European Union. Here are some of the events in the EU
that got the most attention during the year.
Alcohol and tobacco. From July 1, Sweden eased
the rules for the import of alcohol and tobacco. You then
had to bring in 20 liters of wine, 24 liters of beer and 400
cigarettes. The rules will be gradually changed and in 2004
they will be fully adapted to the EU. Then you can bring in
10 liters of liquor, 20 liters of strong wine, 90 liters of
wine, 110 liters of beer and 800 cigarettes.
Working Laws. By 2003, air, rail and ship
personnel as well as AT physicians shall comply with the
same working time law as other employees. They have
previously been outside the EU's common working time law. In
three years, AT doctors, pilots, train drivers and captains
may not work more than an average of 48 hours per week.
Car scrapping. In the future, car manufacturers
will bear the main costs of scrapping old cars. By 1 January
2007, all EU countries should have introduced full producer
responsibility for scrap cars. In 2006, the car industry
will recover 80% of the car's weight and in 2015 85%.
Cigarettes. The labeling of cigarette packages
and limit values for nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar
must be sharpened. From 2003, all cigarette packages must be
provided with a warning text that occupies at least 40% of
the packaging. At the same time, manufacturers are
prohibited from marketing cigarettes with words such as
"mild", "light" or "low tar content".
The ECB facilitates forgiveness. The European
Central Bank, the ECB, in Frankfurt has given in to the
requirement to publish economic forecasts for the euro area.
The ECB has received heavy criticism from the European
Parliament, but also from the market for the Bank's secrecy
of its forecasts. The forecasts are published twice a year.
AbbreviationFinder website, ECB stands for
European Central Bank.
Electronic Commerce. A new EU law will regulate
electronic commerce throughout the Union. The law equates
electronic commerce with "regular" commerce and affects all
services offered online, from online magazines to financial
services, medical services and brokers. Advertising and
marketing online are also affected by the new rules.
EMU again. Greece becomes the twelfth member of
the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU). The country
was the only EU member who refused membership because it did
not meet the conditions of a stable currency, low debt and
low inflation. But in the summer of 2000 Greece qualified
for membership. The country will formally become a member on
1 January 2001.
European Commission. Commission President Romano
Prodi has re-furnished the Commission. He has moved on Carlo
Trojan, who was Secretary-General of the former President of
the Commission, Jacques Santer, who was forced to resign.
Trojan is now the head of the Commission delegation in
Geneva. He has been succeeded by David O'Sullivan, an
Irishman, and former head of cabinet at Prodi.
During the year, the European Commission received
backlash from the European Court of Justice. The Commission
had previously sentenced several cement companies, including
the Swedish Euroc, to fines for forming an illegal cartel.
But the cartel was not so extensive, the ECJ considered,
which lowered the fine for Euroc from 40,000 to 14,000
Four local officials were dismissed from the EU
Commission's Stockholm office in October. They had been
found guilty of, among other things, false paychecks.
Another three senior officials, including the former head of
the office, are suspected to be involved. However, they had
to retain their services while the investigation into their
involvement continued during the winter.
Euro. 2000 was not a good year for the euro. The
currency fell by about 20% against the dollar. In an effort
to increase the value of the euro, the ECB bought the euro a
number of times. The weak euro pushed up inflation in the
euro area through higher import prices. The European Central
Bank, the ECB, tried to curb inflation with a number of
interest rate hikes.
Invoices must be paid within 30 days in the EU.
Those who do not pay on time must pay an interest rate of at
least 7% above the repo rate of the European Central Bank.
For Sweden, which is not a member of EMU, the Riksbank's
policy rate applies. The new law comes into force in 2002
and applies to both the private and public sectors.
Fusion is stopped. For the first time, the
European Commission has stopped a merger between two
overseas companies, the two US telecom operators MCI
Worldcom and Sprint. The reason for the decision is that the
companies together would have gained an overly dominant
position in the Internet connection market.
