Thursday 24 April 2014

Currently browsing 'EU Priorities 2020'

What should the EU’s overall priorities be? Or those of the next Presidency? And what should the EU Council really be talking about when they next meet.


EU health research: the vision of the European virtual institutes of health

Posted by on 23/04/14

In 2001, concerns about the competitiveness of Europe’s pharmaceutical industry led the European Commission to form a small, high-level group to investigate. The group, known as G10, chaired by two EU Commissioners and composed of major industry and governmental health stakeholders published its final report in May 2002. A few months ago, the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA) asked me to assess the progress

In particular, I looked at European initiatives aimed at creating a more cohesive biomedical research strategy across the continent. One of the G10’s main recommendations in this regard was the formation of a network of European virtual Institutes of Health, analogous to the US National Institutes of Health, linking centers of fundamental and clinical research to better integrate research across national borders. The G10 group could not itself form policy, but the European Institutions have adopted constructive legislation paving the way for the creation of the institutes of health.

I spoke to leading figures in EU health research projects and found that a number of significant initiatives in European health and medical research have been set up in the past decade. These include the European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Partnership (EDCTP), the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), and the Joint Programming Initiatives on Alzheimer’s and neurodegenerative diseases (JPND) and antimicrobial resistance (JPIAMR).

According to Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Director at the European Commission (DG RTD), Europe is moving slowly to the goal of Virtual Institutes of Health and the European Commission has undertook a large amount of work into in this sense with high level meetings with stakeholders; bringing on the table the question of the appropriateness of developing a virtual structure that could be seen as like the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US.

Philippe Amouyel, chair of the management board of the JPND believes that European health research needs to achieve the level of integration developed in the JPI on neurodegenerative diseases. We need to avoid unnecessary duplication and waist of money in the different EU Member States.  Moreover, you have only the results of the research of your own country without any competitive and comparative interaction with the rest of Europe. A higher level of European cooperation, would raise the level of research excellence, and virtual institutes may be a step in the right direction, he says.

The suggested virtual institutes, however, have not been realized. And in general, duplication of effort, fragmentation and complexity are still major health-research issues for Europe in 2014. Over 90 per cent of public research and innovation funding in Europe is at a national level, and national health research systems still work along separate tracks. In comparison with other structural policy areas, such as competition, trade or industry, research remains less integrated and coordinated.

This lack of coordination stems from competing national priorities and a lack of political will. Michel Goldman, the executive director of IMI points out that there is no consensus among the different EU Member States to integrate more the national health research policies, although interesting efforts were made through the Joint Programming Initiatives. Member States remain keen to keep control on most of the health research, he adds.

Despite its skilled people and excellent research, bio-medicine in the EU is seen as less efficient compared with other major players such as the United States, Japan and South Korea. The existence of an EU equivalent of the US NIH would help to ensure adequate funding for European research into the development of new pharmaceutical products. It would also reduce duplication and fragmentation, and lead to a sustainable EU health research with major benefits for patients and public health.

A new development was last November’s announcement that Horizon2020 – the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – will include a Scientific Panel for Health. This researcher-led stakeholder platform will elaborate scientific input and provide a coherent scientific focused analysis of research and innovation bottlenecks and opportunities, related to the societal challenges of health, demographic change and well-being prioritized by Horizon 2020.

The panel results partly from advocacy by the BioMed Alliance, a non-profit association representing research-oriented medical societies. Julio Celis, the alliance’s vice-president, believes that the scientific community and the pharmaceutical sector are by and large ready for increased integration but that Member States are less willing. Researchers, clinicians, industry and SMEs, patients and regulatory bodies, really need to work together, in order to find a solution for sustainable research and deal with regulatory issues.There is need to incentive Member States to enter into collaboration and we must promote academia-industry collaboration, he says.

Horizon 2020 could offer a chance to do better. Current initiatives could be more integrated, building on the vision of the JPIs and the legal backbone of EDCTP. This would augment the existing efforts of the EU and the BioMed Alliance existing efforts, creating new public-public partnerships and combining EU, national, and in some cases industrial, funding.

This stronger integration of research infrastructures would in turn encourage an EU-wide restructuring of research capacities, based on scientific capacities and major health and societal challenges. It is essential to find a health challenge that all Member States consider as a high priority, around which the first European Virtual Institute of Health could be created. Once the first institute is in place, the rest will follow.

A world full of opportunities… How can we bring them home?

Posted by on 12/04/14

More and more I hear the reply: “the Romanian position is the position of the European Union”, or “We cannot have a national position because we risk a conflict with the European Union“.

