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Russian strategy to buy up Europe’s refineries exposed

23 May, 2014 - 07:45

Russia's strategy of buying up oil refineries in Europe could compromise the bloc's energy security, EU officials said in a draft report prepared for the region's leaders.

Europe's refining sector has been weakened by a combination of high oil prices, slack demand and poor profit margins, prompting many companies to sell off refining units, which Russia has been buying.

Russia's Lukoil, for instance, owns refining operations in Italy, the Netherlands, Bulgaria and Romania. Gazprom through its oil arm Gazprom Neft also owns refineries.

UK salesman wins EU court case over holiday pay

23 May, 2014 - 07:38

Sales staff are entitled to be paid commission even when they are on holiday, the European Union's top court said on Thursday (22 May), because stripping them down to a basic salary would discourage them from taking a vacation.

The ruling, which followed legal action by a salesman at British Gas, will impose extra costs on companies with a sales force. It overrules the existing law in the United Kingdom and requires it to be changed.

Media expert: Falling voter participation caught in a vicious cycle

23 May, 2014 - 07:34

Across Europe, decreasing voter participation rates are seen as an indicator for falling public support of the European idea, but the two may not be so closely related, says Dr. Christina Holtz-Bacha.

Biden optimistic about Cyprus reunification

23 May, 2014 - 07:22

US Vice President Joe Biden said yesterday rival leaders in divided Cyprus had agreed to speed up slow-moving peace talks to heal one of Europe's most intractable rifts.

Biden, the most senior US official to visit the island in more than half a century, said he hoped a solution could be "in reach" to a dispute that for decades has kept Greece and Turkey at loggerheads and their ethnic kin in Cyprus estranged.

Sweden to sue Commission over delays to rules on chemicals

23 May, 2014 - 07:22

Sweden will sue the European Commission to force it to speed up work on identifying and banning chemicals some researchers say may disrupt human hormones and cause disease, the environment minister said on Thursday (22 May).

Lena Ek said the Commission was supposed to have drawn criteria for testing for suspected endocrine disruptors, found in everything from food and cleaning products to plastic containers.

But officials had failed to provide that information by a December 2013 deadline and her government would take the case to the European Court of Justice, she added.

Van Rompuy expects ‘no names’ soon for next Commission chief

23 May, 2014 - 07:16

In an invitation sent out on Wednesday (21 May), European Council president Herman Van Rompuy tells EU leaders that the EU Summit on 27 May will be too early to have a decision on the next EU Commission president.

EU's ‘Youth Guarantee’ scheme slacking

23 May, 2014 - 06:40

So-called “Youth Guarantee" schemes have reduced unemployment of young people in Finland, but expanding the scheme to other European countries has been slow and lacking commitment. EurActiv France reports.

Since last October, the commune of Bondy in the north-eastern suburb of Paris has put in place Youth Guarantee, a scheme to support people between 18-25 who are not in education, employment or training.

Europhiles take the lead in Dutch EU elections, exit polls show

23 May, 2014 - 00:02

Geert Wilders’ populist Freedom Party (PVV) has suffered an electoral blow in The Netherlands’ EU elections, while the pro-European liberal party D66 is expected to claim the largest number of seats, according to an exit poll released on Thursday (22 May). The real winner may be abstention however.

MEP tells Farage 'to face his fears' and visit Romania

22 May, 2014 - 17:09

Romania’s leading Liberal member of the European Parliament has sent a letter to Nigel Farage inviting him to visit her country, after the UKIP MEP made disparaging remarks about Romanian immigrants to the UK.

“There has been quite a lot of discussion of my home country by you and your colleagues recently,” the letter said. It told Farage to, “face his fears” and visit Romania, suggesting he would be, “happier for it”.

Entrepreneurs picking Silicon Valley over EU, says Barroso

22 May, 2014 - 16:47

European digital entrepreneurs are moving to Silicon Valley rather than set up their business in the EU, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso today (22 May) told delegates at the Lisbon Council’s Europe 2020 Summit.

