Category Archives: Group 2

Danish MEP speaks out on the significance of the Energy Efficiency Directive

By Tabitha Fletcher

 

Source: Wikimedia Commons. Moving toward energy efficiency. Old-fashioned 60w light bulbs were banned by the EU last year in favour of these energy efficient light bulbs.

The Energy Efficiency Directive, if successful, is set to save Europe from frightening power bills as energy prices soar. Zoom out, however, and the wider implications of this kind of legislation are far more serious.

Danish MEP Dan Jørgensen explains why the legislation is particularly important.

If the energy efficiency target of 20% is met,” he said, “this should automatically lead to a 25% reduction in greenhouse gases, which is the crucial amount believed to keep us under 2°C warming.”

The figure of 25% is accepted widely in the scientific community to mean a chance at keeping a global temperature rise at a ‘safe’ level, with emissions peaking and then gradually declining, meaning the trend is eventually reversed.

He relented though, that even if this figure is achieved, there is only a 50% chance that this will keep temperatures down.

We are walking a very delicate line, nothing is certain. But Europe could lead the way.”

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Energy efficiency: The danger of rift and reality

By Tabitha Fletcher

BRUSSELS: A stable future hangs in the balance.While Europe tries to tackle climate change and energy supply, the process is greatly hampered by lack of cohesion. The Energy Efficiency Directive is currently under debate to meet Europe’s changing energy needs.

 

FACT BOX:

The ’20-20-20′ Strategy:

By the year 2020, the European Union will:

Achieve a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Mandatory.

Increase to 20% the share of renewable energy input. Mandatory.

Achieve a a 20% energy efficiency increase. Not mandatory.

 

The Energy Efficiency Directive (EED):

Seeks binding measures, does not propose the 20% overall target as binding.

Photo: Tabitha Fletcher. From the inside looking out. The European Parliament is not so united.

 

The energy problem

Imagine your power bill was three times the amount now that it was in 2002. Now imagine that your leaders had known about this impending crisis for years, but had failed to tackle the problem.

The International Energy Agency, announced that energy prices will become “viciously more expensive” in its Annual World Energy Outlook report, last week.The European Union imports over 80% of it’s energy resources. The scale of this operation is vast. In broad terms, it is millions tonnes of oil, coal, and gas per year.

For consumers living in the EU this means power bills will inevitably rise as fuel costs increase. Last year Eurostat showed that household electricity prices in the EU rose 5.1%, and gas prices by 7.7% in the latter half of 2010 compared with 2009. In Lithuania increases were as high as 31%.

 

So far the EU is on track to meet the 20-20-20 goals, except for energy efficiency. At this point this goal will be met by less than 10%. The Energy Efficiency Directive was tabled in June to tackle this, as some stakeholders believe that this is because this goal is not binding, although there is division. Those in favour of binding targets are insist the initiative will fail without it. Greens-EFA MEP (member of the European Parliament) and Environmental rapporteur Claude Turmes has spoken out publicly several times, saying; “without a binding target, we’re guaranteed to fail.”

The EED itself says that, “Energy efficiency is the most cost-effective and fastest way to increase security of supply, and is an effective way to reduce the greenhouse gases emissions responsible for climate change”.

Member states are arguing that they should have the final say about how they deal with this. The big players especially are disputing major points of the deal. The UK, for example, a member with sizable consumption, is not in favour of a binding target. They believe the requirements will be met by their existing policies. If there is no blanket EU legislation though, there can be no means for reprise or incentive to act as others do, which is often the driving force for EU directives.

 

What is it good for?

Buildings account for 40% of all energy consumption in the EU, and 36% of all it’s CO² emissions. One proposal to increase energy efficiency is for member states to renovate 3% of all their public buildings per year. The European Commission Directorate General Energy sees that energy performance of buildings is

“key to achieve EU Climate and Energy objectives, namely 20% energy savings.”

Public buildings represent approximately 12% of EU buildings, so the savings would be significant. The Directive gives states an optout renovate social housing, however. The very people who would benefit from this the most, and are most vulnerable to rising energy costs would miss out. The UK’s position is that this will should only be done where buildings are over 250 square feet. Small police stations and post offices would likely miss out too.

