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

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The fight for the maternity leaves, 03, 2010

Today:

  1. Parliament pushes for all EU documents to be made public
  2. Parliament sees crisis as 'opportunity' for tax harmonisation
  3. EU pushes for rules on body scanners
  4. EU online library needs 'more and better' content
  5. Maternity leave battle set to continue after EU vote
Quote of the day: We cannot tolerate decisions like the recent approval of GMO potato even though there is sever opposition trough out Europe. This is absolutely unacceptable and I hope people will soon realise that just like their governments are elected to serve to people's needs, the very same way European institutions are there to serve the public needs of Europe. Barroso may elect and re-elect himself as many times as ministers tolerate him, but that doesn't make him or anyone invincible.

Parliament pushes for all EU documents to be made public

Fri, 2009-12-18 08:35

EU access to documents laws should be widened to cover all European institutions, bodies and agencies following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, MEPs said yesterday (17 December), criticising the European Commission for failing to update the rules.

In a resolution adopted at its Strasbourg plenary yesterday, the European Parliament expressed concern that "in spite of the clear requests" it made last spring, "the Commission has not put forward a modified version of its draft law".

Expressing the EU executive's willingness to contribute to reaching an agreement "as in other legislative processes," Joe Hennon, spokesperson for Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström, told EurActiv that "further progress in the legislative process leading to the adoption of an amended Regulation 1049 [on access to documents] is in the hands of the legislator," referring to the Parliament and the Council.

"We are still at the stage of the first reading. At this stage we do not have a legislative resolution and we do not have the position of the new Parliament," Hennon added.

The scope of EU access to documents legislation should be widened following the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty "to cover all EU bodies, offices and agencies, including the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice, Europol and Eurojust," the European Parliament demanded yesterday in its resolution.

MEPs want to grant citizens access to legal service opinions, Council documents – including positions and votes cast – and files related to international agreements, protection of personal data and the content of institutions' registers.

Yesterday, the European Parliament again refrained from taking a final vote on the legislation, preferring instead to wait for the Commission to respond to its demands. source

My comment: I completely agree with that. Even more, I think that audio recordings of all the meetings that are not classified should be available for the citizens. In what other way could citizens monitor and control the work of the EU institutions?

I get the nasty feeling that some people in the EC consider themselves to be above the law. This cannot be tolerated. We cannot tolerate decisions like the recent approval of GMO potato even though there is sever opposition trough out Europe. This is absolutely unacceptable and I hope people will soon realise that just like their governments are elected to serve to people's needs, the very same way European institutions are there to serve the public needs of Europe. Barroso may elect and re-elect himself as many times as ministers tolerate him, but that doesn't make him or anyone invincible. He will be held responsible and he better stop considering European interests first.

Parliament sees crisis as 'opportunity' for tax harmonisation

Thu, 2010-01-07 12:50

The economic crisis could present an opportunity to harmonise taxation policy across EU member states, according to officials at the European Parliament who contributed to a major report on the future development of the EU.

Policy experts advising the Parliament are predicting deeper integration of European economies and potentially closer ties on direct taxes – a suggestion likely to raise the hackles of several Anglo-Saxon and Eastern European finance ministers.

The comprehensive document, released with minimal fanfare at the end of 2009, was prepared by researchers in the EU assembly's five policy departments.

Unified corporate tax rates, a long-standing target of European federalists, is set out as an objective.

The policy advisors also suggest other forms of "fiscal coordination" could be in the offing, although this could mean a eurozone bond – a common eurozone public debt market – rather than an EU-wide tax.

The Stability and Growth Pact has taken a battering since the outbreak of the crisis and risks becoming no more than a "shallow pact with no real impact" unless it is reformed, it says.

Despite the 'no-bailout' clause in the European treaties, the experts fully expect EU governments to come to the assistance of any de facto bankrupt country in the euro zone.

The thorny issue of corporation tax raises its head again when the report looks at ways of facilitating SME access to the single market. It says a longer term option to boost market access would be a common corporate tax rate or "home state taxation," whereby small businesses would be taxed only in their home country, independent of where the income was earned.

Officials said the documents are meant to be "food for thought" rather than the official view of the Parliament.

Meanwhile, MEPs are pushing for a new system of inter-institutional forecasting which will help Europe plan for future tensions and threats.

UK Conservative MEP James Elles has tabled an amendment to the Parliament's 2010 budget which would earmark €1 million for a system akin to the United States National Intelligence Council (NIC).

Elles said the implications of climate change, demographics and competition from Asia need to be rigorously examined if Europe is to prepare in a proactive manner. source

My comment: I don't see how could tax be harmonized across Europe when they are so different in each country. And that may be regarded as a good thing, since it offers more opportunities for the business to find an environment that suits them. Or maybe not. And in any case - the unique levels of the taxes are a great tool in the hands of each government to handle the economy of the country. I don't think this tool should be taken away from them. But in the end, the really confusing part is exactly where the taxation should occur - if that gets figured out, it would be a great victory for the business in Europe. And the taxes will be harmonized enough without taking away sovereignty of the member-states.

