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. According to 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 euros.
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 submarine associations.
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 1999.
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 protected.
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 member states.