This idea of not having a major national project, because the Brussels guidelines are sufficient, is a myth in my opinion, built around a false self-sufficiency.

Having a national project for the country, while respecting the European construction, but completing it and bringing added value, is or should be a priority for Romania.

In order to understand the need and the importance of complementary actions to the European strategy for growth and development, I will present our neighbours’ and other EU countries, such as Hungary, Bulgaria, and Serbia, efforts in strengthening the political and economic relations with Arab states.

This vision can be used as a guiding principle for all non -EU areas that can bring new markets for Europe and Romania, that can increase trade, strengthen the network of economic and political partnerships and establish a dialogue with regional power poles in a world increasingly globalized and interdependent.

Just an example…

Thus, Bulgaria has built a close relationship with Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Hungary did the same.

The areas targeted by Arab investors are health, agriculture and mining, Central and Eastern Europe being intensely promoted by the Hungarian prime minister, who plans to enter the Middle East market with national products, to develop joint projects and to contribute with technology in the Arab world.

Recently, in early March, the Bulgarian President, Rosen Plevniev, said that Qatar planned to invest 20 billion dollars in the Bulgarian infrastructure by 2017, and that Bulgarian construction companies were prepared to participate in infrastructure projects planned for 2022, when Qatar will host the World Cup. The figures provided are sufficient to observe that a beneficial partnership for both economies is developing between Bulgaria and Qatar, one that isn’t contrary to the EU membership.

The Arab world had and will play an important role in the global economy and like other emerging markets, it should be taken into account in any strategy for growth. Moreover, we should consider that export is one of the relevant growth factors in this moment for Romania and Europe.

At the end of March, a delegation of Arab countries ambassadors in Bucharest visited Constanta in order to discuss the development of investment relationships. As representatives of the Arab states mentioned, there is openness for investing in our country. They claimed that Arab investors had available hundreds of millions of dollars ready to be brought in Romania, but they definitely needed a constructive dialogue on investments with government officials.

We can observe that Romania has such levers and must develop them. The entire Romanian society must see and understand that EU membership does not mean that we, Romanians, do not have to make any effort to have our own positions and partnerships. I mean strong, consistent, fair and constructive partnerships.

Partnerships that will ultimately revitalize EU’s relations with the rest of the world. That will hold EU at the international negotiating table in subject from international politics, foreign policy, security or economic areas (with great deficits in the last years).

The expansion of the relationship with China is a good start. But it will not be enough. There are so many prolific areas for developing Romania’s economic and commercial relations, that they can only be addressed through systemically organization.

For this systemic approach we need more than ever a Ministry of Foreign Trade and a foreign trade research institute – well funded, well articulated – that should present the opportunities the Romanian businessmen have and how they can capitalize them.

The Ministry of Foreign Trade, through a pragmatic and effective approach, will assist these businessmen in their efforts to reach the opportunities. Thus, we could provide a stable and consistent growth in exports, with all the advantages and development implications for the Romanian market.



Big change!

Posted by on 10/04/14

Italy is heading on to next EU-Presidency and wants to give Europe new momentum and a big change. Minister of Finance, Carlo Padoan announced: „We want to change the direction of Europe.“ The nation itself is in a big shift. While nation’s deficit is expected to raise this year up to 2.6 percent and most current surveys lowered growth-expectations, which are now at about 0.8 (near to stagnation), the strategy of Matteo Renzi is clear. He follows the beaten track of his 6.7 billion tax-cut-program. This old-school politics of lowering taxes and hoping on a boosting economy may work out. But maybe its better to finish homework before trying to change Europe with effects on other nations.

Sceptic UK can bring new ideas on bottom up democracy in Europe

Posted by on 09/04/14

The prospect of an in-out referendum in the UK in 2017 (if the Conservatives are back in power) is a fantastic incentive for politicians (and academics) to come up with new ideas on ways of governing Europe. The Brits are showing the way on how national parliaments can become more involved in holding the EU executive to account.

By Deirdre Curtin

The British input into this wider debate on the future of Europe is often ‘negative’ and defensive.  An example is the proposal by a group of UK parliamentarians to get a new power to  ‘veto’ planned EU legislation. Yet not all is negative or destructive in the UK thinking on Europe. The House of Commons is engaged in forward-looking reflection and recommendations, in particular on its own scrutiny role. In a recent report looks to consolidate a wider role for national parliaments in democratic self-government in Europe. National parliaments are after all the key actors to hold their governments (ministers and civil servants) to account for what they agree in European Council and Council meetings. This is a task that cannot be taken over by the European Parliament, but that needs to be exercised pro-actively on the ground by the parliaments in the various national capitals.

