European Union 2006
European Union. Here are some of the events and decisions within the EU that got the attention in 2006.
Alcohol. The Swedish ban on private imports of alcohol by ordering on the Internet should be allowed to continue. The prohibition is in accordance with EU rules on national trade monopoly and the free movement of goods, at least as long as customers have the opportunity to order alcoholic products via Systembolaget. This was the conclusion of a statement made by the Advocate General to the Court of Justice in November. Earlier statements had also gone in the same direction. The case involved, among other things, a case in which a Swedish private person ordered a batch of Spanish red wine via the Internet for home delivery. The wine party was seized by the customs, which led the private person through court to file the case against the Customs and the Swedish state and demanded the return of the goods. European Commission, who considers that Sweden’s restrictive rules on alcohol imports for individuals violate the provisions of the EC Treaty, brought an action for breach of treaty against Sweden before the European Court of Justice. More similar cases are awaiting decisive action. The judgment of the European Court of Justice is to give the Supreme Court of Sweden guidance on how it should judge. Although no final verdict on the issue came in 2006, the statement was considered a partial victory for the Swedish state. The Advocate General’s recommendations are usually followed by the ECJ, though not always.
Energy. During the autumn, the European Commission presented an action plan for energy efficiency in the Union over the next six-year period. Reduced energy use is part of the work towards negative climate change. The long-term goal is for annual energy consumption in the EU to decrease by 20 percent by 2020. The aim is to break the link between economic growth and energy consumption so that consumption decreases while competitiveness increases. Measures to achieve the goals include more efficient labeling of energy use of products, financial support for SMEs that invest in energy efficiency, development and increased use of fuel-efficient cars, regional policy support mainly in the new Member States, more efficient energy taxation and increased international cooperation in energy matters..
European Commission. In December, two new EU Commissioners, Meglena Kuneva (born 1957) from Bulgaria, who will be responsible for consumer policy, were appointed, and Leonard Orban (born 1961) from Romania, who will handle multilingualism and cultural diversity. The new Commissioners will take office on 1 January 2007, when their respective countries become new EU members. Kuneva’s and Orban’s term of office ends when the entire sitting EU Commission resigns in October 2009.
EU Constitution. In December, the Finnish Parliament approved the EU’s constitutional treaty with new rules on how the Union should function. Thus, the treaty has so far been approved by six countries, in addition to Finland including Latvia, Malta, Luxembourg, Belgium and Cyprus. Citizens of France and the Netherlands, in referendums in 2005, said no to the Treaty. Seven countries, including Sweden, have chosen to wait for a decision on the Treaty. In June 2006, EU countries agreed to resume discussions on the constitutional treaty in the first half of 2007 and then propose a continuation of the second half of 2008.
The European Year of Workers’ Mobility in 2006 was announced by the EU to inform about the benefits of working in a new country or profession and to show how the EU can help workers move. The theme year aims to raise awareness of workers’ rights and opportunities to move freely between Member States. It also wanted to focus on and remove barriers to workers who want to move between the countries of the Union. Mobility can be about partly how often workers change jobs and partly about geographical mobility, i.e. how often workers move from one region to another within a country or from one country to another. Only 2 percent of Europeans live in a different EU country than their home country.
Some EU countries, according to Countryaah website, have introduced restrictions that, for up to seven years, restrict the free movement of workers from, to and between the newest Member States. During the year, a new Internet portal was opened on the EU website, which can be used to search for work anywhere in Europe. When the portal was opened in the spring, there were about one million vacancies.
Fishing. Some researchers argue that cod fishing should cease completely during a period to save fish stocks. So far the EU is not going, but there were still restrictions on fishing. The fishing vessels in Skagerack and Kattegatt must reduce the number of days at sea by up to 10 percent. In the Kattegatt and the Baltic Sea, cod fishing quotas for 2007 are down by 14 and 10 percent, respectively, compared with 2006. However, the quota for pungent fishing is increasing in the Baltic Sea.
For the 2007-13 program period, a new body, the EU Fisheries Fund (EFF), will replace the former Fisheries Development Fund (FIFG). Support is given to those fishing regions that have been hit hard by job losses. Examples of support measures are education, retraining and early retirement. Also, shipowners and crew who have to temporarily suspend fishing in order for fish stocks to recover can receive financial support. Sweden does not belong to the priority countries, but still receives EUR 48.5 million during the period.
Air travel. With reference to the fight against terrorism, various restrictions were placed on travelers’ luggage when traveling in the EU as well as in Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. A new EU law, which began to apply in November, stipulates that air travelers may carry a maximum of 1 liter of liquid in the hand luggage. Each liquid container with liquid, jelly or spray can hold a maximum of 1 deciliter. In addition, the liquid containers must be packed in a transparent reclosable one-liter plastic bag, which is displayed in the safety check. Special rules apply to medicines, baby food and diet food. The background to the new law is a terrorist attempt with liquid explosives in August in the UK. However, British police managed to prevent the attack.
