Thursday, December 30, 2010

Estonia to Become 17th Member of the Euro Area on January 1, 2011

Estonia to strengthen the euro area

Euro maverick Edin Mujagic writes inter alia:

"Estonia is also a living proof that economic disasters do not have to lead to enormous budget deficits. Disaster is the correct word, as the economy of this tiny Baltic nation has contracted by some 15 percent in 2009 with 2010 not being much better either. But still its government managed to keep the budget deficit at just a tad over 1 percent of its GDP. A remarkable achievement indeed if there ever was one."

Euroskeptics and the Euro - Paul Krugman Op-Ed at the New York Times

Euroskeptics and the Euro - Paul Krugman Op-Ed at the New York Times

www.theeulobby.eu

www.theeulobby.eu: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

EU Parliament Adopts EU 2011 Budget

The EU Parliament adopted the EU 2011 Budget at the European Parliament plenary session 13-16 December 2010.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ): The Court of Justice and the General Court plus the Specialized Panels: Getting the Names Right after the Lisbon Treaty

By virtue of the Treaty of Lisbon, the Court of Justice of the European Communities recently changed its name to Court of Justice of the European Union (EU).

Remarkably, as of the last time we looked (22 October 2010), the official EU pages for "the Court" have not been properly edited to reflect all the changes required by the Treaty of Lisbon, which amended the treaties comprising the constitutional framework of the EU. The official EU page currently writes:
"Following the entry into force of a new EU treaty, the content of this page is under revision."
That new treaty, the Treaty of Lisbon, now serves as the constitutional basis of the European Union and its institutions:
"The Constitution changes the name of the Court of Justice. In the future, the term "Court of Justice of the European Union" will officially designate the two levels of jurisdiction taken together. The supreme body is now called the "Court of Justice" while the Court of First Instance of the European Communities is renamed "General Court". Article I-29 states that the Court of Justice of the European Union includes "the European Court of Justice, the General Court and specialised courts"."
As written at the Wikipedia on the European Court of Justice:
"Following the entrance into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009, the ECJ's official name was changed from the "Court of Justice of the European Communities" to the "Court of Justice" although in English it is still most common to refer to the Court as the European Court of Justice. The Court of First Instance was renamed as the "General Court", and the term "Court of Justice of the European Union" will officially designate the two courts, as along with its specialised tribunals, taken together."
Regarding the General Court (European Union), the Wikipedia writes:
"The General Court (EGC) is a jurisdictional instance of the Court of Justice of the European Union. From its inception on 1 January 1989 to 30 November 2009, it was known as the Court of First Instance (CFI).

The General Court hears disputes (such as disputes brought by those refused a trademark by OHIM, the EU Trade Mark and designs registry). Appeals are sent to the European Court of Justice. The General Court is an independent Court attached to the European Court of Justice.

The creation of the General Court instituted a judicial system based on two levels of jurisdiction: all cases heard at first instance by the General Court may be subject to a right of appeal to the Court of Justice on points of law only....

The General Court (previously known as "the Court of First Instance") is composed of 27 judges, at least one from each Member State, plus a registrar. The Judges are appointed for a renewable term of six years by common accord of the governments of the Member States.

The Members of the General Court elect their President and the Presidents of the Chambers of five Judges from among their number for a renewable period of three years.

There are no permanent Advocates General attached to the General Court (unlike the European Court of Justice which has 8 Advocates General). However, the task of an Advocate General may be performed in a limited number of cases by a Judge nominated to do so. In practice this has been done only very occasionally."
See in this general regard Struan Robertson at OUT-LAW.COM in How often does the ECJ follow Advocates General? Or should that be CJEU?

As to the special panels of the Court, the Wikipedia writes concerning the specialized tribunal, the European Union Civil Service Tribunal:
"The European Union Civil Service Tribunal is a specialised tribunal within the Court of Justice of the European Union. It was established on 2 December 2005.

The Treaty of Nice provides for the creation of judicial panels in certain specific areas. This provision is later amended and codified in Article 257 (‘specialised courts’) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union by the Treaty of Lisbon:[1]
"The European Parliament and the Council, acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure, may establish specialised courts attached to the General Court to hear and determine at first instance certain classes of action or proceeding brought in specific areas. The European Parliament and the Council shall act by means of regulations either on a proposal from the Commission after consultation of the Court of Justice or at the request of the Court of Justice after consultation of the Commission. [...]"
The Council of the European Union on 2 November 2004, adopted on that basis a decision establishing the European Union Civil Service Tribunal.[2] The new specialised court, composed of seven judges, is called upon to adjudicate in disputes between the European Union and its civil service, a jurisdiction until 2005 was exercised by the General Court. Its decisions will be subject to appeal on questions of law only to the General Court and, in exceptional cases, to review by the European Court of Justice.
We reproduce the following text from the EU website on the Treaty of Lisbon:
"The Treaty of Lisbon amends the EU's two core treaties, the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community. The latter is renamed the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. In addition, several Protocols and Declarations are attached to the Treaty.
As written at Consilium - Treaty of Lisbon:
"The Treaty of Lisbon amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty establishing the European Community was signed in the Portuguese capital on 13 December 2007 by the representatives of the twenty-seven Member States. It entered into force on 1 December 2009, after being ratified by all the Member States.

