June 17, 2006

Sustainable Development Strategy

The June 2006 European Council has adopted a "Renewed EU Sustainable Development Strategy". That document includes, among others, a goal of 12 percent renewable energy by 2010.

I have some interest in renewable energy lately.

Actually, I have started another blog and wiki about the idea of large-scale renewable energy production in the Gobi desert a couple of months ago here.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 12:56 PM

EU Democracy

One of the biggest problems with EU legislation is the fact that most of it happens behind closed doors.

The Council is the most important legislative organ of the EU, but until now, opening it to the public is the exception.

This will now change somewhat. The June 2006 European Council has decided that all legislation in the codecision procedure (like for example the software patent and the Surveillance Directive) are to be discussed in public, except if the Council decides otherwise. All public discussions are to be streamed over the Internet in all official languages and archived at least one month on the Commission website.

That still leaves lots of loopholes for politicians to hide from their citizens. It is not enough by any standard of democratic accountability.

However, it is a step in the right direction.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 12:47 PM

June 06, 2006

No EU Criminal Law Legislation

The power grab recently proposed by the EU Commission, which wants more legislation rights for the EU in the area of criminal law, has been unanimously rejected by the recent conference of German federal state Ministers of Justice.

This proposal is the last thing Europe needs. I am pleased to see it soundly rejected on the national German stage.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:36 AM

June 04, 2006

Passenger Data ECJ Decision

The European Court of Justice has annulled a Commission decision on an Agreement to hand over passenger data to the United States. See previous coverage of that queston on this blog here.

Eurobusiness.com has an introductory article to the new Court judgment, which has already been published on the Court's website.

The Court did not need to examine if - as Parliament's opinion of the question was - the Agreement was in violation of European human rights and data protection standards for trusting the Republican American government with European data.

Such trust might seem to be misplaced, considering recent relevations about the Bush administrations' illegal watching of all citizens and their alleging of the right to break any law that might be in the way of their wholesale snooping programs via a disturbing view of the president as almighty "Commander in Chief". See Balkin or Greenwald.

The decision was annulled for lack of competence. The data protection Directive does not give the EU any right to decide on the question, since it is one of criminal law.

That is bad news for the enemies of freedom that have pushed the Surveillance Directive through. That Directive is also, like the bizarre idea of trusting the Bush government with European citizens' data, a decision in the area of criminal law.

Which, as the Court quite clearly and correctly decided, is really none of the EU's business.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:32 PM

May 16, 2006

Citizen's Agenda

The Commission has published a Communication to the European Council with the title "A Citizen's Agenda - Delivering Results for Europe".

That Communication speaks for Europe's citizens. It says that citizens want this or that.

However, the Commission has no mandate to speak for Europe's citizens. Nor are the far-fetched assertions in the Communication backed up by any polling data.

The last time citizens had an opportunity to speak for themselves, they made it clear in the French and Dutch Constitution referendums that they are not interested in even more European unification. The Commission should listen to the citizens, instead of making up statements of "what citizens want".

I am particularly strongly opposed to the idea expressed in the Communication that citizens want more EU activity in the field of Freedom, Security and Justice. The Commission wants to abolish current requirements of unanimity and give European legislators a blank check to meddle in Member States' criminal law with majority decisions.

This is extremely dangerous, since Member States' constitutional human rights guarantees are much less effective against European legislation than against national legislation, as discussed a couple of days ago here.

Any Commission proposals to give more criminal law legislation power to the EU should be rejected. This is the last thing Europe's citizens need.

And if someone actually bothered to poll citizens if they want to give EU legislators a blank check to violate their human rights, I strongly doubt that the result would be much different than in the Constitution referendums.

That is true especially after the Surveillance Directive outrage clearly shows that EU legislators are not worthy of any trust that they won't violate human rights, even without the check of national Constitutional Courts in place.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:47 AM

May 12, 2006

EU Criminal Law

Traditionally, the EU has no competence for legislation on criminal law.

But now the Commission wants to force Member States to adopt criminal sanctions against violations of intellectual property rights. FFII has issued a press release critical of that proposal, and also a more detailed analysis.

In contrast to the FFII position, I have no principal objection against criminal law sanctions for violations of intellectual property. Actually, they help to prevent unlimited patent or copyright inflation.

Criminal law can't be limitless. Pointing to a mountain of criminal law will make many people feel more uncomfortable with software patents than if there are only civil law sanctions.

However, I still share the FFII's concerns about this misguided proposal.

I strongly dislike the idea of abusing the "internal market" excuse to make up legislation competences for the EU where there clearly are none.

That concern is so much stronger since the recent legislative outrage the EU has produced with the Surveillance Directive. If the German legislation comes up with this kind of human rights violation, it is much easier to get it booted out by the Federal Constitution Court.

The European Court of Justice since the 1964 Costa case says that German citizens can't rely on human rights protection in the German Constitution against European legislation. The European legislator is free to violate human rights guaranteed in the Member States' constitutions. There is no way European legislation can be declared void for violation of human rights by the German Constitutional Court.

If that extreme theory is correct, the European legislation can do whatever they want. And with the track record of the recent Surveillance Directive outrage there is really no reason to trust the European legislator. If they can ignore human rights at will, they certainly will do so.

Fortunately, the German Constitutional Court does not subscribe to the Costa principle mentioned above. They do however say that they will restrain themselves much stronger when judging European legislation than when judging national legislation.

That makes it extremely dangerous to give the European Union any legislation competences in the area of criminal law, where human rights guarantees can be violated most easily and most severely.

It is for this reason that I am strongly opposed to this proposal. The EU has no business legislating criminal law. Nor should it have.

The European Court of Justice seems to want to give the EU criminal law legislation powers in this September 2005 decision.

I think this is a dangerous development. It should be opposed strongly by everyone interested in preserving some human rights protections in the field of criminal justice.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:25 PM

May 09, 2006

ACLU Announcement

The ACLU has found out that the American Department of Homeland Security has been violating promises given to the European Union regarding the use of Passenger Name Record data.

The ACLU is afraid that this kind of thing "undermines the respect and credibility of our government when it makes promises as a result of careful negotiations among different stakeholders and then breaks those promises."

I think those fears are unfounded. There is no respect and credibility left to undermine. Anyone assuming that the Republicans running the American government are in the business of keeping any promises or obeying any laws is clearly naive.

Actually, while I am bordering on the excessive in my support for strong privacy policy, I have sympathy for using this kind of data for disease control, the use in question here.

If bird flu becomes transmissible from human to human, it will kill large numbers of people. Passenger name record data could be crucial in giving a couple of days earlier warnings.

Therefore I think it would have been quite reasonable to extend the existing agreement to cover use of the data for disease control in certain circumstances.

But, as the ACLU notes correctly, the Republican government operates everywhere in excessive secrecy.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:49 PM

April 22, 2006

CIA Torture

In contrast to the rubberstamp Republican controlled American Congress, the European Parliament is quite interested in investigating the alleged decline of America into a torture state.

