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Friday, February 12, 2010

What's wrong in the EU, 02, 2010

  1. Germany opposed 'nano' label for cosmetics
  2. New EU health chief seizes control of pharma policy
  3. EU starts screening raw materials ‘critical list`
  4. EU clears extra funds for carbon storage, offshore wind
  5. Commission forced to scale down soil law

Quote of the day:There is no way to prove a nanomaterial is safe, you can only prove that it's not immediately harmful. But that's all! And I think that EU consumers have the right to know what they use.

Germany opposed 'nano' label for cosmetics

24 November 2009

Efforts by EU governments to force cosmetics manufacturers to inform consumers when products contain nanomaterials were resisted by Germany, it has emerged.

Last week (20 November), EU member states adopted new rules on the marketing and safety of cosmetics by grouping the existing 55 directives into a single regulation.

One of the key elements of the new streamlined laws is a clause requiring companies to print the word 'nano' in brackets after any ingredient which is smaller than 100 nanometres in size.

However, Germany took the view that highlighting the fact that a product contains nanomaterials could be viewed by consumers as a warning.

German officials noted that cosmetic products that are for sale in the EU must already pass stringent safety tests, implying that the inclusion of nano-scale materials should not warrant additional scrutiny.

Green MEPs and environmental lobby groups have been pushing for the application of the 'no data, no market' principle to nanotechnologies (EurActiv 02/04/09).

Industry groups fear this would put the onus on them to prove nanomaterials do not carry any additional risk – a process that could lead to hundreds of products being taken off the market.

Germany's position is that information on nano-scale materials may be important for consumers where the particle size results in altered properties. This is closer to the industry's preference for defining nanotechnology based on function rather than size.

The new regulation will apply in all 27 EU countries and harmonises a previously fragmented area of law. The changes should help reduce costs and streamline safety rules. source

My comment: Do I need to state why this is wrong? There is no way to prove a nanomaterial is safe, you can only prove that it's not immediately harmful. But that's all! And I think that EU consumers have the right to know what they use. Especially when we talk about cosmetics, which you put on your skin and it gets into you much easier than anything else. Isn't it horribly wrong that one of the biggest EU countries is against regulation of the issue? It's not unexpected, but it's still wrong.

New EU health chief seizes control of pharma policy

30 November 2009

Healthcare lobbyists have scored a major victory in convincing European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to give responsibility for pharmaceuticals to the new health commissioner.

The move will anger pharmaceutical industry lobbyists who have consistently resisted such a move. Medicines have been controlled by the enterprise and industry wing of the EU executive, but health NGOs have argued that medicines policy comes under the health departments in almost all member states.

The EU's pharmaceutical package, which includes directives on drug safety and providing medical information to the public, is currently making its way through the European Parliament, where it is handled by MEPs on the environment and public health committee.

The new EU health commissioner, John Dalli from Malta, will now be responsible for the European Medicines Agency, as well as being in charge of the biotechnology, pesticides and health unit, which moves from the Commission's environment section.

The news is a blow to DG Enterprise – now called 'Industry and Entrepreneurship' – which could even lose control of the European Innovation Act to the new commissioner for innovation and research, and also cedes the 'Better Regulation' unit to the Secretariat General.

'Better Regulation' is EU jargon for cutting red tape to ease the burden on businesses.

EFPIA, the voice of the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe, congratulated Dalli on his appointment. A spokesperson told EurActiv the industry had a productive relationship with the Commission's health directorate and hoped to build on this with the new commissioner.

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) celebrated the decision on Friday, noting that it had been advocating such a move for some time. source

My comment: I'm very unsure this move is good and I'm very worried about the new Commission. Because I see signs that Barroso gave up to the business. I can't currently decide if giving such an important post to small Malta is a good or a bad sign, but still, I'm very suspicious to moving biotechnology to healthcare. Because biotechnology=GMO and GMO cannot be proven to be harmful to the human body on the short term. The only hope for turning them off is to prove they are harmful to the environment, which they are. And by moving them to healthcare, it seems to me that it would become much more difficult to ban them. Which, it seems that is one of the goals of Barroso 2. And that's BAD.

EU starts screening raw materials ‘critical list’

1 December 2009

An expert group set up by the European Commission has begun screening a list of forty-nine "potentially critical" raw materials whose availability to industry could come under threat as global competition for natural resources intensifies, EurActiv has learned.

A preliminary list of twenty raw materials considered to be potentially critical for the EU economy, published by the Commission a year ago, has been expanded to include nineteen new substances.

A first batch of raw materials – cobalt, lithium and rare earths – was examined by the expert group during its first meeting in November, with the objective of testing the Commission's proposed methodology on the raw materials' "criticality", EurActiv has learned.

EU industries, and particularly those active in telecoms, aerospace and other hi-tech sectors, are facing fierce competition for natural resources from emerging economies, the Commission pointed out last year, outlining its draft raw materials strategy.

High-tech materials are increasingly at the basis of innovative "green techs", associated with renewable energy and reduction of greenhouse gases, it pointed out, saying Europe should seek ways of securing supplies or risk running short.

