Thursday 2 October 2014

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Aviation industry makes commitment on climate action

Posted by on 28/09/14

In support of the United Nations Climate Summit and in keeping with its longstanding goals of sustainable growth, the aviation industry joined other business and government groups in making a commitment on climate action. The commitment is between the UN agency ICAO, the International Civil Aviation Organization, and the Air Transport Action Group, which represents the aviation sector.

Through this commitment, aviation is pledging to “a pathway of sustainable growth encompassing all areas of the commercial industry and governments working in partnership.” It is building on a record of action, as an industry and with ICAO — for example, the historic agreement at the 2013 ICAO Assembly on creating a global, market-based mechanism to limit carbon emissions.

The partnership will also focus on developing sustainable aviation biofuels, deploying new and energy-efficient technology, modernising air traffic control to minimize climate impacts, developing a common carbon emissions standard for new aircraft, and building aviation sustainability capacity in ICAO member states around the world.

The commitment includes Airports Council International, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organisation, the International Air Transport Association, the International Coordinating Council for Aerospace Industries Associations, and the International Business Aviation Council — representing all the stakeholders in the aviation industry, including airports, airlines, air traffic control, and aerospace firms.

“Today’s announcement builds on the collaborative action taking place across the commercial aviation sector. It is impressive to see all parts of the industry working with each other, and with partners in research, government and other sectors to deliver the climate actions we have committed to as an industry,” says ATAG Executive Director Michael GIll. “Aviation is a force for good in the world, supporting economies, fostering tourism and allowing global cultural exchange. We believe that we can continue to deliver these benefits to the world whilst also addressing our climate impacts.”

Scotland, the rise of nationalism and European decline

Posted by on 28/09/14

Freedom of choice is one of democracy‘s greatest gifts. When free people give their assent to Community structures, it is because they trust them. Trust grows as a product of positive moral and ethical experience of the Community Model, its Method and the leadership within it. Yet politicians are tempted to return to their old, dishonest techniques. Many still think that they can only defend their positions by manipulation of history, dishonest discourse and corrupt practice. Take the example of the present crisis of Europe caused by nationalist fervour across Europe’s ancient States. It is now straining the constitutions of the United Kingdom and Spain with bust-up.

An unprecedented number of Scots and other residents of Scotland turned out for the referendum vote on Scottish independence on 18 September 2014. The 85 percent turn-out was the nation’s highest since 1951. What was the cause of this high passion and consummate interest in the unity of the United Kingdom? After all, Scotland has been tied to England for 300 years. Why does it now want separation?

Has it anything to do with the European Union and the poor way it is being run?

The evidence says Yes.

The result is clear. Residents of Scotland rejected the call for Independence by 55 to 45 percent.There will be no independent Scotland. But internally the result is even more seismic for the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. More than Scotland is now involved. The whole British constitutional arrangement will have to be re-cast.

Following some late opinion polls when it seemed to the result could go either way, Westminster politicians made financial and political promises to get a No vote. Westminster government will ‘give’ the Scottish parliament Devo-Max, maximum decentralized powers. How generous of the Westminster representatives, the so-called servants of the public!

Politicians made the case that if Scots voted No, then the central government in London would be provide even more money from British taxes. They would reinforce the Barnett Formula, named after its author. It dates back to the 1979 referendum on Scottish devolution. However then the Treasury minister Joel Barnett  doled out extra money only on a temporary basis. It has no legal or democratic basis. Barnett himself described the formula as ‘a terrible mistake.’ It does not relate to votes or real facts on the ground. Now Westminster politicians want to give away more money that does not belong to them! They have promised a bigger ‘donation’ from unwilling English taxpayers. The Welsh who do not receive such amounts are also upset.

How did this politics of bribes and illegalities all come about? The political origin dates to the mid-1970s when James Callaghan’s Labour government lost its majority in the Westminster Parliament. To retain power it relied on the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Party of Wales (Plaid Cymru). In exchange for support, they demanded that their populations be treated more fairly by central government. They wanted their own parliaments. They wanted to preserve perhaps the oldest language in Europe and the 3000-year old source of many democratic principles of Common Law that Britons still treasure today.

Before the illicit Lisbon Treaties — forced through against vocal and explicit public opinion — politicians had not tried such a power-grab that they could attain by distorting the European institutions to control every aspect of life with so little accountability.  Public trust did not matter when the treaties were agreed by party majorities — even though the parliamentarians had not even received a copy of the treaty. Even the European Parliament refused to publish the treaty before it had voted on it! The Lisbon process followed a decade of discontent with European politics.

In comparison aspects of National and Regional misgovernance had not roused opinion to the levels of today. The Scots who voted in favour in the 1979 referendum failed to get their parliament then because the turnout was less than the 40 percent required. The Welsh failed to reach a majority. They had to wait for a second referendum in 1997. It led to a successful implementation of a Scottish and Welsh Parliament in 1999.

In this period European politicians took on more powers but without proper accountability. Declining trust of decision-takers was also the very issue at the heart of British internal problems.

Nationalist movements like the Scots are now becoming more vocal across the European Union. Why?

The answer lies in another unprecedented event of 2014. That is the lowest electoral turnout in any European elections. Politicians have created a them-versus-us situation. The ‘us‘ is ‘We want none of the above mainstream parties on the voting paper.‘ A majority refused to vote at all. Despite some countries having compulsory voting the overall turnout was 42.5 percent. That is the lowest since voting was allowed on a restrictive basis in 1979. Then it was about two-thirds. It declined consistently every election to the present.

