Issue 2 - 2024 200dpi

24 July 2008 Edition

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This news feature is funded by the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL)








Move on airline emissions and honest ticket pricing welcomed by de Brún

MEP Bairbre de Brún has welcomed the decision of the European Parliament to include aviation in the EU’s emissions trading scheme (ETS).
Speaking from Strasbourg, where the decision was taken this month, the Climate Change Committee member said: “Since 1990, greenhouse gas emissions from EU international aviation have more than doubled and now account for between 5 per cent and 12 per cent of the total EU CO2 emissions. The European Parliament has agreed to a compromise package which, although far from perfect, will allow us to set limits on the aviation industry’s emissions beginning in 2012.
By including aviation within the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), we are sending out a message that we are serious about tackling all the causes of climate change.
The next ten years will be crucial in combating climate change and avoiding irreversible damage. It is important that in the review of EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme the requirements on aviation from 2013 are more comprehensive.”
Responding to claims that the new rules would lead to an increase in fares for European customers, de Brún stated:
“We all carry a responsibility to fight climate change, including the aviation sector and those of us who regularly fly. Nobody can be exempted from this responsibility.
“The inclusion of aviation in the EU’s emissions trading scheme is necessary and exaggerated claims about the negative effects of this measure cannot hide that.”

Also, during the same session, MEPs backed a report which means an end to misleading airline ticket prices. When implemented, this means that airlines will have to advertise their tickets at the all-inclusive price so the wilful misleading of passengers will be ended.
Welcoming this move, Bairbre de Brún commented:
“While the increased accessibility of air travel to ordinary people is to be welcomed, the pressure on airlines to misrepresent their fares in advertising is immense due to increased competition and the scramble for market share.
“There should be a level playing field on advertising of airfares so that consumers can make informed choices rather than having to guess at the hidden costs in the offers from different airlines.”


Military power and NATO top France’s EU agenda


SINCE taking over the European Union presidency on 1 July, France has pin-pointed four priority areas in its six-month term for a “more protective Europe”: defence, climate change, agriculture, and immigration.

Clearly, post-Lisbon Irish attention will be particularly fixed on the defence plans of the Sarkozy government. The French have promised to give “renewed impetus to a Europe of defence and security”. A large part of this “impetus” is to be developed by enhancing EU/NATO co-operation.
A document mapping out this enhanced co-operation with NATO is due to be presented to the 27 governments in December at the end of France’s presidency.
Under the title of ‘Developing Partnerships for Security’, the French presidency foresees “co-operation with NATO, both within the framework of the strategic partnership for crisis management and on the ground, particularly when operations are underway in the same location”.
All of this is in the spirit of boosting the EU’s “intervention capability” with the figure of 60,000 men mentioned as a target number for a “major operation”.
There is also an explicit admission that increasing the military capabilities of the EU is a key aim of France. More joint training exercises, joint military research programmes and the creation of a “real internal defence market” are all envisaged as elements in increasing the EU’s military capacity. The EU-wide student-exchange programme, Erasmus, is to be used as a model for military exchanges - referred to as “Military Erasmus” programmes which are also to be brought on-line.
On the brighter side there are commitments to working towards non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (but no mention of the ones held by European forces already) and a commitment to bring forward proposals on making progress towards the ban on cluster bombs is included.

While, of course, co-ordinated action to fight climate change is to be welcomed there are worries about the way the French seem keen to emphasise the link between energy policy and climate action.
At a time when the EU has set itself targets for greenhouse gas emissions and with “energy security” becoming more and more of a buzz term in Brussels, there are signs that the nuclear-dependent France will be pushing for nuclear energy as the solution to greenhouse gas emission and security of supply.
This pro-nuclear position has also gained credence among some due to the current high and rising cost of gas and oil across the world.
A major UN conference to be held in Poland in December as part of the ongoing negotiations to replace the Kyoto agreement will give the French scope to influence not only EU policy as president-in-office but also to shape the emerging world consensus on climate change.
The thorny issue of biofuels production and its role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and in affecting food prices should also provide some interesting questions for the French presidency.

The French presidency comes as the European Commission is rolling-out its “Health Check” on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
France has traditionally been an ally of Irish farmers within the EU and there is hope that the worst excesses of the Mandelson reforms in the world trade talks can be tempered by the French. Indeed, it is believed that they insisted on bringing forward the CAP issue so that it would be dealt with under their presidency.  The launching of a “reflection on the future of the CAP” is expected under this presidency.
A recent conference in Brussels attended by Bairbre de Brún MEP and Willie Clarke MLA on the CAP Health Check heard from farmers across Europe how each ‘reform’ of CAP had inevitably led to increased pressure on small farmers to leave the land and the enrichment of large farmers and landowners.
It remains to be seen if French influence can reverse this trend.

On immigration, France is looking to build a greater level of coherence and co-operation among the member states.
Its hope is to see this culminate in an ‘Immigration and Asylum Pact’ based on the plans already announced by the European Commission. This is likely to mean the inclusion of the much-criticised ‘return directive’ which seeks to support the practice of holding immigrants in detention centres and the introduction of the sinister ‘administrative detention’ system for longer periods.

