EC investment policy is about boosting growth and jobs, not “clobbering British firms”

October 12, 2015

The European Commission’s proposals for capital markets union have been welcomed by the City of London (for example City UK here) and by SME organisations (for example the Federation of Small Businesses here). They aim to give UK and other European companies better access to finance and provide new investment opportunities both for banks and other financial market players such as venture capital, private equity, “business angels” and crowdfunding.

Meanwhile, the Commission’s investment plan to mobilise € 315 bn in investment that would not happen without such a scheme is being implemented, again with UK support.

One issue being discussed in the UK and across Europe, as well as in Brussels, in connection with the wider issue of investment for growth and jobs, is that companies receiving equity investment – from investors who take a stake in the company and often bring expertise with them, as in the …

Cornish pasties “made in America” will NOT be coming to Europe

September 21, 2015

There is absolutely no chance that the EU’s proposed trade deal with the US, known as TTIP*, will allow American products to be marketed in the UK or anywhere else in the EU as Cornish pasties, Cumberland sausage, Stilton or any other currently protected name**.

Some 60 UK products are protected under three linked EU schemes that allow producers to use the name on EU markets only if they are making the products within the traditional production regions and/or using full traditional recipes.

The TTIP deal with the US, currently under negotiation, may extend to US markets the protection against non-genuine rivals that traditional producers already enjoy here in Europe.

That is what the negotiations are about. There’s no question at all of weakening the existing protection for recognised EU products on the EU market. The European Commission will simply not agree to that. And trade deals anyway need to be …

From A-levels to zoo adverts: an alphabet of 26 false stories about the EU banning things

September 6, 2015

British newspapers have accused the European Union of banning, among many other things: A-levels, bankrupt (the word), coffee drinking (unless moderate), double decker buses, elections on Thursdays, firefighters’ poles, gin in square bottles, herbal remedies, imperial measures, jam jars being reused, kilts being described as menswear, lollipop ladies’ sticks, milk of magnesia, non-nappy wearing cows, off licences (on weekdays), Peter Pan, the Queen (from UK passports), rhododendrons, steam trains, toilets (traditional British), Union Flags (on meat packaging), violin strings (made from gut), wood-burning ovens, xylophones (toy), yoghurt (in schools) and….. (yes, there is one for ‘z’) zoo advertisements (which fail to include images of elephants).

A quick look around will reveal that all of these things are still with us.

For the more common letters of …

Daily Express’s “11 barmy EU rules” either do not exist or are rather sensible

September 2, 2015

A pop-up on the Express web site, appearing for some time now via various pages featuring EU “news” and prominent in online searches, is headlined “Brussels’ craziest decisions.”

It cites “the top eleven unusual rules proposed by Brussels that seem too barmy to be true”.

That is because about half of these stories are simply not true. And the others are seriously misleading.

Here’s the Express list:

An EU copyright proposal will make it illegal to post photos of the London Eye and the Angel of the North under infringement law

Not true. In fact, one committee in the European Parliament wanted to end national exemptions from copyright law currently granted for photos of architectural and public art works. They were advocating only that commercial use of such images should be subject to copyright. The full parliament rejected even that idea, the European Commission never proposed it and Member States did not discuss it. …

The full picture about EU funding for film and TV

August 31, 2015

A number of media reports fuelled by a press release from the Taxpayers’ Alliance have attacked EU funding – via the Creative Europe programme – for film and television. Some reports ridiculed ‘Get Blake!” an animated television series produced in France, though with British connections, and helped with about £300 000 in EU funding. The series has in fact been sold to leading children’s TV channels worldwide and will bring back money into the EU economy.

No newspapers seem to have sought the opinion of either the UK film and TV industry, the British Film Institute (BFI) or of experts on the audiovisual industry. Neither the Times, the Sun  nor the Mail – the latter seems to have simply rehashed the story without speaking to us – point out that most developed countries, not least the US, provide subsidies and or tax breaks to film and television.

