European Union. Here are some of the events and decisions within the EU that were noted in 2007. During the year, the EU expanded from 25 to 27 nations.
Acrylamide. The EU’s three-year acrylamide project HEATOX (Heat-induced food toxicants), led by Lund University, was completed in November. The project involved 24 organizations from 14 countries, and the aim was to develop knowledge on a broad front to solve or reduce the problems with acrylamide. Among other things, Sweden’s five participating organizations have developed a safe method of analysis for the determination of acrylamide levels in foods, shown on methods that can reduce acrylamide formation in potato products and breads, and have shown that blood tests are better than dietary surveys in epidemiological studies to estimate cancer risk. The origin of the project was research results from 2001 and 2002 which showed that the poison acrylamide arose in the production and preparation of certain foods.
Alcohol. In December, the Council of Ministers adopted a new EU regulation on definitions and labeling of spirits. The purpose is to make it clear to consumers which goods it is about and to facilitate trade between the countries. The greatest attention in Sweden got the discussions about the definition of vodka. According to the regulation, vodka can be produced from any agricultural raw material, such as molasses, grapes or apples. However, if the vodka is made from raw materials other than potatoes or cereals, this must be clearly stated on the label. The “Vodka countries” (Sweden, Finland, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) wanted a more strict definition of vodka (= spirits made from cereals and potatoes). Another effect of the labeling rules is that all liquor bottles must be labeled on the back with the word spirits, as information for those who wonder what the drink is.
The Swedish ban on private imports of alcoholic beverages alongside Systembolaget, e.g. via the Internet, violates EU rules on free movement, according to an EC ruling during the summer. The target is also called the “Rosengren goal” after Klas Rosengren, one of the wine importers. The outcome was unexpected, since the preliminary opinion of, among other things, Advocate General of the Court of Justice, going in the opposite direction. The Swedish Supreme Court had requested guidance from the European Court of Justice before forthcoming judgments. This was particularly the case where, in 2004, private persons ordered Spanish wine seized by the customs via the Internet. The private individuals have since appealed the seizure and in court filed cases against the Customs Administration and the Swedish state to get their goods back.
The EC judgment, which is indicative of Swedish courts, was seen as a victory for private importers of alcohol from other EU countries. Following the EC ruling, the Customs released seized alcoholic products to 7,300 people. Private imports are not expected to give any particularly significant economic advantage, since the imported alcohol is taxed in the recipient country. The Customs Administration and the Swedish Tax Agency have the task of ensuring that Swedish alcohol tax is paid and that the age limit of 20 years for the buyers is maintained.
EU Treaty, The Lisbon Treaty. After years of negotiations, long-delays and compromises, the member states’ heads of state and government signed a new treaty with the EU’s basic rules at the Lisbon summit on 13 December. The Lisbon Treaty is a reform treaty with amendments to previous treaties. The first EC Treaty, the Rome Treaty, came into force in 1958, the first EU Treaty, the Maastricht Treaty, entered into force in 1993, the Amsterdam Treaty in 1999 and the Treaty of Nice in 2003. that the cooperation of the Heads of State or Government in the European Council, the EU’s highest body, should be led by an elected President, called President. The EU’s foreign policy role must be sharpened, and a foreign minister appointed. Under the Treaty, the European Parliament should be given more powers in the field of legislation; at the same time as national parliaments have more to say when EU decisions are made. The Lisbon Treaty also means that a specific Charter of Fundamental Rights of European citizens (which was also signed in December) may begin to apply.
However, the Lisbon Treaty is not yet final in port. In order to enter into force before the June 2009 European elections, it must first be ratified, approved, in its entirety by all 27 member states’ parliaments. In addition, some countries will hold a referendum on the treaty. Hungary, which became the first country to ratify the treaty, approved this December 17, when it was only a few days old.
On March 23, 2007, it was 50 years since the EC Treaty was signed in Rome. It was celebrated with pomp and standing in the capital of the Presidency, Berlin.
European Commission. Meglena Kuneva (born 1957) and Leonard Orban (born 1961) from the two new EU countries Bulgaria and Romania respectively were installed as commissioners on 1 January 2007. Kuneva was given the responsibility of consumer policy and Orban multilingualism and cultural diversity. Their term of office extends to October 31, 2009.
During the year, Commission Vice-President Margot Wallström was responsible for the special effort to increase communication with EU citizens.
European Parliament. In January, Hans-Gert Pöttering (born 1945) was elected from Germany as the new European Parliament President after the Spanish Josep Borrell Fontelles. Pöttering received 450 votes out of a total of 689 votes. Parliament was enlarged by a total of 53 new members from the new EU countries Romania (35 members) and Bulgaria (18 members). The new Member States held elections to the European Parliament in November and May, respectively, before the EU parliamentarians were temporarily appointed by the respective national parliaments. Due to the newly arrived countries, the number of MEPs increased to 785 members in 2007. At the 2009 regular EU elections, the number of parliamentarians again decreased through a general redistribution.
