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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

EU maternity leave minimum - rejected?!, 2010

Today:
  1. Brussels finalising EU energy infrastructure plan
  2. EU sees aviation deal as green light for emissions trading
  3. Brussels to draw up 'chemical map' of EU land
  4. Commission approves Spain’s coal aid
  5. MEPs seal deal on crisis funds for clean energy
  6. EU says €200bn needed for energy grids by 2020
Quote of the day:
Ministers reject Parliament's wishes on maternity leave - Meeting in Brussels yesterday (6 December), EU social affairs ministers refused to accept the demands of the European Parliament regarding minimum standards of maternity leave. The Council is expected to agree its own position sometime next year. - Jerks! Seriously! I mean what's wrong with those people! Europe is in demographic crisis and what do they do? Deny women the right to safely raise children. Because if you think about it, that's what's happening. Women are AFRAID to get pregnant and have children, because they are not ready to take care of them financially and careerwise. After all we all want to be successful in life. Who's going to sacrifice her career and possibility to achieve something and to become a better person to become a mother besides religious fanatics and women who anyway don't care about career?! Very few people. And that's what we're all seeing - women delaying giving birth until they get above 35-40 years old, when reproduction is harder and riskier (and more expensive). They don't do it because they don't want to have children, they do it because they want to secure better life for those children and themselves. And in the end young people become more and more scarce! Is that what EU ministers want? Because if it's that, then we'll be facing a much more serious crisis in Europe than the financial one. You can raise retirement age as much as you want, but humans can't work if they're sick, senile or dead. And the moment will come when there aren't enough people to work to sustain the economy. What are we going to do then? Import young people from Arab countries or China? What a future is this?! And why European politicians are so blind! Women should be stimulated in any possible way to have children and to raise them as good citizens. And all that without forcing those mothers to leave the workforce. If we don't find a way to do that, we're simply doomed. And the sooner we realise that, the better.

    Brussels finalising EU energy infrastructure plan

    04 October 2010
    The European Commission is planning to introduce a fast-track procedure for permitting energy infrastructure projects of European interest, according to a draft proposal seen by EurActiv.

    The draft communication on energy infrastructure priorities for 2020 and 2030 identifies nine priority projects of European interest to deliver Europe’s energy and climate objectives.
    It points to missing links, insufficient market integration and the need to adapt the EU's energy infrastructures to manage an increasing share of intermittent renewable energy.
    Europe's energy demand is set to be increasingly met with electricity, while in 2020, 16% of overall electricity generation will come from variable energy sources like solar and wind power, the paper states. The EU's climate and renewable energy targets will therefore require "extensive changes to the power grids" to integrate both distributed renewable sources and centralised power generation into the grid, the paper states.
    The Commission estimates that 50,000km of electricity transmission lines will either have to be built or upgraded in the next decade to meet EU objectives on security of supply, renewables integration and market development.
    Moreover, the paper foresees the building of a European "super grid" of very high-voltage lines that will be capable of transporting electricity across the continent to balance intermittent power generation – wind in the North and sun in the South.
    To put the infrastructure in place, the paper identifies the need to reduce delays in issues permits, which are crippling infrastructure projects. It points out that permit delays for building energy transmission infrastructure are now longer in many member states than delays in building the power plants to feed the lines.European priority projects should be given preferential treatment to speed up their implementation, either by applying the fastest possible procedure at member-state level or by a new harmonised procedure, the paper says. The "preferred option" would be a "declaration of European interest" regime, which would trigger a simplified permitting procedure and maximum timeframes for each step in the process, it states.
    Moreover, member states involved in cross-border projects should be required to enhance coordination, preferably providing a "one-stop shop" for permit application. In case of persistent conflicts and delays, the Commission or another authority could be given power to make decisions.
    The Commission intends to table proposals on permitting for projects of EU interest next year.
    The draft plan also seeks to put CO2 transportation pipelines on Europe's priority list to prepare for the commercial-scale application of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology.
    CO2 pipelines installed between 2014 and 2020 will be associated with specific demonstration projects and unconnected, the draft says. But including CO2 transport infrastructure is necessary to accommodate a global rollout of CCS around 2025, it argues.
    The document gives a tentative figure of up to €15bn of public support for the identified priority projects.sourceMy comment: This article is precisely why I don't blog here so often now. Because I'm getting extremely disappointed. Some of what is said in the article reminds me of old-style propaganda. If there are disputes, the decision should be made by the EC?! Yeah, how's that for sovereignty of member-states. And if even such a fan of the EU like me can see the wrong in this, I wonder what the nationalists will say. Oh, yeah, I know. "F*ck off". And they will be right. While I completely agree with the need of super grid and new infrastructure dedicated at efficiency and renewables, they shouldn't come at any cost. And it appears as that "draft" is proposing precisely that. Decisions with any cost, speeding of the process with any means...This cannot be right. I agree that the process should be sped up. Most of the time goes in formalities anyway. But the critical evaluations, like environmental, social and of course, technical cannot be subject to pressure by any institution! I hope that draft gets corrected. 
    And yeah, as for CO2 pipeline...WTF?! Are they serious? Transport to which CCS project? Where are the working CCS plants? Show me even one! Where is the environmental evaluation of the so called CCS sites, that proves based on scientific experiments and technological tests that the technology is safe for everyone?! I don't see anything like that. In which case, WTF are they talking about?

    EU sees aviation deal as green light for emissions trading

    18 October 2010
    A deal struck by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on capping emissions from international aviation paves the way for swift inclusion of aviation in the EU's emissions trading scheme, the European Commission said on Saturday (9 October).

    The 190 member states of the ICAO assembly adopted a resolution late on Friday (8 October) on capping emissions from international aviation as of 2020. The sector would also seek to become 2% more fuel efficient every year up to 2050. The goals are, however, "aspirational" rather than binding on its member states.
    The European Commission saw the deal as an endorsement of an EU decision in 2008 to include aviation in its emissions trading scheme (EU ETS) from 2012. Some US airlines have mounted a legal challenge to the EU's decision to incorporate all flights coming in and flying out of the EU into the ETS. source
    My comment: It would be great if the goals were binding. But even so, it's some progress on the issue. Finally.

    Brussels to draw up 'chemical map' of EU land

    06 October 2010

    The European Commission's in-house research body is currently analysing thousands of soil samples from across Europe to draw up a "chemical content map" of EU land.
    The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) has received some 25,400-odd samples of land, collected last year and weighing half a kilo each.
    Their chemical content will be analysed as part of a major survey of EU land cover and usage across the 27 country bloc.
    According to the JRC, the analysis will be completed by June 2011.
    The possibilities in applying the first harmonised "topsoil database" of the EU 25 - Romania and Bulgaria did not participate in the survey - are numerous, "covering most soil functions, soil services and soil degradation processes," the JRC commented.
    Such sampling may become a regular part of monitoring soil resources in the EU and will feed into climate change and biodiversity-related studies and assessments of soil degradation.
    Ten days ago, the JRC published the first ever indicator-based map of potential threats to soil biodiversity. Dubbed the Soil Biodiversity Atlas, the map identifies the main pressures on EU soils as resulting from land-use change, over-exploitation, changes in environmental conditions or geochemical properties.The document stresses the importance of soil biodiversity in agriculture and the water and carbon cycles, and considers the economic value of soil biodiversity.
    According to the survey, some 40% of the EU's total land area is covered by forests and other wooded areas, 24% by cropland, 20% by grassland, 6% by shrub land and 5% by water and wetland.Only 4% of the EU's area is covered by built-up and other artificial cover, such as roofed constructions, yards, car parks, cemeteries, roads and rail networks.
    Regarding socio-economic use, over 40% of land in Europe is used for agriculture and almost 30% for forestry. Use for residential, commercial and industrial purposes – including services, energy, transport and mining – accounts for just over 10% of the total land area.
    Meanwhile, both the land coverage and the land's socio-economic usage vary widely across the bloc.

    The results stem from a large-scale land survey conducted in 2009 in EU 23 member states. According to Eurostat, Malta and Cyprus were not covered by the survey for methodological reasons, while data for Bulgaria and Romania will be released only later in 2010. source
    My comment: Wow, now I like this. Even though Bulgaria and Romania are not yet covered, the whole survey is very valuable scientifically. So I applaud the effort and wish them luck in updating the data and keeping it consistent. Also, I think it will be even more useful to point to the land-use as compared to biodiversity areas. Because they say that Spain is one of the most rarely built up areas, but they don't account the density of buildings over the beaches. And it makes difference whether you build over deserts or biologically diverse lands.

