Monthly Archives: August 2007

Spotted this in a stack of written questions from MEPs to the European Commission:

"What figures has the Commission of the numbers of immigrants who registered to study in member states, but who never turned up at the institutions and became, instead, illegal immigrants?"

It might not surprise you to know that it’s from Robert Kilroy-Silk, the perma-tanned, British, ex-chat show host (learn more)

Here’s the answer, from Franco Frattini, EU immigration commissioner:

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Whatever one thinks of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, its hardnosed diplomacy has traditionally got results when dealing with the bickering European Union member states. Divide and rule has been a successful policy, culminating in Germany’s decision to help build a gas pipeline that would bypass Poland and the Baltic states. Now, however, Moscow seems to be engaged in scattergun attacks on EU countries – which could rebound on it.

This week it crossed two of its traditional supporters in the bloc: Italy and Sweden.

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It doesn’t usually take long before the glitz of a European Union summit rubs off. Commitments signed up to amid a fanfare of rhetoric quickly become tarnished. There was a fascinating glimpse behind the shiny green paintwork of the target of sourcing 20 per cent of energy from renewable targets this week – and it wasn’t pleasant. The Guardian newspaper got hold of a government memo showing British bureaucrats are already looking for ways to erase what their leaders signed up to in March. They are lobbying governments and senior Commission officials for a “flexible” interpretation of whatever individual target the UK is assigned, so they can build solar farms in Africa or count nuclear generation. Investing in renewable sources at home is just too expensive.

It would be understandable if the Brits, like the poorer eastern Europeans, had tried to sabotage the idea from the outset. But instead Tony Blair, burnishing his green credentials, welcomed it.

Another "groundbreaking, bold" commitment (Mr Blair’s words), to source 10 per cent of transport fuels from plants by 2020, looks every bit as ugly.

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Once again, Europeans are fuming over a US measure designed to combat the threat of global terrorism. This time round, it is the tightening of US immigration and customs rules that have sparked anger in Brussels and other European capitals. According to a recent bill that implements the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, European citizens that currently don’t require a visa to enter the US will have to notify US authorities a certain period of time before departure.

While tourists and business travellers will find this requirement annoying, to say the least, the much greater threat to the transatlantic economy is posed by a second new measure – namely the requirement that every single cargo container shipped or flown into the US must be screened before sent across the Atlantic.

Since the bill was signed into law by George W. Bush, the US Department of Homeland Security has been keen to play down the effects of the new measures. In particular, it stressed that – contrary to earlier reports – travellers would not have to register with the US authorities 48 hours before every departure, but only once every one or two years. On container screening, the department said it will work closely with the country’s trading partners to ensure the measure don’t damage global trade flows.

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Trade deals garner headlines and photo opportunities. The talks leading up to them tend to be rather more mind-numbing, as countries haggle over whether pig bladders should be considered a sensitive product and just how many widgets should be allowed in tariff-free.

Trade talks between rich and poor countries have the added spice of David vs Goliath about them. With Doha apparently comatose once again, attention in Brussels has turned to negotiations with 78 ex-colonies.

The African, Caribbean and Pacific group (ACP) enjoy a quasi-marital relationship with the EU. It is enshrined in a legal document, the Cotonou agreement, and includes privileged access to EU markets. That arouses the jealousy of other poor countries that threw off their colonial yoke earlier, such as Latin America.

They have challenged the cosy arrangements at the World Trade Organisation and won enough battles to force a rewriting of the marriage vows by the end of this year. These will not be trade deals but "economic partnership agreements", a concept dreamed up in the Brussels bureaucracy. It wants to create clones of iteslf, with regional common markets that trade with each other and achieve economies of scale.

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And the EU’s mobile phone roaming debate goes on…and on…

Brussels recently revealed its “name and shame” website. This shows whether telecoms companies are slashing the cost of international phone use, as demanded under a controversial new EU law.

By and large, it shows that they are. Big deal? Not really, given the spotlight they are under.

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Brussels famously shuts down completely in August. There are no Commission meetings, no Parliament sessions and no backroom dealings between national diplomats in the Council. There are no press conferences, no announcements and even the ranks of Brussels’ 15,000 lobbyists appear to have thinned out. In other words, it is the perfect time to either take a holiday or spend an hour or two leafing through the latest International Monetary Fund report on the Eurozone. I chose the latter option, and having waded through almost 70 pages of colourful little graphs and bone-dry economical analysis I thought I might as well share some of the highlights.

Perhaps the most interesting issue raised by the Washington-based institution concerns the threat to financial stability in the Eurozone. The IMF’s experts point out that the Eurozone (the same might just as well be said about the EU as a whole) is prone to a very peculiar risk deriving from the gap between market integration on the one hand and the lack of supervisory integration on the other hand.

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