The Treaty on European Union includes a provision for the amendment of the Treaties. Article 48 says that any Member State, the European Parliament or the Commission can submit proposals for the amendment of the Treaties to the Council. The Council forwards any such proposals to the European Council, and the national Parliaments are notified. If the European Council agrees to examine the proposed amendments, its President convenes a Convention composed of representatives of the national Parliaments, the Heads of State or Government of the Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission. The Convention examines the proposals for amendment and adopts by consensus a recommendation to an Intergovernmental Conference (IGC), which is convened by the President of the Council. Alternatively and subject to the consent of the European Parliament, the European Council can also decide by a simple majority not to convene a Convention if a Convention is not justified by the extent of the proposed amendments, in which case it is the European Council itself that defines the terms of reference of an IGC, which is then convened by the President of the Council. In any case, an IGC composed of all the Member States is convened (whether preceded by a Convention or not) and any amendment to the Treaties must be ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their own constitutional requirements.

The Lisbon Treaty is the latest of the Treaties which, to date, have amended the Treaties on the basis of which the Communities and the European Union were founded, such as the Single European Act (1986), the Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty) (1992), the Amsterdam Treaty (1997) and the Treaty of Nice (2001)."

Saturday, October 09, 2010

A Europe United by Golf Faces a Host of Political Problems Pointing to a Lack of European Integration

Europe! Europe! Europe! is Roger Cohen's provocative op-ed at the New York Times on European integration in the European Union -- or -- what does golf have that the politics of European integration otherwise lacks?

Hat tip to CaryGEE.

Friday, October 08, 2010

European Union Fair Trial Rights: EU Justice Ministers Approve a Law to Guarantee Translation and Interpretation Rights in Criminal Proceedings in All EU Courts

Several egregious miscarriages of justice have occurred in the past in the European Union (EU) because criminally accused persons have been criminally tried without knowing the language of the accusing EU Member State. A landmark precedential development on fair trial rights in criminal proceedings in the EU is thus in the make to solve this problem.

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, at her EU website on the topic of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, writes that the European Union Justice Ministers have approved an EU law which ensures translation and interpretation rights in criminal proceedings in ALL European Union courts, and this includes RECEIVING LEGAL ADVICE:
"EU justice ministers approved a law today that ensures translation and interpretation rights in criminal proceedings, following backing from the European Parliament earlier this year. The law guarantees the right of suspects to obtain interpretation in their own language throughout criminal proceedings in all courts in the EU, including when receiving legal advice. 'This is an important step towards better and stronger justice in Europe,' said Vice-President Viviane Reding, calling on lawmakers to accelerate their work on the Commission’s second measure, the letter of rights, which was proposed in July."
See also Catherine Heard and Daniel Mansell at EUobserver in [Comment] EU starting to wake up to lacking defence rights who discuss the background of issues leading to this law, starting with:
"How do 27 countries, all with their own distinct legal systems, juggle the competing demands of combating cross-border crime while safeguarding the free movement and other fundamental rights of those on their territory? This is the question the EU has been attempting to answer for the last ten years."
See the respective Press Release Fair trial rights: EU Justice Ministers approve law ensuring translation and interpretation rights in criminal proceedings which is abstracted as follows:
"European Union Justice Ministers approved a law that ensures translation and interpretation rights in criminal proceedings. The European Commission and the European Parliament backed the law earlier this year (IP/10/746). It is the first ever EU measure setting common minimum standards for the rights of the defence in criminal matters. The law guarantees the right of suspects to obtain interpretation throughout criminal proceedings, including when receiving legal advice, in their own language in all courts in the EU. This is a long overdue first measure to ensure a fair trial for everyone throughout the entire EU. The law is the first of a series of fair trial measures to set common EU standards in criminal cases. EU Member States now have three years to put the measure into their national laws."
See the Justice and Home Affairs Council Memo Justice and Home Affairs Council: 7-8 October 2010 in Luxembourg which contained inter alia the following text in discussing how and what needs to be done to ensure fair trial rights in the EU:
"1. Ensuring fair trial rights in the EU

Procedural safeguards represent a top priority in the justice area for the next five years. Minimum standards for the rights of defendants in criminal proceedings are indispensable to promote real mutual trust between citizens and the judicial authorities of different Member States, without which mutual recognition may never work properly.

What is expected at this Council? The right to interpretation and translation is expected to enter into force less than a year after first being proposed. The European Parliament backed the Directive in June. (IP/10/746)

The Council is expected to formally adopt legislation to help people exercise their fair trial rights anywhere in the EU when they cannot understand the language of the case.

Commission position: The Commission welcomes the adoption of the Directive, the first step in a series of measures to set common EU standards in criminal cases. The law guarantees the right of suspects to be informed about evidence used and receive legal advice in their own language in criminal proceedings in all courts in the EU. The Commission is keen to ensure that common minimum standards exist in all EU Member States for defendants. These standards should be fully compliant with the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.

Meanwhile, the Commission will present its proposal for the right to information in criminal proceedings, which was proposed in July (IP/10/989). The proposal, if adopted by the European Parliament and EU Ministers of Justice, will help to avoid miscarriages of justice and reduce the number of appeals. Authorities prosecuting the case will have to ensure that suspects are given information about their rights. When someone is arrested, they will be given this information in writing – in a Letter of Rights – drafted in simple, everyday language. It will be provided to the suspect upon arrest in all cases, whether he asks for it or not, and translated if necessary.

Background: The Commission has been committed to common EU standards in relation to criminal proceedings for many years and has been working on EU legislation with a step-by-step approach. These measures will allow the Commission to develop a truly common and ambitious EU framework on the level of protection and fair trial rights."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cloud Computing Limited in the European Union by Privacy Laws Limiting Movement of Information

At the New York Times, Kevin J. O'Brien reports that Cloud Computing Hits Snag in Europe as privacy laws put strict limits on movement of information beyond EU borders.

Hat tip to GigaLaw.com

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A Landmark EU Ruling by the European Court of Justice on the Prohibition of Online Lottery Betting Services in Germany

Eric Pfanner at the New York Times reports on a landmark decision by the European Court of Justice, the highest court in the European Union, in E.U. Court Bats Down Germany’s Protection of Betting Monopolies.

