Thursday, December 01, 2011

European Union Euro Situation: Structure not Funding is the Problem, Says Harvard's Rogoff


Euro Zone problems are discussed by Steven Erlanger at the New York Times in
New Warnings of Euro Zone Danger

as Erlanger writes:
" For Kenneth S. Rogoff, an economics professor at Harvard, the biggest problem for the euro is not money so much as structure, or the lack of it. “This is a deep constitutional and institutional problem in Europe,” Mr. Rogoff said. “It’s not a funding problem.”"
Hat tip to CaryGEE.

Crossposted from LawPundit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Euro Doomsayers Are Wrong: Jacob Funk Kirkegaard Reports via RealTime Economic Issues Watch at the Peterson Institute for International Economics


You know, sometimes it all depends on what you choose to read.

At the website of the Peterson Institute for International Economics,
Jacob Funk Kirkegaard reports via RealTime Economic Issues Watch
on
Why the Euro Doomsayers Are Wrong.

Is he right? Time will tell.

Crossposted from LawPundit.

Donate to EU Pundit and the ISandIS Network


The blog EUPundit gets quite a few hits daily but we have been unable to devote much time to it in recent months, concentrating on our popular blog at LawPundit.

We have now put up a donation button (to the right) to see if there is enough donor interest out there for us to resume postings about the European Union.

Certainly a lot has been going on in the EU that is worth blogging about in an informative manner.

We shall see.

Thank you.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Learning to Think Critically: Maybe Everyone Should Go to Law School

At the New York Times discussion of "The Case Against Law School", former dean and former provost, Professor Geoffrey R. Stone of the University of Chicago in Learning to Think Like a Lawyer lists five "experiences [that] legal education can offer that are invaluable for future lawyers".

In our opinion, the first of these is by far the most important. As Stone writes:
"First, and most important, it can teach students to “think like a lawyer.” As any lawyer will tell you, this is critical. The practice of law demands a rigorous, self-critical (and critical), creative and empathic (how will my opponent and the judge see this issue?) mind-set. In general, legal education does this brilliantly. This is at the very core of a legal education."
There is a very good reason that people trained in the law have historically dominated and still do dominate leadership positions in society. "Thinking like a lawyer" is one of the principal causes.

Indeed, one problem with modern multinational corporations is that lawyers are being named CEOs less and less, and are being replaced by business "tradesmen", who know their trade but do not know how to ask the right questions. The current world economy shows it -- as it is suffering badly.

People who study the law are not like those who study the humanities or other professions, where the essence of learning is the learning of a trade. You can teach a seal to balance a ball, but not how to successfully resolve human conflict.

The only real way to measure the effectiveness of legal education is by the SUBSEQUENT societal effectiveness of those who were subjected to that education. Law-trained effectiveness puts many other professions in the shadows in terms of measurable performance. There is a reason why so many lawyers earn millions of dollars a year and many other professions earn far less. It is not chance.

Indeed, outside of the law schools and outside of business courses using "the case method", your average university graduate earns his degree in other academic disciplines sort of like a an apprentice in a handicraft. He or she is taught "what the truth is" in that profession. Critical thinking is rare on the average classroom agenda. University exams test knowledge of facts, not the ability to think on one's feet.

Outside of law school education, students learn to regurgitate the accepted state of knowledge in a given field. The better they do it, the higher they rise on the career ladder. They learn to quote the leading authorities of their day according to whatever school of thought happens to prevail at the time in their field, and, after graduation, they don their professional caps and pass on the system they have learned to the next generation. Errors in knowledge are thus subject to the domino effect. I face this ignorance continuously in my studies on the history of civilization, where the historical disciplines involved (Archaeology, Linguistics, Egyptology, Biblical Studies, Assyriology) are dreadfully marked by stong deficits in the capacity for critical thinking. People there tend to be interested in TELLING YOU what the history was, rather than trying to find out what really happened.

In my view, all this discussion about the sense of law school education is therefore superfluous. The real problems are elsewhere.

Law school education and especially the Socratic method of dialogue -- whatever their defects -- are for the most part breathtakingly effective in producing agile minds prepared for the stressful intellectual demands of the modern world. Perhaps law school education can be improved - everything can - but it is far ahead of the game when compared to other academic disciplines.

Where legal education in my opinion should INSTEAD start to become active is by offering special Socratic dialogue-type courses at law schools for ALL the OTHER professions, thus giving college graduates other than lawyers a chance to come out of their universities with some capacity for independent critical thought rather than being robots that repeat like parrots whatever their professors, parents, role models, celebrity idols, or other supposed "authorities" have taught them.

