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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Business and finances in Europe, August, 2009

Today (sorry for being irregular, I'm just so busy) :
  1. EU unveils microfinance fund to tackle unemployment
  2. Big pharma expresses relief over EU inquiry
  3. EU to tighten bank lending to offset risks
  4. G8 leaders pledge €14 billion for food security
  5. Carbon tariffs falling out of favour as trade war looms

Quote of the day: One thing I completely don't understand is why they always focus on agriculture. It simply doesn't make sense to me. In Europe and Americas, the famine was defeated by technology, not by agriculture in terms of more farms. The key moments were the use of fertilizers,machines and so on. They don't subsidize this! They give money to keep them poor! And that's so sad!

EU unveils microfinance fund to tackle unemployment

2 July 2009

Newly unemployed people in need of loans to start their own businesses will be able to avail of up to €25,000 in the form of loans and credit guarantees from the European Union. The scheme, especially targeted at young people, will make €100 million available over a four-year period.

The funds, unveiled on Thursday (2 July), could be used to leverage more than €500 million and will be dispersed through banks and non-profit trusts as part of a scheme run in partnership with the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Commission said.

The scheme will begin in 2010 for four years and will be operated as a pan-European initiative with funds drawn down on demand. Specific portions of funds will not be allocated to each of the 27 EU countries, the Commission said.

The €100 million made available for the microfinance facility has been drawn from other budgets and represents a reallocation of existing funds rather than an injection of new money.

The move is designed to help people who have lost their jobs, those who wish to start a small business, and people who have difficulty securing finance from traditional banking sources. Young people and microenterprises in particular face severe problems getting loans, a Commission official indicated.

According to Employment and Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimír Špidla, the EU will take the "first risk" in providing funding and guarantees for entrepreneurs in order to attract additional credit. The EIB will accept the "second risk," with other investors benefiting from a degree of protection thanks to the availability of European funds.

In addition, the European Social Fund may offer interest rate rebates on the loans and is also expected to offer guidance and mentoring to entrepreneurs benefiting from the scheme. source
My comment: Click here for the Swedish version of Lisbon Strategy on employment. Nothing new there . But this article reminds me of Zeitgeist. I'm not some kind of paranoia/conspiracy person, I do believe in logic, but when banks right after a crises that sucked down global finances start offering credit - note - in situations that are not applicable for other banks- that looks kind of suspicious. Yes, it's hard to guess what the conditions would be, but still, I get little bit mad when the guys with the money, start offering money to anyone, just to produce. If your system doesn't stimulate production, if your money doesn't mean anything without that production, then why don't we change the system? I think that crisis should have told us that our system is bad, but instead, just as in Nature, nothing was lost, only changed its owner. Well, I don't get it, why if I'm without work I should be stimulated to start a business. I don't want to start a business. I'm not interested into producing stuff that only the middle man benefits from. I want to sustain my life and eventually create something valuable for the others. But I simply don't see why I should start a business, employ people and get under even more pressure than I'm right now. Oh, now, thank you very much. I'll play it solo.

Big pharma expresses relief over EU inquiry

9 July 2009

The European pharmaceutical industry has expressed satisfaction with the publication of a long-awaited investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices in the sector, saying the final report is softer than a preliminary version released in November 2008.

EFPIA, the trade group representing large pharmaceutical companies, highlighted a shift in tone in the EU executive's final report on the sector and welcomed the "constructive policy recommendations".

At a briefing yesterday (8 July), EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes pressed for greater use of cheaper generic medicines in caring for an ageing population, and was critical of what she described as "rotten" agreements between some firms which hold up the release of new drugs.

However, the report puts considerable emphasis on the need for patent reforms and well-flagged plans for a single patent court system. This was welcomed by EFPIA, which said streamlining the European patent system would cut costs and reduce current legal uncertainties.

The pharma group also said the final report "failed to substantiate" earlier allegations that patenting strategies dampen innovation and illegitimately delay generic entry. It welcomed the acknowledgment in the report of the importance of Europe's research-based pharmaceutical industry.

EFPIA board member Thomas Cueni said the EU has also accepted that not all "settlement agreements" between patent-holding pharma firms and generic manufacturers are necessarily improper.

The industry expressed concern that the push towards greater use of generics, coupled with the rising costs of conducting R&D in Europe, would damage the European pharmaceutical sector.

The European Commission is to probe agreements between Les Laboratoires Servier and a number of generic companies over "possibly restrictive" practices which may have delayed the availability of a generic heart medication.

EU officials suggested further cases could follow, saying the new report would pave the way for increased regulatory scrutiny of settlement agreements in which brand-name companies pay generics manufacturers for not competing with them.

The generic medicines industry also welcomed the publication of the report and called for the swift implementation of its findings.

However, consumer groups were less impressed. BEUC, the European consumers organisation, said questions remain over anti-competitive practices in the pharma sector and patients are getting a raw deal.

Key findings of the pharmaceutical sector inquiry:

  • A Community patent and unified specialised patent litigation system in Europe would reduce administrative burdens and uncertainty for companies.
  • Recent initiatives of the European Patent Office (EPO) to ensure a high quality standard of patents granted and to accelerate procedures are welcome.

The Commission is also urging member states to:

  • Ensure that third party submissions do not occur and in any event do not lead to delays for generic approvals, and;
  • Significantly accelerate approval procedures for generic medicines - for example, the Commission believes that generic products should automatically/immediately receive pricing and reimbursement status where the originator drug already benefits from such status, which would allow for a faster product launch in certain cases;
  • Take action if misleading information campaigns questioning the quality of generic medicines are detected in their territory, and;
  • Streamline trials that test the added value of novel medicines. source
My comment:All very nice, but this looks little bit like soc-communiquee. The things they "found" are absolutely obvious, just as stuff they urge the member states are completely logical. So, good work, you spent my tax-payers money very well, thank you. Now, on patents, this is so hard subject. I so wish I had the solution, but I doubt it. In any case, I think that it's fair that any product should be protected with a patent, maybe for say 5 years (short, but we live in dynamical world) or until someone finds out another way of production. But after this, there's no point in keeping a patent for something that isn't already unique. I think people simply forgot what is the idea behind the patents - to stimulate innovation. Sure, a new drug is a great investment, it's expensive to develop it, to go trough all the tests and then to manufacture it and market it. That's why they must get say 5 years patent rights, but after that, come on. Let's be real, the investments probable pay off in a year if the drug was such a good idea. If it wasn't and they cheated on the trials, oh well, next time be honest. But my point is that the investments should pay off in a less than 5 years. Everything beyond that is simply too much. It's not like they pay a lot of money to the scientists that developed the thing for them...

EU to tighten bank lending to offset risks

8 July 2009

European Union finance ministers agreed yesterday (7 July) to tighten bank loans during periods of economic growth in order to boost liquidity and make funds available for when recession hits. The agreement came as national regulators proposed to build a bank liquidity buffer to guarantee a "survival period of at least one month".

Under the agreed plan on long-term rules, which the European Commission will use to draft legislation in October, banks would be required to build sizeable reserves of capital in good times so that they can act as a buffer during downturns.

This would prevent financial institutions from ruthlessly opening the credit market during periods of economic boom, while easing lending during difficult times.

The scheme is intended to ensure the 27-nation EU is better prepared for any repeat of the global financial crisis, which was triggered by bad loans in the United States which spread quickly throughout the world's economies.

"The Council agrees that further work is necessary to mitigate pro-cyclicality by creating counter-cyclical capital buffers, i.e. to be raised in good times and to be drawn in downturns," the ministers said in a statementPdf external after their monthly meeting in Brussels. Pro-cyclicality is an aspect of economic policy that could magnify economic or financial fluctuations.

"We need to see stronger buffers in banks in good times. It is important that we mend the banking system so that credit gets running again. We need stronger regulation, more efficient regulation," said Swedish Finance Minister Anders Borg, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency.

The Council statement was echoed by draft guidelines on liquidity buffers published yesterday by EU banking regulators brought together in the Committee of European Banking Supervisors (CEBS).