The Grand Chamber [Plenary Session of 13 of the 27 Judges] of the Curia held in its judgment as follows :

"1. On a proper interpretation of Article 49 EC, an operator wishing to offer via the internet bets on sporting competitions in a Member State other than the one in which it is established does not cease to fall within the scope of the said provision solely because that operator does not have an authorisation permitting it to offer such bets to persons within the territory of the Member State in which it is established, but holds only an authorisation to offer those services to persons located outside that territory.
2. On a proper interpretation of Article 49 EC, where a regional public monopoly on sporting bets and lotteries has been established with the objective of preventing incitement to squander money on gambling and of combating gambling addiction, and yet a national court establishes at the same time:
–        that other types of games of chance may be exploited by private operators holding an authorisation; and
–        that in relation to other games of chance which do not fall within the said monopoly and which, moreover, pose a higher risk of addiction than the games which are subject to that monopoly, the competent authorities pursue policies of expanding supply, of such a nature as to develop and stimulate gaming activities, in particular with a view to maximising revenue derived from the latter;
that national court may legitimately be led to consider that such a monopoly is not suitable for ensuring the achievement of the objective for which it was established by contributing to reducing the opportunities for gambling and to limiting activities within that area in a consistent and systematic manner.
The fact that the games of chance subject to the said monopoly fall within the competence of the regional authorities, whereas those other types of games of chance fall within the competence of the federal authorities, is irrelevant in that respect.
3. On a proper interpretation of Article 49 EC, where a system of prior administrative authorisation is established in a Member State as regards the supply of certain types of gambling, such a system, which derogates from the freedom to provide services guaranteed by Article 49 EC, is capable of satisfying the requirements of that latter provision only if it is based on criteria which are objective, non‑discriminatory and known in advance, in such a way as to circumscribe the exercise of the national authorities’ discretion so that it is not used arbitrarily. Furthermore, any person affected by a restrictive measure based on such a derogation must have an effective judicial remedy available to them.
4. On a proper interpretation of Article 49 EC, national legislation prohibiting the organisation and intermediation of games of chance on the internet for the purposes of preventing the squandering of money on gambling, combating addiction to the latter and protecting young persons may, in principle, be regarded as suitable for pursuing such legitimate objectives, even if the offer of such games remains authorised through more traditional channels. The fact that such a prohibition is accompanied by a transitional measure such as that at issue in the main proceedings is not capable of depriving the said prohibition of that suitability."
This is a potentially important ruling for people who were accustomed to buying an online lottery ticket every now and then via private operators, but recently -- through a monopolistic federal German law -- were forced to walk down to the corner drugstore and buy a government-monopolized lottery ticket, because an online purchase from private operators was forbidden.


The EU court ruling does not prohibit Germany from outlawing online betting, or online lottery betting, but it does require the government to be consistent in its lawmaking with respect to betting services, which it has not been.

The German government alleged -- as the basis for prohibiting online lottery services by private operators -- that the online lottery betting prohibition as applied to private operators was made to prevent incitement to squander money on gambling and to combat gambling addiction.

At the same time, however, government operators were advertising the purchase of lottery tickets and developing new schemes to attract lottery money. Moreover, other kinds of betting and gambling, some much more addictive than the purchase of lottery tickets, were being tolerated by the government.

The fact is that the online lottery betting prohibition had been made to protect billion-euro government revenues earned from the government-sponsored lottery and to keep private operators from cutting into government revenues by offering online services.

The German prohibition also had the effect of prohibiting such services in other EU Member States.

The Curia holding in this regard refers to the operative Article 49 EC of the European Treaty which is the fundamental law of the European Union. As written at the page of the European Commission on the EU Single Market concerning General principles: Freedom to provide services / Freedom of establishment:
"The freedom of establishment, set out in Article 49 (ex Article 43 TEC) of the Treaty and the freedom to provide cross border services, set out in Article 56 (ex Article 49 TEC), are two of the “fundamental freedoms” which are central to the effective functioning of the EU Internal Market. 
These provisions have direct effect. This means, in practice, that Member States must modify national laws that restrict freedom of establishment, or the freedom to provide services, and are therefore incompatible with these principles. Member States may only maintain such restrictions in specific circumstances where these are justified by overriding reasons of general interest, for instance on grounds of public policy, public security or public health; and where they are proportionate.
Under the Treaties the Commission is responsible for ensuring that Community law, including Articles 49 and 56, is correctly applied. As the guardian of the Treaty, the Commission has the option of commencing infringement proceedings against a Member State which they believe to be incompatible with Community law.
The recently adopted Services Directive aims to create a legal framework for ensuring that both service providers and recipients benefit more easily from the fundamental freedoms guaranteed in Articles 49 and 56 of the Treaty. The directive complements existing Community instruments and its provisions are, to a large extent, based upon the case law of the European Court of Justice...."
The European Court of Justice in its holding has now essentially said that Germany can not justify its online betting prohibition by the excuse that it is protecting its population from the evils of gambling, while at the same time it is permitting other kinds of gambling and is itself profiting from that gambling and is actively propagating it for its own benefit, excluding similar private services to be offered in EU Member states.

Germany, therefore, has no legal alternative but to adopt consistent standards, whatever they may be, but it can no longer maintain a government-owned monopoly on betting services, online or off.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

EU Advocates General of European Court of Justice (ECJ, CURIA) Find Proposed Common Patent System Incompatible with EU Treaties

This is a bit late but the original opinion was in French and only released in English translation a few days ago.

