Thursday, March 24, 2005

.eu Domain Names Coming Soon

The EU Observer reminds us that the initial registration of .eu domain names will start this year, with actual launch of the .eu domain then to take place in 2006.

This is another interesting aspect of the European Union becoming a more unified entity. It will be interesting to see how the .eu domain will fare against the popular domain names .com, .net and .org and against the country domains, e.g. .de, .fr, .co.uk etc.

We have in any case already put in a request to our website provider that they request a particular domain for us once the registration process begins.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Hero or Heroine of Kiel (or) The Wonder of Schleswig-Holstein

We have previously posted here and here on the recent election in Kiel and the blatant incompetence of the head of the Schleswig-Holstein government, Heide Simonis, who was trying to remain in power through a minority government.

As just reported in the German news media, e.g. FAZ.NET, someone in the anticipated Red-Green-Danish coalition broke ranks and abstained from voting for Simonis, thus leading to a 34-34 tie in the vote, and prohibiting Simonis from retaking power in Schleswig-Holstein.

As someone who has spent some of the best years of his life in Kiel, who considers himself an honorary citizen of Schleswig-Holstein, and loves that area of Germany as much if not more than anyone who lives there, we hereby give three hurrahs for the hero or heroine of Kiel, whoever you may be. God bless you. Your courageous act will benefit Schleswig-Holstein - and Germany - in the future more than anything that Simonis might allege to have done for Schleswig-Holstein in her terrible years of leadership. It will also help Danish-German relations in the future, saving the SSW from a grievous error, which is good for Europe. We say this as a political centrist and non-partisan. Once again, our heartiest thanks for this courageous and moral act.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

EU Patent Law Is Bringing Europe This?

If you want to see how absurd the US patent law system is with respect to the internet, take a look at this March 9, 2005 article at ZDNet UK by Matthew Broersma entitled Amazon patents gender stereotyping.

Amazon.com through the gifted inventor Zhengrong Song, who has assigned the March 8, 2005 patent on "Methods and systems of assisting users in purchasing items" to Amazon.com, has received US Patent Nr. 6,865,546.

Here is a sample commentary by Broersma about that patent:

"The patent concerns inferring information about gift recipients and using that information to suggest appropriate items and services, such as birthday or Valentine's Day reminders and age- and gender-appropriate gifts. 'For example, if the purchased toy is a dress for a doll, it may be inferred that the recipient is a girl', the patent states."

Or how about patenting the inference that if someone buys a Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling that this person is a "fan" of such books who could be so marketed. This "patent absurdity" knows no end.

Thankfully, this absurd patent system has not yet reached Europe in legal form, but it may, if European supporters of software patents and patents on internet methodology get their way. As Broersma writes:

"Web sites using such techniques may now be compelled to pay Amazon a licence fee, at least in the US. Patents on pure software and business processes (or the idea of writing software that supposes girls may like dolls) are currently not enforceable in Europe, but a draft directive on the "patentability of computer-implemented inventions" now making its way through the European Parliament could remove most restrictions, the directive's opponents claim...."

In any case, this is a ZDNet article well worth a read.

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A Satirical Site on the European Union

Via the European blog DJ Nozem, which we have just added to our blogroll, we are led to a new site which has only been in existence since March 9, the European Onion, which is a take-off on the original well-known Onion.

Although the European Union is a serious business, humour has its place in life, and is indeed a form of recognition of the things subjected to that humour, so that sites such as the European Onion are a part of the total landscape. Indeed, it is a fun way to get to know the EU players, although none of those lampooned should take this all too seriously.

Europe - Eurochambres Economic Survey 2005

As reported in a recent Press Release, the Economic Survey 2005 (EES 2005) of the European economy has been released by Eurochambres, "The Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry represent[ing] 43 national associations of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, a European network of 2000 regional and local Chambers with over 18 million member enterprises in Europe." The survey, which is based on results from 76,000 companies, is entitled "The Business Climate in Europe's Regions in 2005: European Analysis" and is the 12th edition of this Eurochambres survey.