Now the former British ambassador to Usbekistan Murray has testified before the "European Parliament Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners". He said the CIA and MI5 made use of confessions while knowing that these were obtained by the worst forms of torture by the Usbekistan authorities. Mr Murray was forced to leave civil service since he continued to protest against this.

While there are certain civil servants who should be forced to leave because of this policy, I think they rank a lot higher than an Ambassador.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:41 AM

April 20, 2006

Commission Documents Reuse

Two years ago I blogged about the November 2003 Directive on re-use of public information.

The latest Official Journal of April 20 publishes a new April 7 Commission Decision on the re-use of Commission information (2006/291/EC).

As the Directive, this Decision aims at making all documents prepared by the Commission re-usable for commercial and non-commercial purposes.

Article 9 of the Decision sets out some general principles for licenses that may cover Commission documents. It reads:

"The re-use of documents may be allowed without conditions or conditions may be imposed, where appropriate through a license or through a disclaimer. Typical conditions for re-use include the obligation for the re-user to acknowledge the source of the documents, the obligation not to distort the original meaning or message of the documents, and non-liability of the Commission for any consequence stemming from the re-use. The conditions shall not unnecessarily restrict possibities for re-use."

I agree with the above statement of the most important principles for drafting licenses enabling free re-use, like the Creative Commons licenses or GPL, especially with the point of non-liability.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:42 AM

March 30, 2006

Virtual Sex

BoingBoing reports that someone succeeded in trademarking "virtual sex".

There are some problems with this registration.

It lacks "distinctive character". That is an absolute ground for refusal under Article 7 1 a) of the 1994 Community Trademark Regulation.

It also exclusively consists of signs describing characteristics of the service. That is another absolute ground for refusal under c) of the above paragraph.

While granting this trademark seems to be without merit, it sure is an interesting example to illustrate the meaning of the above limits on trademark protection.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 12:00 PM

March 19, 2006

Excessive German Deficit

Even without wasting billions on illegal wars, Germany is now on record for failing four years in a row to meet the EU deficit limit of three percent GDP. Now the Council has approved a recommendation of the Commission that requires Germany to come up with a credible plan to meet the three percent limit in 2007 by July this year. Under the recommendation, Germany needs to achieve a cumulative improvement of at least 1 percent in 2006 and 2007 and an annual reduction of the structural deficit of at least 0,5 percent per year. To this end, a draft law aims to raise VAT rates from currently 16 percent to 19 percent from January 1 next year on. Eubusiness.com article, Council press release.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:04 PM

Airlines Blacklist

The EU has decided on a list of airlines that will be denied any flying rights to all Member States until they have resolved serious safety issues. The decision is based on Regulation 2111/2005 that came into force on January 16th. Eubusiness.com article, Commission press release.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:52 PM

February 09, 2006

Cartoon Issue Statement

by Commission Vice President Frattini. From the statement:

"However, I am not offering these common sense remarks with even the remotest intention of justifying the reactions that are currently being expressed against Denmark and others, including the European Union. Quite the contrary, it should be crystal clear to all that violence, intimidation, and the calls for boycotts or for restraints on the freedom of the press are completely unacceptable and will not bring about a constructive discussion between communities. Indeed, no dialogue is possible with those who would threaten fundamental human rights, nor with those who would resort to terror."

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:50 PM

November 16, 2005

European Parliament Debates CIA Detention

The European Parliament has debated the question of secret CIA detention centers in Europe.

Unsurprisingly, there was not much support for the idea that torture and disappearing policies that are illegal when perpetrated in the U.S. become magically okay the moment they are relocated to Europe instead.

As noted in this earlier post, if the Washington Post stops supporting the torture politics of the administration and discloses the name of the "eastern Europe democracy" in question, and if that country happens to be a EU Member or candidate State, there would be political sanctions against the Member State in question.

The commissioner in charge, Mr. Frattini, also remarked in the debate that there would be an investigation under criminal law of that Member State, recalling that Italian authorities are investigating right now alleged action of CIA operatives in Italy. There will be no politics of impunity for this kind of thing in Europe.

So why again is the Washington Times stonewalling the necessary investigations by refusing to disclose the name of the "eastern Europe democracy?

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:47 AM

November 04, 2005

Take Your Torture Centers Home

The November 2 Washington Post arcticle revealing a network of CIA secret torture centers speaks of "eight" host countries, naming Thailand, Afghanistan and Cuba, but refusing to disclose the name of "several democracies in Eastern Europe".

Apparently, the Washington Post accepted a request of the White House to keep that particular information secret for now. As the article says:

"The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation."

You bet that knowing (instead of only suspecting) that any EU Member State "Eastern Europe democracy" is involved would disrupt the "counterterrorism effort".

Such a Member State would have to shut down the torture center immediately or face being kicked out of the EU under Article 7 of the EU treaty.

The Washington Post speaks of eight countries, naming three. That leaves five "democracies in Eastern Europe".

The Commission of the European Union has now announced that it will start an informal probe, requesting answers from all 25 Member States as well as candidate States Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Turkey.

I sure hope that existing European human right standards are strong enough to prevent running secret CIA torture centers in any EU Member State. Or to at least shut them down immediately once this kind of thing becomes public.

If the White House insists on torturing terror suspects, they should at the very least run their torture centers in their own country, instead of defiling the honor of EU Member States.


Update: A November 3 editorial in the Washington Post requests support for McCain and others who don't agree with the idea of torturing terror suspects in secret Gulag facilities.

So why doesn't the Washington Post name the hosting countries? If it is a most urgent priority to oppose the "champions of torture" (of course it is), then what is the point in cooperating in any way with them?

Go ahead and follow your own advice already.

Further Update: See also Commissioner Frattini's statement at the Delegetation of the EU to the the USA.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:05 AM

October 08, 2005

Torture Trade

The selection of new documents in the Eur-Lex database points to a new Council Regulation 1236/2005 enacted in June about the trade in goods which could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The regulation gives two lists in the annex.

The first lists goods as electric chairs or gallows, as well as "Electric-shock belts designed for restraining human beings by the administration of electric shocks having a no-load voltage exceeding 10000 V". All import and export of these is prohibited.

The second lists dual-use goods. These may have non-torture legitimate uses. It includes items for riot control or self-protection as "Portable electric shock devices, including but not limited to, electric shock batons, electric shock shields, stun guns and electric shock dart guns having a no-load voltage exceeding 10000 VNotes". Goods on that list need an export authorisation. The criteria for export authorisation are laid down in Article 6 of the regulation:


Criteria for granting export authorisations

1. Decisions on applications for authorisation for the export of goods listed in Annex III shall be taken by the competent authority on a case by case basis, taking into account all relevant considerations, including in particular, whether an application for authorisation of an essentially identical export has been dismissed by another Member State in the preceding three years.