In the autumn, the EU and the US agreed on a new agreement on the transfer of air passenger data. It is a temporary solution (to be replaced by a permanent solution in 2007) to remove the confusion about which rules apply. When there was no agreement, airlines were forced to violate either EU or US laws when flying across the Atlantic. The new agreement means that airlines operating lines between the EU and the US are obliged to provide information on their airline’s name, address, telephone and credit card to the US authorities before the departure of the flight. The data is collected electronically directly from the airlines’ booking system in Europe. The US authorities must request the information and do not automatically have access to the information. The data may be disseminated between different US authorities.
Research. The EU’s seventh framework program for research during the period 2007-13 was adopted at the end of the year. The aim of the Framework Program is to improve Europe’s productivity, innovation capacity and sustainable growth. The Framework Program is the EU’s most important instrument for directing and funding research and development work. The program has a budget of almost EUR 55 billion, of which nuclear research in Euratom receives EUR 2.7 billion. The framework program is open to many different types of companies, research institutes and authorities. The Seventh Framework Program facilitates the participation of SMEs in several ways. Priority areas include research on renewable energy and energy efficiency, research on children’s health and pediatric diseases, the health of the aging population, and rheumatic and respiratory diseases;
Swedish researchers in the medical field regretted that the framework program entails restrictions on the funding of stem cell research. The budget means that no funds should be given to research involving destruction of human embryos, including the development of new human embryonic stem cell lines, that is, cell lines that are obtained after a few days of culturing a fertilized egg and that can develop into all body types of the body. As a consequence of the EU decision, Swedish researchers in certain parts of stem cell research are seeking alternative sources of funding.
Internet. From April, private individuals as well as all organizations and associations within the European Union were given the opportunity to register websites in the top-level domain “.eu”. When the domain was opened in December 2005, the.eu domain name was reserved for companies, authorities and certain organizations.
The EU’s Internet profile was changed, which means that all EU institutions and bodies are accessed from a single entry page with the URL http://europa.eu.
In July, it was the premiere of EU Web TV, TV broadcasts over the Internet. The premiere program was broadcast from a meeting in Brussels with EU finance ministers. The investment in web TV aims to increase transparency and citizens’ transparency and commitment to the work of the EU. It is mainly the open parts of various meetings that are broadcast in web TV. In 2006, interested EU citizens were able to follow the webcasts in five languages, English, French, German, Italian and Spanish. According to the plans, web TV from the EU will in future also be able to be followed in Swedish and all other official languages within the Union.
Climate. Through information campaigns in all EU countries during the year, the European Commission wanted to show that, through simple changes in everyday life, individual citizens can contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The calls for citizens were, among other things: turn down, shut down, recycle, go on foot. Households account for almost a third of all energy consumed in the EU, which corresponds to 16% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Each EU citizen emits 11 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, mainly carbon dioxide. However, in order to reduce emissions, efforts are also required by other sectors of society, such as industry, transport and agriculture.
Food. New laws and regulations became applicable during the year. The same rules for hygiene and control of food thus apply in all countries in the EU. In connection with the introduction of stricter hygiene rules, a rumor spread through Swedish media that the sale of homemade buns by associations and school children would be illegal. The National Food Agency rejected the rumor, explaining that the stricter rules do not apply when people to a lesser extent completely bake or cook in their own kitchens for different activities.
The definition of what is food is expanded, which means that milk is food already after milking instead of when the tanker fetches the milk. Eggs are counted as food immediately after they have been cast and grain and fruit immediately after harvest. With the new definition, food legislation is beginning to apply already in the dairy farmer’s dairy room and in the fruit grower’s handling of the harvested apples. The new rules do not contain any specific provisions for small-scale operations.
Decisions were made on closer cooperation between member countries to investigate risks in food. The respective countries’ knowledge should be disseminated on a regular basis to the other countries, among other things, in order to avoid duplication between the nations and to make use of the European expertise available.
In a Eurobarometer survey on EU residents’ views on diet and health, 43 percent of surveyed Swedes say they have changed their diets during the past year. This is almost twice as high as the average EU citizen (22 percent). It is primarily the consumption of fruits and vegetables that has increased, while sugar has been reduced. Only 9 percent of Swedes say that they have started eating less meat.
Mark’s municipality, together with the Spanish municipality of Ontinyent, received an award for their two-city project. The award was presented in September in Brussels at the Europe for the citizens conference. A further five township projects and five projects run by civic organizations received prizes. Mark and Ontinyent became friends in 2003. Both municipalities have similar historical backgrounds with an extensive textile industry. When Ontinyent planned to build a textile museum, they contacted Mark’s municipality, which already had one. The cooperation has continued and developed with areas such as youth exchanges, elderly care and tourism.