Twenty bishops swearing on a Bible do not make a fact true, if it is false. Children of Republicans become Republicans, usually. Children of Democrats become Democrats, usually. This has nothing to do with the viability of their political dogmas. Rather, political views are largely "inherited". "Critical thinking" about politics has nothing to do with it.

The same is true for religious beliefs, where it is a rare man or woman who has a religious belief system that diverges significantly from what mama and papa taught them. Children for the most part are not taught critical thinking by their parents -- quite the contrary -- they are taught obedience. Families are seldom democracies. Christians become Christians. Jews become Jews. Muslims become Muslims. I have, by the way, great respect for some modern Buddhists I know in the West because they at least CHOSE their religion during their lifetime, and focus thereby on doing GOOD WORKS, rather than on proselytizing and burdening their fellows with THEIR BELIEF system. A belief is the absence of proof. If we had evidence for religious dogmas, belief would be unnecessary. And yet, all sorts of economic "beliefs" guide most of the discussions one hears or reads about political and economic problems. People are merely just repeating what they have heard and what they agree with. That does not make it "true".

For example, many people have "opinions" about taxes and the economy, especially methods of government financing -- even though most people almost always know far less about those subjects than they do about their favorite college or professional athletic teams or players. This does not however keep from them mixing into the discussion and even basing their political voting decisions on insufficient knowledge.

Unfortunately, there are also a good many people in Congress who know not much more than what has been ladled into them by people not knowing much more than the Congressmen/women do about the subjects in question. One could have a great time asking Congressional representatives to explain modern institutions to us, e.g. the Federal Reserve System or the International Monetary Fund. Just ask your Senator: explain that to me please. The classic example here is the late Arizona Senator Ted Stevens who hilariously but seriously -- and totally erroneously -- described the Internet as "a series of tubes". It was too funny for words, except that Stevens, the longest-serving Republican Senator in history, held Congressional seniority positions putting him in charge of Internet regulation. When a country like the USA is in the economic difficulty in which it currently finds itself, it is not without reason. You can not have the blind leading the blind.

Indeed, many people spend some of their leisure time -- we erroneously call this "entertainment" -- listening to and applauding people who have no other real talent other than that they think and/or utter opinions like their audience. NOT TOO CRITICAL, that kind of thinking, or living. A man of intellectual power, by contrast, constantly himself challenges what he knows, "knowing" full well that such a critical path is the only path of true human progress. "Yes men" are a dime a dozen, but that is the way most of the world operates. Nodding is approved.

Try this experiment the next time YOU listen to someone in Congress. Take what they say sentence by sentence and ask: how does he or she know that what they are saying is true? where did they get it? what is the evidence? where is the proof? how has it been checked? who did the checking? what empirical data supports it? who says????? do that with ALL the political parties, not just YOUR favorite. Blind tests with sports fans show that fans as referees call close plays in favor of "their favorite team" 2 to 1 on both sides of the same play. Where e.g. a Husker Big Red fan will see an Oklahoma Sooner personal foul, the Sooner fan will see a Husker foul -- on the same play! It is the same in Congressional partisanship, also in lawmaking, you better believe it. That is why we have a U.S. Supreme Court -- to keep everybody honest.

Someone who has properly assimilated a legal education asks the tough and self-critical questions -- but that may not even be a majority of law school graduates, judging by what we see among JDs in politics. Much of the rest of world BELIEVES what it wants to believe, regardless. Unfortunately, that is no solution for concrete problems.

That is why critical thinkers ultimately always run the show. They are the only ones RATIONALLY examining contemporary issues as problems to be solved, not as battles of political dogma. To obtain that skill status, a legal education via the Socratic Method is a great help.

Born in Europe: The Ph.D.: Are Doctoral Dissertations a Waste of Time? PhDs as Cheap Labor: The Economist Analyzes The Disposable Academic

A recent article at the Economist, Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic, alerts us to the fact that:
"PhD students are cheap, highly motivated and disposable labour."
That knowledge was confirmed already 10 years ago by Chris M. Golde and Timothy M. Dore in At Cross Purposes: What the experiences of today's doctoral students reveal about doctoral education.

There is no doubt: the value of PhD programs and dissertations is questionable and greatly in need of reform.

What has happened to the academic doctorate in our day in age, and is "doctoral research" largely a waste of time?