"A survival period of at least one month should be applied to determine the overall size of the liquidity buffer under the chosen stress scenarios. Within this period, a shorter time horizon of at least one week should also be considered to reflect the need for a higher degree of confidence over the very short term," CEBS said.

The committee also described the type of assets that could be accepted in a liquidity buffer: they must be money or assets that can be turned into cash quickly with a predictable value. Over-reliance on one type of asset, whose rapid sale to raise cash could disrupt the broader market and trigger problems for other banks, should also be avoided, CEBS said. The committee carefully avoided spelling out an absolute figure for the reserve, as this will vary from bank to bank.

Countries rejected Germany's proposal to relax the Basel II rules on capital requirements for a limited period so that credit supply does not dry up to such an extent that firms are put at risk. But the plan gave rise to little enthusiasm.

source

My comment: Of course, I have no idea what they are talking about, I'm not an economist. But I think it makes sense that when you see certain type of money-management can lead to problems, you should regulate it in away that would minimize that risk. That's all I can say. And that, of course, I don't like the idea of big credits, if you are an entrepreneur and you need a credit to start off a business - ok. But credits for everything - no!

G8 leaders pledge €14 billion for food security

10 July 2009

Leaders from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialised nations agreed today (10 July) to commit around €14 billion over the next three years to helping the world's poorest countries develop their agricultural sectors.

"We welcome the commitments made by countries represented at L'Aquila [the summit host town in Italy] toward a goal of mobilising at least $20 billion [€14.3 billion] over three years," reads the declarationPdf external .

"We are committed to increasing investments in short, medium and long-term agriculture development that directly benefits the poorest and makes best use of international institutions," it adds.

The declaration does not make clear whether it is all new funds, nor does it give details of individual countries' contributions. It also makes no mention of a trust fund for the contributions to be managed by the World Bank, a proposal put forward by Washington in previous drafts but opposed by the EU.

José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission said "the EU will be contributing with around €3 billion within this Initiative." The EU contribution comes on top of the bloc's €1 billion food facility announced last year (EurActiv 05/12/08).

The declaration underlines that the combined effect of long-standing underinvestment in agriculture, price volatility and the economic crisis had led to increased poverty and hunger in developing countries.

According to the United Nations, the number of malnourished people has risen over the past two years and is expected to top 1.02 billion this year, reversing a four-decade trend of declines.

The G8 summit kept a strong commitment to ensure adequate emergency food assistance, but its focus on agricultural investments reflects a US-led shift toward longer-term strategies to fight hunger.

The United States is the world's largest aid donor of food - mostly grown domestically and bought from US farmers.

G8 leaders said their approach would target increased agricultural productivity, stimuli for harvest interventions, emphasise private-sector growth, women and smallholders, preserve natural resources, and prioritise job expansion, training and increased trade flows.

The announced funding over three years compares with $13.4 billion [€9.6 billion] which the G8 says it disbursed between January 2008 and July 2009 for global food security.

source

My comment: One thing I completely don't understand is why they always focus on agriculture. It simply doesn't make sense to me. In Europe and Americas, the famine was defeated by technology, not by agriculture in terms of more farms. The key moments were the use of fertilizers, machines and so on. They don't subsidize this! They give money to keep them poor! And that's so sad! I'm not some type of techno-freak and certainly I don't believe that genetically modified crops can save the planet from starvation, that's nonsense (and a well sold lie). But if we really want to help the hungry people, we have to educate them and give them the technology we have adapted to their environment. What's even more, we must stimulate them to discover what works well for their life-style and to help them turn it into technology. I'm in no way for the increased use of chemicals and the deforestation of Africa - I think it's clear for everyone by now, that we have to go sustainability and for all kinds of efficiency. But that is doable if there is a political and financial will. As long as we keep treating them like pets, they will continue counting on us to provide food. That's wrong, bad and ugly!

Carbon tariffs falling out of favour as trade war looms

28 July 2009

A majority of European countries are reluctant to pick up on current debates in France and the United States about carbon tariffs designed to fend off competition from countries which have not committed to reducing emissions, for fear of triggering a green trade war.

So far, France has been the only member state to openly rally for the introduction of border measures to secure the competitiveness of European industry against emerging economies. It put the measure on the table in 2008 when the EU was immersed in discussions on a revision of its emissions trading scheme (EU ETS).

Since agreement was reached on the revised directive in December 2008, carbon tariffs largely disappeared from debates until the US floated the idea in a draft climate bill. In the EU, meanwhile, France is having difficulty finding allies to rally around the cause.

As EU environment ministers met informally last week to discuss Europe's position for international negotiations, the Swedish EU Presidency warned that hints of protective measures would block progress towards a global deal, which it said was already too slow.

"The threat of taxes to harm developing countries would seriously make negotiations more difficult," said Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren.

German State Secretary Matthias Machnig reportedly echoed Swedish views that carbon tariffs would send the wrong message ahead of December's UN climate conference in Copenhagen, calling them "a new form of eco-imperialism".

Moreover, carbon-related border taxes could potentially conflict with WTO rules, which aim to provide for free competition (EurActiv 01/07/09).

The EU is dealing with competitiveness issues by granting free emisssion permits to industries which it deems vulnerable to relocating in areas with less stringent environmental laws, dubbed 'carbon leakage' (EurActiv 26/05/09).

The prevailing view among member states and the European Commission is that these internal measures should be the first-aid solution, while border adjustments would come as a last resort.

The US House of Representatives inserted a provision in its draft climate bill that allows the country to impose a 'border adjustment' after 2020 on certain products from countries which do not limit their global warming emissions.

But President Barack Obama spoke strongly against such measures after the House had passed the bill.

Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), also criticised the draft legislation, warning that it would allow developing countries to tax US exports in return.

China and India immediately interpreted the pending legislation as an offensive against their industries. The US admnistration is attempting to allay their fears during the two-day UN-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue ending today (28 July). source

My comment: I must say, I am absolutely for "emissions border control". Why? Because it is the only way to protect the developing countries from the big companies that will go there and pollute as much as they can. Like taking all their resources and using the cheap workers isn't enough. And in the end, China reduces the export of raw minerals - this is also against free market. Free market cannot exist in a world that isn't free. So, let's move on from the populism and to admit that imposing taxes for countries that are not obeying the emissions regulations is the best thing to do in the moment. And after all, why what France wants to do - to impose CO2 taxes on french citizens - is good and ok, and to impose taxes on China isn't? I don't understand at what point countries became more important than the citizens in them...


Friday, September 18, 2009

Energy in Europe, August, 2009 - Nabucco won't fail!

Today:
  1. EU countries sign geopolitical Nabucco agreement
  2. EU cracks down on gas dominance of E.ON, GDF Sue
  3. Energy technology financing plan 'due in autumn'
  4. EU ministers endorse final energy project list
Quote of the day: ""Nord Stream will strengthen our security of supply. It will not weaken it," Piebalgs said. "Well, my question is why Nord Stream will strengthen our security of supply, but South Stream would weaken it? Isn't it kind of weird, when both supplies come from the same country.

EU countries sign geopolitical Nabucco agreement

14 July 2009

Four EU countries and Turkey signed an agreement yesterday (13 July) on the legal framework for the Nabucco gas pipeline, which is expected to decrease Europe's dependence on Russian gas. Iraq has pledged to supply the pipeline with half of its capacity, without giving a detailed timeframe.

After months of heavy negotiations, the signature was hailed as a significant step towards the construction of the pipeline, which will run from Turkey's eastern border through Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary to a gas hub in Austria.

Nabucco, with its capacity of 31 billion cubic metres, should provide Europe with an alternative to Russian gas after the January gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine.

"The pipeline now has a stable legal basis, and can guarantee gas transit under equal and transparent conditions for all customers," said Reinhard Mitschek, managing director of Nabucco Pipeline International, the company managing the consortium.

The European Commission believes that Nabucco will eventually supply as much as 5-10% of Europe's gas demand. Moreover, it will bring instant relief to countries that are entirely dependent on Russian gas, mainly on the EU's eastern borders.

