Brussels briefing

Genetic advances a political football

Now that genetics is moving from allowing people to choose the sex of their baby to football clubs sifting out injury-prone players, it is bound to attract greater interest than ever before.

MEPs Phil Prendergast and Marian Harkin held a conference pushing for US-style legislation in the EU.

Ms Prendergast said she was horrified English Premier League clubs were genetically testing players to weed out those more likely to suffer injuries.

The former nurse said scientific advancements in genetics could greatly help patient care, but it could also be used by employers and insurance companies to discriminate against people.

“I would be very wary of the risk that this information could be used by insurance companies, mortgage companies, banks and other organisations to discriminate against individuals who have so-called ‘genetic defects’,” said the Labour MEP.

Left Renaissance

The next eighteen months could change the face of Europe with elections in France, Germany and Italy.

The left is hoping it will help them regain lost ground, by putting in socialist-type governments in each. Having the left in three big countries that have 200m of the 330m eurozone citizens would create a “Renaissance for Europe”, they believe.

They kick off their big idea this week when François Hollande, who hopes to replace Nicolas Sarkozy as French president, hosts journalists in Paris.

Death and taxes

The hangover from the good times is set to continue for Irish people who bought a little pied-à-terre abroad, either for holidays or to retire to.

If a couple manages to hold onto the property during these turbulent times, they are likely to face problems themselves when one of them dies — or transfer the problems to whoever inherits.

They can find themselves having to pay tax in Ireland and also in the country where the property is located. That can be up to 60% in some countries, even for a spouse.

MEPs are voting on new rules on cross-border inheritances tomorrow, but they won’t necessarily prevent this double taxation, as the EU has no power when it comes to national taxes.

But they will try to make sure citizens from one country are not discriminated against by another when inheriting by allowing citizens to choose whether the law of the country where the property is or where they are living applies.

Serious bone to pick

Food NGOs, including those against GM, have a bone to pick with the European Commission over the appointment of food industry lobbyist Mella Frewen to chair the European Food Safety Agency.

An Irish citizen with science degrees from Galway University, she is also a non-executive director on the board of Aer Lingus for the past year.

But her role as director general of CIAA, which represents the entire €965bn food industry in the EU, and formerly as a lobbyist for Monsanto, has led to accusations of vested interests taking over the agency responsible for vetting what we eat and drink.

Don’t expect this controversy to go away, as a report is due out shortly on conflict of interests at a number of EU bodies, including EFSA. It too has an Irish connection — it was drawn up by Eoin O’Shea, Ireland’s previous member on the Court of Auditors.

Women’s rights

Women in the world’s most populous nations — India and China — have the most basic of human rights violated — the right to be born.

Once baby girls were murdered at birth. But now they are targeted when identified in the womb, and aborted.

It is reaching a critical state in these and other countries — a point about to be made very forcibly at a conference on Gendercide hosted by Fine Gael MEP Gay Mitchell, above, in the European Parliament to mark International Women’s Day.

He is chair of the Human Dignity Working Group — an organisation of Catholic law makers particularly strong in Westminster, but also with an active group in the European Parliament.

Siding with angels

The European Court of Human Rights is much beloved by Irish citizens — it forced the State to provide free civil legal aid and in a ground-breaking decision found that some British military activity in the North constituted torture.

The court is under pressure with a massive workload of cases, mostly from the same countries moving against the human rights of their own citizens.

However, the authority of the court is now at risk as Britain and Switzerland try to dilute the power of its decisions. Amnesty says the real problem is that countries are not implementing the court’s decisions, resulting in recurring cases.

The Irish Government is on the side of the angels — as Amnesty puts it — and is not supporting the British position. It is also pushing for the EU to sign up so its laws can also be challenged on human rights’ grounds.

Jockeying for position

A new round of divvying up a host of top jobs in Europe is underway. They include the president of the eurogroup who will permanently chair the all-important meetings of eurozone finance ministers.

When Jyrki Katainen, right, the Finnish prime minister — a former finance minister — invited all his friends to a brain-storming session in the chilly clime of Lapland, everyone assumed he wanted the job.

However, he has denied he does. Many of the big countries hoped he would take it because that would take care of the small and northern countries who are demanding they get one of the significant posts.

The austerity gang that currently rule the EU roost would be happy too as Mr K is a financial hardliner, who said very harsh things about Ireland when we were down and almost out.

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