ANN CAHILL: Brussels Briefing - A weekly round-up of the most interesting news from Europe

Get a taste of some of the interesting and quirky happenings in Europe from our Europe correspondent, Ann Cahill

Recovery dents euro enthusiasm

The economic crisis in the EU must be over.

Countries yet to adopt the euro are becoming more hostile to the currency.

Support increased when the union was in a depression, but now with the forecasts hailing a recovery, enthusiasm among seven countries due to join the euro is fading.

About 80% of respondents in the seven countries insist that personally, they could adapt to the euro without any difficulty, but a similar percentage believe their country is not ready for it just yet.

When asked about the impact of the euro on other countries, more than half of respondents thought it was positive, but a similar percentage thought it would be bad for their own country.

The only country where a majority firmly believe it would be good for them is Romania, while only a quarter of Czechs, despite voting out their eurosceptic government, believe it would benefit their country.


Jobs minister shoots down jobs idea

Strenuous efforts are under way to unblock one of the major obstacles to a massive free-trade agreement between the EU and the US.

The European Commission proposed a new arbitration system when a business in one country believes another country is putting laws in place simply to protect their national companies.

Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly was quick to identify a potential job generator in this suggestion and wants the Government to push for an international trade court to be established in Ireland, where it would provide high-quality jobs.

Jobs and Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton, however, seems to believe such a court, in the long run, would be better within the confines of the World Trade Organisation.

Kenny’s alma mater woos ECB

Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s old school, St Gerald’s College in Castlebar, Co Mayo, has won the Irish national Generation Euro Students’ Award, sponsored by the ECB. The overall prize went to Greece, whose all-male team attends a British international school in Athens whose pupils are mainly from other parts of the world.

Mario Draghi welcomed the winners at the ECB and emphasised the importance of developing the economic understanding of the next generation. Most of the teams argued for the same policies on interest rates and quantitative easing which the ECB has already introduced.

Changing the rules for young migrants

Migrants under the age of 18 years who arrive in the EU illegally are often shunted around countries by authorities which argue about who is responsible for them.

Sometimes they escape to make their own way, are located by relatives, or are used by people who exploit them for sex or slave labour.

The European Parliament and the European Commission have been pushing to have the rules changed so that whatever country the minor is in will process him or her. Normally the person has to return to the first EU country they arrived in.

Member states refused to agree, and said they would wait for the European Court of Justice to rule. It has done so, in line with the commission’s proposal, but many fear governments will find new stumbling blocks.

Commission has youth on its side

Youth worker Joe Curtain and project participant Helen O’Keefe were in Brussels during the week because the Fast Forward project that Youth Ireland Cork (based in Gurranabraher) hosted was selected as a great example for others to follow throughout the EU.

Described by MEP Deirdre Clune as a “shining example”, they also attended a high-level debate at the European Commission.

The project explores how to best nurture the values and skills of young citizens to encourage them into becoming the change-makers of the future — its recommendations are also designed to help the current batch of policymakers. The outcome provides help to those working with youths.

Developing EU defence capabilities

Around 7,000 men and women serve under the EU flag, advising, training, and supporting military and security forces on three continents, says the EU’s foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini.

She has drawn up a report on developing the union’s security and defence capabilities in the future, while industry commissioner El˙zbieta Bie´nkowska’s report deals with developing defence technology in the longer term. EU heads will discuss security and defence policies at their summit in June.

The emphasis has been on maintaining and restoring peace in far-flung places but governments have been reluctant to spend, and efforts to have a force ready to deploy quickly have largely failed. Even so, 30 peace missions have been undertaken in the last decade.

In favour of the minimum wage

The minimum wage may be under attack, but an OECD report comes out very much in its favour.

It shows that a half-time job on the minimum hourly wage will take a family with two children out of poverty, thanks to low or no-tax and social welfare policies.

However it also shows that Ireland is the only country globally, of 28 surveyed, where the minimum wage level before tax dropped as a percentage of the median wage.

Any increase in the minimum wage would be lost to tax and social contributions if the thresholds were not adjusted also.

Public debate on conservation

The EU is reviewing its nature laws officially to see if they do in fact protect nature.

But more than 100 NGOs such as BirdLife Europe, WWF and Friends of the Earth Europe fear that its just an excuse to undermine the existing rules.

The organisations want the public to make their voices heard by taking part in the public consultation they have launched on their websites before July 24.



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