FREE Newsletter: 25th of January

EU CALENDAR

Top News from the European Commission 26 January – 22 February 2013

Europa Rapid: “European Commission Brussels,
Tuesday 29 January: EU Commission sharpens tools to counter violent extremism 2
Wednesday 30 January: Progress report under the cooperation and verification mechanism for Romania 5
Thursday 31 January: EU drug market – new strategic analysis of ‘one of the most complex and invasive criminal phenomena of our times’ 6
Thursday 31 January: Recommendations on private copying levies 11
Tuesday 5 February (date to be confirmed): Commission will propose changes to Anti-money laundering and fund transfer legislation 12
Tuesday 5 February (date to be confirmed): Adoption of a joint Communication by the High Representative and the European Commission on Cyber Security Strategy 13
Tuesday 5 February (date to be confirmed): Commission to propose Directive reinforcing the protection of the euro and other currencies against counterfeiting by criminal law 15…”

FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS

Regulatory pressure gets the ball rolling: Share of women on company boards up to 15.8% in Europe

Europa Rapid: “European Commission Press release Davos, 25 January 2013 Today the Commission released mid-term figures on the share of women on boards in publicly listed companies. The new figures show an increase in the number of women on boards to 15.8%, up from 13.7% in January 2012.

This breaks down into an average of 17% of non-executive board members (up from 15% in January 2012) and 10% of executive board members (up from 8.9%). An increase in the share of women on boards has been recorded in all but three EU countries (Bulgaria, Poland and Ireland).
The new figure represents a 2.2 percentage point increase as compared to October 2011 and is the highest year on year change yet recorded. This boost follows the women on boards proposal that the European Commission adopted on 14 November 2012 (IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860) to introduce a 40% objective for women on boards based on merit. It also reflects the impact of high-level EU discussions about the need for legislation regulating the number of women on boards…”

Alleviating poverty: Europe’s new aid programme for the down and out

Europa Rapid: “The EU’s food programme could soon be expanded to include the provision of clothes and shelter to poor people in the EU, under a proposal being dealt with by Parliament. On 23 January, the EP’s social affairs committee invited experts to discuss how to make the most of the new programme. NGOs welcomed the plans but warned the new services could come at the expense of the amount of food being handed out.

A new fund to help the poor
The European Commission proposes to launch a new fund that would replace the EU’s current food programme. The goal would be to provide Europe’s poorest with food and clothes, tackle child poverty and help the homeless. The proposed budget for the fund is €2.5 billion for 2014-2020…”

EU MEMBERSHIP

Catalan parliament declaration pushes self-determination

CNN: “The heated debate over potential Catalan independence from Spain took a new turn Wednesday when the Catalan regional parliament approved a declaration alluding to sovereign rights.

It is not an outright statement of independence, but parliament’s declaration insists that the Catalan people, in northeast Spain around Barcelona, have the right to self-determination.

Over sharp opposition from the conservative Spanish government in Madrid, the Catalan parliament voted 85-41 for the declaration, with two abstentions. Five other regional members of parliament chose not to vote at all.

A key part of the declaration reads: “The people of Catalonia have — by reason of democratic legitimacy — the character of a sovereign political and legal entity.”…”

Bye-bye Mr Klaus! Bye-bye euroscepticism?

Euobserver: “For eight years Vaclav Klaus as President of the Czech Republic has been its best known eurosceptic face…”

He not only gave EU bureaucrats a hard time by extending almost indefinitely the signature of the Lisbon Treaty, but also succeeded in creating a local anti-European ideology which resonates well in the time of crisis.
His now famous 2009 speech to the European Parliament is still treated as a eurosceptic manifesto by many.
But the Klaus era is over…”
Also on the same topic: Czech Republic: ‘Two worlds, one choice’

Parliament chief: ‘the EU is not in a good state’

Euobserver: “European Parliament chief Martin Schulz has admitted that some of London’s concerns about the EU are valid and that it is no longer acceptable to dismiss those who are critical of the EU as simply being eurosceptic.
In a press conference to mark the new year Schulz said he shared some of the “unease” with the EU that UK prime minister David Cameron outlined in a widely-reported speech earlier in the week.
“This unease with the EU as it now is, is something that I share. I think there are many people in Europe who also have this unease” said Schulz. “And that’s why I would really recommend that we don’t label everyone who criticises the EU as a eurosceptic.”
“The EU is not in a good state. We have to do better.”…”