After all, the more progressive professional doctorates dispensed with the need for research dissertations years ago. Is there any supportable value in terms of academic efficiency to superfluous doctorates copiously and subserviently footnoted to alleged authorities or are they merely drone theses that ultimately simply wind up in the archives, read only by exam referees? As James Frank Dobie (1888–1964) wrote:
"The average Ph.D. thesis is nothing but a transference of bones from one graveyard to another."
One of the problems is that the historical development of "academic" university degrees is understood by few, and surely not by many Ph.Ds, some of whom ignorantly even tout the superiority of research doctorates to law degrees, showing that human stupidity may be infinite, ala Einstein, who quipped:
"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."
We might as an academic "refreshment" consider that the word "doctor" is rooted historically in the Latin docere, meaning "to teach".

Indeed, doctorates as university degrees all started with the law:
"In Europe the first academic degrees were law degrees, and the law degrees were doctorates. The foundations of the first universities were the glossators of the 11th century, which were schools of law [in a specific sense]. The first university, that of Bologna, was founded as a school of law by four famous legal scholars in the 12th century who were students of the glossator school in that city [The Four Doctors of Bologna: Bulgarus, Martinus Gosia, Jacobus de Boragine and Hugo de Porta Ravennate -- see also Glossators, with a connection to ecclesiatical usages, such as Canon Law, the law of the Church].
Furthermore, as things progressed:
"The naming of degrees eventually became linked with the subjects studied. Scholars in the faculties of arts or grammar became known as "master", but those in theology, medicine, and law were known as "doctor". As study in the arts or in grammar was a necessary prerequisite to study in subjects such as theology, medicine and law, the degree of doctor assumed a higher status than the master degree. This led to the modern hierarchy in which the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), which in its present form as a degree based on research and dissertation is a development from 18th and 19th Century German universities, is a more advanced degree than the Master of Arts (M.A.). The practice of using the term doctor for Ph.Ds developed within German universities and spread across the academic world."
Law led, the rest followed. Nothing has changed.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dear Subscribers: Ignore Previous Data-Mining USA Court Case Posting

The previous subscriber posting -- now deleted -- about a pharmaceutical data-mining court case in the USA was published inadvertently to EU Pundit during the drafting stage by hitting a wrong keyboard button by mistake and should be deleted.

If interested, you can view the full final posting at LawPundit at:

Sunday, June 26, 2011

EU Internet Cookie Law Opt-Out Option Deadline: European Union Companies Given One Year by EU Commission to Standardize Cookie Tracking Consent Mechanism to Protect Privacy Rights

As we previously reported at LawPundit, the European Union "EU Internet Cookie Tracking Law" came into effect on May 26 of this year (2011) via the 2009 EU Directive, protecting user privacy rights by requiring that users be informed by companies of the extent of their cookie tracking and be given the option to "opt out" of such tracking.

The practical problem of implementation has surfaced in the interim and Pinsent Masons LLP at Out-Law.com now reports that EU Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes, who is responsible for "Digital Agenda" of the Commission, has stated that EU companies have a year to standardise cookie opt outs.

As written inter alia at Out-Law.com:
"In 2009 the EU's Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive was changed to demand that storing and accessing information on users' computers was only lawful "on condition that the subscriber or user concerned has given his or her consent, having been provided with clear and comprehensive information … about the purposes of the processing"."
In practical terms, this law could mean that EU Internet users will be confronted by dialogue boxes giving them the option to opt out of cookie tracking by any website that they visit that utilizes cookie tracking features.

Of course, after users have initially made their opt-out viz. opt-in cookie tracking choice for websites and/or web pages they often visit where "essential" tracking cookies may be necessary (e.g. log-ins, online banking, other financial transactions, etc.), the law will in fact provide increased privacy protection to those who want it against cookie tracking by websites that use "non-essential" cookies principally for data mining (an example here would be a user online search for "sofas", after which online advertisements for "sofas" would more frequently be shown to that particular identifiable user by the advertising search engine or the websites he visits).

Internet cookies are of course not prohibited and an opt-out is arguably only required for "tracking cookies" by which the identity of the user is to be traced. The opt-out rule could however lead to the paradox that a special cookie may be required to record the specific user's opt-in or opt-out choice (!).

Otherwise, the user will have to opt-in or opt-out of cookie tracking every time he visits a cookie tracking website. It will be interesting to see how the industry tackles and solves this problem.

UPDATE:

I have just downloaded the Mozilla Firefox 5 browser and it has a privacy option check button that reads "Tell web sites I do not want to be tracked". That looks like a more global solution to the opt-in opt-out problem, though of course websites are of course not bound by this choice. That the Firefox 5 update, however, cluelessly deactivates my much-used Google Toolbar from Firefox 4 is however a source of considerable ire as the people at Firefox -- just as at Microsoft -- still do not get it that the USER should decide what he wants, not some dreamy-eyed programmer in Neverland. I am still trying to figure out how to get the old MS Paint XP or Vista version running on Windows 7 rather than the impossibly re-programmed new "ribbon version" which is as good as useless for any serious pixeling MS Paint user. When in doubt, provide the user with OPTIONS !!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Obama Visits His Irish Roots in Ireland to Start G8 Summit Trip: Address of British Parliament on Tuesday: Deauville on Thursday

The Village of Moneygall in Offaly, Ireland, home of Obama's great-great-great-grandfather on the mother's side, has been spruced up as Obama kicks off Europe trip with ancestral visit to Ireland, as reported by Honor Mahony at EUobserver.com.

