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Border-free Europe will cost more

5 Oct

The European Commission says it needs another €13 million to instigate its new hi-tech system of tracking people throughout the EU.

It will bring to €63 million the cost of the Schengen Information System II – brought in to help secure a continent no longer divided by border controls.

But the advantage of being able to travel from one country to the next without showing a passport comes at a cost. The SIS II system will consist of a database to help police share information such as car registration numbers and alert officials in other countries to people who have been arrested.

The system has been in force for seven years but with the enlargement of the Schengen area of countries (where there are little or no border controls at normal times – the area does not include the UK) better technology, using biometric data is needed.

It is hoped SIS II will be operational by the end of 2012.

EU backs Murdoch

22 Jul

Silvio Berlusconi

Berlusconi is unhappy with EU decision

The European Commission has lifted its block on Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp gaining more control of Italian TV stations.

The company, under its Italian subsidiary Sky Italia, wants to play a role in the increasing digital TV market in the country.

Most of the Italy’s television stations are owned by Prime Minister’s Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire and his government has criticised the European Commission’s decision, saying it will distort competition.

This week in the UK users of Twitter have been tweeting with the hashtag #proudofthebbc in the face of incessant criticism of the corporation by some MPs and the press, some owned by Murdoch.

Berlusconi v Murdoch? Be careful what you wish for.

Hold the front page!

1 Jul
The end of the world is nigh

Newspapers want help

How ironic it is that the boss of a British newspaper that frequently spreads xenophobic myths about Europe is begging Brussels for help.

Yes, the Daily Mail, whose Sunday sister title broke the made-up story that the EU is going to ban selling eggs by the dozen, wants European Commission President José Manuel Barroso to urgently address the print media’s problems of declining profits.

Representatives of the Daily Mail and other papers across Europe told Barroso that the EU needs to open up the advertising market and take action against news aggregator websites so newspapers can charge people to read content more easily – something which the pressmen said the EU should help promote.

(Incidentally, you might like to know that the Daily Mail and General Trust, which owns the paper, made operating profits in the six months to April this year of £144m (about €175m.))

Newspapers such as the Daily Mail have spent buckets of newsprint year after year vilifying representatives of some industries, such as farmers and fishermen, for relying too heavily on EU subsidies.

It’s a bit rich that they want the EU to help out now.

And from Barroso’s stilted response it doesn’t sound like the European Commission is going to go out of its way to offer assistance.

And neither should it.

EU makes phone calls cheaper

9 Jun

We’ve got the EU to thank for the new lower cost of mobile phone roaming around Europe.

In 2007 the EU decided to cap the amount that mobile phone operators could charge people from using their handset abroad.

Unsurprisingly the mobile phone companies challenged this ruling, initially in Britain, saying it was anti-competitive.

But yesterday Europe’s highest court, the European Court of Justice, judged that the EU did have the right to impose the caps, in the interest of consumers.

Hooray!

Before 2007 it could cost a fortune, sometimes more than £2 a minute to call from one country to another within Europe.

When the rules came in they limited the cost to 49 euro cents (about 40p) to make calls and 24 euro cents (20p) to receive them when in another European country.

Not bad – but it gets better!

Next year costs have to reduce further – to 35 euro cents (29p) to call and 11 cents (9p) to receive.

Victory for Europe! This is what the EU should be for.

And it means Johnny can now go interrailing and still phone his mum (Mrs Erasmus).

Over and out.

EU shouldn’t spy on our internet use

7 Jun

One of the EU’s own officials has called for it to scale back its plans to spy on people’s use of the internet.

The grandly titled European Data Protection Supervisor says that an idea fo monitor users’ web behaviour and collect IP addresses amounts to “an interference with their rights to respect for their private life and their correspondance”.

A good thing too. The EU tries at every turn to extend its tentacles into our private life, whether in the name of anti-terrorism or, in this case, anti-conterfeiting.

The EU wants a “three strikes and you’re out” policy on people who download illegally – by disconnecting their internet access – and that’s why they want copyright holders to be able to monitor internet users.

Let’s hope the European Data Protection Supervisor is listened to.

Otherwise Big Brother could be closer than you think.

Missing children deserve better

25 May

Quite rightly the EU is calling on countries to adopt a common missing child hotline as soon as possible.

The number will be 116 000.

Today is International Missing Children’s Day and there is some concern that only 11 EU countries have adopted the hotline so far (Belgium, Denmark, Greece, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia). Portugal where Madeleine McCann went missing was the first, as far back as September 2007.

All countries are obliged to "make every effort" to bring in the hotline by one year today.

Why the wait?

Euro leaders have their fingers on the pulse

17 May
Google

Made in America

“Most of the recent successes on the internet – like Google, eBay, Amazon and Facebook – were not created in Europe,” the European Commission said this week.

Another statement on behalf of the bleeding obvious.

So what are you going to do about it EU? Ah yes, a 40-page strategy document detailing what’s wrong.

It will be launched at the end of this month and reportedly will blame “a piecemeal market” across the 27 EU countries, lack of compatibility between technologies, increasing amounts of cyber crime; low funding for high-speed broadband, “Europeans’ weak IT skills”… and so it goes on…

Europeans’ weak IT skills?

Well, after they’ve sorted all that out we’ll be in a position to see the launch of the internet’s Next Big Thing right here in Europe.

I won’t hold my breath.

Ps. And yes, I did have a nice long weekend thank you very much.

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