    Commission approves Spain’s coal aid

     01 October 2010
    The European Commission has cleared Spain's controversial state aid plan to support its domestic coal sector over the next four years, despite warnings that it will scupper the EU's green energy goals.
    EU commissioners yesterday (29 September) approved the plan, first announced in February, which grants electricity companies that burn domestic coal preferential access to the wholesale market.
    The plan comes in addition to government aid that Spain's coal mines already receive to compete with cheaper foreign imports.
    Spain justified the aid on the grounds of energy security. To this end, the EU Electricity Directive allows a member state to impose public service obligations on its electricity generators to produce fuel from domestic sources up to a limit of 15% of national electricity consumption.
    The decision comes as a relief for Spanish coal miners, who have been striking over unpaid wages.
    But environmentalists have been unconvinced by the security of supply argument. WWF has pointed out that Spain has been a net exporter of electricity for the past six years.
    Spain's deal with EU competition authorities states that it will stop the scheme at the end of 2014 at the latest, using the four years to reinforce interconnections with major European electricity markets.
    The EU executive said the decision is consistent with a draft Coal Regulation the EU is currently debating, which would phase out operating subsidies to coal mines by 1 October 2014. It said the indigenous coal burned by the power plants under the public service obligations must come from mines that follow the new regulation. sourceMy comment: Yup, the best way to phase out coal is by allowing countries to continue using them and even to subsidize them. Great logic. I won't even comment more, because I'll get very angry of the obvious political decision that has nothing to do with any environmental commitment. And note - Spain is not only exporter of electricity, it produces a great deal of electricity trough wind farms. Thus the national security argument is simply absurd.

    MEPs seal deal on crisis funds for clean energy

    12 November 2010
    The European Parliament yesterday (11 November) approved a deal between the EU institutions to free up €146 million of unspent EU recovery funds to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
    MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of an agreement struck last month to create a fund to finance projects including renovating Europe's buildings to improve their energy efficiency, grid-connected renewable energy generation, electric vehicles and energy-saving local infrastructure like smart grids and electricity storage.
    The fund will get a total of €146.34 million left over from the €3.98bn European Energy Recovery Plan once the deadline for committing money to priority projects has expired at the end of the year.
    In the first instance, the plan earmarked money for gas and electricity interconnections, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and offshore wind farms. But MEPs insisted on a mechanism to use any unspent money for energy efficiency and innovative renewables projects to counterbalance the billions given to traditional energy sources.
    The new fund will serve primarily local and regional authorities to promote decentralised energy and save energy. The money will be disbursed as loans, guarantees, equity and other financial products and will be paid back to the fund.
    The fund will still need to be rubber-stamped by member states in the Council before the money can be made available from January 2011.
    However, Green MEPs criticised the final sum agreed for being too low in comparison to what CCS projects in polluting power stations will be given under the recovery plan.
    sourceMy comment: What I don't get is why they give the money as loans. They should give them as aid for people who wish to make their houses energy efficient. True, those are awful little money. But it's something. Because isolating your house and putting solar panels is quite costly endeavor. So any money will be appreciated. Also, I think that they should ensure access to the money for Eastern European countries, because here the process is a lot more painful than in the West. Dreams, dreams...at least I hope they won't give the money to CCS.

    EU says €200bn needed for energy grids by 2020

    23 November 2010
    €200 billion is needed to upgrade Europe's gas and electricity grids over the coming decade, the European Commission said yesterday (17 November), adding that half of the sum will have to come from government coffers at a time of budgetary presssure.
    The EU executive presented its energy infrastructure priorities for the next two decades. It warned that the EU will not meet its goals on renewable energy, greenhouse gas emission reductions and security of supply without significant investment in cross-border interconnections and in integrating renewable energy into the network.
    Only half of the required investment in energy transmission networks will be delivered by the market on time, the Commission said. "The other €100bn will require public action on permitting and leveraging the necessary private capital," it said.
    The Commission defined four priority corridors for electricity and three for gas where concrete projects eligible for European funding will be identified in 2012. These projects of "European interest" will also benefit from an accelerated permitting process with a time limit for the final decision, it said.
    The EU executive said it would propose a new financial instrument in June 2011 to support the priority projects from the EU's next long-term budgetary period (2014-2020).
    The electricity priorities include an offshore grid in the North Sea and a connection to transport power from wind parks to Northern and Central European cities and to hydro storage in the Alpine region.
    Other projects are aimed at connecting the Iberian Peninsula with France, strengthening the regional network in Central Eastern and South Eastern Europe and integrating the Baltic energy market into the European market.
    For gas, two priority corridors run North-South in Western Europe to remove internal bottlenecks and in Eastern Europe to boost Baltic market integration.
    The Southern Gas Corridor is also given priority status to deliver gas directly from the Caspian Sea to Europe with the aim of bypassing Russia. It will also be discussed by the EU and the US at an upcoming summit in Lisbon.  source
    My comment: Ok, I don't get it why they mix electricity and gas. The two shouldn't be in the same account when it comes to money. Simply because the gas corridors coming from Russia are financed with other means. The Nabucco money are very questionable anyway. Only the interconnections are finances from the EU. So, it's extremely confusingly presented. How much money are needed for the super grid exactly?! The super grid is essential for all the renewable strategy and makes sense economically, since it will allow dynamics in the energy market. Now, I doubt that Eastern countries will buy from Norway or Spain, but still, it's important to have that option. Because then, if a disaster happens, we'll have a great deal more options than as we are now. As for gas corridors, there the issue is not so much financial as political. And since the price will depend on political decisions, how could it be mixed with electricity highways which are internal to Europe project and which won't be subject of so much political controversy. Also, I wonder where are the environmental evaluations of the electricity highways. I don't mean to be paranoid, but electrical current creates magnetic field. It won't be bad to trace the effect on humans and environment in order to find the optimal corridors for that current. So basically, we see some ideas presented, but nothing really important. Good work!
    Journalists call for 'Internet tax' to rescue media - The main journalist trade union in Europe and the UK wants citizens to be given 'European Democracy Vouchers', funded by internet service providers, which can be used to buy newspapers and pay for online media subscriptions.

    UK sees no need for EU deepwater drilling ban - There is no case for declaring a moratorium on deepwater oil or gas drilling in British waters, the UK government said yesterday (11 October), as the EU is expected to call for
    a temporary ban until probe is completed into the causes of BP's spill in the Gulf of Mexico. - wow, what a surprise. I almost expected something different. Nah! Not a chance.

    Airspace treaty brings EU 'single sky' a step closer - Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland have committed to jointly managing their airspace in a drive to shorten flights, reduce kerosene consumption and pollute less.
    he six countries signed a treaty last week (2 December) establishing a 'Functional Airspace Block: Europe Central' (FABEC), which was hailed as a major step towards the establishment of a 'Single European Sky'.
    The initiative aims to organise air traffic management irrespective of national borders to improve air traffic control in terms of safety, environmental sustainability, capacity, cost-efficiency, flight efficiency and military mission effectiveness. - Pretty cool, actually. Because any improvement in efficiency and safety is beneficial for everyone. And it will reflect much better the new geopolitical situation in Europe.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    Patents fight gets finaly hotter, 2010

    Today:
    1. Parliament backs 20-week maternity leave
    2. MEP wants to scrap 'entry threshold' for citizens' petitions
    3. Spanish Presidency seals EEAS deal
    4. ACTA to bypass unfinished EU copyright row (!)
    5. Parliament backs 'Made In' labels, riles retailing industry
    6. Italy and Spain block EU-wide patent talks (!)
    Quote of the day: We need women giving birth to as many children as possible. Our whole continent needs it. Because the only other option for finding working people is Turkey. And even if we wanted Turkey in EU, imagine what kind of social problems will follow.

      Parliament backs 20-week maternity leave

      21-29 October 2010
      Members of the European Parliament have taken a strong stand in favour of giving women workers the right to take 20 weeks of maternity leave on full pay. The European Commission now has to find a compromise that will also be acceptable to the member states.
      At their plenary session in Strasbourg yesterday (20 October), MEPs voted by a large majority to endorse proposals that, if agreed and implemented by the member states, would significantly strengthen the rights of working women throughout the EU.
      According to the Parliament, a female employee should be entitled to take at least 20 weeks maternity leave when she has a baby, and this should be a minimum standard across all 27 member states.Under existing EU legislation, which has been in force since 1992, the minimum level of maternity leave is 14 weeks. Many EU countries already have more generous rules on maternity leave, although in some countries – notably Sweden – parental leave may be shared between the mother and the father.
      Longer maternity leave is seen as a way of encouraging women to breastfeed their babies, as recommened by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 
       The question of how much money women should receive while they are on maternity leave has emerged as the most controversial issue – not just in the Parliament, but also among governments, employers and other stakeholders.
      The Commission had proposed that the minimum level of maternity pay should be based on the level of statutory sick pay in each member state. However, the Parliament is calling for women to be continue receiving 100% of their regular salary during the whole time that they are on maternity leave, with a limited exemption for countries that operate a system of shared parental leave.
      For the majority of MEPs who supported the Estrela report, the question of financial compensation during maternity leave is a matter of principle which relates to the rights of women and families, and the wish to encourage rather than punish parenthood.
      However, a number of national governments, in particular those of Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as business and employers' organisations, are strongly opposed to the suggestion that women should continue to receive full pay while they are on maternity leave.
      Meanwhile, fathers have not been forgotten. A majority of MEPs agreed that fathers should be entitled to take two weeks of paternity leave following the birth of a new child, while continuing to receive 100% of their usual salary.
      But some opponents made the point that paternity leave should not come under the scope of the legislation, which is intended to protect the health and safety of pregnant women.
      Now that the Parliament has finally adopted its position on the Commission's proposals, the next step will be for the member states to discuss all the issues concerned in the Council of Ministers.
      source
      My comment: I think that in most EU countries the moternity leave is much longer than 20 weeks. But anyway, like a minimum, this is better. Though it could be even more. 20 weeks are only 5 months. I think 6 months are much better for both mother's and baby's health. But it's better than nothing.
      Also the importance of this minimum is clear - if the woman cannot take care of her baby, she won't have that baby at all. And Europe is in severe demographic crisis. So, it should be crystal clear that birth should be stimulated in any possible way. Simply because raising the retirement age won't solve the demographic problem. Europe's workforce is dying away. What is supposed to replenish that workforce? Major economies avoid this problem, because of the millions emigrants that poured from Eastern Europe as result of the last expansion. But now that Eastern Europe is more or less assimilated, the problem will become even more severe. We need women giving birth to as many children as possible. Our whole continent needs it. Because the only other option for finding working people is Turkey. And even if we wanted Turkey in EU, imagine what kind of social problems will follow. See Germany for example. This simply is not the solution and cannot be. The only solution is to make giving birth attractive for young women, so that they can do it without worried of their job and salary and career.
      As for the 100% salary...there is some misconception that women are on vacation after birth. They are not. Having a baby is very hard and responsible and physically and emotionally demanding business. And since the whole society will benefit from the work of that baby one day, it makes sense that the mother is payed to have him/her/them. Otherwise, 30 years from now, who's going to work? Why this question is not mentioned in the whole discussion. It's not all about mother care and baby's health. It's also about the health of our society.

