European Union. Here are some of the events and decisions within the EU that got the attention in 2005.
Alcohol. During the autumn, Swedish Systembolaget invested SEK 8 million on an advertising campaign to draw attention to decision-makers in Europe and the Swedish people on how the 50-year Swedish alcohol monopoly works. In advertisements, designed as a letter to the EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso from the system company manager Anitra Steen, it is pointed out that the system company monopoly has resulted in Swedish alcohol consumption being among the lowest in Europe. Systembolaget also points to a research report that concludes that taxes and monopolies are effective tools for keeping consumption low. The advertising campaign came a few weeks before the European Court of Justice began negotiations on Internet trading in alcohol. Reports earlier in the year show that the Swedes’ intake of alcohol increases and on average is 10.5 liters of pure alcohol per year for each person over 15 years.
Apoteket. A decision in the European Court of Justice in May means that the Swedish pharmacy monopoly, in the form of state-owned Apoteket AB, may be allowed to remain. However, the European Court points out that some changes in the regulations for Apoteket must be made. This applies especially to the selection of drugs, where Apoteket must ensure that no operator is discriminated against. The pharmacy will continue to be obliged to provide all medicines that are approved for sale in Sweden. An independent control body should also be established, to which drug manufacturers can turn and have their case tested if they are dissatisfied with how Apoteket provides their products.
Budget.It was difficult for the Member States to agree on the important money issues. At the June summit, the heads of government could not agree on any long-term EU budget for the years 2007-13, which led to stranded negotiations. At the December summit, Prime Minister Tony Blair, from the Presidency of the United Kingdom, first made a bid that no one wanted to accept. After another bid, the representatives of all member states were able to give their approval. In 2008–09, the Commission will review all revenue and expenditure of the EU budget. The hope is to neutralize the dispute over agricultural aid and the UK’s budget rebate. Agricultural policy and cohesion policy are also the dominant expenditure items in the new financial perspective. Many countries have called for a reduction in agricultural spending. Despite an extended discount, Sweden is expected to continue to be one of the countries that contribute most to the EU budget in relation to its economic strength. The short-term budget for 2006 was also established. In total, expenditure will be EUR 111 969 million, which is comparable to the 2005 budget of EUR 106 300 million. The Swedish Parliament approved commitments in the 2006 EU budget and set Sweden’s EU fee for this year at SEK 28 billion.
Energy savings. According to countryaah, the EU Member States are invited in a directive from Parliament to save more energy and to use the energy they have more efficiently, both in public and in private activities. The goal, which to Parliament’s disappointment is not binding, is to reduce energy use by 9% in 9 years. To their aid, Member States have three action plans to set different energy savings targets.
EU Constitution. The air ran out of the long-standing work on the new EU constitution, or constitution, after referendums on the issue were held in France at the end of May and in the Netherlands in early June. In both of these countries, a majority of citizens voted against the proposed EU Constitution. In the European Parliament, a large majority had previously agreed to the proposal for a new constitution. However, for the new constitution to enter into force, it must first be approved (ratified) by all 25 Member States. Several countries have already ratified the constitution. Sweden is one of the countries where the writing is to be approved by the Riksdag, while about ten countries have declared that the decision lies in referendums. Spain had a referendum on the issue in February, when the people said a clear yes to the constitution. However, the result of the referendums in France and the Netherlands means that the proposed constitution cannot enter into force in its present form. Several EU countries, including Sweden, the United Kingdom, Denmark and Estonia, declared during the summer that they halted the ratification process of the constitution until further notice. The United Kingdom, Denmark, Poland, Portugal and the Czech Republic had planned to hold referendums on the issue, but postponed them. However, Luxembourg held a referendum in July according to previous planning. Here, the majority of citizens supported the EU’s new constitution. The timetable has been changed for when a new constitution should be in place, and the term is now set for 2009. The UK, Denmark and Estonia declared during the summer that they had halted the ratification process of the constitution until further notice. The United Kingdom, Denmark, Poland, Portugal and the Czech Republic had planned to hold referendums on the issue, but postponed them. However, Luxembourg held a referendum in July according to previous planning. Here, the majority of citizens supported the EU’s new constitution. The timetable has been changed for when a new constitution should be in place, and the term is now set for 2009. The UK, Denmark and Estonia declared during the summer that they had halted the ratification process of the constitution until further notice. The United Kingdom, Denmark, Poland, Portugal and the Czech Republic had planned to hold referendums on the issue, but postponed them. However, Luxembourg held a referendum in July according to previous planning. Here, the majority of citizens supported the EU’s new constitution. The timetable has been changed for when a new constitution should be in place, and the term is now set for 2009. Here, the majority of citizens supported the EU’s new constitution. The timetable has been changed for when a new constitution should be in place, and the term is now set for 2009. Here, the majority of citizens supported the EU’s new constitution. The timetable has been changed for when a new constitution should be in place, and the term is now set for 2009.