Bird protection. Sweden is lacking in the
protection of wild birds. This is the view of the European
Commission, which has notified Sweden to the European Court
of Justice. The Commission points out that Swedish
legislation does not guarantee that all projects that may
affect bird protection areas are reviewed.
Gas market free. On 10 August, the EU gas market
was opened to free competition, at least parts of it. The
countries had to expose at least 20% of the market to
competition. But more Member States went further than that,
which meant that by the end of 2000, there was free
competition in 78% of the EU gas market.
Genetically modified organisms. After several
years of negotiations, the EU has agreed on stricter rules
for approving GMOs. But it will probably be a few more years
before the EU is ready to approve new GMOs. Several
countries want supplementary laws in place before lifting
the moratorium on GMOs that have prevailed since 1998.
Freight traffic. EU transport ministers have
agreed to deregulate freight services by rail. Train
companies should be able to apply for a license to transport
goods throughout the EU. The decision concerns 90% of all
cross-border freight traffic. Today, 13% of all freight is
transported by rail. The EU hopes that the change will mean
an increase in rail freight.
Limit values for carbon monoxide. For the
first time, the EU has set common limit values for carbon
monoxide and benzene emissions. Carbon monoxide is one of
the most common toxic air pollutants and affects human
health by reducing oxygen reserves in the body. Benzene
increases the risk of leukemia. Both emissions originate,
among other things. from road traffic.
Reaction Force. The EU has decided to establish
a joint military force. It will primarily preserve and force
peace in conflict areas. The force will consist of 120,000
soldiers, 400 fighter planes and 100 vessels. Sweden will
contribute 1,900 soldiers, Viggenplan and mine clearance and
Transparency. The EU Council of Ministers
decided that all documents relating to the Union's security
and defense policy should be classified as top secret and
not disclosed to the public. The decision is a setback for
those countries, including Sweden, who are struggling for
increased transparency. The Netherlands wants the European
Court of Justice to set aside the decision.
Competition rules. Volkswagen is forced to pay a
fine for violating the competition rules. The company had
prevented German and Austrian customers from buying new cars
from their dealers in Italy. The decision came in 1998, but
Volkswagen appealed to the European Court of Justice, which
has now affirmed the decision and reduced the fine from 102
to 90 million euros.
Withholding tax. In order to stop tax evasion,
EU finance ministers have agreed to introduce a common tax
on interest income from savings in foreign banks. In 2003, a
withholding tax of 15% is introduced, which is increased to
20% in 2006. 75% of the tax is sent anonymously to the
country where the account holder is tax-registered.
Meat Labeling. On 1 September, compulsory
labeling of beef was introduced throughout the EU. The
provisions apply only to fresh and frozen meat. The marking
shall include: contain in which country the animal is
slaughtered and cut. In addition, from 2002 the marking must
contain the country in which the animal was born and raised.
Air pollution. The EU will reduce emissions from
power plants. Acidifying and smog-emitting emissions such as
sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and dust should more than
halve throughout the EU in 2010 compared to the 1990 level.
Sweden should reduce sulfur dioxide emissions by 44%,
nitrogen oxide by 56% and dust by 53%.
Member Countries. In February, the EU began
membership negotiations with six additional countries,
Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta.
The EU is now negotiating with a total of twelve countries
for membership. Negotiations have been ongoing since the
spring of 1998 with Poland, Slovenia, Hungary, Estonia, the
Czech Republic and Cyprus. Remaining in the waiting room is
Turkey, which in December 1999 was granted candidate status.
Member States' veto rights in the Council of Ministers are
abolished for an additional 35 areas, including most of the
trade in services. In 2004, the veto right for some asylum
and immigration issues was abolished and in 2007 for
decisions on regional aid.
Environmental Fines. The European Court of
Justice has for the first time sentenced a country to pay
fines for failing to fulfill its environmental obligations.
Greece has not handled toxic waste management and was
sentenced to pay EUR 24,600 per day until the country
fulfills its obligations.
Racial discrimination. The fifteen EU countries
have a common law that prohibits racial discrimination in
the labor market, in the education system, in the social
security system, as well as in health care. The law provides
legal protection against harassment, while providing a
discriminatory opportunity for redress.