European Union Parliament Handles Financial Crisis in 60-Second Animation

The European Union EU Parliament has a nice 60-second animation on handling the financial crisis. Their suggestion is "Stick to the Rules", a somewhat simplistic approach that can be regarded as a sign of the times in which institutions and governments are coming under increasing scrutiny as to what they are doing.

Here is the video:


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Voice of America Reports on Spain Demonstrations as Inspired by Arab Protests:The Chains of Law and Order: Be Careful What You Wish For

It is one thing to be for democracy but quite another to cope with what mass democratically-inspired civil unrest can actually mean.

Law and order may be our chains, but they also protect us.

Lauren Frayer at Voice of America News reports on the newest unrest -- in Europe of all things -- in Inspired by Arab Protests, Spain's Unemployed Rally for Change.

Mass movements have been successful historically in deposing oppressive and/or unpopular governments, but the "revolutionary" replacements are not guaranteed to be more democratic and can in fact be far more oppressive than what people had in the first place. Worse, "law and order" can suffer greatly in the interim periods.

You have to be careful what you wish for.

It is imperative that European Union Member States organize their societies in such a manner that mass unemployment is not an issue, otherwise one should not be surprised to discover civil unrest at one's doorstep. Currently, "the pie" is not fairly divided and civil unrest is to some degree pre-programmed.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Europe Day! May 9: A Marriage of Reason but not of the Heart

As the European Union writes on its website:
On the 9th of May 1950, Robert Schuman presented his proposal on the creation of an organised Europe, indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations.

This proposal, known as the "Schuman declaration", is considered to be the beginning of the creation of what is now the European Union.

Today, the 9th of May has become a European symbol (Europe Day) which, along with the flag, the anthem, the motto and the single currency (the euro), identifies the political entity of the European Union. Europe Day is the occasion for activities and festivities that bring Europe closer to its citizens and peoples of the Union closer to one another.
Raf Casert of the AP points out, however, that:
"In EU, Europe Day stands for little: integration may make life easier, but no celebration.... [the EU] has always been a marriage of reason, rarely the heart."

Today is Europe Day

Leigh Phillips at the EUObserver notes that Europe Day celebrated amid growing criticism of ECB, but points out that:
"On 9 May 1950, one of the two main founders of the EU, Robert Schuman, presented his proposal for an organised Europe, known as the "Schuman declaration" - considered to be the birth of the European project."
The fact is, outside of a few, even in Europe, nobody knows that today is Europe Day.

EU European Union Cookie Law Comes into Effect on May 26, 2011: Compliance and Consent

Pinsent Masons LLP at OUT-LAW News writes about compliance and consent as regards the new EU cookie law which goes into effect on May 26, 2011.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The UK has New Supreme Court Justices Appointed including the First Appointment Directly From the Bar


Image linked from BBC News

Are you up-to-date on The Supreme Court and the United Kingdom's legal system?

Did you know that Her Majesty The Queen signed a warranty granting "Courtesy titles for Justices of the Supreme Court" of the United Kingdom so that all Justices are addressed in a similar manner as "Lord" or "Lady"? The non-peerage title is good for life and the spouse of a "Lord" is also to be called "Lady".

There is a changing of the guard in process at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Just last month Sir John Dyson, now Lord Dyson, was sworn in as the UK's 12th Justice to fill a post vacant since the Court started its work in October, 2009. Afua Hirsch has the story and we link to a photograph of the current Court via Akira Suemori of the AP at the Guardian.co.uk website (the Supreme Court website has the same photo):





Is Dyson (back left) that tall or did they just put the other tall guys on the chairs? Check out the article.

This month, as reported in the Guardian by Owen Bowcott, two new Supreme court judges have been appointed to replace retiring Lord Saville and imminently retiring Lord Collins, Lawrence Antony Collins, Baron Collins of Mapesbury, PC, who in his younger days received an LL.M from Columbia Law School in New York.