EU pushes for rules on body scanners

Wed, 2010-01-06 08:40

In response to an attempt to blow up a US plane on Christmas Day, the European Commission will host talks in Brussels with aviation security experts on body scanners tomorrow (7 January).

The Commission is "convinced that body scanners can play a very useful role as a complementary means of screening".

According to the EU executive, member states are free to use body scanners, provided that the security checks do not contradict national or EU legislation. But a previous draft EU regulation on body scanners issued in 2008 was heavily criticised by the European Parliament and withdrawn over privacy and health concerns.

At the time, the Commission decided that further technical analysis was required before EU-wide rules could be adopted.

Full body scanners will be introduced at Heathrow airport in the UK within three weeks, and the UK government will consider profiling passengers.

There was broad consensus among security experts and industry insiders that the measures could help to protect aircraft from terrorist attack, but that their success or failure would depend on exactly how the changes were implemented.

In Germany, the government has made clear it is not against the scanners in principle but is trying to guarantee privacy rights.

Italy aims to install full-body scanners at the main airports of Rome and Milan for flights considered at high risk of terrorist attack.

The introduction of full body scanners, however, raises questions about privacy, cultural sensitivity and personal freedom. source

My comment: I was thinking, is the scanner more offensive than a full body pat down and I still cannot decide. Whatever they call it, the scanner is stripping you naked in front of someone. It's your body and it's naked. They can see everything you have on it. And I'm not sure to what extent "in it". So, let's see - the scanner will make someone happy watching my naked body. The pat down, if it's gentle will make me happy. It seems that the pat down is the better option.

As long as there is any option at all. I mean, what do you do if they want to make a cavity search on you? Can you say : "No, thank you, I prefer not to board on the plane", or you simply don't have a choice. I mean, can you even imagine how utterly humiliating is a cavity search. I can't believe someone expect people to simply put up with this and accept it in their lives. Privacy? It's not even about privacy, it's about rights over my body. Nobody should be able to do an intrusive procedure on me against my will. It's like legal rape! I have no idea why nobody cries out because of this. How would anyone feel if his/her child is a subject of a cavity search? Or if his/her spouse is a subject of the same? Or his/her mother/father? And the same goes for the scanner as well - there were already reports of naked pictures of celebrity that leaked. What more one does need to see this is wrong?! I understand the producers of those scanners that they need to sell them, but they better sell them to military bases where people know each others bodies anyway. This is not something you should use on public places!

EU online library needs 'more and better' content

23 February 2010

Europeana, the EU's online library, needs more and better content if it is to be a success, EU lawmakers said yesterday (22 February), calling for more cooperation between governments and cultural institutions in contributing to the archive.

A report, drafted by German MEP Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA) and adopted unanimously by the European Parliament's culture committee, calls on member states to provide more books, maps, film clips and photographs for the portal, while at the same time warning that intellectual property rights must be respected.

MEPs "seriously regret" member states' "very uneven" contributions to Europeana, which aims to make Europe's cultural and scientific heritage available to all free-of-charge on the Web but at present only hosts 5% of all digital books.

Of these, almost half come from France (47%), with 16% coming from Germany and 8% from the UK and the Netherlands respectively.

Legal restrictions prevent the portal from hosting out-of-print books (90% of the content of national libraries) or 'orphan works' whose authors cannot be identified (10-20% of national collections).

Governments and cultural institutions should work together to fill up the site, MEPs said, urging member states "not to restrict availability to the territory of their country" and to put more audio and digital material online, "paying special attention" to works that deteriorate easily.

The report "urges the [European] Commission and member states to take all necessary steps to avoid a knowledge gap between Europe and non-EU countries, particularly the USA, stressing the importance of making Europeana "one of the main reference points for education and research purposes".

Europeana should "respect intellectual property rights, especially authors' and performers' rights," states the report, suggesting that extended collective licensing could be one way of giving users access to copyrighted material.

Europeana faces commercial competition in the form of US giant Google's plans to create a Book Rights Registry, where authors and publishers can register works and be compensated by institutional subscriptions or book sales.

The European Parliament report warns that the dissemination of knowledge on the Internet should not be left to private commercial firms.

Indeed, the European Commission is adamant that the Google registry will not serve as a blueprint for a European equivalent, and only works from the US, UK, Australia and Canada will be included in Google's project at present (EurActiv 16/11/09)

.MEPs yesterday endorsed "the Commission's intention to establish a simple and cost-efficient rights clearance system". They also called on the EU executive to propose legislation on the digitisation, preservation and dissemination of orphan works, and develop a single European database.

