European Union. Here are some of the events and decisions within the EU that got the attention during the year.
Alcohol. Swedes drink less alcoholic beverages than the average EU citizen – an annual consumption of about 10 liters of pure alcohol per person over 15 years in Sweden compared to about 12 liters in the rest of the EU. The Swedish government is worried about the import of spirits and other alcoholic beverages into Sweden from countries with lower prices. Member of Parliament Kent Härstedt from Helsingborg has therefore been appointed to follow the development of border trade in especially southern Sweden and to propose measures. Sales at Systembolagen in southern and northern Sweden decreased during the autumn after the alcohol tax in Denmark and Finland was lowered. The Customs Agency pointed to future difficulties in controlling alcohol imports in accordance with new EU rules for imports from the turn of the year 2003/2004. The permissible limit of 20 liters of strong wine, 90 liters of wine and 110 liters of strong beer is not really an absolute limit, but instead a stretchable guideline for where the limit should be set for entry for private consumption. Thus, it will be the customs personnel who are given the difficult task of assessing whether the bottles are for private use or if they can be suspected of being intended to be sold black to restaurants or private individuals.
The working hours. All on-call time shall be included in the regular working hours. It ruled the ECJ in a judgment that concerned a German doctor, and which could have consequences even in Sweden. The rules on on-call time apply to all workers, although the consequences will be greatest in health care. In Sweden, for example, doctors’ on-call time, or overtime, is not included in regular working hours. If the on-call time has to be scheduled, the medical shortage could be even worse, the County Council fears. An investigation into working hours is ongoing in the EU. See abbreviationfinder for EU meanings.
AstraZeneca lost when the European Court of Justice raised the patent protection case for omeprazole, the active substance in the bestselling gastric ulcer drug Losec®. It was a German drug manufacturer who had challenged AstraZeneca’s exclusive rights to omeprazole. The Court held that the additional protection for the substance in Germany is invalid. However, according to AstraZeneca’s judgment, the court ruling does not have any significant financial consequences for the company.
Letter bombs were discovered at the end of the year at several EU institutions. The letters had been sent to senior executives and directly to the President of the European Commission Romano Prodi. Although Prodi opened a letter that exploded, he avoided being injured. The other bombs were disarmed by bomb experts before reaching the addressees.
Denmark’s immigration policy is changed so as not to contravene EU rules on free movement across borders for labor and services. Denmark tightened the law on family reunification as late as the summer of 2002. It is thus these rules that are eased after only one year. The stricter rules, which were removed, contained, inter alia, specified requirements on the persons’ age, income and connection to Denmark. The rules prevented some couples, consisting of a Danish and a foreign citizen, from settling in Denmark, and in some cases these persons chose to move to Sweden.
The ECB, the European Central Bank, received a new chair in November for the next eight-year period. It was the Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet (born 1942) who took over the prestigious post from the departing Wim Duisenberg from the Netherlands. Trichet, who is basically both a mining engineer and a doctor of economics, has been an advisor to several governments and the head of the French central bank, Banque de France. He was one of France’s representatives in the EU negotiations leading up to the Maastricht Treaty in 1992.
EMU. The result of the Swedish referendum – a refusal to introduce the euro as a currency – means that the Riksbank will continue to decide on Swedish monetary policy. The Swedish side continues cooperation in the ESCB, the European System of Central Banks, in certain areas, including: statistics collection, reporting, referral statements and the TARGET payment system, which link the national payment systems through the central banks. However, the Riksbank does not fully participate in TARGET, for example, Swedish banks may not have overnight credit in this system.
EU treaty. There was talk of failure after the EU summit in Brussels December 12-13. At that time, current and future EU countries defined by Countryaah.com tried to agree on a new EU Treaty (after the Treaty of Nice) with constitution and constitution adapted to an enlarged EU. It was about questions about influence, number of members and working methods at different levels within the EU. But the negotiations broke down and the disagreement was total, EU President Silvio Berlusconi was forced to state at the press conference after the summit. The disagreement dealt, among other things. on the voting power of the various countries in the Council of Ministers, the foremost decision-making body in the EU. For example, Spain and Poland were in opposition to Germany and France, where the latter advocated changes that would primarily benefit the Union’s most populous country Germany. One issue that was agreed on was that each member state should be allowed to retain its commissioner. Negotiations on the EU Treaty had been prepared for a long time, including: for over a year of the so-called Future Convention, with representatives from all countries concerned under the leadership of former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. During the summer, the Future Convention presented a draft, a compromise proposal, for the writing of the Treaty. This was discussed during the autumn in the European Parliament, where a majority supported the Future Convention’s proposal. Parliament also voted against another proposal to call on EU countries to vote on the forthcoming EU Treaty. The interrupted negotiations on the EU Treaty continue in 2004 under the leadership of the new Presidency of Ireland. with representatives from all countries concerned under the leadership of former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. During the summer, the Future Convention presented a draft, a compromise proposal, for the writing of the Treaty. This was discussed during the autumn in the European Parliament, where a majority supported the Future Convention’s proposal. Parliament also voted against another proposal to call on EU countries to vote on the forthcoming EU Treaty. The interrupted negotiations on the EU Treaty continue in 2004 under the leadership of the new Presidency of Ireland. with representatives from all countries concerned under the leadership of former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. During the summer, the Future Convention presented a draft, a compromise proposal, for the writing of the Treaty. This was discussed during the autumn in the European Parliament, where a majority supported the Future Convention’s proposal. Parliament also voted against another proposal to call on EU countries to vote on the forthcoming EU Treaty. The interrupted negotiations on the EU Treaty continue in 2004 under the leadership of the new Presidency of Ireland. Parliament also voted against another proposal to call on EU countries to vote on the forthcoming EU Treaty. The interrupted negotiations on the EU Treaty continue in 2004 under the leadership of the new Presidency of Ireland. Parliament also voted against another proposal to call on EU countries to vote on the forthcoming EU Treaty. The interrupted negotiations on the EU Treaty continue in 2004 under the leadership of the new Presidency of Ireland.
