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

Friday, October 30, 2009

R&D in Europe, October, 2009

Today:
  1. Germany seeks leadership in electric cars
  2. Bonn climate talks ‘augur badly’ for Copenhagen summit
  3. Youth group concerned about university-industry links
  4. EU R&D efforts hampered by 'eco-religion'
  5. EU medical trials law 'putting brakes on science'
Quote of the day: Ok, can you tell me, honestly, how a man with "PhD in philosophy" can be "an environmental health risk consultant". Is it just me or this is crazy?! How could possible a non-scientist discuss the problems of science in Europe and claim that he knows what's going on?! This is absurd!!! (this is about article number 4 and I'm really mad on this guy!)

Germany seeks leadership in electric cars

21 August 2009

Germany lawmakers on Wednesday (19 August) approved a plan to put a million electric cars on German roads by 2020, in a bid to become the worlds top market for electric vehicles.

As part of the plan, the government will spend €500 million to develop battery technology and build a network of charging stations across Germany. The government's goal is thereby to place Germany at the cutting edge of innovation amid tough international competition.

According to EurActiv Germany, automotive analysts acknowledge that Germany is behind the pace in the "green-car" race, with countries as diverse as China, Japan and the US investing heavily in electric and other alternative techologies. This week, the Japanese manufacturer Nissan unveiled its all-electric Leaf, scheduled for mass-production in 2012, and other big car-makers including Daimler, Mitsubishi and General Motors have models ready for production.

In Europe, many countries have already introduced schemes, often more ambitious than the German one, to create markets for electric vehicles. Spain has pledged to put one million electric cars on the roads by 2014 while Portugal plans to put in place Europe's first national recharging network for electric vehicles.

The UK, on the other hand, plans to offer subsidies of up to £5,000 to encourage motorists to buy electric or plug-in hybrid cars. The German plan does not provide such direct incentives to opt for an electric car.

However, German Transport Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee and Economics and Technology Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg suggested, while presenting the plan, that the introduction of electric cars could be boosted through "cash-for-clunkers" type incentives, EurActiv Germany reported.

The German government propped up its car-scrapping scheme with €5 billion euro, ten times that earmarked for its electric car revolution. The subsidy - paid to car-owners who traded in their old cars for new ones - proved very popular, boosting the sales figures of the ailing car industry.

The auto industry welcomed the injection of money into the development of the niche techonology. But many cautioned that the plan would hardly lead to a revolution in the market as only a small fraction of German cars would run purely on electricity in 2020, even in the most optimistic scenario.

However, according to WWF Germany, only a 1% reduction in car emissions would be achieved by 2020, even if Germany reached the goal of 1 million electric cars. In any case, one can only talk about zero-emission vehicles if renewable energies are used to recharge the batteries, the conservation organisation stressed, pointing out that the plan does not specify a link to building new renewable energy sources. source

My comment: I agree, this isn't such a big step but I believe it is an important one. Because, let's be real about it, right now people are still somewhat suspicious towards the electric cars, which means they don't buy enough of them, which means, there isn't enough of infrastructure that is useful to them, which means that even if they want to buy, they have enough of reasons not to do it. And the end results is that since there isn't enough buyers and also enough real competition, the prices are still way too high. So one should start from somewhere in order to break this vicious cycle. Germany chose a way. Not very enthusiastic, but a way. And compared with the over-all trend for economy vehicles, I think it could and should work. I only hope that this won't be their ecological commitment in its wholeness. I mean there is so much to do. For example, the idea that each house should produce its own electricity is MARVELOUS! But it requires some heavy thinking, since this isn't exactly peace of a cake to introduce and manage. There is change of the infrastructure that should be considered, change of the way companies measure the consumption of electricity (smart metering) and so on. It's not only a matter of money. It's a matter of even more money. So, this should be high on the schedule as well. If we want to be serious.

Bonn climate talks ‘augur badly’ for Copenhagen summit

18 August 2009

The latest round of international climate talks in Bonn last week ended with disappointing results, raising concerns that a lack of progress is now effectively making a comprehensive climate deal in Copenhagen in December unrealistic.

The informal talks under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on 10-14 August were intended to cut down the negotiating text, which swelled to over 200 pages after the last talks in Bonn in June.

Only "selective" progress was made to consolidate the huge text, according to UNFCCC Executive Secretary Yvo de Boer stated. "If we continue at this rate, we are not going to make it," he warned.

Funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries remains the main stumbling bloc.

Poor countries that are just going through with industrialisation insist that rich nations have a historical responsibility for climate change and should assist them in acquiring technologies needed to halt greenhouse gas emissions. But the EU and other industrialised countries want the developing countries to chip in, at the very least, by compiling national emission reduction strategies, before they put any money on the table.

Another central disagreement remains the scale of each party's contribution to emissions reductions in the spirit of the principle of common but differentiated responsibility. Little progress was made however last week to define the respective responsibilities.

Figures released by the UNFCCC on 11 August showed that the emission reduction pledges so far tabled by industrialised countries would result in a 15-21% cut from 1990 levels. But this falls far short of the 25-40% that the UN scientific body Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says is necessary to halt global warming below the critical 2°C threshold.

Developing countries have called for the developed countries to shoulder their full responsibility by committing to at least 40% cuts in the midterm. The EU has so far made the most ambitious offer by pledging to raise its 20% goal to 30% in case other industrialised countries, notably the US, take on comparable targets.

The US has, however, clearly indicated that it will not budge from its 2020 targets, preferring to focus on the long-term instead.

source

My comment:Please, not that this article is from AUGUST! This was the previous round of negotiations. Do you see any progress as concerned to those of the last 2-3 days? Not at all. Well, what does this tell you? That the progress isn't even selective, it's NONE! The funniest thing of all is that the real reason why developing countries will pollute is because our own productions move into them. So, we're again at the source of the pollution. So without a tax that will make polluters stay at home and stop polluting, we are doing nothing. I don't see a great difference between a polluter at China or Ecuador or a polluter in Bulgaria or Germany. So, boys and girls, the progress might not be stopped, but it certainly can be stopped. And in the case, it's the greed that's doing it. Because we very well know what it should be done, but we don't do it, because we don't have the will and the commitment to do it. Oh well. Tant pis!

Youth group concerned about university-industry links

31 August 2009

The growing trend of allowing industry groups to influence university curricula threatens academic independence, Luca Scarpiello, a bureau member at the European Youth Forum (YFJ), told EurActiv in an interview.

Scarpiello said the education sector should be vigilant in protecting intellectual freedom, particularly when cooperating with industry.

"Industry should not have direct input into college curricula. This is a task for the state and society at large. There needs to be an open and public debate about what we want education to do and what type of educational provider can best provide the required competences," he said.

Scarpiello said third-level institutions must be adequately funded in order to avoid becoming dependent on support from businesses.

"It is imperative that academia keeps its academic freedom and is aware of possible challenges to this when entering into cooperation with industry. Academic institutions therefore need to be funded through public means as they need stable funding to fulfill their educational and fundamental research tasks."

However, he said that if academic freedom is guaranteed, cooperation with industry can improve research and provide new learning opportunities for students through internships.

EU Commissioner for Education and Training Ján Figel' said earlier this year that European universities have significant untapped potential, "especially in their ability to establish links with the business community" (EurActiv 6/2/09).source

My comment: This is a short article, but I just have to emphasize how much I agree with it. Universities are crucial for the freedom of thought and the freedom of science and they should protect this independence with any means possible. This is simply extremely important. If the industry needs to teach its workers something then it (and they) should offer different stages and specialization to the students. This is fair and this is the way it should be. Connections should mean more opportunities to specialise and learn interesting things, not free messing with the curriculum.

EU R&D efforts hampered by 'eco-religion'

31 July 2009
European companies are finding it increasingly difficult to covert research into innovation as politicians turn to the precautionary principle and Europeans reject science as a 'force of evil', argues David Zaruk, an environmental health risk consultant, in an interview with EurActiv.

"Science is paying a big price in Europe because of the precautionary principle, both in terms of lost opportunities for innovation and loss of trust in science," said Zaruk, who is also a senior research associate at the Institute for European Studies at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. Zaruk holds a PhD in philosophy and has a background in communicating science in the chemicals sector.