The House of Commons report zooms in on one of the key obstacles that currently hampers national parliaments right across Europe. This is the fact that they very often do not get the information they need concerning decisions that are in the pipeline at EU level early enough to scrutinise the input of their own national government. But it is not just that their own government does not give them all the information they require on time. It is often also the case that their own government says that they cannot give them information because it is ‘sensitive’. Such sensitive EU information refers to what is loosely known as the EU institutions’ professional secrets. These are not classified secrets but rather documents that the institutions prefer to deliberate on in private as decision-making is on-going and publicity could make negotiations more difficult.

Some national parliaments, including the Dutch Tweede Kamer, get direct access to the EU database with all such EU ‘limited’ documents’. But they do so provided they, too, keep them secret. Such rules are adopted by the EU governments in conclave in the EU Council as internal rules of procedure.

One way of challenging this structural inequality of arms is parliamentary disobedience. In the UK an MP who had obtained a limited document considered very important in the context of the economic bailouts raised it as an urgent question with the Speaker of the House of Commons. She gave authority for the matter to be exposed in the House of Commons and to be debated fully and publicly. This happened and the roof did not fall in.

The fact that one national parliament stands up to its own government (and the EU rules) makes it easier for another national parliament to do the same. Parliaments are increasingly looking to one another and learning from one another. It is up to both the national parliaments and the European Parliament to roll up their shirtsleeves. They must ensure that they are the visible vectors for a genuinely public and on-going debate on the accountability of executive power in Europe. This is the next stage of democratic self-government in Europe and one on which the UK is now showing the way.

Deirdre Curtin is Professor of European Law at the University of Amsterdam and Director of the Amsterdam Centre for European Law and Governance (ACELG).

Kickstart youth entrepreneurship in EU

Posted by on 09/04/14
Youth unemployment is a generalized problem in the EU and a main theme with all EU institutions and leaders. At a pan EU-28 level of 22.9 % in February 2014 and an overall cost of  €153 billion per year in benefits and foregone earnings and taxes, it is clearly evident that unless tackled this issue will only [...]

Ronald Duong: the silent majority wants to hear the true story about Brussels

Posted by on 08/04/14

“The country benefits when key aspects of economic and financial affairs and the single market are dealt with properly in Brussels. But our politicians look at such joint (EU; rg) agreements as infected, europhile dossiers that they’d rather not be seen with in public. As soon as yet another European agreement has been reached, they dash to the national tv cameras and proudly detail everything they’ve managed to block in Brussels.
Former Italian prime minister (Mario; rg) Monti, astounded over this dynamic, once suggested introducing a code of conduct requiring government leaders to tell their domestic audiences about the agreements reached in Brussels instead. It wasn’t to be. Many government leaders are too fond of lashing out at Brussels in order to divert public attention from domestic issues. The low point in this respect is our own prime minister (Mark Rutte; rg) who is fond of saying he always takes a loaded pistol with him when leaving for Brussels. This is defeatism in the face of the cheap populism of a boisterous minority. Luckily, most people in this country understand very well that we owe the buttter on our bread to a trade and business climate shaped in part by our politicians and civil servants who managed to get our national policy objectives enshrined into EU internal market directives.
Surveys again and again arrive at the same conclusion: in this country, EU supporters continue to outnumber its opponents by a large margin. The outspoken minority may have hijacked the debate about Europe, but the silent majority understands that Europe is vitally imporant to this country’s prosperity.
But as major centrist parties have also started catering to that vocal minority, the voters risk being wrongfooted. Politicians are pretending we could do without Brussels. (…) The achievements of our EU membership are being smothered in political rethoric which is out of wack with the facts. (…) The silent majority wants to hear the true story about Brussels, rather than cheap scepticism in front of the cameras.”
– Roland Duong, tv journalist, who made a series of documentaries for VPRO television in the Netherlands entitled The Battle for Europe (De Slag om Europa), in a comment published in the Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, 7/8 December 2013.

(Source: Roland Duong, ‘EU-voorstanders zijn zwijgende meerderheid’, NRC Handelsblad, 7/8 December 2013, O&D2)



Are European Wages In A Race To The Bottom?

