European Parliament votes to reform agricultural policy

The outcome of the vote on March 13 surprised many, as the expected greening of the Common Agricultural Policy was turned down. 

By Isabelle Gheldolf and Mette-Sofie Holst Sommer

Wednesday 13 March the European Parliament voted on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

Back in October 2011 the Commission unveiled the plans for a greener CAP, which amongst other things called for improving biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gasses and using direct payments to encourage farmers to reduce the use of fertiliser and pesticides.

But the outcome of the vote last month surprised many, as Members of Parliament (MEPs) voted to keep basic greening measures, but did not take initiative to take a step further in greening the CAP.

“We would have liked to see more direct funding towards green and organic farming in the reform,” says Morten Bonde, spokesperson for the Danish Ministry for Foods and Agriculture.

Christel Schaldemose, Danish MEP and member of the Social Democrats thinks the greening is a lost cause.

“Many member states are having financial trouble and this goes at the cost of the greening of the agricultural policy,” she says.

Sofa farmers excluded from beneficiaries

Another important decision concerning the direct payments was made at the sitting. MEPs agreed that they should be granted directly to active farmers.

So far institutions like golf clubs, scouts clubs and kindergartens in the member states can receive farming subsidies, although they have never milked a single cow or driven a tractor.

But at the vote the European Parliament agreed that the “sofa farmers” should immediately be excluded from the list of beneficiaries unless they can prove that farming contributes a substantial part of their income.

A new type of reform

When the CAP was developed in the 1950’s it was based upon the idea of providing agricultural subsidies through intervention in the market. After two world wars politicians wanted to ensure that food shortages and famine would be a remnant of the past, which is why the EU has intervened and supported the market ever since.

Since its creation, the CAP has been subjected to several reforms. The current reform is the first agricultural policy that will be made under the co-decision procedure, which means that this time the Parliament will be able to adjust the amendments of the Commission and propose their own changes.

The reform of the CAP is expected to enter into force in 2014.



EU draws up list to solve farming subsidy leak

For years, airports and sport clubs have been on the beneficiary list of the EU’s agricultural budget. With the Common Agricultural Policy undergoing a new reform, ‘sofa farmers’ will immediately be excluded from the subsidies.

By Isabelle Gheldolf and Mette-Sofie Sommer

“Please take your boots off before entering,” says a note on the door to farmer Carl Jørgen Haugård’s office. He is sitting inside, patiently waiting for the cowshed outside to fill up with the next load of motley colored cows, whose bursting udders are ready to be milked.

Haugård receives a grant of €218.669 from the EU once every year. He needs the money to run and maintain the farm, that holds over 700 milking cows.

Not far from the farm is Randers Fjord Golf Club. According to the website of the Danish Ministry of Foods, Agriculture and Fishery, the golf club received a grant of €22.892 in 2011 from the EU. The spokesperson from the club was not interested in explaining what the money was spent on.

These grants are part of the direct funding of the Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). At the moment the CAP is undergoing a reform in the European Parliament and on March 13, 7000 amendments were voted on in the sitting in Strasbourg. The Parliament were especially concerned with improving the targeting and distribution of the direct payments.

The spirit of the law

The grant Randers Fjord golf club received is just a little over 10 per cent of what Haugård receives, but looking down the Ministry’s list you find hundreds of other examples of “sofa farmers”; schools, kindergartens and pony

clubs, who also receive farming subsidies. They gain the right to payment by owning land, that is not used for production.

”To me it seems very strange that those who do not produce foods or crops receive subsidies too,” says farmer Haugård.

In Belgium, the vast amount of €600.000 was granted to the Dutch airline company KLM for ‘export of agricultural products’ subsidies, because they transport food during flights.

“From a technical point of view this is food exporting, but this is not the spirit of the law,” says Bart Staes, Belgian MEP and member of The Greens, who have been pleading for a reform for years.

Christel Schaldemose, Danish MEP from the Social Democrats,  agrees.

“In the treaty of the CAP, it is defined as an income support for farmers. But now it has developed into support for big companies,” she says.

Struggle to define active farmers

It is hard for the EU to ensure that payments directly go to farmers.
It is hard for the EU to ensure that payments directly go to farmers.

This grey zone of receivers is a consequence of the 2003 reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The EU farm ministers introduced the decoupling of the direct payments; a scheme that allowed for a much wider use of non-production land.

“The golf courses, for instance, receive funding because they are giving rural areas some kind of activity. But they do not fulfill the typical definition of farmers. This is a grey zone we should not have,” says Henning Otto Hansen, Senior Advisor from the institution of Food and Resources Economics at the University of Copenhagen.

But Ministers of Agriculture struggle to agree on a definition of an active farmer, that will cover all EU’s farmers, which is why golf clubs and schools have benefited from the CAP’s 40 billion budget for years.

“The funding should reach the farmers, not just the big landowners,” Bart Staes says.

Bart Staes, MEP of The Greens. "The funding should reach the farmers, not just the big landowners."
Bart Staes, MEP of The Greens. “The funding should reach the farmers, not just the big landowners.”

Easier to define sofa farmers

The inability to agree on a definition has led to the second-best option; instead of defining who should receive aid, the EU determined who should not be subsidised and drew up a list of landowners, like airports and sports clubs, that should automatically be excluded as beneficiaries.

“Making this list with organizations that should be excluded from funding is better than nothing, but I was in favor of making a clear definition of an active farmer,” says Christel Schaldemose, Social Democrat and Danish MEP.

According to Schaldemose, this list is a step back in reaching the goal of a common agricultural policy.

“The EU will get into a situation where in some member states it will be possible for a transport company or an airport to receive money from the CAP and in others not. This is not the way to go,” she says.

To improve the honesty of the funding, the Parliament also agreed that the beneficiaries and the amounts they receive must be published.

Butter mountains and milk lakes

This reform is just one of many the CAP has been subject to.

Before the reform in 2003, farm payments were coupled to production. This meant that the more farmers produced, the more they received in subsidies.

“This laid at the root of the surpluses of agricultural products, also known as the European Union’s notorious butter mountains and milk lakes. The farmers were not making production decisions based on market prices and conditions, but on the program, ” says Kim Martin Lind, Senior Research Fellow from the institution of Food and Resources Economics at the University of Copenhagen.