The most-used definition of the precautionary principle in the EU is that formulated by the European Environment Agency, he said: "Until you have enough information to be certain about something, you should take precautions."

This definition has reversed the burden of proof, taking it away from policymakers and putting it onto industry and academia, Zaruk explained. "Before, scientists could develop an innovation and market it, after it was up to others to prove and test that it is dangerous. Now, you need to prove something is safe before it can be marketed."

He said EU chemicals regulation REACH was a good example of the reversal of the burden of proof: "During the process, the whole point of REACH shifted from ensuring the safe use of chemicals to that of substitution. But how can you prove that substitutes are safe?"

According to him, scientific exploration has become extremely difficult in the EU, research is not encouraged and researchers are now held "guilty until proven innocent".

"Precaution was created as a tool for policy, by those who think science has gone too far," Zaruk argued.

"I used to believe that if you can communicate science clearly to politicians and the public, you can get better policies and improve public perception. But I'm not that optimistic anymore," Zaruk said.

"Increasingly, facts don't matter very much," he said, claiming that despite its goal of becoming a knowledge-based society, Europe is "more and more an influence-based society" in which science is under attack from "eco-religious fundamentalists," he argued.

Scientists are only a small part of the policy structure and their opinions can be brought into the policy debate, "but not necessarily," Zaruk continued. He stressed that not only corporate lobbyists, but also NGOs, are very effective in the way they are affecting policies. He argued that NGOs enjoy the greatest influence on EU policies shaping science.

He also noted it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit good scientific experts for the EU's risk assessment process, as they "are getting fed up" with EU policies being driven by elements other than science.

Nature is no longer seen as the "vicious beast" from which science can protect us, but as "the polar bear adrift on a melting glacier," forced there by science and technological advances, which cause carbon emissions and global warming.

"We are talking about a new religion, the eco-religion," he said.

Eco-religion also assumes that "natural is good, and synthetic (man-made) is bad," he said, adding that science is increasingly associated with "non-natural endeavours and hence bad". This "eco-religious cultural narrative" calls for the use of more "natural stuff", looks up to "sustainable science" and drives eco-labelling and green procurement decisions, he added.

To some extent, loss of public trust in science is also due to unkept promises, Zaruk argued. People see the risks, but do not yet see the promised benefits "because they are just promised," he said, referring to GM technology, for example. source

My comment: Ok, can you tell me, honestly, how a man with "PhD in philosophy" can be "an environmental health risk consultant". Is it just me or this is crazy?! How could possible a non-scientist discuss the problems of science in Europe and claim that he knows what's going on?! This is absurd!!! And yes, he is right, one of the main problems in Europe is that policies are done not by free experts but by lobbyist and pre-paidexperts that decide not on the basis on facts, but on the basis of public and private opinions backed by serious amounts of money. Is this the way to do real risk assessment? I think it is not! How can one trust in science if s/he cannot know what kind of scientist has done the evaluation - independent or not at all. How can a scientist make a free assessment in such environment! This is utter nonsense. And the truth is that science really suffers, but not from the precautionary principle, because this applies only to (bio)engineering and chemicals. And pharmacy. No, the science is suffering because people fail to understand that science's purpose in life isn't to create products and to earn money. Science is about knowing the Universe in all of its shapes and forms. If something comes out profitable - fine. But this isn't the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to induce human well-being and to improve our quality of life. And the financial parameters are not concern of the scientists. And the safety assessments are a financial, not a scientific problem. Because if something is safe, it is safe. When there isn't enough information, you wait until there is. And since you're interested in humans health and well-being, not about someone's pocket, you don't mind to wait and people know that it's safe for them. But what is being done right now with chemicals and nano-particles is a major nonsense and a very dangerous one too. Because natural things are usually taken into account in our bodies. Unnatural things should be used with care.It's not too hard, right?

And last but not least, sustainability is great. It's the best way something can exist. Not because of nature in general, but because of us. After all, why paying for something, when we can not pay?!


EU medical trials law 'putting brakes on science'

25 August 2009

European rules on medical research have decimated academic studies due to spiralling insurance costs and bureaucracy, according to a leading academic.

Professor Dietger Niederwieser from the University of Leipzig said the EU's Clinical Trials Directive was designed to cater primarily for the pharmaceutical industry and that academia had been "forgotten" by lawmakers.

Speaking after the first of five workshops which seek to examine the impact of the directive, Niederwieser says the rules are geared towards trials by companies hoping to approve new drugs while ignoring research on quality standards or which compares the effectiveness of surgical procedures.

"Academic trials are down dramatically. There were ten times as many research trials taking place in academia before the directive came into force," he said.

Niederwieser said the cost of conducting trials in Germany had risen by a factor of ten, without any major increase in quality.

"This directive is putting the brakes on science in Europe," he added.

Variations in how the law is interpreted across Europe is making it difficult to conduct research in several countries as part of a single project, says Niederwieser, who is the president of the European Group for Blood Marrow Transplantation (EBMT).

However, he accepted that there had been some improvement in streamlining the process for securing ethical approval for trials. Asked whether the current directive could be tweaked to fix the flaws he has identified, Niederwieser said he was not optimistic. source

My comment: Just in line with my previous comment. When laws are made for the industry and not for the people, we all suffer. It's not because of the eco-religion, it's precisely because of this idiotic lobbyists that take the money, make sure something becomes a law and do not care what exactly the consequences will be. Well, guess what, big pharmacy companies also need quality scientists. Who's going to create those scientists if the academic research is miserable?! A mystery.And a complete misery.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Energy in the end of Summer, 2009 -biofuels and more

Today:
  1. EU mulls extending green criteria beyond biofuels
  2. France's GDF Suez to join Nord Stream pipeline
  3. Lithuania gives cold shoulder to Nord Stream
  4. Russia Gazprom unveils strategies for Turkey
Quote of the day:
But I think that Europe should be for everyone and plans and pipes should be settled on the table, visible for everyone, so that everyone is not happy, but at least ok with the decision. And for example, if we have a pan-European gas/electricity grid, even if a country is bypassed, it will be able to profit from the new pipes/projects. And now this is good, right?

EU mulls extending green criteria beyond biofuels


24 August 2009

The European Commission has begun consultations on tackling indirect land-use change caused by agro-fuel production, floating the idea that such criteria could be applied more generally to a range of other agricultural commodities.

The EU's new Renewable Energy Directive obliges member states to ensure that 10% of their transport fuel comes from renewable sources, including biofuels, by 2020.

The goal was aimed at contributing towards the bloc's climate goals, but questions have been raised about the unintended consequences of replacing large forested areas and food production with energy crops.

To address this issue, the directive requires the Commission to present a report by the end of 2010 on how such "indirect land-use changes" impact on greenhouse gases and whether they should be tackled.

But a consultation paper seen by EurActiv reveals that the EU executive is ambitiously planning to come up with a document and potentially a legislative proposal as early as next March. This is to ensure that member states can take them into account when submitting their national renewable energy action plans by the end of June 2010.

The non-paper, drafted by the Commission's transport and energy (TREN) and environment DGs, lists several options to take into account the effects of land-use change. It shows that the Commission is considering addressing the general issue of land-use change instead of limiting its approach to biofuels.

The document suggests that the restrictions on land-use change applied to biofuels could be imposed on other commodities and consuming countries. This could be done by encouraging other administrations to adopt the same restrictions and by encouraging other industries to apply these on a voluntary basis, it states.

Moreover, the EU could require that goods sold on its market are tagged with labels stating compliance with the restrictions, the non-paper reads.

One alternative would be to conclude international agreements to protect "carbon-rich habitats" like rainforests in countries where cultivation patterns are likely to be affected, it states.

However, the Commission believes that such a general approach would require putting in place measures that stretch beyond the scope of the report required by the Renewables Directive, and would take more time to execute.

The rest of the document thus specifically concentrates on biofuels. The minimum required greenhouse gas savings already included in the directive could either be tightened or considered as an adequate "cushion", ensuring that the policy delivers an "acceptably high" greenhouse gas benefit, it says.

Finally, the document floats the idea of promoting differentiated consignments for individual biofuels.

For example, bonuses could be increased for biofuels which do not come from land, or additional sustainability criteria could be set for agro-fuels produced from crops that are likely to cause damaging land-use change. Furthermore, an indirect land-use change factor could be included when calculating greenhouse gas emissions from biofuels, once a methodology has been adopted.

