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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Business in Europe, October 2009

  1. EU plans to up minimum parental leave to four months
  2. Investors view Europe as short-term safe haven
  3. ECB survey sees credit crunch easing
  4. EU 'biobank' first to benefit from VAT exemption
  5. EU nations seek changes to 'micro-enterprises' plan
Quote of the day:"Jean-Claude Trichet has gently reminded banks of their "responsibilities"." Lol!

EU plans to up minimum parental leave to four months

31 July 2009

The European Union's executive proposed on Thursday (30 July) to increase minimum parental leave from three to four months per child by 2011, which will affect national laws in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Portugal, Romania and Malta.

Parental leave in the 27-nation EU is paid or unpaid, depending on national law. It comes on top of maternity leave, which is paid leave taken for a minimum of 14 weeks after a mother gives birth, and paternity leave if provided by a given country.

The European Commission's proposal would also allow three of each parent's four months to be transferred to the other - for example, a child's mother could take up to seven months, and the father would take the eighth.

"The proposal complements the Commission's recent package of measures to improve work-life balance for Europeans," the Commission said in a statement.

The proposal would have to be approved by EU national governments to take effect. Its chances of winning support are high since the Commission proposal stems from an earlier agreement between European trade unions and employers representatives (EurActiv 19/06/09). Indeed, under EU rules, agreements by social partners are always converted into law.

The Commission hopes the proposal will be approved by late 2009, to go into affect by 2011.

Parental leave can be taken in the first few years of a child's life. In Austria and Romania, it can be taken only until a child is two years old, while parents in Denmark are allowed to take it until a child is nine years old.

The national governments of the EU are largely responsible for setting their own employment policy, but the EU can set general rules for minimum labour standards.
France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia offer the most parental leave, giving up to three years. Belgium, Ireland, Malta and Portugal all offer three months.

Under the Commission proposals, workplace discrimination such as forcing an employee to take decreased responsibilities after returning to the job would be legally prohibited.

Employees returning to work also would have the right to request changes to their work schedules for a limited period. source

My comment: Well I cannot not support such idea and I don't see how any rational person could be against it. I mean, it's obviously hard for the employers to fit parents in the work process, but after all, it's just as hard to fit the taxes but they do it. This is a social responsibility and that's it. Because the more women work, the less they will want to give birth unless their work is secured. And the work is hardly secured, as we all know. Thus the need of pan-European settling of the issue. Because we all see the result from the lack of balance between work and personal life. Europe is getting older and older and that is sad and so frightening. I have nothing against China or Arab countries, but we have to keep our genes on the market too. Variety is the key and if women continue not to give births and have children, we're obviously not doing any good to humanity.

Investors view Europe as short-term safe haven

31 July 2009

International investors view Western Europe as a familiar and reliable region in which to invest, but Eastern and Central Europe is considered a better medium-term prospect, according to a new report by consultants Ernst & Young.

The annual European Attractiveness Survey shows foreign direct investment was surprisingly steady last year, but says the picture at the end of 2009 will be starkly different.

The investment community views Europe as more stable and relatively safer than the rapidly developing BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), but the long-term trend suggests global capital projects will continue to shift from west to east and from north to south.

"Emerging regions are not providing the absolutely safe ground international investors are looking for. Yet, the engine of growth in the global economy is moving east, propelled by a combination of commodity production and the advent of a new Asian middle class," says the report , which is based on a survey of 809 international decision-makers.

Just over half of those surveyed were of European origin, and the report notes a tendency to invest closer to home until the global financial storm has played itself out. The report says investors cannot currently afford to take risks by investing in dynamic emerging markets, and this uncertainty has benefited Europe.

Western as well as Central and Eastern Europe are neck-and-neck as the "safest" regions, and China, which last year was in pole position as the most attractive region in which to establish operations, has slipped to third place. North America, India, Russia and Brazil are the next most attractive regions.

However, when it comes to the most attractive regions for the next three years, Western Europe slips to fifth place. Top of the table is Central and Eastern Europe, followed by China, India and Russia. Looking at the bigger picture, investors expect the next Google or Microsoft to come from Shanghai or Mumbai rather than Paris or Berlin.

China and India are best positioned to return to double-digit growth, according to the report, and China was rated second-highest among all regions for its ability to address the crisis. source

My comment: Interesting article, but it's hard to comment, since I'm not an investor myself. But it's good to know it, especially those people who think that their country is important. Well, it's not. There is mostly one name that is really important and this is China. Because if US economy has the largest deficit ever, guess where those money came from. Correct!

ECB survey sees credit crunch easing

28 July 2009

The European Central Bank's quarterly survey of bank lending, to be published tomorrow (29 July), will show that credit conditions are stabilising. But this assessment is at odds with complaints by businesses that bank credit is hard to get.

While economists point to slow demand as the main reason for weak loan growth, the day of reckoning is likely to come when the economy picks up speed and firms turn to banks for loans.

The second-quarter survey of eurozone banks will show the worst tightening of credit standards is over, ECB Governing Council member Christian Noyer said last week, suggesting that credit has "loosened considerably" and almost stabilised.