The transit agreement does not include many details but provides the necessary legal certainty to conclude supply contracts. Up till now, insufficient amounts of gas have been committed to fill the pipeline. Azerbaijan is seen as the first supplier, but Middle Eastern countries are expected to follow.

The intergovernmental deal enables the EU to invest the €200 million set aside for the project as part of its €5 billion economic recovery package. It was agreed that the subsidised energy projects would have to take off before the end of 2010 if the money is to make a difference in stimulating Europe's economy, which is facing a severe recession.

At least half of Nabucco's capacity has to be sold on the open market. The companies that own the pipeline will have the first option on 50%, but any remaining capacity will be placed on the market.

In order to simplify the process of shipping gas across multiple jurisdictions, a single operator, the Nabucco International Company, has been designated as the interlocutor for all companies wishing to use the pipeline.

Furthermore, the EU's gas market rules state that the pipeline must be open to third-parties within the EU unless a derogation is obtained. Moreover, a connection to a third country requires that country to apply a regime which is compatible with EU energy market rules.

The Nabucco consortium will now spend the remainder of the year trying to attract capacity contracts. The European Commission says companies in Azerbaijan and Iran have shown a strong interest in concluding immediate deals.

Reuters reported US special envoy Richard Morningstar as saying that Russia is free to supply gas to the Nabucco pipeline, but reiterated Washington's opposition to the use of Iranian gas.

Morningstar said the option had looked viable prior to the Iranian elections, but the 'de facto' coup in Iran "makes the immediate commercial goals dimmer for Nabucco".

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, reiterated his desire for Iran to become a supplier "when conditions allow".

. source

My comment:More info here:

""After the singing ceremony, it will not be possible to say 'Nabucco is done'," Pamir said, adding that signing the agreement is a good move but that further steps are needed.

Stressing that not enough gas had been committed to fill the Nabucco pipe for the time being, Pamir said Turkey's main objective was to reduce its dependence on Russian sources by acquring eight billion cubic metres more Azeri gas. "

You know I follow this for a long time now. I must admit, some of the decisions are kind of odd to me. For example, what should mean that the company that own Nabucco own 50% of the gas?! I'm not sure who are the share holders of Nabucco, but that's quite much - if they are not offered on the free market, then how will they be sold? Ok, I'm not familiar with the issue, but it sounds kind of odd.

So, let's say currently, I'm very confused about this story. And I think it will get really bad before it can get better. For example, Iraq will supply 50% of the pipe, but it's unclear when? Am...hello! Ok, it's odd. I really think that Europe needs a diversity of the supplies, but I would like to see clear answers. Mystery in legal world equal misery in real world.

And a side note - why USA decides whether we may or may not use Iranian gas? I'm not exactly a supporter of ANY religious monarchy or any other regime that suppress women, but this is European decision and it's Europe that should make it. Hmmm.

And yeah, check out this statement: ""Nord Stream will strengthen our security of supply. It will not weaken it," Piebalgs said. "Well, my question is why Nord Stream will strengthen our security of supply, but South Stream would weaken it? Isn't it kind of weird, when both supplies come from the same country.


EU cracks down on gas dominance of E.ON, GDF Suez

9 July 2009

The antitrust watchdog of the European Union is cracking down on the dominance of E.ON and GDF-Suez in the gas markets in their home countries, as it tries to open former monopolies to competition.

The European Commission imposed a fine of 553 million euros each on Germany's E.ON and France's GDF Suez, Europe's largest utilities, for agreeing to not compete on respective gas markets in the first antitrust fine ever slapped on utilities in the EU.

In a separate case, GDF Suez agreed to limit the gas it imports into France to less than half by 2014 from two-thirds, after the Commission found the group had reserved most of the country's import capacity for the long term.

Since the beginning of the century, the Commission has been seeking to get more utilities active in regions which used to have only one supplier for decades.

While millions of customers are able to choose between several suppliers, former monopoly providers were able to best exploit their new freedom and become even larger, while prices for households have been rising for years.

The gas agreement between GDF Suez and E.ON refers to the 600-kilometre MEGALexternal pipeline which crosses Germany from the Czech Republic to France.

When the companies built the pipeline they - legally - agreed to not sell gas in each other's markets, but maintained that agreement after 2000 when an EU directive opened markets to competition, the Commission said.

"This decision sends a strong signal to energy incumbents that the Commission will not tolerate any form of anticompetitive behaviour," EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said. "Market sharing is one of the worst types of antitrust infringement. This agreement deprived customers of more price competition and more choice of supplier in two of the largest gas markets in the EU. The Commission has no alternative but to impose high fines," she added.

The firms denied any wrongdoing and said they would appeal at the European Union's Court of First Instance. E.ON said the alleged anti-competitive practices were linked to agreements that expired in 2004 and that the business had been competitive for years.

The Commission would have been able to fine the companies a maximum of 10% of their annual sales, which amounted to more than 80 billion euros for each of them.

E.ON settled separate EU antitrust charges last year by agreeing to sell its power grid and some generation plants. RWE agreed to dispose of its gas transmission network to settle another antitrust case.

France's energy regulator CRE welcomed GDF Suez' offer to cut its share of long-term gas import capacity to 50%, down from two-thirds. The import capacity GDF Suez is proposing to free up is equivalent to around 60 terawatt hours of gas consumption.

The French utility said it would immediately start the handover of significant market capacities at the Montoir-de-Bretagne and Fos Cavaou tanker terminals and at the Taisnieres and Obergailbach gas entry points in France. source

My comment: Read here, how the same nice guys claim they need more government support for infrastructure and new grids! And yeah, this article is sooo fun. I mean seriously, they are monopolists, everybody knows that. And they continue to deny. Oh, well. I think the fine should have been even higher. Let them suffer. I don't know if you remember an article that explained the misery of small energy operators in France - it was very sad, that when we speak of such a democratic country, we see it as a place where monopolists thrive.

Energy technology financing plan 'due in autumn'

9 July 2009

Long-awaited funding proposals for the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) are now expected to emerge from the European Commission in the autumn.

The EU executive's communication on financing low-carbon technologies was originally foreseen for the end of 2008. But after postponing the release date several times, the Commission now says it will be published in September or early October.

The Commission proposed the SET Plan in November 2007 in an attempt to stimulate energy research in the EU. It was concerned that Europe was only going to fall further behind the US and other major economies in the race to win a stake in the growing global market for low-carbon technologies, particularly as EU research budgets kept declining and businesses were unable to attract venture capital (EurActiv 23/11/07).

The SET Plan brings together a patchwork of EU energy research policies in renewables, clean coal, smart grids and nuclear energy in order to encourage more cooperation and increase resources. But the accompanying proposal on how to finance all the initiatives has been delayed several times.

Prepared by three Commission DGs – energy, research, and economic and financial affairs – the document has become mired in the EU executive's bureaucracy. Sources following the drafting told EurActiv that Janez Potočnik had been keen to publish the paper before his departure as research commissioner, while DG Energy would be interested in consulting stakeholders over the summer on so-called 'Technology Roadmaps'.

These documents, developed by the Joint Research Centre, will form the backbone of assessments of financing needs. They describe the current status of key low-carbon energy technologies and their future prospects, including emissions reduction potential and barriers to market penetration.

Energy research will be under the spotlight this autumn, as the Swedish EU Presidency will organise a SET Plan conference in Stockholm on 21-22 October.

The meeting, bringing together policymakers, industry, researchers and the financial community, will discuss how to move forward with the plan's objectives and consider financing. A separate session will be devoted to each of the technologies set out in the plan: wind, solar, bioenergy, carbon capture and storage (CCS), nuclear and smart grids.

Moreover, a website concentrating specifically on the technology roadmaps will be launched around the same time as the financing communication comes out. source

My comment: Yeah, I love articles with so many "will"s. If we had a will, we would have cut emissions by know. But we don't have it. I know, I know, anyway. Now it's September. Let's see how those promises will deliver.