Military. In May 2006, the headquarters of Uppland’s regiment for the EU’s Nordic rapid response force Nordic Battlegroup was inaugurated. From 2008, the Alliance will be in readiness to be deployed within ten days in a crisis management operation, which can cover everything from humanitarian aid to armed combat. Sweden has a coherent responsibility for the rapid response force, where the majority is Swedes. The force, of about 2,400 people, also includes soldiers from Finland, Norway and Estonia. Nordic Battlegroup is the fifth force to be formed within the EU.
Hundreds of Swedish soldiers in the Special Protection Group (SSG) were part of the EU armed force, which was sent to Congo’s capital Kinshasa during the autumn. The task of the EU force was to increase the security of the population during and after the presidential election.
Presidential country. The first half of 2006 was Austria, with Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel, the EU’s country of Presidency. At the end of the year, the Presidency was handed over to Finland and Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen.
Sweden. The Swedish change of government in September meant, among other things, that Sweden got a new EU minister, the People’s Party Cecilia Malmström (born 1968). Previously, in 1999–2006, she was an EU parliamentarian. Malmström has, among other things, has been a foreign affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Party of the European Parliament. A former European Parliamentarian, Gunilla Carlsson (born 1963), took over as Deputy Minister of Development in Fredrik Reinfeldt’s government.
A survey on public opinion in the EU shows that a large majority of Swedes, 77 percent, feel attached to Europe, which is significantly more than those who feel attached to the EU, 39 percent. The strongest connection is that of the inhabitants of Sweden, 95 percent. Of the Swedes, 43 per cent believe that Sweden has earned EU membership, while 41 percent believe that Sweden has lost out on it. Across the EU, 39 percent of those polled support a Turkish EU membership. Swedes are more positive, 60 percent think Turkey should join the EU. Almost half of the Swedes, 49 percent, have confidence in the European Parliament, which can be compared to 56 percent trusting the Swedish Parliament. Only the EU Council of Ministers has only 28 per cent of Swedes trust.
The Services. In December, the Council of Ministers adopted the Services Directive, the legislation on freer trade in services in the internal market. The directive makes it easier for companies to compete across borders. According to the directive, a company should not be discriminated against simply because it is from another country than where the service is performed. Industries where the directive applies are, for example, consultancy services in management and administration, property management, advertising, recruitment services, real estate brokerage, construction, car rental and legal advice. However, the directive does not apply to non-financial services of general interest, such as the general school system or to financial services, transport, staffing companies, health care services, television and gaming services. Even if foreign companies are established, Member States should be able to continue to apply their national rules on employment conditions and collective agreements. Thus, the Services Directive must not restrict the right to enter into collective agreements or the right to strike and take combat measures in the labor market. All EU countries must set up bodies where companies can apply to handle all the formalities required to establish themselves in the country.
Enlargement. Negotiations with chopped new EU member states were conducted during the year. For Bulgaria and Romania, the negotiations led to the decision of these countries to step into the Community from 1 January 2007. However, Turkey has not yet been found to meet all entry requirements, which is why the EU’s foreign ministers decided to freeze the membership negotiations until further notice. The entrance negotiations include dealt with Turkey’s major political problems, including military involvement in politics, limited freedom of expression and the conflict with Cyprus. Other candidate countries for EU membership where membership negotiations continue are Croatia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. All countries in the Western Balkans, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Albania are, in the long run, welcomed in the EU and are called potential candidate countries.
Aging population. Within the EU, there are four working-age people per person over the age of 65. But in just over 40 years, there are only two workers on each pensioner, due to fewer children being born and people living longer. The European Commission emphasized during the year that an aging population is a challenge that can be turned into an opportunity. However, it now requires adjustments to avoid negative impacts on growth and public finances. The Commission points to the need to increase flexibility in education systems and in working life so that people can have as many children as they want and when they want. In order to find ways of reconciling working life with family life, the Commission initiated a special consultation with the social partners at EU level. Integrating immigrants into working life and promoting jobs for the elderly are other measures that the Commission believes can increase the labor supply. The Commission emphasizes that society must be adapted to an aging population. Particular attention is paid to the importance of secure pensions and social insurance. For the member states, it is important to maintain the budget balance and reduce government debt while increasing employment, especially among women and the elderly. An important task is also to reform the pension and health care systems to manage the resources. Sweden is highlighted as the country that has come the longest in adaptation to an aging population. Particular attention is paid to the importance of secure pensions and social insurance. For the member states, it is important to maintain the budget balance and reduce government debt while increasing employment, especially among women and the elderly. An important task is also to reform the pension and health care systems to manage the resources. Sweden is highlighted as the country that has come the longest in adaptation to an aging population. Particular attention is paid to the importance of secure pensions and social insurance. For the member states, it is important to maintain the budget balance and reduce government debt while increasing employment, especially among women and the elderly. An important task is also to reform the pension and health care systems to manage the resources. Sweden is highlighted as the country that has come the longest in adaptation to an aging population.