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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

R&D in Europe, January, 2010 - China for patent-free technologies

  1. US 'reaping benefits' of EU education spending
  2. EU companies increase R&D investment despite crisis
  3. EU plans to make high-speed Internet compulsory
  4. China, India push for 'patent free' green tech
  5. Web under threat from 'snooping' authorities
  6. EU assembly adopts Internet, phone user rights
Quote of the day:"Europe creates amazing scientists who prefer to work in USA. And obviously, Europe cannot profit from those people once they leave, because they file their patents in USA, they develop their research there and most of them don't consider coming back, unless they don't have other choice. I know also of many people who went working in Asia, where conditions are much better than what most scientific jobs in EU can offer. And the EU must consider very carefully how to deal with this, if we don't want to stay the homeland of angry farmers and car-makers forever."

US 'reaping benefits' of EU education spending

11 November 2009

Europe is failing to capitalise on its investment in education and science because bright young researchers still see the US as the best place to further their career, according to Czech scientist Blanka Říhová, Ambassador of 2009 European Year of Creativity and Innovation.

In an interview with EurActiv Czech Republic, Říhová said Europe needs to reward teachers and scientists better and must boost research spending if it is to keep its top talent.

She said European countries have a “strange inability” to take advantage of educated and creative young people – a problem that continues to benefit transatlantic competitors.

“Europe educates good university students and PhD students. These students study how to work in science, they are in close contact with new ideas and also with modern ways of solving scientific problems. It costs a lot of money but when we need to take advantage of these people, Europe starts to economise,” she said.

Říhová, herself a microbiologist and immunologist, said science graduates need to view Europe as a place where they can better themselves. “There are not enough opportunities or money for them. That's why they leave. And the number one country they leave for is still the US,” she said.

Working in the US provides a major career boost for young scientists and attracts top talent from Europe, Asia and elsewhere. “In this way, the US gets young people who are well prepared without investing a single dollar in their education,” Říhová complained.

She said mobility is a major problem for European researchers, where red tape makes it difficult to move to a new job outside your own member state. Říhová said EU funds should be more flexible and must become pro-mobility in order to help complete the European Research Area.


My comment: Well, at least she's not a philosopher like the previous misunderstanding I commented. But if you read her interview, you'll see that she still thinks mostly in terms of applied science. Not everyone can invent stuff in his or her field. And precisely those people need public support, because no company will ever finance them. Or if not ever, for sure not too often. But the other things she said are very true - Europe creates amazing scientists who prefer to work in USA. And obviously, Europe cannot profit from those people once they leave, because they file their patents in USA, they develop their research there and most of them don't consider coming back, unless they don't have other choice. I know also of many people who went working in Asia, where conditions are much better than what most scientific jobs in EU can offer. And the EU must consider very carefully how to deal with this, if we don't want to stay the homeland of angry farmers and car-makers forever.

EU companies increase R&D investment despite crisis

17 November 2009

European firms increased investment in industrial research and development by more than their US or Japanese competitors last year, despite battling a global economic crisis.

Worldwide spending on corporate R&D increased by 6.9% in 2008, according to the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard published yesterday (16 November).

For companies with their headquarters in the EU, investment growth was 8.1% higher than the previous year. This was a significantly greater increase than the 5.7% growth recorded by US firms and the 4.4% increase recorded in Japan.

Two European companies feature in the top ten for industrial R&D investment, with Volkswagen coming in third place and Nokia coming eighth. Topping the table was Toyota, which spent €7.61 billion.

US firms were, on average, more conservative than their European competitors, but American firms still account for half of the top ten corporations when it comes to R&D investment: namely Microsoft, General Motors, Pfizer, Ford and Johnson & Johnson. Switzerland also had two companies in the top tier – Roche and Novartis.

Companies based in emerging economies continued to show the highest R&D growth, led by China with a 40% increase, India (27.3%), Taiwan (25.1%) and Brazil (18.6%). This is line with expectations that China and India could overtake Europe and the US to become world leaders in research by 2025 (EurActiv 25/09/09).

While R&D spending may have remained robust in 2008, the Scoreboard also provides details of company operating profits, which fell by 30.5% in the EU and 19.1% in the US.

Research growth in the US is dominated by knowledge-intensive sectors, including pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and IT, while R&D growth in the EU is more evenly spread across all sectors. source

My comment: I don't know about you, but I find it extremely sad that the most invested sectors are pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. Especially considering that our quality of life doesn't change significantly because of those investments. Because they invest billions, why then we still have our 1 week long cold, our flues and pneumonia, why our immunity is ridiculously low, why people still die in immense numbers from cancer and HIV, what's even more, why they continue to die for even less severe reasons. Why all those amazing discoveries in the stem cell research don't apply to anything useful?! Sure, they'll say that every such discovery need a long period of clinic trials and so on, but how a vaccine for swine flu comes on the market for 6 months, while everything else has to wait for years. And why nobody cares we eat soy like crazy, which even if it wasn't modified, it would be dangerous, where are the clinic trials for that? And for all the other chemicals in the food industry, that we consume everyday in amazing quantities, and nobody knows exactly how they combine. Ok, I'm very mad on pharmacy and biotechnology, because it's simply not fair. Did you know that after a heart surgery, your bones had to be wired, to heal together? And just now, they started using a glue instead of wires. Glue that decrease the recovery time to days instead of months! And that the pain that people felt after such surgery, because of the wiring is like you are hit by a truck! So, the question is where the hell all those investments go?!

EU plans to make high-speed Internet compulsory

18 December 2009
The incoming Spanish EU Presidency wants to extend universal service requirements to broadband Internet, making it compulsory for member states to make the service available in every corner of their territory. The move is aimed at improving Web access in rural areas but has raised a number of concerns for the telecoms industry.

The European Commission estimates that only 70% of the population of the EU's countryside areas can rely on existing infrastructure to access the Internet via a high-speed connection.

The situation represents a new form of economic and social division between EU citizens as new services are made available on the Web.

To address this 'digital divide', Spain, which assumes the EU's rotating presidency in the first half of 2010, is considering obliging member states to provide nationwide broadband coverage. Its plans are shared by Belgium and Hungary, which take on the EU presidency after Spain. All three countries are pursuing a common 'trio' programme.

However, the industry remains sceptical about using such means to achieve complete coverage of high-speed Internet.

ETNO, the association representing incumbent telecoms operators in the EU, estimates that the cost of current universal service obligations could hit 800 million euros in some Eastern European countries if applied completely.

Industry representatives want to know how the extension of universal service status to broadband will be funded. "Who will pay for ensuring that the most remote areas of Europe are covered?" they ask.


My comment: I don't know about other Eastern European members, but in Bulgaria, the high-speed coverage is pretty good. And it wasn't funded by anyone, people simply want internet and SMEs secured it. But I'm not sure what exactly means to cover every corner of the territory - if there is nobody to use it, why there should be connection?There are many ghost villages in Bulgaria, nobody lives there, who's going to pay for internet connection to there and who's going to benefit from it. From that point of view, it's good to have internet coverage by mobile operators, but then, the price on megabite has to fall, because now, it's absurdly expensive.

China, India push for 'patent free' green tech

23 November 2009

As world leaders prepare for climate talks in Copenhagen next month, developing nations have tabled a controversial proposal which would effectively end patent protection for clean technologies.

China and India have floated the idea of making new green technology subject to 'compulsory licensing', which critics say amounts to waiving intellectual property rights.

The idea of adapting or liberalising patent rules for crucial new inventions which can help reduce carbon emissions is not new, but the EU and US are unhappy with compulsory licensing, fearing it would dramatically reduce the incentive for businesses to innovate and stifle green job creation.