Among the reasons for supporting film and television are to enable innovative and …

Fact-check of claims about EU-US trade negotiations and access to information

August 28, 2015

A number of documents exchanged between the European Commission and British American Tobacco were released on 25 August. They were not about the negotiations with the United States. Instead, they contained commercially sensitive information related to issues of alleged discrimination in Japan.  Those documents were published following an access-to-documents request, the EU’s equivalent of a freedom of information request.  The parts containing commercially sensitive information were blacked out as required by the applicable EU rules.

The vast majority of requests for documents are granted. In 2014, out of 5,630 requests, only 668 (12% of the cases) were denied access, while full access was given to 72% of the cases and partial access was granted to 15% of the cases.

Many EU firms, ranging from food producers and car manufacturers to high-tech firms and makers of medical devices, ask for meetings with the Commission. Anyone – an individual, an NGO or a company – …

EU officials cannot charge hotels and meals to corporate credit cards

August 20, 2015

The Daily Telegraph said on 17 August that EU officials “spent more than £85 million in a year on specially issued credit cards to pay for meals and hotels…not including train and air travel costs”.

Some clarifications are called for.

First, EU staff cannot charge a penny or a euro cent to a corporate credit card linked to a corporate bank account.

The European Institutions, unlike many organisations, do not allow this.

All work-related travel must be signed off by a senior manager. Staff must meet the costs (except transport tickets, which are purchased directly by the institutions) from their own bank accounts and claim the money back by submitting full supporting documents, which are carefully scrutinised.

So where do the credit cards come in?

The nature of the job – in institutions working with 28 Member States and many more non-EU countries – makes frequent travel necessary for many staff.

The time needed to …

Press reports on First EURES Job mobility scheme conflate support for young unemployed Europeans with the Calais situation and do not reflect reality

August 7, 2015

The Daily Telegraph (EU pays jobless migrants to come to Britain, 3 August) and the Daily Express (Now the European Union pays jobless migrants THOUSANDS to claim jobs in Britain, 4 August) report that one third of the young migrants participating in the EU pilot scheme Your First EURES Job were placed in the UK.

Your First EURES Job mobility scheme supports young people aged between 18 and 35 to find a suitable job, traineeship or apprenticeship within the EU. Financial support is only provided if the job-seeker is short-listed for a vacancy and has been invited for an interview. If the candidate is recruited, only limited further support is provided to cover part of the travel and subsistence cost. It is about helping young unemployed people who want to work hard to do so, not encouraging “jobless migrants” to come to Britain or any other country.

At the same time …

The European Development Fund offers aid to the poorest countries in forms that are most likely to deliver results for the local people

July 24, 2015

In a drive to have a go at the EU, on 20 July some UK newspapers (Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail) chose to ridicule circus artists and coconut production. The articles call funding for deprived communities in some of the poorest parts in the world “frivolous expenditure” and illustrate their point with photos of appealing beaches and young female acrobats in glittering outfits.

The European Development Fund (EDF), under which the quoted projects are funded, offers development assistance to the people and countries that need it most, in many cases affected by conflict and natural disaster like Mali, Somalia, the Central African Republic or Haiti. More recently development aid of some GBP 85 million (Euro 121.6 million) was mobilised after the earthquake in Nepal. The EDF projects come in many forms depending on the community or country in question, what matters is that they bring results for local people.

Elaborate metaphors and frivolous …

Daily Telegraph makes a meal of EU “embassies” buying crockery

July 21, 2015

The Daily Telegraph published an article – later picked up by other media – on 18 July suggesting that the EU’s European External Action Service (EEAS) was “ordering a £2m dinner service fit for an emperor”. In fact it is launching a tender to supply all the crockery, cutlery and glasses, etc that all of its 140 “delegations” – equivalent to embassies – across the world will need for the next 4 years and doing so in the most economical way, with a flexible contract.

€3m is the absolute maximum that can be spent over four years, but only items actually needed and supplied will be paid for and the real amount spent is likely to be much less. The prices will be the normal rates for the kind of good quality but not extravagant materials that all diplomatic services would expect to use – for example around €10.50 (£7.50) for …