Posted by on 08/04/14
Anecdotal stories from friends in recent months have alerted me to a stunning drop in wages for new hires here in my adopted home of Malta. Essentially, the economy has been so bad in [enter name of country here] that young people have upped and moved, looking for better opportunities elsewhere. Since the Maltese economy [...]

What has the EU ever done for us?

Posted by on 08/04/14


For this post, EU Perspectives, turns to Monty Python’s “The Life of Brian” and a  scene where the People’s Judean Front (PJF) plots to kidnap Pontius Pilot’s wife.  In between discussing how to get into their hated governor’s house, the conversation turns to, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”  Rather a lot as it turns out – peace, sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health amongst others, which prompts the leader of the PJF, Reg, (played by John Cleese) to state,

“All right, but apart from – the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health – what have the Romans ever done for us?”

Fast forward two thousand years and it is as if the Monty Python team wrote the script for UKIP and their Tory admirers.

“All right, but apart from – peace, prosperity, trade, funding, an inter-connected infrastructure and cheap French wine – what has the EU ever done for us?”

Tory and UKIP anti-EU campaigners and other Eurosceptics could come straight from central casting. Featuring, Boris “Reg” JohnsonMichael “Reg” PortilloLord “Reg” Lawson – or EU Perspectives all time favourite: Mr Fargy-“Reg”-Wargy (aka Nigel Farage).

There is a certain streak of martyrdom to their speeches that smacks of freedom fighter’s rhetoric, which makes David Cameron’s assertion that the Brits come to the European Union, “with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional” sound at odds with the rhetoric of the odd-bods listed above.

They may wish to portray themselves as England’s last hope to free themselves of the terrible empire that is the EU, but in reality they are no such thing. It is pure sentiment, not reason, that distinguishes freedom fighters from rational politics.  Far, far easier for the Reg’s of this world to generate publicity for their cause by spouting populist sound-bites than to sit down and quantify the benefits of pooling interests for peace and prosperity.

Complete withdrawal from the EU may fulfill the ego’s of the cast set out above – but whilst they congratulate themselves on their anti-establishment streak – all the benefits of being an active member of the EU wilt away leaving Britain standing proud, independent, alone – and with egg on her face.

To return once more to “The Life of Brian” Reg pays one final visit to Brian as he awaits crucifixion. Reg, safe and comfortable, congratulates Brian on dying for such a noble cause,

“Your death (Brian) will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate the parent land from the hands of the Roman imperialist aggressors, excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture and any other Romans contributing to the welfare of Jews of both sexes and hermaphrodites. Signed, on behalf of the P. F. J. , etc. ”

The question the UK is going to have to ask herself is this: does she want to martyr herself and withdraw from the EU or does she want to continue enjoying the benefits of remaining an active member?

Should the UK vote no to EU membership not doubt “Reg”, wealthy enough to remain safe and secure from the full impact of withdrawal, will turn up and make a final speech which could read as follows,

“The withdrawal of the UK will stand as a landmark in the continuing struggle to liberate all other EU Member States from the hands of the EU imperialist aggressors, excluding those concerned with drainage, medicine, roads, housing, education, viniculture and any other EU members contributing to the welfare of the UK of both sexes and hermaphrodites. Signed, on behalf of the anti-EU campaigners. , etc. ”

At the end of the day though the EU is no empire. It has no Caesar, no Pontius Pilot and no centurion’s with which to enforce its will. The EU is not about authoritarian rule by a God Emperor.

The EU, unlike the Roman Empire, is a consensual body. The UK has a voice and a seat at the table. If the UK decides to withdraw so be it. The other EU member states, wise to the benefits of membership, will move on with or without the UK. Mr Fargy-Reg-Wargy and his ilk, on the other hand, like Don Quixote in a previous era, are tilting their lances at imaginary windmills.


Save the TTIP American Firms and chief negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic stand up for the TTIP

Posted by on 04/04/14

On the 27th of March 2014 the American Chamber of Commerce in the EU (AmChamEU) hosted the 2014 Transatlantic Conference on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) currently under negotiations between the US and the EU.

Sponsored by the most influential transnational corporation based in Brussels, P&G, Caterpillar, UPS just to cite a few, the conference welcomed speakers representing the US trade Department, their homologues from the DG Trade of the European Commission, Business leaders (P&G, Coca Cola, Ericsson, Cisco, General Electric), NGOs, consumer and business associations.

The TTIP: Key facts

The TTIP is a proposed “all encompassing” trade agreement between the US and the EU. Since tariff barriers between the US and the EU are generally very low (3,5% for EU products entering the US and 5,2% is the average EU import tariff), with the exception of agricultural goods and automotive sectors where protectionist tariffs persist on both sides, the prospected agreement will focus on regulatory standards, the so called “non tariffs barriers”.