EU ministers endorse final energy project list

8 July 2009

The EU's Council of Ministers yesterday (7 July) approved a list of 47 projects for building more gas and electricity interconnections, allocating €3.98 billion of EU funding under a broader economic recovery plan.

The adopted economic recovery programme includes all the European Parliament's proposed amendments, following months of squabbling between the two EU co-legislators over the plan's priorities.

The EU executive had hoped for the swift adoption of the programme to give Europe a headstart in the drive for greener growth.

But its adoption dragged on for months as member states argued over the size of their allocations (EurActiv 04/02/09). Many governments were also considering returning money to their national budgets instead of spending it at EU level.

An agreement on the project list was finally clinched at the March European summit (EurActiv 20/03/09). The EU institutions agreed on funding in April, opting to increase the budget for agricultural and environmental measures and to use remaining margins from the 2009 and 2010 budgets (EurActiv 05/05/09).

The Parliament's biggest bone of contention was lack of money for boosting renewable energies and efficiency, and the removal of 'smart cities' from the list. To seal the deal, member states allowed MEPs to insert a provision that unspent money can be used for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects should the Commission report in March 2010 that the priority projects have not been implemented (EurActiv 07/05/09).

The final list of 47 projects includes:

  • 18 gas infrastructure projects worth €1,440 million;
  • Nine electricity infrastructure projects worth €910m;
  • Two small island projects worth €15m;
  • Five offshore wind-energy projects worth €565m;
  • 13 carbon capture and storage projects worth €1,050m.

The lion's share of the money thus goes on building more interconnections to help avoid a repeat of the January gas crisis, when a dispute between Russia and Ukraine cut off gas supplies to many Eastern European countries. To the disappointment of environmentalists and the renewables industry, carbon capture and storage demonstration projects are also set for a major boost, on the grounds that the fledgling technology needs substantial public backing if it is to take off on a commercial scale.

To ensure that the package serves its purpose as an emergency stimulus, all the money must be committed by the end of 2010. If funding remains, the Commission will propose that they be used for renewables and other green projects. source

My comment: 1 00o millions = 1 billion, no? Very smart way to hide actual numbers. I'm not going to comment, since I've said it so many times. When you don't have insight and knowledge, you have to have a deep pocket. And obviously, European taxpayers have very deep pockets. Oh, wait, I'm one of them. Then why my pocket is so empty?Yeah, because I'll have to fund research which oil companies need so badly. And as we know, they are so poor. All of them.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Environment in Europe in July, 2009 - EIB to join the CCS massacre

Ok, I really don't want to make this blog a weekly edition, but it's very hard to keep up while not using a computer in the same time. And yeah, while working on the pc, while not using it. So, sorry to everyone! I'll do my best to keep my publications more frequent, I have so much info to share. Duh.
Today:
  1. Sweden introduces climate labelling for food
  2. Chemical sector claims positive role in climate change
  3. Obstacles pile up for EU's 'green buildings' law
  4. EU warned over carbon capture fund misuse
  5. G8 2050 climate pledge fails to convince
Quote of the day:It looks like the EIB wants a share from the treasure too. Fun! Ok, I won't even comment, since it's absurd to spend so much money on nothing, because this is what CCS really is. A big balloon aimed to bring some money to some member states.

Sweden introduces climate labelling for food

6 July 2009

Sweden is developing standards to help consumers make conscious choices about the impact of their decisions on global warming. Products with at least 25% greenhouse gas savings will be marked in each food category, starting with plant production, dairy and fish products.

The label is a joint initiative by the Federation of Swedish Farmers, two food labelling organisations and various dairy and meat co-operatives.

According to Swedish studies, consumers are interested in climate-friendly products and 60% of consumers would like to see a corresponding label on the products they buy.

The projectPdf external will see standards developed for climate marking of food that has an average climate impact of 25% lower than a reference product in the same category. It will also create a monitoring system to measure and follow-up the achievements.

Criteria for plant production, dairy and fish were launched on 26 June. Standards for other product categories will follow in October.

The leaders of the initiative stress that the label is not just "another carbon footprint scheme" and that it covers the food chain from the farm to the supermarket shelf, including distribution and packaging.

The initiative follows the presentation several weeks ago of a series of guidelinesPdf external for climate-friendly food choices by the Swedish National Food Administration and the country's Environmental Protection Agency (EurActiv 22/06/09).

Meanwhile, a European Food Sustainable Consumption and Production (SCP) roundtable was launched in May this year. The European Commission-supported initiative seeks to develop a methodology for assessing the environmental footprint of individual food and drink items by 2011 (EurActiv 07/05/09). source

My comment: Go here, to see the eco-efficiency roadmap that Sweden tabled. Nothing new in it, that's why I'm not posting it here, but it's nicely summed up.

As for the food labeling, it's pretty cool. I'm definitely willing to pay more for food that is cleaner and safer. Of course, in terms of money, the most important quality is how healthy it is. In Bulgaria, we have a huge problem with food - the labels tell you something, but you know they lie. Nobody monitor the food production and it turned up that they were using palm oil in cheese, something that is extremely unhealthy. So, for me, the first thing a label should say is how the food was produced, what you can find inside and then the green value of the food. But both things ultimately mean better monitoring of the food. And I support that !

Chemical sector claims positive role in climate change

13 July 2009

The first-ever lifecycle analysis of the chemical industry's global emissions highlights the importance of the sector as a means of helping to reduce CO2 emissions through energy-efficiency and renewable energy applications, including insulation and coating for lightweight packaging.

"For every unit of greenhouse gases emitted directly and indirectly by the chemical industry, the industry enabled 2-3 units of emission savings via the products and technologies provided to other industries and consumers," states the first-ever reportPdf external on the Carbon Life Cycle Analysis (cLCA) of the chemical industry, based on 2005 figures.

The industry is hoping for free emission allowances in the next phase of the EU emissions trading scheme, which starts in 2013.

The report states that "the ratio of emissions savings to emissions could increase to more than four to one" by 2030.

The most important emission savings are said to come form building insulation materials, agrochemicals, lighting, plastic packaging, marine antifouling coatings, synthetic textiles, automotive plastics, low-temperature detergents, engine efficiency and plastics used in piping.

Insulation materials reduce heat loss in buildings and chemical fertilisers and crop protection in agriculture increase yields, helping to prevent emissions from land-use change, the report stresses.

However, according to the report, two thirds of the industry's abatement potential lies in the developing world, and "several hurdles stand in the way of realising this".

Therefore, the emissions saving potential identified in the study will only materialise with "effective policy and regulation" and a global carbon framework speeding up CO2 reductions, the study stresses. It states that "harmonised global policies" are essential to reduce the risk of market distortion and carbon leakage, and recommends local transitional provisions, such as free carbon allowances, to avoid market distortions at an earlier stage.

source

My comment: Yeah, I completely agree with this list they published. But I think there is some kind of misunderstanding. They really contribute to cutting the CO2 emissions with their production. But they don't do it FOR FREE! They sell those products, thus they earn from them. Then, why should they obtain free carbon allowances, when they should be perfectly able to pay for them?! Not to mention that it doesn't make a lot of sense to talk about reducing emission by insulating buildings and so on, when the industry that produces them will emit the CO2 for everyone. That's simply wrong. For me, they might be stimulated with free permits as long as they are using the best available technology and the invest the money won by the permits (or a percentage of their profit) in research and development of new technologies. I think this is fair!

Obstacles pile up for EU's 'green buildings' law

8 July 2009

The Swedish EU Presidency faces a difficult task steering through the revision of the EU's energy performance of buildings directive as member states are getting increasingly wary of the draft law's implications.

A Council working party met yesterday (7 July) to discuss a new draft of the recast Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD). So far, few changes have been made to the European Commission's original proposal, but the list of concerns expressed by delegations is growing longer.