EU authorities.The EU’s infection control authority, officially named the European Center for the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, is placed in Sweden, according to a decision at the EU summit in December. It is the first EU authority to be placed in Sweden. When the authority is completed, it will have about 100 employees and an annual budget of 48 million euros. The task of the Swedish Anti-Infection Agency is to timely alert the imminent epidemics of infectious diseases and recommend countermeasures. The government decides the location of the authority, which will be built up in 2004. The summit also decided on the placement of eight additional EU authorities: the Chemicals Agency in Finland, the Food Safety Authority in Italy, Eurojust (criminal justice) in the Netherlands, the Police Academy in the United Kingdom, the Maritime Safety Agency in Portugal, The Aviation Safety Agency in Germany, the Railway Agency in France and the IT Security Agency in Greece. The latter authority was also desirable for both Sweden and Estonia. Both of these countries had high hopes of getting the IT authority. In the final negotiations at the Council of Ministers, however, it did not help that Minister of Infrastructure Ulrica Messing argued Sweden’s position as the leading IT nation in the world.
European Disability Year2003 was announced by the EU to highlight disability issues in EU countries. During the campaign year, thousands of activities and events were carried out under the auspices of the EU. The purpose was to raise awareness of the barriers and discrimination that many people with disabilities face in their everyday lives. The Swedish theme during the theme year was human rights. A domestic problem that was raised was the lack of will or ability to comply with the legislation when it comes to adapting buildings so that people with disabilities can visit, for example, banks, cinemas, libraries, hospitals, restaurants and shops. At the end of the year, detailed regulations were set for, among other things, property owners, municipalities and businesses about how the work should be done to increase accessibility to buildings and public places. By 2010, the barriers for disabled people to visit public environments should have been removed. Ultimately, however, it is the municipalities’ building committees that can decide what measures must be taken – a fairness clause says that the measures must not be unreasonably financially burdensome.
Eurostat affair. During the year, the EU statistics agency Eurostat in Luxembourg was at the center of a scandal involving financial irregularities. Three senior executives at Eurostat, including Director-General Yves Franchet, was dismissed and six executive officers were relocated following disclosures that revenue from the sale of computer services was transferred to secret accounts since the late 1990s. There is no documentation on how the money was spent, but the money is reported to have been managed by a French consulting firm to pay “informal expenses”, such as advertising, public relations and fees for activities related to Eurostat. You do not know how much this amount is, but about 900,000 euros is a figure mentioned. There is no evidence that the senior executives themselves shot at the money transactions. However, the procedure is a serious violation of EU budgetary rules, and it also undermines confidence in the unit. Following the disclosures of the Eurostat deal, EU President Romano Prodi in the autumn prepared an action plan to address deficiencies in practices that could lead to fraud. This means that a warning system is set up, which can sound alarms in the event of suspected irregularities.
EU enlargement. Referendums on membership in the EU were held during the year in nine future member countries. In all cases, it became the majority for EU entry. In addition, a unanimous parliament in Cyprus took a stand for accession to the EU. It is thus clear that from 1 May 2004, following approved accession treaties, the EU will be extended to Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and Hungary. Negotiations with Bulgaria and Romania are being pursued with the aim of becoming EU members in January 2007. At the end of 2004, the EU will decide whether Turkey meets the requirements for opening membership negotiations.
Property purchases. A decision was made during the year that the European Parliament buys the buildings in Strasbourg, where Parliament moves once a month to meet. The bill for the purchase remains at just under half a billion euros.
GMOs. EU rules on labeling of foods with GMOs, genetically modified organisms, came into force in the fall. The rules mean that all food and animal feed containing GMOs must be labeled. Information must be transmitted between the various links in the management chain so that GMOs can be traced backwards in the chain. Exceptions to the labeling requirements are allowed for milk, eggs or meat from animals that have eaten genetically modified feed.