UMP demand more selective Schengen II

22 May, 2014 - 14:42

On the eve of the EU elections, France’s main opposition party, the UMP, lashed out at the Schengen agreement. Nicolas Sarkozy resurfaced and echoed this sentiment in an opinion piece published by the French weekly Le Point.  EurActiv France reports.

Schengen was strongly criticised during the UMP’s national meeting on Wednesday, 21 May. Jean-François Copé and his centre-right party painted a bleak picture of the Schengen area.

Conservatives set for victory in Parliament elections in Finland

22 May, 2014 - 14:34

The conservative National Coalition is taking a clear lead over other political parties in Finland in the Parliament elections, according to the latest poll published by the public broadcaster Yle on Thursday (22 May).

Ukraine says ‘armed Russians’ cross its border

22 May, 2014 - 13:27

Ukraine’s foreign ministry has strongly protested attempts to cross the country’s border by armed insurgents from Russia, in what is seen as attempts to disrupt the presidential elections on 25 May, and destabilize the situation in the eastern region of the country.

In a statement published today, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine says that such attempts to cross borders “take place with the full connivance of the Russian authorities and unlawful inactivity by Russian border guards”.

Building Blocks: What housing can do for Europe

22 May, 2014 - 09:34

In the interest of jobs and growth, of social justice and financial stability, of all the challenges Europe is faced with, the next European Commission and the European Parliament need to take up the housing issue with ambition and creativity, write Freek Spinnewijn and Marc Uhry.

China and Russia sign ‘historic’ gas deal

22 May, 2014 - 08:04

China and Russia signed a $400-billion (€292 billion) gas supply deal yesterday (21 May), securing the world's top energy user a major source of cleaner fuel and opening up a new market for Moscow as it risks losing European customers over the Ukraine crisis.

The long-awaited agreement is a political triumph for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is courting partners in Asia as those in Europe and the United States seek to isolate him over Moscow's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula.

UK Greens eye big gains as EU election booths open in Britain

22 May, 2014 - 07:18

The United Kingdom today (22 May) votes in a European parliamentary election dominated by the EU membership referendum, but also a poll which could see a surprise last-minute surge for Britain’s Green Party.

While the majority of coverage leading up to the local and European elections has focused on the UK Independence Party (UKIP), the British Greens – long seen as irrelevant - are increasingly confident of making significant gains. They are already polling at their highest levels since 1989.

EU releases strategy to curb lorry CO2 emissions, fuel consumption

22 May, 2014 - 07:14

The European Commission released yesterday (21 May) a strategy to reduce the CO2 exhaust from lorries, which are responsible for around one quarter of road transport emissions.

While CO2 emissions from cars and vans have fallen over the past few decades, they have remained stagnant for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs).

The EU strategy focuses on measurement and reporting mechanisms for HDV emissions, including a long-awaited computer simulation tool, VECTO, which is still in its pilot phase.

Prague breaks ranks on EU energy policy towards Russia

22 May, 2014 - 07:04

While EU leaders make passionate pleas to coordinate national energy policies towards Russia, the Czech Republic said it would not back a Polish proposal to create a single body to buy gas for the European Union.

Prague opposes a Polish proposal to create a single body to buy gas for the European Union, but could support private groups voluntarily joining up for purchases, according to a position document approved by the government on Wednesday (21 May), Reuters reported.

Civic education chief: Germans see 'less at stake' in EU elections

22 May, 2014 - 06:48

For many, the European election is a "secondary election", as shown by participation rates in Germany’s Wahl-O-Match vote matching tool. After three weeks online, demand remains modest, but the application helps inspire political discourse among voters, says Thomas Krüger.

OECD study reveals health cost of road transport emissions

22 May, 2014 - 06:40

The cost of air pollution to the world’s largest economies runs into the trillions of euros, with emissions from road transport accounting for about half of the total, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The study estimates the cost of air pollution to the OECD member countries and China and India, at $3.5 trillion (€2.6 trillion).