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Friday, July 12, 2013

Europe for its citizens, 2013

First, and foremost, I'd like to direct you to my post on the Edward Snowden case, which I find critical not only for the EU-US relations, but also for the relations of the European citizens with their authorities. Because the revelations of Snowden included a great deal of spying of EU authorities on its own citizens. So, if you are interested, please find the post here.
Now, I will post just a few links which I find to be among the imporant ones this year. So, enjoy:

EU moves again on financial disclosure of extractive industries

Amid a crackdown on tax avoidance, the European Union has backed new rules requiring the extractive industries to disclose payments made to governments on a country-by-country basis.
Ministers backed the rules in Brussels this week following opposition from EU countries with strong interests in the oil and gas sector, such as the United Kingdom, EurActiv can reveal. The Netherlands was also blocking the deal before a sudden U-turn in which it expressed full support.
The revision of the Transparency Directive will require European extractive and logging companies to present a more detailed picture of the payments they make to governments on an individual country basis rather than a global total. source 
Why is this important: Extracting companies usually need to obtain an environmental risk assesment before starting extracion. In many smaller or poorer countries, such as Bulgaria, this assessment can lead to corruption. Hopefully, this EU ruling will decrease corruption and will lead to the better protection of the environment. Hopefully.

Regulators pave way for new wave of biosimilar drugs in Europe


European regulators have cleared the way for the first serious threat to the makers of multibillion-euro biotechnology drugs to treat diseases such as cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on Friday (28 June) that its experts had backed approval of two copycat versions of Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co's blockbuster rheumatoid arthritis drug Remicade – the first time a green light has been given for such antibody-based medicines.
Until now, complex biotechnology medicines such as Remicade – given by injection or infusion – have been largely immune from generic competition, unlike conventional pills.
But the EMA's announcement on so-called biosimilars Remsima and Inflectra – made by South Korea's Celltrion and US company Hospira respectively – signals the changing landscape as regulators set out a clearer path for the evidence needed to secure approval of such products. source 
Why is this important? Hopefully, it will decrease the prices of expensive bioactive medicines. Which is good for the patients and good for the tax-payers paying for this treatments.

Diplomat: Germany ‘dictated’ delay to CO2 in cars deal

German diktats to the Irish EU presidency are responsible for freezing a hard-fought deal to cap emissions from Europe’s cars by 2020, which was set to be rubber-stamped at the European summit, diplomatic sources say.
Earlier this week, the proposal to limit passenger car emissions to 95 grams of CO2 per km (g/km) was hailed by the Irish environment minister Phil Hogan as “a win-win for climate, consumers, innovation and jobs.”
But in scenes that campaigners called “unprecedented”, the vote was delayed indefinitely yesterday (27 June), and must now be addressed by Lithuania, which takes on the six-month rotating EU Council Presidency on 1 July.
The source confirmed press reports that Chancellor Merkel called Ireland’s Taoiseach Enda Kenny over the issue the night before the summit of EU leaders, which opened in Brussels yesterday (27 June). source
Why is this important? Well, this is not a good news, but it is an unprecedented honesty from the EC (or anger?). Whatever the reason, let's hope it leads to the ultimate approval of the measures. In the end, the luxorious German car, in this crisis form a very small segment of the market and the new legislation have forced them to research some very nice energy-efficiency technologies, proving how positive it is to challenge them with stricter limitations.

EU official: shale gas el dorado out of Europe's reach

A senior European Commission official has poured cold water on claims that a shale gas boom in Europe would result in de-facto low gas prices.
Speaking the day before the European Commission unveiled the preliminary results of a public consultation on the issue, Robin Miege, director of strategy at the European Commission’s DG Environment, said that while shale gas was a "game-changer" in the United States, bringing energy prices to their lowest level in a decade, conditions in Europe were rather different and would not necessarily be replicated. source
Why is this important? Because somebody finally dared to tell the truth. Europe and the USA are not the SAME! We have different geography and different demography. The hopes for a dream-solution to the energy problem here, is just that - a hope. And a very well-financially backed one, mind you. So let's hope realism soon will take over.

Errant GM wheat strain reopens debate about safety of biotech crops

Groups campaigning to ban genetically modified foods in Europe have jumped on the recent discovery of unauthorised GM strain of wheat on an American farm as vindication of their longstanding campaign to banish biotech crops from the EU.
The European Commission will test US wheat imports for a strain of herbicide-resistant wheat developed by Monsanto, a global leader in agricultural biotechnology, but never approved by food regulators in the United States.
Any contaminated wheat would be banned, the Commission said.
Health and environmental campaign groups seized the discovery of the glyphosate-resistant strain to call for European-wide restrictions and to reverse policies that give national governments leeway over approving the sale and cultivation of GM crops. source
Why is this important? Because this is one of the very few such incidents which is known to the general public and the resulting outrage was absolutely justified. In result, many big biotech corporations stated they are giving up on the European market, which fantastic. I remember I read in the news that Monsanto is also among them, but in this particular artcle it says otherwise, so who knows. In any case, a good news. And certainly I get a good feeling when I see Bulgaria in the list of countries having banned the GMOs completely.

Commission backs EFSA's definition of endocrine-disrupting chemicals

In a letter to the anti-pesticides activist group PAN Europe, EU Health Commissioner Tonio Borg backs the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) definition of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, saying it is in accordance with the international scientific consensus.
Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals occur naturally, while synthetic varieties can be found in pesticides, electronics, personal care products and cosmetics. Some can also be found as additives or as unintended contaminants in food.
The Pesticides Action Network campaign group had accused EFSA of creating loopholes for the pesticides industry to escape banning of chemical substances they use.
In an opinion published this spring, EFSA underlined that not all endocrine-active substances have an adverse effect on the hormone system and that a distinction needed to be made between those that do and those that do not. The Parma-based agency defined "endocrine-active" substances as essentially harmless while "endocrine disruptors" are considered as causing potentially adverse health effects. source 
Why is this important? Ok, this is not a good news at all, since I'm sure nobody want an endocrine-active substances in his/her body, but what is positive is that at least, the EC is finding its way to a working legislation on the issue. It can and should be tightened, but this is at least a first step. Let's hope the next will be made with more care for the consumers than for the industry. Because after all, the increase of cancers and diabetes and other possibly endocrine-related diseases costs billions to the EU governments. Why spend them on this, if you can make the industry to spend them and change its products to something safer? Sure enough, it will cost a lot to the industry, but I think the economy should benefit more from healthy and full of energy people, than from sick clients to the hospitals. I guess it all depends on which industry you would like to develop, but I believe it is an obligation of the governments to protect their citizens life and health above all.
And a little side note - I think (and I really really think this), it is a high time for EFSA to figure out who's paying their salaries and therefore who it is supposed to serve. Because this is European citizens. Their job is extremely responsible and should be considered such. True, they should stick to science, but these days, science has become very much like law - many people, many opinions, consequently many ways to justify whatever you have already decided to do. But the ultimate goal is one - the protection of the well-being of the Europeans.

 

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