European Union. Here are some of the events and decisions
within the EU that got the attention during the year.
The EU-US banana war ended in 2001. In the
eight-year conflict, the EU was accused by the US of
importing bananas only from former European colonies in
Africa and the Caribbean, which disadvantaged banana
exporters in Central America. To put pressure on the EU, the
United States imposed 100% penalties on a variety of goods
exported from the EU to the United States. The EU is now
changing its rules on banana imports and is starting to buy
bananas again from Central America while the US is raising
Bank charges. The banks must reduce the fees for
cross-border payments in euros - it must not cost more than
one payment within the country. For withdrawals in ATMs, the
regulation will start to apply on 1 July 2002 and for other
payments one year later. Countries that are outside EMU,
Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom are free to choose
whether to adopt this regulation.
Bavarian beer, Swedish problem. Bayerisches Bier
has been protected as a geographical indication, which means
that only beer from the German state of Bavaria may be
called so. The protection also applies to translations and
allusions to the original designation. The EU decision poses
problems for Swedish Spendrups. brewing beer called
Spendrups Bavarian. However, the company's CEO Jens Spendrup
explains that they intend to continue brewing and selling
Dioxin in fish. Sweden and Finland negotiated an
exemption for domestic fish consumption from new limit
values for dioxin in fish. The new maximum limit from 1
July 2002 for the dioxin content is 1.25 picograms of dioxin
per gram of fish meat. The rules apply until 2006, when all
limit values for dioxin in food must be reviewed. The
exception rules for Sweden and Finland mean that oily Baltic
fish with higher dioxin levels, mainly herring, salmon and
eel, can continue to be sold in these two countries.
However, the condition is that consumers are informed about
dietary recommendations for the risk groups, e.g. young
women of childbearing age. However, fish exceeding the limit
value for approved dioxin content must not be sold to any
other EU country nor used as animal feed.
Drinking water. Sweden incorporates the EC
drinking water directive into the Swedish regulations, which
imposes new limits on when the water is unfit because it
contains pesticides, nitrates, copper or fluoride. The new
Swedish quality requirements for tap water are slightly
higher than the minimum drinking water directives. It also
becomes mandatory to look at the quality of the wiring
networks - previously this was just a general advice. The
rules start to apply on Christmas Day 2003.
Organic products receive a common EU logo in all
member states, according to a decision by the European
Commission. Labeling may be used on pre-packaged Goods where
at least 95% of the product's ingredients are organic raw
material. National markings, such as the KRAV or Demeter
mark, may be used in conjunction with the logo.
EU authorities. At the Laeken summit in December
for EU heads of state and government, there was a great deal
of trouble and collapse in the negotiations on the location
of EU authorities. The first and biggest dispute concerned
the Food Authority, where 14 of the 15 member countries
first supported a placement in Helsinki. However, against
this proposal, Italy strongly objected and pleaded for the
placement of the authority in Parma in its own country.
In anticipation of a future decision, the Food Authority
will be provisionally placed in Brussels on 1 January 2002.
The Union Prosecutor's Office, Eurojust, will be
provisionally placed in the Netherlands The Hague, which is
also expected to be the permanent location once the heads of
state and government can agree.
European Science Advisory Council, or ESAC
ABBREVIATIONFINDER, a new
expert advisory body to assist EU politicians in complex
issues related to science, the environment and medicine. It
was officially formed in June at a meeting at the Royal
Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. Professor Uno
Lindberg, foreign secretary at the Academy of Sciences, was
elected the first chair of the expert body.
Hazardous waste. A number of new types of waste
are classified as hazardous waste from 1 January 2002.
Examples of hazardous waste in the EU's new waste list are
impregnated wood, electrical and electronic scrap such as
old refrigerators, scrap cars, cables containing oil or
harmful substances, construction waste containing asbestos
and waste from sulphide ore mines. According to EU rules,
everyone who handles hazardous waste must seek special
permission from municipalities or county boards.