Flights.For the aviation industry, new EU rules were introduced in February. Airline passengers have the right to receive financial compensation and free service when their flights are canceled just before the trip or if the departure is significantly delayed. The compensation will be extra high for travelers who are denied boarding due to the aircraft being overbooked. The airlines are obliged to inform the passengers’ rights. Each EU country should have an authority that handles airline complaints. In Sweden, this information has been taken care of by the Swedish Consumer Agency since July 1, 2005. Another decision that concerns air traffic is the “black list” which should be drawn up from 2006 on airlines that do not meet the safety requirements. The regulation requires Member States to notify to the Commission which airlines are banned on their territory. After informing the other Member States, the Commission draws up the blacklist, which is available on the Internet. When deciding whether an airline should be banned, it is necessary to ascertain whether the airline complies with relevant safety standards. Reports that indicate security deficiencies and lack of ability or willingness of the company to address security deficiencies are considered to be extra serious.
Galileo. One of the last days of the year was the launch of the first test satellite in the Galileo system, the European satellite navigation system. Galileo is scheduled to be put into commercial use in 2010, with a total of 30 satellites in orbit around the earth. Compared to the US GPS system, Galileo becomes more accurate in position determination. Galileo will be compatible with both the GPS system and the Russian GLONASS system, both controlled by the military.
Horse Pass. All horses in the EU will have a special passport as of year-end 2005/2006. The identity document provides information on the owner, breed, lineage, vaccinations, laboratory tests, certain medical treatments and whether the horse may be used for food. The passport also contains contour diagrams that describe the horse’s color, characters and swirls in a uniform way. In Sweden, horse passports are issued by register and pedigree breeding associations, which are approved by the Swedish Board of Agriculture. Horse passes cost 200–1 500 SEK.
Internet. On December 7, the .eu top-level domain for Internet users started in the EU. In the first place, the domain is intended for companies, organizations and authorities, but in the long term, a name in the domain should also be registered by individual EU citizens. In September, the new version of the European Parliament’s website www.europarl.eu.int was formally launched. The main task of the new website is to better inform European citizens about the role and duties of Parliament. Therefore, the site has been completely redesigned to be more user friendly. One of the news is that it is easier to see what Members have said and done in the European Parliament. Another improvement is that there are more news articles and that some of them have been translated into all the twenty EU languages. Sweden is at the top of the member countries when it comes to Internet use. It emerged when the EU: Eurostat’s statistical body presented a report on Internet use in the Union. For all 25 Member States as a whole, Internet use during the first quarter of 2004 averaged 47%, but in Sweden it was 82%.
Map fees again. In 2005 and 2006, the Swedish Board of Agriculture pays back SEK 62 million plus interest to approximately 72,000 farmers around Sweden. It is money that farmers paid to the Swedish Farmers Agency in 1998 and 1999 for map fees in connection with the application for various support from the EU. The map fee was SEK 10 per hectare per year, but at least SEK 200 but not more than SEK 3,000 per company. The European Court of Justice ruled in a spring ruling that the map fees were in violation of EU Community law. There was no requirement for the fees to be repaid in the ECJ’s opinion, but the government has made the assessment that a refund is reasonable. Map fees collected in connection with applications for environmental and regional aid are not refunded because the European Court of Justice has had no objection to them.
Chemicals legislation.The EU’s new chemicals legislation REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization of Chemicals) was dealt with at an Extraordinary Meeting of the Competitiveness Council in Brussels in mid-December. The meeting resulted in a political agreement on the first part of the legislation. In November, a majority of the European Parliament voted in favor of a compromise for new chemicals laws. Margot Wallström, as Environment Commissioner of the European Commission, initiated the bill in 2003. REACH has become the most comprehensive EU legislation. The aim is for the law to strengthen the protection of public health and the environment, but without weakening the competitiveness of the chemical industry in the EU countries. The legislation includes, among other things, a clear responsibility for industry, manufacturers and importers when it comes to producing data on chemical substances. Risk assessments should be made and proposed measures to manage the risks. The industry will register about 30,000 substances before 2016 and assess about one-third of these. This will increase the knowledge of chemicals already on the market. Chemicals with certain hazardous properties should not be used without special permission. Safer alternatives should be considered when testing hazardous chemicals. If the alternatives are economically and technically reasonable, the hazardous substances should be replaced. A new independent European authority (based in Helsinki) will administer the chemical system. The Swedish Animal Protection Authority’s Director General Matz Hammarström noted that the Chemicals Act leads to a massive increase in the number of animal experiments when the law comes into force in 2007. Many of the methods for testing the toxicity of the substances are based on the use of animals.