      MEP wants to scrap 'entry threshold' for citizens' petitions

      20 July 2010
      The European Commission has dismissed as impractical suggestions by MEPs to scrap the 100,000 signature requirement needed to legally file a petition under the European Citizens' Initiative (ECI). 
      Diana Wallis, a UK Liberal Democrat MEP, said pre-registration checks should be enough to determine the admissibility of legislative proposals tabled under the mechanism.
      "The admissibility of an ECI should be verified once by the [European] Commission, directly following registration," reads a draft working paper presented by European Parliament Vice-President Wallis to the EU assembly's petitions committee last week (15 July).
      The paper - seen by EurActiv - calls for the 100,000 signatures requirement adopted by governments in June to be scrapped.
      The European Citizens' Initiative (ECI), introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, allows citizens to request new EU legislation once a million signatures across at least nine member states have been collected asking the European Commission to do so.
      The working paper states, suggesting that the threshold should be one fifth, or six, of the EU's 27 countries.
      According to a draft regulation on implementing the citizens’ initiative, tabled by the Commission in March (EurActiv 30/03/10), each ECI should be first registered and then subject to an admissibility check by the EU executive as decreed in the Lisbon Treaty.
      "We have been very clear that we want to maintain the two-step approach: first registration and then an admissibility check at a later stage," Michael Mann, spokesperson for the commissioner responsible for the ECI, Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, told EurActiv when asked to respond to Wallis's working paper.
      "This would avoid the danger of the system getting bogged down by us having to do a detailed admissibility check on initiatives which aren't serious and don't have broad backing," Mann said.
      It would also benefit the organisers by allowing them to "get a real cross-border debate going on issues of interest to them, without them being rejected from the word 'go'," he said.
      "We look forward to working with the Parliament to get a good solution," he said in response to Wallis's demands.
      Keen to stay out of court, the EU executive believes the threshold must be high enough to ensure that the organisers are serious and have broad enough public support to achieve their goals before it is called upon to rule on an initiative’s admissibility.In June, EU governments responded to the Commission's plans by deciding that the admissibility check should be carried out after 100,000 signatures have been collected, deeming the 300,000 threshold to be too high (EurActiv 15/06/10).
      Governments decided that once 100,000 signatures have been collected and an initiative registered as admissible, the organisers have a year to collect the million required to trigger the Commission to act.
      Ministers agreed that support could be expressed either in paper form or online.
      Once an initiative has passed the one million signatures mark, the Commission should be obliged to hold a public hearing with the organisers to discuss the proposals and how it could act to achieve them, the draft working paper argues.It then suggests holding a separate hearing, hosted by the European Parliament's petitions committee, bringing the organisers together with MEPs and Council officials as well as Commission representatives.
      The EU executive should then be obliged to communicate the conclusions of the public hearings to all parties, "setting out the type of legislative or regulatory action to be taken and in the event of no action being proposed, to give clear reasons why not," the paper states.
      The full Parliament is due to decide on the working paper by the end of the year, on the basis of reports to be drawn up by the constitutional affairs and petitions committees in the coming months. source
      My comment: Another very important news. Remember the anti-GMO petition of Avaaz (see the top of the page for a link). It's already delivered to the EC which should respond in the next 4 months. This petition, signed by more than 1 million people already was the very first citizen initiative in the EU after the Lisbon Treaty. Even only this is a respectable feat. But the idea isn't to make petitions for the sport of it. The idea is to provoke cross-border discussion, to make people with different backgrounds to unite behind rightful causes. Is 100 000 signatures too much? No. The problem is what will be done after the petition is accepted. Will it be thrown in unknown trashcan? Will it be considered as a request of a majority of member-states? According to the current law, the EC needs to give official response to that petition. But that answer can be official polite "fuck off", after all (I had one of those from the EP). So for me, it's very important to have that change in this law. To oblige the EC and the EP to make a public discussion and to take the whole thing very very seriously. Now, that's something else. So, I hope that we see some positive changes in this direction. I very much hope so.

      Spanish Presidency seals EEAS deal


      22 June 2010 - 07 July 2010

      The European Commission, the European Parliament and the Spanish EU Presidency yesterday (21 June) reached a compromise in Madrid regarding the organisation and operation of the European External Action Service (EEAS). The EU institutions expect the Union's diplomatic service to become operational in the autumn.
      The deal was reached after a meeting that lasted more than three hours between the different parties involved in the future European diplomatic service at the Palacio de Viana in Madrid.
      "On the whole, Parliament's requests have been fulfilled," Italian S&D member Roberto Gualtieri, one of the MEPs involved in the negotiations, told German press agency DPA.
      The agreement reached in Madrid will be further analysed by all parties to allow the Council to take the formal decision to implement the service as soon as possible. The decision is expected to be made this autumn.
      The agreement reportedly became possible after MEPs obtained reassurances on several key texts, including the role of the European Parliament with respect to the EEAS. MEPs will have a say over a large portion of the service's finances, and must be informed in advance of strategic and policy decisions.At least 60% of EEAS staff will be permanent EU officials rather than national diplomats, as MEPs had insisted, in an effort to ensure a more communitarian character for the Union's diplomatic service.
      Ashton apparently accepted the Parliament's view that her deputies should be the foreign minister of the country holding the rotating EU presidency, and for the communitarian area of the service's activity, the relevant commissioners.
      These are Štefan Füle, the Czech commissioner for enlargement, Andris Piebalgs, his Latvian colleague responsible for development, and Kristalina Georgieva, the Bulgarian commissioner for humanitarian aid.
      But the compromise reportedly also foresees that Ashton would keep three high-level positions of 'secretary-general'.
      The institutions hope the Parliament will give its formal green light to the EEAS at its 5-8 July Strasbourg session and that the service will become operational by autumn. source
      My comment: Duh. The big victory is the part that the EP will have in that institution. Otherwise, it would have been absolutely out of control. Now at least the money and the staff will be regulated. If you wonder what this new service will do, I don't know. And I doubt anyone do. It's just another institution to such European money without doing anything in particular. The Commissioners will work as they are supposed to, and the EEAS will present their results as their own. Nice, huh? (ok, I may be wrong and I will be happy to be so, but so far, I haven't heard any significant new plan or idea coming from their direction that will improve our life. Any...)

      ACTA to bypass unfinished EU copyright row

      17 November 2010
      European negotiators of an international anti-piracy treaty are rewriting EU laws on copyright infringement, bypassing an unfinished row in the EU over Internet providers' role in piracy cases, according to industry lobbyists in Brussels.
      The European Commission today welcomed the news that the text of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) had been finalised. But Internet service providers are worried that the deal will overrule a crucial decision on EU copyright rules at the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
      ACTA could significantly alter the way the EU deals with copyright infringement, argue Internet service providers, who say the text expects them to filter illegally accessed content if a rights holder has requested them to do so.
      The European Court of Justice in currently examining whether the filtering of online content is in line with European law.
      The case was registered with the Court at the end of September this year and on average it can take between 18-20 months for the European judiciary to issue a response.
      After a prolonged battle in 2008, a Belgian judge instructed the ECJ to examine whether EU laws allow Belgian collecting society SABAM to ask the Internet service provider Scarlet to filter content on its networks to prevent illegal peer-to-peer downloads.
      Today's finalised ACTA text available on the European Commission's website reads: "Each party may provide, in accordance with its laws and regulations, its competent authorities with the authority to order an online service provider to disclose expeditiously to a right holder information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for infringement, where that right holder has filed a legally sufficient claim of infringement."
      The lobbyists add that the European Commission is currently reviewing a litany of laws on copyright, including the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive.
      The EU commissioner for trade, Karel de Gucht, today welcomed the announcement that participants had finalised the text, though his spokesperson confirmed that the document would need "legal scrubbing" and that informal talks would continue at the end of November.  sourceMy comment: Very bad news for Internet in Europe. And especially for Internet providers. I don't get how they expect them to filter peer-to-peer sharing, after all people share this way not only illegal material. Such a law will practically mean the end of high-speed Internet. After all, why would you pay for a MB connection if you cannot download large files anyway. You'll just go with the cheaper option that is enough for youtube and gmail and that's it. And anyway, the provider cannot filter the access to ONE file. It can filter the access to the whole network. Which means that when even one right-holder complains against a site or network, this network will be filtered. That will be the death of many sites and services. And I don't see serious reason to go trough this. I can't believe someone in the EC really believes this could lead to something good. 