The Council of the European Union requested an opinion from the Advocates General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ, CURIA) on the Compatibility of the Proposed European Patent Court System with EU Treaties. The Advocates General found the proposal incompatible (see the English version of the opinion here, translated from the French -- Request of the Council of the European Union for an Opinion on the compatibility of the proposed European Patent Court System with European Treaty Law, Court of Justice of the European Union, Opinion of the A-G, No. 1/09, 2 July 2010, translation provided by Pierre Véron, Véron & Associés), stating inter alia:

"“As it stands at present, the envisaged Agreement creating a unified patent litigation system is incompatible with the treaties.”".

Bravo. The European Union should not take a bad example from the United States and its balloon-expanding USPTO and self-serving special Federal Circuit Court for patents, but should rather see to it that its patent protections are reduced, with a corresponding decrease in the bureaucracies that serve the economy-sapping patent industry.

For more on the Advocates General opinion see:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The EU as an Innovation Union : European Commissioner for Research Innovation and Science, Geoghegan-Quinn, Invites Online Debate, June 17, 2010

The European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, invites to an online debate at the European Commission's Webcast chat page (June 17, 10:00-11:00 a.m. Central European Time***) on how to transform Europe into an Innovation Union.

Questions can be asked live or sent in advance to rtd-innovation-union@ec.europa.eu.

Languages: Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish.

***09h00-10h00 UK, Ireland, Portugal
11h00-12h00 Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania,Finland

See the video at "Innovation Union" webstreaming event

Mobile Phone Roaming Caps in the EU Upheld by European Union Court of Justice (ECJ)

A number of sources have picked up the story that the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has upheld an EU law, the so-called Roaming Regulation (Regulation (EC) No 544/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 amending Regulation (EC) No 717/2007 on roaming on public mobile telephone networks within the Community and Directive 2002/21/EC on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services), which puts caps on mobile phone roaming charges in the European Union.

See e.g.:

EU Court Rules in Favor of Roaming Caps, by Mike Gordon at the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Technology

Roaming cap is lawful, rules ECJ | Pinsent Masons LLP

Phone operators fail over roaming fees move, by Stanley Pignal in Brussels, Financial Times

Roaming cap is lawful, rules ECJ | Pinsent Masons LLP

Roaming cap is lawful, rules ECJ | Pinsent Masons LLP

European Union : EU Borders : Where Does Europe End?

YouTube - Let's talk about EU, Where Europe Ends

EU sets strict biofuel standards - UPI.com

EU sets strict biofuel standards - UPI.com

UK, US slam EU hedge fund rules | EurActiv

UK, US slam EU hedge fund rules | EurActiv

Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 Eurovision Song Contest, Oslo, Norway: Geographic Map of Finalists Reveals Clear Pattern : plus Betting Odds and Comments Going into the Finals

After semifnals reduced the field of contestants from 39 countries,  25 nations compete this evening in the Finals of the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest which will be seen by over one hundred million viewers.


Who will win?

Our geographic map below of the finalists for Eurovision 2010 contains some fat surprises.

The countries shaded in the map in red, orange and brown DID NOT make the finals and they show a contiguous mass of nations running from Sweden and Finland in the North to Italy and Malta in the South, including most of what we might call the traditional "Eastern Europe" border countries.

The various shades of green show the countries that DID make the finals and they are concentrated in what we might call "Asiatic Europe" while the two yellow shades show the "Big 4 nations" (Germany, UK, France and Spain) who are the major financial supporters of Eurovision and who do not have to qualify for the finals. This geographic map in 2010 is REMARKABLE to say the least because it shows how the focus of this year's finalists has shifted quite definitely to Asiatic Europe, where a winner in 2010 is the most likely.




The trend suggests that although the competition takes place in last year's winner Norway, the north countries of Europe have generally not done well thus far in this year's competition, with Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all failing to make the finals. Three+one of those countries (Sweden, Finland, Latvia, plus Norway) are all former Eurovision winners. So, in terms of the Eurovision music trends, we are looking for a winner further South this year.

Bwin.com has the following odds posted for the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest (odds as of 15:49 Central European Time, 29 May 2010, so they may change from that yet in coming hours). Other bookmakers have different odds but we think bwin.com is closest to reality - of course, only the actual contest results will reveal the truth. We disclaim any and all liability for any reliance on this posting which is made only in good fun and not as advice of any kind.

Below are some of our comments on some of the major contenders based on our review of rehearsals and newest developments:

Azerbaijan 3.70
Safira's second rehearsal - Azerbaijan

This is currently the top favorite, having only slight edge over Germany. It is rather incredible and a great credit to the country that Azerbaijan is being handled as a favorite of this contest. Azerbaijan is on the far east end of "Europe" on the Caspian Sea, far from the European mainstream countries. Safura has a great song and a professional voice, if it holds up live -- which may be an issue,  but the stage steps and costuming in the 2nd rehearsal were distracting - these negative live show effects could cost Azerbaijan the win. After all, it is the TOTAL performance which is essential, not merely the song.

Germany 3.75
Lena's second rehearsal - Germany

Lena was long the favorite coming into the finals and many still think she is the prohibitive favorite, quite apart from the polls and betting agencies, since she has the ability to win instant supporters, which may turn the tide in her favor when the professional juries AND public vote on the winner. Lena is someone who you either like or not, there seems to be no inbetween. Being from Germany, we are of course biased and will root that Lena wins. This is a zippy unique song written in part by an American, and the success of the son is very much dependent on the artist's presentation, which must match the song's innocent mood. If Lena sings in the final in anything less than fairly conservative dress and does not cover her upper arms, otherwise revealing a totally inappropriate tattoo on her inside left arm, seen in the second dress rehearsal, she is lost, for it takes away from the whole message and style of the song, which is a carefree if buoyant innocence. Tattoos give exactly the opposite expression.