Compulsory licensing has to date only been used in emergency situations where patent-protected pharmaceuticals were seen as prohibitively expensive. The Thai government used the mechanism to allow local medicines factories produce HIV drugs at a fraction of the cost.

Now, the group of 77 developing nations, led de facto by China, wants to apply the same logic to the climate crisis.

The Coalition for Innovation, Employment and Development (CIED), a think-tank strongly in favour of intellectual property rights, has published a report highlighting the threat to European industry posed by ending patent protection on clean technologies.

The report says millions of jobs could be created in Europe through the research and production of innovative green technologies but this opportunity would be jeopardised by weakening intellectual property rights.

It proposes that any political agreement reached in Copenhagen should focus on financial assistance to developing countries, with this funding being used to purchase technologies that reduce emissions. source

My comment: I don't think this is entirely a bad idea. I mean, what green jobs in Europe, because of patents, Europe is like the ultimate patent nightmare. People simply don't use the system, because it's not working. They cannot patent in China, because they leak the technology. So, the only place that actually cares for patents is USA. And inventors there, usually work for big companies and earn nothing trough patents. Those are the facts. So, I don't think that system is working well. Sure, some people profit from it, but they are very very few. Patents work mostly for corporations. I don't mean that inventors shouldn't be paid and paid well - quite on the contrary. But that doesn't happen even now! And what's even more, this doesn't work in any sector of intellectual rights. Did you know that royalties for books paid to the authors are 15% at most?! And then, they come with some famous author or a pop-star and say - you're robbing him/her by downloading from Internet. Not at all, mister, the only person who we're robbing is the publisher. And well, although they are needed, for sure, it's simply not fair to take 75% of something someone else created. So, the same goes for patents. They don't serve inventors, it's time to find a way to pay to inventors, not to corporations.

Web under threat from 'snooping' authorities

4 December 2009

Governments and companies pushing for greater monitoring of Internet activity pose a major threat to freedom and democracy, according to Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

Berners-Lee, who is credited with developing the Web while working as an engineer at CERN , the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, said the fundamental spirit of freedom and open collaboration that underpins the universality of the Web is under severe pressure.

Delivering the Annual Scientific Technology Options Assessment (STOA ) lecture in the European Parliament, he said law enforcement authorities wanting to monitor the Web to fight serious crime should be required to seek a warrant from an independent body first.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professor also expressed grave concern about companies which gather data on Internet traffic in order to build profiles of Web users.

"I don't want any snooping on my Internet traffic. When one looks up something to see if they have cancer, or a teenager wonders if they are homosexual or not and wants to go online to find answers, this should be private. So systems that monitor every click and build a profile of me are very damaging," said Berners-Lee.

He said privacy fears are growing due to the volume and quality of personal data passed over the Web, adding that monitoring an individual's Internet preferences is "more damaging than having a permanent TV camera in my living room".

Berners-Lee has campaigned in the United States for 'net neutrality' – the principle that Internet traffic should be free and unrestricted. The Web "should not discriminate on commercial grounds or party political grounds," he said, before highlighting subtle ways in which vested interests can hijack the Internet.

He said that Internet providers, some of which also sell cable television and movie services, should not be able to restrict access to independent film producers.

He said that if democracy is to become truly participatory, it is crucial that information is delivered over a neutral medium. He was also critical of companies that disconnect Internet services if they suspect customers of illegal file sharing. source

My comment: No comment, really. I completely and absolutely agree with him! I hope the authorities do the same and take measures to protect net neutrality, because it's good for everyone.

EU assembly adopts Internet, phone user rights

November 25, 2009 By ROBERT WIELAARD , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- The European Parliament has endorsed new telecom rules that would give phone and Internet users more rights and allow them to appeal to national courts if they are cut off for illegal file-sharing.

The rules endorsed Tuesday are part of a broad package that also aims to boost competition for Internet and phone services. As a last resort, telecom companies could be required to separate their infrastructure and services businesses, giving other companies a shot at providing rival services on the same networks.

A new EU-wide telecoms authority also would be set up to ensure fair competition.

The EU's 27 nations must now implement the law in their national legislation by June 2011.

For , the most visible part of the law are the new rights they would get to switch or fixed line operators within one working day and to challenge disconnections, even if they are illegally sharing copyright-protected movies or music.

A service provider would have to inform users before cutting off access because of a copyright violation, and those users would be able to appeal to a national court.

still won't have an automatic right to Internet access - as some EU lawmakers had originally intended. The European Parliament dropped that guarantee because of concerns it could hinder French and British efforts to cut off Internet access to persistent file sharers. source

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Commerce in Europe, gender gap in Poland less than in Germany?, 2010

  1. E-commerce key to completing internal market, says Kuneva
  2. New EU digital strategy to focus on users' rights
  3. MEPs raise fears of Services Directive delay
  4. Slovak parliament approves protectionist law
  5. European works left out of Google Books deal
  • Harmonise EU labour laws, say citizens
  • Business frets about growing 'water gap'
  • Brussels angry about new Chinese tech wall
Quote of the day:" I personally agree about this law. What did USA do to keep the situation under control - absolutely the same. Gave loans to banks and other sectors just to keep them alive (but of course, without calling them strategic). Why should not other countries be able to do the same?"

E-commerce key to completing internal market, says Kuneva

6 November 2009

Barriers to shopping online across borders must be eliminated if the EU's internal market is to be completed, Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva said yesterday (5 November), presenting her vision for the future European consumer policy.

"We need to find the missing links in the internal market to make it more of a reality for citizens, and this will happen online," Kuneva told a debate organised by Brussels think-tank the Lisbon Council, expressing hope that a new EU directive on cross-border e-commerce would improve the situation.

"The screen is the market for citizens, but only 7% shop across borders. Attempts by consumers to buy across borders fail six times out of 10, and eight times out of 10 for electronic goods," the commissioner said, describing this as "a missed opportunity for consumers and businesses alike".

The Bulgarian was speaking at the launch of her blueprint for consumer policy in Europe, in which she argues that "consumer interests and concerns need to be appropriately articulated in the regulatory process" and that the next EU executive "must strive to develop a vibrant and innovative market in which citizens are keen to participate".

"If consumers are represented in policymaking by high-level and competent people, we can make legislation that protects them," Kuneva told participants.

Former European commissioner Mario Monti was less optimistic, however. "I wish Ms. Kuneva was entirely right, but I'm concerned that efforts made in recent years to make consumer welfare the guiding star of policymaking are under threat in Europe," he said.

"There are voices saying that a competitive market and strong consumer protection policies are luxuries that cannot be afforded at a time of crisis," the Bocconi University president warned.

Monti has been asked by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to draw up a report on re-launching the EU internal market.

"Consumer-oriented policy should drive the re-launch of the internal market. Too often there are perceived conflicts between the internal market, competition policy and consumer policy," he said.

The Italian spoke out against the perception that market-friendly means business-friendly, and consumer-friendly means anti-market. "Commissioner Kuneva is succeeding in bringing together internal market, competition and consumer policy," he said.

Monti warned that rolling back the single market would have "dramatic consequences," particularly for employment and competitiveness, but also for European integration itself.

"The whole European project is built on the notion of market integration," he recalled, insisting that the imminent entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon "calls for a fresh look at how market and social priorities can be integrated".

Meanwhile, an EU report published last month (EurActiv 23/10/09) found that online cross-border shopping is still too burdensome for both consumers and traders alike.

60% of online purchases failed in an EU-backed test of 11,000 separate orders on cameras, CDs, books and clothes, revealed the report, which also showed that cross-border sales stayed flat at 7% while overall online sales rose from 27% to 33% in two years (2006-2008).

