Follow up: Crack an egg

Following on the egg controversy, here are two short notes saying why it is plainly not true [1] and [2]. There is also a great post, very clear and well informed by Nosemonkey here: [3] And finally the text adopted by the Parliament (pdf, 85 pages) [4].

As I was telling previously, the provision to indicate the weight doesn’t ban any sell by number

Everybody knows that bananas are sold by weight, but you still count the number of bananas your buying – everybody is happy with that… Well, it should be easy to do the same for eggs (though, be careful not to mix up bananas and eggs in the kitchen)


Concentré de G20

Un très rapide résumé de ce qui est ressortit du G20 le weekend dernier ne peut pas faire de mal, alors allons-y ! (Oh, et il y a aussi une English Version)

Pour mémoire, le G20 rassemble les leaders des économies les plus importantes ou influente du globe ; le vingtième membre étant l’Union Européenne. Les représentants du FMI et de la Banque Mondiale sont également invités. Ce sommet était le quatrième depuis Novembre 2008 quand le G20 s’était réuni pour répondre à la crise financière ; il avait été décidé peu après que le G20 remplacerait le G8, même si le G8 s’est réunis le weekend dernier avant le sommet du G20. Le prochain sommet est prévu pour Novembre 2010 à Séoul, Corée du Sud.

L’Europe est arrivée au sommet avec des objectifs clairs: défendre la réduction des déficits, la réforme financières, et une taxe bancaire…

A la fin du sommet, déclaration finale donne raisons à tout le monde, et donc est inutile… En gros, voici les conclusions:

  • Les pays sont appelés à réduire leur déficit par moitié d’ici à 2013
  • L’Europe va publier les résultats de ses stress tests sur les banques.
  • Rien sur une taxe bancaire
  • Rien de précis sur les réformes financières

Pour résumé: aucune idée n’a été rejeté, mais aucune n’a été spécifiquement acceptée… Chacun a donné son opinion, tout le monde est d’accord pour dire que dépenser trop d’argent, ce n’est pas bien et qu’il faut continuer à supporter la croissance économique et réduire les déficits.

Une déclaration optimiste de bonne intention, c’est tout ce qu’a produit ce sommet… D’aucun pourraient argumenter qu’une conférence téléphonique aurait produit le même résultat.

Et finalement, un bon nombre d’article sur le sujet pour vous permettre d’aller dans les détails par vous-mêmes:


G20 Mash Up

A quick summary of what came out of the G20 meeting last weekend cannot hurt, so let’s go ! (Oh, and there is also a version Francaise)

For the record, the G20 gathers leaders from the biggest or more influential economies in the World, the 20th member being the European Union. Also invited to the summit are representatives of the IMF and World Bank. This was the fourth summit since November 2008 when the G20 met to discuss on the Financial crisis ; it has been decided soon after than the G20 will replace the G8, although the G8 met also this last weekend, prior to the G20 meeting. The next G20 summit is planned for November 2010 in Seoul, South Korea.

Europe came to this summit whit clear objectives to defend the deficit reduction, financial reform and bank tax…

At the end of the summit, the final declaration gives reason to everybody and thus, is useless ; basically, here are the conclusions :

  • Countries are called to cut their deficit by half by 2013.
  • Europe will release the result of its banks stress tests.
  • Nothing on bank tax.
  • Nothing precise on financial reform.

To sum it up : no ideas has been specifically rejected, but none have been accepted either… Everybody gave his opinion, everybody agrees to say that spending too much money is bad, and that one should continue to support economic growth and cut deficit.

An optimistic declaration of good intention is all that we got from this big summit… Some would argue that a conference call would have produce the same result.

And finally, a good bunch of articles gathered on the subject, so you can read more details by yourself :


Scramble Scramble Scramble !

Let’s talk about eggs ! Yes, eggs… What the connections with Europe ? Well, as it turns out, the regulation on food labeling is not only a threat to Nutella but also to the eggs by the dozen.

As one can read in these articles : [1], [2], [3] and [4] ; Europe could «ban selling eggs by the dozen».

First, let me precise that a quick research on the Euro Parliament website didn’t lead to any text specific on the topics on eggs by the dozen… If you know of any, please, let me know.