Armenia 5.00
Eva Riva's second rehearsal 

A favorite made in Armenia? but it is true. Eva Riva has undeniable natural star allure and the song itself is good enough to put Armenia into the upper echelons this year, though we doubt that it can win because of the song's strong "Eastern" tone and lack of uniqueness.

Israel 11.00
Harel Skaat - Israel

This is a nice chanson, of which there are many, and we see nothing that sets this song apart from hundreds of others. It will receive lots of middle-field votes but it is not unique enough to win.

Turkey 12.00
maNga's second rehearsal - Turkey

Because of the many Turks living in Europe who vote straight Turkey, the Turkish song is almost always a force to be reckoned with in the voting. Turkey to its credit has also been successful in producing some great songs for Eurovision. maNga continues this tradition with a great show. The song itself is probably not universal enough to win and the robot to human transformation in the background is at best only a distraction

Denmark    15.00
Chanée & N'evergreen's second rehearsal
The Danes have the ability year after year to produce eminently listenable songs and this is one of them., a male-female duet. The presentation probably lacks the show effects necessary to win.

Greece 17.00

Giorgos Alkaios & Friends second rehearsal - Greece
Opa!! This our personal favorite to whom we would give 12 points.
We love this song from Greece which just makes you smile all the way through. The Greeks are a definite dark horse contender, though the all-male element of the presentation may not be everyone's cup of tea. The dance choreography has an intuitive happy character while the entire presentation exudes power. The song "Opa" - the word in Greek is an expression of jubilation -- is a real crowd pleaser and the odds on a win by Greece have been moving steadily downward.

Belgium 26.00
Tom Dice's Second rehearsal

For someone strumming a guitar and singing along to win Eurovision, the voice and/or song would have to be sensational. As it is, it is nice, but this is not an Eurovision winner. We would not rank the Belgian song this high.

Romania 31.00
Paula Seling & Ovi's first rehearsal
"Playing with Fire" is a great title, but is Eurovision ready for two pianos and leather? Paula has definitely got it, but the song itself is nothing in particular.


Serbia    67.00
Milan Stanković's second rehearsal  

Can "modern ethnic" gather in votes? We shall find out. If they can, Serbia may do better than expected.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

EU Digital Agenda Foresees Higher R&D Investment

As reported at CORDIS News, the European Union Digital Agenda unveiled on May 19, 2010, "focuses on more investment in research and development (R&D)" in the EU.

By way of comparison, for example, the US earmarked €88 billion Euros for information and communication technology (ICT) in 2007 as compared to €37 billion in the European Union. Europe seeks to close that gap.

European Union (EU) Commission Unveils Digital Agenda to Boost Prosperity and Well-Being in Europe

EUROPA - Press Release:
Digital Agenda: Commission outlines action plan to boost Europe's prosperity and well-being

"[Abstract ]Implementing the ambitious Digital Agenda for Europe unveiled today by the European Commission would contribute significantly to the EU's economic growth and spread the benefits of the digital era to all sections of society. Half of European productivity growth over the past 15 years was already driven by information and communications technologies (see IP/10/571) and this trend is likely to accelerate. The Agenda outlines seven priority areas for action: creating a digital Single Market, greater interoperability, boosting internet trust and security, much faster internet access, more investment in research and development, enhancing digital literacy skills and inclusion, and applying information and communications technologies to address challenges facing society like climate change and the ageing population. Examples of benefits include easier electronic payments and invoicing, rapid deployment of telemedicine and energy efficient lighting. In these seven areas, the Digital Agenda foresees some 100 follow-up actions, of which 31 would be legislative. The Digital Agenda is the first of seven flagship initiatives under the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth (see IP/10/225).

"We must put the interests of Europe's citizens and businesses at the forefront of the digital revolution and so maximise the potential of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to advance job creation, sustainability and social inclusion", said Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes. "The ambitious strategy set out today shows clearly where we need to focus our efforts in the years to come. To fully realise the potential of Europe's digital future we need the full commitment of Member States, the ICT sector and other vital economic players.""
Read the full press release here.

Crossposted from LawPundit.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Thursday, May 06, 2010

European Court of Justice Sets Absolute €1134.71 Liability Limit on Lost Baggage of Airline Passengers

Stephanie Bodoni at BusinessWeek.com writes that EU Airline Passengers Can’t Get More Than $1,450 for Lost Bags.

The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg has issued press release 43/10, dated 6 May 2010, in the case C-63/09, Axel Walz v Clickair SA, writing at the outset:
"The Court confirms that the liability of air carriers for loss of baggage is limited to €1134.71

That limit is absolute and includes both material and non-material damage

Under European Union law1, the liability of a Community air carrier in respect of passengers and their baggage is governed by the Montreal Convention2. Thus, that convention provides that the liability of a carrier in the case of destruction, loss, damage or delay of baggage is limited to the sum of 1000 Special Drawing Rights (SDR) for each passenger (a sum equivalent to approximately €1134.71)3, unless a passenger has made, at the time when the checked baggage was handed over to the carrier, a special declaration of interest in delivery at destination and has paid a supplementary sum if the case so requires. In that case, as a rule a carrier is liable to pay a sum not exceeding the declared sum."
...
__________
1 Council Regulation (EC) No 2027/97 of 9 October 1997 on air carrier liability in respect of the carriage of passengers and their baggage by air (OJ 1997 L 285, p.1), as amended by Regulation (EC) No 889/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 May 2002 (OJ 2002 L 140, p. 2).
2 Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air, concluded in Montreal on 28 May 1999, signed by the European Community on 9 December 1999 and approved on its behalf by Council Decision 2001/539/EC of 5 April 2001 (OJ 2001 L 194, p. 39).
3 The Special Drawing Rights in the Montreal Convention are deemed to refer to the Special Drawing Right as defined by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Therefore, those sums are to be converted into national currencies. The amount of €1134.71 corresponds to 1000 SDR as at 21 April 2010.
Read the full press release here.