In addition to comments on the feasibility, uncertainty and administrative burden of the proposed measures, the Commission is seeking feedback on the international trade implications of biofuel sustainability criteria. source

My comment: I really don't get why these directives take so long to become alive. It was clear that the current decisions on biofuels are bad and outdated, then why it should be so complicated to make a new one, that isn't so senseless?! I truly hope that this one will passes the soonest possible, though I doubt. As probably most of you know, the real problem comes not so much from the biofuels themselves, as from our bad economic. Biofuels by themselves are as green as a plant can be, obviously greener than coal and oil. The problem comes when you cut forests to grow biofuels, or replace food production with biofuel production. Then you change the equation and instead of reducing the CO2 (and other!) emissions, you indirectly increase them. Not to mention the ecological and economical impact of your stupidity and greed. But who's guilty? Not you, but the directives that doesn't take into account the reality. And now, when they have the opportunity to make something good, I hope, they will take that chance. But I doubt. Because as hinted in the article. the countries producers of biofuels like Brazil and USA are against them. If you wonder why, google "devastation of Amazon jungle" for example. And similar.

And what I like even more is the idea to regulate indirect land use. I'm not sure if deforesteration for profit enters here, but it would be good if it does. Because this is a major problem for Eastern Europe, where there are still forests, but where the governments are not strong enough to deal with the problem and the mafia is cutting the trees without any trace of punishment. But again, I doubt such broad directive could or would pass.

France's GDF Suez to join Nord Stream pipeline

30 July 2009

GDF Suez, one of the world's largest utilities, is negotiating its participation in the Nord Stream gas pipeline project, which is designed to bring Russian gas directly to Germany by bypassing Ukraine, representatives of the project told EurActiv yesterday (29 July).

GDF Suez, which owns Europe's biggest gas network, will probably complete talks to join the Nord Stream pipeline by the end of the summer, Gazprom Deputy CEO Alexander Medvedev said on 28 July, according to reports in the Russian press.

The move to add to the project's investor base would involve reducing stakes held by German companies, Medvedev told reporters. Gazprom owns 51% of the link, Wintershall Holding and E.On Ruhrgas have 20% each and Nederlandse Gasunie has 9%.

The French daily Le Monde wrote that the rapprochement between GDF Suez and Gazprom carried particular significance after France had been ousted from the Nabucco gas pipeline project at the insistence of Turkey. Ankara's move came in retaliation to Paris's opposition to Turkey's EU accession, the French daily wrote.

Speaking to EurActiv, Sebastian Sass, head of Nord Stream's representation to the EU, confirmed that the company was in negotiations with EDF Suez.

The negotiations were conducted between the Nord Steam shareholder, and not directly with the gas pipeline company or management, he explained. "GDF has made an offer. GDF is interested in joining the Nord Stream company. I can confirm that the other shareholders are positive about this interest of GDF. But anything else is subject to negotiations," Sass said.

Le Monde explained that Russia's tactic was to bring on board France to counterbalance critics of the pipeline within the EU, such as Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

Regarding France's interest, Le Monde writes that Suez probably has in mind future cooperation with the French group Total, which was invited in 2007 by Russia to help develop the Shtokman gas field in Siberia, the future supply source for Nord Stream.

There is a French will to develop energy partnerships with Moscow, a sector which German companies have occupied for a long time, the daily concludes. source

My comment: Very interesting, huh? Especially how Turkey managed to keep France out of the deal of Nabucco. When Germany isn't less against Turkey 's accession than France is. Very very interesting. I don't understand how countries are not afraid to deal with Turkey after all this not very kind actions. True, they have the right to be angry over the EU problem but in the end, they are not part of Europe, like it or not, so they anger isn't justified.But still, they manage to keep their positions so stable in the EU. And now, we see that Russia seems to want to keep Bulgaria out of South Stream... Well, I guess we'll join Ukraine in being screwed. Because it's obvious that there will be another gas crisis and that we'll be again on the cold.

Lithuania gives cold shoulder to Nord Stream

27 August 2009

Dalia Grybauskaite, a former European commissioner who was recently elected Lithuanian president, has displayed hostility towards the Nord Stream gas pipeline project, which is designed to bring Russian gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine.

At a press briefing in the European Parliament yesterday (26 August), Grybauskaite was asked whether Nord Stream was still a priority for the EU.

Her response was terse: "I'm hearing for the first time that this is a priority project for the EU," said Grybauskaite, who until recently was European commissioner responsible for financial programming and budgetary matters.

Her host Jerzy Buzek, a former Polish prime minister who was recently elected president of the European Parliament, said he concurred with her "100%".

In fact on 6 September 2006, the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers recognisedexternal the North European gas pipeline as "a project of European interest," and the scheme was described by Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs as "a priority project" on several occasions.

However, it may be argued that ever since then, the route of the pipeline has been modified to avoid the territorial waters of countries unfriendly with Moscow.

In more general terms, both Buzek and Grybauskaite highlighted the need for the EU to put in place a "common energy policy," although they both recognised that such a project was not envisaged in the treaties.

Asked by EurActiv if such a common energy policy would require the introduction of an EU "energy czar" powerful enough to face up to Gazprom and the Kremlin, Grybauskaite used the occasion to play on words.

"Czars in Europe – this is maybe not a good idea," she said amid laughter. She added that although the Lisbon Treaty contained some provisions for more coordination in energy policy, the problem was not the treaties but a lack of political will among EU countries.

She added that Baltic countries still needed to interconnect their electrical systems to Europe, and expressed hope that the problem could be resolved with the assistance of the European Parliament.

Buzek said they had also discussed nuclear power. The Visaginas nuclear power plant will replace the current Soviet-built Ignalina NPP, which is being phased out at the end of this year as part of Lithuania's EU accession commitments. source

My comment: Hm, hm, obviously they are following the same route as Bulgaria. The cold showers I mean - there was very similar article not long ago (just after the election of the new Bulgarian government). Anyway I also think there should be pan-European energy plan, because, it's very sad when you see how a project that is good for one part of Europe is bad for another part of it. For example, everything that bypasses Ukraine is good for all the consumers outside Ukraine, but obviously not good for Ukraine itself. I'm not going to say who's wrong and who's right, I don't have the complete information on the situation in all of those very different countries. But I think that Europe should be for everyone and plans and pipes should be settled on the table, visible for everyone, so that everyone is not happy, but at least ok with the decision. And for example, if we have a pan-European gas/electricity grid, even if a country is bypassed, it will be able to profit from the new pipes/projects. And now this is good, right?

Russia Gazprom unveils strategies for Turkey

21 August 2009

Russian gas monopoly Gazprom has acquired a majority stake in the Turkish Bosphorus Gas Corporation, hoping to boost its investment and become a powerful player in the future strategic Eurasian gas hub to be established in Turkey, the Russian press announced on 19 August.

Gazprom has expanded its share in Bosphorus Gas Corporation A.S. to 51 per cent, writes the daily Kommersant. The company, specialised in sales to final consumers, is expected to become a key player in the process of liberalization of the Turkish market, including the privatization of the gas supply network, the daily adds.

Gazprom had until now a 40% share in Bosphorus Gas, through its daughter company Gazprom Germania ZMB. The current share is 51% and the aim is to achieve soon a 71% share, officials said. But the Turkish press reportedly said that Gazprom already controls 71%, as it had acquired the shares of a Turkish key shareholder.

An unnamed high representative of Gazprom said that his company’s strategy is to make out of Bosphorus Gas “a powerbase of the Russian monopoly on the Turkish internal market”.

According to the source, Bosphorus Gas will boost its gas volume trade, participate in the privatization of pipelines and in building underground gas storages in Turkey. “In the perspective of Turkey becoming a huge world gas hub, Gazprom needs to have here its own companies,” the Gazprom representative told Kommersant.

On 6 August the prime ministers of Turkey and Russia signed a series of agreements on energy projects, including on Turkey’s acceptance that the “South Stream” gas pipeline would pass through Turkish territorial waters. As one of the aims of Russia with “South Steam” is to bypass Ukraine, the move would also help bypass Ukrainian territorial waters.