Following the failure of the Doha round of negotiations of the WTO, leaders from both sides of the Atlantic advocated for a Transatlantic trade agreement.

 At the November 2011 EU-US Summit a High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth has been established. On the 11th of February 2013 it issued a report on the positive outcomes of a transatlantic trade agreement. The day after President Barak Obama endorsed the TTIP in his State of the Union address, immediately followed by the President of the European Commission Barroso.

 The 14th of May 2013 the European Parliament adopted a resolution (2013/2558(RSP)) in which it endorsed the launch of negotiations with the US and affirmed its will to “follow them closely and contributing to their successful outcome”.

 Week-long negotiation rounds are held in Brussels and Washington. Currently at its fourth round (10-14 March 2014), TTIP negotiations are set to conclude in 2015.

According to the IMF, the TTIP would cover the 46% of word’s GDP, being the biggest free trade area ever put in place in history.

Figures of the estimated benefits for the average citizen of the EU amount to €545 per year, with a 0.5% – 1% increase of GDP that equals €119 billion per year.

The automotive sector will be one of the biggest beneficiary form the TTIP because of the relatively high tariffs that still apply in this sector while intra-company trade will also receive a considerable boost, considering that a great share of transatlantic trade is made between subsidiaries of the same multinational companies.

 Criticism on the proposed TTIP focus mainly on the regulatory aspects of its negotiations (they are indeed the core of the agreement) and concerns have been raised on whether existing level of consumer, environmental and health and data protection would be at stake in the negotiations.

ISDS (Investor-State dispute settlement) mechanisms to be implemented within the TTIP are always a contentious subject because they could provide corporations the right to sue member states before an arbitral tribunal.

 Among the most critical point of the TTIP is also the lack of involvement of the European Parliament: up to now the European Council mandate to negotiate has not been subject to Parliamentary scrutiny, as the same Commissioner fort Trade Karel De Gaucht reminded on a Public hearing at the International Trade Committee on the 1th of April.

 TTIP facts and fiction: The Transatlantic Conference 

Opening his opening address Marc Vanheukelen, Head of Cabinet of European Commissioner for Trade Karel De Gucht, underlined the astonishing figures of US-EU trade flows “2,6 billion Euros cross the ocean every day”.

On the backdrop of rising critics toward the TTIP coming from civil society, he advocates for a further engagement of stakeholders in the decision making process: “stakeholders will be the first to see the benefits of the TTIP”.

“We have the mandate from 28 member state to negotiate”, said Vanheukelen in response to the widespread criticism of the TTIP democratic legitimacy.

 Ambassador Michael Punke, Deputy US trade Representative and Permanent Representative to the WTO, begun its discourse by underlying the “enormity” of the historical moment in which we live and the “tectonic shifts” the world is undergoing after the financial crisis.

In a nutshell, the TTIP as the new “Bretton Woods”, an opportunity for shaping the international financial architecture for the next century to come.

Ambassador Punke also stressed the innovations the last round of negotiations brought up:small- and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) interests have finally been taken into consideration since they account for the 99% of EU businesses and 2/3 of the entire private labour force.

To those skeptical about the trade agreement he took up President Obama’s speech at the US-EU summit held in Brussels on March 26 where he stated he has “no intention of signing legislation that would weaken consumer protection and environmental standards”.

“The US is not imposing its regulatory system to the EU”. The strong regulatory agenda set up by the TTIP will not lead to “deregulation”, but instead it will “cut red tapes”, overlapping procedures, leaving existing standards intact.

 Joseph Quinlan, senior fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations of the John Hopkins University, remarked that growth path in the US and in the US are currently “out of sync” with foreign direct investments (FDIs) flows in both directions in decline and a significant US trade deficit with the EU (-126,6 billion dollars in 2013).

On the other hand, global competitiveness rankings show how both the US and European countries stand in the global market: the World Economic Forum puts 6 European countries (1st is Switzerland, a non EU country) and the US (5th) in the top ten. This figures, together with the “competitive advantage” of the US in the energy sector , would testify for the opportunity of closer ties between the two sides of the Atlantic.

To ensure that the TTIP doesn’t end up like the Doha round of the WTO (a stalemate), Quinlan suggests to “sell the relationship”, the historical bonds between the US and the EU and not the trade agreement with its row statistical figures.