      Parliament backs 'Made In' labels, riles retailing industry

      25 October 2010
      The European Parliament voted on Thursday (21 October) to approve new labelling laws that may soon have an impact on a wide range of imported products, from shoes and clothes to tools and tyres.
      When the legislation is finalised, likely next year, manufacturers must specify the country where the majority of their product was originally made on the label.
      Currently, foreign manufacturers can claim a product was 'Made in the EU' when it only underwent minor assembly in the bloc. That could mislead consumers who are looking for local craftsmanship or want to support local businesses.
      The new requirements could affect billions of euros' worth of goods that are imported into Europe yearly, especially from Asian countries. If consumers turn away from some foreign-made products, that could help boost European production and employment levels as local businesses step in to fill in the gap.
      The new rules still need backing from EU member states in the Council of Ministers, where distribution-heavy states such as Sweden and Britain are concerned about red tape and falling profits. Others, including Italy, Spain and Portugal, have long pushed for mandatory 'Made In' labels, which they hope will act as a brake on growing low-cost imports.The decision could have an "enormous" impact on many companies, especially small firms and the retail industry. Complying with the rules may also be a financial burden for many small companies still reeling from the economic slowdown and tight credit markets, said Dennis de Jong, a Dutch Socialist member of Parliament.
      The regulation also does not take into account products made under 'Fair Trade' practices designed to ensure such principles as the rights of children, respect for cultural identity and safe working conditions, he said.
      Wednesday's vote puts the European Union's policies more in line with other countries, including Canada, Japan and the United States, which has had a labeling policy in place since 1930.But there is no international standard for labelling. So a product that might have to be labeled 'Made in Vietnam' under the EU law might be 'Made in China' under US law, according to the retail organisation, which wants labeling to remain voluntary.
      The rules will mean that if only 25% of the products are made in the EU, manufacturers cannot claim they are EU-made. source
      My comment: Me likes. Seriously. It makes sense, since we know a big percentage of the products are produced in China in somehow dubious conditions. It could involve child labor or something equally humiliating. And having a product produced in the EU is a guarantee of quality (or it's supposed to be). So for me, it makes perfect sense to have such labels. And it will probably stimulate local producers. But I'm not sure if they can pull it trough. There are just too many complex factors. And it depends on how the annoying the regulations are for the producers themselves. Only time will show, I guess. But as an idea, I think it's a very good one - people have the right to know where an item was produced.

      Italy and Spain block EU-wide patent talks

      12 November 2010
      Italy and Spain dug in their heels on Wednesday (10 November), tripping up negotiations to create a single patent to protect the design of products sold in the European Union.
      Despite new compromises put on the table by the Belgian Presidency of the EU, Italy and Spain continued to insist that any patent must also be translated into their languages. The European Commission had proposed that an EU-wide patent be translated into English as well as French or German, the three working languages of the EU."We cannot accept discrimination," said Diego Lopez Garrido, the Spanish state secretary for the EU European Union. "Non-discrimination is one of the crucial elements of the EU patent."
      Political leaders have been trying for years to strike a deal that would simplify the process of protecting innovative products in the different member states, lower costs and create a judicial system to handle disputes. European countries spend 10 times more on patents than their American and Japanese rivals.
      Belgium holds the rotating presidency of the EU and has pledged to push through legislation for a single patent by the end of its term in December. Belgian Minister Van Quickenborne has worked hard to forge a compromise, and his latest efforts appeared to have swayed a few reluctant members, notably Poland and Portugal.The proposed compromises included:
      • Companies that accidentally infringe on a patent because it there was no translation in their native language may not be held liable for damages.
      • Funds to pay for the costs of translations would be provided at the beginning of the process.
      • For all patents, regardless of language, a full and manual translation into one other official EU language chosen by the applicant would have to be provided within a 12-year period.
      But Italy, like Spain, was unswayed.  source
      My comment: I absolutely agree with Spain and Italy. The proposal as it is is discriminatory. Why French and German? Why not Greek and Bulgarian? Or our language is not official enough? They are all official EU languages, so it makes no sense to use some of them in official papers and others no. I think that the best proposal is to have the patent proposal in native language, in English and in one other European language by choice of the submitter (eventually after the patent has been granted). After all, English is the work language for any technical or scientific literature. You don't need any other translation than this. I don't like English more than French, but as a scientist I have personal experience about how immensely easier is to work with articles in one language. Of course, it's important to have native language too, since otherwise the native country will lose, but that's it. Why having more than 2 languages. Why should there be French or Italian or Spanish or German? Or Greek. This is a luxury that we don't have time for. If I want to patent something, why should I care about the average French or German guy who wants to read patents, but don't want to study English. Nobody cares if I know English to do my work. But if I don't, then my work performance will suffer. So I improve me English as much as possible, read my articles 1500 times and try my best to make them readable and as grammatically correct as possible. But that's it. And I don't see any reason, why my articles should exist on more than 2 languages. So, I hope that this legislation won't happen in it's current form. It's just plainly wrong.
      Bulgaria backs Russian pipeline after ‘brotherly’ visit - Russia's threat to exclude Bulgaria from its planned South Stream gas pipeline has worked, Russian daily Kommersant wrote yesterday (7 July), as a Moscow envoy obtained Sofia's consent for a ''roadmap'' to speed up the Kremlin-favoured project. The USA reacted nervously.
      Hungary seeks to extend ban on foreign land buys to 2014 - Hungary will amend legislation to give the state the right to intervene in land sales and will seek to extend a ban on land purchases by foreign investors until 2014, its agriculture minister said. The country's accession treaty opens the land market to foreigners in 2011.
      Hungary's 2004 European Union accession treaty barred land purchases by foreigners until 2011 in an effort to prevent wealthy European investors from snapping up large chunks of arable land in the new member state.
      Similar transition clauses were negotiated by other ex-communist newcomers such as Poland and the Czech Republic.
      China offers to prop up Greece, euro ahead of EU summit -05 October 2010)- Beijing offered to buy Greek debt on Saturday (2 October) and pledged to support a stable euro and not reduce its holdings of European government bonds in an effort to deflect criticism of its foreign exchange policy ahead of an EU-China summit this week. China has said it needs to diversify its foreign currency holdings and has bought Spanish government bonds.
      French MPs in bid to stop Turkey EU funds - 28 October 2010 - Some fifty centre-right parliamentarians have tabled an amendment to France's budget law asking to scrap the country's contribution to the part of the EU budget intended to fund the pre-accession of Turkey to the European Union.
       All opinion polls in France indicate that French citizens are in favour of a privileged partnership with Turkey, but against the country's EU accession, the text further reads.
      In spite of this, Mallié and Bodin say France has earmarked almost 129 million euros for helping Turkey's EU accession in 2011, noting that the amount for 2007-2013 reached 887 million euros. -  Privileged partnership with Turkey - yes, EU accession - NO! I don't hate Turkey, don't get me wrong. But Turkey is next to our border and opening those borders are an actual threat, not something fictional. I don't mind people being different than me, but if someone asks me whether I'll like 10 000 000 different people to come to my country of 7 000 000 people, well, I certainly do mind. And don't fool yourself - maybe 1 000 000 would come here, the others - straight to Germany and France. So, it's not so much about discrimination, it's about self-preservation. And if France expatriate Bulgarian and Romanian gypsies, what will happen when thousands of non-educated people come to their country and ask to stay. Because educated people won't immigrate, they have well-paid jobs in ever-growing Turkey. The poor and illiterate, however, don't.
      Turkey tests legal bypass of visa problem - 18 October 2010 - A leading Turkish lobbyist called yesterday (14 October) for the EU to lift visa requirements for his country’s nationals by using as a basis a court decision. But the European Commission made clear that the long-standing problem was not likely to be resolved by legal means.- Again, I agree. This simply is way too dangerous for Balkan countries. And not only!

      Tuesday, November 30, 2010

      Environmental news from EU - biofuels wars in action

      Today:
      1. Commission sued over biofuels as suspicions mount
      2. Finance sector says ready to invest in CCS
      3. REACH register to ensure traceability of nanomaterials
      4. MEPs re-allocate crisis funds to energy efficiency
      5. EU tweaks CO2 emissions cap for 2013 

      Quote of the day: And it's hard to imagine why some officials will consider this important enough to keep it a secret. And as Wikileaks showed, even the best guarded secrets get revealed eventually. So for me, this attitude of the Commission is very strange and should be properly addressed in court.

