ANN CAHILL: Brussels briefing

Crying foul over viewing public’s rights

Someone should cry foul — the world’s biggest sporting bodies, Fifa and Uefa, are arguing that matches in the World Cup or European Championships are not of major importance.

The reason of course, is money.

These two very wealthy bodies want to be able to sell the rights to pay-to-view TV channels.

But ordinary fans have found a champion in former GAA president Seán Kelly, pictured, who welcomed the preliminary view of the EU court that the matches should remain permanently free to air.

Instead it should be up to the member state to decide which matches its viewing public would consider important or not, he says.

Closing a chapter in ebooks cartel

Four of the world’s biggest publishing houses and Apple have dismantled their cartel operation designed to set prices for ebooks and eliminate competition between them.

Their target was Amazon, which has about 70% of the global market, but the result was to exclude alternative competition and keep prices high.

While Amazon’s 20p book collection has upset authors concerned about getting a fair return, the European Commission’s forcing the publishers and Apple into a deal should slash the price of ebooks generally.

In hot water

Starbucks — the coffee shop chain worth $40bn (€30bn) — has agreed to pay £20m to the British government after feeling the ire of customers when news spread that it had, using legal loopholes, managed to pay little or no tax.

This show of conscience by the US company has prompted Labour MEP Nessa Childers, pictured, to urge multinationals, using the ‘double Irish’ and the ‘Dutch sandwich’ to escape paying their dues to society, to pay up too.

She argues that the Government should ensure they pay the basic 12.5% corporate tax rate and makes the valid point that most Irish SMEs can’t use such sophisticated escape tactics as the multinationals, and have to pay the full rate.

Binning suspect health claims

During last week, suspect claims for health benefits in foods came to an end, something which may have passed shoppers by.

Green tea helping your blood pressure; royal jelly boosting your immune system; taurine in energy drinks making you more clever; all these claims are out as they have not been scientifically proven. Lots more suspect claims have been dumped. Only 222 are allowed.

Prizing freedom of thought

The European Parliament’s prize for Freedom of Thought was awarded to two Iranians.

They were lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, 49, who defended opposition figures; young people facing the death penalty; women, and prisoners of conscience and who was jailed two years ago. Her co-recipient, Jafar Panahi, is awaiting jail for making films showing hardships suffered by children, women and the poor in Iran.

His film, This is not a Film was smuggled on a USB stick hidden in a cake to the Cannes Film Festival in 2010. Their words, delivered on their behalf, were heard in hushed silence: “I have only one dream; the dream of the realisation of justice, and I believe that this dream will be realised in my country, by juridical independence” said Ms Sotoudeh.

“Now the question is: Why do the governments, the almighty and powerful, become more intolerant every day? History is the narrative of the few, making the lives of the many miserable, while using the most unacceptable excuses,” were the words of Mr Panahi.

Behind the music

Caseloads of vinyl sang their own song when Europol and Airpol — EU police and customs co-operating — hit 28 European airports, including in Ireland, during the past week, using what they call Passenger Risk Indicators to target likely couriers of illegal goods.

The old LPs revealed quantities of drugs and were part of the haul from 10 suspected couriers arrested. The total value was put at just €1.25m and included euro and US dollars, stolen mobile phones, false identity documents, and antique silver coins.

The operation, codenamed ‘Goodeye’, followed a workshop of the police at the various airports.

Righting wrongs on fundamental rights

Countries have to demonstrate they are signed up to and operating strictly to the charter of fundamental rights, to join the EU.

But once in, it appears they are free to retract — a fact that was exposed by Renate Weber, an MEP from Romania who is a member of the Civil Liberties committee of the European Parliament.

She wants the European Commission to take action against erring countries. She spoke out against the centre right and biggest political group in the EP and the EU that cut out all embarrassing references to member states in this year’s report on fundamental rights.

De-misting the glass ceiling

Having failed to convince member states that they needed to shatter the glass ceiling to allow more women join the 95% male boards of listed companies, Viviane Reding continues the assault.

She asked the business schools to take a look at the issue and they put together an initial list of 8,000 women to create a database of what they call “Global Board Ready Women”.

It should leave fewer excuses for all those men who can’t find suitable women — or altogether unsuitable women — for the boards. To find an equivalent male list it’s possible you will have to go to the membership list of a few exclusive golf clubs — where the handicaps keep women out.


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