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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What's wrong in the EU, 03, 2010

Today: (sorry for the delays in my posts, but you know that I love this blog!)

  1. Barnier to fight for consumers and SMEs 
  2. EU weighs proposals to break GMO deadlock
  3. Kuneva turns down EU job, eyes Bulgarian poll
  4. Barroso sparks row over EU overseas appointments

Quote of the day:"Barroso sends his people all over the place, Ashton hires traitors, what's wrong with the EU?! Are we going to be a totalitarian Union? Because it looks this way! The last couple of moves of Barroso are simply scary, he's acting like he's the kind of the EU and he's going to decide everything alone! What is wrong with him?" 

Barnier to fight for consumers and SMEs

Thu, 2010-01-14 08:55

In the wake of the financial crisis, French commissioner-designate for the Internal Market Michel Barnier seemed comfortable in the firing line at a hearing in the European Parliament yesterday (13 January). The Frenchman focused on consumer rights and SMEs.

Yesterday's hearing deviated from the raft of financial regulation that has been coming out of the European Commission. Instead, MEPs were more interested in consumer rights, e-commerce and the social and environmental dimensions of the internal market.

Mirroring MEPs' questions, the commissioner-designate appeared to steer clear of macroeconomic policy and focused his answers on citizens and microeconomics, in particular on copyright and SMEs. 

Barnier put special weight behind developing a strict copyright law to protect both consumers and rights holders.

"There are estimates that the EU has lost 2.5 million jobs to counterfeiting and I will not compromise on the protection of copyright and protecting rights holders," Barnier emphasised.

The Frenchman also told MEPs he wanted to conclude negotiations on patent litigation and eradicate counterfeiting of patents.

In addition to negotiating with the World Trade Organisation, Barnier said he will be engaging in talks with the US on an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement "to combine our efforts against counterfeiting and piracy".

There were no sweeping statements made on regulating financial services. Instead, the commissioner-designate focused on small and medium-sized enterprises.

He promised to bring down SME expenditure as a result of the EU's administrative burden by seven billion euros. His predecessor, former Irish Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy, had only managed a one-billion euro reduction, he added.

He also said he would clean up current rules on public procurement, as requested by MEPs, "to facilitate access to public procurement markets, especially for SMEs".

To all appearances, the French commissioner-designate managed to assuage concerns voiced by some MEPs that "he will constantly be on the phone to the Elysee," the French seat of government.  source

My comment: I have very similar concerns that Barnier will be very careful not to disappoint France, although he's job is not to disappoint the citizens of Europe! And as you can see, he stated from the very beginning that he'll be working for digital rights and fighting counterfeiting. Which I find very creepy considering the laws in France on digital piracy. I think I have already stated how much I disagree with this law, but it won't hurt to repeat. Internet access is fundamental right and should be regarded as such. Just like nobody have the right to cut the water to your house (or at least in Bulgaria they don't), the access to internet should be the same. And all those nonsense for the losses of media companies, that's an absolute lie! I don't understand why they continue to claim that every song you download is stealing money from them, when we all very well know that we would never buy all those shitty songs. I think people would buy ~1% of everything they download. It would be much better for those companies to try to earn that 1% by better publicities or marketing than by taking away our rights to access the global net. And note how authorities prefer not to discuss counterfeiting coming from China. How convenient...

EU weighs proposals to break GMO deadlock

Fri, 2010-02-05 10:06

Plans to let national governments decide whether to allow genetically modified (GM) crop cultivation on their land could unblock a paralysis in EU GMO approvals, but risk igniting internal market disputes.

Proposals from the Dutch and Austrian governments, under consideration by the executive European Commission, have won the backing of several countries and interested parties, and will be at the top of the new Commission's agenda.

If the plan succeeds, the proposal could see speedier authorisation of GM crop varieties, giving more choice to farmers who are increasingly dependent on them for cost benefits, especially in the animal feed sector.

But some see the plans as fraught with risks and incompatible with the bloc's internal market laws, which guarantee the free movement of goods. They could also engender competitive war between farmers in different countries and contravene international trade laws.

"It would be potentially setting a bad precedent for the politics of the internal market," said Garlich von Essen of the European Seed Association, an organisation of seed industry groups in the EU.

"Suddenly you would have products which are considered safe for use in all of the European Union, and at the same time, banned in some parts [...] without any protocol other than political considerations," he said.

Though practical details of the proposals are still to be worked out, any plan may entail changes to the EU's legislative framework, a protracted process which would require that a decision be made jointly with the European Parliament.  

Authorising GMOs for consumption, processing or cultivation in Europe is a politically charged subject with many openly hostile to what they call 'Frankenstein foods'. Nations have consistently clashed over GMO policy without reaching consensus.

The Netherlands, which has a more liberal attitude towards GMOs, hopes to ease the political pressure in the approval procedure and give governments more policy options.

Britain, which believes the EU approval process is too slow, has welcomed the Dutch initiative and sees some risks and benefits in it. Austria, a long-standing opponent to GMOs, endorsed the plan so as to be able to opt out and stay GMO-free.