The press release reports that:

"EUROCHAMBRES’ Economic Survey for 2005 indicates a moderate economic recovery. While business confidence of European companies decreased slightly compared to last year, all other indicators – total turnover, including domestic and export sales, employment, and investment – are at higher levels."

Christoph Leitl, President of EUROCHAMBRES stated in this regard that:

"Although actual European growth remains sluggish, the businesses that responded to this survey clearly anticipate a strengthening global economy. However, high commodity prices and the unstable euro/dollar exchange rate put at risk this economic recovery. It is also noteworthy that the optimistic outlook is most strongly felt in the new Member States."

The survey itself states as follows concerning the Member States of the European Union:

"On the new EU members’ side, almost all the countries see an increase in business confidence levels for 2005. The countries that see the biggest increase in comparison with last year are the three Baltic countries [Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania]."

Among the EU Member States, expectations for investment, employment, and domestic sales are highest in Latvia, which also has the highest business confidence expectation level for 2005.

Economic expectations are more subdued in the older EU Member States:

"Companies in the 'old' EU Member States (EU-14) are less confident about their future than last year (net balance for 2005 is 19.8 vs 22.6 for 2004)."

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Eurochambres says EU Economy 20 Years Behind the US

According to a new study published by Eurochambres, the Association of European Chambers of Commerce and Industry, "the economic performance of the EU is about 20 years behind that of the US." See also the Press Release about the study. According to the study, the EU is 5 years behind the US in productivity as measured by GDP per hour, 14 years behind the US in productivity measured by GDP per employed, 18 years behind in terms of income as measured by GDP per capita, 23 years behind in terms of R&D (research and development) and 25 years behind in the employment rate.

Christoph Leitl, President of Eurochambres writes:

Back to the future!
In which century are we living? According to a study presented by EUROCHAMBRES at the Spring Business Forum some days ago, we are living in the late 1970s or early 1980s. The report compares key economic indicators in the EU and the US - such as employment, economic growth and investment in research and development - in terms of "time distances" between the two regions, forecasting how many years it could take the EU to catch up with the US and under what conditions of growth. The results are not encouraging: the US has a clear economic time lead. The current EU levels in key economic indicators were reached by the US 20 to 30 years ago, and it will take decades for Europe to catch up - and then only if there is a considerable improvement in the EU! This again underpins the urgent importance of reviving economic growth in Europe. EUROCHAMBRES urges European leaders who will gather at a Summit in Brussels on 22 March to fully support the priorities of growth and jobs as outlined by the European Commission. We expect the Summit to show real political dedication to achieving 3% growth per annum in order to create an additional 10,000,000 jobs over the coming five years. We expect the Prime Ministers to take personal responsibility for delivering real economic growth involving all relevant socio-economic actors. The time has come to get Europe's future back on track!


We here at EU Pundit might add as an aside that Eurochambres has numerous very useful publications on Europe which can be downloaded.

Here is the relevant contact data for Eurochambres:
EUROCHAMBRES
Chamber House
Avenue des Arts, 19 A-D
B-1000 Brussels
Tel.: +32(0)2-282 08 50
Fax: +32(0)2-230 00 38/280 01 91
eurochambres@eurochambres.be
www.eurochambres.be

Monday, March 14, 2005

European Union EU Law Policy and Institutions at EULegal.Org

EULegal.Org has been created as an adjunct to EU Pundit. EULegal.org covers European Union Law, Policy and Institutions.

EULegal.Org is designed as a reference tool to save time researching the European Union. An attempt has been made to put basic information and links regarding the European Union on one page, thus providing a simple overview of a government system which can otherwise appear formidable to someone looking for EU information.