1979  1984    1989   1994    1999     2004   2009   2014

62      59        58     57      49       45       43      42.5 percent turnout

In contrast when Member States have held referendums on EU matters the turnout has been much more impressive. It is nearly always above half the electorate. When the United Kingdom had a referendum on membership of the European Communities, 67 percent of the voters gave their assent with a turnout of 64 percent.

When the politicians tried to monkey with the Community idea, the turnout remained high with the electorate roundly condemning malpractice. The referendum results were treated with contempt by politicians, who thought they had sewn up a new system called rule by the European Council in secret.

For example when Denmark rejected the Maastricht Treaty it did so with a turnout of 83 percent. Politicians told them to vote again! When in 2005 France rejected the present Lisbon Treaty (then called the Constitutional Treaty) by 55 percent, it did so with a turnout of 69 percent. The Netherlands rejected this treaty by 62 percent with a turnout of 63 percent. The Nice Treaty was also considered a bad treaty when the Irish rejected it with a 54 percent majority but only 34 percent turnout. They were told to vote again and turn out in higher numbers or they would be kicked about by their biggers and betters.

Thus the conclusion we can draw is that the public remains responsive and favourable to European unity but requires ethical and moral politics. Not tricks and fraud. The public refuse to ‘own’ something from the politicians that it knows is a lie. Nor can they. It does not depend on some false ‘social contract’ that in Europe’s history has led to autocracy and dictatorship. As Robert Schuman put it:

The new Community politics is based on solidarity and the progress of trust. It constitutes an act of faith, not like that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, in the goodness of humanity which has been so cruelly disproved over the centuries, but an act of faith in the good sense of the peoples who at last persuaded that their salvation resides in an agreement and cooperation so solidly organized between them that no government will be able to evade it. (Pour l’Europe, p46)

The logic is also inescapable. Europe’s politicians are doing things wrongly and possibly fraudulently. The public is telling them to make their crooked practice straight — or else.

An unacceptably low turnout is now the present normal. It may be headed lower for the next European elections. The politicians tried to jazz up the vote by trying another illegal procedure — creating ‘Lead candidates’ or SpitzenKandidaten‘. This supposed pizzazz was to hide European undemocracy. It was the theme of Commission President Barroso’s speech at Berlin’s Humboldt University in May. It talks of three successive improved ‘versions’ of Europe as if every change in Europe, made by politicians, was like updating computer software!

Too many politicians suffer from the character defect that without them the world would stop. They are confused by egocentric ambition and less by the humility that characterized people like Schuman who said it was always wrong to tell a lie, even in politics. Inevitably lies lead to confusion and error.

The creation of the European Community in 1952 was based on solid moral and ethical principles. It was not ‘Europe 1.0′ subject to political change of morals and ethics in their own versions. Later autocrats like de Gaulle or even parliamentary democrats milked billions from European tax-payers to stump up for bribes and votes. This corruption led to Beef Mountains, Wine Lakes and useless regional infrastructure projects. These politicians did not make their Europe 2.0 of ‘Open markets and an open society’. They were already in the framework of the Community Method. The first open market came on 10 February 1953. The ‘open society’ preceded it. It was formalized in the Council of Europe’s Convention of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of November 1950. It recognized citizens’ ancient rights to free speech to criticize any politician, any religion, any association and any State.

These original elements of the Community provided the ‘miracle of our times’ — the means to stop war among European States and create the bases for joint prosperity. The politicians’ concept of adding to this miracle by ‘reforming’ (corrupting) its fundamental Community form is ridiculous. It is as effective as trying to make a high speed train go faster by hitching some old, lame political camels to the front. The Community made a qualitative change that showed the politics of the past, the ‘stuff of politics‘ as usual is actually ‘stuff and nonsense‘. Party political cartels have always in the past led to war. Political nepotism as a governance system is only fit for the rubbish heap.

Mr Barroso’s third phase, Europe 3.0, dealing with the ‘fallout of the economic and financial crisis’ and gaining ‘power and influence to sustain Europe’s future’ shows that politicians have really lost the plot. Not all the past so-called ‘reforms’ to the Community method are positive. Some are outright errors, deceptions and foolishness. Politicians have yet to denounce these mistakes, made by politicians, for politicians, to the detriment of the general public and common well being. The flagrant abuse contained in the Lisbon Treaty is a case in point.

For more than sixty years have refused to follow the treaties they signed up to. Politicians aimed to:

Mr Barroso’s main plea was for the introduction of a measure that is completely illegal according to even the Lisbon Treaties. That is the idea of SpitzenKandidaten and with it the total exclusion of normal citizens from any post of importance inside the Commission and every other institution. Political control by main parties to the exclusion of others and every normal non-party political citizen curtails free speech and democracy, fairness and justice. It cannot succeed.

How can we be sure that the politicization of all Community institutions is totally contrary to real Community principles? Does President Barroso’s ‘emotion of being at the university of ‘Hegel, of Max Planck, of Albert Einstein‘ constitute any real political analysis of their contributions. Hegelian analysis contributed to both Marxism and Fascism, while the eminent physicist of the Quantum, Max Planck (who resigned his post in 1937 as a protest against Nazism) showed moral fortitude and a defence of supranational principles in science and in  public life. He resisted Nazi attempts to expel Jewish scientists and opposed the Nazi ideology that there was such a thing as Jewish science. There is only one science and it represents, like absolute Justice, supranational values.