One appointee is Lord Justice Wilson of the Court of Appeal for England and Wales and the other is Sir Jonathan Sumption OBE QC, soon to be a non-peerage "Lord", "the cleverest man in Britain, with “a brain the size of the planet” and fees to match", a lawyer whose salary of £206,857 at the Supreme Court will be considerably less than the £1 million plus he reportedly earns annually in representing the likes of Russian self-made billionaire Roman Abramovich, now owner, among other things, of the Chelsea football club.

The appointment of Sumption is being touted as bit of a sensation in the UK as it is the first time a barrister has ever been appointed directly from the Bar to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, although other judicial appointments from the Bar have been made in the past.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

EU Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Goes into Full Force on May 1, 2011: Alternative Medicines to be Sold Must Be Registered for Safety and Efficacy

After a seven-year transition period which started in 2004, alternative, herbal, Ayurvedic, Chinese, African, etc. medicines must be registered in the European Union for safety and efficacy as of May 1, 2011, or they may not be sold as "medicines".

The EU Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products does not prohibit the sale of traditional herbs or plants but they can not be sold as "medicines" without registration, which requires proof of safety and efficacy.

The EUROPA Press Release of April 29, 2011 by the European Union provides as follows:
"Traditional herbal medicines: more safety for products put on EU market
From tomorrow, EU citizens can be reassured that the traditional herbal medicines they buy in the EU are safe and effective. The expiry of the 7 year transition period set out in the 2004 Herbal Directive (2004/24/EC) means that only medicinal products which have been registered or authorised can remain on the EU market after 1 May 2011. The Herbal Directive introduces a simpler registration procedure than for other medicinal products, in respect of the long history of use of traditional herbal medicinal products. At the same time, the Directive provides the necessary guarantees of their quality, safety and efficacy.
John Dalli, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, said, "We have now reached the end of a long transition period which has given producers and importers of traditional herbal medicinal products the necessary time to show that their products have an acceptable level of safety and efficacy. Patients can now be confident about the traditional herbal medicinal products they buy in the EU."
Simplified procedure
In order to protect public health, all medicinal products, including traditional herbal medicinal products, need a marketing authorisation to be placed on the EU market. The simplified procedure introduced by the Herbal Directive allows these products to be registered without the safety tests and clinical trials that a full marketing authorisation procedure would involve.
Instead, an applicant who wishes to register a traditional herbal medicinal product must provide documentation showing that the product in question is not harmful in the specified conditions of use. They must also provide evidence that the product has a proven track record, ie. that it has been used safely for at least 30 years – 15 of these in the EU.
Seven years to register
The Herbal Directive was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 31 March 2004. It gave an exceptionally long transition period of 7 years for manufacturers to register their traditional herbal products already on the EU market when the Directive entered into force.
Applicants have had 7 years to apply to the competent authority in the Member States(s) where they wanted to market their product. If, by 30 April 2011, a herbal medicinal product is not registered or authorised, then it may not be on the EU market after 1 May 2011. After this date, producers of traditional herbal medicines can still apply for a registration through the simplified registration procedure.
The Herbals Directive:
  • Does not ban traditional medicines from the European market. On the contrary, it introduces a lighter, simpler and less costly registration procedure than for other medicinal products. Plus it has given producers of traditional herbal medicinal products an exceptionally long transition period of 7 years to register their products.
  • Does not ban vitamins, mineral supplements and herbal teas.
  • Does not ban alternative therapies and therapists, homeopathy, plants or books on plants.
Background
Some plants contain substances that may be used to treat diseases. Medicinal products that are made from these substances are known as "Herbal Medicinal Products". Even though they are natural, a number of these products may be harmful to health. Therefore, these products are covered by pharmaceutical legislation, which aims to protect public health by ensuring the safety, efficacy and quality of medicinal products.
"Traditional" herbal medicinal products are a sub group of herbal medicinal products that have been in use for at least 30 years, including at least 15 years in the EU, and that are intended to be used without the supervision of a medical practitioner and are not administered by injection. This category is not limited to European traditional herbal medicinal products; it can also include Chinese and Ayurdevic medicinal products.
The Herbals Directive updated the 2001 Directive on the Community code for medicinal products for human use (Directive 2001/83/EC) by introducing a simplified procedure specifically for traditional herbal medicinal products.
Link to MEMO/11/71
Further information:
"

Hat tip to EUobserver.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The Recession: Profits Not Taxes or Wages in the UK, Germany and the USA Were Stoked by Economic Recovery and Bailouts

Nick Pearce of the influential Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) in Wages, profits and the recovery: cui bono? asks:
"Where has the lion's share of the recovery gone in different countries: real wages or profits? This is a question asked by the Economist this week, off the back of a very interesting briefing note from BCA Research."
The results are clear. Profits in the U.K., Germany and the United States have skyrocketed, as banks and other enterprises stuff their pockets with bailout cash and similar benefits, while taxes are reduced and wages even more so, in comparison, increasing the already gigantic gap between the haves and have nots.

