Tag Archive: EU


Tragedy Leads to Reform of Immigration Policy in European Union

 A shipwreck last week near the Italian island of Lampedusa  that killed almost 300 African  migrants has ignited a political debate to further protect the borders of the European Union.  The shipwreck was caused by water that flooded the ship which mixed with the fuel and caused it to igniteThe public response to the  tragedy has forced the European Union to adopt a new surveillance system that will help alleviate the European Union’s growing problem with illegal immigrants. 

The citizens of Lampedusa have previously complained to the European Union about the thousands of migrants who illegally cross their borders every year from Africa and the Middle East. While trying to mourn the tragedy, the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, was heckled by the islanders protesting the current immigration policy.

In response to the rising concerns and protests about the current immigration policy, European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom proposed expanding the role of the agency that patrols the sea for migrant ships. Currently the agency, Frontex, only can patrol off the coast of Italy using equipment loaned from the EU member states but the proposal suggests requesting the EU governments to give cash and to provide the boats and aircrafts that will protect the Mediterranean Sea.

The surveillance system that the EU has adopted is predicted to improve information gathering and information sharing throughout the member states while using satellites to help deter another tragedy such as this one from happening again.  In the interim, President Jose Barroso has promised Italy 30 million euro to provide assistance to care for the migrants.

Electronic Cigarettes Survive Sweeping Tobacco Regulations

On October 7, the European Parliament finally passed new regulations governing the multi-billion dollar tobacco market.   The new legislation aims at tightening up the 2001 Tobacco Products Directive.  Some of the new sanctions placed on the tobacco industry include:  bigger warning signs on cigarette packs, the elimination of “10-pack” cigarettes, and also a ban on menthol and other flavored additives.  Some of these regulations, if passed by the European Council, would not take effect for another five to ten years.

After intense lobbying from the growing electronic cigarette industry, including global tobacco companies, the European Parliament refused to include the European Commission’s recommendation to classify electronic cigarettes like other medicinal products.  The new tobacco regulations still need approval by the 28 European Union government leaders in the European Council, who along with the European Commission, want electronic cigarettes controlled under medical regulations.  There will soon be an intriguing battle in Brussels.   The European Council has endorsed the European’s Parliament’s philosophy on marketing electronic cigarettes as medicines.  However, the European Council would allow tobacco companies more time to acquire medicines marketing authorization.

Should electronic cigarettes be regulated as tobacco products or should they be sold in pharmacies as medicinal products?  Research claims that 85 percent of electronic cigarette users start in order to help them quit smoking.  Electronic cigarettes also cost 90 percent less than your traditional cigarette.  Most electronic cigarette users think that smoking electronic cigarettes is less harmful than smoking traditional cigarettes.  However, health experts are still divided on the long-term effects of using electronic cigarettes, and they are still years away from uncovering these effects.  At the moment, there is yet a clear answer for the European Union on how to regulate electronic cigarettes.

 

 

 

The European Union’s Fight for LGBT Rights in Partner Countries

On October 2, 2013, Nick Westcott, the European Union’s most senior official in charge with relations in Africa, proclaimed the European Union should stop lecturing Africa about gay rights.  Westcott believes the European Union needs to be understanding of Africa’s cultural differences.  When asked to elaborate on cultural issues at a debate in Brussels about European Union foreign policy, Westcott stated “We can lecture about lesbian, gays and bisexuals until the cows come home. And it will have a wholly counterproductive effect on our usefulness in Africa. We need to focus on fundamental values.”

Protecting the rights of the LGBT community is a fundamental value of the European Union.  Westcott’s stance on how to handle gay rights in Africa is contrary to the European Union’s overall foreign policy on the rights of gays and lesbians in partner countries.  Article 21 of the the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.The principle of equal treatment is a fundamental value for the European Union, which is going to great lengths to combat homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In July 2012, the European Parliament released a resolution to help combat violence against lesbian women and the rights of the LGBT community in Africa.  In July 2013, the European Parliament submitted another resolution condemning a law passed by Nigeria that criminalizes not only same-sex marriage, but those who fail to denounce them. Even more than that, the law made it illegal to show a public display of affection to someone of the same sex.

The European Union’s fight for LGBT rights also extends to other parts of the world.  The European Union recently condemned Serbia’s ban  of a gay pride parade for the third consecutive year.  They have also condemned the Ukraine for its new laws banning propaganda of homosexuality, and threatened the Ukraine’s ties to the European Union because of it.  It appears Westcott’s opinion on how to handle LGBT rights in Africa is not the majority view of the European Union.

The European Union’s Leadership in the Debate against the Death Penalty

Amnesty International called the year 2012  a “setback” for the fight against the death penalty because the number of death penalties increased in a number of countries.  Specifically, there was a rise in executions in Iraq and nations such as Japan, Gambia, and India resumed executing individuals. The European Union (EU) does not fall within the  “setback” categorization  because the EU is staunchly opposed to the death penalty.