"Collection of personal data is taking place on a massive and unprecedented scale, often without the knowledge of the consumer," Kuneva said yesterday, announcing that more would be adding that more would be done to establish fair market access online and ensure that companies use customers’ personal data fairly.

The commissioner also expressed her wish to "shift responsibility to consumers for their own choices" in taking on financial risk, but stressed the need "to make sure they are protected".

"We'd never allow consumers to buy dangerous food or exploding hairdryers, so why do we allow them to expose themselves to catastrophic risk in retail financial services?," she said. source

My comment: It's amazing how a Commissioner who Mario Monti praised for the good job was turned down by her own government. Anyway, I sincerely how that Barroso will find madame Kuneva a good job in the EC, because she deserves it. As for consumers rights, I have the feeling they are being underestimated in the new Commission, since they are joined to the health portfolio. This is kind of sad, because as both Kuneva and Monti confirmed, the e-business is a huge market that is just starting to gain strength. And if we want to help it, we have to regulate it, because otherwise, the consumers won't feel safe to purchase and they simply won't do it. And shopping online has many many advantages, we have to use them!

New EU digital strategy to focus on users' rights

9 December 2009

Consumers will be at the core of the European Union's 'i2015' action plan for the future of the digital economy, which the EU institutions are beginning to shape and plan to deliver by spring 2010.

Protection of users' rights will be a key element of future EU policies in the field of information and communication technology (ICT), according to the converging initial plans of different EU institutions.

The European Commission intends to present its new ICT 2015 strategy in April or May 2010. According to work begun by current Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, the first pillar of the new action plan will be the creation of a genuine consumer-friendly single market for online services.

In a letter addressed to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in November, Reding lamented the low number of cross-border online transactions, which amount to just 7% of the total, while 60% fail for legal or technical reasons.

"This is a potential we cannot afford to waste," the commissioner underlined in her letter.

She also pushed for the development of high-speed Internet connections, e-inclusion and the use of ICT to green the EU economy.

Her views are in part echoed in a report on the digital agenda currently being drafted in the European Parliament. Spanish MEP Pilar Del Castillo (EPP), who is in charge of the dossier, underlined that "the person" will be at the core of the Parliament's policy action. "Rights", "connectivity" and "competences" are the key words of the report she will present in January, which is expected to be adopted by the EU assembly in March.

Meanwhile, the incoming Spanish EU Presidency is busy shaping its own digital agenda, already labelled the 'Granada Strategy' after the Andalusian city where it will be launched at the end of April 2010.

One of the strategy's key point will be a charter of ICT users' rights, as underlined by Spanish Secretary of State for Telecommunications Francisco Ros Peràn at the annual ECTA (European Competitive Telecommunication Association) conference in Brussels yesterday (8 December).

The charter is expected to reaffirm basic online rights already protected by EU legislation, such as safety and security on the Web, online privacy and protection of minors on the Internet.

People familiar with the Spanish plans told EurActiv that the charter could also include the explicit right to use VoiP services on mobile phones, as part of a possible net neutrality right. source

don't get is why two different commissioners have almost similar agenda - consumer's rights. My comment: I find it hard to believe that a Spanish initiative might succeed to protect consumers rights - Spain is like the ultimate example of abuse of the consumers by almost everyone! I know this from personal experience, of course. But let's wait and see. What I really find odd is that two different commissioners - Kuneva and Redding - have almost similar agenda. If it's cooperation, fine, but I somehow doubt it is. Hm.

MEPs raise fears of Services Directive delay

13 November 2009

Members of the European Parliament this week urged EU member states to step up their efforts to ensure the Services Directive is implemented into national law within the agreed deadline of 31 December 2009, but more importantly, that they implement it correctly.

A debate in the European Parliament's internal market and consumer protection committee (IMCO ) saw a number of MEPs express doubt over the directive's implementation in EU member states, not merely in terms of timing but also concerning the methods used by individual countries.

One MEP's office indicated that more than half the EU 27 will not meet the deadline.

A European Commission spokesperson said Brussels would not engage in any "naming and shaming" of member states until the deadline had expired but that the EU executive was nevertheless monitoring the situation closely.

There are widespread concerns among Socialist MEPs that centre-right governments are failing to implement the directive in a socially responsible way.

In France, Socialist MEPs argued that the transposition of the directive into national law does not sufficiently respect clauses on social and health services.

In Sweden, likewise, socialists argued that the centre-right coalition government was using their "incorrect" interpretation of the directive as an excuse to remove existing laws obliging companies to have at least one member of their team act as a contact point for state bodies and trade unions.

A Commission representative told EurActiv that while the EU executive will allow member states a certain grace period for implementation if they are broadly on track, it is obliged to initiate procedures against countries that are not fulfilling their responsibilities. source

My comment: Is anyone surprised by this? I mean, you cannot really expect from a rightist government to be socially responsible. If they were, they would be leftist instead. I, of course, agree that the Commission should monitor the application of the Directive, but I think that the only thing the can do is to make sure that it is implemented to the letter and nothing else. After all, the EC cannot be a watchdog for the governments who don't care about their own citizens.

Slovak parliament approves protectionist law

6 November 2009

Slovakia's parliament approved on 5 November a widely-criticised law which protects so-called strategic companies from bankruptcy by giving the government the option to buy, restructure and find new investors for a firm.

The opposition, however, says the legislation, valid only until the end of 2010, will scare investors off and deepen legal uncertainty for the corporate sector.

Local news agency SITA cited employers group 'Klub 500' executive director Tibor Gregor as saying it was concerned about the law, adding it was unacceptable for businesses. "This law does not help to create new jobs, it rather scares new possible investors off from coming to Slovakia, because it's undermining our legal environment," said Ivan Stefanec, a deputy of the strongest opposition party SDKU.

Prime Minister Robert Fico's government has looked to raise the state's role in the economy since coming to power in 2006, aiming to shield the country from the global downturn.

Under the new legislation companies from industrial, energy and oil sectors, heat and power distributors, and water-management businesses will be regarded as strategic. Companies with more than 500 employees are also included. source

My comment: I personally agree about this law. What did USA do to keep the situation under control - absolutely the same. Gave loans to banks and other sectors just to keep them alive (but of course, without calling them strategic). Why should not other countries be able to do the same? I don't think it is a protectionist, even if it's intended as such. It's important also to know the situation in ex-socialist countries - a lot of industries are still monopolists, so if one of them crash, there's nothing to replace them! And in that sense, they are certainly strategic. Not that I get the who privatization idea when applied to our type of countries. For example, the water supply companies are from the private sector. So what do they do? Keep on increasing the price of water, while the only thing they invest into is keeping the system running! They didn't build the dams or anything else, they don't have long-term projects, they don't intend to improve their service. They only keep it running and took ever more money. That's probably a lovely business to have, but I doubt its economic or public benefit.

European works left out of Google Books deal

16 November 2009

Published works from the US, UK, Australia and Canada only will be included in Google's digital book search project, Google and book industry representatives agreed on Friday (13 November).

Works will only feature in Google Books if they have been registered in the US or come from the UK, Australia or Canada, according to the new settlement, struck in New York last week.

"The changes will mean that 95% of all foreign works will no longer be included in Google's digital book archive," Richard Sarnoff, chairman of the Association of American Publishers, told the FT.

Many European countries had voiced concerns that Google Books will harm Europe's publishing industry (EurActiv 27/05/09), with France and Germany among those fearing that the project does not adequately respect European law on the protection of author’s rights.

Meanwhile, Google's competitors are resentful of the US giant's quasi-monopoly over the nascent digital books market.

