Eastern Europe and the push for ‘double genocide’ laws

News article originally published in the Guardian on Tuesday 21 December 2010.

The European commission has rejected calls from eastern Europe to introduce a so-called double genocide law that would criminalise the denial of crimes perpetrated by communist regimes, in the same way many EU countries ban the denial of the Holocaust.

Last week six countries wrote to Viviane Reding, the European justice commissioner, calling for the “public condoning, denial and gross trivialisation of totalitarian crimes” to be punished.

Foreign ministers from LithuaniaLatviaBulgariaHungaryRomaniaand the Czech Republic said communist crimes “should be treated according to the same standards” as those of Nazi regimes, notably in those countries with Holocaust denial laws. Continue reading →

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EU raids ebook publishers in price fixing investigation

News article that was originally published in the Guardian on 4 March, 2011

The European commission has launched morning raids on several publishing houses suspected of fixing the prices of ebooks, as a huge battle for the future of the sector is fought within the publishing and technology industries.

Officials in Brussels have refused to say how many or which publishers were targeted although a spokesman for Hachette, famed for its dictionaries, confirmed that it was among them. The inquiry is understood to be focused on French companies.

In a statement, the commission said that it “has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU anti-trust rules that prohibit cartels and other restrictive business practices”. Continue reading →

Roma campaigners dismiss Brussels’ claim on evictions and expulsions

News article originally published in the Guardian on Thursday 25 August 2011.

A year after a succession of countries in Europe began breaking up Roma encampments and expelling hundreds of EU citizens back mainly to Romania, the European commission has claimed it is winning the battle to protect citizens’ right to free movement across the bloc.

But advocates of Roma rights have warned Brussels that it is not doing enough to protect Europe’s largest minority ethnic group, and that evictions and deportations continue to be carried out, primarily by France and Italy.

The EU executive said it had resolved 90% of identified cases of infringement of freedom of movement since last summer.

The justice commissioner, Viviane Reding, warned that the commission would “not hesitate to speak out” if member states did not properly apply the fundamental right to freedom of movement and safeguard EU citizens “from facing arbitrary or disproportionate expulsion”. She said: “Last summer’s events were a wake-up call for Europe.” Continue reading →

EU bans GM-contaminated honey from general sale

News article originally published in the Guardian on Wednesday 7 September 2011

The European Union’s highest court on Tuesday ruled that honey which contains trace amounts of pollen from genetically modified (GM) corn must be labelled as GM produce and undergo full safety authorisation before it can be sold as food.

In what green groups are calling a “groundbreaking” ruling, the decision could force the EU to strengthen its already near-zero tolerance policy on genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Bavarian beekeepers, some 500m from a test field for a modified maize crop developed by Monsanto – one of only two GM crops authorised as safe to be cultivated in Europe – claimed their honey had been “contaminated” by pollen from the plant.

The European court of justice found in their favour, a ruling that should offer grounds for the beekeepers to claim compensation in a German court. Continue reading →

Ship Ahoy! Lobby firm buys up EU maritime officials

Investigation originally published in the EUobserver 12.07.10

Transparency campaigners are worried that a PR outfit that lobbies the EU on maritime issues has “bought up the top of the EU’s maritime department lock, stock and barrel.”

The alert comes as Malta’s Joe Borg, the commissioner responsible for maritime affairs and fisheries until last year, gets set to start work with Fipra, a PR consultancy actively lobbying on maritime issues, whose main office is about 100 yards from the commission’s headquarters in Brussels.

On 11 June, the commission gave Mr Borg the green light to work at the firm, saying: “In view of the fact that Mr Borg’s envisaged activity falls outside the scope of his portfolio during his time in office,” it did not even need to convene its Ad Hoc Ethical Committee, a body which examines potential conflict of interest when commissioners leave the EU. Continue reading →

Don’t let your slightly racist gran be the only one to take on Europe’s silent coup

Article originally published in Red Pepper in April 2011.

She’s lovely really.

She has a painting of her you did when you were six framed in the kitchen, and however old you may be now, she still keeps Mars bar ice creams in the bottom freezer-bit of her little fridge for when you pop over. And the baby-blue and lemon-yellow Marks & Spencer’s golf shirt with three sailboats on the pocket that she sent you in the post last year for your birthday is now just quaint and endearing instead of the mortifying sartorial disaster similar gifts had been when you were thirteen (mainly because now as you live in your own flat, your mum can’t force you to wear it in public).

It’s just those slightly racist comments your gran makes from time to time that irk. All right, completely racist comments.

‘It’s terrible! Did you hear? Romanian gypsies are eating our donkeys! I tell you, ever since we joined the common market, waffle, waffle, nativist ignorant waffle, Churchill would never have waffle, waffle…’ But you’re only there for the weekend, so you zone out from most of it or politely disagree, but you try not to make too much of a fuss.  Continue reading →