The Falukurven has received special protection
from the European Commission. In order to be protected, the
product must have special properties that distinguish it
from similar products or that the product has proven
properties. Specific protection does not mean that fallow
sausages may only be manufactured in Falun or in Sweden, but
if a fallow sausage is manufactured in, for example,
Germany, it must comply with the specific product
specification. The symbol for special protection is a ring
with EU stars surrounded by the text "Guaranteed traditional
Refugee Policy. The EU countries agreed on a
joint action plan to quickly provide temporary protection to
a large number of refugees in exceptional crisis situations.
This may be the case when thousands of people were driven
from their homes in Bosnia and Kosovo. The financial burden
for this type of refugee reception should be shared evenly
between EU countries. The temporary refugees are entitled to
reunite with their families. By family is meant spouses,
cohabitants and their children. Whether additional family
members are to be covered is determined by the respective
recipient country. The refugees should be allowed to take up
work immediately and they must also be guaranteed housing,
emergency care and education. A temporary protection
decision lasts for one year, but can be renewed
automatically for another twelve months. The protection can
be granted for a maximum of three years.
The rules for temporary protection should not replace the
normal asylum procedure, but the refugees should have the
opportunity to have an asylum application tested.
Football players should not be regarded as any
workers. To avoid the risk of players switching clients at
short notice, the football organizations agreed with the
European Commission on a framework for player transitions.
The settlement involves, among other things, that when a
player under 23 is recruited, the original club should be
able to receive financial compensation. A solidarity system
will be created to compensate the clubs that lose players.
In case of breach of contract, it is the national courts
that can ultimately decide which compensation is reasonable.
GMOs. There will be stricter requirements for
labeling and tracking of genetically modified organisms,
GMOs, in food and feed, according to a proposal from the
European Commission. If GMO has been used, they should be
traceable throughout the food chain, from the farmer to the
dining table. All foods containing GMOs must also be labeled
in the trade. The Swedish Food Agency supports the proposal.
Transparency. For the first time, citizens have
been given a law on transparency in the EU and the right to
access documents from the three EU institutions Council of
Ministers, Parliament and the Commission. EU public law does
not go as far as Swedish law, but goes further than
legislation in many of the other countries. Sweden has been
a driving force in the issue of expanding citizens'
transparency in the EU; France, Germany and Spain have shown
the least enthusiasm. As a success for the EU's openness, an
EC judgment states that it is the content of a document that
should be confidential, not the document itself. According
to this, parts of a document should be disclosed.
Participation. EU labor ministers agreed on an
EU-MBL, a law that gives workers influence in their
workplace through information and consultation with company
management. The rules shall apply to companies with more
than fifty employees or operating facilities with at least
twenty employees. Sweden already has a co-determination law,
and is thus not very much affected by EU-MBL. However,
adapting to EU regulations may mean that companies will be
fined more if they violate MBL. The proposal for minimum
rules on the influence of workers is one of the major
achievements of the Swedish Presidency of the EU. In the
long run, Britain opposed these EU rules.
VAT on digital products. Vendors outside the EU
will be charged VAT on the price of computer games, software
and other digital products sold on-line via the Internet to
private individuals. When products are sold to companies
(90% of the market), the current VAT system should continue
to apply, which means that VAT must be paid by the importing
Trafficking in human beings. There will be
harsher punishment, a minimum of eight years in prison, for
people who engage in human trafficking, according to a
framework decision agreed by EU countries. A common
definition of what is human trafficking should facilitate
the police cooperation of the countries. Trafficking in
human beings involves the recruitment or transport of people
for the purpose of exploiting them in prostitution or in
other types of work. It is also punishable to receive the
smuggled people and exercise some kind of control over them.
The operation is illegal if the victims are misled or their
vulnerable situation exploited - even if no coercion,
violence or threats have been used.
In July, SAS and Maersk were convicted of
violating EU competition law. Airlines SAS and Danish Maersk
Air were fined almost SEK 400 million and SEK 130 million
respectively. The year before, it had been discovered that
the companies had entered into a secret agreement to divide
the market. The agreement gave SAS a monopoly on the
Copenhagen-Stockholm route and an increased market share on
the Oslo-Copenhagen route.