      Commission sued over biofuels as suspicions mount

      21 September 2010
      Europe's biofuels policy could cause unwanted side-effects equal to as much as 1.5 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases - roughly the annual emissions of Russia or India, official reports warn. That means biofuels could produce more carbon emissions than gasoline over a 20-year time frame.
      The impact assessment emerged as climate campaigners sued the European Commission on Monday for withholding a different tranche of data on the negative consequences of fuels from crops such as maize, wheat and palm oil.
      The Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) said somewhere between 201 million tonnes and 1.092 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases would be released into the atmosphere due to the complex impact of "indirect land use change" from biofuels.Those estimates were based on a scenario in which Europe's traffic burns no more than 7% of biofuels in diesel and gasoline by 2020.
      But new strategy reports from the majority of the European Union's member states show they are actually intending to burn somewhere between 9 and 11% biofuels, implying that the real side-effects could be as high as 1.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide.
      A Commission spokeswoman said seven of the 27 national plans were still missing, so an accurate assessment remains impossible. EU targets have been set for renewable energy in transport, but not specifically for biofuels, she added.
      EU sources said Commission energy officials had fought to withhold the new work by the JRC for weeks, but relented on Friday.
      The Commission research centre (...) has found that over 20 years the European biofuels policy might actually lead to an increase in emissions - by 21% compared to gasoline, based on data from the executive's own agro-economic experts.Another scenario paints a vision of 36% emissions savings on average compared to gasoline over 20 years, this time using figures generated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington.
       source 
      My comment: Do you notice the 50% difference between the Commission research center experts and those of Washington experts. I don't think this number is random. It's well known that USA is one of the biggest maize producers, and since this is one of the main biofuels cultures, it makes sense that they will want to present it as the most efficient option. What I can't understand, however, is why the Commission tried to keep that data away from the public. It's not like anyone has doubts how difficult is to find the balance with biofuels. A lot of researches already argued that biofuels are not as good as we first thought and that in fact, they will hurt a lot more than they will help. At least in this form. So this is not something new. And it's hard to imagine why some officials will consider this important enough to keep it a secret. And as Wikileaks showed, even the best guarded secrets get revealed eventually. So for me, this attitude of the Commission is very strange and should be properly addressed in court.
      But I also agree that in the current plan, the EC is speaking of "renewable mix" and not directly of biofuels. So there is place for maneuvering when it comes to biofuels. The biggest problem is not internal, but external. On the last meeting when the EU tried to impose some sustainability requirements on biofuels, Brazil made a great show (or threw a tantrum to be precise) and this is the biggest stumbling block in front of any sensible policy in that area. The fact that biggest producers don't want someone to impose them sustainability criteria. They claim they can and should impose them internally, but nobody actually trust them to do so. That's why I think that the public awareness should be directed at total denial of biofuels in their current form. For me, the most logical way is not to rely on biofuels at all, instead to produce biofuels only from garbage and left-over materials and the rest of the mix to come from renewables and nuclear energy. This is perfectly doable and if done properly it could avoid the diplomatic crisis with Brazil. That is, if they put biofuels not produced from left-overs outside of renewables frame as a whole. But they probably won't, because then, they'll have to deal with USA as well. And that will be tough.

      Finance sector says ready to invest in CCS

      22 September 2010
      Private sector banks are ready to put money into carbon capture and storage projects (CCS) if they are viable without public funding, according to a new report released on Monday (20 September). 
      Two research organisations, the Climate Group and the Ecofin Research Foundation, have gauged the views of 30 private sector capital providers on CCS.
      They found that there is money available for CCS projects if they can compete with other forms of energy generation without public funding. Moreover, the project must have sponsors with an established track record in managing complicated construction projects and a performance guarantee across the whole capture and generation chain, they said.
      Specialist equity is unlikely to be involved in financing CCS projects due to low expected returns or risks linked to high technology, according to the report. Bond or equity holders from big pension funds and insurance companies, on the other hand, said they were comfortable with corporates using their balance sheets to finance CCS if the scale is limited to a small percentage of the group's assets.
      "We were surprised at the level of engagement from senior decision-makers in financial institutions and their readiness to consider funding CCS," said Chris Rowland, director at the Ecofin Research Foundation.
      The findings of the report indicated, however, that private funding will only be sufficient for two CCS demonstration projects. This would leave Europe far behind its goal of a comprehensive network of projects that can test the whole range of CCS technologies in a variety of geological environments.  source
      My comment: As you very well know, I'm very much against CCS. I find it very irresponsible instead of trying to limit our emissions, to bury them. So I sincerely don't wish well on those projects. I mean, every investment in non-military technology is good, but there's no need of so many demonstration plants just to invest in the technology. For me, this is misuse of public money. So sure I prefer private investors, as long as they are not pension funds. Also, note the following news:
      Netherlands stops Shell's CO2 storage project. - The Dutch government said Thursday it will not allow oil giant Shell to store millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide in a depleted gas reservoir under a small town, upholding the fears of townspeople.
      Under the scheme, set to have started in 2012, the CO2 was to be carried by a pipeline, compressed, and injected into a depleted gas reservoir 1,800 metres (5,900 feet) under ground.
      Shell has said the CO2 will dissolve or form minerals over time.
      The ministry (...) insisted it was "safe".
      - I can't agree with this more. I mean, how do they know that the CO2 will dissolve or form minerals over time? How much such processes they have seen and/or controlled, to be sure how much strain the underground reservoir can hold until it starts giving defects? Soon a project for geothermal energy was stopped because it produced earthquakes, storing stuff underground is not a piece of cake. We don't know that well Earth soil and its structure. This is precisely why I do believe the Dutch government did well. And that is one of the reasons why I think CCS is inviable. We just have to find another way.
      Also on the subject: 
      Commission adopts €4bn plan for renewables, CCS - The European Commission adopted a proposal on Wednesday (3 November) to give four billion euros of funding to cutting-edge climate technologies such as renewable energies and carbon capture and storage (CCS).- boys and girls, those are OUR money they are spending. And they spend them very unwell. We can only hope that by the time the projects get approved, the CCS will be proven as a bad idea. 

      REACH register to ensure traceability of nanomaterials

      15 September 2010
      Ahead of a regulatory review next year, the Belgian EU Presidency is proposing to create a specific register for nanomaterials under the bloc's REACH chemicals regulation and wants to make it mandatory to label their presence in consumer products.
      The Belgian minister said there was "no need to be alarmed" about the increased use of nanomaterials in consumer products that are sold in European markets without any assessment of the risks beforehand.But he stressed that "it is our duty to apply due minimum of care and caution" and manage risks to health and the environment.
      He also argued that "the current development approach for nanomaterials without prior notification of their presence or labelling of their characteristics or potential toxicity is not acceptable".
      Magnette sought to strike a balance between calls for a moratorium on nanomaterials based on the precautionary principle and arguments from industry groups, which say their potential risks to human health are have not been proven.
      The only realistic way to make nanomaterials acceptable to the wider public is to reduce uncertainty about their effects, he said. After a first review in June 2008, the Commission will conduct its second regulatory review of nanomaterials by the end of next year (EurActiv 19/06/08EurActiv 13/10/09).
      Maila Puolamaa, chemicals policy officer at the European Commission's department for enterprise and industry, said that the review will focus on the inclusion of nanomaterials under the REACH regulation on chemicals.
      Issues to be addressed include simplified registration for nanomaterials produced in quantities of less than one tonne per year and notification of all nanomaterials placed on the market on their own, in preparation or in articles, she said.
      All aspects related to existing environmental legislation on water, waste and air - as well as worker safety - will also be addressed, Puolamaa added.
      The results of the assessment will be included in the 2012 REACH review.
      source 
      My comment: It was about time to act on this. Though 2012 for me is kind of far. Nanomaterials are already in wide use, especially in cosmetics. That makes them potentially very dangerous, because they come in contact with human skin and can enter the human body without any problem. So, the EC once again is sleeping and that's not good. I mean why wait a whole year, make the industry at least label nanomaterials so that consumers know what they buy and what they use. But, of course, that will meet a heavy resistance from Germany and France, so forget about safety, we're the perfect lab rats. As for REACH, check out this:
      'Unaware' French firms set to miss REACH deadline - The EU's REACH regulation requires companies to register all their dangerous chemical products and those they use in large quantities by 30 November. Yet in France, some manufacturers run the risk of missing the deadline as they are unaware that the law applies to them. - Unaware?! Hello! So, let's sum it up: companies from other parts of Europe know what to do and bother to submit documents, but those in France are unaware?! Is it just me, or they are fooling with us? Rule are for everyone!