Originally the 20% efficiency target was to be made binding. This has been scrapped. The focus is now on the means to meet it. In place is now the ‘wait and see’ approach. In 2014, will the EU will review again to see if they are on track to meet their goal. Only then, if it still falls short will it table binding targets. This only allows six years for the legislation to be settled and ratified in the individual member states, and only then can actions to meet the target to commence. The likelihood for success is dramatically reduced.

Arianna Roscini, Policy Officer for Energy Conservation at World Wildlife Fund Europe criticises the ‘wait and see’ approach:

The increased investment and jobs that can be created by this measure will be able to be carried out by business in a much more affordable and effective way if we make this change now.”

NGOs and business groups have worked steadily to inform the process. A report prepared by WWF, Climate Action Network Europe and Friends of the Earth, which helped in having the EED tabled, asserts that aside from investment and reduction in energy bills, energy savings will help alleviate the financial crisis, saving Europe up to 200 billion every year. The report also predicts that up to 2 million local jobs could be created, via energy companies selling insulation and window glazing, not just energy. Although it concedes a current skills shortage.

The Coalition for Energy Savings, which consists of over 23 business associations and civil society groups, Including the Architects council of Europe and the Buildings Performance Institute Europe also backs the need for mandatory targets. The agenda is being pushed not just by green groups. European businesses see the advantages of the goal a binding push towards energy efficiency.

 

The sum of all parts

The EED goals are undermined in the Parliament. The Party holding the most seats is the European People’s Party. At a forum on Europe’s energy security last week, the party emphasised its belief that future energy security will come from gas. Namely the immense Nabucco pipleine, which would bring gas from as far as Turkmenistan, under the Caspian sea. The project will cost 8 billion euros. Slavtcho Neykov, Director of the European Community Secretariat said,
“LNG, gas and shale gas are extremely important to European energy security.”

Energy efficiency was briefly mentioned at the four hour forum. Daniel Guyader, Head of the Division for Global issues at the European External Action Service said, “we are trying to promote efficiency as much as possible abroad, especially clean technologies… We can’t just look at gas supply as the whole.” However, this was the only discussion of this topic.

The Commission’s own figures show that without a binding target, the goal of 20% more energy efficiency cannot be achieved. Brook Riley, energy campaigner from Friends of the Earth Europe agrees. “The measures on their own are not enough. They are not all to be made mandatory. The commission’s figures show that even if all measures were followed, the 20% goal would not be met.” When asked if he saw the emphasis being put on gas, on the other side of the debate as a big obstacle, he is not taken aback.

This project has been talked of for years now. Business groups in Europe can show that there is much to be gained from working with our existing infrastructure. This can turn around the volume of funds flowing out of Europe. We [including the Energy Coalition] can show that this can be a great part of the solution to Europe’s economic problems.”

The debate continues. A result is expected towards the end of 2012. 

 

 

Bikers versus Brussels: Round One

Motorcyclists plan a massive demonstration outside the EU Parliament in Brussels next week ahead of a committee vote on legislation designed to prevent them from modifying their bikes

By Marc Abizeid

 

Dear residents of Brussels: Lock up your daughters, hide your goods and stay off the streets Tuesday. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of riled up bikers from around Europe are gearing up for a massive motorcycle rally outside the European Parliament November 22 in opposition to proposed anti-tampering motorcycle legislation.

They’re message is clear: EU, get your hands off our bikes.

But still elusive is what the legislation will actually stipulate once it’s up for a vote on December 5 among members of the parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee which has been tasked with reshaping the law. The vote was originally scheduled for November 22 (hence the biker protest) but was pushed back in order to have more time for review.

“It’s going to be up in the air until the committee vote, and even then that’s not the final stage,” says Stephane Reynolds, assistant to British MEP Malcom Harbour, chair of the IMCO. “But the picture becomes clear after the committee vote and before the parliament (plenary) vote.”

The original draft was met with fury by European motorcyclists when it was introduced last year. The main contentions among bikers included several key provisions that would apply to motorcycles manufactured after the date of the law’s implementation.