2. The competent authority shall not grant any authorisation when there are reasonable grounds to believe that goods listed in Annex III might be used for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including judicial corporal punishment, by a law enforcement authority or any natural or legal person in a third country.

The competent authority shall take into account:

- available international court judgements,

- findings of the competent bodies of the UN, the Council of Europe and the EU, and reports of the Council of Europe's European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment and of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Other relevant information, including available national court judgements, reports or other information prepared by civil society organisations and information on restrictions on exports of goods listed in Annexes II and III applied by the country of destination, may be taken into account.

This might lead to some interesting administrative proceedings in 25 Member States. Some human rights activists could set up deals for exporting for example "thumb screws" (I am not sure what exactly the non-torture use for those is supposed to be) to the United States.

Then watch Member States authorities decide on whether "there are reasonable grounds to believe that goods listed in Annex III might be used for torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including judicial corporal punishment, by a law enforcement authority or any natural or legal person" in the United States, applying the standard above.

This could provide some outside help for the United States Senators who, by a margin of 90 to 9, recently decided that there is no particular need to torture people in America's name.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 04:11 PM

September 22, 2005

Human Rights Suspended

The European Court of First Instance develops some rather disturbing ideas about human rights in a case related to terrorism. See the 21 September press release and the decision here. Scroll down to paragraphs 190 to 346 for the part suspending human rights.

In the view of the Court the United Nations Charter trumps European human rights standards. European institutions have to faithfully implement any Security Council decision on who to include on the list of terrorists, without bothering about minor details like the human rights those accused of a crime traditionally enjoyed.

The Court cites lots of precedents, all of which are completely irrelevant. It is a completely new development to have European citizens declared terrorists by a bunch of diplomats someplace far away.

If the theory that the United Nations Charter trumps European human rights standards is true and is upheld by the European Court of Justice, the United Nations could start giving orders to torture or deport European citizens to some concentration camps.

I hesitate to support this kind of thinking unconditionally. It does not seem to add to the legitimacy of the United Nations.

Under German constitutional law, the only way to completely suspend human rights protections is a revolution. Article 79, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law says:


(3) Amendments to this Basic Law affecting the division of the Federation into Länder, their participation in the legislative process, or the principles laid down in Articles 1 and 20 shall be prohibited.

Article 1, Paragraph 2 quoted there says:

2) The German people therefore uphold human rights as inviolable and inalienable and as the basis of every community, of peace and justice in the world.

I believe in inviolable and inalienable human rights. Those however are only worth as much as the political will to protect and respect them, even when dealing with serious risks as terrorism.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:06 PM

April 05, 2005

Add Ads

The controversy about the recent adding of ads to the Wordpress homepage raises some interesting questions.

In case you missed it, here is the original waxy.org blog post starting the debate, a followup, and a response from Matt Mullenweg of Wordpress.

From what I have read, I get the impression that the wordpress home page hosted some articles, with the intent to improve some third party site's Google ranking, against financial consideration.

That is, they added some ads to their site.

There seems to have been some criticism against doing so.

However, selling ads is exactly what Google is doing as well. If you don't sell the service (Wordpress is free, as is Google searching), sell advertising.

However, under the Article 6 of the European E-commerce Directive one condition for advertising is that the ad is clearly identifiable as such.

The ads in question in this case seems to have been hidden intentionally from human eyes by using invisible links.

So were they illegal under that e-commerce Directive standard?

I don't think so.

What the Directive wants to stop is an ad posing as content not paid for. For example, if a blogger with many readers and a high Google rank accepts payments for linking in a blog post without disclosing that fact, she is misleading her readers about the reasons for the link.

In contrast, here the ad was supposed not to be noticed by any human reader. It was intended for the Google robot.

And as far as I know, the Google robot doesn't see a difference between a link that has been paid for and one that has been included in a site because of some editorial judgement.

That in turn means that the distortion the above Article of the e-commerce Directive wants to prevent is not and can not easily be prevented as far as search engine ranks are concerned.

I don't know how strong this distortion effect is in aggregate.

But I for one would not mind one bit if someone like Matt Mullenweg had an easy way to make some money from his Google pagerank 8.


Update: I looked around a bit at the Google website to find some info on this question. Here is one bit I found (at the "ten things" page, under point 7):

Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a "Sponsored Link." It is a core value for Google that there be no compromising of the integrity of our results. We never manipulate rankings to put our partners higher in our search results. No one can buy better PageRank. Our users trust Google's objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.

No one can buy better PageRank?

That either contradicts what I assumed above, or should read "no one can buy better PageRank from Google".

I could not find any indication that the PageRank algorithm knows (like a human reader protected by the e-business Directive) which links are ads and figures that in somehow in calculating results.

Comments and trackbacks are welcome at the Google pagerank zero shadow site.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 02:25 PM

April 03, 2005

Vice President of the European Commission

Margot Wallström has a started a blog recently here. She is responsible for "communication strategy", among other things, which makes it natural to experiment with the blog format. Already that blog is drawing many comments for each entry.

Comments and trackbacks are welcome at the Google pagerank zero shadow site.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:25 PM

March 25, 2005

Bananas

The European Court of Justice had another opportunity to decide on the relation between EU law and WTO obligations. Another case about trade in bananas decided on March 1st.

The Court held again that individuals can't question the validity of EU legislation based on a WTO claim. Even when, as in this case, a WTO panel has held the EU legislation in question to violate GATT 1994, the only remedy is to wait for the legislation in question to change.

The Court gives two main reasons for this.

One is the fact that under the WTO dispute resolution mechanism negotiations between the interested parties are the most important settlement procedure, even when there has already been a panel decision and the question is how to implement it.

Giving courts in the EU the power to implement WTO panel decisions would deprive the legislative and administrative organs of the EU of the chance to negotiate.

The second is the fact that other major WTO nations like America don't give their courts that power either. If the EU goes ahead with that unilaterally, other WTO nations would get an unfair advantage in all negotiations.

While this probably means that WTO obligations are rather weak law in the EU right now, that can't be helped until America accepts the rule of WTO law as well. Don't hold your breath for that to happen any time soon.

Comments and trackbacks are welcome at the Google pagerank zero shadow site.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 01:09 PM

December 19, 2004

Political Agreement

The EU Council Rules of Procedure provide for a two-stage decision process.

Member States can find "political agreement" on a position in one Council meeting and then "formally adopt" it as a so-called A-item at a later meeting.

The Rules of Procedure say in Article 3, Paragraph 8 that any Member State can force a vote at the later meeting. See also this earlier post.

However, the enemies of democracy running the Council now seem to think that there is an unwritten rule that prevents Member States from actually doing that if they are opposed to a proposal at the time of the later meeting.

This is clearly the exact opposite of what the text of the Rules of Procedure says.

And if that position was true, there would be no point in having any "formal adoption" in a later meeting in the first place. All "political agreements" would be final. That would mean a major shift in the whole construction of the Rules of Procedure.

