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EU state aid rules do not slow down urban broadband

May 20th, 2016
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Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)

In an article “EU red tape leaves urban homes in internet slow lane” published on 18 May, the Daily Telegraph slams EU “red tape” for hampering UK Government efforts to rollout high-speed broadband in urban areas that don’t have it yet. The article implies that EU state aid rules prevent public subsidies for such rollout.

This is untrue.

In fact, the European Commission’s 2013 Broadband Guidelines for state aid explain how state aid rules apply to the rollout of fast broadband and how investment can be made more quickly.

The Commission approved the previous National Broadband Scheme for the UK for rural areas. We are currently working with the UK government on their plans to introduce a new broadband scheme, and expect to adopt a decision very soon.

Many public measures, including investments by the state in broadband projects, are exempted from state aid rules and can be implemented immediately because they do not distort competition. Where state aid is involved, the purpose of EU rules is to ensure that private investment is not crowded out by public money. In other words, the whole idea is to have more choice and more investment, not less. The Telegraph article itself quotes the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) saying that they are working with the industry to drive commercial investment in urban areas, so as to focus public financing on rural areas, where there is less private appetite.

Contrary to what the article suggests, the rollout of high-speed broadband across Europe is one of the European Commission’s priorities under the EU’s Digital Single Market Strategy, an overarching effort to make the EU fit for the digital age. It is up to the UK – and each individual member state – to decide where and how to invest in top-speed connectivity. Currently, with 91% of households covered by high-speed broadband (at least 30 Mbps), the UK is well above the EU average (71%) (see Digital Economy and Society Index, DESI).

EC has not decided to regulate toasters or kettles – and could not decide alone anyway

May 13th, 2016
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Rating: 3.6/5 (20 votes cast)

EU ecodesign policy is in the news again.

This time the headlines are all about toasters and kettles, rather than vacuum cleaners, on which we tidied up the facts on this site in 2014.

No new regulation without watertight science

No decision has been taken – or is scheduled – to put forward new rules for kettles or toasters.

The European Commission is determined to make sure ecodesign policy is implemented in the least intrusive way possible, while delivering maximum energy savings.

So it will not bring forward proposals that would stop even the most energy-guzzling kettles or toasters from being sold unless backed by watertight scientific analysis that there would be significant benefits and no alternative way of achieving similar or better results.

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EU funding is supporting – not stopping – regeneration of Nottingham’s Sneinton market

May 13th, 2016
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Rating: 4.8/5 (4 votes cast)

Articles in the Daily Mail, The Sun and Nottingham Post this week are inaccurate in suggesting that the refurbished Sneinton Market in Nottingham, which benefitted from EU funds, only has three traders out of 46 because of “EU rules restricting the stalls from having tills”.

The facts

The rules for the current use of the units were not imposed by the EU.

There are no EU rules which prevent the use of tills on market stalls, either in general or in projects receiving EU funding.

The 46 units in question in Nottingham are not retail market stalls and were not even before the refurbishment.

In fact, they are former wholesale units that will now provide workspace and studios for creative SMEs.

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The EU is not blocking checks on doctors’ or dentists’ qualifications

April 8th, 2016
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Rating: 4.4/5 (10 votes cast)

An article in the Daily Mail on 2 April is inaccurate in suggesting that the EU is or ever will be “blocking vital checks on doctors’ qualifications” through the European Professional Card (EPC) system or in any other way.

A further article on 9 April saying the UK authorities “cannot check up on dentists” is also misleading.

Key points

Doctors are not currently covered by the EPC and no decision has been taken on whether or when the system might be extended to them – though doctors and dentists are covered by a rapid alert system whereby Member States share information on individuals subject to disciplinary action.

Any UK employer – in this case often the NHS – can check the aptitude, performance or language ability of any doctor, dentist, nurse or other medical professional who applies for a position or who is already practising, whether British, EU or non-EU.

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Regulatory cooperation under TTIP can help businesses and consumers. It cannot undermine lawmaking powers

March 18th, 2016
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Rating: 3.7/5 (3 votes cast)

The European Commission’s proposals on regulatory cooperation with the US under the TTIP transatlantic trade deal have now been published here, adding to the many other TTIP-related documents already available. This is in line with the Commission’s commitment to enhanced transparency in the ongoing negotiations.