Those provisions would: prevent riders from modifying their bikes to increase power, torque or speed outside the standards set by the manufacturer or defined by the vehicle’s category; require bikes to come with anti-lock brake systems; require on board diagnostic equipment to warn of potential malfunctions, and; require bikes to come with automatic headlight-on. The main argument in favor of the law is to improve road safety and emissions control.

Similar protests have erupted in France and the UK in past months over the legislation

So, what’s the problem?

For many motorcyclists, their bikes represent their livelihoods. They see the legislation as an attempt by the EU to take away their hobby to modify bikes and restrict their freedoms on the road.

“Motorcycles are a big part of our culture in the UK,” says British MEP Marta Andreasen who has come out in firm opposition to the law. “This legislation has no value, it will just hurt our community.”

Andreasen has even drafted a petition that would force Parliament to debate the legislation should it collect 100,000 signatures, although the petition is still far from reaching that target.

There is also the question of how the law would affect small businesses that produce after market parts for specific models. If anti-tampering becomes a reality, those businesses would likely be limited to manufacturing parts for older models.

“I find this unfair,”Andreasen adds. “I suspect it’s the result of lobbying by big companies like Bosch (which produces ABS) which would profit from this legislation.”

For motorcycle manufacturers, the fear has been that requiring anti-lock brakes and on board diagnostic equipment would drive up their costs, making the bikes more difficult to sell, especially during such periods of economic woes in Europe. Some current models intended for value may go extinct altogether.

Are all these fears warranted?

The upcoming protest has received widespread support from motorcycle groups

“The proposal for a new law still requires some improvements,” says Aline Delhaye, General Secretary of the Federation of European Motorcyclists’ Associations (FEMA).

“We consider the new delay of the voting on the draft as positive since it shows that MEPs are willing to listen once again to the compromises proposed by FEMA and by the motorcycle industry.”

IMCO members continue to cycle revisions to the law. No one can tell for sure what the final law will resemble, but Reynolds says motorcyclists shouldn’t have too much to fret over.

“It looks like the majority (of the IMCO) is in favor of deleting the bulk of the anti-tampering provisions. There will be a couple of points that will remain about defining powertrain, but basically, our point is that anti-tampering doesn’t really have a place in this draft law,” Reynolds says. “It’s more of a member state issue.”

That would certainly please the motorcycle community and groups working to lobby parliament against the law, or certain provisions within it. It has also been signaled that the provision requiring manufacturers to install costly on board diagnostic equipment would likely be scrapped as well.

As far as requiring headlights to remain on at all times, Malcom Harbour had previously indicated that the committee would be unlikely to budge. The issue of ABS may still be a cause of concern to motorcyclists. According to Reynolds, the committee remains in favor of requiring ABS for all full-sized motorcycles. The debate on the issue is centered on whether or not the law should also require scooters to come with ABS as a required feature.

“The consumer organizations and their associates want ABS on scooters because they are convinced it will bring them safety benefits, but it looks like that plays into the hands of Bosch,” Reynolds says. “In our view, the real safety benefit for scooters is combined braking system. Bosch disagrees.”

FEMA has revealed its willingness to compromise on certain issues. The group even supports some provisions of the law, such as the introduction of stricter emissions limits.

“We are aware that we will also lose some of our positions, especially our opposition to mandatory ABS,” Delhaye says. “But that does not mean that FEMA objects to the proposed new type approval regulation as a whole.”

On the other hand, some bikers and their supporters like Marta Andreasen see no room for compromise.

“I don’t believe the law will be watered down to the level that the lobbyists will still be happy,” she says. But regardless, her position is firm: “My position is to reject this law completely –There shouldn’t be any legislation.”

EU attempts to tackle forced marriage

A white dress, jolly guests, good food, music and dancing are the outer facade of the glorious wedding day countless people dream of their whole lives. But many fail to see that beneath all that may lay physical or emotional forces that compel young men and women into marriage. Beneath all these celebration measures there’s a sad angle that includes domestic violence and repression that could have more serious implications on the society.

A rainbow of hope at the European Parliament. By Noha Osman

By Noha Osman

Forced marriages among immigrants in Europe is a major issue that has failed to grasp enough attention in the region. There are no available statistics to measure the extent to which it flourishes; however, several entities, including NGO’s and the European Union, are attempting to put an end to it.

