Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Which companies are oiling the cogs of EU legislation?

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If Europe’s lobbying register is correct, oil giants like Shell and BP are spending just a few hundred thousand euros a year on EU lobbying, sums that are dwarfed by the millions they spend across the Atlantic.

Europe’s voluntary Register of interest representatives, launched in 2008, shows that Shell and BP spent 400,000-450,000 euros each on lobbying in 2008. 

Meanwhile the U.S. Lobbying Disclosure Act database, which companies are obliged to fill out by law, shows that Shell spent $2.3 million on lobbying in 2009 and BP $4.6 million.

This lobbying-cost-saving in Europe is even more of a surprise given that both companies have notched up some significant successes in Europe, such as helping to secure potentially billions of euros for Carbon Capture and Storage technology. NGOs say that kind of lobbying is no mean feat, involving sponsoring expensive receptions and helping to draw up suggestions for EU legislation.

Biofuels’ green credentials called into question

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Biofuels were once seen as the perfect way to make transport carbon-free, but a series of EU studies are throwing increasing doubt on the green credentials of the alternative fuel.

The latest to be released gave a preliminary assessment that biodiesel from soybeans could create four times more climate-warming emissions than conventional diesel.

Luxury brands ride high in online trade dispute

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- The European Union’s competition regulator made an important move this week, issuing revised rules governing the sale of goods and services over the Internet in Europe.

The so-called “vertical restraints block-exemption regulation”, unveiled on Tuesday, set down new guidelines for online retailers who don’t operate a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ outlet. In doing so, it sought to resolve a debate that has been going on for years between luxury brand retailers such as Gucci and Chanel and discounters who sell big-name brands more cheaply from warehouses over the Internet.

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If how quickly a company sends out a press release welcoming an EU decision is a measure of how popular that decision is, then the European Commission’s updated rules were just what luxury goods manufacturers were waiting to hear.

Volcano spews up more criticism of EU

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- Ash and steam rise from an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

Ash and steam rise from an erupting volcano near Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

The Icelandic volcano that has caused havoc with European travel has also spewed up more criticism of the European Union.

A travel-affected European Parliament session on Tuesday turned into a forum for bashing the EU and other European authorities over the response to the crisis.

Turkey’s EU bid meets another Cyprus roadblock

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Negotiating Turkey’s accession to the European Union hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. But it may be about to get tougher still.

Europeans are already divided over the prospect of inviting a largely Muslim nation into their club of 27 states.  And while some are attracted by Turkey’s huge economic potential, that’s  frequently shadowed by its much-criticised human rights record.

EU asks public what it thinks of CAP reform

- EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos

EU Commissioner Dacian Ciolos

The European Commission’s agriculture department launched a public debate this week on the future reform of Europe’s common agricultural policy (CAP) from 2014. It wants everyone – not just farmers and politicians – to have their say on how the European Union should support agricultural production.

It’s odd then that the only question that’s off limits in the debate, according to EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, is the one on everybody’s lips: how much taxpayers’ money should the CAP get?

If Greece’s debt dam breaks, who gets wet?

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The 16 countries that share the euro single currency have agreed they will help Greece out if it needs. So far so good. But only now is the nitty-gritty of how member states will go about paying for their contributions being hammered out. And suddenly things are getting a little complicated.

Italy announced on Tuesday it would have to issue government bonds — known as BTPs –  to raise funds for its part in any Greek assistance. 

Markets call euro zone’s bluff on Greek aid

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The surge in the spread of Greek bond yields over German ones since European leaders issued a promise of emergency loans to Greece last month indicates financial markets do not believe the pledge of euro zone support is anything more than a bluff.

And they are itching to call it.

Euro zone leaders have been betting that a promise of loans to Greece and strong words of political support will be enough to calm markets and allow Athens to borrow at more reasonable rates, therefore rendering any real aid — the dreaded bailout — unnecessary.

Head scratching over EU plans for EMF, helping Greece

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- IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn

It was no great surprise that the managing director of the International Monetary Fund looked perplexed when asked during a visit to Brussels to comment on proposals to create a European monetary fund.

 ”I would be very happy to comment if I knew what it was,” Dominique Strauss-Kahn told a committee in the European Parliament.

Lapland’s part in EU foreign policy

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Last weekend, Finland’s foreign minister gathered six of his colleagues and the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, in the frozen far reaches of Lapland for two days of talks on the future of European foreign policy.

As informal ministerial gatherings go, it was a rather jolly (if cold) affair, complete with a ‘family photo’ taken with a pair of nervous reindeer, a chance to see the northern lights and activities such as skiing, sledging and snow-mobiling. Some of the ministers even brought along their families.

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