In an earlier deal struck with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers in October 2008, Google agreed to pay $125 million to create a Book Rights Registry, where authors and publishers can register works and be compensated by institutional subscriptions or book sales.

Under the terms of that settlement, all works – including those that had never been published in the US – would have been eligible for inclusion in Google's project unless the rights holders were to explicitly opt out of the scheme.

But the US Justice Department decided to investigate that deal amid concerns that it contravened copyright and antitrust law, despite recognising the potential of Google Books "to breathe life into millions of works that are now effectively off limits to the public".

Under Friday's agreement, Google Books will only include works registered in countries which have "contributed the largest number of English-language works to American libraries," made possible by similarities in their legal systems and the structure of their publishing industries.

Publishers in the UK, Canada and Australia will be represented on the board overseeing the rights registry alongside their US counterparts.

Google's opponents - represented by the Open Book Alliance, which includes Microsoft and Amazon - were quick to slam the latest developments as a "sleight of hand".

Controversy has been rife over the issue of so-called 'orphan works': books which are out-of-print or whose author cannot be traced.

Friday's deal stipulates that any money made from such works must be held for ten years in case details of the copyright holder emerge, after which time any unclaimed money will be shared among charities in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK.

A proportion of the revenue generated from unclaimed works must also be used by Google to search for rights holders.

The settlement allows Google to use its registry to sell individual online subscriptions, digital downloads and print-on-demand services. source

My comment: I find this settlement good and I don't understand why similar one wasn't used for European books as well. It looks good for the writers, at least to me. The only thing that should have been settled as well is that the digitized books won't be property of Google unless the rights owners gave Google the exclusive rights to do this. For all the other books, if another company wants to digitalize them and sell them in a similar manner, it should be able to do so. After all Google cannot acquire any exclusiveness without paying a significant sum. I hope they did settle this, because it makes perfect sense, at least to me. But I think that Europe is only losing from not willing to get a grip on the situation. Google is big, we have to handle this any way possible. And use the situation to promote all those books, that otherwise would never hit the international market.


Harmonise EU labour laws, say citizens

7 December 2009

A citizens' forum in Berlin last week - the last of its kind to be held in 2009 - recommended that the European Union harmonise labour laws for all its citizens.

70 regional interest groups from Germany, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Austria were represented at the conference, which debated the question of employment conditions and labour in the enlarged 27-member EU.

On the subject of the gender pay gap, it was emphasised that EU law should lead the way in removing the remaining disparities. Delegates noted that although equal pay is already enshrined in the treaties, there are still significant gaps today, and regional aspects play an important role in preserving these inequalities.

For example, in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic, the pay gap is over 23%, while in Poland, it is a mere 7%.

The recommendations agreed on at the end of the conference concluded that "the EU should create the same working conditions and rules for all EU citizens based on a harmonised Labour Code, harmonising working conditions for employees and obligations for employers". source

Business frets about growing 'water gap' source

Brussels angry about new Chinese tech wall

10 December 2009

Brussels-based ICT federations are in the middle of a public procurement battle with China as the country is pursuing a "protectionist" new law favouring home-grown technology over foreign innovation, according to industry insiders.

Insiders and diplomats reveal that Brussels is putting pressure on their Chinese counterparts to lobby against a public procurement law favouring home-grown Chinese technology.

Sources say a registry for foreign companies closed yesterday afternoon (9 December) asking companies to fulfil a set of criteria for access to the Chinese market.

The law's provisions, according to sources, stipulate that at least some of a product's component parts or technology should be developed locally in order to be considered for government tenders.

Sources say the law will affect all ICT and clean-tech companies and is the extension of an earlier spat over leaks of confidential information from foreign companies to Chinese competitors. Government agencies that demanded detailed data on clean-tech products were caught leaking product information to home-grown firms (EurActiv 07/09/09).


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Climate in the EU - eat soy to save the planet?! NO! January, 2010

  1. Livestock 'overlooked' in climate talks, says World Bank
  2. EU farm policies to include climate 'pillar
  3. Businesses cashing in on energy savings
  4. European electricity firms line up behind plug-in cars
  5. France drums up support for 'ambitious' EU farm policy
Quote of the day:"Did you get what this is all about? Soy! And this is absolutely disgusting, since soy has a very questionably effect on human health as I have written in Don't get me wrong, I'm not a meat-lover, I eat meat probably 3 days a week and I feel great on this diet. I also love fish. I'm not a vegetarian and I wouldn't make anyone become one just because of global warming. It's ridiculous to even mention it. Especially if you consider that there is soy in almost every product we eat! From waffles to dog food."

Livestock 'overlooked' in climate talks, says World Bank

23 October 2009

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the lifecycle and supply chain of animals raised for food account for 51% of annual emissions caused by humans and should be given higher priority in global efforts to fight climate change, World Bank Group experts argue.

While livestock are already known to contribute to GHG emissions, their levels have been underestimated or simply overlooked, former and current World Bank environmental experts Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang argue in a paper published in the November issue of World Watch Magazine.

The authors recognise that the 51% figure put forward "is a strong claim that requires strong evidence," but stress that if their argument is right, "it implies that replacing livestock products with better alternatives" would have far more rapid effects on the climate than actions to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy.

This partly due to significant reductions in the amount of methane, produced by enteric fermentation from cattle. According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, 37% of human-induced methane comes from livestock. Although methane produced by enteric fermentation from cattle warms the atmosphere much more strongly than CO2, its half-life in the atmosphere is only about eight years, compared to at least 100 years for CO2.

Another major source of emissions that is overlooked is livestock-related deforestation, the report finds, meaning conversion of natural forest and particularly rainforest into grassland. While rainforest stores "at least 200 tons of carbon per hectare," the tonnage stored by grassland is only eight, the authors say, adding that another 200 tons per hectare of CO2 may be released from the soil beneath.

The authors argue that action to replace livestock products would not only achieve swift GHG emission reductions but would also help ease the global food crisis, as more calories can be produced directly from crops rather than feeding them to livestock.

Ways forward to reduce livestock products and related GHGs include the imposition of carbon taxes by governments "despite opposition from the livestock industry," the authors advance. Such measures, they argue, would push industry and investors to look for market alternatives to livestock products "that taste similar, but are easier to cook, less expensive and healthier," such as soy and seitan (wheat gluten), which are both sources of protein.

The European Natural Soyfood Manufacturers' Association (ENSA) stresses that vegetal alternatives can help reduce meat consumption while preserving the environment, and suggests that each European opt for at least one day a week for a non-animal-based food. source

My comment: Did you get what this is all about? Soy! And this is absolutely disgusting, since soy has a very questionably effect on human health as I have written in Don't get me wrong, I'm not a meat-lover, I eat meat probably 3 days a week and I feel great on this diet. I also love fish. I'm not a vegetarian and I wouldn't make anyone become one just because of global warming. It's ridiculous to even mention it. Especially if you consider that there is soy in almost every product we eat! From waffles to dog food. And I have to wonder, why so many well-fed and well-cared dogs have tumors. But this is another story. What I'm mad for is the way that very suspicious article is lobbying for soy producers. And the same soy is the most genetically modified product after corn! Basically, this article is advertising GMO products and claiming we have to eat them to save the planet. Which of course is nonsense. Sure, we have to decrease our food intake, especially when it comes to animal products, just because it's not healthy for us! I was thinking the other day, how often do our organisms feel hunger. But real hunger, the hunger which starts processing accumulated fat. Not very often. And we know for sure that starvation (limited, not complete) do prolong life - this is a fact and it's proven, it's not a new age bull shit. We know this. Then why we tend to be full of the time. We eat even on the slightest hint that our energy reserve is getting lower! That's wrong. And I think that part of the problem is the stress, because under a lot of stress, our stomach excrete juices that make us more hungry. And food always comfort us. But this is utterly wrong. So if we could decrease our food consumption, while becoming more healthy, great. But to do it to replace real food with soy?!No! And notice, if we accept that live stock input of GHG is ~30%, then by limiting our other activities we can still cut the emissions in half. Which is a lot! So, please, be ware of articles that try to change radically your lifestyle for dubious reasons.