The decoupling of the direct payments caused new issues for the European Union. Beneficiaries whose main businesses had nothing to do with farming became entitled to farming subsidies too, which is what the Parliament had to deal with in the new reform.

Still a long way to go

Mairead McGuinness, the European People’s Party Group Rapporteur and MEP, who leads the negotiations in the Parliament, has warned that a long road lies ahead in terms of achieving a final CAP agreement.

“In all Member States, we need to openly debate how best to use the direct support payments, how to target them, including the possibility of coupled payments for sensitive sectors, especially livestock production,” McGuiness said in a press release on March 13.

In late March and early April the trilogue negotiations between the EU Parliament, EU farm ministers and the Commission will start and the final shape of the CAP 2014-2020 will be decided. They will try to get a final deal on June 24 and 25.

The CAP is expected to enter into force in January 1ste 2014.

[box] What is the CAP

The Common Agricultural Policy is one of the European Union’s oldest policy. The CAP is a collection of rules and mechanisms which regulated the agricultural production.

Why was the CAP made?

After the second world war people were suffering and starving. Europe had to create their own food supply system.The policy was first defined in the Treaty of Rome in 1957 and launched in 1962.

Why do we need a CAP?

The overall goals of the CAP are:

To enhance competitiveness by improving the position of farmers in the food supply chain.

To ensure that food reaches consumers at reasonable prices.

To assure the availability of supplies.

To increase agricultural productivity.

Stabilize markets

Budget of the CAP

Total Budget: 122.230 million euros (2010).

56.776 million euros goes to expenditure which consists of direct payments and rural development support. [/box] is a database with information about who receives EU’s farming subsidies. Founder of the website, Nils Mulvad, explains the importance of transparancy and how hard it has been to get the data.

EU animal-tested cosmetic ban has import loopholes

By Amanda Dafniotis and Chris O’Gorman.

The European Union’s market ban on animal-tested cosmetics may have come into effect last Monday, but many logistical questions remain regarding the importation of cosmetics from other countries, particularly China.

The two-decade-long effort to ban all animal testing in the EU reached its apparent end with the March 11 market ban, which will ensure no animal-tested ingredients are used in cosmetics sold in the EU.

There are concerns, however, that cosmetics imported into the EU may have been tested on animals in their country of origin and the newest ban may not completely guarantee the safety of the product.

The China Problem

China mandates all cosmetics be tested on animals before they are deemed safe for public use. The country also lobbied against the market ban, as well as previous bans under the Cosmetics Directive, which outlines rules on the composition, labeling and packaging of cosmetic products.

When asked how the market ban will affect trade relations between China and the EU, officials from China’s Belgian economic and commercial office did not respond for requests for comment.

Frédérick Warzee, a cosmetic scientist and spokesperson for DETIC, the Belgian cosmetics association, said he expects China will have to follow suit with the market ban and not test their cosmetics on animals if they want access to the European market.

“Marketing of Chinese products will not be allowed if testing on animals was conducted to comply with EU cosmetics legislation requirements,” he said.

However, this may not be the case.

Sabine Lecrenier, the head of cosmetics and medical devices unit at the health and consumers directorate general, a branch of the European Commission, said there may be some difficulties implementing the market ban.

“We cannot control what happens in other countries and cannot impose our regulatory standards on others,” she said. “A product from China can be tested on animals but once in the EU, we will make sure it passes a safety test using alternative methods before placing it on the EU market.”

This means, while countries outside the EU will be able to test their cosmetic products on animals, they will not be able to sell them on the European market until the safety of the product is re-tested using alternative testing methods.

A timeline of the Cosmetics Directive as it applies to animal testing bans for cosmetic uses. Infographic courtesy of the European Commission (click to enlarge)

Safety will not be compromised

These safety tests will likely be costly and it is not clear who will pay for them: the EU or the cosmetics companies.

The Commission will know if the prospective cosmetics contain animal-tested ingredients as all companies wishing to sell cosmetics on the European market will have to also submit a report documenting the testing methods used to ensure the safety of the product.

“We will not compromise on safety, so the ban means only that consumers in the EU will not benefit from future innovations available elsewhere in the world,” Warzee said. “The EU market will become less innovative and the EU would lose its leadership on safety assessment regulatory standards.”

The EU as a global example

As the market ban comes into full effect, it will be up to individual member states, not the European Commission, to ensure no animal-tested cosmetics end up on their shelves.

Some member states lack the sufficient resources and knowledge to implement the ban, according to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), an animal welfare group that lobbied in favour of the market ban.

The group said, while they hope the market ban is effective, if there is difficulty implementing it, other countries may not respect the ban as reason enough to change their domestic animal testing laws.

“We estimate that over 80% of the world still allows animal testing for cosmetics and some countries, notably China, require imported products to be tested on animals before they reach the market,” Sarah Kite, a press officer for BUAV said in an email. “In a global market it is important that all countries ban the practice to avoid animal testing simply being moved around the world to those countries with no effective laws.”

The Euro Group for Animals, a collective of 40 animal welfare organizations including BUAV, echoed the concern with China’s mandated animal testing laws.

“China is our big concern because the market in China is huge and we hope that by implementing this ban and by working with our international partners, we can gradually increase the number of countries that don’t accept animal testing in cosmetics,” said Martyn Griffiths, a press officer with the Euro Group for Animals. “We hope that will put pressure on the Chinese government to actaccordingly.”

“I don’t really care what China does.”

Dan Jørgensen, a Danish member of the European Parliament and president of the intergroup on animal welfare said, while China will not allow non-animal-tested cosmetics onto its shelves, this should not be a reason to rethink the ban.

“I don’t really care what China does,” he said. “Why don’t we allow child labour in Europe? They use it in India […] But we don’t want child labour in Europe, that’s why we ban it. The same goes for animal testing.”

Danish MEP Dan Jørgensen (centre) said China’s mandatory animal-testing laws should be no reason for the EU to reconsider the March 11 market ban. Photo by Chris O’Gorman

Jørgensen also said he does not believe countries like China are significant markets for European cosmetics companies, while other industry experts say the Chinese market is integral for global cosmetics corporations.