As for Robert Schuman’s work at Berlin and his attendance at Humboldt University in 1905-6, not a word! Not a word of his work for Germany to prevent World War One. In 1912 he was deputy head of the German delegation at a conference supported by Nobel laureates on international law according to Christian principles. Not a word about the concept of supranationality which is the foundational principle of the Community, nor about the Great Charter of the Community defining this that the Commission and the Council has refused to re-publish for more than SIXTY years.

In this centenary year of the outbreak of World War One, the European public would have hoped Mr Barroso would have spoken of the contribution of Einstein throughout his life to build a supranational Europe. Together with Otto Buek and Berlin physiology professor Georg-Friedrich Nicolai and astronomy professor Wilhelm Julius Foerster, Einstein launched a ‘Call Up to Europeans‘ in October 1914 (Aufruf an die Europäer). It drew support from intellectuals and the public from around Europe. It called for supranational principles to be the core for treating the very sinews of war: the cartel control of the coal, iron and steel industries and the international armaments cartels that fed the pre-WW1 arms race.

The supranational Community solution provides all the elements to resolve the interrelation between regional, national and European interests. Unfortunately the politicians of today are more interested in dismantling what has been achieved since the Schuman Declaration of May 1950, the Great Charter of 18 April 1951 guaranteeing freedom of choice and public assent to European integration. They are thus aiming to destroy the very European democracy on which they depend for a livelihood.

 

 

 

On Evgeny Vitishko, multilateral development banks and criminalisation of criticism

Posted by on 28/09/14

The recent rejection to release Evgeny Vitishko’s, an imprisoned environmental activist in Russia, illustrates the backlash against fundamental rights and freedoms in some countries. Multilateral development banks need to take notice of this trend and be more wary of the risk that their lending may strengthen authoritarian regimes.

by Klara Sikorova, cross-posted from the Bankwatch blog

On September 24, the Krasnodar Regional Court rejected the cassation appeal filed by the Prosecutor’s Office against the sentence of Evgeny Vitishko a Russian civil society activist known for his criticism of the environmental damage caused by the Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Vitishko was charged with a fabricated crime and sentenced to a three-year prison term in a penal colony in February this year.

Support Evgeny Vitishko: The Free Vitishko campaign offers ways to help Evgeny. Find out more >>>

While the court’s ruling is condemnable, it is sadly predictable. Russia is infamous for using and amending existing legal and judiciary instruments to scale up restrictions on civil rights groups and individuals critical of the regime.

What is alarming is that this approach is becoming a modus operandi in more countries and not only among authoritarian regimes but also where transition to the Western type of democracy is at stake. Under the disguise of protecting national security and stability governments have curbed fundamental rights and freedoms and thus eroded the possibility for an open political debate.

Geographically, this mostly involves Former Soviet Union countries and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) – regions where international financial institutions (IFIs) such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank have committed to enable a successful political and economic transformation. A very short overview of cases of legal interventions enabling the reprisal against rights and freedoms shows that these are introduced with increased frequency despite the IFIs’ presence and EU attempts to support democracy.

Politically motivated online censorship and surveillance

Due to its potential to be the freest space for communication and access to information, the Internet has become a target for restrictive measures. In its annual report assessing the rate of disruption to freedom of information through online censorship and surveillance, Reporters without Borders ranked Belarus, Turkmenistan, Russia and Uzbekistan as the “Internet enemies” states because of systematic repression of Internet users. Egypt, Kazakhstan, Tunisia and Turkey are listed as “countries under surveillance” for using draconian measures to control freedom of expression online.

The news broke last week that Turkey has amended a law to allow the state telecommunication agency to block websites without a court order as a means of protecting public order or preventing a crime.

Around the same time, the Egypt government has contracted a domestic sister of a US Blue Coat cyber company to procure the surveillance technology that enables the tracking of online communication. While the Ministry of Interior rejected the rumours, it has admitted it has been monitoring online communication to be on the top of political issues and electronic crimes.

Restricting foreign funding

In less developed countries, civil society groups depend on foreign funding to exercise their independent role. The governments of Russia, Egypt and most recently Hungary have waged war against civil society criticism by obstructing access to financial aid from abroad. In 2012, Russia approved a “foreign agents” law which tightens controls over civil society groups that receive foreign funding. Egypt has been pondering a law which would oblige NGOs to receive official consent for financing from abroad. This September, the Hungarian government raided the offices of NGOs distributing Norwegian funds under the pretext of fighting political influence.

Cutting down on freedom of assembly

Russia curtailed on protest rallies in 2012, when it amended a law to introduce large fines for violating rules on public events. Azerbaijan followed the suit and passed legislation approving a nearly tenfold increase in fines for participation in an unapproved public protest. In its 2013 law on public assembly, Egypt granted security officials discretion to ban and forcibly disperse a public protest or a meeting on vague grounds.

Development banks off target

As the human rights situation is deteriorating and transition countries are reversing after two decades of reforms, the impacts of the development financiers’ lending must be called into question.

Azerbaijan currently appears as a model case for IFI lending that is likely to strengthen the elites in authoritarian regimes while turning a blind eye on human rights abuses. In the pursuit of independence from Russian gas the EU and IFIs are eyeing the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), that is part of a plan to transport natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe.

In February this year, the EBRD released an economic assessment of the impacts of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Two days before that date Vitishko had been arrested before being able to deliver the draft report on detrimental environmental impacts of the Games (pdf) for a discussion in Sochi.

