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Member states want to be less attractive to migrants

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 07:55

A flurry of ideas about how countries could reduce their attractiveness to asylum seekers have been voiced in various European countries, providing a preview of the discussion at the meeting of ministers of foreign affairs to be held in Luxembourg tomorrow (4 September).

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives want to limit the financial incentives for refugees coming to the country as their numbers soar, a paper showed yesterday (2 September), underlining the strain the crisis is putting on Europe's largest economy.

Haulers fear migrant crisis will slow down intra-EU trade

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 07:47

Truckers caught up in Europe's migrant crisis say business is increasingly disrupted by queues and stowaways, but they are far more worried governments will step up border controls.

Tsipras and Varoufakis: A messy split

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 07:43

Alexis Tsipras and Yanis Varoufakis shared a vision once, but the double act of the Greek debt drama's most colourful characters now appears well and truly over.

When Tsipras swept to power as prime minister in January, hiring maverick economist Varoufakis as his finance minister, both vowed to stand up to Athens' much-loathed creditors and bring an end to the austerity they blamed for strangling the Greek economy.

With a shared love of motorbikes and a hatred of neck-ties, they were the fearsome twosome who took Greek politics by storm.

[Ticker] Conservatives nudge ahead of Syriza in Greek poll

EU Observer - 3 September, 2015 - 07:38
Conservative New Democracy has nudged slightly ahead of Syriza for the first time ahead of the 20 September Greek election, according to a poll by GPO for Mega TV. The channel’s survey shows New Democracy is on 25.3 percent, against 25 percent for Syriza.

Aid to refugees: How do European countries compare?

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 07:21

The amount of financial help refugees get has sparked divisions in the EU, as migrants naturally flock to countries with the most favourable regimes in the absence of a common policy. Below is a rundown of aid available to asylum seekers in major EU nations.

[Ticker] France drops Arafat poisoning probe

EU Observer - 3 September, 2015 - 07:19
French judges say they have dropped an investigation into claims Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned, with prosecutors saying polonium poisoning had "not been demonstrated". Arafat died in Paris in 2004, aged 75. His wife, Suha, claimed he had been poisoned, possibly by highly radioactive polonium.

Catalonia faces wall of Spanish indifference, regional government says

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 07:06

A Catalan election this month, which the pro-independence movement has billed as a proxy on independence, is due to indifference to Catalan demands shown by Madrid, the head of the regional government said on Wednesday (2 September).

Bill Gates calls for more funds to help world's poorest farmers

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 06:45

Bill Gates called for more funds to help the world’s poorest farmers deal with climate change on Tuesday (1 September), in an appeal that could help pry open the coffers of industrialised countries.

The call from the tech billionaire and world’s biggest philanthropist to focus on the poor could spur more finance from industrialised countries to small-scale farmers during negotiations for a global deal to fight climate change in Paris at the end of the year.

Young translators compete for Commission crown

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 06:27

The 2015 edition of the European Commission-promoted Juvenes Translatores competition will focus on the European Year of Development. EurActiv Italy reports.

Officials warn Juncker Plan could overlook small-scale infrastructure

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 06:15

EU officials are making noise about the Juncker Plan, which some say might give cash loans more favourably to large infrastructure projects and leave behind small, local proposals.

The European Commission's investment scheme will be worth a target total of €315 billion set to go primarily into energy, transport and digital infrastructure projects around Europe.

But some officials say the European Investment Bank has too strong a say and won't pick projects that benefit local communities.

Returning Europe to competitiveness through energy productivity and efficiency

EU Active - 3 September, 2015 - 06:06

The Juncker Commission’s investment plan is an unprecedented opportunity to improve the EU’s energy productivity and efficiency, writes Ingrid Holmes.

The Failed Moral Argument for a "Living Wage"