Suggestions in the Independent newspaper on 18 March that regulatory cooperation would somehow subvert the EU’s legislative independence and “leave EU member states and the European Parliament further sidelined” are completely false and unfounded. They ignore the reality of the way regulatory cooperation works,

No regulatory cooperation mechanism already in existence or under TTIP will have the power to take legally binding decisions. Those are for politicians.

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EU will not and could not impose congestion charges on drivers or bin collection fees on householders

February 16th, 2016
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Rating: 4.7/5 (13 votes cast)

Readers could be forgiven for thinking that 1st April – like the Spring daffodils – had arrived early this year with a splash by the Sunday Express – “EU declares war on drivers: UK motorists should pay congestion charge to drive in every town say Brussels climate change meddlers“. The so-called “exclusive” was the catalyst for other similarly misleading headlines and distortions of the facts in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and The Scotsman.

The European Union has no power to force local authorities to implement congestion charges or bin collection fees.

Both remain a matter for national and regional authorities. The European Union only has the powers delegated to it by Member States in the EU Treaties.

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EU development aid saves lives – and strong safeguards protect against financial risk

January 20th, 2016
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Rating: 3.9/5 (11 votes cast)

Summary
EU development aid projects save lives in some of the world’s poorest and often war-torn countries. They inevitably involve some financial risk. But the vast majority of projects deliver good results. Recent press reports suggesting billions of pounds have been wasted and that “Brussels” is asking EU member states for extra cash to finance ongoing projects do not reflect the facts or the evidence.

How EU development aid works and what it does

EU development aid saves lives and makes a huge positive difference to many more. For example, it helps children get lifesaving healthcare in the poorest parts of the world. It gives tens of millions of people access to safe drinking water. Since 2004, more than 18 million children have been immunised against measles, 13.7 million new pupils joined primary education, and 7.5 million births were attended by skilled health personnel.

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Suggesting that the EU is to blame for floods is completely without foundation

January 8th, 2016
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Rating: 4.2/5 (32 votes cast)

Summary

The recent severe flooding in parts of the UK has caused serious distress to many people.

These floods occurred as a result of a period of record rainfall in the regions most severely affected.

EU environmental protection policies help prevent and deal with flooding. The EU also leads the world in tackling climate change, which most experts see as a factor in extreme weather events.

The Common Agricultural Policy encourages farmers to take “greening” measures that can contribute to mitigating flooding.

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Museum gun collections do not face “near destruction” under revised EU gun control laws

December 22nd, 2015
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Rating: 3.6/5 (8 votes cast)

Claims that some of the UK’s most famous museums would have to destroy their historic gun collections as part of EU plans to tighten gun controls – “EU takes aim at museum gun collections” (Daily Telegraph, 18 December) – are way off target.

As part of efforts to prevent gun massacres by terrorists such as the tragic events in Paris and those by disturbed loners seen all too often in the US , the European Commission published proposals to further toughen up EU rules on the acquisition and possession of weapons (Firearms Directive).

Museums such as The Royal Armouries Museum and the National Army Museum were concerned that the new rules on permanently deactivating weapons might require  them to damage the antique workings of thousands of historic guns in case they fell into the wrong hands.

But the museums’ fears were misplaced. Museums run by public authorities continue to be exempt from these gun control laws. We could have told the Telegraph this if it had asked us.

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The EU is not banning under 16-year olds from social media

December 22nd, 2015
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Rating: 5.0/5 (4 votes cast)

A long negotiated EU data protection reform found itself in the midst of a maelstrom when media suddenly reported that several big online services companies were staging a last-minute lobbying effort to prevent the EU from banning teens from using social media. Attention grabbing headlines included: “Europe’s tech mad teens face tighter parental controls” FT, 14 December; “Is Europe really going to ban teenagers from Facebook and the Internet”, Guardian, 15 December; “Is Europe going to restrict teens from Facebook?” BBC, 15 December; “New EU laws could ban under16s from using Twitter and Facebook without their parents’ permission” Daily Mail, 15 December. The claims were that contrary to international, mainly US, practice the EU would introduce a requirement for social media users under the age of 16 to have formal parental consent.

The current situation across the EU member states is varied – some (like the UK) apply 13 years, some have national laws that require anyone under 16 to demonstrate parental consent, some have no age-limit provisions at all on this.

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EC in the UK

Check the EC Representation in the UK website

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