Although these two cases stand separately, the legacy of Vitishko and his colleagues at the Environmental Watch on North Caucasus demonstrate the urgent need for the IFIs to bridge the political and economic transformation with the observance of fundamental rights. Without achieving this more cases like Vitishko’s will regrettably keep appearing.

Reforming Dutch occupational pension schemes

Posted by on 28/09/14

In many countries occupational plans are being reformed from Defined-Benefit (DB) to Defined-Contribution (DC) designs. In a Netspar discussion paper Lans Bovenberg and I explore the case of the Netherlands, which features a particularly high ratio of occupational pension assets to GDP. Most occupational schemes are DB-funded and the value of assets in these schemes amounted to about 170% of GDP in 2013. This implies that unanticipated shocks in financial markets and longevity require large changes in pension contributions in order to shield pension rights in DB-plans from these shocks. Therefore, Dutch occupational defined-benefit plans suffer from a number of serious weaknesses, including ambiguous ownership of assets, back-loading of benefits, and lack of tailor-made risk management. In particular, an intergenerational conflict may emerge about not only the ownership of capital in the fund but also the investment profile. These potential intergenerational conflicts are especially serious in the Netherlands due to the large stocks of wealth that have been accumulated. We will therefore focus on Dutch occupational pension plans and the need for reform. Our discussion may be of interest also to other countries who are transforming their DB-plans into DC-plans.

To address these weaknesses, we propose collective individual defined-contribution plans that are actuarially fair. These schemes maintain important strengths of collective schemes, such as mandatory saving, collective procurement and pooling biometric risks. At the same time, they eliminate intergenerational conflicts about risk management and distribution through transparent individual property rights and tailor-made risk profiles. Our proposal also eliminates the implicit pay-as-you-go elements through back-loading and thus creates the familiar transitional problem associated with a move from pay-as-you-go financing to funding. Therefore, our proposals address this issue head on by grandfathering some of the implicit pension rights in the old system in order to protect the transitional generations. In the paper, we show that this transition burden can be dealt without a substantial temporary increase in contributions, if the transition is accompanied by lower administrative and investment costs.

The european drug report 2014

Posted by on 28/09/14

Trends and developments presented to LIBE commmitte on the 24th of september by the Director of the EMCCDDA, Wolfgang Götz.The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) raises the attention on the emergence of both new synthetic opioids and hallucinogenic substances which are so powerful that it takes tiny quantities to produce many doses. The fact is that a part of these substances are not even illegal, since they are too new and legislators do not even know them. This challenge requires a quick answer and new funds, otherwise we lose the battle form the start.

The picture emerged from the presentation of the Director of EMCDDA is that of a reduced consumption of heroin but an increase in consumption of new psychoactive substances which were reported to the EU Early Warning System. In 2013 81 new substances were notified, leading to 350 the number of substances monitored. This year 72 new substances were reported and this poses a great pressure on the EU Early Warning System.

The new drugs (new psychoactive substances) can be synthetic or naturally occurring substances that are not controlled under international law, and which have the same effects as controlled drugs. Some of these chemicals are imported from suppliers in China or India and then packaged and sold as ‘legal highs’ in Europe.

In 2013 the EMCDDA was very active. Risk assessments were carried out on two substances in 2013, and on other four by April 2014. The result was that these substances often lead to severe toxicity and also death.

Cannabis is still polarizing the public opinion in Europe, thanks also to the regulatory changes in parts of the United States and Latin America with regard to the ways cannabis is available and controlled. In Europe its consumption is steady, even declining among young people but the situation is not homogeneous among Member States. Still, it represents an important revenue for organized crime groups.

The general European market for illegal drugs is stable: cocaine is most used in southern and western countries and amphetamine are prevalent in northern and eastern countries. Last year Europol noted the dismantling in Belgium of the two largest drug production sites ever found within the European Union, which were capable of rapidly producing large volumes of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine). This is a good sign and EMCDDA is closely working with Europol in the fight against these networks.

Mr. Götz also pointed out the important role that internet plays in the drug market because it links manufacturers, suppliers and retailers. Website-hosting and payment processing services are usually based in different countries. There is a growing use of “dark-nets” for the sale of drugs to dealers and consumers and this represents a huge challenge. In 2013 EMCDDA managed to identify 651 websites which were selling “legal highs” to Europeans.

EMCDDA is cooperating with Europol in order to exchange information and provide joint analysis. With regard to this, a first report on the drug markets in Europe was published. They also cooperate with Cepol by providing them training on drug traffic and with many other partners, such as applicant countries to EU and third countries in general. In response to a question of Josef
Weidenholzer, Mr. Götz outlined that they also cooperate with Iran and that this country has very good researchers but cooperation on the law enforcement side is more difficult.

The drug networks do not have borders and this is an issue which concerns every country in the world, therefore there is the necessity to cooperate with everyone who is active in the fight of drug consumption and drug traffic.

In the end, the President of EMCDDA declared that the Centre needs more funds but the trend is that of cutting of funds available for it. In 2014 they experienced a 5% cut of the budget compared to the previous year. He outlined that he is aware of the economic crisis but we deal with organized crime networks which are seeing their profits growing and Europe cannot afford to reduce its efforts in fighting these criminals.