EU farm policies to include climate 'pillar

27 October 2009

The EU's post-2013 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) may well include a 'third pillar' on climate change and make direct support for farmers subject to the delivery of "public goods" such as biodiversity or sustainable farming practices, according to a draft European Commission proposal seen by EurActiv.

While the debate on the next reform of EU farm policy is still in its infancy, a draft Commission document on the EU's next long-term budget paves the way for a "significant reduction in its overall share of the EU budget" to free up money for the bloc's other priorities.

The draft underlines that farmers cannot expect direct support conditions to remain unchanged and wants higher priority given to "non–compulsory environmental services, sustainable farming practices or improving the countryside in high nature value areas".

The main element of the income support provided by the EU budget - the current single payment scheme - could thus be maintained but primarily targeted at providing such "public goods" to create "real EU added value".

Earlier this summer, EU farm ministers debated the concept of making public goods the main focus of farm payments post-2013, but stressed that the term was still somewhat imprecise and needed clarifying (EurActiv 03/06/09).

The Commission document stresses that agriculture must do more to mitigate climate change and "will have to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and to developing the use of land as a carbon sink".

EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel warned last month that European farmers must slash agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20% by 2020, primarily by producing biomass and storing carbon in the soil (EurActiv 16/09/09).

One of the options put forward is to further intensify EU spending on climate change-related challenges by establishing a 'third pillar' of the CAP, specifically linked to the issue.

The current first pillar includes market support measures and direct subsidies to EU producers, while the second pillar covers rural development programmes. source

My comment: I agree, that's all I can say. You can't expect farmers' payments to stay the same forever. And the question remains why do they need them at all. Sure, as help for starting, or in difficult times, ok. But it's weird to subsidize agriculture permanently. I know this is done in USA too, but this doesn't mean we shouldn't search for better way.

Businesses cashing in on energy savings

3 November 2009

Businesses are looking to a new climate deal in Copenhagen to ensure a level playing field for industry, but in the meantime they are pledging to continue improving their energy efficiency and boosting investment in low-carbon technologies.

Companies are already cutting emissions by using energy more efficiently even without regulation or external funding, a BusinessEurope conference heard last week (28 October).

Saving energy makes sense as a business strategy and such investments pay themselves back within a few years, many companies pointed out.

At the same time, the business community is anticipating the inevitable transition to a low-carbon economy by hedging its bets on innovative technologies. Whirlpool, for example, is developing appliances that will function with smart grids, while Dow is actively working on making new alternative energy technologies readily available, such as bendable solar shingles, company representatives said.

Energy efficiency was identified as the one area where investment is often self-financing. But where markets cannot deliver, smart regulation is needed to create the right incentives.

Energy standards, for example, are particularly relevant for promoting energy-efficient products, said Henk de Bruin, senior vice-president for sustainability at Philips. He pointed out that efficiency levels are now a subconscious factor in many consumers' buying decisions.

BusinessEurope is urging the EU to ensure that any deal in Copenhagen commits all developed countries to equally strong emission reduction targets and sets either binding targets or policies for developing countries by 2020. They believe that subjecting companies that produce internationally-traded goods to similar conditions worldwide will help to create a level playing field. source

My comment: Little outdated article, since Copenhagen is long over and big failure, but anyway. I like how those guys admit that investing into efficiency really makes economical sense. I wonder when somebody will start discussing prolonging warranties too. Because we all know that products break down much more often than they are supposed to and this is a long time strategy to stimulate buying. But if we talk about efficiency this really shouldn't be so.

European electricity firms line up behind plug-in cars

4 November 2009

Europe's electricity suppliers have come together to push for a standardised recharging infrastructure for plug-in electric cars. The move will pave the way for consumers to refuel vehicles at charging stations across Europe.

CEOs from electricity companies gathered in Brussels last week (27 October) to discuss how greater harmonisation of the European energy supply market can be achieved without jeopardising competition.

The industry presented EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani with a declaration pledging their support for a carbon-neutral power supply in Europe and emphasising the need to prepare to electrify the transport network.

They called for a simplified licensing procedure for developing electricity generation and transmission infrastructures, and said access to liquid capital markets will be key to fostering investment.

The ESB estimates that 30% of its own carbon footprint can be attributed to the vans and trucks it uses to service customers and its infrastructure. It is in the process upgrading its own fleet of vehicles to electric models, and uses biofuels where possible.

However, not all auto industry players agree on what the future of electric vehicles will look like. Some are investing heavily in plug-in cars, while others have invested in hydrogen and fuel cell technology. source

My comment: I agree, the common and unified infrastructure is a must for future electric cars.

France drums up support for 'ambitious' EU farm policy

11 December 2009

A Group of 22 European Union countries called yesterday (10 December) for an "ambitious" new farm policy in the bloc to face global food and climate challenges, but left aside divisive budgetary issues for future talks.

It made the call in a joint statement after a meeting of the G22 to discuss the renewal of the EU farm policy, or Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which is due to be renewed in 2013.

"In the face of climate change, global political and food insecurity, the volatility of market prices and the resurgence of health crises, only an ambitious, continent-wide policy with adequate resources can safeguard Europe's independence," the countries said in the declaration.

French farm minister Bruno Le Maire, who chaired the meeting, said the group was against the kind of drastic cut in the EU's farm budget floated in a recent paper from the EU's executive arm, but that the 22 countries had not discussed budget questions during the meeting .

The European Commission is mulling a radical overhaul of the bloc's budget - now worth €125 billion euros annually - that would shift spending away from agriculture towards innovation, climate and energy. The CAP currently eats up more than 40% of the 27-country bloc's budget.

Regarding the absence of five EU members from the Paris meeting, Le Maire said the French initiative formed part of an "open and constructive process" towards renewing the CAP.

The other five countries notably include Britain, a traditional opponent of France in farm negotiations, although French officials said a British representative would join the group of 22 later for lunch in an "observer" role. The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Malta also declined to attend the Paris meeting. source

My comment: Of course, France would be against a cut into agriculture budget, but I think France cannot be the only reason to spend all those money in agriculture, instead of innovation. But if those money have to go to CCS as Britain and Germany want, I'm not sure which idea is worst. Though CCS will mean some funding some innovations, but it's not precisely my idea of research.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Science in Europe - Galileo on the move, 2010

  1. EU research networks slowly die away
  2. Europe tries to relaunch space policy
  3. German, French firms win Galileo money
  4. China doubles research output, leaving West in its wake
  5. EU attracting biobank research from US
  6. Accessing credit a daunting task for eco-innovators
Sorry for the delay, I have sever keyboard problems (some keys not working) and writing long texts is very frustrating.
Quote of the day: Science cannot function like a corporation for the simple reason that it's NOT goal (product) oriented. When a scientist works, it's not to sustain the network, but because s/he is genuinely interested and wants to discover the truth, sometimes motivated by applications of the discovery or even patents. But most of the time, most of us do it for the science and for the satisfaction of work well done and maybe some respect from the academics. So, the very idea of those networks, is maybe not wrong, but not entirely correct neither.

EU research networks slowly die away

14 October 2009

Most networks of excellence fall apart once EU funding dries up, according to a damning report by the European Court of Auditors. Billions of euros in European funding has been pumped into research networks in the hope that they will live on after funding expires, but very few are self-sustaining, it said.