For example, that would mean that in turn all safeguards against hastily adopted decisions no one has had a chance to read or discuss (like all requirements on translations or minimum time frames for agenda decisions) would need to be cleared at the earlier time of the "political agreement".

So this is a test case. Either Article 3 Paragraph 8 has some meaning or not. We will see in a couple of days what happens.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:01 AM | TrackBack

December 03, 2004

Europe Should Pressure the US

to respect human rights, says Richard Stallman here.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:13 PM | TrackBack

September 02, 2004

EU Wins Another WTO Case

against yet another illegal American subsidy scheme, the Byrd amendment. Under that legislation, anti-dumping duties are distributed to the companies that requested those duties in the first place, giving them an added incentive to complain as well as an added monetary advantage in the international competition. A WTO panel has now authorized retaliation up to more than $150 million against the U.S. at the request of the EU, Japan and other countries.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:35 AM | TrackBack

June 28, 2004

Trade DG Memo

The Directorate General Trade of the European Commission has published a memo on negotiations about TRIPS.

The memo starts out with explanations of some very basic Intellectual Property concepts. But then there is a section titled "The Emergence of Global Public Goods" which contains this noteworthy statement:

Outlook for the future : emerging issues

IP is not only an issue of debate between North and South, but also within developed countries. They all express concerns about a perceived shrinking of the public domain as private rights over knowledge have become the rule. Some claim that this will have a counterproductive effect on research and on knowledge diffusion and point to the function of IP: to promote innovation and creativity to the benefit of all. There is therefore a balance to strike between different policy goals, innovation and creativity on the one hand, Development, Health, Environment for example on the other.

It is nice to see that at least some parts of the European Commission recognize the need for a balanced approach when discussing IP.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 02:25 PM | TrackBack

May 17, 2004

America Respecting WTO?

I might have been wrong in expecting America to continue ignoring WTO obligations on their illegal "Foreign Sales Corporation" subsidy scheme.

Now, after the EU has enacted sanctions, the American Senate has actually adopted a bill that would repeal the illegal subsidies.

The EU welcomes this, though of course it remains to be seen if the bill actually gets passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the President.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:55 AM | TrackBack

April 03, 2004

Microsoft Fine Math

This article by Robert X. Cringely is discussed at Slashdot. The author says that the record-setting EU fine against Microsoft is too small to achieve anything. My comment to this on Slashdot:

Anyone assuming that the EU commission can be ignored safely because they don't have strong enough sanctions available might be in for a nasty surprise.

$600 million might be not ever so much compared to Microsoft's profits.

However, if they stubbornly insist on violating European competition law, for example by not following the specific orders about unbundling and making available information, the EU could rather quickly fine them again. Maybe a billion this time.

And if that doesn't help, another two billion a few weeks later. A billion here, a billion there, and before you know it, you are talking about real money.

From May 1st on, the Commission also has the power to impose periodic penalty payments under Article 24 of Regulation 1/2003 on top of any additional fines.

The system would obviously be broken if anyone making a profit of more than 10 percent of turnover by violating competition law could get away with cashing the difference between that profit and the fine.

We will see what happens. I don't agree with the idea that EU competition law can be safely ignored.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 21, 2004

Flight Data Update

I have blogged before here about the European Parliament opposition to the American passenger name records databases. America requires European airlines to hand over passenger data without providing any meaningful data protection standard as required by European directives.

The Commission seems to have signed a deal with the American side about this question. However, that needs approval by the Parliament, which will be difficult to get. This eurobusiness.com article reports about the Parliament's citizens' rights committee rejecting the arrangement.

Europeans won't accept easily to have their data handled under the inferior American protection standards.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 15, 2004

CELEX Free

Margaret Marks has good news: The CELEX database will be available over the Internet free of charge from 1 July 2004 on. See also my earlier post about CELEX and Eur-Lex.

Link credit: Rainer Langenhan.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2004

Merger Regulation

Council Regulation (EC) No 139/2004 of 20 January 2004 on the control of concentrations between undertakings has been published in the Official Journal.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 22, 2004

Legislative Drafting

Rainer Langenhan points to this Eur-Lex page on legislative drafting.

When drafting a new law, the first rule is to make sure that no reader understands your text.

At least that might happen easily if there is no quality control for legislation. And the EU has adopted guidelines to avoid legal code that impresses ordinary people as just so much gibberish. Anyone interested in working on writing style might find some of the "house rules for the preparation of text" useful.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 17, 2004

Nine New Languages

Rainer Langenhan points to this Eur-Lex page, where the EU Commission starts publishing European Law in nine languages used in the states scheduled for accession to EU this year.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 05:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 11, 2004

Broadband in Europe

will be a priority for the incoming Irish presidency, see this eurobusiness.com article.

As I have blogged before, this was also highlighted as a priority at the December European Council. And it has been an important goal at least since 2002.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:13 AM | TrackBack

January 10, 2004

EurLex Search

Gudrun Schwarz describes a way to search on the free Eur-Lex service for Member States' legislation transforming directives in this comment on my German blog.

For example, if you display the 1995 directive on data protection, you get a long URL. Towards the end of that URL there is a field "numdoc=31995L0046".

Change the "3" in that number to "7" and you reach a list of transformation legislation, after one extra click on "more info".

I don't know why Eur-Lex chooses to put this information on the net without telling people how to reach it. Possibly this might stop to work anytime without warning.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:25 AM | TrackBack

December 17, 2003

Embarassment for Europe

Larry Lessig has taken some criticism for his blog entry titled "Europe: breaking the internet, again".

Many European readers did not appreciate having him point out that Europe needs to stop listening to the advice of telecom monopolies to catch up with the American quality of broadband Internet access.

As it turns out, just about at the same time, European leaders said something similar. The Presidency Conclusions of the Brussels European Council of 12. December 2003, repeatedly stressed the need to develop and improve broadband telecommunications (items 9 and 11 of the document). That has been a priority since at least 2002. As a result, broadband access in the EU has nearly doubled in the last year to 17.5 million, with a similar rate of growth expected for 2004.

However, participants at the World Summit on the Internet Society were not among those 17.5 million. Lessig's Internet access at that conference was rather lacking in speed and convenience. Obviously, it is extremely embarrassing to host an important international conference on the future of the Internet and being unable to offer decent Internet access to the participants.

And now it turns out that the organizers of that conference also illegally violated basic human rights and data protection standards. An article in the Washington Times has the story: Participants were given badges that had RFID tags built in, enabling tracking of every movement.

Which is of course incompatible with basic data protection concepts. If you want to track someone, you need to tell them that you plan to do so. You can't just hide your bug in a badge and track away without informing people.