The average wage-earner and citizen is being ripped off royally while a small minority are laughing all the way to the bank.

As the old saying goes, fools and their money are easily parted.

Hat tip to the Alex Harrowell at the blog, A Fistful of Euros.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Germany and Austria Open Labor Markets on May 1 to EU Member States in the East Who Joined in 2004: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia

As reported by Markus Dettmer and Jan Puhl at the Spiegel Online, the seven-year moratorium on full integration of citizens of the EU Member States added in 2004 by the European Union ends on May 1, 2011. Actually, this applies to 8 of 10 added in 2004: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, of which Cyprus and Malta of course are not in Eastern Europe and were exempted from the moratorium.

For the last seven years, citizens of those EU states could not legally reside or work in Germany or Austria, because Germany wanted the moratorium to protect its own workers in a then down-turned economy.

The booming economy in Germany in particular has changed the market for labor dramatically since that time and Germany now, for example, is looking for new sources of labor, as reported in the Spiegel.

Much of the available skilled labor and many of the best IT experts and programmers from those EU Member States have been absorbed in the interim by countries such as Britain, Ireland, Sweden and the Netherlands, so that no one expects a major exodus to Germany and Austria on the 1st of May, "May Day", (which fittingly, is a national holiday in Germany and Austria, indeed, Labor Day, a day traditionally reserved to hold demonstrations on behalf of worker's rights and among much of the citizenry a day on which to take a long walk in nature, or to raise a Maypole (German Maibaum) on village squares throughout the land as a symbol of the returning Spring. It is a day for feasting and celebration.)

Obviously, some specialists in other Western EU Member States will be able to accept better compensation packages in Germany and Austria, but the cost of living is also higher, so that an increase in salary does not necessarily mean an improvement in the quality of life or in purchasing power. Moreover, things in the Member States in the East have also improved in those seven years so that many skilled workers now have no great incentive to leave their own EU Member State just to work elsewhere in the European Union. Western EU industry has come to them in those seven years, rather than vice versa.

As the Spiegel writes:
""This hesitant attitude, based on fears of a possible negative effect on the German labor market, now turns out to have been a huge mistake," says Klaus Zimmermann, the head of the Bonn-based Institute for the Study of Labor. At a trade conference in Warsaw this week, Zimmermann said German companies shouldn't wait for the people of Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states to turn up, but should actively recruit them while there's still time."

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Compulsory Statutory Default Retirement Age of 65 Being Phased Out in the United Kingdom between April and October 2011

EIROnline at Eurofound.com writes that the UK Government confirms abolition of default retirement age.

The compulsory (statutory default) retirement age of 65 in the United Kingdom is being phased out between April and October of this year.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Europe, Law, Democracy and the Role of Linguistic Diversity in Legal Processes

Research and Markets at BusinessWire.com asks in Linguistic Diversity and European Democracy:
"What role does linguistic diversity play in European democratic and legal processes?"
Read the article here.

European Union Optional Contract Law Initiative to Facilitate Cross-Border Transactions: European Commission Welcomes EU Parliament Committee Support Vote

EUROPA - Press Releases - European Commission welcomes European Parliament committee vote in support of an optional European Contract Law
"The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee approved a report today that favours the elaboration of an optional European Contract Law. This is in response to several options put forward by the European Commission for a more coherent approach to contract law (see IP/10/872). Such a measure could be chosen freely by consumers and businesses in their contractual relations. This optional instrument would be an alternative to the existing national contract laws and would be available in all languages. It could apply in cross-border contracts only, or in both cross-border and domestic contracts. It would have to guarantee a high level of consumer protection and legal certainty throughout the life cycle of a contract. In today’s vote, the Legal Affairs Committee adopted an own-initiative report by Diana Wallis.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner, said: 'It is good news for Europe's Single Market that the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee favours work towards an optional European Contract Law to facilitate cross-border transactions, notably for small- and medium-sized enterprises and consumers. The Commission will take the European Parliament's views strongly into account in its further preparation of the European Contract Law initiative. We plan a first initiative on European Contract Law for the Polish Presidency.'
Read the rest here.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Controversial Mosel Bridge in EU "Wine Country" Paused for Coalition Negotiations Between the Social Democratic Party and the Environmentalist Green Party

On March 3, 2011, prior to elections in the German Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) we posted at LawPundit about the highly controversial 158-meter high and over 1-mile long bridge planned to be built over the Moselle (Mosel) River right through the center of one of the world's leading wine-producing regions -- see Winemakers Unite to Oppose the Building of an Ugly and Unnecessary Bridge over the Moselle River in Germany's Famed Mosel Wine Region. But is it TOO LATE?

