European Union. Here are some of the events and decisions within the EU that got the attention during the year.
Nursery for everyone. According to Abbreviationfinder, The EU countries must aim at providing childcare for at least 90% of children between the age of three and school age by 2010 and for 33% of children under the age of three by 2010. This was what EU heads of state said at the EU summit in Barcelona in March. The EU’s childcare goals are supported wholeheartedly by Sweden, which, however, has not yet reached the set goals. The expansion of childcare is one of the measures to especially get more women out of the labor market – a measure that is deemed increasingly important as the proportion of people of working age decreases.
Telecommuting. The approximately 4.5 million people working remotely in the EU will have improved conditions through an EU agreement signed by the European social partners. It is the European union ETUC, the private companies ’employers’ organization UNICE and the public companies ’employers’ organization CEEP that have agreed that the teleworkers should have the same rights as employees working in the employer’s premises. The agreement, which is to be implemented by the parties themselves at national level, will begin to apply by 2005 at the latest.
EMU.Twelve of the 15 EU countries finally abolished their national currencies in 2002 and switched to trading in euros and cents, the new single currency of the European Monetary Union EMU. Admittedly, since January 1, 1999, it had already been possible to pay with the euro – but only by virtual means. electronic transfers in banks. From January 1, you could start paying cash with real paper banknotes and metal coins. The euro banknotes are available in the seven denominations 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. The banknotes look the same in all participating countries, while the coins have a page of special design for each nation. However, all coins can be used in all participating countries. During a transitional period, the new and old currencies were used in parallel in the EMU countries, but after between four and eight weeks, notes and coins in the old currencies ceased to apply in trade. People who found forgotten old money had a few more months to go to the bank and exchange them for euros. In Sweden, some stores, especially in tourist areas, began to accept payment in euros. Three countries, Sweden, Denmark and the UK, are outside the currency union. The citizens of Denmark have previously voted no to EU membership, and in Sweden it was decided that a referendum on this issue will be held on September 14, 2003. stands outside the currency union. The citizens of Denmark have previously voted no to EU membership, and in Sweden it was decided that a referendum on this issue will be held on September 14, 2003. stands outside the currency union. The citizens of Denmark have previously voted no to EU membership, and in Sweden it was decided that a referendum on this issue will be held on September 14, 2003.
EU enlargement.A major step towards a major enlargement of the EU was taken at the EU summit in Copenhagen on December 12-13. Then ten candidate countries were ready with the accession negotiations, which opens the possibility for them to join as EU members on 1 May 2004. The countries that negotiated for membership are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus. Enlarging the EU with these countries would increase the population of the Union from 375 million to 451 million inhabitants. Candidate countries Romania and Bulgaria continue to negotiate for a membership from 2007 and the candidate country Turkey must wait with the accession negotiations until the country meets the conditions for membership of the EU, including. when it comes to protecting human rights. For the ten applicant countries, a great deal of work remains before they can become members of the Union. The various countries will hold referenda on EU membership, and they must also show that they can transpose EU directives into their national laws and regulations and also comply with them. Until May 2004, the aspiring countries will be subject to regular EU monitoring.
EU fisheries policy is facing major changes.Catches have declined sharply in recent years, and some important fish species are about to end. This has led to demands for noticeable changes to protect the future fish stock. The EU’s previous fisheries agreement expired at the end of 2002. In the new settlement, the European Commission wants to reduce fishing by 30-60%. In addition, the support that has previously gone to the construction of fishing boats is completely removed. On the other hand, there are increased grants for fish farming and extra support for adaptation in regions that are dependent on fishing. Sweden has particularly raised the issue of cod fishing. In order for the stock to get a chance to recover, a total halt of cod fishing in the North Sea, Skagerack and Kattegatt was required for some time. But so far the EU did not want to go – the decision was instead that the quotas for cod fishing would be reduced by about half.
Flight prices. Seven countries, including Sweden, violating EU rules on a common air market when entering into agreements with the United States on prices of airline services within the EU and on computerized reservation systems, the European Court of Justice states. According to the court, the agreements could mean that the United States could refuse to provide other EU countries with equally favorable terms. This makes the agreements discriminatory and violates the principle of free establishment in the EU.
The move of the European Parliament’s sessions back and forth between Brussels in Belgium and Strasbourg in France, Europe’s taxpayers cost the equivalent of SEK 1.5 billion. per year. For a four-day meeting once a month, the 629 EU parliamentarians, their assistants and Parliament officials, a total of a few thousand people, must travel 500 km by train or flight to Strasbourg. The airport in Strasbourg does not have the capacity for the major storm, which is why many travelers arrive in Frankfurt and Stuttgart on the German side of the border, where they are picked up by private drivers. In addition, at least ten trucks are required to carry documents and necessary office equipment. When enlarging the EU with even more EU parliamentarians, the cost of the monthly move is estimated to increase to SEK 1.9 billion. per year. The European Parliament’s sessions in two cities require two parliament buildings, none of which are fully utilized. For example, the building in Strasbourg stands for about 300 days a year. However, this building still needs to be expanded to cope with EU enlargement. Many EU MEPs have complained about the move to Strasbourg every month, but France in particular has so far resisted all attempts to concentrate all EU meetings in Brussels.