The presentation was followed by the intervention of Michał Boni who raised the problem of standardization of all sources of information, since data coming from different countries have different qualities. He also added that the Centre has to cooperate with agencies of European Commission, such as Health Agency in order to have a faster answer to all these challenges. Mr. Götz answered that there is no problem of communication with the Commission and that they hold 20 meetings per year with regard to methodology and standards and we can say that “now we speak a common language, the best you can find in the world”

Other issues were raised by different member of the Committee, such as the drug legalization and also the need for wide campaigns against drug consumption. Mr. Götz replied that legalization is not being discussed in any of the Member States now but there are some debates at the level of civil society. With regard to wide campaigns, he was very skeptical because there is no evidence that these campaigns actually work. Instead of that, he proposed targeted campaigns promoted in certain areas and within certain groups which are known to be at higher risk with regard to drug consumption.

In the end there was general agreement on the fact that the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction carries out a very important task and this should not be underestimated because what is at stake here, is the health of European citizens. For this reason the problem of funding is considered a main issue but there are some positive signs for 2015, also thanks to the work of LIBE Committee.

(Ana Daniela Sanda)

To know more:

European Drug Report 2014: Trends and developments published in May2014 by EMCDDA

:http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/edr/trends-developments/2014

 


Classé dans:COOPERATION INTERNATIONALE, COOPERATION JUDICIAIRE POLICIERE, Lutte contre la drogue, Lutte contre le crime organisé

Making the same mistake all over again: Juncker’s reshuffling of public health portfolios

Posted by on 25/09/14
By Anniek de Ruijter With the reshuffling of the Commission portfolios by president-elect Juncker, major units for EU public health protection move from DG SANCO to DG Enterprise and Industry. The changes to the portfolios come without further explanation and after the deadline for the Parliament to ask written questions has passed. One wonders: what did we learn from the BSE crisis?

More bad news: Mr Juncker replies to concerns on medicines

Posted by on 25/09/14

Mr Juncker has replied by letter to the concerns of the health sector on the transfer of medicines from DG Sanco to DG Enterprise/Internal Market. The letter says that one of the main priorities of the new commission is to create “A Deeper and Fairer Internal Market with a Strengthened Industrial Base” and to that end to establish a new DG for legislation for internal market of products and service (apart from financial services) and including “medicinal products”.

The transfer is therefore part of a wider process to strengthen the European pharmaceutical industry. DG Enterprise will be responsible for strengthening the European pharmaceutical industry AND for medicines, medicines regulation, medicines safety, and the European Medicines Agency.

This is exactly what the health sector opposes.

There is not some large transfer of responsibility for products and services to the new DG Enterprise/Internal Market. Medicines (or “medicinal products,” as the letter describes them) are the ONLY goods for which responsibility is transferred to DG Enterprise.

Food law is a key element of internal market laws but is not transferred to the new super Enterprise DG although that DG is responsible for strengthening the European food industry. Why were medicines singled out for transfer?

(There was a time, as it happens, when DG Enterprise was responsible for much food law but the Prodi Commission transferred that task to a new DG Sanco, so as to separate responsibility for food law from responsibility for promoting the food industry. The second Barosso Commission did the same for medicines.)

General product safety is the responsibility of the new Justice/Consumers DG. This is also an important element in internal market legislation but is not transferred to DG Enterprise. Again, why only medicines?

The letter does say that all proposals for decisions on medicines will be prepared “jointly” (my emphasis) by DG Sanco and DG Enterprise. This may be significant in bureaucratic terms but less so in practical terms. At best, DG Sanco will remain the junior partner , if indeed it can be called a partner at all. With medicines assigned to DG Enterprise in the Commission internal organigramme, DG Sanco will not have the resources to build up the knowledge base, expertise, experience, research data, and ongoing daily interactions with the world of medicines to match those of DG Enterprise.

Remember Glenis Willmott’s experience as rapporteur for the regulation revising the Clinical Trials Directives;
“When I was negotiating the transparency laws for clinical trial results, it was DG Enterprise that wanted to water the rules down”. Now it is DG Enterprise which will responsible for implementing that regulation.

(On a wider level, Commission approval is required for all aspects of the transparency policy of the European Medicines and it is the Commission and not the agency that has the final decision on the authorisation of medicines.)

I can think of one excuse for this letter. When there is not a good reason for a decision, or when you do not want to admit the real reason, the only option is to put forward bad reasons.

Given that medicines are singled out for transfer to DG Enterprise, given that this is exactly and precisely what the industry demanded, given that the decision overturns a reform of only five years duration, and given that DG Enterprise is also responsible for strengthening the European pharmaceutical industry I would say something I don’t think I have ever said before. Unless this decision is reversed, patients and consumers cannot have confidence in the regulation of medicines at EU level. END

Trading activity for meaning

Posted by on 25/09/14
Last year I decided to get Information Overload under control, setting up a GTD system with a DoIt-driven morning routine and Pocket, Diigo and IFTTT to queue, store and share useful stuff. I was all set. For what, I wasn’t sure. But I was sure as hell organised. And then, a couple of days ago, [...]

Have the SPD and German unions endorsed TTIP? Not quite…

Posted by on 25/09/14
While the Labour Party's conference dominated the coverage in the UK over the past few days, its German sister party, the SPD, held its own 'mini' conference over the weekend. Opposition to TTIP - the EU-US free trade deal currently being negotiated - was a big factor at both, certainly we picked up on this in Manchester.

Ahead of the SPD's conference, several local and regional SPD associations tabled motions calling on the party leadership to suspend the negotiations due to concerns about investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) - a mechanism which allows investors to sue governments - as well as the potential watering down of labour laws and environmental standards.