The highly critical report published today (14 October) by the Court of Auditors says the EU's flagship research programme spent €17 billion, almost half its budget, on two types of pan-European project without setting clear objectives.

The report is likely to raise tensions between the Court of Auditors and the European Commission.

The Court urges the EU executive to "develop an explicit intervention logic" – and to set a single objective – before backing expensive research networks. However, the Commission hits back in a detailed and terse response published with the report, insisting that its work "has always been based on a sound intervention logic".

The report looks at FP6 , which ended in 2006, and points to several positive outcomes from EU spending on Networks of Excellence (NoEs), saying new knowledge was created and shared and the quality of work carried out by scientists was generally high.

However, public research bodies devoted only a small fraction of their research capacities to the network and resisted input from network governance managers on how European money should be spent.

The most critical comment by the Court of Auditors surrounds the long-term viability of the research networks created by FP6. Groups of scientists, companies and institutions were happy to cooperate while EU money was on the table, but the programme failed to reach the ultimate goal of attracting additional public and private funding, which would have stimulated a self-sustaining network.

In its response, the Commission noted that the possibility of supporting "certain promising NoEs" is addressed under FP7 on a case-by-case basis.


My comment:Ok, first of all, self-sustaining research is a myth. Science cannot function like a corporation for the simple reason that it's NOT goal (product) oriented. When a scientist works, it's not to sustain the network, but because s/he is genuinely interested and wants to discover the truth, sometimes motivated by applications of the discovery or even patents. But most of the time, most of us do it for the science and for the satisfaction of work well done and maybe some respect from the academics. So, the very idea of those networks, is maybe not wrong, but not entirely correct neither. I understand they want to stimulate SMEs to invest into science and to become the missing link - the middle man - in Europe, but our system is different than the US one, it's hart to expect what works there to works here too. That's why, I think the idea of those networks should evolve into something that share our values and ways, maybe being more government funded since Europe in general is more socially-oriented. There should be a way to keep those networks alive, we just have to find it.

Europe tries to relaunch space policy

16 October 2009

The European Union is stepping up its efforts to catch up with other global powers on space policy after the temporary collapse of its flagship project for satellite navigation, Galileo.

The EU executive is expected to publish new guidelines in the coming weeks to improve satellite monitoring of the Earth's climate.

Satellites can play a crucial role in this field. The European Commission is exploiting their potential through a programme called GMES (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), a project for earth observation designed to forecast environmental threats. It represents the second most important EU initiative in space policy after Galileo.

The EU document outlining future actions for GMES follows a draft regulation laying down the details of its operations up until 2013, which the Commission put forward last April.

But the main challenge remains satellite navigation. Europeans are still waiting for Galileo, the EU's alternative to the USA's leading Global Positioning System (GPS) and Russia's GLONASS. While Europeans were still fighting over the details of Galileo, China also began to develop an alternative system, which goes further than Europe's, according to many experts.

Contrary to its American and Russian counterparts, which are both financed and controlled by the army, Galileo has been designed specifically for civilian and commercial purposes.

In the meantime, at the beginning of October the Commission launched what has been labelled the precursor of Galileo, EGNOS (the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service).

EGNOS improves the accuracy of satellite navigation signals in Europe.

At the moment, EGNOS will be used in Europe by GPS subscribers, and tomorrow it will be an extra feature for Galileo-enabled applications, according to the Commission's plans. source

My comment: I sincerely don't get the idea to have always enabled GPS so that everyone can track your position in every single second, but I like Galileo, because it is a civilian project and because it will pour some money to ESA and European space companies. They deserve it. I only have to ask myself - isn't it the idea behind ever increasing GPS applications, just a fancy way to sell our freedom and independence. Because let's face it, IP's can be hidden or changed, but the mobile phone is usually non-stop with us. It really makes us traceable. And as long as you stay out of trouble, this is ok, but what happens when you do get into trouble. Nasty things do happen even to good people and maybe we have to be more careful about stuff as geo-tagging, sharing your positions with all of your friends and so on. Call me old-fashioned, I just think people should be more careful.

German, French firms win Galileo money

8 January 2010

Germany's OHB Technology is to provide 14 satellites for the EU's Galileo navigation system, while Arianespace of France will put them into orbit in order to build a European rival to the US GPS system by 2014.

"2014 is the year we will get it started," EU Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani told reporters on 7 January. "The first services will be available as of 2014, and then progressively we will be adding more."

Support services for Europe's biggest space programme will be provided by Franco-Italian group Thales Alenia Space in a contract worth €85 million euros, the European Commission said.

OHB secured its order, worth €566 million euros, after a competition with EADS Astrium. The two will continue to compete for orders for the remaining satellites in the programme, which will probably number between eight and 18.

The contract was a coup for the small German company which, in 2007, jointly with partners tried to buy three German factories from EADS planemaker Airbus before talks collapsed due to difficulties financing the deal.

OHB shares were up 10.4% to a two-year high at €13.97 euros at 1605 GMT.

Arianespace will be paid €397 million to launch the satellites on Soyuz rockets from French Guiana starting in October 2012.

according to a number of studies, Galileo will enable to save €90 billion between 2010 and 2027.

OHB, working in partnership with British-based, French-owned Surrey Satellite Technology, was expected to deliver its first satellite by July 2012 with the last delivered in March 2014.

My comment:It's good to know that the money are finally secured. I think we lost a lot from the delay, but better late than never, right :) Good luck to all the companies involved.

China doubles research output, leaving West in its wake

3 November 2009

Research output in China has exploded in the past five years, far outpacing activity in the rest of the world, according to a new report by Thomson Reuters. China has already overtaken the EU and Japan and will leapfrog the US within the next decade, the report predicts.

The Global Research Report on China shows the Asian giant published twice as many research papers last year as in 2004. The growth over the past decade is even more dramatic. Chinese scientists published 20,000 papers in 1998 but this figure jumped to 112,000 in 2008.

China's research centres on the physical sciences and technology, with a particular emphasis on materials science, chemistry and physics, according to the study. Rapid growth in life sciences and agricultural research is forecast over the coming decade.

Also of note is the increase in collaborative projects. Almost 9% of papers by Chinese scientists included a US collaborator, and cooperation with colleagues in Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia were also strong.

"China no longer depends on links to traditional G8 partners to help its knowledge development. When Europe and the USA visit China they can only do so as equal partners," Adams said.

This new study comes in the wake of the report by an EU taskforce which predicted that China and India would overtake Europe and the US to become world leaders in research by 2025.


My comment:Not exactly a surprise, now, isn't it? I can only admire the dedication of China and India to catch up with the great powers. Of course, I don't support the regime in China, not so much because it isn't democratic (i don't believe there is real democracy anywhere), but because it is oppressive and it hurts its own people. People should be free to talk and to gather and you know, all the small things we're used to. I sincerely don't believe that free speech has a lot to do with democracy, so they could have based their regime on less bans and fear and still be whatever they want to be. But unfortunately, the world isn't evolved enough for this. I wish them well and I wish us even better, because they are many and they are strong. And we get older, produce less and depend a lot on them. That has to change!

EU attracting biobank research from US

2 November 2009

The Netherlands and Luxembourg are battling to become the world's biobank research hub, as Europe begins to attract multi-million euro research projects from the US and beyond.

Industry sources say Europe is attempting to steal a march on the heavily-regulated biotech sector in the US, where biobanking faces political and ethical challenges from some quarters.

European leaders have agreed to offer VAT exemptions to a pan-European biobank initiative which will also be given special legal status, making it easier to recruit top scientists.