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Crossposted to LawPundit.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

The Unwritten Constitution of the European Union

Opposition to the EU Constitution is concentrated in the United Kingdom, which itself has no written constitution, but only an "unwritten" one, comprised of documents having "constitutional status". We have posted about this legal fiction before as perhaps a subliminal reason for UK resistance to the EU Constitution. We now want to examine this issue from a different perspective.

Essentially, the European Union is currently in the same position as the UK. It already has an "unwritten" constitution similar to that in the United Kingdom and it is called the community acquis (acquis communautaire).

This community acquis in the European Union is defined at the EU pages at the SCADPlus: GLOSSARY as follows:

"Community acquis

The Community acquis is the body of common rights and obligations which bind all the Member States together within the European Union. It is constantly evolving and comprises:

  • the content, principles and political objectives of the Treaties;
  • the legislation adopted in application of the treaties and the case law of the Court of Justice;
  • the declarations and resolutions adopted by the Union;
  • measures relating to the common foreign and security policy;
  • measures relating to justice and home affairs;
  • international agreements concluded by the Community and those concluded by the Member States between themselves in the field of the Union's activities.

Thus the Community acquis comprises not only Community law in the strict sense, but also all acts adopted under the second and third pillars of the European Union and the common objectives laid down in the Treaties. The Union has committed itself to maintaining the Community acquis in its entirety and developing it further.

Applicant countries have to accept the Community acquis before they can join the Union. Derogations from the acquis are granted only in exceptional circumstances and are limited in scope. To integrate into the European Union, applicant countries will have to transpose the acquis into their national legislation and implement it from the moment of their accession."


This community acquis developed through the complex history of the European Communities and the European Union.

Now, it is clearly possible -- in an island culture dominated by one language, one legal system and a fairly homogenous culture that has developed over thousands of years -- to exist without a written constitution. We see in the UK that this works.

However, opponents of the EU Constitution in the UK should carefully consider whether that is a sensible option for a European Union consisting of currently 20 official languages, various historically diverse legal systems, and a much more heterogenous group of people.

In our opinion, anyone who examines the current community acquis seriously will see that a unified EU Constitution is the only sane alternative to the present unnecessary complexity and confusion which marks EU law. People need ONE document - not thousands, which defines their rights and obligations as citizens of the European Union.

We do not address here the people who strongly oppose the EU or the EU Constitution on personal political grounds. We understand them, and disagree with them, but it is their democratic right to think as they do.

Rather, we address those persons who are in the undecided category about the EU Constitution, whether in the UK or elsewhere, and we suggest that the EU Constitution largely merely "codifies" the already existing "unwritten" EU Constitution, reducing thousands of documents to one, which seems to us to be the optimal solution.
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Case for the EU Constitution by the EESC

The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) has a Brochure
CASE IN FAVOUR OF THE EUROPEAN CONSTITUTION ADVANCED BY THE EESC
presenting the case in favour of the European Constitution.

Its EUROPE DIRECT service helps citizens find answers to questions about the European Union at the all-Europe freephone number 00 800 6 7 8 9 10 11.

The EESC Brussels address and other contact information is as follows:
European Economic and Social Committee
Unit for Publications and Visits
For all information, please contact :
publications@esc.eu.int
Tel. : +32 (0)2 546 96 04 • Fax : +32 (0)2 546 97 66
Rue Belliard 99 • B – 1040 Brussels
Internet : http://www.esc.eu.int
Catalogue No. : EESC–2005-01-EN

Here is the text of their Brochure:

"On 28 October 2004, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) adopted,by a very large majority (166 votes to four, with seven abstentions), its opinion on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe; this opinion had been requested by the European Parliament.[footnote 1] In its opinion, the EESC makes an unambiguous call for the Constitutional Treaty to be ratified.