In order to head off the opposition, the Economy Ministry - headed by SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel - issued a joint position paper on TTIP along with the DGB - Germany's trade union confederation including the country's largest trade unions like IG Metall and Ver.di. The paper praises elements of TTIP but pledges that any moves to eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade (such as parallel regulatory regimes) will not threaten Europe's high employment, consumer and environmental standards, and calls on both parties to ensure "compliance with core ILO standards" - something which has little hope of getting past Congress.

On ISDS, they key passage reads:
“Investment protection provisions are generally not required… In any case, investor-state arbitration and unclear definitions of legal terms such as ‘fair and just treatment’ or ‘indirect expropriation’ must be rejected.” 
The SPD and German trade unions have therefore endorsed TTIP in principle, although the mass of caveats that made this possible will hugely complicate the negotiations and could wipe out many of its expected gains. It does however remain unclear to what extent the paper is binding on the SPD, as it includes the caveat that the German Economic Ministry and the DGB "do not have the same stance on TTIP on all points”.

Significantly, in approving the paper, party delegates insisted that its provisions should also be applied to the EU-Canada free trade deal (CETA) which has already been largely concluded and due to be signed off by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Canadian PM Stephen Harper later this month pending implementation. CETA, which many see as the blueprint for TTIP, includes ISDS and could therefore face last-minute opposition having largely flown under the radar up until now.

In a separate development, which could delay CETA even further, the German government and the European Commission are at odds over whether national parliaments will need to ratify the deal alongside the European Parliament; the Commission says no, but Berlin argues that as a "mixed agreement" with some of the issues, goods and services covered by CETA falling outside of the EU's sole jurisdiction, the Bundestag and Bundesrat should also get to scrutinise the agreement and vote on it. The German government has said that it is willing to go all the way to the ECJ.

All in all, it looks like progress towards concluding ambitious trade agreements with Canada and the US will be rather rocky.

A decline in courage

Posted by on 25/09/14

Maja Kocijančič, Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU led by High Representative/Vice-President Catherine Ashton, said that by end of September European Union is going to consider easing of sanctions against Russia As soon as Putin started to imitate the visibility of termination of active military actions in Eastern Ukraine we are ready to turn tail, go back down. Have the Russian armed forces withdrawn from the territory of Ukraine and sent to places of permanent deployment? Have Putin repented and abandoned his plans for the disintegration of Ukraine? What should be done with threats to the West and provocations on the borders of the Baltic states?
It is likely that such complaisance is consequence of signal by Barack Obama who rejected Ukraine’s NATO non-member ally status and military assistance. Similar was the reaction of Poland prime minister Ewa Kopacz. She stated that Poland won’t supply
weapons to Ukraine: “I consider, we shouldn’t become an active part of this military conflict. Poland should act like a wise woman – our main target is our security and prosperity of our country, home and children.”
Then, what Ukraine should do? “Ukraine can’t protect peace and order only by blankets”, declared Petro Poroshenko.
I’m not talking about Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, which initially opposed the imposition of sanctions against Russia. Germany, despite its declared support to Ukraine and condemnation of Russian aggression, first of all tries to defend its economic interests. It may be right, but the question of choice of values must be strongly guarded. If the Western countries discussing isolation of President Putin punished him for annexation of Crimea by exclusion from G8, canceled the EU-Russia summit, why does Australia open the doors in civilized society by inviting Putin to take part in G20 summit. I consider it appropriate and timely in current situation to give a few quotes of the last Russian classic , who entered the world literature as one of the most uncompromising critics of the Soviet Union and communism – Alexander Solzhenitsyn The spirit of Munich has by no means retreated into the past; it was not merely a brief episode.  I even venture to say that the spirit of Munich prevails in the Twentieth Century(it should be read in the 21th century).  The timid civilized world has found nothing with which to oppose the onslaught of a sudden revival of barefaced barbarity, other than concessions and smiles.  The spirit of Munich is a sickness of the will of successful people, it is the daily condition of those who have given themselves up to the thirst after prosperity at any price, to material well-being as the chief goal of earthly existence.  Such people — and there are many in today’s world — elect passivity and retreat, just so as their accustomed life might drag on a bit longer, just so as not to step over the threshold of hardship today — and tomorrow, you’ll see, it will all be all right.  But it will never be all right!  The price of cowardice will only be evil; we shall reap courage and victory only when we dare to make sacrifices.(Nobel  Lecture  in  Literature ,1972, Alexander Solzhenitsyn) A decline in courage may be the most striking feature that an outside observer notices in the West today. The Western world has lost its civic courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, in each government, in each political party, and, of course, in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling and intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society. There are many courageous individuals, but they have no determining influence on public life.
Political and intellectual functionaries exhibit this depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their self-serving rationales as to how realistic, reasonable, and intellectually and even morally justified it is to base state policies on weakness and cowardice. (A World Split Apart — Commencement Address Delivered At Harvard University, June 8, 1978, Alexander I. Solzhenitsyn)
These and many other speeches of the writer have received world resonance. It is clear what is the power that threatens us and how it is dangerous to Europe and the United States to relax now.
If not to demonstratively punish Putin now, if USA and EU allow to intimidate themselves by impoverished and weak, but armed and aggressive Russia, it would mean not only a shame but also a signal to activation of the world’s scum – from Kim Jong-un to all sorts of separatist and fundamentalist.