Since 1998, only two crops have been cleared for cultivation in the EU. Just one of those, Monsanto's Mon 810, is actually being cultivated, on roughly 108,000 hectares of land. That compares with about 30 GM crops grown in over 102 million hectares worldwide, industry figures show.

Over the last nine years, the EU has on average imported an equivalent of 32 million tonnes of soybeans annually, most of it from GM plants.

"We import 70-80% of our total protein supply. We are unhappy with the situation because EU farmers cannot continue to ignore market realities," said Pekka Pesonen, secretary-general of the EU farmers union Copa-Cogeca, welcoming the proposals. source

My comment: As odd as it seems, I also agree with this proposal. This way, every country could say a clear and loud "NO" to GMO and the problem will be solved. I have to admit, I was on my first anti GMO protest last week, it was quite boring, but still, we had moderate success - Bulgaria banned almost all GMO production with a law. I'm not saying it was because of us, the protesters, but I think it was important to make politicians aware of the public opinion on the issue. And in Bulgaria, the public opinion is very very against GMOs.

And to be consistent with the article, I don't think we have to import GMO, quite on the contrary, I think we have to seriously reconsider our food chain. Because I'm not so worried by the few crops they modify, I'm more concerned by the GM food they give to animals, because this is where it gets so ugly. We eat so many chemicals, the plants are modified or heavily fertilized, the meat is a product of GMO food and antibiotics and hormones, if you think about it, what food is clean anymore? I'm not anti-technology, I'm against the lack of choice! Because right now, we hardly have any choice. There is no strict labeling, no strict control and most importantly - very little real choice. And that's obviously wrong and we have to fight it. As for farmers, it's interesting why we don't see so many protest by farmers. Isn't it strange that only politicians worry about GMOs stopping farmers from getting filthy rich? I must admit I'm very mad on Barroso for allowing those two types of GMO in the EU, but I utterly hope that most countries will simply ban them. It is what they deserve anyway. The EU cannot force us to accept GMO when we don't want it. Vox populi, vox dei.

Kuneva turns down EU job, eyes Bulgarian poll


24 February 2010

Former Bulgarian EU Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has turned down an offer of a high-profile job in the European Commission. The leader of Bulgarian liberal party NDSV, to which Kuneva belongs, said on Sunday (21 February) that she "could run" for the Bulgarian presidency instead, writes Dnevnik, EurActiv's partner publication in Bulgaria.

Meglena Kuneva, formerly EU commissioner responsible for consumer protection, declined an offer from European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to lead the Bureau of European Policy Advisers (BEPA), the EU executive's in-house think-tank.

On her Facebook account, Kuneva writes that she wanted to have "the freedom and the energy" to dedicate herself to building "a better Bulgaria [and] a better Europe".

"I was deeply moved by the proposal by [Commission] President Barroso, made some months ago, to continue work at the Commission in a high-level position […] In spite of this, I see my role as continuing to work as a politician," Kuneva wrote.

Kuneva was one of Barroso's favourite members of his first team. He is said to have put a lot of effort into trying to keep her after her re-appointment was compromised by Boyko Borissov's victory in elections to the Bulgarian parliament (see 'Background').

Sources close to Kuneva told EurActiv that she could not take the job at BEPA because doing so would have caused conflict between the Commission president and Bulgarian Prime Minister Borissov. The latter reportedly sees Kuneva as the mastermind behind "a plot" to torpedo the appointment of Rumiana Jeleva as Bulgarian commissioner.

However, the 'plot' theory seems to overlook the fact that Jeleva flopped at her confirmation hearing in the European Parliament (EurActiv 13/01/10), which was seen as the main reason for her withdrawal a week later (EurActiv 20/01/10).

Apparently this was not how Borissov saw the situation.

"Borissov sees Kuneva as the enemy and if Barroso keeps her in his inner circle, he will end up having a prime minister of a member country as an enemy too. Barroso cannot afford that," a high-ranking Bulgarian representative told EurActiv.

The source added that in the current Bulgarian administration, anyone seen as being close to Kuneva fears a backlash from the vindictive prime minister.

Asked to comment on Kuneva's political future, Hristina Hristova, leader of the liberal NDSV party (see 'Background'), said the former commissioner could possibly represent the party in the next presidential elections, due in autumn 2011. NDSV's founder, Simeon Saxe-Coburg Gotha, has indicated that he will not run for president himself, Hristova added.

Kuneva was quoted by Bulgarian national television as saying that the presidential elections were not on her agenda for now. source

My comment: I can hardly express my sorrow that Meglena Kuneva won't work for Europe any more. I think it was the wrong decision. Of course, it's her choice in the end, it's her life and she decides, but she did so great work in the EC, I don't know what in Bulgaria could compare to this. Maybe I'm wrong, but I doubt it. And I think the reason why she decided not to be a part of Barroso's team (if it's what she say it is) is wrong. After all who cares what someone's on Barroso's team think of Boyko Borissov - BB is a prime-minister, it's an elected position! You can't compare the two posts. It won't be easier for mr. Borissov if Barroso hates him, than if ms. Kuneva working for mr. Barroso hates him. Anyway, what's done is done, but I can only hope that Meglena Kuneva will find her place in this world and that this place will reflect her professionalism and  commitment. She deserves it. And as for Boyko Borissov - I wonder when he'll realise that quality people are not so easy to find, so when you find one, you have to keep him/her as long as possible. Wasting talent the way he does is obviously stupid. After all, good people will work for the one who lets them do good deed. The rest are just details.