[footnote 1 - "(1) Opinion on the Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe (rapporteur Henri Malosse - CESE 1416/2004) This opinion has been appended to the report issued by the Eurpean Parliament on the Constitutional Treaty. The European Parliament held a vote on 12 January 2005; 500 out of a total 677 MEPs took part in the vote, expressed their support for the Treaty by voting for the draft resolution submitted to the Parliament with this report."]

Under the Treaty, the Union would be based on the rights of the citizen and the way would be opened towards greater democracy.

There are eight reasons why civil society should give its support to the European Constitution, namely:

1. This is the first European Treaty which has been drawn up in a democratic way. The Constitutional Treaty was prepared by a Convention consisting, for the most part, of members of parliament and also involving the participation of representatives of the EESC and the social partners.

2. Citizens' rights will be enshrined in the EU Constitution, thanks to the incorporation into the Treaty of the Charter of Fundament Rights. This Charter brings together, in a single text, not only civil, political, economic and social rights, but also new rights linked to the development of society (rights in respect of consumer protection, the environment, access to services of general economic interest, etc.). These rights will, in future, have to be respected by the European Institutions when exercising the powers vested in them; they will also have to be respected by the Member States when implementing EU law. Citizens will, under certain conditions, be entitled to invoke these rights before the courts.

3.Democracy will be strengthened thanks to the new responsibilities vested in the European Parliament. The Council will no longer be able to take decisions by itself; decisions will have to be taken in agreement with the European Parliament in fields such as: agriculture and fisheries; transport; culture; tourism; sport; research; services of general economic interest; energy; public health; immigration; and legal cooperation on civil and criminal matters. All of the annual budget of the EU will also have to be decided upon jointly by the European Parliament and the Council.

4.National parliaments will, for the first time, be involved in the functioning of the Union. They will have the right to monitor compliance with the principle of subsidiarity in respect of the legislative activity of the European Union.

5. The transparency and public nature of the proceedings of the Council of the European Union will in future be guaranteed. Whenever the Council discusses or votes on legislative acts, its proceedings shall be open to the public.

6. The role of the autonomous social dialogue will be strengthened and the reality of participatory democracy will be recognised. The social partners and civil society organisations will be recognised as fully fledged players in the European venture.

7. The Institutions will have to maintain a regular and transparent dialogue with EU citizens and civil society organisations. The Commission will henceforth be obliged to consult these parties before taking initiatives which concern them.

8. A right of popular initiative is to be granted to EU citizens under the Constitution. If a cause is supported by at least one million citizens, drawn from several Member States, they may ask the Commission to present a legislative proposal designed to address their concerns. These steps forward should have the effect of bringing EU policies and decisions more into line with the expectation and aspirations of EU citizens by making the functioning and decision-making process of the Union more democratic. We should therefore present a vision of a Europe which is able to rally its citizens in support of a blueprint for the type of future in which they wish to share, thereby making the European Union into a genuine "Union of states and citizens”, based on shared values, and a Union in which the people will be the players. The European Constitution will also provide a reference framework which will enable the institutions and civil society organisations to carry out more effectively their role as intermediary bodies in order to ensure that EU policies are more in line with the expectations of the public and the socio-economic players. In this context, the Constitutional Treaty provides the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) with an additional opportunity to back up the work of the other institutions and to exercise, to the full, its role of pre-eminent intermediary between organised civil society and the
decision-making bodies of the EU, in order to translate participatory democracy into reality. The adoption of the Constitutional Treaty will also have an impact beyond the borders of the EU. A European Union founded on the rights and involvement of citizens will strengthen its image and influence, promoting social development, peace and understanding between peoples."


See the brochure.
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EU Constitution Voting Status - A BBC Clickable Map

The BBC has a clickable map at Where member states stand on the status of voting by the EU Member States on the EU Constitution. This is definitely worth a bookmark to keep track of the voting.

The Upcoming French Referendum on the EU Constitution

France will vote by referendum on the EU Constitution on May 29, 2005. In this connection the Embassy of France in the US has published "Five reasons for voting 'yes' to the European Constitution", an article by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the Prime Minister of France, as first published in the French newspaper Le Monde.