The IGC, with a view to preparing the EU for a
new enlargement, was completed in Nice in December 2000. The
Treaty of Nice introduces two important changes. Power
between countries is redistributed so that the big members
gain more power and the smaller ones. Sweden receives 10
votes in the EU Council of Ministers in an enlarged EU
against four in today's Union. The largest countries
Germany, the United Kingdom, France and Italy receive 29
votes against today's 10. In an enlarged EU, three large and
one small country, or 88 votes, are enough to block a
decision. The number of Swedish EU parliamentarians
decreases from today's 22 to 18.
Cleaner water. After three years of
negotiations, EU countries agreed on a new framework law for
cleaner water. The law has been created to protect all
watercourses in the EU from pollution. The law encompasses
the entire water flow from the source to the outflow into
the sea and forces the member states to work together for
cleaner water. Within 15 years, "good quality" of all water
should be achieved.
Audit. The European Commission has improved
financial control. A new internal audit, IAS, is now
reviewing all financial decisions made by Commission
officials. The change is a response to the criticism of
substandard internal auditing that allowed cheating and
corruption in the commission that was forced to resign in
Legal Directory. The EU has agreed on a new
Charter of Fundamental Freedoms and Rights, including
touches on ethics, gender equality and discrimination. The
Rights Directory was adopted at the EU leaders summit in
Nice, but did not become legally binding as many trade union
organizations had hoped for.
Schengen. Sweden may and must hardly participate
in the Schengen cooperation from March 2001. Sweden must
first introduce a law that allows fined airlines to
transport people without valid documents. The cooperation in
Schengen means that passport checks between thirteen EU
countries have been abolished.
Snus must not be sold outside Sweden. Swedish
Match has tried to get the EU to lift the ban, but the
efforts were in vain. Both the European Parliament and the
Council of Ministers said no. However, the warning text on
snuff boxes should be changed from "Causing cancer" to "This
tobacco product can harm your health".
Spettkaka. The Scanian skewer cake has had its
geographical origin protected. In order for a product to
have its name protected, it must be manufactured in a
defined geographical area. However, the raw materials can
come from another region. Spit cake is the second Swedish
product - after the cheese Svecia - that gets its name
Swedish bath water. Sweden does not handle the
control of Swedish bathing water, and last summer the
European Commission notified Sweden to the European Court of
Justice. According to EU rules, bathing water must be tested
at least every two weeks. According to the European
Commission, Sweden only lived up to the EU requirements for
sampling at 81% of the controlled bathing sites.
Tham professors are stopped by the government.
The professorships would primarily go to the female
applicant, but a male applicant who was overlooked by a
lesser-qualifying woman appealed, and got right, in the
European Court of Justice, which said it was discriminatory
to prioritize less competent women over men.
Tobacco advertising. The 1998 EU decision to ban
all tobacco advertising and tobacco sponsorship is illegal.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that. The EU does
not have the legal competence to make such a decision.
According to health ministers, an advertising ban would make
the single market work better. But that argument was
rejected by the court.
Traffic insurance law improves the protection of
EU citizens who are injured in traffic outside their home
country. According to the new law, which enters into force
by mid-2002, it will be easier for traffic victims to
receive financial compensation. About 50,000 EU citizens are
injured in traffic in another EU country each year.
Trikloretylenförbud. Sweden may retain the ban
on the carcinogenic solvent trichlorethylene. The European
Court of Justice has ruled that Sweden's ban on the solvent
trichlorethylene does not contravene the requirement for
free movement of goods. The Commission claimed that the
Swedish ban was a barrier to trade.
Volvo's acquisition of Scania went to the fore.
The European Commission said no to the largest business deal
to date in Sweden, on the grounds that Volvo/Scania and
their trucks and buses would have an overly dominant
position in the markets in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Ireland,
the UK and Denmark.
In 2004, a new intergovernmental conference will be held
on how power should be distributed between the EU and the