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Rock-a-bye baby

6 Jul
Sleeping baby

Sleeping soundly

From ironing boards on Friday to babies’ cots today.

The European Commission has been worried for some time that substandard beds and duvets used by young children could be endangering their health and perhaps even leading to cot death.

Brussels officials conducted a study, looking at the way little children sleep, for how long, and how the beds they sleep on and the material they sleep under affects them.

Today, the Commission formally asked the European Standardisation Committee to draw up standards to be introduced for cot mattresses, cot bumpers, suspended baby beds, children’s duvets and children’s sleeping bags to reduce the risk of harm to little children, following an original proposal last October.

Forget labelling egg boxes, this is one area where EU standardisation can be a force for good.


Ironing boards from Ukraine

2 Jul


Ironing out a few problems

It’s fascinating to see just how many areas of life the EU gets involved in.

Today, for example, it ruled on whether a company in Ukraine is harming European firms by selling ironing boards more cheaply than it would do in its own country.

This is against the rules.

A couple of years ago the European Commission investigated the ironing board market and decided the Ukrainian variety were too cheap so imposed a 10% tax on imports from that country to redress the balance.

The Ukrainian ironing board company complained and today the Council of Ministers reduced it to 7%.

Oh, and just in case you’re not sure what sort of thing we’re talking about, the official document helpfully describes for us the:

“ironing boards, whether or not free-standing, with or without a steam soaking and/or heating top and/or blowing top, including sleeve boards, and essential parts thereof, i.e. the legs, the top and the iron rest, originating in Ukraine.”

It’s worth keeping tabs on because what’s known in trade circles as “dumping” of products can go from the relatively technical to a full-blown trade dispute.

Because on Wednesday, the European Commission announced the start of a similar investigation, this time concerning China and whether it was exporting a type of wireless modem into the EU market too cheaply.

The Chinese government launched a stinging attack in response, saying it had “grave concerns” about what the EU was doing.

Complicated, isn’t it? I’ll stick to the ironing.

Coach companies forced to compensate passengers

2 Jun
Indian bus

Slow coaches

Bus and coach companies might soon have to offer hotel accommodation up to €120 (about £100) if passengers are delayed overnight.

This already is the case with airlines but coach firms are likely to have the foot the bill too now.

Travellers will also be able to claim back the cost of the ticket if they are delayed by more than two hours.

Johnny is used to just nibbling on Twiglets when he gets delayed but he welcomes the news that he soon might be given money to get a roof over his head for the night.

This won’t be introduced just yet though because governments believe the European Parliament’s plans go too far.

They don’t.

EU can’t secure its own canteen, let alone its borders

1 Jun

I’ve been reading quite a shocking police report this morning.

On Friday, just yards from where I’m writing this to you now, a masked assailant raided the cash registers of one of the European Parliament’s canteen.

The crook snatched two cash boxes from the hands of a cashier and fled with about €1,200 (about £1,000).

Police searched the area and found a wig – but not the criminal.

Detectives say the man seemed “familiar” with the building.

It seems quite incredible, particulary at this time of increased vigilance due to the threat of terrorism, that security is quite so lax.

In February last year nearly €60,000 (about £50,000) was stolen from a bank on the European Parliament site and nobody has been caught.

It’s time to make this place more secure

Shake it up, baby

31 May

Unless you want to feel the earth move, I wouldn’t go anywhere near Carcassonne in southern France this week.

Johnny, for one, is going to stay in his bunker in Brussels.

What the European Union is calling “a major European disaster simulation exercise” is taking place there all this week.

Officials are testing how good different countries are at co-operating during a major earthquake. It is the first European civil protection exercise since the Lisbon Treaty encouraged countries to work more closely together.

Little information is available but we are told that “command posts will work under realistic conditions in the field”.

The exercise is being organised by France and involves civil protection teams from Belgium, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland and Spain, while chiefs watch on from the European Commission’s spookily named Monitoring and Information Centre in Brussels.

Johnny says: “Stay calm everybody!”

And the costs keep rising

20 May

Piling up

MEPs, who never shy away from getting a bit more money out of our taxes if they can, voted yesterday to increase the cash they get for running each of their offices by €1,500 (about £1,400) per month.

They’ve also decided to hire an extra 150 staff to work at the European Parliament.

Oh, and they’ve already said that next year they want their office allowance (which is generally used to employ assistants) to go up by another €1,500 and have requested another 236 posts.

They say it’s all necessary because of the extra workload caused by the Lisbon Treaty.

It should be noted however, that MEPs from the Conservatives in Britain voted against the €1,500 rise.

Money well spent?

13 May

Not here

It’s a public holiday in Belgium today because it’s Ascension Day.

But, the EU is taking tomorrow off as well to make it a pleasant long weekend.

Nice work if you can get it.

See you on Monday!

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