This is another major embarrassment. And while European leaders clearly understand the need to work on broadband access as a priority, it would be nice to see a similar level of priority attached to preserving high data protection standards.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 02:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 09, 2003

Sanctions Against America

The EU Commission plans to go ahead with sanctions against America for failing to abolish an export subsidy scheme illegal under WTO, the Foreign Sales Corporations scheme, even three years after expiration of the WTO deadline.

The WTO has authorized sanctions of up to $4 billion against US trade, which would amount to about two percent of all imports from the US to the EU in 2001.

Sanctions will start taking force in March 2004 and will be gradually increased every month until reaching a ceiling in March 2005.

It remains to be seen if this has any effect, or if America will just continue to ignore the obligations under WTO.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Regulation on Transboundary Movements of GMO

The Regulation on transboundary movements of genetically modified organisms is published in the November 5 edition of the Official Journal.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Japan Deregulation Priorities

The EU has presented their new version of "EU Priority Proposals for Regulatory Reform in Japan." This is published every year.

Ambassador Bernhard Zepter has presented these proposals to the Japanese Council for Regulatory Reform on November 6.

The next High Level Meeting on Regulatory Reform in Japan will take place in Tokyo on November 14.

This year's proposals include:

The EU welcomes that Japan has lifted the prohibition against partnerships between Japanese lawyers and foreign lawyers admitted in Japan (gaiben), stronger enforcement of competition laws, and the promotion of foreign direct investment. And requests with priority that:

The system of journalists clubs (kisha club) should be abolished.

Abolish the NTT law and all special treatment of NTT.

Steps should be taken to increase the number of landing and take-off slots at airports.

Japan should recognise that in the EU single market regulations on food safety are taken on an EU-wide basis. Therefore, Japan should stop asking every Member State for seperate approval procedures for import of animal or plant products.

There is much more in the 44 page document.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 26, 2003

GM Food Regulation

The Official Journal of October 18th publishes Regulation 1829/2003 on genetically modified food and feed. Under that regulation, authorisation is required for selling. It also requires labelling. It is accompanied by Regulation 1830/2003 which wants to make sure of traceability for GM food.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 19, 2003

Telekom Fine Decision

As I have reported in May, Deutsche Telekom has been fined 12.6 million Euro by the Commission for overpricing in the local loop.

Now the decision has been published in the Official Journal.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Food Safety

A few links on various food safety issues:

Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom defended the EU decision to approve genetically modified food in Europe after five years, if that food is labeled as such.

The Commission has called for an end to sanctions in the conflict over hormone use in beef production, citing a new directive and new scientific research results. See this Commission page and this press release of the Delegation of the European Commission to the United States for more background.


Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 12, 2003

WTO Rules Application

The German American Law Journal points to this new decision of the Court of Justice on the question of applicating the WTO rules. This is about the export of American beef to the EU, a case where the EU has lost at the WTO level but still hasn't solved the problem.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 03:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 11, 2003

Nintendo Fine

The EU has fined Nintendo 149.128 million Euro for violating competition law by obstructing parallel imports through most of the 90ies last year, see this Guardian story by Andrew Osborn.

Now that decision has been published in the Official Journal (No. L 255 of October 8).

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 04:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flight Passenger Data Protection

The European Parliament has followed up on its resolution of March 14 and the Data Protection Working Party June 13 opinion with another strongly worded resolution opposing handing over the data of flight passengers to the U.S. government, which doesn't have the necessary data protection standards in place.

Link found at Emerging Technologies.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 02:43 PM | TrackBack

October 04, 2003

Car Sector Competition Rules

The Commission Regulation 1400/2002 of 31 July 2002 on the application of Article 81 (3) of the Treaty to categories of vertical agreements and concerted practices in the car sector has entered into force on October 1st last year. On October 1st, 2003, the transitional period for agreements already in force on September 30, 2002, has run out.

Car dealers are now allowed to sell multiple brands. And independent repair services will get full more freedom to buy spare parts from other sources.

After another transition period running out in September 2005, dealers will be able to establish delivery or sales outlets in other Member States.

For more details see this eubusiness.com article and the Commission Competition DG car sector page.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 28, 2003

Illegal American Dumping Law

The EU is contemplating $4 billion sanctions against the US because of the "Foreign Sales Corporations" subsidies illegal under the WTO treaty.

And now, at the occasion of the third anniversary of the WTO decision declaring the American dumping law illegal under WTO, the EU has announced that patience is over and action is called for.

The EU looks at trade sanctions, but also plans to enact a regulation that would prohibit the enforcement of any illegal American decisions in the EU and would allow EU companies who are persecuted under the illegal American law to countersue in the EU against American plaintiffs for all damages arising from such lawsuits.

Some more background in this eurobusiness.com article and this press release by the EU delegation to the US.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Accession Treaty

has been published in the Official Journal on September 23.

Find out more about enlargement of the EU at this Commission page.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 23, 2003

Volkswagen Fine

of 90 million Euro for obstruction of the internal market (stopping Italian dealers from selling to foreign costumers) has been confirmed by the European Court of Justice. See this FAZ weekly article.

Link found at German American Law Journal.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 22, 2003

Japanese Legal Market

This EU press release celebrates a success for the EU demands for deregulation of the Japanese market for legal services.

"Registered foreign lawyers" will be able to freely form partnerships with Japanese lawyers in future.

See also this eurobusiness.com article.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 04:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2003

Tobacco Warning Photographs

Article 5 paragraph 3 of the 2001 directive on tabacco health warning expects the Commission to decide on rules for drastic photographic warnings. Member States will be free to require photographic health warnings, but if they do so, they need to follow the policy set by the Commission decision.

The Commission now wants to go ahead with "hard-hitting pictures". In the words of Health and Consumer Protection Commissioner David Byrne:

(David Byrne) "We have to find new and innovative ways to illustrate the shocking truth that half of all smokers will be killed by their habit."

See this eurobusiness.com article for more information and this Commission page for background.

A Commission decision on the issue has been published in the Official Journal on September 10.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:54 PM | TrackBack

August 02, 2003

Spam

This article on eubusiness.com gives a good overview about EU spam regulation. I have blogged this before here.

The European Coalition Against Unsolicited Email has more.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:31 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 14, 2003

US Acting Again Against WTO Obligations

A complaint by the EU, Japan and several other nations about US steel tariffs was sucessful: The WTO panel ruled that the tariffs are illegal.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:41 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 12, 2003

Four Billion Dollars

of sanctions against the US are authorized by the WTO because of the persistent failure to abolish illegal export subsidies.

Now the general counsel in the Office of the US Trade Representative actually called for action before the close of the congressional season next month.

So I might be wrong expecting no American movement in this issue.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Constitution Drafting Finished

The Convention on the Future of Europe has finished its work of drafting an European Constitution.

However, there is as yet no political agreement on that draft. It will only be a "good starting point" for further negotiation.

So it remains uncertain if there is much of a future for the draft.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 10, 2003

EU-Japan Competition Law Agreement

The Delegation of the European Commission in Japan informs in a press release that Japan and the EU have signed an agreement about cooperation in competition law enforcement. The European Commission and the Japanese Fair Trade Commission will exchange information and be able to request the other party to start enforcement procedures.