In comparison, ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet has gently reminded banks of their "responsibilities".

But eurozone private sector loan growth rates continued to shrink in June, a development economists attributed largely to weak demand.

Firms applying for loans are now in worse shape than in recent years and some plan to use the money to stay afloat, rather than for making profitable investments or acquisitions.

Also, the export-dependent euro zone is unlikely to emerge first from the global recession, pushing more firms to the brink.source

My comment: Again, not much to comment, this information is old now and it is here for historical reasons. Just to know what happened. And to learn the lesson. And of course : "Jean-Claude Trichet has gently reminded banks of their "responsibilities"." Lol!

EU 'biobank' first to benefit from VAT exemption

17 September 2009

A pan-European biobanking initiative looks set to become the first research consortium to benefit from VAT-free status under a new regulation agreed by EU leaders in May.

The group of biobanks would also be exempt from excise duty if it is established as an international agency under the European Research Infrastructure Consortium (ERIC ) scheme, and could employ staff in several member states under a common contract.

This would allow greater mobility for employees who could move between offices while retaining health and social security benefits.

Biobanking experts, gathered in Brussels yesterday (16 September), said Europe is a world leader in the field but needs a more cohesive network of biobanks in order to attract pharmaceutical firms, some of which have moved to Asia in recent years.

Kurt Zatloukal from the Medical University of Graz, Austria, who coordinates the Biobanking and Biomolecular Resources Research Infrastructure (BBMRIexternal ), said the group aims to harmonise standards in the collection and usage of biomaterials.

Zatloukal noted there are currently no common standards for using DNA, tissue and blood samples, and that quality varies significantly across Europe. Applying a "one-size-fits-all" model will not work, he said, adding that Nordic countries have a tradition of collecting biomaterial, while others are suspicious of sharing personal data with the authorities.

The European group is likely to implement new OECD guidelines on the collection of biomaterials, marking its intentions to lead on a global scale.

To qualify for ERIC status, a pan-European agency must anchor itself in a single member state. Austria and the Netherlands have both expressed an interest in hosting the BBMRI, but the final decision will have to be worked out at ministerial level.

The consortium already has registered over 50 participating biobanks as well as more than 200 associate members from the EU, Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Turkey and Israel, but not all of these will be part of the ERIC.

The move comes as the EU executive is beginning the groundwork for its next major research funding plan, the Eighth Framework Programme for Research (FP8), which will replace the current plan in 2013. source

My comment: Well, I had the unique experience of sending my DNA for profiling, I can tell you what a hell is doing it. National posts don't want to send it since it's biomaterial, they want certified organisation to guarantee for the probe, which is ridiculous in the case - the probe is personal, you take it from yourself and send it. Well, more or less it is a nightmare. And what is important is that such bio sample are being gathered more and more often. This issue is not fading, it's just starting to burn! So I approve the European agency and I hope that soon enough, we'll be able to send bio probes securely (and for no additional cost!) to certified agencies and companies that will work with it and keep the results private. Yes, this is certainly something good.

EU nations seek changes to 'micro-enterprises' plan

22 September 2009

Enterprise ministers from across Europe look set to amend a European Commission proposal to exempt small businesses from burdensome accounting rules.

However, a wide variety of positions are likely to emerge when member states thrash out their differences in a public debate on the issue on Thursday (24 September).

While there is consensus on the need to cut red tape for Europe's smallest enterprises, practical difficulties relating to ditching accounting requirements have been highlighted by governments.

One objection is that giving national ministers the power to exempt so-called "micro enterprises" from the 4th and 7th European accounting directives would effectively mean falling back on national company law.

This runs counter to the EU's broader goal of encouraging greater use of the internal market by SMEs, but is in line with the desire to cut red tape – an issue that European Commission President José Manuel Barroso has pledged to make a priority of his next five year term (EurActiv 21/09/09).

Squaring these conflicting priorities will be a challenge for ministers, many of whom are also concerned that reducing the administrative burden on small firms could make it more difficult to collect statistics.

The reduced transparency that would follow the scrapping of accounting requirements is seen by some as too high a price to pay for the reduction in red tape.

Annual accounts provide governments with a clear picture of business activity in the micro-enterprise sector and are also used by tax authorities. Alternative methods of collecting this data will be examined on Thursday, but this again risks adding a new layer of red tape for SMEs.

Some member states have indicted that they are willing to support the plan, despite being reluctant to implement it in their own countries.

The EU executive's suggestion that scrapping accounting rules will be optional is sparking concerns of a regulatory "race to the bottom". Member states that prefer not to implement the proposal believe they will be forced to do so in order to compete with European neighbours.

However, micro-enterprises tend to operate locally and are generally not involved in cross-border trade.

The precise shape of the European Council's view on the matter is unlikely to become clear until December, when the Swedish EU Presidency publishes its conclusions. source

My comment: More here. I still don't understand what is the point here, so I'll just keep quite on this. I mean, the SME should have financial account in all the cases. Then what are they supposed to cut? Weird. It's probably not passing anyway.

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