The Swedish Presidency has pledged to reach an agreement on the legislation before a meeting of EU energy ministers in December, with or without a common position in the Council of Ministers (EurActiv 25/06/09). But as a number of government delegations have taken issue with the Parliament's opinion adopted in April, the newly inaugurated presidency is likely to be left hammering out the details with the co-legislator without the backing of all member states.

Speedy progress is not in sight as several member states have indicated that they find many of the Parliament's amendments "overly ambitious and even unrealistic".

Some member states, although not all, would like to tone down a proposal to delete the threshold of 1000m2 below which new buildings and major renovations are currently excluded from the legislation. They would rather have either a lower threshold or a gradual lowering, the draft states.

Moreover, several countries think that the target date for transposition (by the end of 2010) and the deadline for applying the provisions to public buildings (by the end of January 2012) are "much too soon", the document reveals.

The Council is on a collision course with the Parliament on dates, as the EU's elected body also called for a 2019 deadline for all buildings to produce as much energy from renewable sources as they consume. This is unlikely to find favour with member states that are already concerned with the provisions for renewable energy systems in houses.

The Commission's proposal would extend the obligation to consider alternative energy systems for all new buildings, but several member states object to this, according to the draft document. They argue that a compulsory analysis of the listed alternative systems would impose an unnecessary burden where climactic conditions and the nature of the building, for example, would set limitations. source

My comment: I'm sure I have discussed that issue already, so in short, I also think that the goals are way too ambitious. It's ok to have ambitions, but you also must be realistic or at leas allow some space and time for bad estimations. I think that it's impossible for all new buildings to produce at least as much electricity as they consume at least with current and available technologies. Of course, there are many new and exciting ways to produce energy, but if it's only about solar energy-I don't think so. At least not for the moment. And it's kind of brave if not stupid, to require something with a directive, when it's not even possible for the moment. I might be wrong, I know EU experts are neither stupid, nor less informed than me, maybe they know something I don't, but still...

EU warned over carbon capture fund misuse

10 July 2009

European Union funding to support new technology to trap and bury climate-warming gases could be wasted as member states fight for the biggest cut, an EU lawmaker warned on Thursday (9 July).

Plans to build up to 12 demonstration plants in Europe by 2015 are at risk of being undermined by "self-centred competition" between member states, warned Chris Davies, a British Liberal MEP.

The European Investment Bank should be put in charge of the funds to avert that risk, he added.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS), a process of burying harmful gases, is seen by some as a potential silver bullet to curb coal-fired power plants' emissions, which are multiplying rapidly and threaten to heat the atmosphere to dangerous levels.

The EU wants 12 pilot projects in operation by 2015, and British MEP Chris Davies last year pushed through several billions of euros of funding to support that goal (EurActiv 12/12/08).

The funding has been provided as 300 million carbon emissions permits under the EU's emissions trading scheme, which means that their value will alter depending on the price of carbon permits when they are cashed in.

Davies warned EU leaders on Thursday of the risk the permits may be cashed in too soon, with carbon markets at relatively low levels.

"Premature auctioning of allowances by individual member states would reduce the total amount of financial support that could be secured," he said, adding the European Investment Bank is "best placed to manage the allowances".

source

My comment: It looks like the EIB wants a share from the treasure too. Fun! Ok, I won't even comment, since it's absurd to spend so much money on nothing, because this is what CCS really is . A big balloon aimed to bring some money to some member states. Because the reality is that the technology shouldn't be developed in all the 12 plants - just one is enough. Then they will optimize it and implement it to the rest of them. And in the end, it all will come down to a bunch of scientists that nobody pays to, who will develop it for free, because they are interested in science, not in billions. And ultimately, we all will buy electric cars, build nuclear or solar plants and the technology will be useless. Eh, life...

G8 2050 climate pledge fails to convince

10 July 2009

The G8's "historic" agreement to halve greenhouse gas emisisons by 2050 in L'Aquila, Italy this week was immediately condemned by green groups as "vague" and insufficient to halt global warming in the absence of a decisive mid-term target.

For the first time, the world's biggest eight industrialised economies recognised that the rise in average global temperature should be limited to 2°C. According to scientific consensus, this is the absolute upper limit if the world is to escape catastrophic climate change.

The G8 leaders consequently pledged to support a global target to cut emissions by 50% by 2050. Moreover, they supported an ambitious long-term target of 80% or more for industrialised countries.

But the base year for calculating emission reductions was left vague, as the declaration merely stated that the reductions should be "compared to 1990 or more recent years". The wording could herald a battle between nations not unlike the one that took place during the EU's internal negotiations, when the EU 15 largely supported a 1990 reference point and many Eastern states argued for 2005.

"The G8 conclusions are the most progressive on the subject ever," a European Commission official stated. As setting a mid-term target was not on the agenda of the meeting, all expectations were met, apart from agreement on the base year, she said.

But environmentalists were far less convinced, arguing that the 2°C threshold would be exceeded without a collective agreement on a 2020 target.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a prestigious scientific body, industrialised countries will need to cut their emissions by 25-40% by 2020 in order to avoid disastrous climate change.

The G8 leaders got a more positive evaluation for their focus on energy efficiency and green energies as a strategy for moving out of the depression.

The G8 countries drew attention to the green dimension of their fiscal stimulus packages, including energy efficiency measures and support for renewable energy technologies and clean coal, and pledged continuous commitment.

They stressed that subsidies encouraging carbon-intensive energy consumption should be slashed, while simultaneously putting in place regulatory frameworks to support a transition to a low-carbon economy.

The meeting also acknowledged carbon markets as a central contributor to reducing emissions. G8 leaders said emissions trading is one of the most cost-effective means of boosting investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy and clean technologies, complemented by other incentives such as fees and emission taxes.

The EU's proposal for a sectoral crediting mechanism whereby developing countries could gain offset credits by exceeding emissions reduction targets in a particular sector was also reflected in the final summit document. It called for the reform of the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is based on projects that have come under increasing criticism for failing to achieve their climate targets.

After developing countries attending the 17-nation climate change talks refused to commit to specific goals to reduce their output of greenhouse gases, the world's richest economies have pledged to help emerging economies meet the costs associated with reducing their industrial carbon emissions.

Some national leaders want to replace the Group of Eight with the Group of 20, which includes such countries as Argentina and Saudi Arabia and collectively represents three quarters of the world's population.

source

My comment: In short about the G8 meeting - this is so ridiculous. I mean, in the current state of globalisation, it seems very odd to expect that just 8 nations can decide the fate of the whole world. I also think it should be G20 in the least. But ultimately, I think all the nations should have a representative. It's not like they make some kind of decisions there - for example this on climate?! Cutting emissions in 2050?! That will be after 41 years, people! Since when we started making plans with such duration. After 40 years we may travel in the space, already. Who knows. With current exponential growth it is absurd to make such commitments. We have to decide now, to do it and see is it enough or not. And this should happen in the next 10 year at the most! Everything else is just a joke. A bad joke!

And to finish, check out this this statement of WTO on my favourite issue of carbon leakage. Just enjoy the hypocrisy. So, WTO supports import taxes?! Fun! They really are useless...

"Although the ongoing Doha Round of trade negotiations aims to reduce tariffs and other trade-distorting measures on climate-friendly goods and services, policies targeted at cutting CO2 emissions could be exceptionally accepted under international free trade legislation, the paper underlines.

Border measures such as import taxes on products from a country that does not impose a price on carbon could fall under such exceptions, WTO says. Such measures are devised to discourage domestic industries from relocating to cheaper production areas and escape strict environmental laws."


Monday, September 7, 2009

Summer politics in Europe, August, 2009

Today:
  1. German Court clears EU treaty for House approval
  2. No majority in Parliament for Barroso vote
  3. Italy's finance minister eyes Eurogroup chair
  4. Summit deal paves way for second Irish Lisbon referendum
  5. Solana backs Felipe González for EU president job
Quote of the day:And plus, note how the leaders of the major parties refused to go in Stockholm-an invitation from the rotating President of the EU! I still cannot decide whether this is an insult toward the EU from the side of Sweden or from the side of the party leaders. Maybe they are all guilty. It's confusing, but definitely fun.

