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Hungarians protest against Orbán’s nuclear deal with Russia

16 March, 2015 - 07:41

Thousands of Hungarians rallied against Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's government yesterday (15 March), venting their anger over allegations of corruption and a secretive nuclear deal with Russia, Hungary's former communist overlord.

The rally by civil groups and some left wing parties coincided with an established national holiday and with a new Sunday trading ban that forced most shops to close, despite criticism from the retail sector and an Ipsos survey showing more than two-thirds of people asked were against it.

MEPs’ last attempt to save maternity leave extension

16 March, 2015 - 07:34

MEPs are working around the clock to break the seven-year impasse on extending maternity leave, after European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said he would withdraw the proposed law within six months if the deadlock between Parliament and EU ministers was not broken.

"We must progress towards equality, but also allow women to balance family and professional life,” said Belgian Socialists & Democrats MEP Marie Arena.

Ministers back easier use of data, with stronger central control

13 March, 2015 - 17:49

European Union ministers agreed on Friday (13 March) to give more powers to a pan-European body of regulators to enforce a new data protection law, upsetting businesses who hoped more power would be devolved to individual national regulators.

Ministers simultaneously backed proposals to allow businesses or national authorities to use consumers' data for purposes not intended under agreed terms of use.

Justice and home affairs ministers considered the Commission’s proposed data protection regulation in Brussels today (13 March).

No new EU sanctions against Russia as ceasefire holds

13 March, 2015 - 15:56

European Union leaders are unlikely to reach agreement at their summit next week to prolong economic sanctions on Russia that expire in July, a senior EU official said today (13 March).

New sanctions on Russia are also off the table for now because EU governments want to give the fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine a chance.

ISDS must be replaced by a public court

13 March, 2015 - 15:31

EU Institutions are currently discussing several options for the reform of Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Yet, only a public court can yield the targeted public policy objectives: investment protection, judicial independence and right to regulate, writes Viviane Reding.

Viviane Reding is a centre-right Member of the European Parliament for Luxemburg. She is a member of the Parliament's international trade committee and rapporteur on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

Juncker rules out 'failure' in Greece bailout talks

13 March, 2015 - 14:27

EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker complained Friday (13 March) about a lack of progress in talks on Greece's bailout, but insisted there was no chance of a failure that could drive the country out of the eurozone.

"I am not satisfied by the developments in the recent weeks. I don't think we have made sufficient progress, but we will try to push in the direction of a succesful conclusion of the issues we have to deal with," he said ahead of talks with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

Schulz brushes off National Front fraud counter-claim

13 March, 2015 - 13:33

European Parliament President Martin Schulz today (13 March) brushed off accusations of hypocrisy made by Marine Le Pen’s National Front, after he reported the far-right party to anti-fraud investigators.

Le Pen’s Brussels office said Schulz – who it branded a “hate-filled socialist” - was breaking rules over European Parliament accredited assistants.

Schulz’s spokesman Armin Machmer said the “accusations were unfounded”. The president had asked the institution’s services to prove that and would publish the results of their investigation, he said.

EU data protection rules could increase cost of insurance

13 March, 2015 - 13:03

If proposed EU data protection rules prevent insurers from carrying out essential functions, such as fighting fraud, the cost of insurance will grow, according to William Vidonja.

Vidonja is the head of conduct of business at Insurance Europe, the federation representing European insurers and reinsurers.

Given that processing policyholder data lies at the very heart of their businesses, insurers are particularly sensitive to the importance of keeping it safe.

Aviation safety body sets out risk-based approach to civil drone use

13 March, 2015 - 09:32

Three categories of civil drone should be created to regulate the unmanned aerial vehicles now used in everything from filming to farming and parcel deliveries, Europe's aviation safety body has proposed.

Commission told to apologise over Euribor rate-rigging inquiry

13 March, 2015 - 09:16

The European Commission was told yesterday (12 March) to apologise and put in place stricter guidelines on public statements regarding open investigations, after the EU Ombudsman found a Commissioner made biased statements during a cartel inquiry into the Euribor rate-ringing scandal.