Poisons in food. In November, a three-year research project was started on acrylamide and other poisons that may arise from food heating. 23 organizations from 14 countries are participating in the project, called Heatox (Heat-induced food toxicants). The project is coordinated at Lund University. Other Swedish participating organizations are the Swedish National Food Agency, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU, and the Food Industry Research Institute, SIK. In addition, Margareta Törnqvist attends Stockholm University, whose research team discovered the presence of acrylamide in heated food. The EU is investing EUR 4.2 million, and participants contribute about the same amount.
The Iraq War divided the EU’s current future members into two camps. Britain was the EU country that stood out most in support of the US war to overthrow Saddam Hussein, while France and Germany were the toughest opponents. When the war was officially ended, discussions on support for reconstruction in Iraq began. At a donor conference in October, the EU earmarked € 200 million as a contribution to this work.
Agricultural policy. A new EU regulation will simplify and streamline the control of state aid to agriculture. The regulation gives Member States the right to grant different types of state agricultural aid without first having to seek prior approval from the Commission. The hope is that faster management will speed up national programs for environmental improvements, animal welfare and hygiene in agriculture.
Luleå municipality’s computer procurement received criticism from the EU Commission in December, which submitted a complaint to the Swedish government. It was a computer vendor who turned to the Commission as the municipality, in its call for tenders, specified a special brand, Intel Pentium 4, as a requirement for the processor. According to the Commission, the requirements for public procurement must be stated in general terms, and if a mark is still to be indicated, this must be followed by the words “or equivalent”. The matter goes further by the Ministry of Finance handing it over to the Public Procurement Committee. The municipality must comment on the matter, and it also has the opportunity to withdraw the tendering procedure and amend it.
The Nice Treaty, agreed by the EU Heads of State and Government in Nice in December 2000, came into force in February 2003. In short, the Treaty contains various changes to the EU’s decision-making processes and institutions, which will make it easier to bring in new Member States. The Treaty of Nice contains, among other things, a new vote in the Council, a new allocation of seats in the European Parliament and a new organization for the Commission. However, the accession treaties negotiated by the EU with the new Member States change parts of the Treaty of Nice. Following enlargement, the Treaty of Nice is intended to be replaced by a new EU Treaty. However, negotiations on this at the EU summit in mid-December were suspended following disagreements among the participating countries.
The President of the EU in the first half of 2003 was Greece. Prime Minister Kostas Simitis handed over to the club for the second half of the year at the turn of the year to Italy and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Already at the first appearance of the EU President, Berlusconi’s resignation caused great rebellion. He had then explained to a German Socialist parliamentarian that he would fit well in the role of concentration camp guard in an upcoming Italian film. The German had previously questioned Berlusconi’s suitability as EU President. Berlusconi later regretted his statement, although he did not immediately apologize.
Juice and mash. Sweden incorporates EU food standards for a number of foods into the Swedish regulatory framework. This means that Swedish standards for juice and fruit pulp expired in July. Previous Swedish juices and mash rules specified how much juice and fruit would be included in different products (eg at least 45% fruit puree in apple mash). Instead, the new common EU rules state that a product’s characteristic ingredient must be declared in bulk.
The gaming market – two judgments. An EC ruling in November states that Italian legislation, which allows only national gaming companies to market in the country, contravenes certain sections of the freedom of establishment under the Treaty of Rome. It was the British betting company Stanleybet who, through the judgment, got the right to act on the Italian gaming market. Foreign-based gaming companies expect that the EC judgment will also break the Swedish state gaming monopoly and make it permissible for the gaming companies to market themselves in Sweden, for example by advertising Internet-based games and betting in Swedish TV and Swedish newspapers. In addition to Stanleybet, the British gaming companies Unibet and Ladbrokes, who are working to enter the Swedish gaming market. In November, another step was taken in this endeavor by publishing both Expressen and Aftonbladet advertisements for a private gaming company. This is a violation of Swedish legislation, but the evening newspapers defended the advertisement with reference to the EC judgment on the Italian gaming market. In Sweden, however, the Lottery Inspectorate and Svenska Spel argue that the Italian judgment cannot be translated into Swedish conditions. The European Court of Justice has also referred to national exemptions from the right of establishment, for example. if the monopoly is used to protect citizens and prevent gambling abuse. However, an argument against this noble purpose is that the Swedish gaming monopoly also produces gaming addicts. The views of those involved are strongly disjointed and great financial values are at stake. The question of who gets the right may be decided in later judgments. In the autumn, another ruling came from the European Court of Justice regarding the gaming market. It was a woman from Åland who won a million SEK. on a lot purchased in Sweden. The Finnish state wanted part of the profit tax, but according to the EC judgment, the profit tax should only be levied in the country where the gaming company is located. This means that all bet winnings will be taxed only once. Internet-based gaming companies acting across national borders.