FUTURE OF EUROPE

"Five reasons for voting "yes" to the European Constitution"
by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, published in the "Le Monde" newspaper.
Le Monde, Paris, March 5, 2005

The European debate is rediscovering its historic dimension, that of its inception when peace in Europe seemed so fragile. Progressively, we have got used to peace, to the point where the wars on our doorstep barely disturb us. In the EU, administration insidiously replaced ambition... until Europe's enlargement at last gave us back a taste for history. With our new geography, a new organization became necessary. This is a Constitution for a new history.

An urgent yes. The world is growing ever more dangerous. Economic and social imbalances are increasing the number of political conflicts and exacerbating the terrorist threats. The world needs Europe because it is the bulwark against the clash of civilizations. Europe's ideas and values are needed to strengthen the UN to enhance the rule of law, reform the WTO for greater fairness, and create a world environment organization for greater awareness of the planet's fragility... With an EU foreign minister, our continent's voice will be stronger. Hence the urgency.

A political yes. The European Constitution allows political democracy to regain and assert the upper hand over administrative organization. The European Council, the meeting of the Heads of States and Government, will have a full-time elected President, able to remain in office for five years. The Commission President will be elected and accountable to the European Parliament, whose powers will be strengthened. Every national Parliament will monitor compliance with the proper division of responsibility between the EU and national governments. Most decisions will require the support of a majority of States (55%) and a very clear majority of the population (65%). Finally, the Constitution recognizes the right of EU citizens (a petition with a million signatures) to propose legislation.

A social yes. Employment and social progress are confirmed in the Constitution as European Union objectives. Ten specific articles deal directly with Europe's social policy, not counting those relating to employment or social cohesion. The Constitution commits us to respect minorities and absolute gender parity, fight exclusion, protect health, ensure a high level of education and safeguard the environment...

The social market economy recognizes the social dialogue by including in the Constitution the concepts of social partners and the tripartite social summit: it endorses the special nature of French-style public services. On the societal level, the Constitution also strengthens the area of freedom security and justice, particularly by increasing the powers of "Eurojust".

An economic yes. What would French agriculture or French fishing become without European support? How would we succeed in enforcing the use of biofuels without the power of Europe? The EU is exigent, but its assistance is essential both for French farmers and for rurality. Our major successful projects such as the A380 Airbus and the locating in Cadarache of ITER, the centre of post-nuclear energy production, the energy of the stars, the energy of the twenty-fist century, have become European projects. Until now, our different economic policies were not always well coordinated. Now, thanks to the establishment of a stable presidency in the Eurogroup, finance ministers will be able to inject new momentum into the Euro Area. Together, we shall be able to make Europe an economically more attractive place and go on the offensive, which is the best way to respond to the relocations issue. Employment in France needs Europe.

A cultural yes. Europe's cultural dimension will be strengthened not only by the recognition of cultural and linguistic diversity in the EU's objectives, but also by the move to qualified majority voting for the adoption of measures establishing major European programmes.

It was at President Chirac's request that the cultural exception was maintained in the common trade policy. "The increasingly problematical nature of the world incites us to start the European adventure afresh, this time with a new openness to the world": Edgar Morin is thus encouraging European intellectuals to escape from the "ideological cataclysm", which will remain a scar of the twentieth century. With those lighting the way ahead in the cultural sphere, the "Aufklärer", let us give birth to the new European spirit.

My vote for the European Constitution stems from a deeply-held belief. It has nothing to do with party politics or tactical voting. The vote on the Constitutional Treaty is not about who will run for the Opposition in the 2007 presidential election, or decide on Turkey's accession, on which the people of France will have the final say in a referendum, as Parliament decided on Monday this week.