European Union EU Privacy Law as a Model for the United States

New Congressional draft legislation outlining online and offline privacy rules has been released.

Stephanie Clifford at the New York Times writes in Privacy Bill Finally in Draft, as Both Sides Weigh In:
"A long-awaited draft of a Congressional bill would push American privacy legislation closer to the strict rules that the European Union uses, and would extend privacy protections both on the Internet and offline."
Need we say that EU privacy law is years ahead of the USA? Whatever legislation the USA adopts, it is bound to be too weak by European standards.

Andy Greenberg writes at Forbes.com in New Web Ad Privacy Bill Riles All Sides:
"Rick Boucher, D-Va., and Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., released a draft Tuesday of a privacy bill aimed at defining broad new regulations for the data collection practices of online advertising. The bill would require sites to offer easier methods of letting users prevent their behavior from being tracked online, warn users about data collection with a symbol on Web pages and require sites to render anonymous any data they collect after 18 months."
We do not understand why it is so difficult in the U.S. to comprehend that many people and companies in the United States are running roughshod in the Internet over the privacy rights of users and that stricter laws are inevitable, sooner -- or after much damage -- later. Stomping on privacy rights under the argument that it is essential for advertising is nonsense -- it is only essential so that the greedy among us can make even more money than they already do.

The recent push of Facebook to Share Your Info for Money has to be about the most egregious privacy invasion -- even by current law -- that we have seen in this millennium. If Congress does not have the courage to pass strict legislation, the country will have to pay the price down the road.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the EU and Selected World Countries per capita in U.S. Dollars at Current Prices 2009 - Source: IMF Chart Generator | Denmark Leads the Normal World in Income Equality and Happiness

We put together the following chart for internal use recently and pass it on as a potentially useful piece of information in assessing the world economic and political situation.

It is singularly remarkable that the country with the highest GDP for a "normal economy", i.e. not one based on oil or banking, is Denmark -- and that is also the country with the greatest equality of income in its population according to the Gini coefficient. The result? The Danes are also the world's happiest people.

Maybe the rest of the world has the wrong formula?

It also appears to us that the conflict in the world today is economic and not religious, based on these figures, which show a clear division of the world between the "haves" and the "have nots".

A Selected List of The GDP in US Dollars of
EU Euro-Zone and non-Euro-Zone Countries 2009

(+ EFTA and some non-European countries added for comparison)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita U.S. $$ at current prices
Source: IMF Chart Generator, as selected and reordered by LawPundit
(some columns have been deleted, some labels have been shortened

and the numbers have been rounded -- go to the IMF Chart Generator
or to this page at Wikipedia if you want original or more inclusive data)

       Shaded cells indicate IMF staff estimates
Country (State)

Subject Descriptor
(GDP per capita 2009,
current prices)
2009
U.S. $$
Luxembourg - EU
(world's #1 - via banking),

Liechtenstein, not ranked by the
IMF, surely has a higher GDP
GDP per capita104,512
Norway - EFTA, EEA (oil)GDP per capita79,085
Qatar (oil)GDP per capita68,872
Switzerland - EFTA
(via banking)
GDP per capita67,560
Denmark - EU (world's
best income distribution &
world's happiest people)
GDP per capita56,115
Ireland - EUGDP per capita51,356
Netherlands - EUGDP per capita48,223
United Arab Emirates (oil)GDP per capita46,857
United StatesGDP per capita46,381
Austria - EUGDP per capita45,989
AustraliaGDP per capita45,587
Finland - EUGDP per capita44,492
Sweden - EUGDP per capita43,986
Belgium - EUGDP per capita43,533
France - EUGDP per capita42,747
Germany - EUGDP per capita40,875
JapanGDP per capita39,731
CanadaGDP per capita39,669
Iceland - EFTA, EEAGDP per capita37,977
SingaporeGDP per capita37,293
Italy - EUGDP per capita35,435
United Kingdom - EUGDP per capita35,334
Spain - EUGDP per capita31,946
Hong Kong SARGDP per capita29,826
Greece - EUGDP per capita29,635
Cyprus - EUGDP per capita29,620
Slovenia - EUGDP per capita24,417
New ZealandGDP per capita27,259
IsraelGDP per capita26,797
Brunei DarussalamGDP per capita26,325
The BahamasGDP per capita21,529
Portugal - EUGDP per capita21,408
Malta - EUGDP per capita19,111
Czech Republic - EUGDP per capita18,557
South KoreaGDP per capita17,074
TaiwanGDP per capita16,392
Slovak Republic - EUGDP per capita16,282
Saudi ArabiaGDP per capita14,486
Estonia - EUGDP per capita14,267
CroatiaGDP per capita14,243
Hungary - EUGDP per capita12,927
Latvia - EUGDP per capita11,607
Poland - EUGDP per capita11,288
Lithuania - EUGDP per capita11,172
TurkeyGDP per capita8,723
RussiaGDP per capita8,694
BrazilGDP per capita8,220
MexicoGDP per capita8,135
Romania - EUGDP per capita7,542
MalaysiaGDP per capita6,897
Bulgaria - EUGDP per capita6,223
South AfricaGDP per capita5,824
SerbiaGDP per capita5,809
Former Yugoslav
Republic of
Macedonia
GDP per capita4,482
IranGDP per capita4,460
Bosnia and
Herzegovina
GDP per capita4,279
ThailandGDP per capita3,940
AlbaniaGDP per capita3,825
ChinaGDP per capita3,678
SyriaGDP per capita2,579
EgyptGDP per capita2,450
IndonesiaGDP per capita2,329
IraqGDP per capita2,108
PhilippinesGDP per capita1,746
VietnamGDP per capita1,060
IndiaGDP per capita1,031
PakistanGDP per capita1,017
BangladeshGDP per capita574
AfghanistanGDP per capita486

Interactive Maps of the Status of Debt in Europe

Take a look at this set of interactive maps in the Global Business section of the New York Times -- Debt Rising in Europe.