Climate change. Parliament adopted action program for the fight against global climate change after 2012. The initiative had been taken by the Swedish Anders Wijkman (kd). The goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020. The long-term goal of 2050 should be as much as 60-80% reduction of emissions. As the transport sector accounts for a large proportion of emissions, calls for a strategy to reduce emissions in this sector;
Storing traffic data.In order to facilitate authorities in the fight against crime and terrorism, the European Parliament approved a proposal to store so-called traffic data from fixed telephony, mobile phones and the Internet for up to two years. This also applies to telephone calls where the caller does not answer. Law enforcement agencies get access to lists of telephone calls, SMS and Internet traffic from the operators. Traffic information may, however, only be disclosed if there is a suspicion of serious crime. Each country has to define itself a serious crime. Member States shall also designate regulatory authorities within the country to ensure that only competent authorities have access to the stored information. Following the December decision, the various countries will investigate the question of how costs should be distributed between the state (the police) and the telephone operators. Sweden’s Minister of Justice Thomas Bodström supported the proposal. The criticisms of the decision include argued that the storage of telecommunications data violates personal freedom.
Food prices. Increasing competition within the EU has led to pressured costs in industry and lower prices in trade. But food prices in Sweden, as in Finland, are 12% above the EU average. Other countries in the Nordic countries are even more expensive – in Denmark, Norway and Iceland, food prices are 26, 38 and 42%, respectively, above average EU prices. Compared with, for example, Germany, Swedish food prices are 17% higher. Compared to Spain, Swedes pay 44% more for food. One reason why Swedish prices are so high is that there are so few discount stores. Claes Norgren, director general of the Swedish Competition Authority, concludes that it should be possible to reduce Swedish prices by 5%.
Herbal remedies. During the autumn, new rules within the EU began to apply regarding herbal medicines. The same requirements are set for documentation of herbal remedies as for regular medicines. All herbal medicines must be registered and their health effects documented.
Presidency. The first half of 2005 was Luxembourg, with Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Presidential country. At the turn of the year, the Presidency was handed over to Britain and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Drunk driving control. The largest joint effort to date for drunk driving was to date December 12-18. Traffic police from a total of 20 EU countries, including Sweden, controlled more than 300,000 vehicle drivers. had to do a breath test.
Infectious Disease Control Authority. In May, Sweden’s only EU authority was inaugurated, the Infectious Protection Agency (really the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, abbreviated ECDC by the English European Center for Disease Prevention and Control). The authority is located in Solna, and the first boss is Zsuzsanna Jakab from Hungary. One of the tasks of the ECDC is to protect the EU population against bird flu.
Sugar.The price of sugar in Europe falls by 36% over the course of four years, and cultivation of sugar beet in Europe becomes much less profitable. As a result, many growers are forced to close down the business. These are the expected consequences of a reform of EU sugar policy in which Europe is opened to imports of cheaper cane sugar from, among other things. Brazil, Mozambique and Thailand. Sugar cultivation is an industry that has been protected from global competition for almost 40 years. For Sweden, the new rules are expected to mean that sugar beet cultivation will be reduced mainly on Gotland and Öland as well as in eastern Småland and Halland. The two large sugar mills in Örtofta and Köpingebro are expected to cope with the increased overseas competition. Affected European growers receive some compensation to alleviate the consequences.
For the first time, the Solidarity Fund in the EU paid out grants to Sweden, which received EUR 81.7 million (approximately SEK 768 million) in support of the Gudrun storm. Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania also received grants, though to a lesser extent, for the same purpose.
Sweden. In January, Deputy Prime Minister Bosse Ringholm was also given the task of being Minister of Coordination for EU Affairs, “EU Minister”. Some EU issues, including those dealing with the Constitution, the budget and the Lisbon process, are moved from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Council of State. In September 2005, Björn Kjellström became new head of the European Parliament’s Swedish office. Kjellström most recently comes from the European Commission’s representation in Sweden, where since September 2001 he has been the Head of Press and Spokesman. Prior to that, he worked for the European Parliament, the European Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Enlargement.The European Commission and the Council of Ministers considered that the 2004 enlargement of the EU with ten new member states was very successful. Romania. Bulgaria, Croatia, Turkey and Macedonia are the countries most closely in line to start membership negotiations. During the year, Turkey and Croatia began negotiations to become EU members. The question marks for Turkey’s future membership have been many. Turkey must implement a series of reforms before negotiations can begin in earnest. This applies to total ban on torture, introduction of religious freedom in the country and civilian control over the military. The European Council also granted Macedonia the status of candidate country. No date for opening the membership negotiations did not set EU leaders. The Commission considers that Bulgaria and Romania are functioning market economies and fulfill the political requirements set by the EU for membership. But both countries must strengthen their public administrations and legal systems. They must also take further steps to combat corruption and trafficking in human beings and to promote the integration of the Roma minority.