The source, quoted by Kommersant, however, dismissed the participation of Bosphorus Gas in “South Stream”, or in EU-favoured rival Nabucco pipeline. source

My comment: Well, that's what smart people do. The stupid discuss, the smart act. And they act intelligently. Because Turkey is obviously very good into getting a nice place in international projects. I won't hide I'm not happy about it. Maybe I'm little bit biased, after all, they are like invading us. They took the project of a highway built with European money and brought Turkish workers to work for them. And I think it's absolutely unethical the money that the EU gives to a memberstate to be poured into a third country (though it's our fault that we let them to root so deep into the ruling elite). So, obviously I dislike them. They are very hardly trying to kick Bulgaria out of South Stream. They kicked out France of Nabucco. They tried to use Nabucco to bargain for the EU accession. Well, maybe I'm paranoid, but that's not kind, nice or fair. They are aggressive and I don't like that. But obviously Russia knows very well where they can profit and I respect that. We all should.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Google, Skype and angry farmers, October, 2009

Today:
  1. EU battles industry plans to restrict Skype on mobile phones
  2. Tories see reduced EU role for Britain
  3. Britain puts forward Blair for EU president job
  4. European Subsidies Stray From the Farm
  5. Merkel criticizes Google for copyright infringement
Quote of the day:Yeah, after the previous article, this is so refreshing. Yup, the next rulers of the UK hate the EU, so let's make the president of the EC British. What a wonderful idea.

EU battles industry plans to restrict Skype on mobile phones

16 July 2009

The European Commission is threatening to brandish the new roaming regulation or antitrust rules in order to block plans by major EU telecoms operators to restrict the use of Internet calling services like Skype via their mobile networks.

Replying to a written question by a Socialist MEP, Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding made clearword last week that the new roaming regulation, which entered into force at the beginning of July, is also aimed at avoiding any discrimination between technologies.

The regulation "stresses that there should be no obstacles to the emergence of applications or technologies which can be a substitute for, or alternative to, roaming services, such as WiFi, VoIP and Instant Messaging services," she said.

"The Commission is, therefore, taking a close interest" in all initiatives announced by telecoms operators regarding the possibility of blocking the use of Skype's Internet telephony services, Reding added. Earlier in 2009, Competitition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said an inquiry was "ongoing" into alleged violations of EU antitrust rules by mobile telecoms companies.

Socialist MEP Christel Schaldemose had asked for Reding's opinion on an announcement made by German mobile telecoms operator T-Mobile that it would impose an extra-charge on consumers using Skype and other VoIP services on its network.

After strong pressure from the press, public authorities and consumer groups, T-Mobile has changed tack, and is now thinking of charging consumers a flat rate for using VoIP together with normal mobile telephony services. The fee will be higher than that requested for using only standard telecoms applications, such as voice calls and text messaging.

Vodafone, the biggest mobile telecoms operator in the world, said it could make a similar move.

Reding had already stated that net neutrality is one of her priorities. This means that controls on networks should be confined only to actions of traffic prioritisation to improve users' experience and bring value and growth to operators. Internet service providers already operate network management systems which prioritise traffic to companies during working hours and to households at night, in line with market demand. At the same time, they also offer business clients quicker connections for higher fees.

EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding has stated that net neutrality is a priority and new network management techniques should not be used for anti-competitive purposes. Measures proposed to reform the telecoms sector would protect against abuse of such technologies, she added. source

My comment: Nice move :) Well, I'm not going to comment, it's obvious that net-neutrality is something good. Internet should be neutral, period. Just like you have a phone-line to everyone with a number, the same should apply to websites. If you have a website, it should be accessible from any provider, no matter what. Btw, I think if one really wants, s/he could probably sue Youtube.com for the regional restrictions it imposes.

Tories see reduced EU role for Britain

22 July 2009
The United Kingdom must build alliances with nations outside the European Union if it wants to maintain a leading role on the international stage, opposition Conservative spokesman William Hague said on Tuesday (21 July)

In a speechexternal setting out Conservative foreign policy aims, Hague said Britain should strengthen its alliance with Commonwealth allies such as India and reduce its involvement with Europe and the United States.

"For too long, politics in this country has been obsessed with Europe and America. Of course these relationships are, and will continue to be, vital. But serious and responsible leadership in the twenty-first century means engaging with far greater energy in parts of the world where Britain's strategic interests will increasingly lie."

With less than a year to go before an election, the Conservatives are well ahead of the Labour government in opinion polls and are starting to flesh out how they might govern Britain.

Hague, who is tipped to become foreign minister if the Conservatives return to power, described the Commonwealth as "an organisation which in our view has been neglected and undervalued under the Labour government in Britain".

In this context, Hague said India and Britain should "forge a new special relationship, focusing particularly on fighting terrorism, protecting the environment and globalisation".

The Conservative foreign policy spokesperson dampened hopes that Britain would re-launch its military involvement in Europe, saying budgets were too strained and that European defence would duplicate NATO.

"Beyond Britain and France, there is no sign of other European nations making a serious effort to develop greater military capabilities," Hague said. "Indeed it is our criticism of EU defence arrangements that they too often involve the 'rehatting' or duplication of NATO structures - just calling something European does not mean it has actually enhanced Europe's ability to act."

He also said the European Union was "one of the institutions which must adapt to the changing distribution of world economic and political weight" and should evolve towards less centralisation.

Hague said a Conservative government would target relations with the Balkans as a top priority. "It is vital too that the EU does not give up on enlargement. A European Union without the Western Balkans would forever have a disillusioned and disenchanted hole near its centre." source

My comment: Commonwealth=British Empire, right? Ok, obviously, I cannot be happy with such speech. I don't care a lot where the UK will focus its love. Whatever float their boat, as long as they won't tie the EU with their idiotic ideas. But! I'm sorry, but what part of the Western Balkans they need in Europe?! Of course, I think Serbia and friends should enter the EU when they are ready. I have no problems with them. I even think that Macedonia should enter the EU, especially if they manage to get rid of their arrogance (and stop stealing Bulgarian and Greek history along the way). But what about Albania? Should it be in the EU? Especially after what they did in Kossovo. And anyway, how Albania and Serbia could have an open border when there are so many problems between them. I'm not even touching the issue of Turkey, who have no place in Europe in any form or shape. So, as I said, the UK is free to do whatever they like, as long as they please stop messing with business that is not theirs. Isn't there an upper limit for the damage they can do? Or is it infinite! I so much want to know what is the root of all this, too bad so far I'm completely clueless.

Britain puts forward Blair for EU president job

16 July 2009

Britain's Labour government would back former Prime Minister Tony Blair if he were to stand for the job of president of the European Union, his successor's spokesman said on Wednesday (15 July).

The comments came after British media quoted Europe Minister Glenys Kinnock as saying Blair was expected to seek the post.

The new role is due to be created as part of reforms under the Lisbon Treaty, which has yet to come into force, largely due to public resistance in Ireland.

The treaty, which aims to give the 27-member bloc stronger leadership, fairer decision-making and more of a say on the world stage, could be ratified later this year.

"It's the prime minister's view that Tony Blair would be a good candidate for any big international job," Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman told reporters.

"If Tony Blair decides to stand as president of the European Council, once that job has been created, then of course we will support him."

There has been long-standing speculation that Blair would seek the role. It resurfaced again on Wednesday after comments made by Europe Minister Kinnock in Strasbourg.

Blair stood down as prime minister in 2007 after ten years in power and has since taken up the role of Middle East envoy, representing the quartet of mediators made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia.

The relationship between Blair and Brown, the architects of Labour's first decade in government, was infamously rocky for much of the former's time in charge, with both men tussling for influence over the party and the direction of policy.

Britain's main opposition Conservatives, who are tipped to win an election which must be called by mid-2010, want the European Union to have less power over its member states and oppose the creation of the role of European president.

"Any holder is likely to centralise power for themselves in Brussels and dominate national foreign policies," said Conservative foreign affairs spokesman William Hague. "In the hands of an operator as ambitious as Tony Blair, that is a near certainty."