Barroso sparks row over EU overseas appointments

26 February 2010
The discrete appointment of José Manuel Barroso's former chief of cabinet as EU Ambassador to Washington sparked protests and controversy over the way the future European External Action Service will be built.

Speaking to journalists, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt described the appointment of João Vale de Almeida, the Commission president's former head of cabinet, as a "downgrade" for the EU in Washington.

"The question is why this downgrade has taken place," he said, adding: "I want to know the Commission's motives […] I'm not sure they're in line with the Lisbon Treaty."

Swedish sources described the appointment as a "golden opportunity" to solidify José Manuel Barroso's own power within the new EU hierarchy. Installing someone from his own inner circle as the EU's man in Washington could make Barroso Brussels' primary interlocutor with the USA and help sideline Ashton, pundits pointed out.

The move triggered a wider discussion about the recruitment policy for the new European External Action Service (EEAS). A number of member states, especially those of the 2004 and 2007 enlargements, are underrepresented in the EU institutions, particularly in foreign representations.

De Almeida's appointment might in fact backfire against the Commission's secretive preparations to establish the EEAS. De Almeida currently heads the steering committee in charge of putting together Ashton's proposals for the new service. The committee also includes Catherine Day (secretary-general of the Commission), Pierre de Boissieau (secretary-general of the Council) and Robert Cooper (director-general at the Council Secretariat for External Economic Relations and Politico-Military Affairs).

The 53-year-old Portuguese would still have a window of opportunity as head of the Commission's external relations department to make his mark on the draft proposals before moving to Washington.

Stanley Crossick, founding director of the European Policy Centre, a Brussels think-tank, says "the appointment of a Portuguese official, formerly Barroso's chef de cabinet, smacks of patronage and inappropriate influence".

"This appointment is a continuation of the Commission's unfortunate appointment policy. It could well discourage well-qualified national civil servants from applying to join the EEAS, which must be a meritocracy," Crossick wrote on his blog.  

In the meantime, a former Lithuanian foreign minister forced to resign this year after denying his country hosted a secret CIA prison was named the EU special representative in Afghanistan.

Vygaudas Usackas, 46, who has served as ambassador to Britain and United States, won approval of EU foreign ministers after his candidacy was proposed by the bloc's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton.

"I am 100 percent satisfied with this appointment ... and there is nothing I need to be in any way worried about," Ashton told a news briefing after a meeting with foreign ministers, quoted by Reuters.

An high-ranking diplomat from a large founding member of the EU recently told EurActiv that recruitment for the future EEAS would take place largely from among existing staff of the Council and Commission services.

This diplomat also expressed the view that with the Lisbon Treaty, the rotating EU presidencies would lose ground to the advantage of the High Representative and large EU countries, which traditionally play an important role in foreign affairs.

However, this is not the way the EU new members would like the EEAS to be built, as they are striving to appoint people from their national diplomatic services.

In the absence of a clear recruitment procedure, candidates wishing to join the service are getting nervous, EurActiv has learned. Civil servants from within the EU institutions say it would be unjust if newcomers from the member states were to be "parachuted in" and therefore avoid the difficult recruitment procedures that all EU officials normally have to endure. source

My comment: Wait, did I get it correctly? Someone who denied having secret CIA prisons in his country (which imply he knew and didn't do anything to stop that) got recruited to be the EU special representative in Afghanistan?!!!! That smell so bad, I could throw up! I mean seriously, that person is compromised, that country is compromised and ms. Ashton considers this ok. Barroso sends his people all over the place, Ashton hires traitors, what's wrong with the EU?! Are we going to be a totalitarian Union? Because it looks this way! The last couple of moves of Barroso are simply scary, he's acting like he's the kind of the EU and he's going to decide everything alone! What is wrong with him? I think however designed that economical crisis, did a very good job (unfortunately). Because the EU was so strong before and now, it looks like all the countries are so confused and scared for their own economies, they let Barroso do almost anything. And I used to like him. 

More:


British Eurosceptic insults EU president in Parliament - "A British Eurosceptic MEP branded the new president of the European Council a "damp rag" from a "non-country" on 24 February. The personal attack shocked the normally consensual European Parliament." - That's so funny. Seriously. I don't like van Rompuy at all, but I think such behavior inside the EP is very shameful. There are other way to say the same thing without being so explicit.
EU moves to address funding fraud, corruption - "Brussels yesterday (1 March) launched a new website making it possible for citizens and European Union officials alike to anonymously report suspicious use of EU funding to the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF)." - This reminds me of other times when everyone was encouraged to report infractions by other people. It's not the same, but it's pretty close. I think that it's more important people to be encouraged to report, but they shouldn't be anonymous. Otherwise nobody will be responsible for the false reports. Unless they don't intend to make statistical decisions on true reports.

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