Of course, these French plans were drawn up on the basis that the Lisbon Treaty would be coming into law on the 1 January next.
Despite the Irish people’s rejection of Lisbon, there seems to be no let-up in momentum from the EU under Sarkozy. This contrasts with the rumours that the Czech presidency (which immediately succeeds the French one) is already working on the basis that Lisbon may not be in force as of next January.
Each of the four priorities of the French presidency is of great political importance to Ireland, North and South. Many of the issues which will be decided upon in these coming months were discussed in-depth in the Lisbon campaign. Neutrality, militarisation and nuclear energy were all soundly rejected by voters in the 26 Counties. Irish MEPs and the Irish Government must respect this and not allow these unwanted developments to come in through the back door under French influence or that of any other EU presidency.


‘Social Package 2008’: The European Commission’s Great ‘Social Renewal’ swindle

Commission plan ‘allows for 78-hour working week’


The European Commission, hoping to make people believe that it has learnt its lesson from the ‘No’ votes in the French, Dutch and Irish referenda on the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty, has launched a package of initiatives in the social field. Clearly the Commission has realised that the increased tendency towards an anti-social Europe was one of the principal reasons for the ‘No’ vote in all three countries, and for the increasing opposition to the current direction of the EU across Europe.
While the renewed interest in things social is to be welcomed, the package itself does little to shift the balance of the EU more in favour of ordinary people. One might be forgiven for being a bit cynical about the timing of the package, one year out from the elections to the European Parliament.
Commenting on the package, Francis Wurtz, President of the GUE/NGL group in the European Parliament, said:
“The truth is the new ‘social package’ consists mainly of non-legislative communications, reports and recommendations whose effect in terms of promoting measurable progress towards Social Europe is doubtful. On the legislative front, the main thrust of the Commission’s policies continues to be a Europe in which market liberalisation, deregulation and flexible labour are being prioritised first and foremost.
“The hypocrisy of the European Commission is neatly exposed through its supportive statements on the European Court of Justice rulings in the Viking Line, Laval, Rüffert and Luxemburg cases, which restrict fundamental rights, the right to strike and collective bargaining and also the rights contained in the posting of workers directive.”

Greek MEP Dimitris Papadimoulis focussed on the problems contained in the revision of the Working Time Directive:
“We should not forget what the Commission and the Council have done on the revision of the Working Time Directive.
“They sell the agreement as establishing a fair balance between flexibility and social security. In fact, this is an overall attack on workers’ rights of historical dimensions. The Council position would allow for working weeks of 78 hours and a working day of 13 hours.
“This is not a ‘modern’ social agenda, as the Commission claims, but an attempt to turn the wheels of history backwards. The EU’s concept of flexicurity now is now revealing its real anti-social face.”


Gdansk shipyards face axe

MORE THAN 2,000 workers demonstrated at the Gdansk shipyards in Poland on 11 July in protest at EU plans to bankrupt and close the historic birthplace of the Solidarnosc trade union.
They were joined by thousands more demonstrations at shipyards all over Poland against the restrictions the EU has placed on the ability of the Polish Government to provide state aid to modernise shipyards and develop strategies for the long-term success of the shipbuilding industry in Poland.
The European Commission is insisting that Polish shipyards pay back billions of euros of aid received from the government. This would almost certainly bankrupt the shipyards, bring an end to the shipbuilding industry in Poland, and destroy the livelihoods of up to 60,000 workers in the shipyards and related industries.
The European Commission has given the Polish Government until 12 September to come up with a plan for restructuring which, even if it is accepted by the European Commission, is likely to see a substantial running down of the industry and mass lay-offs of workers.
The iron laws of liberalisation are once again being applied by the European Commission with no regard to their impact on the livelihoods and the well-being of people and communities.

Speaking when the issue first came to the attention of the European Parliament in September 2007, Dublin MEP Mary Lou McDonald stressed the strategic importance of Gdansk shipyards to Poland and in particular to the regional economy. She added that there is a strategic importance of the shipbuilding industry to Europe as a whole.
“I think this controversy lays bare, once again, rules on state aid and exactly where EU policy is directed,” the Sinn Féin MEP said.
“I think it would be ironic and almost tragic if the demise of Gdansk and all that it symbolises was due to the heavy hand of EU policy, which is wedded to the dynamic of competition, the market economy, to the exclusion of all else.”


Italy’s ‘apartheid’ law against Roma flouts EU anti-discrimination laws

THE Italian Government is planning to fingerprint Italy’s 200,000-strong Roma community, of whom 120,000 are Italian citizens.
Italian MEP Giusto Catania condemned this act as being “in flagrant contradiction of EU laws, a threat to EU citizenship rights and a dangerous precedent”. He also urged the European Commission to take the necessary steps to call the Italian Government to order.
On 9 July, MEPs from the GUE/NGL group launched an appeal and collected the fingerprints and signatures of some 120 MEPs, including the chairs of four political groups (PES – Socialists, ALDE – Liberals, Greens/ European Free Alliance and GUE/NGL) and two vice-presidents of the European Parliament.
Catania said:
“This is a political act which aims to demand the immediate withdrawal of this discriminatory measure.”

MEPs’ fingerprints and signatures have been sent to the Italian Government with a view to showing that Euro deputies oppose this measure and their determination to put a stop to such a discriminatory act.
On 10 July, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the census of Roma on the basis of ethnicity.

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