Galileo is the name of an advanced European satellite navigation system and a major industrial project that the EU transport ministers gave the go-ahead by allocating the equivalent of SEK 4 billion. from the EU budget. The project will be realized in collaboration with the European Space Agency ESA, and the goal is for the system to start being used for navigation and positioning in 2008. Previously, the EU has invested about one billion in the project. With the EU financing decision, ESA also contributes with the same amount of money. But the first billions do not cover everything. Another SEK 20 billion. will be needed to build the navigation system’s approximately 30 satellites and place them in orbit around the earth. The navigation system also includes ground stations located around the earth. They have the task of monitoring the positions and functions of the satellites. Galileo can be seen as a European alternative to GPS, the US defense satellite navigation system. Navigation and positioning are used for eg. aviation and boat traffic, monitoring and for various scientific purposes. The intention is that Galileo and GPS will be able to work together and that the same receiver can also be used. The goal for Galileo is an even higher precision than with GPS. The very high cost of Galileo made several countries doubtful about the project. The transport ministers have set the goal of paying two-thirds of the cost of private business and one-third of public funds. When the system is fully developed, it is intended that it will be financed primarily through license fees.
Illegal immigration came into focus in the summer of 2002. Some EU countries wanted to impose sanctions on non-EU countries that receive EU aid but do not help to curb illegal immigration from their own country to EU countries. However, the proposal was rejected by the majority at the Seville summit June 21-22. At the same time, it was stated that the EU should negotiate agreements with countries outside the EU in order to determine how e.g. the repatriation of illegal immigrants must be concrete.
Ireland voted in favor of the Treaty of Nice for the second time in October. This time, the Irish said yes to the Treaty, which provided increased opportunities for enlargement with more EU Member States.
Nuclear energy. Sweden receives criticism from the EU for the fact that there is no law that prescribes analyzes of the environmental consequences when a nuclear power plant is to be closed. This applies, for example, to regulations on how to handle the reactor parts environmentally during a dismantling. The European Commission is also dissatisfied that there is no analysis of the environmental impact of replacing nuclear power with another energy source. The Commission points out that the nuclear reactor Barsebäck 1 has been able to shut down without any environmental analysis being carried out by the responsible authorities. Swedish legislation has not complied with the EU regulations, but after a two-year exchange of correspondence between the European Commission and Sweden, the result is finally a regulation in addition to Swedish environmental legislation.
Food is expensive in Sweden. Prices are about 20% above average prices in EU countries, according to a survey by the European Commission. Denmark comes in second place and Finland in third place in the price list. Spain has the cheapest food, while the Netherlands is the second cheapest. In general, prices are lower if there is great competition between the grocery stores. The fact that the Nordic countries are so expensive is due, among other things. in that the market is dominated by a few large chains. Within Sweden, there are large price differences, with the highest prices in the south and lowest in the western parts. The price difference in the country, 8.7%, is greater than in any other EU country.
Environmental considerations may be taken into account in public procurement without being considered to be in violation of EU competition rules. It ruled in a case where a Finnish court wanted to find out if the City of Helsinki was right when, in a procurement on the municipality’s bus traffic, they gave extra benefit points to the most environmentally friendly buses, ie those that emitted the least carbon dioxide. A bus company that lost the procurement appealed, but the EC judgment makes it clear that it is not just financial criteria that apply in a procurement. Other considerations, e.g. aesthetic or environmental friendliness, can also be considered, but it is important that the criteria are clarified from the beginning.
In recent years, drug legislation in most EU countries has become milder in terms of personal use. In Spain, Portugal and Italy, the holder and user of certain drugs may be fined with a driving license, a warning or conditional sentence. First offenders in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Austria, on the other hand, are not punished for possession. Three countries, Sweden, Finland and Greece, stand out with divergent, stricter legislation and application, states the EU’s drug agency ECNN in Luxembourg. In general, police efforts against drug addicts in the EU are increasing, probably due to an increasingly widespread drug addiction. According to the 1988 UN Convention on Drugs, drug possession for personal use must be made a criminal offense to strengthen the fight against international drug trafficking.
The EU’s Presidential Country during the first half of the year was Spain, whose Prime Minister José María Aznar then handed over the President’s Club for the second half to Denmark and Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.
SAS may buy the majority of the shares in Spanair, Spain’s second largest airline. This was decided by the European Commission in March, after reviewing the deal from a competition point of view. The Scandinavian airline thus has access to Spanair’s fleet of about 50 aircraft. SAS, with 187 aircraft, is the eighth largest passenger airline in Europe.
President. The Irishman Pat Cox was elected President of the European Parliament on 15 January.
The terrorist threat has prompted a cooperation agreement between the EU police coordinator Europol and the United States on counter-terrorism. Like the United States, the EU has compiled a list of terrorists and terrorist groups. According to the EU, for a person to be on the list, there must be strong suspicions, indications, evidence or judgments. In May 2002 there were 59 names on the list of persons to be arrested and whose financial assets should be frozen. The threat of terrorists was also an argument for the European Commission when in spring it proposed the establishment of a common border police with the right to guard and intervene throughout the Union. During the summit in Seville 21-22 June, a decision was taken that the various countries’ security police should respond to the terrorist threat with more cooperation.
Tetra Laval won dispute against the European Commission. In an EC ruling, the European Commission’s earlier ban on Tetra Laval was lifted to buy the French company Sidel. The ECJ considered that the Commission’s conclusion was unfounded and rejected the argument that Tetra Laval (manufacturer of packaging machinery) would become too dominant in the market through the purchase of Sidel (large manufacturer of PET bottles).
Train loans. Region Skåne has been granted a loan of SEK 380 million by the European Investment Bank. to buy three locomotives and 15 wagons for rail traffic between Sweden and Denmark across the Öresund Bridge.