Veronique De Keyser, Vice President for Foreign Affairs, Human Rights, Development and International Trade of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, said at a hearing on Forced Marriages that it is necessary to raise awareness regarding this issue, as it is not a question of customs but rather of human rights.

Forced marriage is a clear violation of human rights; it goes against the very foundation of the European Union that promises freedom and justice to all citizens. Both Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 9 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, include the right not to marry. Forced marriage is a criminal offence punishable by law in countries such as Belgium, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, Malta, and Norway.

Not an EU priority

Veronique added that any actions taken against forced marriage would be a fresh beginning because the subject is simply not at the top of the European Parliament’s agenda. Although there have been legislations that aimed towards overcoming the problem, in 2005 and 2008, they did not get approved.

While some individual member states such as Sweden, Belgium, and Denmark have passed laws that make an effort to hinder the possibility of forced marriage, there has been no joint European stance against it.

“A European network against forced marriage would be a good tool,” said Jean-Pierre Boublal, Deputy Head of the Emir KIR Cabinet, Brussels Minister for Social Action and International Relations, at the “Europe and Forced Marriage” hearing.

Coming from overseas

“Forced marriage comes to our shores through immigration [mainly Morocco and Turkey],” said Veronique.

As non-Europeans immigrate to European Union states, they tend to bring their culture and traditions with them, often unaware that they may not be accepted or tolerated in their new homes.

With the rise of immigration trends, the fear of the dilemma of forced marriages also rises. Moreover, while member states of the EU believe in human rights, and have in fact signed and agreed on several conventions that prohibit forced marriages, they fail to properly implement them on a national level.

Reach from within

Katinka Ingves, Board Member of ROKS, National Organization for Women’s and Young Women’s shelters in Sweden, believes it is crucial to change attitudes when dealing with the beliefs, values, and practices that lead to forced marriages.

“Knowledge in itself cannot change habit,” she said.

This process however, is bound to take time as it touches on core values that are buried deep within the cultures from which forced marriage stems from.

Katinka also added that some women who are abused by their husbands in Sweden, have no choice but to stay with them because they must live in the country for 2 years to obtain a residence permit; their other option would be to return to their home countries, where they might face abuse from their families.

Conquering forced marriages

Whilst countries like Denmark have taken legal action towards the matter, such as raising the age limit to 24 for family unification of married partners, they fail to see that this is not a solution because married couples will simply turn to other countries with less strict laws.

Marc Tarabella, member of the European Parliament, and of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, believes that an important factor is determining whether the marriage was in fact forced. That is because it is up to the victims themselves to prove that they were forced into the marriage.

According to Katinka, every country should have its own preventive means to combat forced marriage on a local level, such as informing immigrants of their democratic rights, creating a dialogue flow between parents and children, working with the youth on issues such as gender equality, and even resorting to clergymen or imams to convey the message.

Sounding the Silent Alarm on Migrant Health Care

Irregular migrants lie sick on the sidelines of the health care debate, as member states remain deaf to the EU call for uniform treatment

by Jasmine Papillon-Smith

A Roma woman, seen as illegal by the healthcare system, leans against a parking meter on a sidewalk in Brussels, Belgium, breastfeeding her newborn. She speaks neither French nor English.

White paint peels in flakes from the doors at 46, Rue d’Artois, Brussels, where old notices hang precariously from boarded-up windowpanes. “Everyone is treated equally here,” reads the sign facing a woman, who glances over both shoulders before walking through the double doors at the derelict address.
She is at the entry to the Belgian headquarters of Médecins du monde, where she hopes someone will help her. As of today, the EU is not that person.

The problem
A recent report by the Fundamental Rights Agency shows that the situation for access to health care by irregular migrants has not improved in spite of EU legislation on the matter, dating from 2007.

The report states that depending on the member states, migrants will either be charged a fee, or denounced to authorities, or simply not made aware of their rights in regards to health care. According to the report, children and pregnant women are made out to be the worst victims.