Better security through knowledge

Posted by on 25/09/14

Security was the leading theme of a closed expert debate organised by the Polish Institute of International Affairs and its Turkish counterpart – the Centre for Strategic Research of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey (SAM – http://sam.gov.tr/about-sam/). Inspired by the discussion, and the more unofficial opinions voiced behind the curtain, I have decided to re-visit the issue of energy security, this time from a slightly different perspective.

Not long ago, while discussing the draft of the Polish Energy Policy until 2050, I underlined those aspects of energy security which go beyond physical security and access to energy resources. Energy security is a system centred around policies pursued by individual countries and international institutions. At the same time, it requires policies and a business climate that promote investment, progress and innovation to ensure that adequate supplies and infrastructure will be available in a timely way in the future. Since these two aspects, politics and investment, are interwoven, it is difficult to improve energy security without international cooperation (coordination). However, cooperation alone is not enough, because the problem of energy security resembles a prisoner’s dilemma where mutual trust is necessary to improve the situation for all parties. And trust is based on credibility. The case at hand is about the credibility of one’s economic policy, of which energy policy is an important component.

Can a policy’s credibility be evaluated? Yes, it can, as financial markets demonstrate on a daily basis. How can we do that? Let’s consider a relatively simple example – monetary policy. Using their knowledge of and information on the economy, experienced participants of the market (let’s call them analysts) create models which simulate how the economy is going to develop in the near future. Central banks do the same. In a given state of knowledge and with universal access to information, both analysts and central banks obtain largely similar projections of economic growth, job markets and inflation. Knowledge of economics also indicates how central banks should react to future changes in the inflation rate. The credibility of central banks follows from the fact that they base their decisions on solid factual information which the markets can read. If central banks make surprising decisions which they are not able to justify, risk increases and investors sell off risky assets or demand greater returns.

Despite being much more complex, energy policy may also be evaluated. Suffice to say that any policy is comprised of regulations which the government uses to achieve such results as higher capital expenditures or lower energy consumption per production unit. At the heart of each such regulation lies a cause-and-effect relationship linking the instrument (regulation) to the outcome (desired result). Even if this relationship is highly complex, it should lend itself to a factual evaluation, as the regulator must have connected the effect and cause somehow. Seeing that such a mechanism exists, we may ‘replicate’ it using our economic and social knowledge to verify whether it can deliver the expected results.

This is facilitated by appropriate tools (models), which must be prepared in advance, however – a task which requires systematic and interdisciplinary research. Research into the effects of regulations has an additional benefit in that it allows us to identify areas where our knowledge is imperfect. Discussing the risk emerging when a policy takes a leap into the unknown, Noble Prize winner Edmund Phelps says: “At the simplest level, economics can better show us the consequences of our actions. Less simple are cases in which we don’t have the knowledge to predict the full consequences. Global warming and climate change is an example. Actions that we believe will remedy a perceived problem may in fact lead to an unintended consequence… Generally speaking, global energy systems are so complex that interfering with them will almost certainly lead to unintended consequences” (First Things, Economic Justice and the Spirit of Innovation, October 2009).

Knowing the limits of our knowledge is necessary to evaluate whether policymakers venturing into the unknown are fully aware of the risk or whether they do so because they lack knowledge which is objectively available.

In the first case, where such actions are born of necessity, we must consider a comprehensive spectrum of possible scenarios and then evaluate their outcomes, which will help us identify what risks can materialise when the policy is implemented. This is the approach we chose three years ago when contemplating shale gas projects in Poland. We identified three possible directions in which the sector might develop depending on how current conditions encourage investment, progress and innovation, and then investigated their outcomes.

The second situation should never come to be, and to prevent it from happening in Poland we need strategic, systematic and interdisciplinary research into the energy sector, which should look into strategic aspects of energy and climate policies and into the actions taken by the government/state and companies. Security is one of such strategic matters requiring a systematic approach. Energy security is a public good and as such lies within the remit of the state, which decides how to ensure energy security today and in the distant future. However, the actual ‘delivery’ of energy security is accomplished by companies which, acting within a framework imposed by applicable regulations, ensure uninterrupted energy supplies at an acceptable price. And it is those companies that are first to evaluate the practical cost of the regulations – the cost of security. We should therefore take their opinion into account when researching the energy sector, which should allow us to reduce our ignorance in areas where its cost is the highest.

Improving energy security requires a well-designed and durable strategy, which can only be achieved with appropriate knowledge and interdisciplinary research. It is high time we began working on it.

 

Betting-related match-fixing exposed on study

Posted by on 25/09/14

In November 2013, two studies were launched related to the prevention and fight against betting-related match-fixing.  The results of these studies are now finalised and publicly available.

The first study, carried out by TMC ASSER Instituut, concerns the provisions and practices on betting-related match fixing in sports within the 28 Member States.  Respondents in each Member State reported on that state’s gambling-related provisions in respect of football and tennis and (in each country) a third sport determined on the basis of either its popularity or the existence of betting-related “scandals” in that sport.

The report compares the Member States’ regulatory and self-regulatory frameworks relating to risk assessment and conflict of interest management, with a view to indicating areas of best practice, identifying particularly good legislative frameworks and highlighting areas where change was either desirable or necessary.

While some individual Member States have legislation which might provide templates that others could adapt for their own use, the authors were not convinced that “more law”, whether at the national or European level, was desirable.  Rather, more effective cooperation among the stakeholders was identified as being more likely to provide tangible benefits than would new legal frameworks.