Other than that, what I can see is just that the food labeling regulation specify that number is just not enough to indicate the quantity of a product… Obviously, it’s impossible – well, technically it is, but that would be messy – to sell egg by the kilogram (well, Tomatoes are sold by weight and nobody got a problem with that) . The natural unit to sell eggs is “one egg“, so I don’t think Europe would ever want to change that. Adding a line on the egg package saying “12 eggs, 534 milligrams” would be, I believe completely compliant with the regulation and maintain the tradition of selling eggs in full.

Really, all this story looks like a bit of an over reaction to me.


Week of June 26th

(Version Francaise)

Here is a summary of the European news last week:

Last Sunday, Polish were voting in early presidential elections. A second round will oppose on July 4th liberal B. Komorowski (ahead in the first round) and conservative J. Kaczynski. [*,*,*].

Belgium is getting ready to take the Union presidency. A presidency that is going, in its early times, to let a good role to the permanent Council President, Herman van Rompuy (who is incidentally Belgian) since Belgian government is getting put together after the recent legislative elections.[*,*,*] You can find informations on the Belgian Presidency on the official website and also on twitter: @BE_Presidency.

In the European Parliament, the 18 Lisbon MEPs are getting closer to full mandate and should get to vote by the end of the year, if the treaty modifications are ratified by then [*,*,*].

MEPs did vote on a declaration calling to save internet research, in order to fight pedophilia  [*] – Details and reaction here.

The International Whaling Commission was meeting this week in Agadir, with a plan to get whaling back under control – the negotiations didn’t get anywhere, but whaling could have been formally authorized again [*,*,*].

The European External Action Service (EEAS) will be working by the end of the year: Lady Ashton and the MEPs have found an agreement on the  service – a vote is expected in Parliament in July [*,*,*,*,*].

From the EEAS we are naturally stepping to external politics : at the beginning of the week, Belarus dramatically reduced the transit of Russian gas to Europe – following a debt issue with Moscow [*,*] , putting Europe back in the possibility of a Gas War [*,*]. The conflict lasted only a couple of days [*], but this episode reinforce the need of an energetic policy for Europe [*].

The G8 and G20 are meeting at the end of the week. The main topic will be economic boost and growth. Europe tries to defend the idea of financial reform and budget cuts  [*,*] ; but European countries is facing different point of view form, for example, the US, for who boost spending take precedence on deficit reduction [*,*,*]. Union leaders also want to promote the idea of a bank tax [*,*].

In the meantime, Europe economy stays hesitant – even if the ECB is reassuring  [*]  and some Countries like Germany are actually taking advantage of the fall of the euro [*]. Warnings over austerity measures are also given [*].

The feasibility and strength of the economic governance system previewed by the Union in response to the crisis are put into question[*,*,*].

Finally, in Greece, the social situation is still shaky: a bomb killed last week a collaborator of the minister of security [*] and Athens put islands and touristic sites for sale [*]


Semaine du 26 Juin

(English Version)

Voici un résumé de l’actualité européenne de la semaine :

Dimanche dernier, les polonais votaient lors d’une élection anticipée pour choisir leur président. Un deuxième tour opposera le 4 Juillet le libéral B. Komorowski (en tête au premier tour) et le conservateur J. Kaczynski. [*,*,*].

La Belgique s’apprête à prendre la présidence tournante de l’Union. Une présidence qui dans un premier temps devrait laisser une belle place au président permanent du conseil : Herman van Rompuy (Belge par ailleurs) puisque le gouvernement est en cours de constitution après les récentes élections législatives en Belgique.[*,*,*] On peut retrouver les informations sur la présidence Européenne par la Belgique sur le site officiel et également sur twitter @BE_Presidency.

Au parlement Européen, les 18 eurodéputés Lisbonne se rapproche d’un mandat entier et devraient pouvoir voter d’ici la fin de l’année si la ratification des modifications au traité est effectuée à ce moment [*,*,*].

Les parlementaires européens ont également votés une déclaration appelant au stockage des recherches effectuées sur internet, afin de lutter contre la pédophilie [*] – Détails et réaction ici.

La Commission baleinière internationale s’est réunie cette semaine à Agadir avec pour plan de recadrer la pêche à la baleine – les négociations n’ont menés à rien, mais la pêche à la baleine aurait put être formellement autorisée[*,*,*].

Le Service Européen d’Action Extérieur (SEAE) va pouvoir fonctionner d’ici la fin de cette année : Lady Ashton et les eurodéputés ont trouvés un accord sur le fonctionnement de ce service – un vote est attendu au parlement en Juillet [*,*,*,*,*].