The general distress about the wrong turn taken by the debate on TTIP in Europe was well demonstrated by a statement from a representative of an American corporation: “There should be a hearts and minds campaign for the average guy who drinks a six packs of beers”.

A critical observation made by a representative of caterpillar about the ineffective role of European institutions in addressing the economic crisis induced Quinlan to state: “Europeans are not yet out of the woods, deflation is still a risk for Europe”.

Pieter de Pous, EU policy director for the European Environmental Bureau, expressed his concerns about the ISDS (Investor-State dispute settlement) mechanism to be put in place by the TTIP. In a recent letter to the Financial Times he and Jos Dings asserted that big corporation would circumvent States’ legislation and “bypass regular court systems and sue governments”.

 Data flow

 Kosuk Lee-Makiyama, Director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (ECIPE), drew attention on the value of data for the service economy by signaling that 1/5 of GDP growth in Europe comes from the use of internet. Trade in services between the EU and the US also account for around 40% of total traded goods, making the EU-US trade relationship the most “service intensive” and therefore “data intensive” in the world.

Rene Summers of Ericsson Group stated that putting barriers to data flows would result in increased costs of telecommunication services.

 Marco Düerkop, lead negotiatior on services for TTIP for the European Commission, took the EU-South Korea trade agreement as an example of an all-encompassing trade partnership that also provides provisions regarding data flow protection.

Article 7.50 of such agreement allows for an exemption to free flow of data to protect privacy, a provision already existing at WTO level (article XIV of GATS, General Agreement on Trade in Services), while article 7.43 commit the parties on the implementation of “adequate” safeguards to the protection of privacy.

After four rounds of negotiations on services the discussion is still at a “technical stage”, suggesting that more politically sensitive questions will be discussed at a later stage.

He also stressed upon the fact that the European Commission “is not going to negotiate data protection standards in TTIP”.

 On this subject Anne Fielder of Pricacy International reminded the public that while South Korea has a comprehensive data protection legislation, this is not the case of the US where a common regulatory framework on data protection is loudly invoked by consumers’ organizations.

She recommended to “reinforce privacy rights in both sides of the Atlantic” to “level the playing field” instead of racing to the bottom with a weak compromise based upon weak regulatory frameworks”.

 She also made clear that while free flow of data is an asset for businesses and consumers, personal data should be considered of a distinct kind and therefore a distinct set of rules have to be put in place to ensure their protection.

She pointed up that citizens are really concerned about their personal information being transferred or disclosed, as shown by statistics from Eurobarometer, certainly the recent mass surveillance affair playing a role in shaping people’s sensibility on the subject.

 On Safe Harbor Principles, she noted that independent reports on its functioning show how companies are self-certifying and self-policing over the principles they should follow, resulting in a large scale investigation carried out by the Federal Trade Commission.

She also remarked that US opposition to mandatory localization of data would not be acceptable for European businesses and consumers who instead strongly support it.

On this issue Mr. Düerkop admitted that a position has not yet been taken on weather including data localization in TTIP talks or instead rely on general GATS rules.

 From a different perspective, Mr. Hosuk favors a laissez-faire approach that puts consumers and vendors’ choice at center stage.

“We are taking the choice away from the citizens and back to the Government”, he stated, adding that forcing data localization to business would have detrimental results for the economy with a loss of up to 1% of GDP in Europe.

 IBM and Telefonica representatives both endorsed a “free-flow” of data approach to the TTIP, the former arguing that a “mythical” and thus mystifying depiction of the TTIP in the general public debate is occurring , while the latter underscored the consensual trade-off between persona data and free internet services.

A representative of Google interestingly pointed out how many governments seek and manage to take control over the internet not to protect their citizens’ privacy but to thwart free expression and control public opinion, asking how to multilaterally enforce a free expression regime at a global level.

“Privacy is a human right and so is freedom of expression”, remarked Anna Fielder of Privacy international, observing that trade agreements should not deal with human rights and that by no means personal information should ever be considered tradable goods to put on the negotiating table.

Pour en savoir plus:

- European Commission website on the TTIP: (EN) / (FR)

 - AmCham EU’s position on the TTIP: (EN)

 - EU-US High Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth: (EN)

 - TTIP: facts and fiction Conference programme: (EN)

 - Transatlantic Economic Survey, John Hopkins University: (EN)


Classé dans:Actualités, BREVES

Two days – two pieces of good news

Posted by on 03/04/14

Yesterday (2nd April) the Plenary Session of the European Parliament approved the final text of the Regulation revising the Clinical Trials Directive. The announcement from the Parliament can be seen here. Since this text was negotiated with the Commission and Council (the national governments) it will soon be agreed formally in Council.