Poland: UK no longer a leading EU country

Euobserver: “Britain has lost its place in the club of leading EU nations with France and Germany over its plan to hold a referendum on EU membership, the Polish foreign minister has said.
“The Prime Minister [the UK’s David Cameron] has shifted his country’s position in the EU hierarchy. From a country which was a natural member of the triumvirate capable of ruling the EU, Great Britain has moved to the category of a country of special concern, which should be treated with care in case it does something unwise, harms itself and leaves the Union. It means the group which holds power in the Union will have a different shape,” Radek Sikorski told Poland’s Tok FM radio station on Thursday (24 January).
He said Poland could take Britain’s place over the next decade.
“We would have to continue reforms and join the eurozone, then we could be the ones in the group of three, or five, countries which have the biggest say in the EU,” he added…”

Cameron’s gamble

Euractiv: “David Cameron’s London speech (23 January) is the culmination of a long period of in-decision over the position of the Coalition Government towards Europe.
Hemmed-in by an increasingly eurosceptic Conservative party on his right, and euro-enthusiast coalition partners on his left, this is the speech the Prime Minister has promised for months. In it, he committed both to lay out a credible negotiating position for the UK vis-à-vis other EU leaders, and satisfy domestic critics, demanding the PM to deliver on his 2010 manifesto promise to re-negotiate Britain’s position on Europe.
Unfortunately for Mr Cameron, both of these goals seem likely to fail. In terms of re-negotiation, Cameron’s key bet is on a larger re-negotiation of the EU Treaties, in which Britain could secure favourable opt-outs from key EU policies as a price for UK assent. This approach of course is not new: acceding to new EU Treaties while insisting upon ‘special conditions’ for the UK is a long British bargaining tactic going back to the opt-outs from the Social Chapter and eurozone secured by the UK after the Maastricht Treaty.
David Cameron’s strategy relies on three rather shaky assumptions…”

Also on the same topic: Cameron prods Europe’s sore spot, You’re on, Mr Cameron!, Cameron prods Europe’s sore spot

UK allies turn cold shoulder on Cameron

Euractiv: “UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s landmark speech on Europe – which offered Britons an in/out referendum – met with a barrage of criticism yesterday (23 January) as even traditional UK allies gave it a lukewarm response.

Cameron said in the speech that if his party wins a mandate it will immediately set about a renegotiation of terms with EU members and put any subsequent deal to the British people in a plebiscite.

Non-eurozone members Denmark and Sweden usually line up with Britain on the single market and desire for EU flexibility.
But Copenhagen and Stockholm were lukewarm.
“I thought it was sad he didn’t mention the Union as more than a network,” said Sweden’s minister for European Affairs, Birgitta Ohlsson, adding: “The EU is not a loose network. It’s a union with clear game rules.”
“We have no intentions of following Cameron in that direction [to a referendum]. It’s in Denmark’s interests to have as close ties as possible to the centre of Europe,” said Nicolai Wammen, the Danish minister for European Affairs.
“Denmark has strong alliances with a number of EU countries such as Germany, France, Sweden and the Netherlands. So we will not change our EU direction if the Brits choose to leave the EU,” Wammen said.
Wammen’s last statement would have raised eyebrows in Downing Street, if it was noticed amidst the growing pile of negative missives.
In the Netherlands, a traditional British ally, Foreign Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans, agreed with Cameron that the EU needed to be reformed, saying the Single Market and free trade should be promoted.
“But you only reform the EU from within, not by running away from it,” Timmermans said, adding: “The [Dutch] government does not want opt-out clauses and neither seeks a redefinition of the relationship with the European Union.”
France offers UK a red-carpeted exit…”

ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES

Europe ‘has failed to learn from environmental disasters’

Euractiv: “Europe has failed to learn the lessons from many environmental and health disasters like Chernobyl, leaded petrol and DDT insecticides, and is now ignoring warnings about bee deaths, GM food and nanotechnology, according to an 800-page report by the European Environment Agency.
Thousands of lives could have been saved and extensive damage to ecosystems avoided if the “precautionary principle” had been applied on the basis of early warnings, say the authors of the 2013 Late Lessons from Early warnings report published on Wednesday.
They accuse industry of working to corrupt or undermine regulation by spinning and manipulating research and applying pressure on governments for financial benefit. “[It has] deliberately recruited reputable scientists, media experts and politicians to call on if their products were linked to possible hazards. Manufacturing doubt, disregarding scientific evidence of risks and claiming over-regulation appear to be a deliberate strategy for some industry groups and think tanks to undermine precautionary decision-making.”…

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