Blair's office denied that he was preparing to stand for the European Council president role, which would be appointed by EU leaders on a renewable two-and-a-half year term. source

My comment: Yeah, after the previous article, this is so refreshing. Yup, the next rulers of the UK hate the EU, so let's make the president of the EC British. What a wonderful idea. Well, I disagree. And I hope people would soon understand that this is an obvious controversy. You cannot have a leader from a country that still cannot out-grow their empire ambitions. And they don't even hide it! It's as simple as this. Maybe Tony Blair has a lot of qualities, but his background is just not appropriate. He made bad decisions and that cannot be forgotten. Iraq is in ruins, because of him. Enough should be enough.

European Subsidies Stray From the Farm

Arids Roma is a gritty Catalan construction company in the northeast of Spain that paves highways and churns out dusty gray mountains of gravel from several sprawling factories.

It is also a beneficiary of €1.59 million in farm subsidies from the European Union, which last year doled out more than €50 billion, $71 billion, from the largest agricultural aid program in the world, one that provides financing to a wide variety of recipients beyond the farmers who plow the soil — German gummy bear manufacturers, luxury cruise ship caterers and wealthy landowners ranging from Queen Elizabeth II of England to Prince Albert II of Monaco.

Arids spreads gravel instead of seeds, but it received a farm subsidy for contributing to rural development — money well spent, according to the Catalan regional government, which requested the payment and then distributed it to the company.

This year for the first time, all of the 27 nations in the European Union were forced to disclose how they distribute the money from farm subsidies, with Germany the only nation failing to comply in full.

The data underscore the extent to which the subsidy program has evolved beyond its original goals of increasing food production and supporting traditional farmers as they dealt with market fluctuations. It also illustrates how the European Union has moved to emphasize rural development instead of price support and production incentives, and in the process has decentralized the system, giving countries more discretion over the dispersal of subsidies.

The data showed that the biggest share of aid, about €37.5 billion, still goes to landowners and farmers, distributed in thousands of individual payments across the Continent.

But it also showed that hundreds of millions of euros are being paid to individuals and companies with little or no connection to traditional farming. And the heftiest sums flow to multinational companies like food conglomerates, sugar manufacturers and liquor distillers. In France, the single largest beneficiary was the chicken processor Groupe Doux, at €62.8 million, followed by about a dozen sugar manufacturers that together reaped more than €103 million.

The sugar processors do not run farms and Groupe Doux outsources the task of raising chickens to thousands of contract breeders. But they qualified for agricultural export refunds, government rebates to cover the difference between the European price of a commodity and its lower world market price. That is how the German candy maker Haribo qualified for €332,000 in subsidies for the sugar in its gummy bears.

European officials and some economists believe that much of the cash from those subsidies ultimately trickles down to local farmers, since without them companies might buy cheaper food elsewhere. But the rebates have a powerful effect on global trade by depressing world prices and undercutting poor farmers outside Europe, whose incomes are damaged. It is another form of price support, economists say, a vestige of an old system that encouraged overproduction of food and one that the E.U. authorities hope to end by 2013.

It is difficult to know exactly how much subsidy money goes to nonfarmers. Some of the information the 27 countries provided was vague, with the real recipients hidden. The E.U. itself says it would be too complicated to calculate how much nonfarmers receive.

But E.U. officials say they have simply adapted the model to support agriculture in all its modern forms.

But critics, including farmers’ unions and some analysts and politicians, say the E.U. has created a ramshackle structure of grant-giving that is driven by a wide variety of national interests, and that it has opened the money pipeline to wealthy aristocrats who own land but do not farm it and to large multinationals hauling in tens of millions of euros in export subsidies in addition to the huge profits they generate.

The E.U. pays out more than half its annual budget, around €53 billion, in farm subsidies, four times as much as the United States. The subsidies cost each European Union citizen around €110 a year, according to the European Commission, a healthy chunk for a family of four. The money is raised from customs duties, sales taxes and a contribution made by each E.U. country based on its wealth.source

My comment: Ok, I don't care a great deal about how the EU provides grants for any business at all. What bothers me is that the money doesn't reach their intended receivers - the farmers themselves. Not that I care about farmers, if you ask me, those money could be much better in science and engineering, but this is not the point. The point is that those money are voted so that they can help the "poor" angry farmers to produce. And they never reach them. The pour into the pockets of the rich, so that they become richer. The law of attraction - corporations edition. And the worst is that people don't realise what's going on. Because whenever someone tries to change something or to redirect some of those money in another field, the streets get crowded with angry (french) farmers who explain their misery in rather rude ways. When in reality, they receive only a small portion of them! How stupid is this...

Merkel criticizes Google for copyright infringement

Sat Oct 10, 2009 11:09am

By Erik Kirschbaum

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday criticized the efforts of Google Inc to build a massive digital library, saying the Internet should not be exempt from copyright laws.

In her weekly video podcast, before Tuesday's opening of the Frankfurt Book Fair, Merkel appealed for more international cooperation on copyright protection and said her government opposed Google's drive to scan libraries full of books.

"The German government has a clear position: copyrights have to be protected in the Internet," Merkel said, adding there are "considerable dangers" for copyright protection in the Internet.

"That's why we reject the scanning in of books without any copyright protection -- like Google is doing. The government places a lot of weight on this position on copyrights to protect writers in Germany."

Google has already digitized 10 million books.

Merkel, who will open the world's largest book fair in Germany's financial capital, said there was a need to discuss the issue in greater detail in international institutions.

She did not, however, offer any concrete solutions.

Google's plan to create a massive digital library has been praised for bringing broad access to books but has also been criticized on antitrust, copyright and privacy grounds.

In New York, a judge said on Wednesday that changes to a settlement that would allow Google to put millions of books online should be presented in court by November 9.

The settlement is an effort to resolve a 2005 lawsuit brought by the Authors Guild and others against Google's effort to scan libraries full of books. In that suit, authors and publishers had accused Google of copyright infringement.

Under the terms of the original settlement, Google would pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry. Authors and publishers could register works there and be paid for books and other publications that the search giant would put online.

German book publishers are up in arms about the deal, and on September 24 they criticized European regulators for failing to take a stand against the settlement.

Also last month, French publishing house La Martiniere, the French Publishers' Association and authors' group SGDL asked a Paris court to fine Google 15 million euros ($22 million) and 100,000 euros for each day it continued to violate copyright by digitizing their books. source

My comment: Yeah, yeah, we know that mob very well. "Authors" should be paid. Oh, wait, authors are not actually paid, because the publishers get almost everything a book earns! So yeah, forgive me if I don't feel sympathy towards the publishers. Because actually, they are the ones that steal the money of the authors. Not Google or Internet. I'm little bit disappointed by Angela, but whatever she says, I know that the progress cannot be stopped. Even now, most people already have pdf versions. Do you wonder why Amazon's Kindle has so bad support of pdf files? Well, this is why. But again, whatever they do, the progress will continue. After all, if my phone can read pdf-s, then who cares what Amazon is doing?! And anyway, I think people will always give the money to buy a good book. Because the digital books are just not that nice. They don't have the same feel in your hands.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Late post-election:political discrimination, 10.2009

Today:
  1. EU countries ranked for 'influence potential'
  2. Eastern Europe big loser in Parliament horsetrading
  3. EU Parliament puts Barroso bid on ice
  4. Pole takes EU Parliament chair in 'historic' move
And very briefly:
  1. Kuneva turns down MEP seat
  2. Ireland says 'yes' amid worsening economic climate
Quote of the day:I think it's obvious that when you come to a new workplace, you have to prove your real qualities and to fight for your position. But I also think, no I'm sure, that Eastern countries are being discriminated against older members. You have to prove yourself, but also, you have to be given a chance to do it!

EU countries ranked for 'influence potential'

28 July 2009

Germany is over-represented in the European Parliament, giving it a correspondingly high potential to influence EU policies, while other countries are at disadvantage, according to a recent report by a Romanian think-tank.

The European Institute for Participative Democracy (Qvorum) in Bucharest has published a study comparing the 'influence potential' of the 27 EU member countries in the European Parliament.

Qvorum, a non-partisan think-tank which aims to stimulate citizens' and social partners' involvement in the policymaking process, discovered that a number of countries have won privileged representation in the assembly's governing bodies, while other nations are clearly under-represented.

A ranking is established according to the top positions that each country secured in the Parliament's numerous structures: presidencies and vice-presidencies, committees and delegation chairs, as well as within party structures.

