive and to give amazing profit-this is an unexplored niche that offers so much in returns. But without a clear sign that this niche will be preferred over the oil/gas/coal fuels, people simply won't develop it. Or even worst, they may develop it in unsustainable way. So, I think it's high time we see some action on the playground. After all, if the Europe prefers to stay on fossil fuels, it's our right. Pour the money to oil/gas companies and enjoy your life. But if we're serious about going green-not for the Planet's sake, for our own energy security's sake-then we have to act upon it. The time for talks is over. Now it's time for actions!

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