Today (3rd April) I hear from BEUC that Abbvie are withdrawing their legal challenge to the new transparency policy of the European Medicines Agency. This may not be a coincidence since I think it would be harder for them to win their case with the passing of the new Regulation. At any rate, their decision is the right one for all kinds of reasons.

At time of writing I have no news of the position of Intermune who have launched a similar challenge against the EMA.

Attached is the text of the new Regulation as adopted by the Parliament. Strictly speaking it is a provisional text at this stage but I do not expect any significant changes.

Someone said recently that “Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” In this case I think the European Parliament has a special claim to paternity (or maternity in the case of Glenis Willmott MEP) but credit also to the European Commission (DG SANCO) and the 28 member governments in the Council.

EP, EC, EUCO and the people. Elections and Democracy.

Posted by on 03/04/14
As we are closing in on the EP elections to be held in May all across the EU, there are a couple of themes that seem to be on top of anything else: the democratic deficit of EU leadership, voters presence for European Elections and, connected with the first, the election of the new European [...]

Policy of steady hand

Posted by on 03/04/14

There is a motto attributed to a former Chancellor in Germany. Helmut Kohl has become very famous by his politics of the „steady hand“. It may not be very common these days and means to be a reverse model to US but to follow a beaten track, even if all others around you are asking for „Change!“, should be an alternative. Now, Mario Draghi is asked to act in this manner of a steady hand. Ministers of Finance met in Athens on Tuesday and discussed about deflation risks in EU. Referring to forecasts, inflation will rise in Euro-zone about 1 percent in 2014, 1.3 percent in 2015 and 1.5 percent in 2016. This is close to the objective of price stability, ECB is aiming to. Sometimes it’s better to do nothing.

Peine de mort : condamnations et exécutions en 2013. Un rapport de Amnesty international confirme la marche inexorable vers son abolition.

Posted by on 02/04/14

Ce rapport confirme ce qui est signalé habituellement, chaque année, lors de la journée internationale contre la peine de mort : malgré les rechutes de 2013, le nombre de pays appliquant la peine capitale n’a cessé de diminuer depuis 20 ans, et des progrès ont été constatés dans toutes les régions du monde pendant l’année écoulée. Beaucoup de pays qui avaient mis à mort des condamnés en 2012 n’ont procédé à aucune exécution en 2013 ; c’est le cas notamment de la Gambie, des Émirats arabes unis et du Pakistan, dont les autorités ont suspendu le recours à la peine capitale. Le Bélarus n’a exécuté personne non plus, ce qui fait que, pour la première fois depuis 2009, aucune exécution n’a été enregistrée en Europe ni en Asie centrale.

C’est un tout petit nombre de pays qui est responsable de la majorité des exécutions. L’Iran et l’Irak sont à l’origine d’une forte augmentation du nombre d’exécutions dans le monde en 2013, allant à l’encontre de la tendance mondiale à l’abolition de la peine de mort. Le nombre alarmant d’exécutions dans un groupe restreint de pays – principalement ces deux pays du Moyen-Orient – s’est traduit par près d’une centaine d’exécutions supplémentaires dans le monde par rapport à 2012, soit une augmentation de presque 15 %.

Le rythme élevé des exécutions dans certains pays comme l’Iran et l’Irak fait l’objet de scandale. Toutefois, ces États qui s’accrochent à la peine de mort se situent du mauvais côté de l’histoire et sont, en réalité, de plus en plus isolés. Et comme le signale le rapport «  Seul un petit nombre de pays sont responsables de la grande majorité de ces meurtres d’État qui n’ont aucun sens. Ces pays ne peuvent défaire les progrès déjà réalisés de manière générale en faveur de l’abolition. »

Dans beaucoup de pays non abolitionnistes, le recours à la peine de mort est entouré de secret ; aucune information n’est rendue publique et, dans certains cas, la famille du condamné, son avocat ou le grand public ne sont même pas prévenus à l’avance des exécutions. Ces pratiques ne sauraient cher le fait indéniable que la tendance est au progrès  d’où l’appel de Amnesty : il y a 20 ans, 37 pays appliquaient activement la peine de mort. Ils n’étaient plus que 25 en 2004, et 22 en 2013. Seuls neuf pays dans le monde ont procédé à des exécutions tous les ans ces cinq dernières années. La tendance sur le long terme est claire – la peine de mort est en passe de devenir un châtiment du passé. Nous exhortons tous les gouvernements qui continuent de tuer au nom de la justice à instaurer immédiatement un moratoire sur la peine capitale en vue de son abolition ».