“The Chinese need to prove that the products they want to sell to us, which I bet you is a lot larger quantity than what we want to sell to them, cannot use animal testing so they have to change, not us.”

Jumping on the ban-wagon

For fear of being left out of the European cosmetics market, some non-EU member states, such as Norway, have been forced to decide whether to follow the Cosmetics Directive in order to continue selling cosmetics in the EU.

In a statement released in April, 2011, the Norwegian consumer affairs sector said they would only accept the ban if consumer safety was upheld to the same standard as animal tests provided.

“The answer we have gotten from the experts is clearly in the negative. It will not be possible – neither by March 11, 2013 nor for many more years to come,” the statement said.

However, the Norwegian authorities recently reversed their decision.

“It is decided that the EU ban regarding animal testing and cosmetics will also come into effect March 11 in Norway. Thus we will have the same legislation on this issue as the EU,” Julie Tesdal Håland, an adviser and toxicologist with the Norwegian Safety Authority said in an email statement.

Testing 101

As of 2004, no cosmetics could be tested on animals in the EU under the Cosmetics Directive. By 2009, the directive included a ban on testing ingredients used in cosmetics on animals. The ban was upheld except in a few specific cases where the ingredients required testing for which no non-animal alternatives existed.

These exception tests were banned as of March 11. There are five tests in total consisting of: repeated dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity, skin sensitization, toxicokinetics, and carcinogenic testing.

As an example, repeated dose toxicity is a testing method wherein the animal is repeatedly fed or forced to inhale the ingredient or the ingredient in question is rubbed onto the animal’s shaved skin every day for 28 or 90 days, according to the BUAV. The animal is then killed to examine the effects of the ingredient.

These exception tests, however, will no longer be permitted with the implementation of the market ban.

The testing and marketing bans in the Cosmetics Directive apply even in cases where no alternative methods to animal testing are available, according to The European Commission’s official communication.

“This reflects a sector-specific political choice by the European Parliament and the Council,” the official Commission communication states.

Under previous EU chemical directives, some ingredients may still be tested on animals if their explicit purpose is not for cosmetic use.

“The data which is generated in other fields can be used to prove the safety of a cosmetic product,” Lecrenier said.

Sabine Lecrenier, the head of cosmetics and medical devices unit at the health and consumers directorate general at a technical briefing on the market ban. Photo: Still shot from video, The European Commission

Saving animals, killing innovation

Warzee, spokesperson for DETIC, said the market ban will do little to aid animal welfare, and will instead just harm European cosmetics innovation.

While animal rights activists may be cheering, a grim economic reality may lie just beyond the horizon.

“These blunt bans ignore the scientific reality that basic science is not ready to provide the alternatives we need to answer all safety questions,” Warzee said. “The absence of alternatives to animal testing methods means that it will be difficult to develop new ingredients or new uses of existing ingredients specifically for the EU market.”

EU set to fix gender imbalance on company boards

By: Lisa Coxon and Cleo Tse.

The European Commission wants 40 percent of company boards to be female by 2020, especially at a time when they can boost economic growth

Stepping into an office at the European Commission is indicative of how overwhelming bringing about change can be. This is where all EU legislation begins. Mina Andreeva shuffles through piles of papers as a giant, intimidating stack balances on the arm of a couch near the window. Andreeva is the spokeswoman for EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the woman who spearheaded the recent proposal last November to get more women onto EU company boards, which men currently dominate.


Diverse boards more profitable
Women make up 60% of university graduates today, making them an untapped pool of economic potential for companies. However, they are underrepresented at executive company levels. Several studies indicate that diverse company boards are more sustainable and profitable. An analysis conducted by consulting firm McKinsey&Company in April 2012 shows that companies with the highest number of women in top management had the best performance.

Source: McKinsey&Company – Women as a Valuable Asset, April 2012
Source: McKinsey&Company – Women as a Valuable Asset, April 2012













The directive

In March 2011, Reding created a pledge for companies to sign within one year, making a voluntary commitment to have 30% women on boards by 2015 and 40% by 2020. Only 24 companies signed. Reding initially proposed a quota but the Commission favoured a procedural flexi quota, which means the law only applies only to recruitment procedures, not the actual 40% target.

“It’s a smart quota because we are saying how to get there by making use of the talent that exists,” says Andreeva.

The directive – or proposed legislation – now sits before the European Parliament (EP). It opts for 40% of the underrepresented sex to fill non-executive board positions by 2020 within publicly listed companies, excluding small and medium enterprises. It allows flexible objectives to be set by companies themselves for executive positions. If an equally qualified male and female candidate applies for a board position, priority should be given to the underrepresented sex. Once sustainable progress has been made in gender composition of boards, the directive expires.

Companies will not face sanctions if they fail to meet 40% by 2020, but will be sanctioned by their respective member states if they lack transparent and gender-neutral hiring processes. The directive must be adopted by EP and the Council of Ministers for it to become law.

It is up to member states to implement sanctions against companies who do not strive to meet the 40%, but the Commission can execute infringement cases against member states if they are not complying and fail to explain why. It can also revoke money provided to boards and conduct “naming and shaming” – making it highly visible to the public which member states are not making progress.

The Commission will not impose provisions on schemes that are working already. The Commission will assess them and if sufficient, companies will be able to carry on as is.

Economic growth
According to Sylvia Walby, professor of sociology at Lancaster University in the UK, economic growth strategies are gendered. The old, idealized model of the EU emphasized economic growth via full employment of women and minorities, and practices that reconciled family and work life. The recent budget adopted by the EU in February presents a new model, justifying economic growth through the use of austerity measures ­­– cuts in public expenditure, that at a national level seem small, but at a local level have a much more significant impact.

Sylvia Walby/Screenshot from interview March 6, 2013 By: Lisa Coxon and Cleo Tse
Sylvia Walby/Screenshot from interview March 6, 2013
By: Lisa Coxon and Cleo Tse

These cuts have disproportionate impacts on those least protected by statutory law – women being among them. Walby says this current model will wreck the possibilities of economic growth.

“Economic growth requires full employment,” she says.



Only 11 out of 27 member states have made any progress with promoting gender equality on boards, while two-thirds have done nothing at all.