Germany tops the list with 146.8 points, some distance ahead of second-placed France, which has 119 points. In fact, the report found that Germany is over-represented vis-à-vis France, Italy and the UK, as these countries currently hold the same voting weight under the qualified majority voting (QMV) rules of the Nice Treaty.

Indeed, Germany has secured an unprecedented four committee chairs and eight vice-presidencies, and holds three political group presidencies and another three group vice-presidencies.

Clear examples of under-representation vis-à-vis member countries with similar populations are Spain (in comparison to Poland) and the Netherlands (which is at a disadvantage compared to Belgium, Portugal, Hungary, Sweden and Austria).

As for East European countries, the two biggest newcomers, Poland and Romania, apparently have no reason to complain. However, Eastern Europe remains at a disadvantage overall (EurActiv 23/07/09). Three countries – Slovenia, Estonia and Latvia - have zero points, as they have not obtained any important positions in the new assembly.

Last but not least, Ireland, which is set to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty on 2 October, is clearly under-represented, compared to Denmark, Slovakia, Finland, Cyprus, and even Luxembourg and Malta. source

My comment: Go to the site to see the table with the member states. It is very unpleasant to read stuff like this. I mean, it's obvious that a big country that gives a lot of money to the EU should be better represented than a small one, however, we shouldn't forget that without borders, many people from small countries, work like crazy in the big ones and keep they economy going and flowing, putting their home countries in disadvantage.(Where are the nurses in Bulgaria for example?) So, obviously, there should be some official way to keep things fair. Make a clear formula - number of people + economy numbers and use it ! Otherwise, there always will be unhappy people and doubts for discrimination and corruption. And that's not what we want for the EU.

Eastern Europe big loser in Parliament horsetrading

23 July 2009

Prominent Eastern European MEPs feel their countries are under-represented on European Parliament committee executives, EurActiv has learned. Meanwhile, as horsetrading drew to a close, it emerged that France had punched below its weight, according to experts.

As reported by EurActiv (EurActiv 09/07/09), the negotiations to determine which MEP from which group gets which chair have traditionally taken place behind closed doors and result in a complex interplay of hierarchies to determine the final balance: criteria include large vs. small countries, the weight of the political group, the stature and profile of the MEP, and gender balance.

On this occasion, however, it seems that a number of prominent politicians are unhappy with the balance between 'old' and 'new' EU member states heading committees.

Notwithstanding the fact that an Eastern European will for the first time be parliament president (EurActiv 14/07/09), just one committee will be chaired by a 'new' country MEP, the regional development committee under Danuta Hübner. It has not gone ignored among other 'new' countries that both these high-profile MEPs, a former prime minister and a former commissioner, are from Poland.

Speaking to EurActiv yesterday, Bulgarian Socialist MEP Ivaylo Kalfin bemoaned the final choice, expressing the frustration felt by many new-country MEPs, particularly from small countries, that they are under-represented in the Parliament's positions of power.

Kalfin, who until days ago was his country's deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, told EurActiv that the reason for the modest representation of East Europeans in committees was to some extent technical.

"The main reason is the d'Hondt method [the highest averages method for allocating seats in party-list proportional representation, named after Belgian mathematician Victor d'Hondt], which guarantees the highest seats to representatives of the largest countries," Kalfin said.

But he added: "When you come from a small country for the first time to the European Parliament, where few people know who you are or your qualifications, your chances significantly decrease."

Nevertheless, Kalfin - who is himself a newcomer to the Parliament - succeeded in obtaining the vice-chairmanship of the powerful budget committee.

His point was echoed by Elaine Cruikshanks, CEO at Hill & Knowlton Brussels and chair of H&K Western Continental Europe, who told EurActiv that strength of personality is something you see counting "again and again" in the Parliament, as the assembly is a "consensual institution and people have to be able to work across groups".

Likewise Russell Patten, chief executive of Brussels consultancy Grayling, indicated that new-country MEPs still have some distance to travel on the European Parliament learning curve before they attain the status of more established MEPs. Speaking to EurActiv, Grayling's boss said "if you look back at the last five years, if we're honest, many of the MEPs from 'new' countries were disappointing in the way they handled various briefs. It took many of them a couple of years just to get used to the way the Parliament works".

Meanwhile, Cruikshanks and Patten indicated that among the traditional 'big' powers, France at first glance appears to be the big loser for this parliamentary term, having less committee chairs than in the preceding five-year term.

Russell Patten argued that on the face of it, "Germany, Italy and the UK have done particularly well," while France's share is "rather disappointing".

Analysing why this may be the case, he pinpointed that "there has always been the question of how engaged France's MEPs actually are," arguing that for the past 10 or 15 years, French MEPs "haven't been as keen as other big countries to get involved in the key debates".

However, he added that all horsetrading is not complete, as the key positions of rapporteurs and co-ordinators have yet to be divided up.

source

My comment: I like how Kalfin is so sad nobody knows how good he is (like they are supposed to). I have nothing against him (nor "for" him). I think it's obvious that when you come to a new workplace, you have to prove your real qualities and to fight for your position. But I also think, no I'm sure, that Eastern countries are being discriminated against older members. You have to prove yourself, but also, you have to be given a chance to do it! And as I already said, this is sad. The idea of the Union is that we're all parts of one whole. If we're not equal, then why do we call it a Union at all? I know how much more successful economically and politically are the big, older members of the EU. But let's face it, they were on the right side of the Berlin wall. We didn't have that chance, but precisely because of this, we have different experience, we have different points of views, knowledge that shouldn't be wasted just like that. And because of the years dreaming to get into the EU, mode Eastern states are EXTREMELY eager to prove how good they are and to work like crazy to do it.

EU Parliament puts Barroso bid on ice

17 July 2009

Signalling a nerve-wracking wait for European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, leaders of the European Parliament's political groups have agreed to delay until 10 September their decision on when to stage a vote on the Portuguese's bid for a second term at the EU executive's helm.

The agreement yesterday (16 July) came just a few hours after European People's Party chairman Joseph Daul MEP had announced that the vote would be held in September, seemingly ending the stand-off after other political groups had earlier refused to stage the vote during the Parliament's July plenary.

The centre-right European People's Party (EPP), backed by the Swedish Presidency and EU heads of state and government, had been pushing for an early decision on Barroso's re-appointment, arguing that Europe needed clarity over its leadership during times of recession.

But MEPs from the Socialist and Liberal groups, backed by the Greens and leftists, argued differently, saying any decision on major appointments should wait until after the September general election in Germany and the second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in Ireland, to be held on 2 October.

Hannes Swoboda, vice-president of the Social-Democrats (S&D), said more time was needed to assess Barroso's programme and that more clarity was needed on the EU's future legal structure.

After weeks of deliberation, MEPs are still divided on whether to elect the new Commission president under the Nice Treaty and then nominate the full college of commissioners under a different legal framework.

Under the Nice Treaty, the president of the Commission is elected by simple majority, while an absolute majority would be needed under the Lisbon Treaty, increasing the chances of a 'no' vote for Barroso. However, uncertainties remain about the Lisbon Treaty, as ratification is still pending in Ireland, Poland and the Czech Republic.

To complicate matters, the Nice Treaty foresees a lower number of commissioners than the total number of member states, affecting decisions on the distribution of portfolios between countries.

If the Parliament decides to wait until the Lisbon Treaty is ratified, the election of the Commission president could be considered part of a nomination package which would also include the high representative for foreign affairs and the permanent president of the European Council, both of which are new positions established by Lisbon.

Meanwhile, support for Barroso appears to be slowly eroding within the Parliament's various political groups.

source

My comment: Here you can read for the very good idea of Green group co-president Daniel Cohn-Bendit, that José Manuel Barroso should be permanent president of the European Council which I like. I like and respect mr. Barroso a lot, but I definitely prefer to see Mario Monti on the post, or a woman :) But anyway, Barroso was the chosen one. I left this article here, only because it's useful for tracking the history. And to know who thinks what, until they say it. After that, everything will be hidden behind their fake smile. And as I already said, I like Barroso, he is intelligent, even if somewhat indecisive. But he is good for that particular job, with that particular duties.

Pole takes EU Parliament chair in 'historic' move

14 July 2009

Former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek was elected European Parliament president today (14 July), becoming the first politician from a former communist country to lead an EU institution.