Divorce in an EU country should automatically be
recognized throughout the Union, according to an EU
regulation. The Swedish Parliament has also approved the
proposal to introduce a new law to enforce foreign divorce
judgments in Sweden.
Combating terrorism.Following the terrorist
attack on the World Trade Center in New York, on September
17, 2001, the EU proclaimed a day of mourning to manifest
its solidarity with American citizens. A declaration called
on EU countries to step up efforts to fight terrorism. In
November, the European Commission adopted a regulation on
terrorism, which This meant that the countries should comply
with the UN sanction against 46 organizations and 16 private
individuals who were labeled as terrorist financiers and for
having contact with the Taliban leader Usama bin Ladin or
the al-Qaeda terrorist organization. The sanction imposed
was an immediate freeze on the designated financial assets
of all EU countries. Among the designated were the Swedish
part of the payment company al-Barakaat, a company for the
transfer of money to Somalia in particular.
The definition of EU Justice Ministers states, inter alia,
that crimes that could seriously harm a country or
international organization should be considered as terrorist
crimes. However, it was agreed that violent protesters
should not be labeled as terrorists. In Swedish legislation,
the concept of terrorism does not exist, and Sweden has
explained that the country may deviate from the EU agreement
if the Riksdag subsequently makes such a decision.
Tetra Pak must not grow. The European Commission
banned the Tetra Laval group, which includes the packaging
company Tetra Pak, from buying the French company Sidel SA,
the leading manufacturer of PET bottles. The ban is
justified by the fact that a purchase would mean that Tetra
Pak, which is already the world's largest manufacturer of
cardboard packaging, would have an overly dominant position.
Only two countries, including Sweden, objected to the ban on
Tobacco. A compromise was adopted with tougher
rules for the sale of tobacco. As of September 30, 2002, 30%
of the front and 40% of the back of the cigarette packets
will be covered by warning texts such as "Smoking kills!" or
specific information about e.g. lung cancer. It becomes free
to demand images of e.g. a cancer-affected mouthpiece on the
packages. The tobacco companies are forced to report all
substances in a cigarette, and they are prohibited from
using terms such as "mild" and "light".
Customs duty is introduced by the EU in trade
with 48 of the world's poorest countries. The decision means
that the duties are immediately removed on import of all
goods, except for bananas (which will be duty-free only in
2006) and sugar and rice (which may wait until 2009 to be
Copyright. New EU copyright rules mean that a
copyright holder has the exclusive right to allow or
prohibit all dissemination and copying of his works. The
exception is copying for individual use, provided the
authors receive reasonable compensation. As a possible
measure to solve the remuneration issue, a special fee will
be seen in the future for computers and other recording
technology. The EU Directive prohibits all technology used
to crack codes or to remove copy protection. It is also
prohibited to sell or market such technology. The background
to the new rules is that a large number of films, programs
and music are disseminated via the Internet, which means
that e.g. artists and record companies are losing out on big
Vins Cat. In Sweden, the tax on wine was reduced
on December 1 by just over SEK 5 per liter. The European
Commission had previously complained that Sweden, through
the lower tax on beer, indirectly disadvantaged wine from
other Union countries. In the face of the threat that the
case would be brought to the European Court of Justice, the
parliamentary decision on tax cuts was made.
Care of the sick. Patients are given an
increased opportunity to seek care in another EU country at
their own expense if the home care cannot be obtained within
a reasonable time. It was settled in an EC judgment during
the summer. The ruling means that free movement within the
EU also applies to healthcare and that it covers all the
countries of the Union. However, patients who plan to
utilize health care in another EU country must first request
a preliminary examination with the insurance fund, which in
turn advises the county council. Countries must not set such
conditions that in practice it will always be no. For the
care of the acutely ill, there have already been rules in
place for the own country to bear the costs of care.