      MEPs re-allocate crisis funds to energy efficiency

      06 September 2010
      MEPs voted last week (2 September) to use €115 million of unspent recovery plan money from the EU's recovery plan on projects to improve energy efficiency in the regions.
      The European Parliament's industry, research and energy committee gave its unanimous blessing to European Commission proposals to use unspent money from the European Energy Recovery Programme (EERP). The initiative will create a dedicated financial instrument to support regional and local projects in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
      Since the programme started in 2009 with a budget of €3.98 billion, money has been allocated to energy interconnections, offshore wind and carbon capture and storage (CCS; see EurActiv LinksDossier) demonstration plants as a priority.
      But the Commission now estimates that €115 million will go unspent until the end-of-year deadline, which can be freed for energy efficiency and renewables projects.
      MEPs argued that the instrument will create new jobs in regions, which will make them more attractive places to live and aid social integration.
      Under the plan, eligible projects will need to have a rapid and significant impact on economic recovery, boost energy security and cut greenhouse gas emissions. Such projects could involve combined heat and power (CHP; see EurActiv LinksDossier) and district heating networks, grid-connected decentralised renewable production amd clean public transport and electric vehicles, as well as electricity storage solutions, smart metering and smart grids, MEPs said.
      The new rules will go some way towards correcting the bias towards fossil-fuels that MEPs had detected in the programme. Along with CCS, they had insisted on including energy efficiency and smart cities.
      The fund will be managed by public financial intermediaries in order to maximise short-term impact.
      The Parliament as a whole will vote on the rule changes in October.source
      My comment: WOW, now that is a good news. I think that efficiency should have been on their priority list from the beginning, but this might correct their error a little. I can only hope this gets properly voted, accepted and we'll be able to soon use those money for energy efficiency (Update: It was voted, see: EU cuts deal on using crisis funds for energy efficiency). I think it's unbelievable how much money and power we can save only trough efficiency, so I can't even start to comprehend why the EC left efficiency outside of their plans. It's very easy to spot the conspiracy in this, I mean if we stop consuming, they cannot charge us for our consumption, right? What they fail to understand is that we're talking about a complete change in our philosophy in life and in the philosophy of production. Until now, products have average life-span of 2 years (cars excluded). The idea is simple - the more you buy, the more you stimulate the industry and everyone is happy. However, this cannot continue, not any longer. So maybe finally we'll get back to the strong and nice products, meant to work longer and to consume less. As I said it countless times, we don't need to be miserable in order to be "green". Only the products philosophy should change. 
      More on the subject:
      Electricity: The looming power struggle for water - Competition between electricity and water demand is climbing up Europe's agenda as climate change is set to further deplete freshwater supplies. Concerns are now being raised that EU renewable energy policies and electric cars could further exacerbate the problem. -  Why I paste this here is not because I believe that we should go back to fossil fuels to save water, that's not serious. But you can read in that article how much resources go into electricity production. For me, the only way to avoid problem is to minimize the use of those resources. And that's perfectly doable, it just requires a change in our mind frame. If you think about how little your laptop consumes as compared to a desktop, or your air-conditioning compared to the older types of heating, you'll know what I mean. 


      EU tweaks CO2 emissions cap for 2013

      25 October 2010
      The European Commission has revised the EU's greenhouse gas emissions cap under its emissions trading scheme for 2013 in order to accommodate new sectors such as aluminium and petrochemicals.
      The new cap announced on Friday (22 October) was set at 2.039 billion tonnes. It exceeds the 1.927 billion allowances set last July as it takes into account the extension of the scheme's scope post-2012.
      The emissions trading scheme (EU ETS), the EU's flagship climate protection instrument, was extended to include new sectors like aluminium, ammonia and petrochemicals as well as new greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide (N2O) and perfluorocarbons from 2013.
      Factories carrying out activities in these areas will therefore join around 11,000 industrial installations and power plants that are already required to purchase emission permits for each tonne of carbon they emit.
      The cap will be lowered annually by 1.74% of the average annual total allowances in the second trading phase between 2008 and 2012. In absolute terms, this now translates into a reduction of 37,435,387 per year, the Commission said.The cap still excludes aviation, to be included into the scheme from 2012, for which a separate cap will be set.
      source 
      My comment: Well, nice to hear more industries were included, but not so nice that once again the limits are being extended, expanded and so on "fine-tuned". You cannot achieve progress if you don't introduce obstacles. Obviously, the EU wants to change things, but not so quickly and not so dramatically. And in the end, the change will come from technology requirements, not so much from political ones. Oh well. 

      More:

      Farm waste: Worth its weight in gold? - Collecting agricultural residues could prove a lucrative business for Europe's farming sector if EU policy were to offer the right incentives for using biomass to produce biofuels.
      Harvesting agricultural residues that are normally left to rot in fields and turning them into next-generation biofuels could generate up to €31bn for the EU economy per year by 2020, according to a new study released by Bloomberg New Energy Finance last week (14 September).
      Moreover, it could revitalise the ailing farming sector by generating up to a million man-years of employment across the 27 member states over the next decade, most of them in rural areas, it said.
      EU moves to protect wildlife from wind turbines - The European Commission has issued guidelines on how to design wind farms so that they do not disturb birds and bats living in the EU's 'Natura 2000' network of protected sites.
      But the Commission adds that there is a need for a case-by-case assessment of projects. This is because the impacts of erecting wind turbines in a specific natural environment depend greatly on the native wildlife as well as the design of the wind farm.
      Rising tide of drugs, medicines polluting EU waters - Europe's freshwaters are increasingly filled with pharmaceutical residues and other micro-pollutants, which are potentially harmful to human health and the environment, according to Friedrich Barth from the European Water Partnership (EWP), an industry-backed group.
      The chemicals can range from pesticides to flame retardants, steroids and hormones from birth-control pills.
      They also include residues of antibiotics, anti-depressants, tranquilisers and cancer treatments, which find their way into the water cycle via different pathways.
      Some of these pollutants might be carcinogenic or have environmental effects.
      EU to propose burying nuclear waste as safest option - The European Commission will promote underground storage as the safest option for storing nuclear waste, according to a leaked proposal which has already irked environmentalists.

      Friday, November 19, 2010

      Experts:European scientist - lazy?!, 2010

      Expert: ‘Lazy researchers to blame for declining EU science optimism’ - Responding to the publication of a survey on EU attitudes to science and technology, experts blamed "lazy" researchers for failing to promote their projects, leading to a declining sense of optimism about the positive influence of science in Europe. - IDIOTS! Seriously, what the hell means this?! Researchers are not supposed to work to promote their research but to research it! And since the money are so limited, how are we supposed to promote our research? This takes money after all. It takes time. And when you work on EU project, you're supposed to account for almost every second. It's not about laziness, it's about stupid system that encourages "accountability" in the sense of producing paper-waste for other people to read, to judge and to account. And in the end, not everyone can promote. Not everyone is a showman or showgirl. In most cases, people barely find the time to do the research and to finish all of their projects, because of course, to guarantee a decent salary, you have to be on more than one project. It's hard. And what's even harder is to promote your science to non-specialist. I tried that and I failed. And I consider myself to be funny and social person!
      Today (only 4, but a lot of comment on the scrap-articles):
      1. EU governments seen opposing GM crop proposals
      2. Thales Alenia wins Iridium deal for 81 satellites: company
      3. New project aims for fusion ignition
      4. Kroes to beef up scrutiny of EU digital industry
       Quote of the day: most countries actually posed bans on GMOs, so they are against current European regulations. And yet they don't want the new one, which legalize what they do anyway. It's absurd, but yet - true! Better collective irresponsibility, than subjective responsibility.

      EU governments seen opposing GM crop proposals

      30 July 2010

      European Union governments have signalled their strong opposition to proposals allowing member states to decide whether to grow or ban genetically modified (GM) crops, a Belgian EU Presidency source said on Thursday (29 July).
      Several EU governments have already criticised the proposals, and last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel attacked the plans as a first step towards dismantling the bloc's single market.
      A first meeting of EU government officials to discuss the proposals in Brussels on Tuesday confirmed the widespread opposition to the plans.
      Some officials agreed with Merkel's view that the proposals would undermine the bloc's internal market, and others said they would leave the EU and its member states open to challenges in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a second EU source in the meeting said. source
      My comment:Why do you think they oppose it? Not because a country may decide they want to or not want to grow GMOs! They fear sanctions of WTO if they decide against it!!! They fear the integrity of the open market! I just want to throw up. Sometimes I'm amazed by people's stupidity. Because most countries actually posed bans on GMOs, so they are against current European regulations. And yet they don't want the new one, which legalize what they do anyway. It's absurd, but yet - true! Better collective irresponsibility, than subjective responsibility. 
      Not related to the article but I will soon blog about new evidences of GMO crops in some of the other blogs, so watch out.

      Thales Alenia wins Iridium deal for 81 satellites: company

      June 2, 2010
      Thales Alenia Space has won a contract worth 2.1 billion dollars (1.7 billion euros) for a giant programme to build 81 communications satellites for US group Iridium, Iridium said on Wednesday.
      The European group beat US company in bidding for the work.
      The chief executive at Iridium Matt Desch said that the project marked a turning point in the history of the US company.
      The privatised French export-credit guarantee company Coface is to underwrite 95 percent of dollar-credit facilities totalling 1.8 billion dollars.
      Thales Alenia Space is 67-percent owned by French group Thales and 33 percent by Italian company Finmeccanica.
      The contract is for 72 satellites to be launched into low orbit from 2015, and nine replacement satellites to be held ready on earth. They will carry upgraded third-generation class mobile communications services.
      (c) 2010 AFP source
      My comment: Cool! Seriously cool and that's a great victory for the EU. It's not so much that I dislike Lockheed Martin, I just don't like how in some sectors, there's no way for EU companies on the US markets. And that's hardly fair. So this is definitely a victory.