The European Union has led the charge against employing the death penalty for years. Nations that would like to join the EU must disavow the death penalty or they will not be admitted. Europe is the largest region in the world where the death penalty has been abolished. Belarus is the only European country to continue the practice, in spite of the EU’s disapproval.

One of the European Union’s guidelines concerning human rights is to ensure and protect human dignity. The guidelines also include universal abolition of the death penalty and  the EU also asks for the nations that still employ the practice to  restrict the instances that the procedure will be applied.  The European Union’s fight against the death penalty does not end within its borders. The EU is one of the largest donors to the cause against the death penalty being employed across the globe.  The European Union has taken an active approach in intervening in cases for individuals that are being prosecuted by the death penalty and the EU also advocates against the policy to countries that still use the death penalty.

The European Union even has issued formal statements to families who have endured the loss of the person who was executed. For example on August 7th, 2013, the EU High Representative, Catherine Ashton, commented on the execution of Mr. John Ferguson in Florida. Ashton stated

”It was with deep regret that I learnt that Mr. John Ferguson was executed on August 5 in the State of Florida. A plea by Mr Ferguson’s lawyer calling for the execution to be commuted, mentioning a 40-year history of paranoid schizophrenia, was turned down.

The European Union recognizes the serious nature of the crime involved and expresses its sincere sympathy to the surviving family and friends of the victims.

However, the EU opposes the use of capital punishment in all cases and under all circumstances
and calls for a global moratorium as a first step towards its universal abolition. With capital punishment, any miscarriage of justice, from which no legal system is immune, represents an
irreversible loss of human life.”

The EU uses statements like these to illustrate the position that it takes against the implementation of this policy. The EU has steadily advocated against this policy and will do so to ensure that human dignity will remain a principle worth fighting for. 

 

Should the European Union Regulate E-Cigarettes?

The European Parliament will soon vote on a proposal to revise the current Tobacco Products Directive.  The new directive would classify e-cigarettes as medicinal products. The directive would include a ban on menthol and other flavored cigarettes while requiring mandatory health warnings on the package. This would profoundly restrict present e-cigarettes users’ access to the product, specifically the access of children.

The European Union hopes to reduce the 700,000 deaths attributable to tobacco use across all member-states with the revision. There are not many studies discussing the health benefits or risks associated with e-cigarettes. The United Nations World Health Organization has said the safety of e-cigarettes “has not been scientifically demonstrated…and the potential risks they pose for the health of users remains undetermined.”  The Save E-cigs Campaign said the revision would condemn “Europe’s seven million e-cigarette users to a premature death.” Opponents of the revision claim regulation would raise costs, reduce innovation, and force millions back to tobacco use. Are e-cigarettes really saving lives as the opponents of the revision and certain studies claim? Does the European Union have the authority to enact broader regulation to the Tobacco Products Directive?

The European Court of Justice has stated that regulation on tobacco products to ensure a high level of health protection throughout the member-states is in accordance with the Treaties. Since science has yet to discover the long-term health risks associated with e-cigarette use, the European Union has a duty to regulate a product that could be doing more harm than good. The revision does not ban the product. It simply places them on the same platform as regular cigarettes. E-cigarettes had not gained popularity when the European Union passed the Tobacco Products Directive in 2001. Therefore, this revision is necessary to update the current concerns and trends of European consumers.

France and the Ban on Mercedes’ Use of (Il)legal Hydroflurocarbons

In response to the Kyoto Protocol, EU member states have begun an initiative to reduce the amount of hydrofluorocarbons emitted by the air-conditioning systems in automobiles, so that they can be in compliance with the necessary reduction in greenhouse gases required by the Protocol.  The EU has created Directive 2006/40/EC to ensure the uniformity of the effort and to avoid impeding the free movement of commerce between member countries.

Last week France’s administrative court overruled a ban on German engineered Mercedes automobiles for non-compliance with the EU ban on R134a.  The court held that banning the sale or registration of cars being sold with R134a as a coolant for the air-conditioning system could not be upheld when the ban was called into place because of suspicions that Daimler, the parent company for Mercedes, was circumventing technical rules for registration of cars using air-conditioning chemical R134a.  Article 5.4 of the Directive states that after January 1, 2011 member states will not be allowed to approve new cars that are to fitted with air-conditioning systems that will emit a greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of higher than 150.  R134a has a global warming potential of 1430.  France was concerned that Mercedes had registered cars prior to 2011 with R134a, but then, attempting to comply with regulations decided to switch to R1234yf, which is the only chemical that meets current Directive requirements.  However, after testing, Daimler found that R1234yf was combustible at a lower temperature than R134a and decided against using R1234yf in their vehicles, and returned to using R134a.