Du SEAE, nous en venons naturellement à la politique extérieure : En début de semaine, la Biélorussie a dramatiquement réduit le transit de Gaz Russe vers l’Europe – suite à un conflit de facture avec Moscou [*,*] , replongeant l’Europe dans une possible guerre du gaz[*,*]. Le conflit ne durera que quelques jours [*], mais cet épisode renforce la nécessité d’un politique énergétique plus souple et solide en Europe [*].

Le G8 et le G20 se réunissent en fin de semaine. Le sujet principal : la relance économie et la croissance. L’Europe tente de défendre ses idées de réforme financière et de réductions des budget [*,*] ; mais les pays Européens se heurtent à des idées différentes de la part notamment des USA pour qui les dépenses de relance prévalent sur la maitrise des déficits [*,*,*]. Les leaders de l’Union veulent également faire avancer l’idée d’une taxe bancaire [*,*].

Pendant ce temps, l’économie Européen reste incertaine – cependant la BCE se veut rassurante[*] et certains pays comme l’Allemagne profitent de la baisse de l’euro[*]. Des mises en gardes sont néanmoins lancés contres les mesures d’austérité [*].

La faisabilité et la solidité du système de gouvernance économique prévue par l’Union en réponse à cette crise est mise en question [*,*,*].

Enfin, en Grèce, la situation sociale ne se résout pas : un attentat a tué cette semaine un collaborateur du ministre de la sécurité [*] et Athènes met en vente des îles et autres sites pouvant attirer les touristes [*]


Big Brother a deux têtes

Le parlement Européen a adopté une déclaration “sur la création d’un système d’alerte […] contre les pédophiles“, qui comporte dans les passages en petit caractère une invitation à stocker les informations relative aux recherches sur internet [*]. En bref : les Eurodéputés (en tout cas 371 d’entre eux) pensent que nous sommes touts de potentiels pédophiles (comme l’écrit J. Frisch dans une série de posts 1,2,3).

Je tiens d’abord à faire remarquer, et ce n’est pas pour minimaliser le problème de la pédophilie – bien au contraire, c’est un problème grave – que stocker les recherches Internet d’un demi milliard d’Européen me semble une tâche énorme par rapport à l’objectif à atteindre.

Mais surtout, c’est étrange de voir des politiques qui d’un coté défendent notre vie privée sur internet, s’inquiètent de Google ou Facebook qui collectent des données par le biais de leur sites, mais dans le même temps n’ont aucun problèmes pour enregistrer nos recherches internet sous couvert de sécurité…


The European S-Word

Sub-si-dia-ri-ty[*,*,*] That’s the word… What does that mean ?

The principle that government power ought to reside at the lowest feasible level

The European subsidiarity principle is written in the Treaty of European Union at paragraphs 1 and 2 of the article 5 and described in Protocol 30 ; it has been introduced in 1992/1993 with the Maastricht Treaty and consolidated by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.

Subsidiarity is way different than the French décentralisation ; it aims at putting more democracy and efficiency in political administration and decisions, and fight the public view of a distant technocracy. As an example, the German Länders also follow such a principle.

Before we go farther, let’s give two very important remarks :

First, we remind that the decision are taken at the lowest feasible level. That does not mean the decision will always be taken at the local level ; the main objective is to be efficient first, and as local as possible given this demand of efficiency.

Second, a little subtly: the domains where subsidiarity applies are only the domains of shared competence between different administrative levels. This is obvious when you think about it : if a competence is not shared, there is no need for any principle to decide which level take the decision. So if a domain is exclusively of the competence of, let’s say, the European Commission, subsidiarity does not apply there.

There are a fairly important number of challenges and issues that need to be addressed and dealt with in order to efficiently apply the subsidiarity principle :

First : how to define the best level where to take action ? What to do when what could be the optimum level in the general case is not ready ? And of course, what about the means (money, work force, …) necessary : if the competence is distributed, so should be the means, otherwise, there is no point to subsidiarity.

One of the big obstacle is the fact that decision making is an extremely politicized issue and the upper level will some times keep its hand on an issue ; either by pure conservatism, or to keep a key competence, or just by political game. This goes obviously at the opposite of the aims of subsidiarity.

The application of such a principle is also paired with the bottom-up counter part : if a lower level cannot deal with an issue, it has to hand it over to a upper level. This implies that the lower level knows what the upper one can do, and how it works. Subsidiarity is a system as a whole : which means every level needs to understand the system and have a knowledge of the politics at all levels.