The EU, often criticised for overburdening scientists with red tape, is currently seen as friendlier to biobanks than the US, although work is underway to strengthen rules in this highly fragmented area of European research.

There is also wide variation across the 27-nation bloc when it comes to legal and ethical approaches to governing research on biological material, with northern Europeans being traditionally more receptive to biobanking.

The Netherlands and Austria are competing to host the European Biobanking and Biomolecular Research Infrastructure (BBMRI), which will benefit from VAT-free status.

Under regulations offering favourable legal status to pan-European research projects, the BBMRI must base its headquarters in just one member state but a final decision on its location has yet to be made.

In the meantime, a consortium from the Netherlands has received €22.5 million from the Dutch government to establish national biobanking infrastructure in a project that brings together eight university medical centres and several other research institutes and universities.

The BBMRI-NL project aims to establish quality-assessed biobanks with greatly improved accessibility to biomaterials.

However, The Netherlands also faces stiff competition from a small but wealthy neighbour. Luxembourg, previously better known for its financial banking than tissue banks, is pouring €140 million into a five-year project which will see the tiny European nation team up with Arizona-based biotech corporation TGenexternal .

The Integrated Biobank Luxembourg (IBBLexternal ) is a key part of Luxembourg's plan to turn itself into a biomedical hub focusing on diagnostic biomarkers.

TGen and Luxembourg investigators are jointly developing computer software that will help track and link tissue samples with patients for research. The tissue bank will serve as an international repository, analysis and distribution point for blood, serum, saliva, tumours and other samples, which will be made available to scientists across Europe.


My comment: Good idea, we have to use our advantage in that field, because it's obvious that USA has its problems on religious base. I just hope we don't do it on any cost - because a visit of US senators in Luxemburg looks kind of desperate to me. And I wonder why? And of course, if any country becomes a biobank, there must be very strict rules about the bio-material. We value so much our privacy, those samples are actually our bodies. We have to keep them safe!

Accessing credit a daunting task for eco-innovators

5 November 2009

Companies are finding it difficult to get loans for eco-innovation projects because banks lack the technological knowledge to approve them, according to European businesses.

Many innovative projects to slash emissions hit the wall when banks deny them access to venture capital, business representatives warned at a conference organised in Brussels last week (22 October) by the Lisbon Council think-tank.

"With guarantees, for example, a great problem is that banks don't have technical analysis, therefore [they] do not know what we're talking about [and] therefore do not give us a green light for capital," said Neil Turley, managing director of Net Green Developments, a small Portuguese company. "What we have to do in the end ourselves is to turn to a consultancy."

The problem is getting money to SMEs without incurring huge costs, while at the same time ensuring that the projects funded are financially feasible, companies say.

Turley suggested setting up a network of European experts, contracted by the EU, to help SMEs raise money for eco-innovation projects without holding assets. The idea is that a company could email a project proposal to the experts, who would analyse it and issue a guarantee which the company could then take to a bank.


My comment: That is a serious problem. It's like the world we live in has parted in two and those two parts don't communicate very well with each other. I mean imagine you going into your local bank to require a loan to produce solar panels with new and shiny technology. How could the guys there know you're not lying them? It is obvious that something has to be done and I think such a network isn't a bad idea. Of course, in the next step they will be plagues with corruption, but maybe we could set it up in a way that will be very discouraging for doing bad things.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Business in Europe, January 2010 - digital life, digital laws

  1. Headaches ahead for e-waste recycling
  2. Fishing cheats to lose licences in EU crackdown
  3. EU online music deal to challenge big labels' clout
  4. EU to tackle digital book copyright in 2010
  • EU opens historical archives to public
  • Denmark gives green light to Nord Stream
  • Bulgaria ousted from Russia's South Stream pipe
Quote of the day:All the rights should belong to the author, the publisher should only be a middle man between the author and the public.

Headaches ahead for e-waste recycling

16 October 2009

As the EU prepares to review its electronic waste legislation, industry is calling for a reality check of a European Commission proposal setting binding waste collection targets for manufacturers and making them pay for collecting consumers' scrap.

The Commission is proposing to change the collection target for Waste from Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) from the current 4kg/capita per year ('one size fits all') to a variable binding target of 65% of the average weight of equipment placed on the market during the two previous years.

But producers argue that the target is not realistic as only 30% of household WEEE comes back to producers' recycling systems. The rest is collected for profit by municipalities, recyclers and other actors operating outside the official system or illegally shipped to third countries, said Hewlett Packard's European waste policy advisor, Mark Dempsey on 14 October.

Achieving the collection target is thus held back by the fact that much WEEE is not in the official system and producers cannot get their hands on it, he told a meeting on the WEEE recast organised by DigitalEurope in Brussels.

Thorsten Brunzena from the European Commission's environment department acknowledged that nobody knows where some 50-60% of the WEEE goes, as only 30% is officially recycled and 12% still ends up in landfills.

Dempsey noted that the Commission proposal may lead into a situation in which producers are obliged to buy WEEE to reach their collection target. However, any trade of WEEE leads to an artificial increased cost of recycling without any environmental benefit, he said.

Such "profiteering" has recently been recorded in the UK, where producers have seen recyclers increase the price of 'recycling certificates' sold to producers who need to achieve their recycling targets, Dempsey said.

The EU executive is proposing that producers finance the costs of separate collection from private households.

"Producers need to do more to get the WEEE back through separate collection, but they need incentives to do so," he said, suggesting that producers either set up their own systems or strike deals with municipalities and organise awareness-raising campaigns, for example.

Meanwhile, Stéphane Arditi from the European Environmental Bureau, a green group, believes that making producers more responsible of their WEEE would lead to a "virtuous competitiveness cycle". In a drive to cut down costs as much as possible, he said producers would start designing products that are easier and cheaper to re-use and recycle.


My comment: Well, I don't know about other countries, but in Bulgaria it is an absolute nightmare to find a place to trow away electronics or batteries. Only the big hypermarkets for electronics have such places and they are usually outside the city, so they are not really useful. So I also think that producers must do more to increase recycling and not only to whine that other companies gather their garbage. Well, waste business belongs to the mafia, we all know that. And it shouldn't be up to the citizens to figure out where to deposit their waste when they want to do it in the best way possible. So I say - pay for old appliances and not only when one buys a new one, make special depots, run a campaign on the tv and everything will be fine. But there must be a way to get out of that mess.

Fishing cheats to lose licences in EU crackdown

21 October 2009

EU fisheries ministers agreed on Tuesday (20 October) to crack down on overfishing, saying their fishermen would get points on their fishing licences each time they broke rules or quotas and would be banned for excessive infractions.

The points system, taking effect next year, is part of a drive to reduce excessive fishing which has severely depleted European stocks of cod, haddock and hake.

Ministers agreed new quotas for Baltic cod and herring and put on hold a controversial proposal that national tallies include fish landed by recreational anglers.

They also cut the amount of overfishing that will be tolerated to 10% from 20 - drawing criticism from a Green member of parliament that this was accepting "legalised cheating," though on a reduced scale.

Under the new points system, if fishermen rack up a certain number of offences - for example, using small-mesh nets to trap extra fish, or fishing in closed seasons - they will lose their right to fish in EU waters for several months.

After five serious infractions, they risk losing their licences permanently.

EU countries that fail to enforce the new system could lose access to EU funds for overhauling their fisheries and could even have their quotas cut.

Ministers also agreed that cod fishing can be increased by between 9 and 15% in the Baltic Sea next year, after signs the stock was recovering there. source

My comment: I support this completely. I love fish, but I hate the feeling of guilt when I eat it and I'm not sure if the stock is all right or it's disappearing or if they caught it destroying the coast. The regulations should be stricter and I find this fair. And of course, they should stop killing whales. Really! Even for "scientific purposes"! What idiot thought that science might need all those killed whales? It's an absolute outrage that we allow that!