Similar agreements are in force already with the US and Canada.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 07, 2003

Stallman on Berlusconi

There is no procedure for electing a President of the European Union, but a rotation between Member States taking the presidency of the Council for six months each.

That way, the EU can end up with someone representing the whole bloc who doesn't necessarily have much political support in many Member States.

Now that rotation has reached Italy, and its Chancellor Berlusconi has got off to a bad start. Richard Stallman is making fun of him:

(Richard Stallman) "I think I understand why Berlusconi feels he does not need to apologize. It is because he did not mean the comparison with fascism as a criticism. In his mind, it was a compliment."

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

July 06, 2003

Genetically Modified Food

A directive requiring clear indication of genetic modification on labels has been approved by the European Parliament.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:26 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 30, 2003

Strange Directive

The June 26 edition of the Official Journal publishes a directive on the taxing of savings income in the form of interest payments.

Article 17 has the usual wording about transposition. Member States need to finish necessary legislation to comply with the directive until January 2004.

However, they only have to apply these provisions from January 2005 on if the Council decides so by unanimity.

Of course, there is no guarantee whatsover that such a decision will be taken. So Member States might end up drafting legislation which will never be applied.

The reason for this strange new kind of directive seems to be the wish to pretend the necessary compromise for legislation has been reached, when in fact that is not true.

One can hope that the Swiss will abolish banking secrecy in the next few months, actually giving a point to this directive legislation. I would be rather surprised to see that happen.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 28, 2003

Farm Subsidies

The biggest part of the EU budget as well as a very large part of its legislation are dedicated to farm subsidies. After long and difficult negotiations, agreement on a sweeping reform of the system has been reached: Gradually subsidies for individual products will be phased out and replaced with single farm payments independent from production, but linked to respect for environmental, food safety and animal health and welfare standards.

More at eurobusiness.com.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:02 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 24, 2003

Constitution

The Thessaloniki European Council was not able to agree on the draft constitution. The draft will be used as a "good starting point" for further discussion in a Intergovernmental Conference, at the level of Heads of State or Government and including new member states.

The problem with this kind of discussion: Even one member state's objection is enough to stop any proposal. That makes negotiation difficult.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2003

Tobacco Advertising

The June 20 edition of the Official Journal (L 152/16) publishes directive 2003/33 of May 26 on tabacco advertising and sponsoring.

The directive's reasons note that tobacco is an "addictive product responsible for over half a million deaths in the Community annually".

The directive then goes on to prohibit most tobacco product advertising. Specifically advertising in print publications, radio, Internet services, and by event sponsorship.

The European Court of Justice annulled directive 98/43 in case C-376/98. That directive tried to limit advertising as well, but went too far, in the opinion of the Court.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 01:36 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 18, 2003

European Flight Data

The European Data Protection Working Party has published an opinion on the level of privacy protection in the U.S. regarding the data of over 10 million airline passengers per year. That opinion raises numerous concerns. There seem to be quite a few problems left to solve before the Commission can decide that said data may be transferred to the U.S. under European data protection law.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 03:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 16, 2003

Health Warning

This health warning was even stronger than that in European Union law: "You're dead."

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 12:39 AM | TrackBack

June 09, 2003

Parliament Piracy Declaration

Be Spacific points to this declaration of the European Parliament requesting "strong civil sanctions for any intellectual property infringement and tough criminal penalties for commercial scale counterfeiting".

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:13 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Burghardt on Transatlantic Relations

The Head of the European Union Delegation to the United States, Ambassador Guenter Burghardt, delivered a speech on transatlantic relations on June 4th.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:08 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Congo

Here is the Council decision of June 5 on the European Union military operation in Congo, based on the UN Security Council Resolution 1484 of May 30. High Representative Solana explains this military action here to the press.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 08, 2003

Zepter on the Convention

Ambassador Bernhard Zepter, Head of the delegation of the European Commission in Japan, delivered a speech at Doshisha University in Kyoto on 31 May 2003, titled "The European Constitution and the Future of the European Union". It is a good summary introduction to the present debate about an European Constitution.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 07, 2003

Stallman and Hill

The Guardian has an article by Richard Stallman and Nick Hill on the proposal to legalize software patents in Europe.

They have one interesting argument I haven't heard yet: Why should the EU investigate Microsoft for monopolistic practices and give them new monopolies (software patents) at the same time?

Link credit: digitalconsumer.org.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Illegal and Harmful Content

The extension of the action program to combat illegal and harmful Internet content proposed by the Commission and approved by the Parliament has now also been approved by the Council.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

US Auditor Registration

The EU Council requested the US to reconsider requiring European audit firms to register with the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The Commission has done so before.

Prospective new member states have aligned themselves with that request.

In the view of the Council, the present American position is unacceptable, since it leads to American oversight of EU audit firms, with powers of inspection, sanction and access to confidential documents for the American Public Company Accounting Oversight Board.

Link credit: eubusiness.com.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

France Deficit

The EU Council has decided, against the votes of Denmark and the Netherlands, on a recommendation requiring France to take measures reducing its excessive deficit until October 3.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 01, 2003

Trademark Abuse

The Commission has published a report on possible abuses of the EU trademark system. Their conclusion is that there are no serious problems making necessary a reform of trademark or competition law at the moment.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tiered Pricing

The EU council has adopted a regulation that establishes a voluntary system for exporting essential medicines at strongly reduced prices to developing countries. Manufacturers using that option can mark their products for export and prevent re-importing and distribution to the EU, which will be illegal.

This is applicable to both patented and generic products, but it is one possible solution to the conflict between protecting patients and protecting patents.

Link credit: eubusiness.com.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2003

Fine Against Telekom

Deutsche Telekom has been fined by the Commission for abuse of a dominant position through unfair prices for the local loop, to the amount of 12.6 million Euro.

Link credit: eubusiness.com.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

.eu TLD

The Commission has decided on the registry for the new .eu top level domain and expects to have it working by next year.

Link credit: eubusiness.com.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:32 PM | TrackBack

EU Auditing Regulation

The EU insists again that the U.S. should not try to regulate European accounting firms.

Commissioner Frits Bolkestein said:

"I want European solutions tailored to our needs, respectful of our different cultures with the full support of the European profession. I do not accept the imposition of US standards on our firms and that is why the European Union strongly opposes registration of EU audit firms with the United States' Public Company Accounting Oversight Board. The EU will regulate its own businesses."

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 11, 2003

Car Cooperation

The EU and Japan have decided to work together on common standards in the car sector, according to this Daily Yomiuri article.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 01:42 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 08, 2003

4 Billion Speedbump

The EU is expecting the US to stop illegal export subsidies violating the WTO, the Foreign Sales Corporations scheme. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body authorized retaliatory sanctions of $4 billion of US trade, and the EU plans to introduce sanctions by next year if the US insists on keeping up the illegal export subsidy scheme.