Another issue is obviously the concern about the already  distributed competences. As said above, subsidiarity is a global principle that needs to be implemented in every levels and for as much competence domains as possible to be effective. Which implies that previously distributed competences should be assessed to make sure everything is dealt with where it is the most efficient. In fact, when subsidiarity principle is applied competences as constantly redistributed in accordance to the needs of the moment.

One of the key element of a working subsidiarity-driven system is trust : trust between the different level of administration, and trust between the citizen and every level that could be called to take action.

The transfer of competence from one level to another needs to be quick, easy, efficient – with no fear of the issue being transferred back – there is absolutely no point of having committees and experts  talking for days about who should handle a problem, on the opposite the process should be smooth and natural.

This are the challenges subsidiarity faces in Europe : the process is not enough known, ill-understood, seems too much technical and technocratic ; when it should be the opposite. And precisely, a working subsidiarity, would help so much to a better appreciation of the European competence while showing clearly that the citizens are in charge.


Not My Mom – Follow up on food labeling

A quick follow up on the Save the Nutella post :

This text by MEP Sommer explains the issues on food labeling and why the traffic light system has been discarded. Read It ! It’s a short and clear explanation.


Week of June 19th

(Version en Francais)

Here is a summary of the European news last week :

Last weekend Belgians voted in early legislative elections. The parties advocating a greater separation between Flemish and French speaking areas won in influence on votes [*,*] – I leave the analysis to the specialists, in the extent that parties are regional, which make things a little more Belgians complicated. If institutional reforms are to be expected in Belgium, it is too early to speak of an explosion of the country ; which didn’t stopped some French MPs to propose to Walloon region and Brussels to join France  [*] – A stupid and insulting proposal I believe. Belgium is again trying to form a government, which will probably ally Flemish parties and Walloon socialists [*] ; this when Belgium is getting ready to take the Union presidency on July 1st [*].

Let’s move on now to the big piece of news, as usual, it’s the economy stupid:

The all Europe is getting ready for a round of austerity [*,*]. In Greece, the national debt rating has been downgraded by Moody’s[*,*], while experts form the EU and IMF are going to Athens to audit Greek finances [*], China is showing that it’s not afraid of investing in Greece  [*] and PM Papandreou show is willingness to solve this crisis [*].

Spain raises concern too in regard to its finances and the capacity of its banks to access cash [*] ; Spain government and IMF state there is no reason to panic [*,*,*]. That didn’t prevent rumors suggesting that Spain was negotiating a rescue plan to spread – which have been denied by PM Zapatero [*,*,*].

While the industrial production in Europe is slightly increasing [*], there are talks on the pro and cons of a strong Euro [*,*]. The future of the Europe seems to be tied to France and Germany who have to agree on the measure to be taken [*,*,*]. Europe is looking for an economic governance, hard to set up [*]. Gathered at the end of the week, the European Council tried to address this issuer [*,*,*] ; the recipe : to reinforce discipline by greater sanctions for  the  mauvais élèves – There will be no exclusion from the eurozone, but sanctions can be as  hard as a deprivation of  vote at the council table [*,*,*,*]. The Council also wants to publish during the summer the results of the back stress test: which indicate the abilities of banks to resist to extreme economic situations (crisis, …) This transparency operation should reinforce the trust in European banks. [*,*,*,*,*,*]

The European council, was meeting in summit on June 17 in Brussels [*]. In addition to the economic situation, the European leaders talked about the strategy Europe 2020, prepared the g20 summit next week, congratulated Estonia on its upcoming adoption of the euro,opened the membership negotiations with Iceland  [*,*] – negotiations that could be tricky[*,*] and adopted a declaration on Iran and its nuclear program, and approved new sanctions  [*,*,*]

The European Parliament was seating in plenary session at the beginning of the week [*] ; MEPs did express their will to take part actively in the economic politics of the Union [*,*]. The important point of the session regarded food labeling [*]: the geographic origin of a product will have to be indicated, and also the percentage of fat, salt, sugars, … [*,*]; a color code has been rejected as it would have stigmatize some products [*].

In the rest of the Europe news : Greece and the Republic of Macedonia are getting closer to solve their dispute over the use of the name Macedonia [*], Polish vote on June 20th for early presidential elections, France and England remember on June 18th the call to resistance by the General De Gaulle in 1940, and the football worldcup is underway in South Africa with good results for some European team : Germany, Netherlands, Slovenia.