Thursday 30 October 2014

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Gender Equality: the smart way to growth

Posted by on 29/10/14
Guest commentary by Vaso Kollia, Secretary General for Gender Equality at the Greek Ministry of Interiors. Is gender equality only about justice, or is the question at hand relevant to much needed economic development as well? That is one more question for the Junker Commission to address. After all, the incoming Commission is not another Commission, [...]

George Soros: ‘Europe’s way of life is in danger’

Posted by on 28/10/14
By Joop Hazenberg The politically active billionaire George Soros and his organisation, Open Society Foundations, has been active in Ukraine for decades. Now, Soros is deeply worried that all this work has been for nothing.

How to save Cameron from himself

Posted by on 28/10/14

There are some who are tempted to let David Cameron enjoy the consequences of his latest tantrum at the European Council. But for the sake of the long-term relationship of Britain and Europe it is probably worth rescuing him. Here are the elements of the deal.

The European Commission apologises for the clumsy way in which news of the latest technical budgetary adjustments was handled last week: its excuse is the handover from Barroso II to Juncker I. The Commission also agrees to write into its rules of procedure a mechanism for raising to the political level of the college the handling of future budgetary adjustments that are unexpected or substantial.

The UK’s Office of National Statistics comes up with some marginally adjusted numbers. The Ecofin meeting on Friday 31st verifies the Commission’s figures and tweaks them if appropriate for any member state (on a proposal of the Commission).

The British government asks to pay the agreed total sum in three tranches before July. The interest charges in case of non-payment – 2% in December rising by 0.5% every month – are deferred. This is accepted.

The Sixth Draft Amending Budget including all the adjustments, the reduction in overall expenditure and the rise of the UK rebate, is then passed before 15 November by the Council and Parliament.

The European Council in December agrees a statement committing the member states, at the next revision of the financial system, to reduce the proportion of own resources paid by direct GNI contributions from national treasuries. The Monti high-level task force on the mid-term review of the MFF is directed to reach a commensurately high level of ambition.

It is worth recalling that if the 6th DAB is not agreed the UK will have to pay €3.6bn and not €2.1bn. Even the House of Commons should be able to understand that.

Short memory of Prime Minister Orban

Posted by on 28/10/14

History teaches us to remember its lessons and draw relevant conclusions. Someone who doesn’t do it will be punished sooner or later.
Unfortunately, this truth hasn’t been comprehended by Hungarian governmental authorities who have come into power as the fates decree. Prime Minister of Hungary Victor Orban is a good example of this opinion. A great number of reforms, that was promised by him before his election chief of government was not carried out neither in 2010 nor in 2013 after reelection. Moreover, he has started crackdown on human rights and freedoms in the country and coming back to totalitarian ideas.
Nowadays, Hungary is a small country with communist past, which joined the European Union and has been trying to approach political, economical and social standards of leading Western nations. The experts have started, however, to find impartial similarities, comparing his policy with policy of Russian president. As example there is adoption of “Media act”. This act tightens up Media control in the country and permits the state structures to fine Mass Media for “non-balanced” or “amoral” publications. It’s known that this act caused mass protests in Hungary.
It should be noticed that so warm relations between Hungary-Russia caused by Russian credits. These credits make Hungarian government much more compliant. So, Orban’s government has blocked the EU sanctions against Russia.
Besides, in June of current year Hungarian parliament adopted disputable 10 billion euro credit contract for building and financing of 2 nuclear reactors by Russian concern “Rossatom”. In spite of the EU insisted to carry on tender. Implementation of this contract can significantly strengthen economic and political dependence on Russia. Also, building of nuclear reactors needs further utilization of nuclear waste. In result the cooperation with “Rossatom” will lead to, that Russia will be able to tie fuel supply with its political demands. Nevertheless, Hungarians gave its peremptory preference to Russians. Thus, Hungary neglected Brussels’ commentary, signed contract with “Rossatom” and intensified energetic dependence on Russia.
Victor Orban openly criticized implementation of next package of sanctions against Russia after the EU Council Meeting on the August, 30-31. He stated that sanctions against Russia are self-deception and it will be inefficient action.
In connection with such declaration we should remind Vicror Orban about event had happened 60 years ago. Then Hungarian government’s attempts of implementation of harmless reforms caused in instant reaction of Kremlin. In October 1956, soviet troops bloodily suppressed aspiration for liberty and independence of Hungarian people. Despite of Hungarian people resistance Soviet Union imposed its values on Hungary for many years.
Mr. Orban shouldn’t forget lessons of history and price that nation paid. Don’t forget about drag of country development but only if Hungary was not under the yoke of Soviet Union it could be one of the most advanced European states. It’s a good example of dangerous friendship with Russia because this friendship isn’t on an equal footing. That’s why when the scale is trembling between personal sympathy of some politicians and fate of the country, high rank officials must make a right choice.