As the UMP (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire) embarks, this Sunday, on the referendum campaign, I am asking Ministers to campaign as simple citizens, to answer the French people's questions and wholeheartedly promote France's European project. The debate on Europe's future does not belong to anyone. It transcends political divisions, without erasing them. It primarily concerns future generations.

Faced with the challenges of the future, a lifelong pro-European, I commit myself. For me, the right answer is "yes" to Europe.


Embassy of France in the United States - March 7, 2005

Friday, March 04, 2005

The European vs. The American Dream

The blog Where We're Bound has a March 1, 2005 posting on the EU entitled The European Union: A Different Kind of Dream where we find written:

"Jeremy Rifkin's [most recent book] postulates that the The American Dream is in decline. Americans are increasingly overworked, underpaid, and squeezed for time. But there is an alternative: the European Dream - a more leisurely, healthy, prosperous, and sustainable way of life. Europe's lifestyle is not only more desirable, argues Rifkin, but may be crucial to sustaining prosperity in the new era."

We agree in part and disagree in part. We think that a blend of the advantages of the US and the EU would be optimal.

Take a look at the full posting.

Crossposted to LawPundit.

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Thursday, March 03, 2005

What if the UK rejects the EU Constitution?

Honor Mahony has an article at the EU Observer about the consequences of a UK rejection of the EU Constitution. Writing in the article Unofficial plan B considered in case Britain rejects Constitution, Mahoney refers to a new publication by Charles Grant of the UK Centre for European Reform (CER), entitled "WHAT HAPPENS IF BRITAIN VOTES NO? Ten ways out of a European constitutional crisis".

The press release states:

"If the rest of the EU adopts the constitutional treaty but the British vote against it, the Union faces crisis and instability. In theory, the treaty cannot enter into force unless ratified by every memberstate. But would a British No really kill it?

Charles Grant argues that several scenarios are unlikely: the rest of the EU agreeing to live with the existing treaties, an attempt to renegotiate the constitutional treaty, a second British referendum or plans for a union between France and Germany.

Grant then examines whether it would be feasible for the countries that have ratified the constitutional treaty to press ahead with it, while pushing Britain out of the EU. He concludes that the legal and political obstacles would probably stop that happening. Similarly, if France and Germany tried to build a ‘hard core’, a new organisation within the EU, the legal and political difficulties would probably thwart them.

Grant concludes that the most likely outcome of a British No would be a ‘messy core’. The integrationist countries would implement parts of the constitutional treaty, they would set up avant-garde groups in specific areas, they would strengthen the institutions of the Euro Group and they might push through one or two minor treaty changes. The countries involved in all of the avantgarde groups would emerge as the Union’s de facto leadership. The consequences would include a loss of British influence in Europe, the end of EU enlargement, a weaker European economy and the failure of the EU’s efforts to build a stronger foreign and defence policy. All this would be bad for Britain, bad for Europe and bad for the United States."


We are not so pessimistic. Through the European Union, the countries of the EU are taking the world's largest economic market and expanding its unity and influence into the political, legal and military sphere. Neither UK ratification of the EU Constitution nor even UK membership in the EU are essential to the EU, which, even without UK membership, numbers nearly 400 million people, with several hundred million more wanting to get into the club.

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Will the EU Survive - Not according to the CIA

Mark Steyn at the Chicago Sun-Times really does a hard knock on the EU and the EU Constitution at U.S. can sit back and watch Europe implode.

Among other things, Steyn points to CIA analysis that the EU will collapse within the next 15 years.

This author does not believe that it will, but we think it is essential to read a critique like this to see where the problems are.

Why Not Here?

New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks writes in Why Not Here?:

"But if there is one soft-power gift America does possess, it is this tendency to imagine new worlds. As Malzahn goes on to note, 'In a country of immigrants like the United States, one actually pushes for change. ... We Europeans always want to have the world from yesterday, whereas the Americans strive for the world of tomorrow.'"

Read the whole thing here (cost-free registration required).

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