$4 billion sounds like a lot of money, and it is. However, total imports to the EU from the US were over 195 billion Euro in 2001, according to the statistics on the Commission homepage. So $4 billion seems to be less than two percent of all imports. A speedbump, not significant in the big picture.

This violation of international trade law is no new idea of the Bush government, for a change. It goes back all the way to 1971. It will be interesting to see if these new sanctions actually join existing ones of the EU against the US, and if they will have any practical force to stop illegal American subsidies. I'll believe it when I see it, but I would be surprised to see substantial American movement on this issue.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:18 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2003

EU Spam directives

This BBC article claims that an European Union directive will make spam illegal in the EU from October on (Slashdot discussion).

That is somewhat misleading. Directives are addressed to the Member States. They have to adjust their legislation to transpose the directive. As long as that doesn't happen, there is no legal effect. The October date is the deadline for completing the Member State legislation. It does not mean the directive will have any direct effect.

Actually there are two relevant directives:


Article seven of the 2000 Electronic Commerce Directive says:

Article 7

Unsolicited commercial communication

1. In addition to other requirements established by Community law, Member States which permit unsolicited commercial communication by electronic mail shall ensure that such commercial communication by a service provider established in their territory shall be identifiable clearly and unambiguously as such as soon as it is received by the recipient.

2. Without prejudice to Directive 97/7/EC and Directive 97/66/EC, Member States shall take measures to ensure that service providers undertaking unsolicited commercial communications by electronic mail consult regularly and respect the opt-out registers in which natural persons not wishing to receive such commercial communications can register themselves.

So we have part one of the Lessig proposal to require labeling of spam already in the EU.

And the other directive is the July 2002 Electronic Communications Privacy Directive.

Article 13 of that directive makes opt-in the default, with some exceptions:

Article 13
Unsolicited communications

1. The use of automated calling systems without human intervention (automatic calling machines), facsimile machines (fax) or electronic mail for the purposes of direct marketing may only be allowed in respect of subscribers who have given their prior consent.

2. Notwithstanding paragraph 1, where a natural or legal person obtains from its customers their electronic contact details for electronic mail, in the context of the sale of a product or a service, in accordance with Directive 95/46/EC, the same natural or legal person may use these electronic contact details for direct marketing of its own similar products or services provided that customers clearly and distinctly are given the opportunity to object, free of charge and in an easy manner, to such use of electronic contact details when they are collected and on the occasion of each message in case the customer has not initially refused such use.

3. Member States shall take appropriate measures to ensure that, free of charge, unsolicited communications for purposes of direct marketing, in cases other than those referred to in paragraphs 1 and 2, are not allowed either without the consent of the subscribers concerned or in respect of subscribers who do not wish to receive these communications, the choice between these options to be determined by national legislation.

4. In any event, the practice of sending electronic mail for purposes of direct marketing disguising or concealing the identity of the sender on whose behalf the communication is made, or without a valid address to which the recipient may send a request that such communications cease, shall be prohibited.

5. Paragraphs 1 and 3 shall apply to subscribers who are natural persons. Member States shall also ensure, in the framework of Community law and applicable national legislation, that the legitimate interests of subscribers other than natural persons with regard to unsolicited communications are sufficiently protected.

The deadline for transposition of this directive is October 31, 2003.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:58 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 03, 2003

TABD

That's "Trans-Atlantic Business Dialogue".

The EU and US have confirmed their commitment to talk about trade relations lately.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:42 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 27, 2003

Safer Internet Program

The Commission proposed in March 2002 to extend the 1999 program to combat illegal and harmful content on the Internet for another two years, with a budget of 13.5 million Euro for 2003 and 2004. Parliament approved that proposal with some changes.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 12:14 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 25, 2003

Telecom Markets

are liberalized in the EU since 1998 - and still prices for DSL lines are higher than in the US and in Japan.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 02:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

EU ordering US

to exempt EU accounting firms from the new registration obligation introduced by legislation in reaction to the Enron scandal - or face an obligation for US firms to register seperately in all 15 EU jurisdictions.

No, wait. I admit that this is not the most accurate description of the situation. The EU knows that ordering other countries to do something and threatening them with "punishment" makes for stupid diplomacy. So they requested the SEC to consider the issue. Ordering other countries around and thinking that you can run the whole world alone is the style of the Bush government, not of the EU Commission.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 02:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

EU following US

in imposing antidumping tariffs against Korean chip maker Hynix.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 01:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2003

Accession Treaty

signed on April 16, with an informal European Council and an "Athens Declaration".

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:35 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2003

German Legislation

The German Parliament approved legislation to transform the 2001 European copyright directive into German law.

One central point of the discussion was the new Article 52a of the copyright law. This is a new fair use exception: Copying works for education or research purposes becomes legal under certain conditions spelled out in that article. Since there are many critics of this new system, there is a sun-set provision until 2006 for it.

The American embassy lobbied against this article. American science publishers have their largest foreign market in Germany, accounting for about 8 percent of sales. That lobby effort was without success, however.

The new legislation's part corresponding to the American DMCA is in the
Articles 95a and 95b. The first article is a prohibition of circumventing technological protection measures. The second one wants to balance the regulation by assuring that fair use rights are preserved. Rightholders have a duty to make available the means of benefitting from existing fair use rights. This balanced approach was already adopted in Article 6 of the directive.

Update April 14: See also this article, via fosblog.
Slashdot discussion here.

Update April 15:

Another good article on the academic and educational use question, also via fosblog.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 01:01 PM | TrackBack

Overdue Legislation

One thing France and the United Kingdom have in common: they have failed to transform the directive on end-of-life vehicles (deadline expired April 2002). The Commission has now decided to sue them before the Court of Justice, along with several other member states.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:52 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Passports for Pets

The European Parliament approved new rules for pets enabling them to travel freely in the EU if they bear an electronic chip showing they are free of rabies.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:27 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 10, 2003

Enlargement

The European Parliament has approved 10 new members joining the EU.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 05:11 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 04, 2003

Community Design

The new EU Community Design has started registrations on April 1st.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Network Security

The EU plans to create an European information security agency before the end of the year, see this article.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

16.7 million fine

for French farmers' unions because of price-fixing for beef in the mad cow crisis, see this article.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

EU Standards

Article about work on standards in Europe:

There are 14,000 European standards available now. The European Commission, the EFTA, and the three official European Standards Organizations adopted new co-operation guidelines on March 28.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 02, 2003

PICT Website

Walter Simon points to the new website of the Project on International Courts and Tribunal. The core of that site is a news section covering developments at international courts, for example the European Court of Justice, which is described as "by far the largest, busiest, most complex and developed of the judicial bodies described".

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 29, 2003

Steel Tariffs

violating WTO. Dispute settlement panel ruled against the U.S. in the case brought by the European Union and seven other countries. See this article in the Financial Times.