We are glad to report that the fantastic result of that election is that the building of the monstrous planned Moselle bridge has been paused for post-election coalition negotiations, for the reason that a major aspect of the political platform of the Alliance '90/The Greens, who emerged from the elections as the political party of the hour, was strong opposition to the bridge.

To get some idea of the gigantic size of this bridge, 158 meters is the same height as the Telecommunications Tower, Torre de las Telecomunicacione viz. Torre Antel (Antel Tower) in Montevideo, Uruguay, the tallest building in the country!




Full resolution‎ (480 × 640 pixels, file size: 64 KB, MIME type: image/jpeg) 
Torre de las Telecomunicaciones, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Foto realizada y subida por Federico Corral (aka Shant)

For the planned Mosel Bridge, just extend that height one mile horizonally and add 25,000 tons of steel over one of the most picturesque rural wine-producing areas in the world and you know that some misguided planners' delusions of grandeur have reached their limit.

Here, for comparison, from the German Wikipedia website (Hochmoselübergang) are "before" and "after" images of what the countryside looks like now and what it will look like if this monstrous bridge is built as planned. These gigantic pillars for the Mosel are essentially equivalent to putting a dozen skyscrapers in the middle of French Bordeaux. Would France ever even think of doing such a crazy thing?







The elections are now over and the German environmental party, Alliance '90/The Greens, surely in part also because of the tragic tsunami wave in Japan and the subsequent nuclear catastrophe which has followed, made huge gains in Baden-Wuerttemberg, ousting Chancellor Merkel's CDU party.

Merkel's ruling party was absolutely destroyed there by stupidly supporting the planned demolition in Stuttgart of the Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, a highly regarded cultural and architectural monument, in order to make way for a planned underground station. Police used water cannons to try to remove protestors, inciting even more opposition, and the ruling CDU party did not get the message that they were on the wrong side of the issue. They got what they deserved in the election -- they were ousted. As now written at Deutsche Welle:
"German rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB) has announced a work freeze on a contentious rail project centered on the southwestern city of Stuttgart following recent state elections."
Baden-Wuerttemberg with its capital Stuttgart is the 3rd largest State in Germany, and corporate headquarters for inter alia Daimler [Mercedes-Benz], Porsche, Robert Bosch, Carl Zeiss, and SAP -- the largest software firm in Europe. Faced with the spectre of the CDU getting thrown out of government in that corporate-oriented State for being -- clearly -- on the wrong side of an important environmental issue, warning signs have gone up for politicians all over Germany.

In the Rhineland-Palatinate, the Alliance '90/The Greens picked up substantial environmental votes, enough votes to go from being completely out of the government previously, to now having to be included in coalition negotiations with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). That SPD, just as the minority Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the Palatinate, has up-to-now supported the bridge for economic reasons. What economic reasons? The bridge is being financed 80% by federal financing and those Euros for the Palatinate constitute the blood money for the otherwise unnecessary bridge.

Thankfully, the German voters are paying attention. In the March 27, 2011 Rhineland-Palatinate elections, this time it was the SPD that lost its ruling majority in the State, gaining 10% fewer votes than in 2006 in the Palatinate. It is a strong political message when Germany's two largest political parties are getting beaten badly because of environmental issues.

By contrast, the Alliance '90/The Greens surged from 4.6% in 2006 in the Palatinate-- not even reaching the 5% government-participation threshold -- to achieving a triumphal 15.4% in 2011, putting them solidly in the government and reaching a voting level they are unlikely to lose anywhere in the near future.

The environmental ramifications of the Fukushima nuclear accidents will be with us for years. MORE environmental protection, rather than less, will be the hallmark of successful politicians.

For Palatinate Minister-President Kurt Beck and the SPD to stay in power and to continue to govern, something has to give in the coalition negotiations, and it is going to be the building of the totally unnecessary monstrous bridge over the Moselle River. That will have to go.

Representatives from the CDU have been quoted post-election as saying that the bridge will be built anyway because of ca. €330 million contracts that have been granted viz. planned for construction of the project.

We are not sure about that.

Those contracts are no hindrance to stopping the bridge.

There is of course no reason to cost people their jobs just because you end an unnecessary construction project. Those same construction firms can be put to work for the same money repairing the roads, bridges and highways that ALREADY EXIST and in part are in a dilapidated state of repair. There is plenty of work to be done.

Or, in a worst case scenario, one could maintain the road-building as planned, but replace the monstrous bridge with a normal "human-size" bridge as already found on the Mosel elsewhere and as suited to a wine-growing and tourist area.