German Court clears EU treaty for House approval

30 June 2009

The German Constitutional Court today lifted a major obstacle to the country's final approval of the EU's controversial Lisbon Treaty, pending a parliamentary vote expected before national elections in late September. EurActiv Germany reports from Berlin.

The Constitutional Court, in its final and long-awaited deliberation, said that "there are no decisive constitutional objections to the Act Approving the Treaty of Lisbon".

The treaty, as such, is compatible with German basic law (Grundgesetz), it said. The court specifically stated that the treaty would not lead to the formation of an EU state. Rather, the EU under Lisbon would remain "an association of sovereign states to which the principle of conferral applies," the court ruled.

However, the court decided that before giving its final seal of approval, the German chambers of parliament would need to be granted a stronger voice in EU affairs. Essentially, the court believes that the Bundestag and Bundesrat "have not been accorded sufficient rights of participation in European lawmaking procedures and treaty amendment procedures".

The court tellingly recommended that the necessary changes be voted on in parliament quickly, expressing its confidence that "the last hurdle to ratify the treaty will be taken swiftly".

According to EurActiv Germany, early indications are that the Bundestag will hold a special session on 26 August to debate the court's recommendations, with a final vote to take place in another special session on 8 September. Then, the Bundesrat will follow suit, voting during a regular session on 18 September, allowing the treaty to be ratified before the German elections on 27 September.

A German parliamentary spokesperson, speaking to EurActiv on condition of anonymity, said that German parliamentarians would almost certainly approve the changes by a large majority.

Meanwhile, with German ratification now all but certain, the EU's attention returns to Ireland, which is expected to hold a second referendum on 2 October (EurActiv 24/06/09).

Furthermore, the Eurosceptic presidents of the Czech Republic and Poland have maintained their stance of refusing to sign the treaty into law until Ireland votes again.

Polish President Lech Kaczyński and Czech President Václav Klaus both recently claimed they would be last to sign the Lisbon Treaty ratification bill once Ireland has voted and, assuming Ireland votes 'yes', it becomes clear that all EU countries have completed the procedure.

. source

My comment: Lol, I recommend going to the source site and reading the Positions section. It's hilarious, especially the part discussing the arrogance of German constitutional court toward European institutions. I also think this language isn't appropriate for something so important, but who cares, the most important thing is that the EU keep its progress. Everything else is merely distraction on the way to perfection.

No majority in Parliament for Barroso vote

25 June 2009

Prickly consultations led by the European People's Party to elect José Manuel Barroso for a second term as European Commission president will start in the European Parliament on 30 June, with a large majority of MEPs seemingly against holding the vote on 15 July, sources told EurActiv.

At an internal meeting held in Bristol on 23 and 24 June, the European Liberals decided to vote against holding the Barroso vote on 15 July, party sources said.

On 9 July, the European Parliament's conference of presidents will vote on whether to hold the secret vote on Barroso in mid-July, as the centre-right has been insisting for several months now , the group's chair Joseph Daul told journalists on Wednesday (24 June). The decision in the conference of presidents is taken by simple vote, representing the number of MEPs within each group.

But this total of 320 MEPS (EEP+anti-federalist group) falls short of the simple majority of 368 votes required to back Barroso. Therefore the EPP will invite, in separate moves, the centre-left Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in Europe (PASDE) and ALDE to join. In exchange, it would offer its support for the European Parliament presidency for a two-and-a half year period, starting in 2012, to be held by a representative of the political group which agrees to the deal, Daul explained.

Daul acknowledged that his group was still divided over whether to push for Italy's Mario Mauro or Poland's Jerzy Buzek to take the Parliament's top chair. He added that the problem would be solved by holding an internal secret vote on 7 July.

On 30 June, when the EPP starts its consultations, ALDE will convene to elect Belgium's former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt as its group leader. Verhofstadt is also seen as a possible alternative candidate for the presidency of the Commission, should the EPP fail to secure enough support for Barroso.

The upcoming Swedish EU Presidency invited the presidents of the European Parliament political groups to Stockholm this week, but the exercise was aborted, sources told EurActiv. Daul found an "excuse" not to go, the leader of the centre-left group Martin Schulz refused to, and the Liberals could not accept the invitation as they have not yet elected their new leader.

It remains unclear why the Swedish Presidency invited the players to Stockholm instead of holding the meeting to Brussels, diplomats told EurActiv. It is even more strange that Barroso has not made appointments with the parliamentary group leaders, at least to take note of their expectations of the Commission during the next term, they added.

In the meantime, Sweden renewed its invitation to come to Stockholm for consultations, this time on 7 July, EurActiv has learned. source
My comment: Ok, this one is quite funny too, even if somewhat old. Now it's clear that mr. Barroso has earned some enemies in the Parliament. But anyway, you can enjoy the game called politics from the perspective of time. I'm sorry I have to post something so outdated, but I find it quite informative, tracing back the events that happened later. And plus, note how the leaders of the major parties refused to go in Stockholm-an invitation from the rotating President of the EU! I still cannot decide whether this is an insult toward the EU from the side of Sweden or from the side of the party leaders. Maybe they are all guilty. It's confusing, but definitely fun.

Italy's finance minister eyes Eurogroup chair

24 June 2009

Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti's chances of becoming the next president of the Eurogroup are growing, as Italy reviews its position in the EU after losing the battle for the European Parliament presidency.

Last Friday (19 June) at the European Council, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi publicly endorsed Tremonti's candidacy for the chair of the Eurogroup, which brings together finance ministers of the 16 eurozone countries and meets monthly before the EU Economic Council.

"Within a year and a half, the president of the Eurogroup, Jean-Claude Juncker, should leave. I see that position would fit our Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti," Berlusconi told journalists at the end of the EU summit on Friday. Indeed, Juncker could step down even earlier over tensions with Germany and France over banking secrecy rules.

Tremonti's ambitions yesterday (23 June) received an unexpected helping hand from the European Commission, which in its 2009 report on EU public finances used unusually positive words for Italy's "prudent" response to the financial crisis.

Although Italy's public debt is among the highest in Europe, the Commission acknowledged for the first time that increased yields on bonds have so far had a "limited" impact on government expenditure. Moreover, Brussels underlined the importance of "the sound financial position of the Italian private sector," and in particular of households which have a tendency to save, in contrast with other countries.

A Commission official also said private debt had thus far been overlooked as a way of assessing a country's stability, and that "it might be taken into account in the future". Tremonti himself has been backing this idea in recent weeks.

In his speech last week, Berlusconi linked Tremonti's candidacy to Italy's defeat in the battle for the presidency of the European Parliament. Berlusconi openly supports his candidate Mario Mauro for the presidency on behalf of the EPP, but a stronger coalition within the party is backing the alternative candidacy of former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek.

As for important positions within the Commission, Italy is aiming to win back the post of justice and home affairs Commissioner, which it gave away last year to obtain the then-useful portfolio of transport. The Commission had to give its green light to the controversial privatisation of national air carrier Alitalia, strongly supported by Berlusconi himself.

Now that the deal has been done, Rome is looking again at one of its long-standing policy priorities in Brussels, which is establishing a genuine burden-sharing system to counter illegal immigration. Italy wants EU member states to split the costs of sheltering the thousands of illegal migrants who arrive on Italian shores from Africa every year.

source

My comment: I don't really get how mr. Berlusconi things all the countries may share the burden of immigration. It doesn't seem very realistic to me-like why Sweden would take immigrants from Italy, not to mention how those people would fit the generally cold climate they are totally not used to. Honestly, I don't know how this problem could be solved in a fair way. I understand Italy-it's sucks to be the goal of so many poor and weak people, that risk their lives to reach the land of the freedom and food. It's bad if you catch them, because you return them to their misery, it's bad if you leave them in your country, because they don't know the language, they don't have where to go and generally, they're not exactly a wonder for the genetic pool of the country. All that compared to the type of immigrants that Spain gets from Eastern Europe-people committed to work, to learn the language and to fit into their new society. It's a really bad position. You cannot be good, you cannot be bad. It sucks. But how to share that?! Should those people be transported out of the country against their will, like slaves? That's not pretty. Or should they be offered an option to be either moved somewhere in Europe or to be returned home. I don't know, but so far, the way Italy is dealing with the situation is awful and what I find for even more awful is how they choose Commission portfolios in a way to help their national problems the most. This is not what the Commission is for. It should work for Europe, not for Italy, not for France, not for Bulgaria-for Europe!!!