Those considered as "potentially critical" for 'high tech' sectors include niobium, platinum and titanium, the EU executive said in its preliminary assessment (see annex of Commission's raw materials initiative ).

The new strategy, to be fully fleshed out next year, should aim to lower the consumption of primary natural resources by increasing resource efficiency and recycling, EU industry ministers agreed after a meeting in May (EurActiv 04/06/09).

The expert group put together by the Commission has already identified three types of risks:

  • Import risk, where raw materials are imported from a politically instable region or from a country where the market economy does not work.
  • Production risk within the EU, with potential problems such as land access.
  • Environmental risk, based on indicators such as air or soil pollution, where the impact of raw materials use is measured from an environmental point of view.

The three types of indicators are then aggregated to determine risk, but this is where things get "a bit more complicated," the EU official said.

Among the rare earths likely to be most affected is neodymium, shortages of which are expected. Neodymium is the key component of an alloy used to make the high-power, lightweight magnets for electric motors of hybrid cars.

The problem is that 95% of global production and about 60% of consumption currently originate from China, according to the US geological survey.

Chinese media reported in September that Beijing would start applying quotas on exports of rare earths and other exotic metals of which it is the only major supplier, citing environmental reasons.

The United States and European Union filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation on 23 June, accusing Beijing of unfairly favouring its steel, chemicals and other industries by restricting access to nine types of key raw materials. source

My comment: Why this is important? Because there are many signs now, of hm financial wars over resources. Mainly because most resources are located in China. I really don't understand how could this be possible, Russia is bigger and it makes sense that there are a lot of resources there too. So maybe the problem is also the cost of those resources. But anyway, China exports most of the resources and there are already shortages in them. So it's not that hard to imagine that soon, there will be major problems over that. Ever notices how USA is very very polite when arguing with China, even over important things? The same will probably happen in the EU. And we must be ready for that. So, this is a good initiative for the EU I guess, to list the important resources, but it must go further, it must come with increasing effectiveness and so on, because otherwise, it won't really help.

EU clears extra funds for carbon storage, offshore wind

10 December 2009

The European Commission yesterday (9 December) approved a series of offshore wind and carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects that will receive over €1.5 billion from the EU's economic recovery fund.

Six CCS demonstration projects were deemed mature enough to qualify for the €1 billion designated to support the fledgling technology (see EurActiv LinksDossier).

These include Vattenfall's Jaenshwalde power plant in Germany, Endesa's Compostilla plant in Spain, Maasvlakte plant in the Netherlands, Hatfield in the UK and Belchatow in Poland, which will each receive €180 million. In addition, Enel's Porto-Tolle plant in Italy gets €100 million.

These projects were selected out of a total of 12 proposals, with a further four put on a reserve list should one of the selected projects fall through. But the EU executive stressed that this would be extremely unlikely.

On offshore wind energy, nine projects out of the 29 proposed will share a total of €565 million. These range from €150m for an interconnection of German, Swedish and Danish wind farms in the Kriegers Flak area, to 10 billion for Belgium's Thornton Bank deep-water off-shore park.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs defended the selection, which was made with a view to rewarding demonstrations that are mature enough to aid economic recovery. The signing of contracts will start this month, and the money will be made available to companies between 2010 and 2012, depending on their stage of development, he said.

According to the commissioner, helping the six CCS projects get off the ground will create a "core group of pioneers".

"Without CCS, we really can't make a sufficient contribution to capping greenhouse gas emissions," Piebalgs warned. But the technology comes at a high price and would require the EU to look into other financial sources, he added.

The EU is yet to approve a list of infrastructure projects that will soak up the remainder of the recovery funds in the field of energy. source

My comment: No comment, really. This isn't about the climate. It's about "let's keep home the money we earn". Fine enough. Just don't call it climate aid.

Commission forced to scale down soil law

10 February 2010

Following years of negotiations, five EU member states still form a blocking minority on the European Commission's proposal for a directive on soil protection, leaving some to wonder whether the EU executive should reconsider its approach to addressing this environmental issue.

Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK reiterated their opposition to the proposals after the Spanish EU Presidency's had attempted to find political agreement in the Council last week (4 February).

Identification of contaminated sites remains one of the main sticking points and a sensible and cost-efficient system for their remediation is yet to be found, one diplomat told EurActiv.

Meanwhile, political pressure to protect soil is mounting amid recognition of its role in capturing carbon and thus combating climate change.

During his hearing last month, new EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik announced that the Soil Directive would be one of his top priorities (EurActiv 14/01/10). The European Parliament has also stressed the need for better soil protection on several occasions.

Last year, the House adopted a non-legislative resolution on the deterioration of agricultural land in the EU, which called on the Council and the Commission to explore strategies for the recovery of damaged soil on the basis of incentives to limit soil deterioration.

In particular, Germany and the UK are claiming that the EU does not have the power to legislate on soil and that such laws would interfere with domestic policy measures. source

My comment: "Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK"- the axis of evil? Seriously, soil must be protected. In Bulgaria we trashed our soil! We destroyed it during the communism and it took 20 years for it to get better. Is this what the EU wants? I doubt it! There must be regulation and protection of the soil and the sooner this happens, the better!


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