112 — that’s what should be emblazoned on every Garda car, ambulance and fire engine in the country, according to MEP Jim Higgins.
It’s the EU-wide emergency number that any person can call anywhere in the EU, including in Ireland, when they need immediate assistance.
But fewer than one in four citizens know about 112, according to a Eurobarometer survey that shows Ireland is 17th-lowest in percentages of people knowing the number.
It might be all right calling 999 in Galway or Cork, but it won’t work when people are abroad, he points out, calling for a nationwide campaign to raise awareness.
NASTY PIECE OF WORK
Germany, which legalised prostitution 11 years ago, is battling with the problems this causes, in respect of rules that anyone offered a job loses benefits if they don’t take it.
While government-run job centres agreed on a voluntary basis a few years ago that women who refused work as prostitutes would not have their benefits cut, it’s proving a recurring problem.
Women report they have felt pressured, and the issue has resurfaced, with the latest report of a 19-year-old offered a job as a barmaid in a club.
She discovered that in fact the club was a brothel. She and her mother were reported to be horrified. Apparently they were not alerted by the job specification that said the candidate should be good-looking.
MERIT OF THE UNION
David O’Sullivan, the EU’s most senior foreign service official, speaking in Dublin about the merit of the union and referring to Britain’s nod towards exiting the bloc, noted that this was not confined to our nearest neighbour.
“I used to smile when during various referenda campaigns I heard it said by some that EU membership had somehow diminished Irish sovereignty.
“I remember Ireland’s sovereignty in the 1950s and 1960s.
“And I saw how Ireland’s influence and profile grew exponentially after we joined the EU,” he said.
ALCOHOL PRICE UP, DEATH RATES DOWN
Eurocare, an NGO pushing European legislators for better prevention of illness, wants governments to raise alcohol prices.
A severn-year study in British Columbia in Canada, just published, shows a 10% rise in the average minimum price for all alcoholic drinks produced an immediate 32% cut in alcohol-related deaths.
Two and three years after the price rise there was a significant drop in chronic and total alcohol- related deaths. Even the heaviest drinkers cut consumption when price rises, researchers claimed.
FREEZING OUT INSIDER LOBBYING
The European Parliament froze part of the European Commission’s budget for expert groups in the enterprise department for almost a year because they were dominated by big business interests.
The commission promised it would ensure a better balance to 19 such groups by the end of January. But the ALTER-EU alliance did a check and said that in fact the balance has been tilted even more in favour of corporate interest since. The NGO, which campaigns for greater transparency and ethics, says the experts shape legislation and influence European policy, including on labour rights, environmental protection, public health and responding to the financial crisis.
HEART OF MATTER
Vat cannot be removed from the cost of defibrillators, Fianna Fáil MEP Liam Aylward was told by the European Commission. The Government could, however, return the Vat to the groups buying them to help with purchase and training, it said.
The Irish Heart Foundation estimated that sudden cardiac death accounts for more than 5,000 fatalities here per year, including about 100 aged under 35.
Mr Aylward says a scheme to provide financial support to groups who do not have Vat exemptions would save lives.
KELLY AIMS TO LEVEL SOCCER’S PLAYING FIELD
About €3bn a year is spent on transfers in professional football in Europe, but only about 3% of that — €60m — filters down to the smaller and amateur clubs that provide sports facilities for the vast majority.
Seán Kelly, former GAA president, executive chairman of the Irish Institute for Sport, and a very active member of the European Parliament’s culture and education committee, is very happy the European Commission is taking steps to address such imbalances. The Fine Gael MEP wants to go further and have a “fair play levy” on the massive transfer fees, that would go to grassroots clubs, helping to train and educate young players.
“Sport should never be about money, wages or personal gain, but teamwork, determination and fair play,” he said.
CYBER-ATTACK VICTIMS SET TO COME CLEAN
Large EU companies will have to reveal when they have come under a major cyber-attack, under new rules proposed by the European Commission.
Companies providing energy, transport, banking, healthcare and internet services would all be covered by the rule — about 40,000 firms in all, throughout the EU.
More than 90% of large firms were hacked last year, costing up to several million euro, but most don’t report it for fear of damaging their reputation and losing clients.
Experts point the finger for some of the most lucrative hacking at China. A wide-ranging EU cyber security strategy is needed, the Commission says.
NOT-SO FREE SPIRITS
A EU-US free trade deal is the next item on the agenda for the Irish EU presidency and there are hopes the go-ahead will be given to start preparations within a few weeks.
SpiritsEUROPE, headed by Dubliner Paul Skehan, was fast to point out that Europe is the leading producer and exporter of spirits drinks worldwide.
EU spirits exports hit a record €8.5bn in 2011, making it the single largest agro-food export from the EU. The US is the single biggest market, worth over €2bn.