According to Andreeva, since the Commission threatened member states with regulatory action, the figures have improved. Last year, it saw the biggest year-on-year increase of women on boards among member states – 2%. Prior to this, it was only 0.6%.

Among the frontrunners are France and Finland, while Malta and Hungary have the least women on boards. Despite the lack of progress in most member states, Walby says the EU is still the best polity in terms of gender equality. 

Source: European Commission’s National Factsheet: Gender balance in Boards, January 2013
Source: European Commission’s National Factsheet: Gender balance in Boards, January 2013

Under the Danish corporate governance code, companies should strive for a diverse board. This is not just gender-specific, but focuses on all forms of diversity including nationality.

Novo Nordisk, a Danish pharmaceutical company, was one of several participants at the Business Leaders Summit on Women in March 2011, a summit held in Brussels where Reding met with CEOs and chairs of publicly listed companies to discuss how to get more women into top jobs and whether self-regulation is the way to do this. Novo strives for 100% of its management teams to be diverse by 2014 – at least one female and one non-Dane.  Scott Dille, communications manager, says that at Novo, talent trumps gender.

“Talent is recognized and talent is then promoted into accelerated training programs,” he says.

Novo has two training programs for women in management and women on the path to management. Out of 19 board members at Novo, 3 are women.

The Norway example
Norway introduced a 40% quota in 2003 and remains the country with the highest proportion of women on boards. Norway’s quota law is often seen as a benchmark, but Norwegian companies have also implemented voluntary methods in accordance with the quota, such as full daycare coverage and 14 weeks of paternal leave. Currently, there are 41% women on supervisory company boards in Norway.

The Q-Word: for or against
There is no middle ground in the discussion about quotas; some believe voluntary measures are the best method and that quotas infringe on subsidiarity, while others believe quotas are the only way to achieve gender equality. Quotas worked for Norway, but Sweden, which ranks third in terms of highest proportion of women on boards, does not use quotas.

“Quotas are a necessary evil,” says MEP Elisabeth Morin-Chartier, Vice-Chair of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality.

Walby says there is no existing historical example of a country meeting 40% women on boards without quotas, so will an objective be enough to reach the target?

“The change from voluntary methods is usually very slow, so if quotas are rejected but voluntary methods are embraced more enthusiastically, we should expect to see very, very slow change,” says Walby.

Within the Commission however, quotas and EU involvement were sticky subjects. Connie Hedegaard, Danish commissioner on climate action, is not in favour of this target being achieved through quotas.

Connie Hedegaard talks to DMXJ students at the European Commission March 5, 2013 Photo by: Lisa Coxon
Connie Hedegaard talks to DMXJ students at the European Commission March 5, 2013
Photo by: Lisa Coxon

“The right approach is to remove the obstacles… if you have an obligatory target then you must also be able to enforce it. There is too much of Europe setting targets without being able to enforce it,” she says. Hedegaard believes we need to leave this up to the member states, but doing so, according to Walby, is a common initial response.

“The people that make this argument… would really like to see more women on boards; they claim it. They claim that voluntary methods will get us there. So let’s take it at face value that voluntary mechanisms will be tried and if they fail, which I expect they will, then the quotas kick in. Almost all of the forms of quota legislation that we’ve seen in Europe have had this pre-aversion period,” she says.

Executive positions
There is an even greater gender imbalance among executive board positions. Executive directors are those involved in the daily management of a company, whereas non-executive directors perform a supervisory function.

The panel at Women and the economic crisis conference at the European Parliament on March 5, 2013 LtoR: Isabella Lenarduzzi, Evelyn Regner, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, and Edite Estrela Photo by: Lisa Coxon
The panel at Women and the economic crisis conference at the European Parliament on March 5, 2013 LtoR: Isabella Lenarduzzi, Evelyn Regner, Silvana Koch-Mehrin, and Edite Estrela
Photo by: Lisa Coxon

Member of EP (MEP) Evelyn Regner, Vice-Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee says this directive is a “cautious but realistic approach.” The Commission, she says, doesn’t want to “ask for everything and receive nothing,” especially when there is already resistance among member states in these early stages of negotiation. Germany, for example, came out against gender quotas on March 6 before negotiations had even started.

The Greens/European Free Alliance (EFA), a political group in EP, would like to see the 40% objective extended to executive boards.

The Greens/EFA panel at Get women on board: Will the EU do what it takes? conference on March 7, 2013 Greens Deputy Marije Cornelissen (fourth from left) says the biggest hurdle will be to win the vote of the Council of Ministers/Photo by: Lisa Coxon
The Greens/EFA panel at Get women on board: Will the EU do what it takes? conference on March 7, 2013
Greens Deputy Marije Cornelissen (fourth from left) says the biggest hurdle will be to win the vote of the Council of Ministers/Photo by: Lisa Coxon

Legal action is helpful, but the underlying problem is an ideological one and it is far easier to change laws than it is to change mindsets. The crisis is both a cause and consequence of gender inequality.

“You need to be able to change the culture of a company,” says Regner.


Lack of research prevents action on tiny chemicals

By Stefan Sigaard Weichert and Luc Rinaldi.

Small particles called nanomaterials are slipping through the cracks of the European Union’s chemical legislation, but a lack of information on the subject makes politicians reluctant to regulate the growing nanoindustry. Scientists say more research is needed before these potentially harmful substances can be properly addressed.

“I’m worried, not for myself, but for my children,” says Kevin Stairs, Greenpeace’s EU chemicals policy director. “They’re the generation that grew up with sunscreen, and as a parent, I always used it for my children. Now I have my doubts. Was that really the best thing to do? It’s one big question mark.”

What’s worrying Kevin Stairs is nanomaterials – miniature particles 800 times smaller than a human hair – which are found in anything from sunscreen and childrens’ toys to milk and electronics. Titanium dioxide, a nanomaterial used in most sunscreens, can cause cancer and, because of its small size, has a unique ability to enter human lungs.

The risks, however, of other nanomaterials, aren’t as well established. While these small particles make computers run faster and could potentially cure diseases that can’t be remedied today, little is known about this relatively new area of science, making Kevin Stairs worried about its possible consequences.