European Year of Equal Opportunities for All 2007, EY07. The theme year was announced by the EU to combat discrimination and promote people’s right to equal treatment. In Sweden, The Human Rights Delegation is a campaign against discrimination on grounds of gender, race, ethnic origin, religion, belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Film Prize. The European Parliament’s new film prize Lux was awarded for the first time. The premiere year went to the German-Turkish film At the Edge of Heaven, directed by Fatih Akin (born 1973). One of the protagonists, German Hanna Schygulla, received the award statue, which symbolizes Babel’s tower and linguistic diversity. The purpose of the film prize is to improve the spread of European film across national borders and language barriers. The film is subtitled in the EU’s 23 official languages. In addition, the film is adapted for hearing impaired and visually impaired persons.
Fishing. The size of the fishing quotas continued to be debated. Research reports showed the risk of fishing for cod mainly in the Kattegat and the Baltic Sea. In late autumn, the Council of Ministers agreed on a reduction of the 2008 fishing quotas and a reduction in the number of permitted fishing days. However, the reductions were not as great as Sweden and the European Commission had suggested. Extended monitoring and more checks should be done to stop black fishing, ie. withdrawal of more fish than the quotas allocated. It is especially Polish fishermen who together fished more than twice their quotas.
EU auditors presented a report that judged the European system of control of professional fishermen and their catches. The auditors pointed to uncertain information regarding both the availability of fish such as catches, ineffective inspections and penalties that did not deter illegal fishing.
Refugees. In November, the Swedish Migration Board received an EU grant of SEK 32 million to improve the reception of refugees from Iraq. Almost SEK 70 million went to the countries with the most asylum seekers: Sweden, Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain. In 2007, approximately 20,000 Iraqis sought asylum in the West, of which about half wanted to come to Sweden.
Galileo. The European satellite navigation project Galileo will continue and be financed with money from the EU budget, according to a decision in December. The project has previously been delayed due to the withdrawal of private financiers. The financing of Galileo is managed by transferring part of the surplus from the agricultural subsidy to the satellite project. According to the plan, 30 satellites will be in place in space in 2013. The purpose of Galileo is, among other things, to reduce the European dependence on the US GPS navigation system for satellite navigation.
Health. The EU is intensifying the fight for healthier living habits and better health, especially for better eating habits and increased physical activity. Over the past 30 years, obesity and obesity have increased dramatically among the EU population. This is expected to lead to an increase in, among other things, cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, stroke, certain cancers, diseases of the organs and mental illness. In Sweden, knowledge and information about healthier living habits are disseminated by, for example, the National Food Agency, the National Public Health Institute and the National Board of Health and Welfare.
Smoking ban on taverns etc. places have brought major health benefits that affect human health in the long term, according to the EU’s anti-smoking campaign. In a large study, including both smokers and non-smokers, the carbon monoxide content was measured in 111,000 subjects’ exhaled air. Countries with restrictive smoking policies that have introduced high tobacco prices and smoke-free environments in restaurants, workplaces and public places have had a clear effect with lower levels of carbon monoxide in the exhaled air of non-smokers. Carbon monoxide, which is formed during all combustion, affects, among other things. the oxygen-transporting capacity of the blood and in the long run impair blood circulation. In Sweden, restaurant staff received a clearly better health after the smoking cessation, which was introduced in 2005.
Eight out of ten residents in Sweden feel that they are doing well, according to a Eurobarometer on the state of health of EU citizens. At the same time, Sweden is the country with the most allergic inhabitants. More than a third of Swedes say they have allergic problems, while the average for the whole EU is 17 percent. The Swedes visit dentists more often than the EU citizen in common. Nearly eight out of ten Swedes go to dentists every year, while the average across the EU is that six out of ten residents open their mouths to their dentists once a year.
Agriculture. The European Commission demanded back close to € 4 million, about SEK 34 million, from Sweden for incorrectly paid agricultural support. Swedish controls on the area aid were considered to be poor. During the year, the Commission demanded agricultural money in excess of EUR 145 million from eleven Member States. Italy and France received the largest recovery of 83 and 50 million euros respectively. The individual countries are responsible for the payment and control of the agricultural aid itself. The Commission then examines compliance with the rules. Reimbursement requirements are most often due to inadequate checks or late payments.
Environment. EU heads of state and government agreed on a new long-term climate and energy policy. The targets include reduced carbon dioxide emissions, increased use of biofuels in vehicles, more efficient energy use in homes and that total energy use by 20 percent by 2020 is renewable energy. The current share of renewable energy is 8 percent. Sweden is among the countries with the most renewable energy, 40 percent, mainly due to a well-developed hydropower.