EU online music deal to challenge big labels' clout

21 October 2009

The European Commission has brokered a deal with the music industry to establish online European repertoires as a way to boost cross-border sales. The move is also expected to challenge the power of big labels and to have a positive effect on tackling online piracy.

In a joint statement, collecting societies, labels, online music shops, consumer groups and manufacturers agreed to pursue new licensing platforms comprising repertoires of several collecting societies.

They will now be encouraged to cooperate among each other and put together "the largest possible repertoire" made up of their national catalogues.

The agreement could favour the revival of national and less known artists since their music will now be easier to download and is likely to be less expensive.

The deal, brokered by EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes, will now be subject to further negotiations to thrash out the detail.

In practical terms, this means that online music shops such as iTunes or Amazon will be able to access the tracks and CDs of European artists in a single move, without facing different national legislations and conflicting collective societies.

So far, fragmented national copyright rules have led to smaller offers and different prices for consumers according to their country of origin. The strict application of these rules has even prevented consumers from buying music in online stores registered in other EU countries, violating the principles of the EU internal market.

The French, Italian, Spanish, and Scandinavian collecting societies have already shown an interest in creating a common repertoire to boost online music offers. Indeed, English collecting society PRS for Music said there might be more than one single common repertoire.

Big labels such as Universal or EMI will be free to put their catalogues on the common portal or sell them directly to retail chains. EMI has already announced that it will soon sign "non-exclusive" deals with the Spanish and French collecting societies.

The agreement is also expected to help the fight against piracy. Indeed, expanding repertoires and simpler administrative procedures are likely to decrease costs for the industry, and ultimately cut prices for consumers, who in turn will be encouraged to choose a legal path rather than illegally downloading tracks on peer-to-peer websites.

Meanwhile, the market is experiencing the emergence of new business models. In April last year, Danish incumbent telecoms operator TDC launched a new offer giving its customers free access to online music. Under the deal, customers can access the catalogues of big labels as part of their monthly subscriptions. source

My comment: I sincerely don't believe anything will cut piracy. The whole model is wrong, the songs are way to expensive - even those in the online stores, their prices are still not real and the biggest part of the money won't go to the musician but to the company. Well, for me it's clear that the company should be paid, because of the investment, but it should definitely take less than 30%. And I believe it's not the case. What I think would/could work for me, if that I get subscribed to a service - to download any song or movie I like in a good quality. And to own it forever, without any limitation where I can play it. In such case, if the subscription fee is low enough, I might pay it. Because I don't want to steal the products of anyone. Or to pay for downloading 10 songs/movies a month some very low fee - it's fair and everybody wins. But with current prices ($1.30 for a song in iTunes!)- why bothering! For a song that I will play few times in a year! I'd rather listen to the music channel or radio, than buying the music myself.

EU to tackle digital book copyright in 2010

21 October 2009

The European Commission will establish "simple and cost-efficient rights clearance systems" on the digitisation of published works and their availability on the Internet, it announced this week (19 October).

The legal implications of digitisation en masse and the potential costs for rights clearance are the two main issues that emerged from a consultation with libraries, publishers and other stakeholders.

The Commission says it will deal with the copyright aspects of digital publishing in the context of a new strategy on intellectual property rights in 2010.

Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy and Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding were the joint authors of the communication, which is the result of a public consultation on 'Copyright in the Knowledge Economy'.

Both Reding and McCreevy are ostensibly convinced of the benefits of digitising books to provide the knowledge economy foreseen under the EU's Lisbon Strategy.

The consultation revealed two divergent views: libraries, archives and universities favoured a flexible copyright system operating in the "public interest", and publishers and authors sought strict licensing agreements on the digitisation of published works.

Libraries argued that it is in the public interest to have certain exceptions from the legislation, favouring broader access over copyright. Publishers counter that exceptions would allow 'free-riding' and decrease profits made through licensing contracts.

The issue of rights clearance in particular will prove a point of contention between the two camps.

Publishers want libraries to seek authorisation from the copyright holder before digitising material, but libraries argue that the cost of individual rights clearance is too high and too difficult, especially when it comes to unpublished letters, private diaries and business records.

In addition to costs, a second issue to emerge from the consultation is orphan works - books and published works whose rights holders are unknown (EurActiv 08/09/09).

In a strict licensing scenario, orphan works would end up in a kind of limbo and would probably fade away on library shelves. However, the EU has not provided a clear definition of orphan works.

Again libraries are worried that they will incur high costs if they are required to carry out an extensive search for the rights holder.

The EU says it will define "the level of due diligence in searching for owners of orphan works" after it has conducted an impact assessment on the issue next year.

Reding reiterated her view that Google's settlement with the American Author's Guild in the US should not form the basis of a European agreement (EurActiv 08/09/09).

"If we act swiftly, pro-competitive European solutions on books digitisation may well be sooner operational than the solutions presently envisaged under the Google Books Settlement in the United States," she said.

The US settlement would see the creation of a Book Rights Registry whereby a larger cut of the money earned from works accessed via Google search would go to the rights holder - the author or the publisher.

But this agreement would disadvantage European rights holders at it would limit access to European books located in US libraries to American consumers only, cutting their European owners off from a potentially lucrative deal. source

My comment: If you ask me, the best thing to do is to open completely the digitization with 70-90% of the money generated by online reading (like from ads) or from selling to go for the author. Simple and very good. For the authors. And authors to pay whatever they have dealt with the publishers. And royalties to continue only 10 years after the authors death. It's not serious to have to pay to the author 30 years after he's not already on this Earth and to look for the right's holders of orphan book. All the rights should belong to the author, the publisher should only be a middle man between the author and the public. At least, this is what I think.


EU opens historical archives to public

20 October 2009

Thousands of EU publications were made available to the public for free last week (16 October) following the launch in Frankfurt of a new digital library, the 'EU Bookshop'.

The EU Bookshop website hosts an electronic library containing 12 million scanned pages from over 110,000 historical publications. A further two million pages from more recent ones are also included.

The site, launched at the Frankfurt Book Fair, features all publications edited by the EU's Publications Office on behalf of the European institutions, agencies and other associated bodies since 1952.

New publications will be added every day at a rate of up to 1,600 per year. Users can choose to access content from over 370 EU institutional authors in 50 languages, including Russian, Chinese and all 23 official languages of the Union, and are given the option of ordering printed copies. source

Denmark gives green light to Nord Stream

22 October 2009

Denmark on Tuesday (20 October) became the first country to grant a construction permit for the Nord Stream gas pipeline, a development described by a project official as "a very good sign" that construction will start in 2010.

Sebastian Sass, head of Nord Stream's EU representation, said the green light from Denmark, a country known for its high environment standards and with considerable experience in offshore pipelines, gave sufficient guarantees as to the technical and environmental quality of the project. source

Bulgaria ousted from Russia's South Stream pipe

20 October 2009

Russia has obtained all the permits necessary to build its 'South Stream' gas pipeline through Turkish territorial waters, discarding Bulgaria as one of the project's transit countries, the Russian press writes today (20 October).

Taner Yildiz, Turkey's economy minister, has granted all the necessary authorisations for the South Stream project to run through Turkish territory, the Russian daily Kommersant writes.

The event, which was hosted by Italian Economy Minister Claudio Scajola in Milan on Friday (19 October), eliminated Bulgaria as a transit country for the Gazprom-favoured pipeline, the daily writes. Bulgaria was also evicted from the Burgas-Alexandroupolis oil pipeline project, the newspaper adds. source

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