Summit deal paves way for second Irish Lisbon referendum

19 June 2009

A compromise was reached today (19 June) between EU leaders offering Ireland legally-binding guarantees on the Lisbon Treaty without requiring other countries to re-ratify the text.

The carefully-worded agreement provides assurances sought by Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, but also stresses that the guarantees are Ireland-specific and do not affect other countries. Crucially, this satisfies the Irish government without requiring re-ratification by countries which have already backed the treaty.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had yesterday raised concerns that any substantive change to the Lisbon Treaty, which has already been approved by national parliaments, would require the House of Commons to approve the treaty once more.

Brown, who has been facing domestic political problems in recent weeks, was reluctant to re-open the debate on the treaty. Close contacts between British and Irish officials resulted in the inclusion of additional paragraphs in the final conclusions issued by EU leaders.

Officials stressed that the assurances given to Ireland on workers' rights, military neutrality, ethical issues and taxation, as well as the agreement that all EU member states will have a commissioner, are "fully compatible" with the Lisbon Treaty.

This covers Brown against attacks from domestic opponents, including the British Conservative Party, which have expressed open scepticism towards the treaty and pledged to do all they can to push for a referendum in Britain.

Irish leader Brian Cowen said he was satisfied with the outcome and intended to set a date in the coming weeks for a second referendum. He indicated that early October is seen as an appropriate time, with a "mature debate" on the issues taking place in September.

. source

My comment: Nice. That's all I can say. Because otherwise, I'll have to start talking about UK's attitude toward the EU, something I have saved for a later post, so you can expect this. Because I'm veery pissed off by some things that some people on the Island say about the EU. I simply don't understand it-if you don't like it, just leave it. Damn!

Solana backs Felipe González for EU president job

23 June 2009

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana yesterday (22 June) endorsed former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González as first permanent president of the European Council, should the Lisbon Treaty enter into force.

Speaking at a public event organised by the Belgian section of the Association of European Journalists in Brussels, Solana was positive about the possible nomination of González for the job.

Answering a question, he said: "[Felipe González] is a good friend, we have worked together for 15 years, and I know he has the energy and the capacity for the job."

Should the Lisbon Treaty enter into force by the end of 2009, the EU’s first permanent president will be introduced under the Spanish EU Presidency in the first half of 2010.

"A relationship between two Spaniards - and I know them well - will be very positive, very constructive, and would bring added value," Solana said, referring to José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the Spanish prime minister, alongside González.

Solana said the future EU president's chances of shaping the new institution depended on general political will on the one hand, and the personality and determination of the job holder on the other.

The Lisbon Treaty says little about the division of responsibility between the country holding the rotating EU presidency and the permanent EU president, and many believe the first six months will set an important precedent for the future.

Zapatero and González - like Solana - are from the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE), a relationship which should enable good cooperation and ensure a smooth start for the new job.

González is currently chairing the EU 'reflection group' put in place last year with the aim of anticipating long-term challenges facing the Union (EurActiv 14/10/09).

But while personalities such as González and Zapatero prove the high quality of Spanish statesmen, the audience pressed Solana to comment on the risk of an "Iberian overload" should a Spaniard take the job of EU Council president and José Manuel Barroso, a Portuguese, be re-confirmed as Commission head for the next five years.

"It's a question for others to respond to," said Solana, amid laughter from the audience.

Solana was also positive about introducing the position of an "energy tsar" to co-ordinate Europe's dealings with Russia, although the job is not foreseen by the Lisbon Treaty. But he warned that EU countries had varying degrees of dependency on Russian gas, and coordination would not be "a simple thing".

Referring to the future EU external action service foreseen under the Lisbon Treaty, Solana said it would bring together diplomats who already work in the Commission and the Council, and those who come from member states. It is difficult to say what its exact size will be, and hard to predict the date by which it will be fully in place, Solana explained, adding that there would be no "big bang" as the service would be constituted gradually.

. source

My comment: Another very interesting article. I also think that the personality of the President will be extremely important for the future of the EU, but for the moment I cannot decide what kind of personality would work the best. Because let's face it, the EU cannot be a presidential republic, we cannot afford a person who's so willing to be on the top that s/he is suffocating the people below. That's a certain path to destruction. On the other hand, we do need someone with strong personality, with the will and the desire to take the EU to the next level, to be willing and able to sacrifice for the benefit of all Europeans. Not for some Europeans, not her/his own party or country, but for all of us. And that's something very hard to do. Because the Commission and the Council are trying very hard to turn European politics into national competition. So, I still don't know who'd be best for the EU. Should it be someone with the internal drive to make the system works, to make the nations work together no matter what, or should it be someone with enough patience to reconcile the nations and to seek and find compromises? Maybe it all comes back to the same thing, if the person is smart enough to search for the best solution, but also strong enough, not to give up when there's pressure not to do the right thing. But who's that, I don't know. Anyone?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Industry in Europe, August, 2009 - or USA and EU against China, round 1

Today:
  1. First batch of entrepreneurs sign up for exchange programme
  2. Ministers agree 'flexible' curbs on industrial pollution
  3. Polish union warns of EU climate-law job cuts
  4. EU, US act against China on raw material exports
Quote of the day:I don't see why any power plant should be out of the BAT scheme. They all should use the best available technology to protect the citizens and the planet. Otherwise they will all opt out and nothing will change. Then what's the point of this law? Just let them do whatever they like, because that's what we do right now. Ecology in Europe is like a nightmare.We pretend it's great, but from the inside, it all sucks.

First batch of entrepreneurs sign up for exchange programme

1 July 2009

Approximately 100 young businesspeople are benefiting from a new mobility scheme designed to encourage cross-border mobility in the enterprise sector.

Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs pairs people starting their own businesses with established SMEs with the help of chambers of commerce. 700 people applied for the scheme, which provides up to €1,100 per month (EurActiv 20/2/09).

European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for enterprise and industry, said he was glad to see the programme taking off. "Its objectives to help unlock business potential, reveal new opportunities and make better use of the internal market are more relevant than ever in the context of the current economic crisis," he said.

A total of 870 entrepreneurs are expected to spend between one and six months in another EU member state over the next 18 months. To avail of the scheme, new entrepreneurs are expected to raise additional funds and demonstrate that they have a viable business plan.

If successful, the pilot programme could be expanded as part of the European Commission's efforts to encourage cross-border business. Companies across Europe continue to focus on their national market rather than exploiting commercial opportunities elsewhere in the European Union, with just 8% of SMEs exporting their goods and services within the EU. source

My comment: I think I said it before-I think this initiative is a great t idea. If you think carefully, the hardest part of every new endeavor is exactly the beginning-knowing how to start and how to deal with the problems that you meet for a first time. So I think it's great that young people will have the opportunity to visit more experienced businessmen, to learn from them and then to go back home and spread this new experience in their home country. It really is a good idea and I'm glad it's all working out so well. Go Europe!

Ministers agree 'flexible' curbs on industrial pollution

26 June 2009

After long negotiations, EU environment ministers yesterday (25 June) reached a political agreement to tighten rules on harmful industrial emissions, which are responsible for damage like acid rain. But tensions with environmentalists are expected to resurface when the bill returns to the European Parliament later this year or next.

The proposal, initially put forward by the European Commission in 2007, will require some 52,000 industrial operators to obtain permits from national authorities to release pollutants into the air, soil or water.

It attempts to combine seven existing EU air pollution laws, including the directive on integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) and the Large Combustion Plants Directive.