      New project aims for fusion ignition

      May 10, 2010 by David L. Chandler
      Russia and Italy have entered into an agreement to build a new fusion reactor outside Moscow that could become the first such reactor to achieve ignition, the point where a fusion reaction becomes self-sustaining instead of requiring a constant input of energy. The design for the reactor, called Ignitor, originated with MIT physics professor Bruno Coppi, who will be the project's principal investigator.
      The concept for the new reactor builds on decades of experience with MIT’s Alcator fusion research program, also initiated by Coppi, which in its present version (called Alcator C-Mod) has the highest magnetic field and highest plasma pressure (two of the most important measures of performance in magnetic fusion) of any , and is the largest university-based fusion reactor in the world.
      It will be much smaller and less expensive than the major international fusion project called (with a chamber 6.2 meters across), currently under construction in France. Though originally designed to achieve ignition, the ITER reactor has been scaled back and is now not expected to reach that milestone.The Ignitor reactor, Coppi says, will be “a very compact, inexpensive type of machine,” and unlike the larger ITER could be ready to begin operations within a few years. Its design is based on a particularly effective combination of factors that produce especially good confinement of the plasma and a high degree of purity (impurities in the hot gases can be a major source of inefficiency).
      Coppi plans to work with the Italian ministry of research and Evgeny Velikhov, president of the Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, to finalize the distribution of tasks for the machine, the core of which is to be built in Italy and then installed in Troitsk, near Moscow, on the site of that institute’s present Triniti reactor. Velikhov, as it happens, is also the chair of the ITER council.
      source My comment: Wow! I wish them luck. Seriously, this is a great endeavor, especially since ITER was basically murdered. It's amazing how well the LHC project functioned to produce the biggest accelerator on Earth, especially if we compare it with ITER where bunch of very suspicious factors led to its scientific annihilation. And this is not how science is done. So, it's cool to see alternative projects, backed by governments and going further than the mainstream project ever will. God Speed!

      Kroes to beef up scrutiny of EU digital industry


      24 June 2010
      The European Commission will ensure that devices with always-on connectivity, like Apple's iPhone, don't lock consumers in to proprietary technology, Neelie Kroes, EU commissioner for the 'Digital Agenda', told EurActiv in an exclusive interview. A yearly scorecard will measure the industry's progress.
      The commissioner said one of her main priorities will be ensuring that new market trends in digital consumer goods do not lock buyers into supporting monopolies.
      The lack of interoperability information was at the heart of one of her most high-profile battles with ICT giant Microsoft, which cost the company a $1.3 billion fine in 2008."This is not just about Microsoft or any big company like Apple, IBM or Intel. The main challenge is that consumers need choice when it comes to software or hardware products," the commissioner insisted.
      Kroes said she plans to ask big market players' to start licensing information that for the moment they are not making available at all. Those same players have cast doubt on whether the commissioner will go so far.Commenting on previous efforts to introduce a European Interoperability Framework (EIF), CompTIA, a global ICT industry group with companies such as Microsoft among its members, said it was ''concerned about the proposal's promotion of ICT standards and development models that reject valid intellectual property".
      "Any company which holds a significant market position and acts against interoperability should know that the Commission is ready to act to defend the interests of European consumers," the commissioner insisted.
       sourceMy comment: Good, good. It was high time for all of us to stop being kept hostages to the so called "intellectual rights". So, big companies have the right to mass buy patents and to sue anyone that intends to use them, but consumers should behave and use only their proprietary softwares? No, sir, I don't think so. Precisely this behavior is what turns off people from the big guys and make them use pirate software. It's not so much about the money, not always, at least. It's about the freedom to do whatever you like. For example, my new gadget has options I don't like, well, I will patch its firmware to whatever floats my boat. Because I gave already money for it and I require from it to serve my purpose. That's why, I think companies should come with brand new ideas of monetizing their business. Because the old models are simply old and not working in digital age. 


      EU urged to fund research in Africa - 28 October 2010 - European development funds should be tapped to build research labs and bio-banks in Africa, according to a leading African research expert. Scientists are also urging policymakers to invest in Europe's own scientific infrastructure in order to maintain global competitiveness. - Oh, yeah? Why?! I like Africa, but for me, that sounds almost like European development funds should be provided to China. It sounds ridiculous. Ok, I agree that if Europe wants to end the impoverishment of Africa we must seek to educate people, but how do you build labs if children don't even go to school. Or we do not discuss that Africa. Well, I don't see why Europe should support already rich country. Or why we should support the outsourcing facilities of big companies. I simply am not convinced that by building labs for biotech corporations, we'll help local population to get a better life.


      Commission gives €1.4bn to ITER nuclear fusion project - With EU governments unwilling to fill the funding gaps in the multi-billion international nuclear fusion research project ITER, the European Commission is proposing to put an extra 1.4 billion euro on the table to honour the bloc's international commitment.

      R&D chief sounds innovation emergency bell - 04 November 2010 - R&D investments in Europe were less affected by the crisis than in the US but EU firms are lagging behind their rivals in key sectors for innovation, the European Commission warned on Tuesday (26 October). - What a surprise. So you don't invest in real research, but in lies like "social innovation" and so on and then you complain that we lag behind USA and probably China. Well, this is what in physics we call action-consequence. Because let's face it, to do real research you need money. You either get them from private companies and corporation, or you get them in the form of local and EU subsidies/grants. And in time of "crisis", we saw a huge cut in the subsidies part. So how do you want researchers to work if you don't pay them? I don't know, would EU bureaucrats works without salary? I doubt it. 
      And again from this article: "On the same day of the scoreboard's publication, the European Space Agency signed a contract with industry worth €194 million, seen as a major step in making the project a reality." Yeaaah!

      Saturday, November 13, 2010

      Carbon tax - dream or nightmare, 2010

      Today:
      1. EU carbon tax proposal delayed
      2. Commission proposes phasing out coal subsidies
      3. EU sees solar power imported from Sahara in five years
      4. Oil nations block switch to 1.5°C climate goal
      5. EU agrees on carbon permit auction rules from 2013
      6. Debate on CO2 target exposes rift among EU businesses 
      Quote of the day: The actual point is that we must change our perception of resources. For the moment, the air is considered to be free. But it is not. This might sound scary or confusing in the beginning, but think about it like this. Is the water free?

        EU carbon tax proposal delayed

        25 June 2010
        Proposals for a European carbon tax have been kicked into the long grass following a debate between EU commissioners, who face divisions between member states whilst the effects of the financial crisis are still being felt.
        A suggested tax of 20 euros per tonne of C02 contained in fuels had been made by Taxation and Customs Union Commissioner Algirdas Šemeta at a 23 June meeting of the 27 EU commissioners in Brussels.
        But it has now been put back indefinitely after Šemeta was asked to investigate the economic impact of the tax.
        The commissioners agreed that an updated impact assessment taking into account the economic downturn is required before going any further.
        If proposed, the revision of the Energy Taxation Directive would be a means of shifting taxation from labour to carbon in order to raise state revenue during a time of low consumer demand, with several member states currently surpassing the budget deficit rules.
        Without a specific deadline being set for the Commission's impact assessment on the tax, the issue has effectively been put on 'stand-by' until the effects of the financial crisis subside.
        sourceMy comment: I don't think that imposing CO2 tax only to fill in the coffins is a good motivation. Because this shifts the problem - from environmental to financial. When this is not the point. The actual point is that we must change our perception of resources. For the moment, the air is considered to be free. But it is not. This might sound scary or confusing in the beginning, but think about it like this. Is the water free? In principle it is. If you find water somewhere in the wood, you can drink it or do whatever you see fit with it and nobody will come and charge you about it. When the water comes to your home or office, however, it is a service and you pay for it. It's the same with air in general and CO2 in particular. Here the problem is not how much you can take, because there is plenty of air for the moment. The problem is how much you can pollute in the form of hard pollution and greenhouse gases exhaust. It's simple mathematics. When something becomes limited, you pay for it. Air is still unlimited, but CO2 levels go higher and higher and that cannot go forever. Thus, big consumers should pay. For me, this is the clear philosophy. In principle, everything is free, but the more limited it is, the more precious and price-ious it becomes. And thus trying to introduce carbon tax only for the money is wrong. There isn't vision. There isn't a goal! And politics should be about goals. Finding money is very cheap goal. It will easier to find the money if you tax prostitution and drugs.