Technological breakthroughs against climate change brighten the horizon

Posted by on 28/10/14

Humanity will be unable to combat climate change without profound transformations in the way it generates energy.

Two such transformations have been recently announced, one in Singapore, the other in USA.

In Singapore, a team of scientists of the Nanyang Technological University have developed a new type of ultra-fast recharging batteries which are claimed to charge a car battery up to 70% of capacity within five minutes. This breakthrough will revolutionise e-mobility in terms of range and costs and make electric cars superior to the most efficient diesel vehicles.

European manufacturers should therefore urgently reassess the situation and adapt their proven, but old-fashioned engine technology at the risk of losing out to US and Chinese competitors.

The new batteries will provide us with truly clean motor vehicles and give a powerful boost to solar and wind energy, because millions of cars may form big energy storage systems helping to overcome the inherent intermittences of renewable energies.

Separately, the US defence company Lockheed has announced a breakthrough in fusion energy. Within a year it will build a test reactor to be followed five years later by a prototype of a 100 MW reactor of tiny dimensions (2×3 meter!).

Assuming the problems linked to nuclear fission, in particular safety and waste storage, to be solved this might usher in an era of non-fossil electricity generation based on wind, solar, biomass and nuclear fusion.

The demand for oil and gas will also fall dramatically as the global car, shipping and possibly even aircraft industry will phase out the internal combustion engine, say by 2050, reinforcing the decline of C02 emissions.

Add to these two technological breakthroughs the introduction of a magnetic super high-speed train by the Japanese railways until 2045.

Running at a speed of up to 500 km/h the train will largely replace domestic air transport, also a significant source of C02 emissions. The Japanese industry will no doubt export the new train to other parts of the earth, from North America, to Brazil, Argentina, Russia and Europe, with the consequence that there too it is likely to replace domestic air traffic on distances of less than 1500 km.

The news from Singapore, USA and Japan unfortunately show that Europe has lost its momentum in coming up with courageous technical and political solutions both to tackle climate change!

We are closer than ever to technical solutions allowing for a largely emission-free future. By establishing strict emission targets heads of government will help accelerate the technological breakthroughs that are arising on the horizon.

In conclusion, one year ahead of the World Climate Conference in Paris, there is reason for guarded optimism, provided policy makers will show the courage to fix ambitious long-term targets and avoid getting again lost in minutiae.

Brussels 20.10 2014 Eberhard Rhein

Cameron’s ‘EU budget’ mess: the UK political tectonic plates are on the move

Posted by on 28/10/14
by Graham Bishop, financial policy expert, founder of www.grahambishop.com and member of the European Movement’s National Council. /// Ever since it emerged that the the UK’s contribution to the EU has to increase the issue has assumed a life of its own. The initial “why are we being punished for our success” spin is giving [...]

EU & US industries step where regulators so far dare not!

Posted by on 28/10/14
[See the Video Position]

The transatlantic trade and investment relationship continues to account for the largest economic relationship in the world, and the EU and the US economies account together for about half of the entire world GDP and for nearly a third of world trade flows.

Orgalime and NEMA believe there is a great potential to strengthen further EU-US trade and investment relations to support mutually beneficial job creation, economic growth, and international competitiveness on both sides of the Atlantic. Therefore, we stand ready to assist negotiators in finding ways to increase trade and investment between the two regions.

Tackling regulatory divergences between the EU and the US will equally benefit businesses of all sizes and increase transatlantic trade flows. Currently the lack of regulatory convergence forces companies to invest time and resources in duplicative procedures in order to demonstrate compliance.

The future EU-US agreement should therefore develop processes and mechanisms to achieve regulatory coherence, both at the EU-US and at a global level. The Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is an opportunity to adopt transparent procedures that would ensure coherence and streamlining of requirements in both existing and future legislation.

In this context, we emphasise that when ISO and IEC include products serving the markets in the EU and US, and neither unfairly favors or disadvantages either, they should remain the preferred standardisation platforms to ensure compatible standards not only between the EU and US, but also with third countries. We believe that the systematic use of or, at least, alignment with international standards from ISO and IEC would provide an excellent path for the reduction of technical barriers to trade between the EU and US.

The overall goal of businesses on both sides of the Atlantic is to achieve global market access on the basis of ‘one standard, one test, accepted everywhere’. As the ultimate goal, this would mean having fully transposed international standards, without regional or national deviations, that are applied globally.

What’s Osborne’s plan in the face of increased borrowing?

Posted by on 28/10/14

Whitehouse Consultancy Head of PR Chris Rogers claims increased borrowing will make George Osborne’s austerity message a harder sell.

To read Chris’ article, please click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies.