According to the EU executive, tightening emission limits on large combustion plants (LCPs) alone will reduce health costs by €7 to €28 billion and prevent 13,000 premature deaths every year.

But a consensus has been slow to emerge as many EU member states fear that stricter rules will come with too high a price tag. Yesterday, the Czech EU Presidency was given high marks for engineering a compromise.

The issue of large combustion plants proved to be the most divisive. The Commission originally proposed to tighten emissions limit values by forcing plants to adopt Best Available Techniques (BATs) by 2016. BAT technologies are deemed to be the top of the range on the market in terms of effectiveness in reducing emissions.

Environment ministers agreed to a Czech proposal to apply current BATs to new combustion plants earlier than envisaged by the Commission, within two years after the entry into force of the directive. For existing plants, the deadline was set to 2016, with a transition period.

The presidency had suggested giving national authorities until the end of 2019 to define "transitional national plans" for reducing emissions of NOx, SO2 and dust, with a gradual decline in annual national ceilings.

But at the insistence of a group of member states led by the UK, Poland, Italy, Slovakia, Slovenia and Romania, ministers decided to extend this flexibility by another year - until the end of 2020 – in order to give member states more flexibility.

The Council also set a 96% rate of desulphurisation of fossil fuels for LCPs that cannot meet the agreed SO2 limits.

The directive now returns to the European Parliament for a second reading, where it is expected to be set for a rocky ride.

Indeed, the Parliament's first-reading position adopted in March called for a "safety net" of minimum emission limits, set at EU level, that no installation is allowed to exceed. But many member states say the provision would involve greater administrative costs.

Moreover, the issue of including CO2 emissions in the remit of the directive could surface again in the second reading. CO2 standards were flouted by a group of MEPs in the first reading, but the amendment was deemed inadmissible by the chair of the environment committee in January (EurActiv 23/01/09).

However, due to a change in the Parliament's rules of procedure agreed in May, MEPs in the environment committee will have a free hand in introducing amendments.

source

My comment: Note the part "combining 7 existing laws". It sounds almost ridiculous. Why do you need 7 laws, if they are obviously not working? And why would you have to combine them, when you're not even ready to make a law that will work. Obviously, I'm for absolute maximum of emissions for the whole EU. What's the point of that flexibility-what does it matter the geography of the power plant, wherever the emit, they pollute our air, our water and our soil. You cannot make a wall around your country and say I'm polluting my place. You're not. Your dirty air will come to me, I'll have to breath it too. We all will have to breath it. Why this is so hard to see? I don't care about UK coal plants. I don't want they to pollute my air! I don't see why any power plant should be out of the BAT scheme. They all should use the best available technology to protect the citizens and the planet. Otherwise they will all opt out and nothing will change. Then what's the point of this law? Just let them do whatever they like, because that's what we do right now. Ecology in Europe is like a nightmare. We pretend it's great, but from the inside, it all sucks.

Polish union warns of EU climate-law job cuts

25 June 2009

Some 800,000 jobs across Europe will be wiped out following the adoption of EU climate change legislation last year, warned Poland's Solidarność trade union.

Moreover, the position negotiated by EU member states seems fragile. While most member states agree that derogations from emissions limits should not be touched again as this would unravel the carefully-negotiated text, others are keen to see stricter environmental protection inserted into the final legislation.

Jarosław Grzesik, deputy head of energy at Solidarność, said Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic would suffer most because of their reliance on coal for electricity production.

"We're going to lose jobs in states where coal is used," Grzesik told a conferenceexternal organised by Confrontations Europe, a think-tank, citing EU countries located on the bloc’s eastern border. "But Germany, the UK and Scandinavia will also suffer," he told the conference, held on 23 June in Brussels.

Poland relies on coal for 58% of its overall energy needs (the figure jumps to 95% for electricity) compared with 26.2% for Denmark and 23.6% for Germany, according to 2006 statistics from the European Commission. Estonia (56%) and the Czech Republic (45%) are also heavy coal users.

According to Grzesik, the EU’s climate change laws, which require the power sector to reduce CO2 emissions or buy pollution credits on the European carbon market, will push coal industries to relocate to countries where pollution is not regulated.

"In Poland, production will move away to Ukraine, a few kilometres away from our borders," Grzesik predicted, deploring the fact that the Polish government and the European had provided "no analysis" of the impact of the EU’s climate legislation on industry delocalisation.

He also warned the move would force electricity prices up, possibly pushing low-income households into energy poverty. "After the package, energy will represent 15% of household costs in Poland," Grzesik said, up from 11% currently.

The trade unionist poured cold water on the notion that job cuts would be offset by the creation of new "green jobs" in emerging sectors such as solar or wind power. "Yes, there will be new jobs, but these will mainly be for young people," he said.

"According to our estimates, there will be 800,000 job losses for the whole European Union,” Grzesik indicated, a figure that will not be compensated by the estimated 200,000 new jobs, he said.

source

My comment: Ok, first of all, Bulgaria isn't relying on coal! That's an absolute lie. At least until we have the nuclear power plant, we don't have problem with our electricity. And even without it, we're still mostly relying on water power plant (is this the name?). I don't know how this guy got his information, but he's lying! And what's even more, I don't think anyone with some brain in his /her head in Bulgaria will leave the country relying on coal-we don't have so much of it. Only households in small villages heat themselves on coal.

And anyway, the whole article is full with propaganda. 800 000 people will stay jobless? That's nonsense, most of them are qualified enough to work in any type of power plant. And the rest are enough not-qualified to enjoy any job out there. If you drive a truck with coal, you can easily drive a truck with shoes or chickens. My point is that this number is hugely exaggerated!

As for the green jobs-green doesn't mean only support for the new technology that requires some great technology skill, there are other support jobs that will always need normal people to do it. Young or old.

Finally, for the power plants that will move across the border, how exactly this is European problem? If you have enough money to build a new power plant across the border, you surely have enough money to make everything needed to decrease the emissions. You just have to want to do it.

EU, US act against China on raw material exports

24 June 2009

In a joint effort with the United States, the European Union took action against China yesterday (23 June) for restricting exports of industrial raw materials, as EU companies struggle to access key natural resources at a time of recession.

In the United States, the decision to bring the dispute before the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was seen as part of a more muscular trade policy promised by the Obama administration, but it added to tensions at a time when Washington is counting on Beijing to keep buying its debt.

Europe and the United States had earlier failed to persuade resource-hungry China to reduce its export tariffs and raise quotas on materials like bauxite, coke and manganese that are used in steel, microchips, planes and other products.

Billions of dollars in trade flows are affected, and China gives its industries an unfair edge, US officials said.

"After more than two years of urging China to lift these unfair restrictions, with no result, we are filing at the WTO today," US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told a news conference in Washington.

"We are most troubled that this appears to be a conscious policy to create unfair preferences for Chinese industries" that use the materials, he said.

As a first step, the United States and the European Commission - which oversees trade for the 27-nation EU bloc - formally sought consultations with Beijing at the global trade watchdog. If these talks fail, after 60 days the next step would be to request a WTO panel to hear the complaint.

In Brussels, EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton said: "The Chinese restrictions on raw materials distort competition and increase global prices, making things even more difficult for our companies in this economic downturn." The resources "cannot be found elsewhere," she added, saying this is "not a level playing field" for EU industries.

The WTO is "the impartial place you go to resolve trade disputes so you don't have to have a trade war," Vargo said.

The United States has filed seven other cases against China since it joined the WTO; China has brought four cases against Washington. source

My comment: Ok, WTO is absolute joke but if people like it, then I guess they can file complaints for as long as they like. But I think there is a much more important point here. If "The resources "cannot be found elsewhere,"" then you must find another resources to use! And the only way to do this is to fund research to the point, they give you a better future. Because I personally don't see a reason why China shouldn't help its own companies. This will make it a global producer of everything, it's not a bad role for any country. As for WTO, you know :) But if we have to be serious-I really don't see why resource dependency over China is better than oil/gas dependency over Russia. It's the same problem, if we're so desperate to solve the one, the we must be equally desperate to solve the other.

 

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