 

The second study, carried out Oxford Research and VU Amsterdam, focuses on the regulation of information collection, storage, and sharing of information on suspicious sports betting activity, examining both formal regulations imposed through the legal and official regulatory system in each of the EU 28 Member States, along with industry-led self-regulatory approaches.

Determining the existence of suspicious betting patterns requires a mix of top-down statistical approaches to monitoring the betting markets, supplemented by investigative processes, expert level knowledge of a particular sport or market, and in many cases, common sense.  It is inherently infeasible for a single agency or type of organisation to be in a position to carry out this triangulation on its own. To establish an efficient framework for protecting betting integrity, the key parts must all collaborate through the sharing of information.

Specific barriers to information sharing generally fall into two types: legal barriers and practical barriers.  Despite a common EU framework for data protection being in place, it is unclear what information can be shared in which circumstances.  The creation of a linked network of National Platforms, as suggested by the Council of Europe in the draft convention on match-fixing, could solve some of the practical problems related to sharing of information across borders.

 

Both studies will contribute to the preparation of the Commission Recommendation on best practices in the prevention and combatting of betting-related match-fixing, as announced in its Communication ‘Towards a comprehensive European framework on online gambling .

They will also be discussed by the EU Expert Group on Match Fixing as part of its work in accordance with the 2014-17 work plan on sport.

More informations here

The ebola outbreak in West Africa is no threat to international peace

Posted by on 25/09/14

On September 18, the UN Security has unanimously passed a resolution, co-sponsored by 131(!) governments, calling the outbreak of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone a “threat to international peace and security” and asking countries world-wide for urgent medical personnel and supplies to contain the outbreak.

UN and WHO have waited nine months after the first case had been registered in Guinea at the end of 2013, before alarming the world community on the new outbreak of Ebola, an extremely contagious disease, in three small West African countries.

The UN Secretary General has estimated that $ 1 billion would be necessary to keep the number of cases within the tens of thousands, compared to slightly less than 6000 until now. The US government has pledged to send 3000 military to help the countries contain the disease.

Whatever the outcry and despair, the countries struck by the Ebola epidemics should be able to handle it domestically, if urgently provided with basic medical equipment and hospitals for separating infected patients.

The neighbouring countries – Senegal, Ivory Coast and Nigeria – have been almost completely spared, thanks to their better medical infrastructure and the early closure of their borders. A separate outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo has been contained by local efforts. Outside Africa there is practically no risk of contagion, let alone epidemics.

The alarm call by the UN Security Council has been belated and excessive. One wonders why it addresses regional health issues falling within the responsibility of the WHO.

With the necessary oversight, advice and assistance from the WHO and organisations like “Doctors without Borders” the three affected West African countries should be able to contain their epidemics without any risk for world peace.

There are far more serious and long-term threats to world peace and security that the UN should address , including climate change.

Eberhard Rhein, Brussels, 21/9/2004

 

Sports nutrition ads – do they have a place on the pitch?

Posted by on 25/09/14

Whitehouse Consultancy client, the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance, is quoted on top EU food regulation site Nutraingredients.com defending the sector’s products. The defence comes as  two researchers from the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Active Living in Australia argue that sports nutrition products should not be allowed to sponsor sporting events.

To read the article click here.

The Whitehouse Consultancy is one of Europe’s leading public affairs and communications agencies. Its range of specialist services for the food sector can be found here.

 

Eurodeputati e pesticidi

Posted by on 25/09/14

Sto camminando al piano zero dell’edificio Altiero Spinelli del Parlamento Europeo insieme al mio ex capo F e andando all’infocentre: parliamo della nuova legislatura, degli eurodeputati che non ci sono più e dei nuovi arrivati.

«Ciò che molti MEP (eurodeputati, ndr) vogliono è essere ricordati per il lavoro che fanno» dice F e aggiunge «Questo è difficile nel Parlamento europeo».

«Perché? »

«Perché nel Parlamento europeo non le leggi non prendono il nome dei parlamentari che le promuovono».

A me viene in mente la Legge Merlin ma non dico niente, così, dopo qualche metro in silenzio, chiedo «E che cosa dovrebbe fare un MEP? »

«Dovrebbero specializzarsi principalmente su un argomento e portarlo avanti» F si ferma saluta una persona e poi ritorna al discorso «Come ha fatto Hiltrud Breyer con i pesticidi”.

«L’eurodeputata tedesca che ha fatto vedere quel film francese sui pesticidi nel Parlamento europeo e ha denunciato la loro pericolosità anche per i coltivatori?»

«Sì, è anche quella che ha combattuto per regole rigide sugli OGM in EU ed è stata famosa per questo; si è ritirata dalla politica quest’anno».

 

Per chi fosse interessato agli effetti dei pesticidi sulla salute, consiglio i seguenti siti:

- (EN) https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/news/eu-urged-ban-pesticides-negative-health-effects

- (EN) http://hiltrudbreyer.eu/en/ct/589-shocking-correlation-between-autism-and-the-use-of-pesticides

- (EN, sottotitoli in Italiano) http://www.europarltv.europa.eu/en/player?pid=3fac2b60-a0ef-4b1d-bb60-4a0f76cc492d

- (EN) http://hiltrudbreyer.eu/hbreyer/media/doc/1225736001519.pdf

- (FR) Film “ La mort est dans le pré”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjM5kX-PltU

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