The Directive notes that at the time it was enacted, there were currently no cost-effective alternative chemicals on the market to replace R134a.  The Directive also noted that the time tables should be re-evaluated when a suitable replacement is discovered, as it may take longer to implement than originally hoped.

Several car companies are now looking for alternatives or putting off the switch to R1234yf until the risks involved are further defined.  Currently there are only two manufacturers of R1234yf, Honeywell and DuPont, and they are urging the speedy implementation of the EU Directive.  DuPont is confident that the risk associated with R1234yf is “nearly a million times lower than the risk related to car fires from all potential causes, and the risk is well below those commonly considered acceptable by the general public and regulatory agencies.”

 

Dependent on the European Union for Independence

The Kingdom of Spain is facing another major crisis on top of its economic difficulty as the region of Catalonia threatens to secede and form its own independent democratic nation.  If Catalonia secedes, Spain will be losing one of its most economically prosperous regions, further driving Spain into impoverishment.  Catalonia seeks recognition from the European Union to establish its autonomy.  Catalonia claims that it is already a member of the EU because it is a region of the member state, Spain.  The region of Catalonia’s main issue is its status in the European Union, whether or not it is an automatic member or will be required to apply for membership.

If not accepted as an automatic member of the EU, Catalonia will need to fulfill conditions under the Copenhagen criteria in order to join the EU.  This requires a political, economic, and finally the fulfillment of the Maastricht Treaty; requiring each current member state as well as the European Parliament must agree to any enlargement.  Catalonia is a democracy that supports the Euro, is regionally wealthy, and therefore already meets most of the requirements to join the EU.  Catalonia faces difficulties dependent on whether or not the EU would automatically accept it as a member state if it does secede.

The ability to join automatically or require formal application and acceptance is a critical issue for the European Union.  If the EU were to allow the automatic acceptance of a member state’s regions, this acceptance authorization could cause serious division amongst the member states.  The automatic acceptance of a member state’s region into the EU would particularly affect Great Britain, Belgium, and Germany as each nation consists of regions with historically independent cultures.  On November 7th the Catalan President Artur Mas confronted the EU’s hesitant position by saying it would be “illogical” not to accept small, rich, pro-EU Catalonia as an automatic future member if it splits from Spain.  The EU is abstaining from discussing this issue until after the Catalan elections which will take place on November 25th 2012.

The Catalan elections occurring on November 25th are critical for Spain, the European Union, Catalonia, and restless regions of other EU member nations because the elections will force the European Union to take a position on regionalism.  President Artur Mas will seek to secede if his party wins the election, “The question will be if the EU is prepared to offer solutions to countries such as Catalonia, that have the will to be in Europe, that have the same rights as European citizens and that … only to change their political status.”

Microsoft Exploring the Limits of Antitrust

The battle of the best Internet browser continues not only in the United States, but in the European Union as well.  Microsoft’s campaign to conquer the browser industry in Europe has been halted by EU antitrust laws.  Microsoft has made it difficult for customers to choose other browsers while using their Windows operating system.  Its dominant position in the market concerned the European Commission back in 2009.  The EU “suspected Microsoft of using its dominant market position to foist its Internet Explorer browser on users.”  Microsoft and the European Commission has come to a legal settlement in which “Microsoft agreed to create a screen where users could choose among competitors’ browsers”.

The European Union’s power to govern antitrust, internationally and intranationally is derived from the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.  Under Article 101, “agreements between two or more independent market operators which restrict competition are prohibited”.  The second article governing antitrust is Article 102.  Article 102 states that, “firms holding a dominant position on a determined market to abuse that position are prohibited.”  Article 102 governs here as Microsoft’s dominant position was used to abuse that position by denying competitive browsers the opportunity to compete.

Microsoft has failed to meet the requirements of the settlement.  In the three years since the settlement many computers still did not contain the display option between different browsers.  Microsoft claimed a technical error was responsible for the failure; this excuse is an almost acceptable response due to Window’s history of poor performance.

On October 21, 2012 The EU filed a formal complaint against Microsoft for its failure to abide by the settlement.  Microsoft has given a public apology upholding its position that this failure was the result of a technical malfunction and that it will do everything in its power to abide by the settlement.  Unfortunately for Microsoft this is insufficient to the requirements of the settlement.  Microsoft now has four weeks to answer the accusation made by the EU.  If its defense is inadequate, “The company could face a fine of up to 10% of its annual revenue if found in breach of antitrust law.”

The European Union and the European Commission have shown that they are serious when dealing with antitrust laws.  A compromise was created in an effort to show leniency and fairness to Microsoft.  The elements of the settlement were almost insultingly not complied with, and now Microsoft is facing the sterner side of justice.