Access to Documents – Another Thrilling Episode

Posted by on 27/10/14
By Jim I requested access to documents on the dealings between DG Enterprise and pharmaceutical industry associations. I was not told that they could disclose the documents in part by removing any bit that meets any of the exceptions for disclosure such as the protection of privacy. This is a route I have taken in the appeal.

Plus ça change …

Posted by on 27/10/14
An organisation which cannot remember cannot learn; an organisation which cannot learn cannot improve. Sometime during the EuropCom conference, I found myself listening to someone explaining how the Commission is reorganising the EUROPA site along thematic lines. “But the thematic portal architecture was adopted in 2001,” I said. He hadn’t heard – he’d only been [...]

Supply Chain Shame

Posted by on 27/10/14
Supply chains are hardly the source of innovation and product development. As the soft spot of industry competition and dirty tactics, the lack of cooperation and coordination along the supply chain signify industry weakness and opportunity for others. It will only worsen.

Branding federations in EU Affairs

Posted by on 24/10/14
Due to the complexity of the EU institutions and its mechanisms, visibility and branding are a priority for European Federations, especially if they have an operational office in Brussels. I already touched upon EU federations more generally in earlier posts, but in this post I will go more in-depth regarding branding. EU federations need more [...]

Why is the UK being asked to pay in more to the EU budget and what can it do about it?

Posted by on 24/10/14
By Open Europe There are a number of headlines today around the EU’s request for a further €2.1bn from the UK in terms of its contribution to the EU’s budget. We breakdown exactly how and why this has happened and what options the UK has now.

Klima

Posted by on 24/10/14

An einem Klimagipfel teilnehmen zu müssen erinnert an Zähneputzen: Es ist wichtig, aber lästig.Lange schritt Angela Merkel beim Klimaschutz voran. Teils so forsch, dass sie sich den Titel Klimakanzlerin einfing. Jetzt ist das Geschrei groß: Statt bis 2030 EU-weit 30 Prozent Energie zu sparen, stehen nur noch 27 Prozent auf dem Papier. Merkel verrate ihren Titel, monieren Kritiker. Und tatsächlich verlässt Deutschland seine Vorreiterrolle als oberster Klimaschützer. Dies aber ist kein Einknicken gegenüber Kritikern wie Großbritannien oder Polen, sondern Strategie: Den Weltklimagipfel 2015 in Paris im Blick, weiß Merkel, wie wichtig die Einigung auf EU-Ebene ist. Nur wenn sich die 28 Staaten trotz unterschiedlicher Ansprüche verständigen, kann dies Beispiel geben für Paris.

It’s Not All Bad News

Posted by on 24/10/14

In telling the Parliament on Wednesday that the units on medicines and pharmaceutical products will stay with DG Sanco Mr Juncker added “..I agree with you that medicines are not goods like any other”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

This is good news and thanks to those who worked to achieve it, especially the European Parliament.

The new “DG Enterprise” will play an important role in internal discussions in the Commission on policies on food safety, medicines and medical devices because of its responsibility for industrial policy in these areas. There is nothing inherently wrong in this. I have spent a lot of time opposing the views of DG Enterprise on specific points but at national and EU level it is right  to take industrial policy (and the views of industry) into account in overall policy making. What is important is to achieve the right balance, and that would have been impossible if the same DG had been responsible for medicines and for promoting the pharmaceutical industry. In my opinion, that balance was skewed in the past when the two responsibilities were combined – I’m talking about you, Mr Bangemann.

In speaking to the Parliament Mr Juncker went on to say “ The relevant policy will be developed jointly by Vytenis Andriukaitis and by Elżbieta Bieńkowska, who showed her incredible talents in her hearing”. The word “jointly’ may mean, as I hope it does, simply a continuation of the a long standing agreement for close coordination on medicines (and food) policy between the two DGs.

There will, however, be a “gatekeeper’ in the new Commission in the form of the First Vice-President, Mr Timmermans, with responsibility for Better Regulation. There is also a strong political tide in favour of a less “interventionist” Commission. The merits of that can be debated but whatever happens it is still better that medicines and medical devices stay within the Health DG.

By the way, some members of DG Enterprise felt that my blogs were accusing them of favouring the industry over patient safety, but I meant nothing of the sort. Faced with a choice between the safety of a medicine and the demands of a pharmaceutical company I am sure they would all opt for safety. My concern was for achieving the right balance in the overall policy on medicines and health. There are important decisions to be made on such issues as transparency, relations between industry and health care providers, the evidence base for clinical decisions, and TTIP, to name just a few. It is too much to expect that the right balance can be achieved on such issues by giving one DG responsibility for medicines and for promoting the pharmaceutical industry.

The Commission will do better with a strong and well resourced internal voice for health.  With the units on medicines and medical devices working alongside its other health units, DG Sanco can be that voice, and I hope it will.END

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