Brussels Briefing

Ireland tries to milk EU for all it’s worth

Brussels Briefing

Irish dairy farmers’ eagerness to exploit the huge global demand for milk could cost them over €1bn in EU fines this year as they produce more than their quota.

Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney and MEP Mairead McGuinness have made efforts to push out the boundaries as they move closer to the starting block in 2015, when all quotas will be off and they can produce as much as they can sell.

But with some countries fretting that a sudden surge of milk on the markets will collapse prices, there is little support for what Ireland wants. And the commissioner is even warning that if they insist on changes, they could simply be opening up a pandora’s box.

Czech mates

Since the Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, they could be counted on to create trouble for the powers that be with eurosceptic prime ministers and presidents.

Refusing to sign treaties until the last minute and opting out of charters of fundamental rights, they were Britain’s ally on many issues.

Now, just as euroscepticism is increasing, the Czechs have become firm EU mates, with their new prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka pushing the reset button on his visit to Brussels during the week.

Push to have GM food accepted

BIOTECH BATTLE: There is a major push to have the EU accept GM food, with a catch 22 situation being played out between member states and the European Commission, each throwing this hot potato to one another.

The lobbying activity has increased noticeably and the Brussels- based body that represents the GM industry, EuropaBio, says that the next EU Commission and Parliament could be make-or- break for the biotech industry.

It is launching its industry manifesto next month on what has been achieved to date and what remains to be done. Among those addressing it will be Ireland’s commissioner Máire Geoghegan- Quinn, who heads up research innovation and science.

Parliament awards

Jim Higgins has been short-listed for Transport MEP of the Year Award, while his fellow MEP Sean Kelly is in the running for the Digital Agenda Award at the annual European Parliament event next month.

The initial nominations come from any organisation involved in each of 15 policy areas; the top three in each category are chosen by the privately- owned Parliament Magazine and the winners are chosen by MEPs.

The two are Ireland’s only short-listed MEPs this year. Independent MEP Marian Harkin won in 2011 and 2012.

Clone wars begin over meat proposals

Two proposals from the European Commissioners would see us eating meat from the offspring of Dolly the Sheep and other cloned animals — but we wouldn’t know it, as there is no plan to have it labelled as such.

The parliament’s food safety committee is disgusted and wants a full ban — on imports and home-manufactured clones. Other bodies point out that the mother used to create identical animals suffers stress in the process and the success rate is very low — 10% in cattle and 6% in pigs. They question why, and why now.

All suspect it may be because the US will brook no ban or regulation of its cloned meat imports in the EU in the trade agreement currently being negotiated.

Cyprus peace talks driven by gas interests

Gas looks as though it may thaw the frozen conflict on the island of Cyprus. Having lots of other parties with a deep interest may also help.

Forty years after Turks occupied the northern part of the island fearing it was about to unite with Greece, and 10 years after the Greek Cypriots, with EU membershipassured, voted against peace, talks have started again.

The prize is the gas off-shore. But it needs to come ashore in Turkey — according to the US and French exploration companies, the Israelis who own the adjacent fields and the EU who need alternatives to Russian gas would all like to see the pipeline going through Turkey.

Seachtain na Gaeilge sa Bheilg

Five days of events highlighting the Irish language kick off in Brussels on March 3, officially opened by commissioner and native speaker Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and Irish ambassador to Belgium Éamonn MacAodha in the Ireland’s EU offices in Rue Froissart

There will be films, song, music, dance, a quiz, lunch and a special session of Toastmasters with Dr Séan Ó Riain — possibly Ireland’s most multilingual person, with 13 languages to his credit and responsible for the European Commission’s Irish language websites.

There is a vibrant Irish language community in Brussels, with about 50 Irish translators and regular conversation circles in the Old Oak.

A new group, Na Gaeil i gCéin, formed recently to organise activities as Gaeilge and there are lots of sporting and other events for children.

Rules tackle potentially dangerous blinds

Tragic cases of children dying after becoming entangled in cords in window blinds are not too common, but they do happen.

ANEC, the European consumer voice on standards, has worked with the EU in agreeing new standards that blinds must adhere to to prevent injuries and deaths.

Much of it is to do with shorter cords — and they advise people with blinds to check them, keep them as short as possible, and, above all, out of the way of children.

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