Brussels briefing

New passenger guidelines for disabled

An amazing 60% of passengers who are disabled or have reduced mobility do not alert airlines in advance that they need help — they just turn up at the airport.

But then, many who do things by the book face problems.

A new set of guidelines for passengers and airlines from transport commissioner Siim Kallas should help — especially those travelling to the Paralympics in London this summer.

It tells airlines to stop demanding medical certificates for people in wheelchairs and the blind for instance, and tells passengers to give 48 hours’ notice if they plan to put a dog in the cabin, transport an electric wheelchair and to clarify if they need to bring their own oxygen.

Check first

Had the 400,000 breast implants made by French manufacturer PIP been checked for safety before they went on the market, thousands of women would be a lot safer now.

In future breast implants should be authorised before they come to the market, together with other medical devices such as pacemakers, according to the European Parliament.

It wants a breast implant register established in every country, so when there are problems, women can be contacted quickly and easily. However, they will have to agree to their details being held in this way.

The legislation is due to be revised later this year.

Bloomin Berlin

The reputation of Ireland as a bold, spendthrift child is fast disappearing from German minds — and returning to that of literature and song, thanks to some diplomacy.

This is the 12th year that Bloomsday is celebrated in Berlin.

This year, one of the major Berlin radio stations pulled out all the stops with 22 hours of readings from Joyce’s Ulysses by professional actors, accompanied by specially commissioned music.

They took as their model RTÉ’s centenary performance.

Strangely enough, Ulysses sounds wonderful in German, especially the litany of Irish names. Hope Angela was listening.

Sealing the deal on energy efficiency

National governments fell far short of their rhetoric on energy saving during the week when they finally stuck a deal with MEPs.

The hoped for 20% energy saving target by 2020 is now 15% — marginally better than the 9% the current arrangements were due to produce. The plan to renovate 3% of public buildings has been reduced by 90% to only include central government buildings.

But energy firms will have to deliver new savings annually equal to 1.5% of their energy sales to final customers. Large industries too will be subject to mandatory high quality energy audits.

Risky substances

Thirty-six years ago a major industrial accident at a chemical factory in north Italy released huge amounts of a dioxin used during the Vietnam war.>>

The Seveso directive, called after the location of the plant, has just been revised but Europe’s largest federation of environmental citizens organisations, the EEB, says governments have weakened the protection and increased risk to people from accidents involving dangerous substances.

Governments appear to have bowed to industry lobbying. They refused to insist on operators having mandatory insurance — doubtless leaving the taxpayer liable for another Seveso-type incident.

Politician caught in forest frolic

An Austrian politician must be checking YouTube regularly: he was caught on forest cameras intended to track the movements and habits of wild animals.

But he was caught on film having a wild few moments himself with a friend.

Their sexual antics doubtless gave the Carinthian Hunting Society in the south of Austria a little more than they expected. They have refused to identify the politician so far.

But they have pointed out that it’s forbidden to walk into the 400 square meter area monitored by the carefully concealed cameras.

Justice ministers’ at war with parliament

All hell broke loose in EU-institution-land when justice ministers decided to keep the European Parliament out of new laws regarding the Schengen system of border-free travel.

With Bulgaria and Romania set to join Schengen, the ministers wanted a way to shut those borders at the first sign of trouble. They decided to make the changes under an article of the treaty that means they don’t have to include MEPs in the decision-making process.

Furious MEPs have, as a result. withdrawn all co-operation with the ministers on five justice dossiers. We’ll see how long these borders are firmly shut.

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