Buzek was elected in the first round of voting with a comfortable majority of 555 votes against the 89 cast for Swedish MEP Eva-Britt Svensson of the GUE/NGL group.

His election in Strasbourg was described as "historic" by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, as Buzek becomes the first politician to represent one of the former communist states of Central and Eastern Europe.

Others described the election as a "symbolic breakthrough" and a "proud moment for Poland".

Speaking to the new Parliament, Buzek said his election sent a "strong signal" to countries that joined the EU in 2004, describing it as a "homage to the millions of citizens who made the Iron Curtain fall down".

For the next five years, he added, there will be "no more 'us' [Central Europe] and 'you' [Western Europe], but one Europe".

The new president and former prime minister is seen as a man who values compromise and discussion, reports EurActiv Poland. He was indeed supported by both the ruling liberal Civic Platform party and Polish President Lech Kaczyński, who hails from the conservative Law and Justice party, currently the country's strongest opposition force.

Buzek will take the Parliament's top chair for two-and-a-half years, followed by "a member appointed by the [Socialist] S&D group for the second half of the legislature," according to a joint statement by the leaders of the Parliament's three largest political groups – the centre-right EPP, the Socialists and the Liberals.

On the whole, the news was warmly received by the Polish political establishment in Warsaw and Brussels, with a few notable reservations.

Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk expressed concern that "some in Poland think that Buzek's candidacy will discredit Polish chances of getting a key position in the new European Commission".

On the contrary, Tusk claimed, Buzek's election as president would "reinforce Poland's position" and strengthen the government's hand when negotiating with other EU leaders for the new Commission 'top jobs'.

This afternoon and tomorrow it will be the turn of the Parliament's 14 new vice-presidents to be elected. Based on June's election results, the new legislature is expected to feature the following division of VP jobs, the names of which have been obtained by EurActiv in Strasbourg:

  • European People's Party (EPP), five VPs: Roberta Angelilli (Italy), Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaroupoulou (Greece), Pal Schmitt (Hungary), Alejo Vidal-Quadras (Spain), Rainer Wieland (Germany).
  • Alliance of Socialists (SD), five VPs: Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (Germany), Miguel Angel Martinez Martinez (Spain), Giovanni Pittella (Italy), Stavros Lambrinidis (Greece), Libor Roucek (Czech Republic).
  • Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE), two VPs: Silvana Koch Mehrin (Germany), Diana Wallis (UK).
  • European Greens, one VP: Isabelle Durant (Belgium).
  • European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), one VP: Michal Kaminski (Poland).
  • In an intriguing development, EurActiv has learned that British Conservative MEP Edward MacMillan-Scott of the ECR group has succeeded in collecting the required 40 MEP signatures to present himself as an independent VP candidate. As a result, there are 15 candidates for 14 VP positions, with final votes expected tomorrow (15 July). source
My comment: Blah. Ok, I don't know the guy, but well, you know how much I like Poland. Good for them, but they could have chosen someone even more Eastern. Like Latvia or Greece. Or even Bulgaria :P No, I don't think Bulgaria has a personality that can serve on this job, but still, Poland has enough internal problem and enough problems with Europe, they should have given the job to a country that actually loves the EU.

And random news:

Kuneva turns down MEP seat

Unlike other commissioners who were elected as MEPs in the European elections recently, Bulgarian Commissioner Meglena Kuneva, responsible for consumer protection, said today (10 July) that she will complete her mandate in the EU executive and not take up her seat in the European Parliament, announced Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner in Bulgaria. source

Nice but only for a while. Because the new prime minister blames poor Ms. Kuneva for all of the problems of Bulgaria with the EU (which is ridiculous since her job wasn't to care of Bulgaria, but to work for the EU! Oh, well, it's sad that he will change her, since she's done such a good work for the EU citizens!

Ireland says 'yes' amid worsening economic climate

6 October 2009

Following Ireland's approval of the Lisbon Treaty in a second referendum last week, most analysts see the country's change of heart not as an ideological move, but akin to a cry for help, as the Irish government predicts that the budget deficit is set to increase. source

Good, huh! I'm very happy for them, I think I'll comment this later, but for now, I congratulate Ireland for the correct choice!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Environment in Europe, September 2009

Today:
  1. UK climate plan builds on wind, nuclear, clean coal
  2. Commission eyes tighter enforcement of EU waste law
  3. UN shipping body agrees to CO2-cutting proposals
  4. Industry stands to win over €5 billion from ETS
  5. EU, US eye green goods tax pact in climate fight
First, check this climate report. I'm not going to paste it here, because I recently realised, there's no use in arguing with climate change skeptics. That's why, read it if you like. My own opinion is that by now, we should be done talking and start acting. After all, it's not so important whether we should keep the CO2 levels to their 90s levels, 80s or 99s levels - once we start limiting them, we'll seriously, we'll have the time to choose the limit we prefer. Once producers of appliances understand that efficiency is a great way to attract customers and that it offers them even more options to explore, I'm sure it will become very easy to track emissions and to limit them and so on.

UK climate plan builds on wind, nuclear, clean coal

16 July 2009

The UK yesterday (15 July) unveiled its transition strategy to a low-carbon economy, foreseeing that 40% of the country's electricity will be provided by 'clean energy' by 2020.

The eagerly awaited white paper and accompanying strategy for renewable energy set out how the UK aims to meet its national target of slashing greenhouse gases by 34% from 1990 levels by 2020 as well as its EU obligation to produce 15% of energy from renewable sources by the same date.

The plan sets obligations for emissions cuts in all sectors of the economy, but the most far-reaching change is expected of the power sector, as "greening the electricity mix" is expected to deliver half of the total cuts.

Renewable energy should deliver a third of British electricity by 2020, while clean coal and nuclear would cover a further 10%. The share of renewables would have to rise from the current 5.5%, mainly with the help of wind, but the government also sees a role for wave and tidal power, hydro and bioenergy.

To speed up the connection of renewable electricity to the grid, the government pledged up to £6 million for the development of a smart grid. It also said it would increase financial incentives for developers in the field.

Carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology gets a prominent role in the low-carbon strategy, as the government plans to fund up to four demonstration plants in the country (EurActiv 28/04/09). It also announced that it would establish a special Office of Carbon Capture and Storage to support work on developing the pioneering technology to bring it to a commercial scale.

The UK business lobby urged the government to reduce projections for wind energy by 2020, shifting support to nuclear power instead.The UK government sees its 2020 plan as a model for other nations to follow so that the Copenhagen climate conference in December delivers an ambitious global climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. source

My comment: I'm extremely interested what "clean coal" is supposed to mean. After all the CCS is still only a project, not a reality. And without CCS "clean coal" is impossible phrase. They will create even an office of CCS! And they want to be a model for everyone. For me, this white paper shows good intention, but not real desire to bring them into reality.

Commission eyes tighter enforcement of EU waste law

17 July 2009

The European Commission does not have enough resources to properly enforce the implementation of the EU's Landfill Directive and related infringement cases against member states have very little effect, regretted an official at the EU executive, suggesting that the establishment of an EU waste implementation agency would remedy the situation.

According to 2008 figures, there are currently 141 waste-related infringement procedures pending against member states, representing 19% of all environmental infringement cases. Meanwhile, Maurer said he finds that infringements "have little effect", as reaching a court decision can take up to six years in some cases.

"Separate waste collection is a prerequisite to get landfill rates down" and member states have to opt for recycling, he argued.

Maurer further regretted that while waste officially ranks among the EU's top priorities, "there is not much happening". The Commission does not even have a unit dedicated to waste, and the issue is dealt with by the EU executive's sustainable consumption and production unit, where there is only one person in charge of the Landfill Directive, he said.

Maurer also stressed that national waste management plans are often just "pieces of paper", as highlighted by the recent "Campania case". The Campania region of southern Italy had submitted to the Commission a "magnificent plan", but had done "absolutely nothing" in practice, he said.

The case has led Commission services to take action and made the EU executive cautious about member states' waste management plans. "The Commission will monitor much more closely the implementation of these plans in the future," said Maurer.

According to Commission figures, reported by individual member states, there are some 7,000 illegal landfill sites [landfills operating without a permit] in the EU. But this is "just the tip of the iceberg," said Jorge Diaz de Castillo, another Commission official. According to 2005 figures, the highest number of illegal sites are situated in Italy (1,763), 700 of which are considered hazardous. Italy is closely followed by Greece (1,453), France (1,042), Belgian Wallonia (963) and Bulgaria (252).