Link credit: Tim Dunlop.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2003

Entrepreneurship

Joi Ito is concerned about lack of entrepreneurship in Japan.

The EU summit this week has made this one of their main points:

From the Presidency Conclusions:

"12. To push ahead with reform, the European Council identifies the following priorities:

(...)

- Giving priority to innovation and entrepreneurship. Europe has a vast innovation potential. but it needs to do more to turn ideas into real value-added. Boosting the interaction between industry and research institutions is at the heart of realising our entrepreneurial potential. The industrial sector is a vital source of growth and employment and will continue to play an important role in the knowledge-based economy. The right conditions for R&D need to be developed. in particular by businesses. so the EU can move towards its R&D investment target of approaching 3% of GDP. Measures must be taken to facilitate market entry and exit for businesses of all sizes, improve access to finance and know-how, improve regulation and reduce administrative burdens. Action is also needed to encourage the spirit of enterprise among young people.

Fostering enterprise and entrepreneurship

22. Dynamic and competitive industry and services are needed to sustain growth and prosperity in an enlarged Europe. Further efforts at the EU and national levels are needed to improve the overall business environment for all sectors, including tourism, reduce the administrative and regulatory burden on business and in particular encourage small firms to start-up and grow. It is also essential to promote the culture of entrepreneurship by motivating individuals and encouraging society to value entrepreneurial success. Finally, attention must be paid to re-establishing public trust in business by encouraging responsible corporate governance.

23. Against this background, the European Council:

- urges Member States to participate actively in the consultation process following the presentation of the Commission's Green Paper on "Entrepreneurship in Europe" and invites the Commission to propose as a follow-up a European entrepreneurship Action Plan before the 2004 Spring European Council, with special attention paid to making business start-ups easier and quicker, facilitating access to low-cost finance, in particular venture capital, and micro-credits, and improving bankruptcy legislation;

- invites Member States to develop initiatives to foster entrepreneurship more actively through the education system and to promote the value of entrepreneurship in society at large, including by setting up EU-wide entrepreneurship awards in collaboration with employers organisations;

- encourages Member States to speed up the implementation of the European Charter for Small Enterprises in an innovative way in order to ensure a more effective involvement and consultation of small businesses in the policy-making process; lend it greater focus, making full use of possibilities offered by appropriate national targets and peer review, for example in speeding up the process to set up and register a new business.


The Green Paper "Entrepreneurship in Europe" is here. The Commission is soliciting comments until June 30, 2003.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:09 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

German Debt

for 2002 is at 60.8 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), with a total of 1283 billion euros. Public deficit has also exceeded 3 percent last year. That is over the limits of the EU stability pact.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:07 AM | TrackBack

March 14, 2003

European Parliament

adopted with 414 to 44 votes a resolution demanding that EU airline passenger data are not handed over to the U.S., where there is no privacy protection.

There is a boycott running against Delta Airlines for their willingness to comply with the new American privacy violations.

Update 23.03.2003: This commission FAQ gives some background on the issue.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Criticism

of the patent agreement from European employers association. They don't like the translation compromise.

There is also a new study "The possible introduction of an insurance against costs for litigation in patent cases" by CJA Consultants Ltd, European Policy Advisers, Britain and Brussels (12 March 2003) at the Commission website.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2003

International Trade

Bag and Baggage points to an interesting new blog on international trade law, written by Stanford K. McCoy.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 10:47 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 07, 2003

EU Trade Commissioner

Pascal Lamy on March 3:

"Let's agree to make 2003 the year of WTO compliance. It's one thing for the big powers of the WTO to rule the waves. What we can't afford to do is waive the rules."

The US has a massive compliance problem with WTO. And an even more serious one with the UN Charter.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'll believe it

when I see it in the Official Journal. This is not the first announcement that the EU agrees on joint patent system. Basically the language issue is extremely difficult to solve.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 06:20 PM | TrackBack

February 28, 2003

EU sanctions

against the US because of the American violation of WTO obligations by the "Foreign Sales Corporations" tax laws are getting closer.

The WTO has decided against the US in last August, entitling the EU to impose sanctions of 4 billion dollars in punitive trade tariffs against the US. Following consultations, a list of American products targeted for sanctions has been compiled. However, the EU hopes that the American side finds back to respecting the WTO, so that the sanctions won't actually be necessary.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 27, 2003

Ambassador

of the EU to Japan Bernhard Zepter's speech at the Asia-Europe Forum on 22. February provides some insights into why Europeans (especially France and Germany) are in no particular rush to start illegal wars.

From the speech manuscript:

"The consolidation of nation states on European soil drove a deeper and deeper wedge into our continent. Nationalism and imperialism did their part to split the continent further, culminating in the 20th century with the two world wars which have been described by historians as "European civil wars".

The maxim "never war between us" became, therefore, the guiding principle of the Founding Fathers of the Rome Treaty. The origin of recent regional integration in Europe was to free the continent from war and to promote peace and prosperity through co-operation. The EEC and its forerunner the ECSC were built on the principles of mutual dependence and reconciliation.

It is significant that it was France and Germany, the two major antagonists on the continent and belligerents in three long-lasting European wars within one hundred years, who were the driving force behind European integration. To begin the integration process with industrial production like coal and steel was not unintentional : To submit them to a common integrated structure allowed control of two important industrial items which had been in the past the basis for military power and aggression."

One point of European integration was to avoid new wars between European nations. That part has worked well for the last fifty years.

One other point was to acquire more weight in bilateral relations, especially with the US. Which comes in handy whenever the American government thinks they can threaten sovereign European states into doing what the Americans want, as opposed to what the majority of the European people want.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 18, 2003

EU summit

again confirms its opposition to a war without UN mandate:

"We are committed to the United Nations remaining at the centre of the international order. We recognise that the primary responsibility for dealing with Iraqi disarmament lies with the Security Council."

The opinion of the eight European leaders said the same, contrary to popular belief.

If the U.S. decides to violate international law and invade Iraq immediately without security council mandate, that step will be clearly opposed to the above opinion of the EU.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:45 AM | TrackBack

February 16, 2003

First EU military operation

is prepared after the Council decided on January 27th to send EU forces to former Yugoslavia. The operation is scheduled to take over from NATO operation "Allied Harmony" from march on.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 08:44 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 04, 2003

EU privacy and Microsoft

In a Document adopted by the Data Protection Working Party there is information about the EU influence on Microsoft to provide better privacy protection for people using .NET passport.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 11:27 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 02, 2003

Treaty of Nice

The Treaty of Nice has entered into force February 1st.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 07:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 26, 2003

EU banking secrecy

is not going away any time soon.

In a EU deal on secret savings a withholding tax of 35 percent on savings will be phased in until 2010, but banking secrecy will stay intact until the Swiss abolish it (that is, will stay intact forever).

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at 09:28 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack