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

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Patents fight gets finaly hotter, 2010

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

    Parliament backs 20-week maternity leave

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

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

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

    Spanish Presidency seals EEAS deal


    22 June 2010 - 07 July 2010

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

    ACTA to bypass unfinished EU copyright row

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

    Parliament backs 'Made In' labels, riles retailing industry

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

    Italy and Spain block EU-wide patent talks

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

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