The Ombudsman is an independent EU body that has the right to investigate the Union's institutions on the grounds of maladministration.

EU ministers seek third countries to host migrants

13 March, 2015 - 08:53

European Union interior ministers yesterday (12 March) thrashed out ways to tackle the growing tide of migrants fleeing conflict in the Middle East and North Africa by seeking illegal residence in Europe.

Setting up asylum processing facilities in third countries was one of the methods discussed to deal with would-be migrants. But, with unrest creating chaos in most of those nations, the European Union faces a huge challenge surmounting the problem.

"The pressure from migration just keeps growing," Latvian Interior Minister Rihards Kozlovskis said after talks in Brussels.

Universal education will cost €20.7 billion a year, says Unesco

13 March, 2015 - 08:49

Ambitions to achieve universal education and improve teaching quality in the world’s poorest countries will be jeopardised, unless the $22bn (€20.7bn) funding needed every year is found, a UN agency has warned. 

The inhumane trade in European farm animals

13 March, 2015 - 08:48

The European Union's animal welfare legislation is regarded as among the best in the world. But exported animals are no longer protected by EU transport or slaughter welfare laws once they leave its borders, writes Olga Kikou.

Olga Kikou is european affairs manager for Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), an international NGO working on the welfare of farm animals and sustainable farming and food.

Iceland officially drops EU membership bid

13 March, 2015 - 08:47

Iceland yesterday (12 March) announced it was dropping its bid to join the European Union, in line with pledges made by its Eurosceptic government after its election two years ago.

Iceland first applied for EU membership in 2009. Foreign Minister Gunnar Bragi Sveinsson said that the centre-right government had told Latvia, currently holding the rotating presidency of the EU, and the European Commission of its decision to annul the application.

"Iceland's interests are better served outside the European Union," the minister wrote on his website.

Private copying levy in EU’s firing line

13 March, 2015 - 08:39

The private copying levy, invented in France in the 1980s and now commonplace across the EU, is a subject of friction between rights holders and distributors. Critics highlight the system's lack of transparency and unequal application across the EU. EurActiv France reports

Brussels blocks Hungary’s nuclear deal with Russia

13 March, 2015 - 08:28

The European Commission has objected to Hungary's €10 billion plan to expand its Soviet-era Paks nuclear power plant in a deal with Russia, and may force Budapest to revise the terms of the agreement, EU sources said yesterday (12 March). Hungarian officials strongly denied the reports.

97% of pesticide levels in Europe's food legal, says EU agency

13 March, 2015 - 08:20

A new report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found that more than 97% of foods contain pesticide residue levels that fall within legal limits. Strawberries are the most likely to exceed safe limits, the agency found.

About 55% of the samples evaluated by EFSA were free of detectable traces of these chemicals, the agency said.

This means nearly half of food products in Europe contain residues of pesticides.

Energy efficiency investment must increase five-fold, warns report

13 March, 2015 - 08:13

SPECIAL REPORT / Private investment in energy-efficient buildings renovation must increase five-fold by 2030, according to a group set up by the European Commission and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative.

The Energy Efficiency Financial Institutions Group (EEFIG) called for a “historic level of public-private collaboration” to bridge the funding gap for energy savings projects.

Věra Jourová: We will be strict with the US on Safe Harbour

13 March, 2015 - 08:08

Brussels is moving forward on the Safe Harbour agreement with the US, and aims to finalise discussions by May, said EU Commissioner Věra Jourová.

European Commissioner in charge of Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová is a Czech politician. She spoke to Lucie Bednárová, from EurActiv Czech Republic.

NGOs worried by ‘financialisation’ of development

13 March, 2015 - 07:44

With three major milestones just around the corner, many NGOs are urging greater caution in the use of private finance in development aid policies. EurActiv France reports