And so far, the European Union hasn’t developed legislation particularly targeting the use of nanomaterials, creating concern that these tiny chemicals are slipping through the cracks of REACH, the EU’s chemical legislation.

Cosmetic products containing nanomaterials in the European Union will require a “(nano)” label following nano ingredients as of July 2013. Now stakeholders are discussing whether or not to require labelling on non-cosmetic products as well.

In theory, not in practice

“REACH covers nanomaterials theoretically, but it fails to cover them in practice. There are no specific demands for nanomaterials in the legislation, which is a problem because nanomaterials can act differently from the same chemical in a larger form,” says Steffen Foss Hansen, senior researcher at the Technical University of Denmark.

He says it is now unclear which nanomaterials should be tested and how. Nanomaterial manufacturers can register nanomaterials and their larger forms under the same chemical registration, treating them as one substance rather than two or more. This makes it impossible to determine whether a given nanomaterial is safe to use or not, says Steffen Foss Hansen.

“The EU needs to regulate this area so that industries provide information on their nanomaterials, which scientists need in order to do risk assessments to find out which materials are hazardous and which are safe,” he says.

Maila Puolamaa, a policy officer from the European Commission working with nanomaterials and REACH, agrees that nanomaterials need to be better covered. She says, however, that contradictory research results make it difficult to form conclusions about the potential dangers of nanomaterials, which has prevented the Commission from proposing new legislation to tackle them. The Commission will revisit nanomaterial registration by December 2013.

“REACH defines substance in a very broad way. Whether they are one size or another, they are all covered under the definition of substance. But we need to go on clarifying how nanomaterials are addressed within the legislation,” says Maila Puolamaa.

The regulation of nanomaterials falls under the authority of Enterprise and Industry, a branch of the European Commission. (Photo by Luc Rinaldi)
The regulation of nanomaterials falls under the authority of Enterprise and Industry, a branch of the European Commission. Photo: Luc Rinaldi.

‘Hanging onto life by teeth and fingernails’

That need for clarification is made more urgent by the fact that the nanomaterial industry is growing rapidly. It employs roughly 400,000 people within the European Union today, and products containing nanomaterials are expected to grow in volume to €2 trillion by 2015 from €200 billion in 2009. Maila Puolamaa is concerned that a potential new nano legislation could harm the growing nanoindustry.

“Too much regulation would cut the wings off small and medium enterprises and discourage them from trying new things,” she says. “It’s telling innovators: ‘Don’t touch this area.’ If we don’t find a balance, we will lose access to the opportunity to benefit from these new innovations and we’ll lose competition in the industry in Europe. Manufacturers will move out and go elsewhere.”

Steffi Friedrichs, director general of the Nanotechnology Industries Association, says that a change in REACH would create uncertainty in the nanoindustry, which would make it difficult for nanomaterial producers to attract investors. Reporting nanomaterials and standard chemicals separately, she says, would paralyze small enterprises.

“You are a small company. You have nine employees. You are hanging onto life by your teeth and fingernails. You have 27 different nanomaterials that are your whole livelihood. So you have to have someone who, 27 times, 3 hours a day, reports information. There is basically no way any small company can do that,” says Steffi Friedrichs.

A catastrophic catch-up game

To Kevin Stairs, the uncertainty surrounding nanomaterials is nothing new. Since joining Greenpeace – before the public was even aware of nanomaterials – he says he’s seen legislation lag behind the issue in many cases.

“We’re playing a catch-up game, but that’s not the way to do it,” he says. “Let’s get ahead of it. Let’s get the evidence. Let’s get to the point where we can say that it is unlikely to cause harm.”

Kevin Stairs, Greenpeace's EU chemicals policy officer, says nanomaterials are a "hidden attack" on consumers that can impact human health and the environment.
Kevin Stairs, Greenpeace’s EU chemicals policy officer, says nanomaterials are a “hidden attack” on consumers that can impact human health and the environment. Photo: Luc Rinaldi.

In the case of nanomaterials, Steffen Foss Hansen says the first step is to create new guidelines for testing and registering nanomaterials, which would allow authorities to control what’s in the market and create a Europe-wide database of products containing nanomaterials, like the one he’s helped pioneer in Denmark.

“In Germany, it took authorities three months to figure out that a product called NanoMagic didn’t contain nanomaterials. It was in 2006, and back then, it really gave nanotechnology a bad wipe. It’s shocking that the authorities still don’t even have the basic information about the manufacturing, uses and risks of most nanomaterials and nanoproducts,” says Steffen Foss Hansen.

Authorities should help the industry by providing the expertise needed to conduct tests on nanomaterials and shine a light on their effects, he adds.

“We have been working in this area for 10 years and we haven’t got much further,” says Steffen Foss Hansen. “It’s catastrophic.”

READ MORE: European Union struggles to legislate tiny substances

EU’s attempt to reduce youth smoking meets scepticism

By Amel Semmache and So Jeong Lim.


The European Commission recently proposed to prohibit strong tobacco flavours and increase health warnings on cigarette packages with the aim to reduce youth smoking in the EU. Yet, the proposed measures fail to satisfy many activists, industrials and politicians.

According to recent figures from the European Commission, 70% of European smokers started to smoke before the age of 18. The current EU tobacco regulation showing flaws in preventing young people from starting to smoke, the European Commission decided to introduce new measures targeting the youngest EU citizens.

Included in this proposal is a ban on strong tobacco flavourings such as menthol. A requirement of 75% of cigarette packaging surface dedicated to health warnings – including shocking pictures and quit-smoking help line – would also be mandatory; measures that until now were regulated by member states.

Still, the proposal received mixed reactions from stakeholders who find it either too restrictive or not progressive enough.

Industries make tobacco taste like candy

Since the last Tobacco Products Directive was implemented in 2001, the tobacco products landscape has changed radically. E-cigarettes, slims and countless numbers of new flavours and package designs have flooded the tobacco market.

Studies conducted for the Commission’s proposal show that tobacco additives such as menthol are involved in tobacco addiction and certain tobacco flavours appear to mainly target the younger consumers.

“We think that the use of ingredients and in particular strong flavourings is without any doubt a kind of hook from the industry to attract young people,” said Frédéric Vincent, spokesperson of the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, in charge of this proposal.