        Commission proposes phasing out coal subsidies

         22 July 2010
        Europe's unprofitable coal mines will have to be shut down within the next four years before state subsidies are halted, the European Commission said yesterday (20 July).
        The EU executive presented a proposal for a new regulation that would allow member states to grant operating aid to coal mines only if they present plans to close by 15 October 2014.
        The subsidies would have to be gradually reduced by at least 33% every 15 months and paid back to the state in case the mine fails to close on time.
        The new regulation is to set up a transition regime as the current coal regulation expires at the end of the year. The new rules would allow the hard coal industry to receive closure aid but they would no longer be granted aid for investment or accessing coal reserves.
        The aim of the regulation is to bring to an end decades of repeatedly extended subsidy schemes to maintain uncompetitive mines, instead directing state aid towards paying for the social and environmental consequences of closures.
        Member states would have to complement any decision to grant closure aid with a series of measures to compensate for the negative environmental impact of aid to coal, for instance in the fields of energy efficiency, renewable energy or carbon capture and storage. source
         My comment: Coal are very painful question. Mostly because a big percentage of Europe use them for heating and electricity. What articles usually fail to mention is that not only Central Europe use them, but also UK. Which can easily explain why coal mines get all kinds of aid and they never close. For me, this is also a question of vision and will. I don't mind coal, the problem is that we relied on fossil fuels for heating for so long. It's time to change. And we have that opportunity now. More and more countries install nuclear or renewable powers. All it takes is one clear decision on coal and they'll be in history. And once we stop burning them, who knows what kind of cool uses we can find for them. Because look at oil - we use it in almost every stuff we have! And it's fossil, just like coal. So maybe by closing that door, we will open another. All we need is one decision.

        EU sees solar power imported from Sahara in five years 

        23 June 2010
        Europe will import its first solar-generated electricity from North Africa within the next five years, European Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said in an interview on Sunday.
        The European Union is backing projects to turn the plentiful sunlight in the Sahara desert into electricity for power-hungry Europe, a scheme it hopes will help meet its target of deriving 20% of its energy from renewable sources in 2020.
        He said those initial volumes would come from small pilot projects, but the amount of electricity would go up into the thousands of megawatts as projects including the €400 billion Desertec solar scheme come on stream.
        The EU is backing the construction of new electricity cables, known as interconnectors, under the Mediterranean Sea to carry this renewable energy from North Africa to Europe.Some environmental groups have warned these cables could be used instead to import non-renewable electricity from coal- and gas-fired power stations in north Africa.
        He said he believed it was technologically possible to monitor electricity imports to the EU and establish if they come from renewable sources or fossil fuels. The Desertec consortium includes major firms such as Siemens, RWE and Deutsche Bank. They are expected to seek public money for the project.
        Oettinger said the EU's assistance was likely to include help coordinating stakeholders, updating regulations to allow the imported electricity to move across European borders, and financing feasibility studies.
        On the prospect of EU subsidies, or the European Commission permitting state aid to firms involved in the project, he said that would become clear once the consortium has presented a detailed business plan.
        sourceMy comment: I'm not quite sure how much I support this project. From one side, it's great to have all that electricity coming from renewables. From the other side, it really pose the question of how they will guarantee it's from renewables and how the EU will subsidize local African government and with what consequences. Because admit it, Africa is not the safest place to hide - it's pretty turbulent. How the EU can guarantee stability? Could this be done without interfering with sovereignty of countries? I doubt it. And this question is very important, because Europe has exploited Africa for so long. We should stop that and we have to start the fair trade!
        Not to mention the environmental impact on the desert. The desert is not empty, it's unique biosphere and this should be kept in mind too. I'm not saying not to do anything on it, just to make it moderately and carefully.

        Oil nations block switch to 1.5°C climate goal

        11 June 2010
        Two weeks of climate talks in Bonn saw developing countries launch a new push to agree on stricter targets for halting global warming, only for the deal to be killed by Saudi Arabia. The blow came as new data showed that loopholes in pledges would allow rich countries to increase their emissions.  
        Support for a 1.5°C target was on the rise in Bonn, where developing countries demanded a scientific review as the basis of increased climate ambition.
        In Bonn, a group of developing countries therefore asked the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to compile an assessment of the latest science to expose any potential gaps that need further evaluation.
        However, the attempt to go ahead with the review was blocked by Saudi Arabia, with the support of fellow OPEC nations. Among their reasons for opposing the review were claims that there is not enough peer-reviewed literature out there for the process to uncover scientific gaps. After two days of heated debate, the discussion was eventually referred to the Cancún climate conference in December.
        Adding further fuel to concerns were new reports that loopholes in emissions reduction pledges made so far could in fact allow developed countries to increase their emissions.
        Climate campaigners warned that new rules in the making on land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) would seek to exaggerate actual emission reductions. source
        My comment: This one is old, but the role of Saudi Arabia just cannot be ignored and forgotten. So, first they want us to pay for the oil we don't use (google it), now they stop any progress citing lack of peer-reviewed literature?! Well, pay experts to create peer-reviewed literature then! What I want to say is that if you hire enough experts and tell them to research the issue, they will eventually publish their results and if they are good, they will be peer-reviewed. That's the normal process. But if scientists are not hired on projects, they cannot publish. It's absurd how arrogant Saudi Arabia is getting.

        EU agrees on carbon permit auction rules from 2013

        16 July 2010
        European Union governments on Wednesday unanimously agreed detailed rules for auctioning carbon permits in the third phase of the bloc's emissions trading scheme from 2013, the European Commission said yesterday (14 July).
        The draft rules will see the creation of a central platform to sell the majority of EU carbon permits from 2013, but also allows countries to opt out and hold their own auctions.
        Neither the number of permits nor the auction dates have yet been determined, though the details of individual auctions will be published almost a year in advance, the Commission said.
        The rules also cover the aviation sector, which will have to buy 15% of its permits at auction when it joins the EU scheme from 2012.The Commission will now submit the draft regulation to the European Parliament and the Council for a three-month scrutiny period.
        In the $100 billion trading scheme's first two phases (2005-2012), most permits were given to industry for free, but starting in phase three (2013-2020) the majority will be sold to firms through auctions, the details of which have been delayed for months due to disagreement amongst member states.
        Britain and Germany, which currently auction a portion of their permits to industry, were among at least four nations calling for the opt-out clause. source
        My comment: More (EU sets 2013 cap under emissions trading scheme). I don't completely get it how you can have both centralised and local trading of allowances, but I guess in the EU they found a way. My personal opinion is that this compromise is stupid and will lead to fraud.

        Debate on CO2 target exposes rift among EU businesses

        20 October 2010
        Environment ministers yesterday (14 October) postponed a decision on whether the EU should raise its 2020 emissions reduction target, in a debate that brought to the surface a division between businesses.
        Meeting in Luxembourg, the 27 EU environment ministers requested the European Commission to present further analyses of the consequences for individual member states of moving beyond the EU's existing 20% CO2 reduction goal for 2020.
        The debate surrounding upgrading the European Union's target has divided EU member states, as some say that 20% simply represents business as usual as emissions have already fallen by 17% in the downturn. Meanwhile, others say higher goals are a liability in terms of competitiveness unless other major economies adopt similar targets.Maybe more surprising is that the same contrast is now evident among businesses as well.
        But at the same time, 29 major companies issued a joint declaration urging the EU to up its target on emissions cuts to 30% from 1990 levels by 2020, sparking comments that BusinessEurope should not speak for the whole business community when it comes to environmental matters.
        The businesses, including BNP Paribas, GE Energy, Marks and Spencer, Nike and Vodafone argued that a higher emissions reduction target would not only bring the benefits of lower emissions but also "spur innovation and investment thus creating millions of new jobs in a low carbon economy".source
        My comment: Haha. Fuuun! Really, I find this very very good change in the public attitude towards the reduction goal. After all, we already decrease those emissions, why not at least put something challenging ahead of us. And as the business very rightfully pointed, this will really spur innovation.

        EU orders industrial tuna fishing ban until year's end (10 June 2010) - In the wake of huge depletion in stocks of bluefin tuna, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki decided yesterday (9 June) to ban large-scale bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean and eastern Atlantic. The ban has already come into effect. -
        MEPs want curbs on illegal e-waste shipments - The EU needs to increase checks on electronic waste exports to avoid illegal dumping and stop the shipment of valuable and sometimes rare raw materials outside the bloc, MEPs in the European Parliament's environment committee said, voting to update EU rules on the disposal of waste electronic equipment yesterday (22 June). -

        Chinese firms cashing in on EU carbon trade - European industries are subsidising direct competitors in China and India by buying international credits to offset their carbon dioxide emissions, an NGO said in a new report.
        EU companies spent around €860 million last year buying 78 million international offset credits (CERs) in order to meet their emission caps under the EU's cap-and-trade scheme.
        The credits, issued under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), are designed to allow companies to meet their targets more cost-effectively by financing projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developing countries.

        Parliament approves Industrial Emissions Directive - The European Parliament yesterday (7 July) endorsed a new directive strengthening pollution limits that industrial installations will have to comply with.
        The new law sets stricter limits on the pollutants that industrial installations are allowed to spew into the air, water and soil. It limits atmospheric pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and dust, which are responsible for acid rain and smog and cause respiratory diseases like asthma.
        Installations will have until 2016 to comply with the stricter limits. The measurement stick is the implementation of "best available techniques" (BATs), or the most effective technologies that can provide high levels of environmental protection while balancing cost and benefit.
        Member states will, however, be able to deviate from the standard for certain technical reasons or local circumstances if they can prove that the costs of implementing the standards would be disproportionate compared to environmental benefits. - this is not very categoric but I guess it's best we have for the moment.

         

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