Meanwhile, a network of databases for out-of-print and orphan works called ARROW is in the project phase, according to the Federation of European Publishers (FEP). source

My comment: European interests? Not at all! The only interest here is that of publishers who will get public funds for books they can't sell anyway. As much as I like the idea of public digital library that offers free books for everyone, I don't think this is the way to do it. After all, Google would at least pay something to the authors - a percentage of the money generated by ads and subscriptions. What would Europeana pay to authors? Sure, the publishers will get paid. And they will give 15% to the authors? While electronic book-sellers give 70% to the author. Isn't this strange? Like seriously?! I'm totally for a public library, but when it comes to orphan books or out-of-print books, I want to see them in that library as well. If not - then it's almost useless. The only good part of it is the idea to include audio and video material. That could be priceless for ethnographic studies for example.

Maternity leave battle set to continue after EU vote

24 February 2010

The European Parliament is pushing hard to bring in longer EU minimum standards for maternity leave. But MEPs are likely to face stiff resistance from some EU member states, particularly the UK.

There was a feeling of déjà vu in the Parliament yesterday (23 February) as the Womens' Rights Committee backed a report by Portuguese Socialist MEP Edite Estrela to increase minimum compulsory EU maternity leave to 20 weeks.

In June last year, a coalition of centre-right and liberal MEPs had already rejected Estrela's plans in a June vote in Strasbourg.

Estrela does not believe history will repeat itself, however, and claimed she was "confident" Parliament would back her plans this time around.

Responding to a question from EurActiv following yesterday's vote, she argued that last year's rejection was for political reasons, as centre-right MEPs did not want to touch upon this sensitive issue ahead of June's European elections.

"A new parliament means a new situation," she said, adding that "we are legislating for the future" with this progressive proposal.

However, even if a majority of MEPs endorse the report, it seems likely that further political battles are inevitable.

The UK, for example, is worried about the costs involved in this latest plan, and would likely block it when it reaches ministerial level.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) warned that the proposed changes would be costly during an economic downturn.

A European Commission source told EurActiv that "we feel this report is going a bit too far," both in terms of the 20-week minimum and the paternity leave clause.

However, Estrela hit back by saying that she had received no response from the Commission when she repeatedly asked what decisions would be made regarding paternity leave.

"19 EU countries already have paternity leave legislation," she told EurActiv, adding that "we believe we should enshrine in EU law what most member states already have".

Estrela's report also favoured the introduction of two weeks minimum paternity leave, a measure opposed by the Commission and a number of member states. Indeed, the proposal was also opposed by centre-right MEPs, who blocked it in June 2009.

The Estrela report proposes the following changes:

  • That minimum maternity leave in the EU be extended from 14 to 20 weeks, six weeks of which would be taken immediately after childbirth.
  • These maternity leave rules also apply to domestic workers and self-employed workers.
  • Workers on maternity leave must be paid their full salary, which must be 100% of their last monthly salary or their average monthly salary.
  • Member states must give fathers the right to fully paid paternity leave of at least two weeks within the period of maternity leave.
  • This legislation on maternity and paternity leave should also apply to parents who adopt a child of less than 12 months old.
  • Female workers cannot be fired from the beginning of a pregnancy to at least six months following the end of the maternity leave.
  • After maternity leave, women must be entitled to return to their jobs or to "equivalent posts", i.e. a position with the same pay, professional category and duties as before.

Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, a French MEP from the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the largest in Parliament, welcomed the "good intention" behind the Estrela report.

But the vice-president of the Parliament's women rights committee also stressed that rather than longer maternity leave, she said additional measures should be adopted to reconcile work and family life, including more daycare facilities and greater flexibility of working hours. source

My comment: I support this report entirely. All of the measures. Because let's get real - the maternity time is very difficult period for every working woman (or even for the not working ). And being pregnant and delivering a baby are not exactly a day on the beach neither. Women are put in great disadvantage because of those reasons and if we want our society to stop aging and to get younger we have to support those measures. I mean, I am a young woman, I have to start thinking about this sooner or later, how I am supposed to do it, if I know how hard will be after the happy day arrives? You have to be able to get the leave, to be well paid and to be able to rely on your partner's support. I mean, why a father shouldn't have a complete paternity leave (minus the time that is for recovering from the pregnancy, of course)? Both partners should be able to decide who to take care of the babe and who to work. If the mother wants to get back to work, the father should be able to stay home and get paid for that. Everything else is discrimination! I so hope the EP will think about this seriously. Because Europe is getting so old. Nobody wants to have a baby, because it's so damn difficult. We have to change that.

More:

EU mulls extending 'Erasmus for Entrepreneurs' - good news but why only 24 countries are covered? Isn't this discrimination toward the new members?

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