“We have seen new types of cigarettes for young people that really taste like candy,” stated Niels Them Kjær, Coordinator for Tobacco Prevention at the Danish Cancer Society. “If we don’t make limits on which kind of additive you can put on tobacco, you will probably have an increase of young smokers.”

An expert and young people express their views on the proposed measures


The proposal fails to persuade industries

As the proposal is now being debated in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, doubts on the proposal’s effectiveness has risen quickly. Industrials and some politicians think that the proposal fails to address the problem of youth smoking.

According to Thierry Lebeaux, Head of EU Affairs at Japan Tobacco International – tobacco products manufacturer that owns brands such as Camel and Winston – the measures proposed by the Commission are not pertinent.

He thinks that minors are not encouraged to smoke because of the package or flavour of tobacco. For him, “they may start to smoke because their environment [relatives or friends] smoke and they are given their first cigarette. The first cigarette is not chosen, it is the one which is available to them. The problem is not the choice of products but the availability of products.”


If the proposal is accepted, packages would all look similar to this one in 2015
If the proposal is accepted, packages would all look similar to this one in 2015


A timid proposal

In contrast, many were expecting more progressive moves from the Commission and believe that the proposal could go further ahead as Australia and Canada did.

François-Xavier Vauchelle, assistant to Françoise Grossetête, MEP from the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) believes that more can be done in Europe to inform young people about the damage of tobacco. “The European Union can incite, can help member states to do more on this issue,” he said. “The European Commission has the possibility to finance and to organise campaigns on tobacco”.

Moreover, researchers in Spain found that the proposed warning images would not be effective enough among the youngest. Their study focused on the emotional impact of tobacco warning images on different age groups.

“Younger participants evaluated tobacco warning images as less triggering than older participants,” reported Miguel A. Muños, Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of the Balearic Islands (Spain).

“The current tobacco warning images may be less effective to provoke reluctance on smoking in the adolescent population. In this sense, the use of images more arousing for adolescent population should be considered.”

A middle of the road approach

Facing polarised reactions, the European Commission believes that the proposal is balanced.

“We were expecting to have a strong debate on tobacco,” stated Frédéric Vincent. “The simple fact that you have some people criticising – the industries, some member states – and on the other hand some very strong NGOs saying it’s not enough, for us it shows that we have chosen the right approach – a middle of the road approach.”

Watch Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner Tonio Borg explaining the main goals of the proposed Tobacco Products Directive.

Reports on the ongoing debates in the European Parliament and Council of Ministers should be published soon. If the new Directive is adopted in time, it is expected to be implemented at the earliest in 2015.


EU decisions are affecting fishermen employment

By Rasha Abou Dargham and Julen Hernandez

The European Union is currently discussing the reform of its fisheries policy. This reformation could mean lower employment rates for fishermen.

Member of Parliament and of ‘Europe of freedom and democracy group’, John Agnew says: “those claims that there is a fight for the fishermen’s livelihood have been leading nowhere, instead we need to say ‘look’ we have reached a bad point and we need to make drastic changes!”

To read more :

EU countries fail to meet animal welfare standards

Nine member states failed to meet the deadline on the EU’s animal welfare directive on the housing of pregnant sows, resulting in a distorted and unfair pig industry throughout Europe. The member-states have until next month to comply before further legal procedures are launched.

By Marie-Josée Kelly and Kristine Walkden

 The failure to conform to the EU´s sow housing legislation by January 1st, 2012, has raised speculation over the effectiveness of the implementation of animal-welfare laws.

 The directive was introduced in 2001; member states have had 12 years to implement the legislation, yet of the major pig producing countries, Germany, France and Ireland were reported to be least compliant. Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Poland and Portugal were also targeted by the European Commission earlier this year.

Current state of implementation of partial sow stall ban among EU MS (%)
Bel Bul Cz Est Ire Gre Esp Fr It
Compliance 89 100 99 100 82 82 96 72 99
Lith Lux Hun Mal Pol Port Rom SIn UK
Compliance 100 100 99 90 93 58 100 95 100
D Swe NL Svk Cyp Dk Aus Fin Lat
Compliance 73 100 98 100 63 94 100 98 100
*Data collected until Jan 15; Reported by Agrafacts.

The directive bans the use of individual stalls for housing of pregnant sows during part of their pregnancy while also improving the quality of flooring, increasing living space, allowing sows to have permanent access to materials for rooting, all while providing better training on animal welfare issues for farm personnel.

 Martyn Griffiths of Eurogroup for animals, an animal welfare organization responsible for representing animal welfare interests on EU advisory committees, says that following the implementation of past legislation there is uncertainty concerning the figures presented to the EU in light of the banning of sow stalls.

Martyn Griffiths of Eurogroup for animals has been advocating for animal welfare for over 20 years. Photo: Marie-Josée Kelly
Martyn Griffiths of Eurogroup for animals has been advocating for animal welfare for over 20 years. Photo: Marie-Josée Kelly

 Upon analysis of official reports and action plans produced by Denmark, following the enforcement of EU regulation on the protection of farm animals during transport, Eurogroup concluded that Denmark had “fallen short of a number of requirements contained in the EC Transport Regulation… it failed to comply with the basic EC request for analyses and action plans in addition to reports, it is not able to demonstrate that it has carried out an adequate proportion of inspections.”

 Reliving the past

 A similar animal welfare directive, introduced in 1999, banning the use of battery cages for laying hens and advancing the necessity for cage enrichment came into effect at the start of 2012. Likewise, many farms were late in adhering to the law at the time.

 The European Commission is following the same course of action in the non-implementation of the sow stall ban as it did with the prohibition of battery cages.

 Countries not complying with the requirement have two months to reply and come up with an adequate response to the formal notice letter. If the response is not satisfactory, the European Commission will issue a Reasoned Opinion, which gives the countries two additional months to meet the directive. If after that period, member states are still non-compliant they will be taken before the European Court of Justice.

 The implementation of the laying hens directive was closely monitored after it was found that a significant number of countries had not complied by the deadline which Griffiths believes has influenced the Commission in moving forward with infringement procedures rapidly but that it should have put more pressure on ensuring the deadline was met.

 “The Commission argues that until a law comes into effect they can’t do anything. We think that this is a weakness of the Commission.”