However, the Commission believes the real number of illegal sites is much higher, giving estimates of around 5,000 in Italy and 1,500 in France, for example.

The EU executive sent letters to the EU's 27 governments this week, asking for an update of the current situation.

The results should be available by the end of 2009, after which the Commission may issue a Green Paper on the matter. source

My comment: What is "green paper"? Damn, white papers, green papers...the rainbow becomes politically charged, lol :) As for the article, very correct observation. The problem with garbage is huge and it's pretty obvious why - the garbage mafia is one of the biggest ones - at least in Bulgaria and Italy this is the problem. So, if the Commission wants to mess with this, it will become very interesting. But I'm sure there can be an equilibrium in which the two mobs will balance each other benefiting the decent citizens. So to say :)

UN shipping body agrees to CO2-cutting proposals

20 July 2009

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations shipping agency, on Friday (17 July) agreed to voluntary proposals aimed at cutting carbon emissions, but environmental groups said it fell short of what was needed.

Shipping and aviation are the only industrial sectors not regulated under the Kyoto Protocol, which sets targets for greenhouse gas emissions by rich countries for the period 2008-12.

Shipping accounts for nearly 3% of global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and pressure has grown for cuts ahead of a crucial climate change summit in Copenhagen in December. Delegates from around 90 countries approved non-compulsory technical and operational measures to reduce greenhouse emissions from ships.

These included an energy efficiency design index for new ships to ensure that new vessel designs are environmentally friendly, as well as guidelines for existing vessels' development index.

The measures will be trialled until March 2010, when they will be addressed again by the IMO's marine environment protection committee.

Peter Lockley, head of transport policy at environmental group WWF UK, said the measures should have been mandatory with set targets.

"This does not meet our demands or what is necessary to protect the climate, and we are going to call on the UNFCCC to set targets and timelines and guiding principles," Lockley said, referring to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Peter Hinchliffe, marine director with the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which represents 75% of the global industry, said the proposals were an important step, adding that shippers wanted them to be mandatory as soon as possible.

France called last month for a decision in Copenhagen on curbs to ship emissions, but stopped short of stating figures.

Some analysts argue that the IMO has been slow to come up with a mechanism to curb CO2 due to differences between member nations, especially ahead of Copenhagen (EurActiv 19/05/09).

The session of the IMO's marine environment protection committee discussed for the first time the issue of market-based measures and agreed on a work plan. It "could be in a position" to report progress made on the issue in 2011. source

My comment: Hm, this is a good news. Even if the actual share is only 3%, it still is important to set an example. To be sure that everyone is included in the efforts, so that nobody feels misunderstood. And after all, as I said everyone wins once people get efficiency stuck in their heads. It's easy. I also agree there's no use of setting goals that cannot be reached, but also, well calculated ambitions lead to progress.

Industry stands to win over €5 billion from ETS

23 July 2009

Industries participating in the EU's emissions trading scheme will likely end up with surplus allowances worth almost 400 million tonnes of CO2 in the period 2008-2012, undermining the objectives of the scheme, a climate campaign group said this week.

A new report by Sandbag released on 20 July argued that the EU ETS (see LinksDossier) is failing to follow the 'polluter pays' principle, and is in fact subsidising polluters by giving them a large number of free emission allowances instead.

The report estimated that the industries included in the scheme - except those in the power sector - are likely to earn as much as €5.4 billion by selling surplus credits accumulated during the second trading period, 2008-2012. The new entrants' reserve, set aside for those installations entering the ETS scheme, could hold another 300 million surplus permits by 2012, the report added.

The windfall profits result from firms selling their extra allowances to power companies, which by and large have to pay for all their emissions.

Moreover, the scheme includes a "generous safety valve" to counteract potential excess demand by allowing companies to buy offset credits from abroad, the report stated. The second trading period could see some 900 UN-administered CER credits enter the market, adding to what is perceived as increased "hot air" in the system, the report argues.

Sandbag stressed that as permits and offset credits are bankable up to 2020, nearly 40% of the effort required to achieve 2020 caps could be covered by extra allowances from the second phase ending in 2012.

To get the artificial market deliver on reducing emissions, its original purpose, the EU should take steps to tighten targets by 2020 and to cancel the New Entrants Reserve, the NGO underlined. Moreover, member states could offer tax breaks to companies that surrender their extra credits instead of putting them on the market, it proposed.

Sandbag also launched a map yesterday (22 July), indicating which EU industrial installations are short of permits and which have surpluses. The data shows that just ten plants make up 60% of the whole EU surplus, three of them belonging to steel group ArcelorMittal.

Presenting the results in Brussels, Sandbag Director Bryoni Worthington argued that companies in countries with strong 'polluting' industries like Germany, Spain and Sweden have shown great skill in lobbying member states for free allowances, while new member states have distributed their free permits more equally between players. source

My comment:Wow! That's very interesting report! I wonder what the response of the EC will be. Because there MUST be a response. It's simply a joke to pay to polluters to pollute. And then to argue how nice schemes Europe has and to offer it to the world. I'm not sure how those allowances are distributed, but for me, they should be given on production principle not to member states, but to companies. A database should be made for the EC updated periodically (like on 3 months) and every company that obtained allowances should account for them. Just like with European money - you want them, you have to prove you need them and how you would use them. Not just get them, because your member-state is more initiative and sell them for profit.

EU, US eye green goods tax pact in climate fight

29 September 2009

The European Union and the United States are holding talks on forging a pact with OECD countries and China to eliminate duties on green goods, as part of a deal with Beijing in view of a global climate agreement to be reached in Copenhagen by the end of the year.

EU diplomats told Reuters that under a plan being discussed by Brussels and Washington, the 30 nations in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and China would agree a global pact to phase out import tariffs on goods such as wind turbines, renewables and green technologies.

But any deal is unlikely to include environmentally friendly hybrid cars, the diplomats said.

"The talks are entering an advanced stage. Brussels and Washington hope this could be one of the incentives needed to get China on board in the lead up to the Copenhagen climate change talks," one EU diplomat told Reuters.

A spokeswoman for the US Trade Representative's office said the US and the EU had been pushing within the Doha round of world trade talks since November 2007 for a deal to cut tariffs on environmental goods "and continue to work closely in pushing for concrete progress".

US businesses such as United Technologies Corp (UTX.N) and General Electric Co. (GE.N), which are frustrated with the slow pace of the Doha round, have urged the Obama administration to consider alternative paths to reach a deal to boost trade in environmental goods and services.

China is on course to become the world's largest producer of wind turbines in the world this year and is a major manufacturer of solar products.

The Asian powerhouse - the world's biggest polluter - is under pressure from Europe and the US to cut its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions as part of negotiations on a new global climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, which lapses at the end of 2012.

In return Beijing wants billions of dollars in cash from the EU and the US to help it harness new greener technologies for its export-driven economy.

"This deal would save Chinese exporters billions of euros and dollars and could form a large part of the overall package offered to Beijing to cut emissions," another diplomat said.

India and Brazil are also being wooed by the EU and Washington before global climate talks in Copenhagen in December, but are considered unlikely to take part in the initiative.

"Brazil and India are not seen as part of the deal since reducing their import tariffs would not benefit them. They can opt in, but it is expected they will opt out," the first diplomat said.

EU trade ministers gave the green light earlier this month to current EU presidency holder Sweden and the European Commission - which oversees trade policy for the 27-nation bloc - to pursue the negotiations with Washington.

Any negotiations would take place between ambassadors at the World Trade Organisation in Geneva, but any deal would be formally agreed outside the global trade watchdog, the diplomats said.

"It would be similar to an agreement in the pharmaceutical sector and would not contravene WTO rules," one envoy said.

Pharmaceutical-producing countries accounting for approximately 90% of global production, including the US, EU and China, have agreed to "zero-for-zero" tariffs for pharmaceutical products and for chemicals used in the production of pharmaceuticals. source

My comment: That sounds like a good deal to me. No more comments from me, since this isn't a fact yet. It's sad that hybrid cars and bulbs are not included, but well, industry is always with a priority against decent citizens.

 

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