En 2013, les méthodes d’exécution utilisées ont été notamment la décapitation, l’électrocution, le peloton d’exécution, la pendaison et l’injection létale. Des exécutions publiques ont eu lieu en Arabie saoudite, en Corée du Nord, en Iran et en Somalie. Des personnes ont été condamnées à la peine capitale pour des crimes n’ayant pas entraîné la mort, tels que des vols avec violence, des infractions à la législation sur les stupéfiants et des crimes économiques, mais aussi pour des actes qui ne devraient même pas être considérés comme des crimes, comme l’« adultère » et le « blasphème ». De nombreux pays ont utilisé le prétexte de « crimes » politiques, définis en termes vagues, pour exécuter des dissidents réels ou supposés.


Pour en savoir plus

Rapport de Amnesty internationa: (FR)/(EN)

Dossier peine de mort de Nea say: (FR)



Acting against Euroscepticism

Posted by on 02/04/14

The European Union has unified the continent like never before. It has been instrumental in shaping the progress of its countries and people by promoting fundamental freedoms. But given these upsides, why isn’t the Union more popular amongst its citizens? Numerous reasons exists in giving substance to the criticisms, but three points stand notoriously firm:

  • The structural complexities surrounding the EU
  • The misinformation and the lack of information within the EU
  • The recent recession and its handling by the EU

The first point entails the complex structure of the Union’s political structure; its system is indeed confusing, considering the vast amounts of agencies operating around it that are likely to be unknown to the public. Since it is more than a confederation of states but not a federal entity, the EU’s unique structure is something unprecedented and requires time for the people to comprehend the complexities.

The second point hints to the lack of knowledge EU citizens have regarding the EU, which leads to misconceptions surrounding the institution. It has been suggested to citizens that the Union is a bureaucratic nightmare filled with unelected seniors who enact policies that affect them. Of course, such notions lead to people thinking that they do not have a voice in influencing EU policies. As such misconceptions grow, EU critics in the media take advantage of the citizens’ ignorance to fuel their agenda.

The third point signifies the citizens’ dissatisfaction regarding the recent economic crisis. This has led to the rise of populist anti-EU parties who resort to propagandizing acts, which include national politicians pinning the cause of their country’s crises to Brussels. The increasing support for Eurosceptic parties in the recent months has been alarming; when Eurosceptic politicians gain fame, the development of the Union becomes threatened because their extreme advocacies against EU policies reach the point where they spread nationalist views that lead to xenophobia and intolerance. Such policies of course lead to undesirable and regressive political ramifications that are contrary to the principles of the EU.

In the midst of an economic crisis where the Union is doing everything it can to fix it, citizens cannot afford to have their national politicians to resort to petty pinpointing and sensationalizing that merely hardens the EU’s work and progress and depraves the EU’s name.

The dangerous nationalism that caused World War I may be getting a comeback with the rise of right-winged anti-EU parties. What’s alarming is that these insurgent parties are likely to succeed in the upcoming European Parliament polls, which needs to change. Citizens must realize that their platforms are misleading and regressively delusional, and they must give their fellow citizens the incentive to take action, because the truth is they really don’t want to live in the delusions of Eurosceptics.

Thus, the fate of EU development falls under their hands. The low voter turnout in the previous European polls must not be repeated because if EU citizens really don’t want to adhere to policies that will threaten basic fundamental freedoms, they need to vote, and vote for the right party.

Even if one isn’t too enthusiastic on the EU, voting still helps for it is the first step. The next step is to then regain the enthusiasm and advocate reform. The Lisbon Treaty was the first step in enhancing the Union by simplifying its structure; but the EU needs more than that, the EU needs to take further steps in integration, namely the commitment to a collective ideology of citizens in bettering EU development. This is done by setting aside their differences and starting to cooperate with one another and by promoting a union of citizens instead of a union of member states.

Courtesy of the European Commission


Ukraine crisis: what went wrong?

Posted by on 02/04/14
Who and when has messed things up, such that after Crimea’s annexation, we speak of a new Cold War. According to my journalistic notes, the root of the problem stems from November 2008, when we first heard talk about the “Eastern Partnership”, which some said was modeled on the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, a project that is dear to me because I was the Pact’s spokesperson until March 2008, when it passed into history.