European Commission headquarters in Brussels. Photo: Marie-Josee Kelly
European Commission headquarters in Brussels. Photo: Marie-Josee Kelly

 Obstacles in the way to compliance

 Pig farmers across the EU are putting forth the current economic crisis as an excuse for their inability to comply with the directive on time. Even in Denmark, which has been spared some of the more harsh austerity measures inflicted on its EU counterparts, farmers have encountered difficulties in making the investments when banks have been reluctant to lend them the necessary funds to expand.

 There is some fear that because some pig producers will not be able to afford the investment in new stalls, pork production will be reduced and prices will be increased for European consumers. Member states that are fully compliant with the sow stall ban, such as the United Kingdom, who banned their usage in 1999, are left at a disadvantage competitively because of the investments they have made in order to comply with the recently adopted requirement.

 Henrik Mortensen, Chairman of the Danish Pig Producing Society, acknowledges that Danish pig farmers have encountered troubles with the banks but also extends some of the blame to local governments for making the transition complex. Danish law sets out that in order to make any changes to their farms and barns, farmers must apply for legal permission.

 “Even people who have applied 3 years ago haven’t been able to get the permission from the Danish government,” said Mortensen. “They have made it really tough to build and follow this directive according to their laws.” Some farmers are still awaiting permission to expand.

 Shared responsibility

 Although it is up to governments to ensure that the directive be implemented adequately, retailers and consumers also play an important role in safeguarding animal welfare.

 There is a growing trend across the EU that indicates that more consumers are calling for more transparent pork labelling, according to Griffiths, while a growing number of retailers are pledging not to import illegal pork meat and by-products.

 Mortensen wants the trend to carry on in Denmark.

 “We [Danish pig producers society] hope that [Danish] retailers decide to start a campaign only buy legal meat from farmers who have followed this rule. Then we, Denmark and the slaughterhouses will make more money.”

For more on the situation in Denmark click here.

UK: Gender balance on boards without the EU

By Hana Afifi and Nerea Reparaz.

The European Union will take over the regulation of women’s accession to company boards by the end of 2013, unless disagreements over how to increase women representation fail the new legislation. While France is complying with the proposal, the United Kingdom refuses EU regulation on the matter.

The conference room inside the European Parliament is witnessing engagement from Members of European Parliament (MEPs) and journalists fighting for women’s rights during the “Women’s response to the crisis” conference held on March 6. Women’s representation on boards comes up: the future is uncertain. While the member states agree in principle over gender equality, they dispute on whether each member state should apply it independent from EU regulation and how, with France and the UK on both ends.

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship proposed a legislation (directive) in November 2012 that sets a 40% minimum of women on non-executive boards of EU-listed stock exchange companies to be achieved in 2020. The proposal had stirred controversy even before being completely drafted, as objections from 10 member states where sent to Reding.

Dispute over EU intervention   Captura de pantalla 2013-03-19 a la(s) 09.21.26

Whether the EU or the member states should implement measures for increasing women on boards is perceived differently by France that is complying with the Union, and the United Kingdom that refuses  any EU regulation on the matter.

The directive is open for equally effective action on the member state level. “If they manage to get there, they are fine, they do not need to apply the directive,” says Mina Andreeva, spokesperson of Viviane Reding.

“There was only a 0.6% improvement in the number of women on boards last year,” according to the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) Opinion on the proposed legislation, in reference to the effect of the voluntary measures by member states for increasing women on boards.

As stated in the Opinion, France is the only country that is on track for achieving the 40% objective in due time. According to Andreeva, this is due to a well-developed childcare system, which helps with balancing work and private life.

France is one of only four member states who have imposed legislation for gender diversity on boards with sanctions for non-compliance. According to French Henri Malosse, President of the Employers at the EESC, a law was voted by Former President Nicolas Sarcozy two years ago and by 2017, non-complying companies will have penalties.

While France is already following the proposed directive, the United Kingdom wants self-regulation. In 2010, the percentage of women on boards on FTSE 100 (index of blue-chip stocks on the London Stock Exchange) companies in Britain was only 12.6%, as announced by Mathhew Hancock, Business, Innovation and Skills Minister at the House of Commons on January 7.

“The government is committed to increasing the number of women on boards,” said Hancock, but he refused EU regulation, as he claimed it did not respect the subsidiarity principle, which is the principle that the EU should intervene when action is not effective on the member state level. “Why should this be dealt with by the European Union? ” said Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) Jonathan Djanogly at the House of Commons of the British parliament whose MPs agreed on the motion.




Dispute over the concept of a “quota”

While the quota – the minimum percentage of representation for women – in the     directive proposal is seen by some as undermining women’s competence and as interference with business, others believe it is necessary.

Madi Sharma, who drafted the EESC Opinion supporting the proposal, was herself against the quota, as she did not want to be on a board just to fulfill a quota; but she realized it was essential.

“There is no existing historical example of a company that has reached 40% without quotas,” said Sylvia Walby, Distinguished Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University and UNESCO Chair in Gender Research.

If by 2020, companies do not fulfill the quota, they will not be immediately sanctioned. They will have to publish information about the transparency of the selection procedure and how they tried to recruit women. The sanctions will apply if the company fails to provide such explanation.

While quotas are complied with in France, the British system is skeptical about it. David Cameron stated in January 2013 that he does not prefer quotas but that they remain an option if voluntary measures turn out to be ineffective, according to The Telegraph. Last year (2012), the Government canceled plans to set quotas for women representation on British company boards.

The Lord Davis report, a UK report about women representation on boards, issued in 2011, had defined a quota between 30% and 35%, which stirred debate in the country. Yet, the member state refuses the EU directive.

“It’s not a fixed quota, it’s a procedural quota. It takes account of talents, places focus on the transparent selection procedure and it has even [a] clause which leaves [for] member states room to demonstrate they can arrive there with their own system,” says Andreeva, adding, “Which EU legislation do they support recently? [..] This is a very ideological issue for them,” in reaction to the British stance.

According to The Telegraph, the British Cooperative Group announced in March that it commits to achieving a representation of women on boards of 40% by 2018.

The need for quick measures – be it on European or member states’ level

According to the Annual Growth Survey, the presence of women on company boards improves the economy and boosts the GDP of member states, as shown in Figure 2.