EU Commission Lifts Baltic Views, Sees Latvian Stabilization - WSJ.com

EU Commission Lifts Baltic Views, Sees Latvian Stabilization - WSJ.com

Is Large-Scale Tax Evasion One Cause of Greek Financial Problems? Their GDP Indicates the Government of Greece Should Not Have Money Problems: Analysis of GDP in Euro Area States

We generated the following chart at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook Database online for GDP, current prices, expressed in U.S. $$ for the Euro area 2009, i.e. not including all EU States (please note that we have retained the IMF original footnotes but have shortened some of the labels from the original chart to make the chart fit on LawPundit):

You will find notes on the data and options to download the table below your results.
       Shaded cells indicate IMF staff estimates
CountrySubject DescriptorUnitsScaleCountry/Series
-specific Notes
2009
AustriaGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).381880
BelgiumGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).470400
CyprusGDP, current pricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).23603
FinlandGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).238128
FranceGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).2675915
GermanyGDP, current pricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).3352742
GreeceGDP, current pricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).330780
IrelandGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).227781
ItalyGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).2118264
LuxembourgGDP, current pricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).51736
MaltaGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).7955
NetherlandsGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).794777
PortugalGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).227855
Slovak RepublicGDP, Current PricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).88208
SloveniaGDP, current pricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).49217
SpainGDP, current pricesU.S. $$BillionsSee notes for: 

GDP, Current Prices (National currency).1464040

As can be seen, the GDP of Germany (population ca. 82 million) is roughly 10 times that of Greece (population ca. 11 million), while the GDP of Greece is nevertheless higher than that of eight other "Euro area" states on this list (half the list). There is in fact not a great deal of difference between the per capita GDP in Greece as compared to Germany.

So where is the money??

How can it be that the Greek government is now in such allegedly deep financial difficulties and is asking the world and the European Union for untold billions of dollars in financial aid when its citizens may be basking in weatlh?

One severe causal problem is discussed by Suzanne Daley at the New York Times in Greek Wealth Is Everywhere but Tax Forms, suggesting that the Greeks are by no means poor, but that a failing morality regarding the correct declaration of taxable income means that the Greek government sees little of the money that is actually earned in Greece -- indeed, as Daley writes:
"Various studies, including one by the Federation of Greek Industries last year, have estimated that the government may be losing as much as $30 billion a year to tax evasion — a figure that would have gone a long way to solving its debt problems. "
The legitimate question can thus be raised whether tax evasion is at the root of the Greek problem, posing the query as to why countries with a better tax declaration morality, such as Germany, where large tax burdens are shouldered by the citizens and by industry, should suffer the Greek government's financial burdens and bail out Greece, where the money is actually there in the Greek's own communities?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Changed Germany as German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Speak on April 15, 2010 at Stanford University

See
News Analysis - Germany's E.U. Policy Shift Reflects Generational Change - NYTimes.com
and
Stanford University News

No Free Lunch for Greece: Germany and France in a Struggle over the Greek Debt Crisis

French and German Ties Fray Over Greek Crisis - NYTimes.com
by Steven Erlanger, April 12, 2010, who writes inter alia:
"France and Germany traditionally have been the “motor” of the European Union, but relations between the two countries are badly strained over the Greek debt crisis, which is just the latest example of a new German willingness to resist the demands of Europe and assert its self-interest under Chancellor Angela Merkel....

Germany has insisted that any aid to Greece come as a last resort, and in the loan package arranged on Sunday it insisted that Greece pay a significant penalty in interest rates. This was well within Mrs. Merkel’s guidelines and does not represent a subsidy to Greece, said Thomas Klau of the European Council on Foreign Relations."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Paul Krugman at the New York Times writes about European Leisure

Paul Krugman at the New York Times writes about European Leisure. The fact is that average "vacation time" in Europe is much longer than in the United States, also in terms of paid vacations, and it does not seem to negatively impact productivity. In fact, the increased leisure time helps to develop leisure-related products and service industries, raising general quality standards in recreation and accomodations that are probably unique to Europe.

Krugman refers to the Harvard Institute of Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 2068 on Work and Leisure in the U.S. and Europe: Why so Different?* by Alberto F. Alesina, Edward L. Glaeser and Bruce Sacerdote which writes in its Abstract:
"Americans average 25.1 working hours per person in working age per week, but the Germans average 18.6 hours. The average American works 46.2 weeks per year, while the French average 40 weeks per year. Why do western Europeans work so much less than Americans? Recent work argues that these differences result from higher European tax rates, but the vast empirical labor supply literature suggests that tax rates can explain only a small amount of the differences in hours between the U.S. and Europe. Another popular view is that these differences are explained by long-standing European "culture", but Europeans worked more than Americans as late as the 1960s. In this paper, we argue that European labor market regulations, advocated by unions in declining European industries who argued "work less, work all" explain the bulk of the difference between the U.S. and Europe. These policies do not seem to have increased employment, but they may have had a more society-wide influence on leisure patterns because of a social multiplier where the returns to leisure increase as more people are taking longer vacations.
_______
*Alesina, Alberto F., Glaeser, Edward L. and Sacerdote, Bruce, Work and Leisure in the U.S. and Europe: Why so Different? (April 2005). Harvard Institute of Economic Research Discussion Paper No. 2068. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=706982 or doi:10.2139/ssrn.706982

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Riga Latvia as European Capital of Culture in 2014

Valentina Pop writes at EUobserver.com in Riga says it can handle expense of being EU Capital of Culture:
"Despite slashed budgets and economic woes, Latvia's capital, Riga, is confident of being able to raise the necessary funding for a series of cultural events in 2014, when it is due to become the European capital of culture, its mayor told this website."