The EU participated as an active and leading party in the international negotiations on a new global climate agreement. During the ICCP climate meeting in Bali, the EU criticized the US for not taking enough responsibility to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
Emissions trading will, from 2012, include flights within the EU as well as to and from the Union. This makes aviation the first type of transport that is part of the emissions trading. Ninety percent of allowances should be distributed free of charge, while ten percent will be auctioned.
Mobile telephony. During the summer it became cheaper to make a call on a mobile phone when traveling between countries in the Union. Then new EU rules came into force regulating the prices of international roaming, ie. technology that makes it possible to switch mobile networks when moving between different countries. According to the new Eurotariff, a ceiling price of initially 49 euro cents per minute excluding VAT for a traveler calling within the EU is set. The cost of calls received is about half that price. Some mobile operators have call rates under the Eurotariff. Previously, roaming charges had varied widely, and were up to € 12 for a four-minute call. When a person crosses the border to another EU country, the home country operator must clearly inform the prices of voice calls, data traffic, SMS and MMS from and to the new country.
Presidential country. In January, Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel took over the EU Presidency from Finland. At the turn of the year, the Presidency Club was handed over to Portugal and Prime Minister José Sócrates. For Portugal, the dominant task was to finalize the negotiations on the new EU treaty, also called the Reform or Lisbon Treaty.
Schengen. The EU’s passport union Schengen was expanded with nine new countries: Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The Schengen area has already covered the EU’s old member states, but the UK and Ireland have chosen to retain their border controls. In addition, Norway and Iceland are included, even though they are not EU countries. The border checks on land and sea travel between all Schengen countries expired on December 21, 2007, while passport checks on air travel continued for a few more months. Although passport freedom prevails, the countries still have the right, as part of the police work, to carry out identity checks in their own territory. The legislation of the countries states whether you need to bring your identity card or passport.
Enlargement. Romania and Bulgaria became new member states in the EU on 1 January 2007. This meant the completion of the fifth enlargement of the EU, which began in spring 2004. The Community was thus expanded to 27 countries with a total of 492.8 million inhabitants with 23 official languages.
Election observers. Demand from other countries for election observers and election observers from the EU increased. During the year, the EU sent out about 1,000 observers, drawn from all Member States, to monitor national elections in, among other places. Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, East Timor, Sierra Leone and Kenya. The task of the supervisors and observers is to verify that elections follow international requirements for democratic elections. In most cases, the rules of the game were followed, but the observers also discovered electoral fraud.
Foreign exchange cooperation. Slovenia changed currency from tariffs to euros on 1 January 2007, with a conversion rate of 239 tariffs = 1 euro. Of the ten countries that joined the EU in 2004, Slovenia was the first to meet the requirements to join the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). After Slovenia’s currency transition, thirteen EU countries are part of the currency cooperation. During the year, Cyprus and Malta received approval to introduce the euro from January 2008.
Coins made from 2007 change the appearance, among other things the maps, which are embossed on 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins as well as 1- and 2-euro coins, were updated to show the whole of Europe, according to COUNTRYAAH.
In March, a commemorative jubilee coin was issued in denomination 2 euros in a circulation of 30 million copies to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1957 Treaty of Rome. San Marino, Vatican City, Monaco, Portugal, Germany and Luxembourg. All anniversary coins are legal currency throughout the euro area.
Vaxholm conflict. The building association’s war measures against a Latvian construction company in Vaxholm went too far and hindered the free movement of goods and services. This was evidenced by the ECJ’s ruling in the so-called Vaxholms case between the Swedish Construction Workers’ Union and the Latvian construction company Laval un Partneri Ltd. The conflict dates back to 2004 when the Latvian construction company staff was to carry out remodeling work at a school in Vaxholm. Svenska Byggnads demanded that the company sign the Swedish collective agreement and fulfill certain salary conditions. The Latvian company pointed out that the workers had collective agreements in their home country and refused to sign Swedish collective agreements, which led to Byggnads blocking the company. The company later went bankrupt. The European Court of Justice finds in its judgment that trade union action is in itself a fundamental right, but it should not be based on forcing an agreement with the building contract. The conflict between the parties to the Vaxholms case had previously arisen in the Swedish Labor Court, AD, which, before a final decision, requested an opinion from the European Court of Justice.
Openness. EU countries must not prevent the EU institutions from issuing documents submitted by the countries, according to a judgment of the European Court of Justice. Sweden had appealed against a previous judgment of the EU Court of First Instance which approved a decision taken by the Commission not to disclose documents from Germany. It was a German nature conservation association that in vain requested the documents on an industrial project in a German Natura 2000 area. The Court of Justice thus went on the line of Sweden and annulled the Commission’s decision not to disclose the documents. The European Court of Justice clarified that Member States may continue to request that documents sent to the EU institutions should not be disclosed. However, this does not mean that the countries have the right to veto the extradition.
The EU institutions have long been criticized for lack of transparency in matters of decision-making and decision-making, and the EU is working to increase transparency for the public and interest groups. However, EU transparency rules do not allow for as much transparency as the Swedish public principle.