“Had we had women on boards of banks, we had to question if we had had the same economic crisis,” says EESC member Madi Sharma, adding that having balanced boards increases share prices, transparency and decision-making processes.

Women still face discrimination in the selection procedure. According to the European Parliament Eurobarometer Flash Survey issued on 26 February 2013, the 1st criterion for the woman is the fact that she has children while the professional experience comes in the 7th place. For men, the 1st criterion is the professional experience and the criterion about children comes in the 10th  place.

86.3% of board members are men, which hinders the possibility of recruiting women, as the networks of men enable recruiting more men on boards rather than women. Some companies argue that not enough women apply for jobs on boards. However, Viviane Reding prepared the “Global board ready women” database that lists 8,000 women qualified to work on boards.


The proposal faces rejection, but the EU is progressing

The directive proposal is awaiting the 1st reading where the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee at the European Parliament will vote. In June 2013, the proposal will be discussed by the Employment and Social Affairs Council in the Council of Ministers. It will be applied only if both the parliament and the council adopt it.

“Now the Proposal is on the table. First, we expect everyone to read the proposal in order to be able to have a factual discussion, not an ideological discussion,” said Mina Andreeva.

Women's response to the crisis workshop. 6th March 2013
Women’s response to the crisis workshop. 6th March 2013

The UK, Germany, France and Italy each have a number of 29 votes in the Council of Ministers, constituting the largest votes. While the first two are against the directive, the latter are for it.

“It is too early for governments to decide their position,” said Evelyn Regner, commenting on the recent announcement by Germany on March 6 (2013) that it is against the directive proposal.


Captura de pantalla 2013-03-19 a la(s) 09.21.45




Minister: Danish sow farmers an “embarrassment”

By Kristine Walkden & Marie-Josée Kelly

Danish pig farmers are criticizing tough licensing processes and lack of support from Danish decision-makers, after being called an “embarrassment” by Minister of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Mette Gjerskov.

The Danish Situation

On an idyllic farm in the countryside of Skanderborg, Danish sow farmer Ole Larsen smiles proudly as he cradles a tiny wide-eyed piglet who was born only a day earlier. The piglet stares at Larsen dumbfounded before being placed back into its crate with 10 others. Larsen explains, “Our farm is animal-welfare friendly. We try our very best to take care and ensure a good life for them.”

Danish sow farmer Ole Larsen has been using group housing for over a decade. Photo: Marie-Josee Kelly
Danish sow farmer Ole Larsen has been using group housing for over a decade. Photo: Marie-Josee Kelly

Larsen is among over 90% of Danish sow farmers who have successfully met the EU’s standards on the directive of the housing of pregnant sows. Approximately 6 percent of sow farmers nationwide are failing to live up to regulations and have three months to do so before having to go before the EU’s court. Larsen changed his system from single-stall housing to group housing in 1999 even before the directive was officially introduced in 2001. He explains that while making the transition was easy back then, today Danish sow farmers are facing difficulties in trying to change their systems.

The biggest problem in Denmark today isn’t just the money or the economy, it’s getting the permission to build. The environmental laws today make it very hard to get a license because they consider so many things,” he said.

“The problem is it takes 3-4 years to do so. We cannot make a business when it takes such a long time to do anything. We need to get that changed if Danish farming is going to continue on.”

Larsen explained that most Danish sow farmers were unable to meet the EU’s deadline because they are still waiting on a building license from their municipal governments after applying 4 years earlier. Though Larsen only had to wait 7 months for his building license back in 1999, he knows from experience how hard it is to get a license today. Larsen said he spent half a million kroner and waited five years until he finally received a license last week to build a new slaughter house.

An embarrassment at the EU

I think frankly, it is embarrassing,” Food Minister Mette Gjerskov told the press after receiving news that Denmark had not fully complied to the sow housing directive. “The Danish farm industry has pressed very hard for me to go to Brussels and wag my finger at all sorts of other countries.”

When some farmers asked for more time to make the changes, Gjerskov showed how seriously she took the directive and animal-welfare legislation by stating on twitter, “No amnesty to farmers that don’t set sows free. They have had ten years to restructure animal welfare.” Later that week, Gjerskov supported the EU Heath and Consumer Commission’s threat to initiate a lawsuit against countries that fail to abide by the EU’s standards of animal-welfare legislation.

Dan Jorgensen, a Danish Social Democrat member of the European Parliament, commented on Denmark’s inability to comply by the January 1st deadline. “I think it is a disgrace especially because we are a country that prides itself on being better than so many other countries on protecting animal-welfare.”

According to Denmark’s Pig Research Centre, there have been a number of recent initiatives undertaken in the country, which will provide continuing momentum in increasing animal-welfare and safety standards within the country’s pig industry. They said in the next years, there will be a movement towards more risk-based control of standards on Danish farms which will provide an incentive for all producers to aim for best practice.

Pig producers turn the blame around

Henrik Mortensen is chairman of the Danish Pig Producers, an association that attempts to influence decision makers through political activities and inform authorities about developments in Danish pig production.

Mortensen said the Danish pig industry has been unfairly punished as he believes Danish farming standards are for the most part, better than other EU countries who have claimed they have fully complied to the directive.

In a public letter to Minister Mette Gjerskov, Mortensen criticized the minister for implying that Danish pig farmers had undermined the country’s position in the EU. Like Larsen, Mortensen said the reason six percent of pig farmers were unable to comply was because “Danish authorities did not prioritize the 2013 requirements relating to the processing of environmental permits.”

Mortensen wrote: “Why have we not a minister in charge of our interests rather than chastise us?…I yearn for politicians who will be based in reality and treating pig and agriculture as valuable contributors to society. Without that, we must always be exposed to arrogance and scorn.”

Mortensen said the Minister has not yet replied to his letter or several other attempts Mortensen has made raising concern about the fairness of the Danish pig market within the country and throughout the EU.

The Danish pig industry has never said it didn’t want this (directive). Where I come from, everyone was planning to be hundred percent ready and figure out how to deal with people that weren’t ready by 2013,” he said. “But the government and systems have made it hard to do so…We had all agreed that we have many years to fulfill this goal and this is the way to go.”