Friday, March 12, 2010

Keep up on Europe with EUobserver Blogs

Keep up on doings in Europe with these blogs from EUobserver.com:

Monday, March 08, 2010

EDGE: "Europe, Where the Idea of Competition in the Internet Space Appears to Focus on Litigation, Legislation, Regulation, and Criminalization"

Does Europe especially need to reconsider their approach to the Internet? EDGE would say yes:

Edge: TIME TO START TAKING THE INTERNET SERIOUSLY By David Gelernter: "Introduction: Our Algorithmic Culture" by John Brockman:
"Edge was in Munich in January for DLD 2010 and an Edge/DLD event entitled 'Informavore' — a discussion featuring Frank Schirrmacher, Editor of the Feuilleton and Co-Publisher of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Andrian Kreye, Feuilleton Editor of Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich; and Yale computer science visionary David Gelernter, who, in his 1991 book Mirror Worlds presented what's now called 'cloud computing.'

The intent of the panel was to discuss — for the benefit of a German audience — the import of the recent Frank Schirrmacher interview on Edge entitled 'The Age of the Informavore.' David Gelernter, who predicted the Web, and who first presented the idea of 'the cloud', was the scientist on the panel along with Schirrmacher and Kreye, Feuilleton editors of the two leading German national newspapers, both distinguished intellectuals....

Take a look at the photos from the recent Edge annual dinner and you will find the people who are re-writing global culture, and also changing your business, and, your head. What do Evan Williams (Twitter), Larry Page (Google), Tim Berners-Lee (World Wide Web Consortium), Sergey Brin (Google), Bill Joy (Sun), Salar Kamangar (Google), Keith Coleman (Google Gmail), Marissa Mayer (Google), Lori Park (Google), W. Daniel Hillis (Applied Minds), Nathan Myhrvold (Intellectual Ventures), Dave Morin (formerly Facebook), Michael Tchao (Apple iPad), Tony Fadell (Apple/iPod), Jeff Skoll (formerly eBay), Chad Hurley (YouTube), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) have in common? All are software engineers or scientists.

So what's the point? It's a culture. Call it the algorithmic culture. To get it, you need to be part of it, you need to come out of it. Otherwise, you spend the rest of your life dancing to the tune of other people's code. Just look at Europe where the idea of competition in the Internet space appears to focus on litigation, legislation, regulation, and criminalization. [emphasis added]"

Read the whole thing here.

Hat tip to the Encyclopaedia Britannica at Facebook.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Antithesis of Justice : Criminal Convictions in Italy of Google Execs Point to Flaws in European Union (EU) Law

We posted about this absurd case previously at EU Pundit.

Struan Robertson, editor of out-law.com, writes on March 3, 2010 in Google convictions reveal two flaws in EU law, not just Italian law inter alia as follows regarding the inexcusable criminal convictions of Google execs - made in absentia in Italy - for alleged untimely takedown of criminally offending video material posted online by youthful criminals in Italy and totally unknown to Google execs at the time for which their criminal conviction for non-action applies:
"Web hosts are unfairly exposed all across the EU and two legal changes are needed....

Problem 1: An unreasonable caveat to safe harbour....

Problem 2: We don't know enough about notice and takedown...."
Read the whole posting here.

Robertson in our opinion in focusing on the ill-drafted EU laws and on the shambles of law in Italy is much too lax with the misguided officials in Italy and with the responsible lawmakers in the European Union, all of whom are much more directly at fault than Google for the appearance of the offending video.

Why have government officials in Italy and the EU not instituted effective procedures in their own law enforcement systems to timely catch criminal postings in their areas of jurisdiction - AS IS THEIR JOB, rather than putting the entire onus of "policing" on Google or other online providers. Why should Google be more effective in catching criminals than THE government institutions are - it is not Google's line of business at all.

Everyone always wants to put the blame on the other guy, rather than honestly shouldering their true part of the blame themselves. Policing is a responsibility of government institutions and not of Google. Maybe nations and communities should not have 90% of their officers playing cops and robbers with normal citizens for minor things like traffic violations etc. - and should direct more of the attention of their own State employees to combatting real crime. Now - THAT would be a major change.

If the purpose of Italy's convictions is to seek scapegoats, which the guilty often do to ward culpability away from themselves, it would be equally logical to issue criminal convictions for all those in Italy and the EU responsible for what happened in the instant video case, and we would not stop at judges, legislators and officials, but would also include the teachers and parents of the criminals, who were unable to keep the offenders from doing their offensive acts. Google is at the end of a very long chain of societal and legal blunders and errors which create criminal offenders to begin with.

As it now stands, the people FURTHEST REMOVED from the actual criminal video activity have been held criminally responsible rather than those CLOSEST to it. How convenient for all of the institutions involved, whose members via overinflated salaries are all stuffing their pockets with taxpayer monies but of course disclaiming any responsibility themselves for the state of affairs in their own jurisdiction. Some distant executive from a far-away jurisdiction will be picked to shoulder the blame - a blame which ITALY and the EU rightly should share among themselves.

That is not a miscarriage of justice. It is the ANTITHESIS of justice.

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