The European Union (EU) has expressed concerns over Google’s privacy policies. Google is a global technology company focused on online products and services, notably internet search and email services, advertising, and software technologies. On October 16, 2012, the data collection authorities for all 27 EU Member States signed a letter that was sent to Google addressing the EU’s privacy concerns. In short, the EU’s concern is that Google may be collecting too much information on users and keeping the information stored on its system for too long. The EU letter claims that Google has not “endorse[d] the key data protection principles of purpose limitation, data quality, data minimisation, proportionality and right to object.” The increased worry over Google’s policies was sparked by Google’s new privacy policy which allows the company to combine data collected from its internet-related services such as YouTube and Gmail. This data collection enables Google to improve its advertising efforts by targeting users based on specific interests and browsing history.

In order to better understand the quarrel between Google and the EU, it is important to discuss briefly EU law regarding data collection. Article 7 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees the right to respect for one’s private and family life, home, and communications. More specifically, Article 8 provides explicit protection of the right to the protection of personal data. Article 8 specifically includes the “right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified.” The right to data protection is also enshrined in Article 16(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In 1995, the EU adopted the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).  The Data Protection Directive’s Article 29 created the “Working party on the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Processing of Personal Data.” The Article 29 Working Party has broad powers over data protection in the EU. Data protections were reinforced by the E-Privacy Directive (2002/58/EC). In January 2012, the Commission proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU legal framework on the protection of personal data. The 2012 proposals seek to enhance users’ control of their data and account for changes in technology.  In February 2012, Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner, stressed that European authorities need to ensure that Google’s new privacy policy complies with EU law.

The EU’s latest row with Google raises an interesting test regarding the future of European data protection. Specifically, the EU regulators want Google to (1) clarify its privacy policies; (2) get express permission from individual users to use and collect their data; (3) make it easier for users to opt out of certain requirements; and (4) publish how it uses and processes personal data. Google has four months to comply. If Google does not sufficiently comply with the EU’s requests, the EU regulators will consider disciplinary measures such as fines. Google has not responded at this time. However, Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said, “Our new privacy policy demonstrates our long-standing commitment to protecting our users’ information and creating great products. We are confident that our privacy notices respect European law.”

Google has certainly faced its fair share of privacy complaints in EU countries in the past. In 2010, EU regulators demanded that Google warn people before taking pictures for Google’s Street View service. Furthermore, the EU demanded that Google shorten the amount of time the pictures were kept on the company’s system. In 2011, Spanish data protection authorities demanded that Google remove links to online news articles which infringed on the privacy of Spanish citizens.

At the end of the day, the latest dispute between Google and the EU underscores the difficulty in harmonizing EU data protection laws and maintaining the health of the global internet-based economy. On one hand, Google wants highly targeted advertising because advertising is the chief revenue source for the company. On the other hand, European countries want to ensure that EU users’ data is protected and that Google complies with EU law. The outcome of this row will likely have long-term implications for many other companies such as Facebook which rely on Europe’s significant market of 500 million citizens.

Swedish Peaceballs

As the member nations of the European Union join together in an effort to deter Iran’s nuclear program one member state stands against them.  The European Union governments’ sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program consisted of “new measures against Tehran’s banking sector, industry and shipping. The new sanctions mark one of the toughest pushes against Iran by Europe to date, and come amid mounting concerns over the Islamic Republic’s military intentions and the failure of diplomacy to solve the atom stand-off this year.”  The EU has emphasized diplomacy to soothe Iran into discontinuing their nuclear program but there has been a concerning lack of cooperation on Iran’s behalf. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said, “In the last couple of months Iran has not budged on any of the key issues and we must therefore increase the pressure through sanctions”.  Why then does Sweden oppose the majority?

According to one source, three main players in the EU, Germany, France, and Great Britain, are upset with Sweden.  One German diplomat stated that Sweden’s actions are “embarrassing, absurd and illogical foot-dragging.”  Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt claims that their actions are to champion diplomacy over sanctions.  Are the Swedes concerned that the economic sanctions would hurt the people of Iran or the termination of lucrative contracts consisting between the two nations?  This speculation that Sweden’s economic interest is not without merit but is again only speculation.  It is not certain why Sweden is against the sanctions.  Does Sweden have the legal ability under the EU law to continue their economic ventures with Iran if the sanctions pass?

Article 11 of the Treaty on European Union defines the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), which govern sanctions.  The EU is allowed to sanction Iran according to Article 11 “to preserve peace and strengthen international security…, and to promote international cooperation.”  Sweden, as a member state, has to comply with the sanctions enacted by the EU due to the loyalty clause under Article 11(2).  This states that Sweden has to “support the CFSP actively and unreservedly; refrain from any action which is contrary to the interests of the Union or is likely to impair its effectiveness in international relations; work together to enhance and develop their mutual political solidarity.”

The Swedes are unhappy about the sanctions that the EU might enact upon Iran, but if they are enacted they’ll have to abide by them.




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