Most people on the Mosel could probably live with that.

Roads and bridges over rivers are necessary in moderation -- but not the monstrous bridge planned for the Mosel. That is NOT necessary.

If the politicians in Berlin still want this monstrous bridge built as a job generator (Arbeitsbeschaffungsmaßnahme), we suggest they try to put it in the middle of Berlin on the Ku'damm (Kurfürstendamm) and see what happens. That would be no different than putting that same bridge here on the Mosel.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

EU Libel & Defamation Law: Google Rightly Loses Case in Italy for Libelous Search Suggestions Generated by Autocompletion Computer Algorithms

Sometimes we disagree with Italy, and sometimes we agree.

This time, WE AGREE as Google loses defamation case in Italy.

Google's autocompletion feature -- run by computer algorithms --
led to cases of libelous search suggestions, by computer.

Obviously, that is intolerable.
We are no friends of libel.

Italy is correct in saying that libel is libel, computer-written or otherwise.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

E-Privacy Directive Regulations Bring New Cookie Rules to the European Union Effective May 25, 2011

BBC News reports in New net rules set to make cookies crumble, that:
"From 25 May, European laws dictate that 'explicit consent' must be gathered from web users who are being tracked via text files called 'cookies'....

The changes are demanded by the European e-Privacy directive which comes into force in the UK in late May."
As written by Miya Knights at EWeekEurope.co.uk in ICO Warns On New EU Cookie Rules:
"The new law, which will come into force on 25 May 2011, is an amendment to the EU’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive [The Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003] designed to keep pace with the constant evolution of online fraud."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

A Discriminatory and Flawed Legal Decision by the European Court of Justice ECJ on Drug Tourism and Vice Control in the European Union EU: Case C-137/09

The control of human vices such as prostitution and drug abuse are major problems for legal systems because they often involve the border-line confrontation of legal bodies and law enforcement agencies with "normal" citizens whose behavior has run contrary to the law statutes in matters that often involve legal and moral principles about which there is a great deal of differing opinion in the populace.

Few areas of law involve so much "bad law" as the perplexing legal issues posed by "substance abuse", whether this be alcohol or marijuana. (We have posted before at LawPundit about the widespread failings of legal systems to deal intelligently with drug abuse problems in society.)

A case in point is recently found at the EU Law Blog
in the posting Cannabis, Coffee Shops, Non-Discrimination and Public Policy: Case C-137/09
regarding Case C-137/09 Marc Michel Josemans v. Burgemeester van Maastricht
of the European Court of Justice (ECJ),

a terrible legal decision which sets back about 2000 years the legal advances made in Europe since Law in Early Rome and the Republic, by which citizens of Rome in that Empire had one set of rights and foreigners another set of rights.

Not only has the modern developing concept of ius gentium -- the "law of nations" by which all people are subject to the same laws, citizens, non-citizens and foreigners alike -- been trampled under foot by the ECJ in Case C-137/09, but the entire principle upon which the European Union is based has been tossed aside.

The principle foundation of the the European Union and a Single Internal EU Market is EQUALITY of the Member States of the EU and its citizens, especially in economic matters. The "four freedoms" in the European Union provide:
"The core of European Union economic and social policy is summed up under the idea of the four freedoms - free movement of goods, capital, services and persons. Sometimes, they are also counted up as five freedoms, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, workers and the freedom of establishment, but the difference is merely in denomination, they both refer to the same areas of substantive law."
To permit the sale of cannabis in coffee-shops in Maastricht to citizens of the Netherlands but to prohibit such sale to other EU citizens or foreigners turns European Law on its head and makes a mockery of the European Union.

We are not in favor of drug tourism, by the way, and it would be better to prohibit the sale of cannabis anywhere in the EU than to permit this terrible totally discriminatory decision to remain good law.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Google with 80% of EU Market Faces Anti-Trust Problems from Competitors Alleging Abuse of Dominant Market Position

Valentina Pop at EUobserver.com reports that Google facing second EU anti-trust case "for alleged abuse of its dominant market position." Google controls 80% of the European search engine market and is accused of favoring its own sites in search results. If true, Google may have trouble winning this case.

European Court of Justice (ECJ) based on Request from the German Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) to Decide Legality of Second-Hand Software Sales as regards Copyright Licensing and Infringement

OUT-LAW News from Pinsent Masons LLP reports that:

ECJ asked to rule on re-sale of software licences

The German Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice, the highest court in Germany for non-constitutional questions) has requested the highest court in the European Union, the ECJ (European Court of Justice) to clarify the legality of the sale of second-hand software in a case involving second-hand Oracle software sold online by third parties.

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