Stéphane Heymans is a project coordinator at Médecins du monde. He says the NGO, which was once a first response facility, has become a permanent solution for many of the migrants who cannot find a way to move forward in the immigration system.
“Over the past 18 months, things have become more complex. There has been a real degradation of the situation—we have too many patients, and the possibilities for references to general practitioners are decreasing as they become overloaded,” he says.
Over 10 000 people received treatment last year at the NGO’s Belgian division. More than 75% were illegal migrants.

The doors to the Medecins du monde headquarters in Brussels, 46, rue d'Artois

A call for uniformity
The woman, nameless, walks up to the two men sorting mail at reception. She extracts a plastic bag—reverently—from her purse. It is filled with papers, which she hands them. She then takes a seat in the waiting room, her sunken eyes belying the reality of her situation.

Ludovica Banfi is a project manager at the Fundamental Rights Agency of the European Union. She hopes the EU will pave the way for a more inclusive and harmonized pan-European treatment process.
“One positive thing was the resolution by the EU parliament in March 2011. It addressed the fundamental right to health care for these migrants and it called for member states to assess the possibility for the member states to provide, for example, a common definition of the basic elements of health care,” she says.
Many NGOs are calling for member states to provide this common definition—it would allow for more binding laws with regards to access to treatment, as well as make sanctioning a possibility.

Passing the buck: whose jurisdiction, exactly?

Decorating the walls of the Médecins du monde clinic are posters declaring universal rights of peoples and solemn, anti-racial philosophies. The woman we have followed through the clinic speaks neither French nor English, the language these signs are printed in.

The basic premise of health care advocates is that the lack of access is a direct violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, which decrees that all persons on EU territory have a right to free health care.
But the EU has no jurisdiction over health care—it is up to the member states.
Judge Egils Levits, of the Court of Justice of the European Union, stresses that in spite of EU legislation, interpretation of the charter is often left to member states.

“While the member states and the institutions are clearly part of the charter, the charter does not apply in situations where EU law is not involved or does not apply,” he says, stating that it is up to national entities, including their courts, to enforce fundamental rights.
Judge Levits stresses that questions dealing with the validity of EU law must be addressed, at the risk of having 27 different standards of protecting fundamental rights—one for each member state.
Jérôme Unterhuber, Press Officer for the Council of the European Union in Budget; Health and Consumer Affairs, says that the Council has not discussed the issue since the adoption of legislation in 2007. The matter is not on the upcoming agenda.
The cost-effectiveness of prevention
NGOs continue to advocate that preventive care is worth more than emergency care in the long run.
“It might be that countries in economic crisis invest more in primary healthcare because it seems more cost-effective (than emergency care),” suggests Banfi, who believes the path to common health care legislation lies in the economic benefits of preventive care.
The risk on public health continues to pose a problem, as studies have shown that people in irregular situations are more at risk for infectious diseases, like HIV, tuberculosis or hepatitis, which can spread if left untreated.

From member state to member state

What is presumably a doctor comes out to greet the woman. Luckily she is in Belgium, where the authorities will not be notified of her visit here.

Access to health care varies between member states. In Italy, for instance, migrants can obtain an anonymous identification card, which allows free access to treatment. In Germany, it is much the opposite: unless a migrant is seeking emergency care, doctors are obligated to report their consults to welfare authorities, which then take custody of the migrants.

This leads to complications. In once case in Brussels, a migrant woman received a blood transfusion of the wrong type due to the fact that she used her friend’s medical card to access treatment, resulting in her death.
In other instances, migrants flee hospitals to avoid payment. Doctors treat patients in their spare time.

Heymans cites the perverse effects of the system. He mentions the case in which it is beneficial to contract HIV, because member states are not allowed to return migrants to countries where treatment for infectious diseases is not available. Having HIV thus allows for easier integration.

Back to basics

The woman exits the examination room, tightens her shawl about her, and leaves the clinic, glancing once again over each shoulder.

For Heymans, the immediate problem lies in migrant access to health care in the EU. But on the long term, he believes the real problems lie abroad.
“What’s interesting in the debate is that people do not usually migrate out of the pleasure of doing so. If they’re moving, it’s that there are problems in their home countries: war, famine, poverty, etc., that are preventing them from accessing health care, or making them sick. We are trying to limit the influx of people without looking at where they come from, and if we could do something to stop the problem at the source,” he concludes.