Ludwig von Mises Institute - 3 September, 2015 - 06:00
With Labor Day upon us, newspapers across the US will be printing op-eds calling for a mandated “living wage” and higher wages in general. In many cases, advocates for a living wage argue for outright mandates on wages; that is, a minimum wage set as an arbitrary level determined by policymakers to be at a level that makes housing, food, and health care “affordable.”Behind this effort is a philosophical claim that employers are morally obligated to pay “a living wage” to employees, so they can afford necessities (however ambiguously defined) on a single wage, working forty hours per week. This moral argument singles out employers as the morally responsible party in the living wage equation, even though the variables that determine a living wage go far beyond the wage earned.For example, as I discussed here, the living wage is a function not simply of the wage, but of the cost of housing, food, health care, transportation, and a myriad of other factors. Where housing costs are low, for example, the living wage will be lower than it would be in a place where housing costs are high.So, what matters is not the nominal wage paid by the employer, but the real wage as determined by the cost of everything that a wage is used to purchase.Why Is Only the Employer Responsible?So, if it’s the real wage that matters, why is there a fixation on the nominal wage itself? After all, wages, in real terms, could be increased greatly by forcing down food costs and rents. So, why is there not a constant drum beat for grocers to lower their prices to make necessities affordable? Why are activists not picketing outside grocery stores for their high prices? Why are they not outside KB Homes headquarters for KB’s apparently inhumane efforts at selling homes at the highest prices that the market will bear? Why are people not picketing used car dealers for not lowering their prices to make transportation affordable for working families? And why are gas stations strangely exempted from protests over the high cost of gasoline? Certainly, all of these merchants are just as instrumental in determining real wages as any employer. Grocers, landlords, home sellers, and the owner of the corner gas station can put a huge dent in the family budget when they allow their “greed” to impel them to charge the highest prices they can get away with in the market place.And yes, it’s true that plenty of activists regularly denounce landlords as “slumlords” or greedy capitalists for charging the highest rents the market will bear. And there are still plenty of activists who argue for price controls on rents and food. But they’re in a small minority nowadays. The vast majority of voters and policymakers recognize that government-dictated prices on food and housing lead to shortages. Setting a price ceiling on rents or home prices simply means that fewer housing units will be built, while setting a price ceiling on eggs, or milk or bread will simply mean that fewer of those staples will be brought to market.Such assertions are barely even debated anymore, as can be seen in the near-extinction of new rent-control efforts in the political sphere. You won’t see many op-eds this Labor Day arguing for price controls on fruit, gasoline, and apartments. You won’t see any articles denouncing homeowners for selling their homes at the highest price they can get, when they really should be slashing prices to make homeownership more affordable for first-time homebuyers.So, for whatever reason, homeowners, grocers, and others are exempt from the wrath of the activists for not keeping real wages low. The employers, on the other hand — those who pay the nominal wage — remain well within the sights of the activists since, for some arbitrary reason, the full moral obligation of providing a living wage falls on the employer.Were food prices to go up by 10 percent in the neighborhood of Employer X, who is responsible? “Why, the employer, of course,” the living-wage activists will contend. After all, in their minds, it is only the employer who is morally obligated to bring up real wages to match or exceed an increase in the cost of living.So while price controls on food, housing, and gasoline are generally recognized as a dead end, price controls on wages remain popular. The problem, of course, as explained here, here, here, and here, is that by setting the wage above the value offered by a low-skill worker, employers will simply elect to not hire low-skill workers.A Low Wage Is Unacceptable, but a Zero Wage Is FineAnd this leads to the fact that when faced with high wages, employers will seek to replace employers with non-human replacements — such as these automated cashiers at McDonalds — or other labor-saving devices.But this phenomenon is simply ignored by the living-wage advocates. Thus, the argument that employers are morally obligated to not pay low wages becomes strangely silent in the face of workers earning no wage at all.Indeed, we see few attempts at passing laws mandating that employers hire human beings instead of machines. While it’s no doubt true that some neo-Luddites would love to see this happen, virtually no one argues that employers not be allowed to employ labor-saving devices. Certainly, anyone making such an argument is likely to be laughed out of the room since most everyone immediately recognizes that it would be absurd to pass laws mandating that a road builder, for example, hire people with shovels instead of using bulldozers and paving machines.Meanwhile, successes by living-wage advocates in other industries — where automation is not as immediately practical — have only been driving up prices for consumer goods. Yes, living wages in food, energy, and housing sectors will squeeze profits and bring higher wages for those who luckily keep their jobs, but the mandates will also tend to raise prices for consumers. This in turn means that real wages in the overall economy have actually gone down, thanks to a rising cost of living.All in all, it’s quite a bizarre strategy the living-wage advocates have settled on. It consists of raising the prices of consumer goods via increasing labor costs. Real wages then go down, and, at the same time, many workers lose their jobs to automation as capital is made relatively less expensive by a rising cost of labor. While the goal of raising the standard of living for workers and their families is laudable, it’s apparent that living wage advocates haven’t exactly thought things through.

Italy imposes Austria border controls 'for next few days'

EU Observer - 2 September, 2015 - 17:56
A Bavarian minister has asked north-Italy regional authorities to impose border controls to help Germany cope with asylum seekers.

[Ticker] EU agrees to extend Russia blacklists

EU Observer - 2 September, 2015 - 17:24
Member states' ambassadors in Brussels Tuesday agreed to extend a visa ban and asset freeze on dozens of Russians and Ukrainians said to be stirring the conflict in Ukraine, an EU source said, adding the formal decision is "likely" on 14 September.

Hungary: Volunteers who help migrants turn anti-Orban

EU Observer - 2 September, 2015 - 17:23
Hungarian volunteers helping migrants due to lack of basic state support are beginning to turn their anger on Orban, with a protest planned in Budapest on Wednesday.

[Ticker] Russian anti-Ukraine singer gets EU visa

EU Observer - 2 September, 2015 - 15:58
Popular Russian singer Joseph Kobzon, on an EU blacklist for cheerleading the Ukraine invasion, has obtained an EU visa for medical treatment, Russian media report, adding he's to go to Italy or Germany 9 September. Kobzon earlier boasted Russian leader Putin would get him the EU permit via personal connections.

Disputes reignited over milk prices ahead of EU crisis meeting

EU Active - 2 September, 2015 - 15:22

Ahead of the meeting between EU agricultural ministers next week, disputes over the regulation of milk prices have once again come to the fore. EurActiv Germany reports.

Fossil fuel divestment still only at ‘symbolic’ level

EU Active - 2 September, 2015 - 15:11

Almost 400 institutions have signed up to the global fossil fuel divestment campaign since 2012, but an NGO report has warned that their commitments are not enough to make a real difference. Journal de l'Environnement reports

Big pharma complains about French law pushing cheap eye drug

EU Active - 2 September, 2015 - 15:09

Europe's pharmaceuticals industry said on Tuesday (1 September) it had filed a complaint with the European Commission against a French law promoting the use of Roche's cancer drug Avastin as an alternative to more expensive eye treatments.

Germany 'no longer attractive' to US investors

EU Active - 2 September, 2015 - 14:03

Top American companies no longer see Germany as an attractive investment and the country is losing jobs as a result, said AmCham Vice-President Frank Riemensperger. EurActiv Germany reports.

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