EU Legislation, Initiatives, etc.

EU News: Recently, the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) adopted an opinion on the European Commission Communication on the open internet and net neutrality in Europe, a subject that has triggered great interest & controversy over recent months. Net neutrality refers to the issue of whether Internet service providers (ISPs) should be allowed to monitor network traffic to filter or restrict Internet access, for example to block specific services or applications (e.g. peer to peer) or give preference access to others.
 
The EDPS highlights the serious implications of these practices on the fundamental right to privacy & data protection of users, in particular, in terms of confidentiality of communications. Certain inspection techniques used by ISPs may indeed be highly privacy-intrusive, especially when they reveal the content of individuals' internet communications, including emails sent or received, websites visited and files downloaded.  It is therefore crucial that compliance with data protection rules be closely monitored
Press release & links
 
EU News10 October 2011 marked the World & European Day against the Death Penalty.  The abolition of the death penalty worldwide is one of the main objectives of the EU’s human rights policy.  The EU considers the death penalty inhumane and a violation of human dignity.  Any capital punishment resulting from a miscarriage of justice, from which no legal system can be immune, represents an irreversible loss of human life.
Press release & links ~ Related FCO PR
 
EU News: The European Commission has adopted a decision which would allow it to coordinate the efforts of EU Member States to accelerate the commercial deployment of pan-European Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) and, if need be, to adopt appropriate enforcement measures.
 
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda said: "We gave the two selected operators two years to deploy their systems. The time has now come for effective enforcement. Either operators deliver on their promises, or the spectrum which they have available, which is a scarce resource, should be used in other ways".
Press release & links
 
EU News: The consequences of the financial & economic crisis are deeply reflected in Member States' government revenues.  Having implemented a wide range of tax stimulus measures from 2008 to 2010, the focus of tax policy has now clearly shifted towards a much needed consolidation of public finances in Member States. This is even more necessary in light of the difficulties currently faced by some Member States in refinancing their sovereign debt.
 
The 2011 report 'Tax reforms in EU Member States: Tax policy challenges for economic growth and fiscal sustainability' takes a look at recent trends in tax revenues & tax reforms implemented in Member States.  In view of future tax reforms Member States may implement the report analyses the issue of quality of taxation and identifies challenges for tax policy in euro-area Member States.
Press release & links
 
EU News: The new EU Consumer Rights Directive has been formally adopted by Member States in the EU's Council of Ministers.  The new legislation will strengthen consumers' rights in all 27 EU countries, particularly when shopping online.  Governments have 2 years to implement the rules at national level.
Press release & links
 
FSA: The European Commission has amended the listof certain seeds, sprouted seeds & beans prohibited from import to the European Union from Egypt. In July 2011 the EC announced an emergency ban on the import of fenugreek and certain seeds, sprouted seeds and beans imported from Egyptuntil 31 October 2011, following the two outbreaks of E.coli O104 in Germany & France.
 
Fresh & chilled peas and beans have now been taken off the list.  The ECn reassessed the risk from these products following an audit by officials of production sites in Egypt. The Food Standards Agency has written to port health officials to inform them of these changes.
Press release & links
 
EU News: Last week, the European Commission adopted revised proposals clarifying the information that industry can supply to the public on prescription-only medicines.
Press release & links
 
EU News: A high-level group to provide recommendations for the respect, protection, support & promotion of media freedom & pluralism in Europehas been convened by EC Vice-President Neelie Kroes
Press release & links
 
EU News: Despite the success of the EU's Single Market, barriers to cross-border trade remain.  Many of these result from divergent sales laws between the 27 Member States.  They make selling abroad complicated and costly, especially for small firms.
 
Last week, the European Commission proposed an optional Common European Sales Law to help break down these barriers and give consumers more choice & a high level of protection. If traders offer their products on the basis of the CESL, consumers would have the option of choosing a user-friendly European contract with a high level of protection with just one click of a mouse.  The Commission's proposal now needs approval from EU Member States and the European Parliament.
Press release & links
 
EU News: As from last week, the Visa Information System (VIS) started operations.  Visa applications will now be processed much faster thanks to the use of biometrics (fingerprints & a digital facial image) which will facilitate the identification of visa holders and help to avoid identity theft.  The first consular posts to be connected to the system are those in North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia).
Press release & links
 
EU News: The Commission has presented a roadmap outlining the comprehensive response that is needed to restore confidence in the Euro area and the European Union as a whole. This response is ‘designed to break the vicious circle between doubts over the sustainability of sovereign debt, the stability of the banking system and the European Union's growth prospects'.
Press release & links
 
EU News: A number of recent media reports have made incorrect claims about the new Toy safety Directive, which entered into force on 20 July 2011. Several media have falsely claimed that the Directive would ban children under-8 from inflating balloons without adult supervision, because of the danger that young children could chew or swallow the balloon.  Other inaccurate reports have stated that children under-14 would be banned from using paper blow outs.   See press release for information on true scope of the Directive.
Press release & links
 
FCO: Minister for Europe David Lidington has explained why the first use of the European Union Act 2011 does not require a referendum in the UK.  This Treaty change will provide a legal basis for euro area members to set up the European Stability Mechanism to provide financial assistance to euro area countries in crisis.

The Foreign Secretary has laid a statement before Parliament under the terms of the Act. In it, he states his opinion that the EU Treaty change Decision does not fall within section 4 of the EU Act and no referendum is required in the UK.
Press release & links
 
FSA: The Food Standards Agency and the agriculture and rural affairs departments for England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland have produced an updated version of the UK National Control Plan, which extends it to 31 March 2012.
 
The plan is a requirement of EU Regulation 882/2004 on official controls. It ensures that effective control systems are in place for monitoring and enforcing feed & food law, animal health & animal welfare rules, and plant health law.
Press release & links
 
EU News: The European Commission has presented a draft reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the period after 2013 – See ‘In the News’ section for more information
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