European Union. Here are some of the events in the EU
that got the most attention during the year.
ABB was sentenced by the European Commission to
pay SEK 660 million. kr. in fines for participating in a
price cartel. According to the EU, ABB's Danish subsidiary
IC Möller, together with nine other European manufacturers
of district heating pipes, have determined prices in Europe.
The other nine were fined EUR 190 million together. kr. ABB
appealed to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg
because the company considers that the fines are too high in
relation to previous practice, since fines amounted to a
maximum of 10% of the company's last year's turnover. ABB
believes that the fine should be reduced to SEK 70 million kr.
Abbreviationfinder, EUC stands for European Union
Antibiotics. The EU banned four antibiotic
preparations in animal feed additives, but four other
antibiotic preparations are still allowed in the EU. At the
turn of the year, Sweden therefore triggered the safeguard
clause in the agreement with the EU that makes it possible
to maintain the Swedish ban on antibiotics.
Belgian blue. The European Court of Justice
rejected the Swedish ban on breeding cattle of the Belgian
blue breed. Sweden banned breeding with regard to animal
health. The strong musculature, which gives the animals 20%
more meat, makes it difficult for the animals to walk.
According to the Court, this consideration has already been
tried in the EU.
Assistance Fraud. 15.6 million kr. disappeared
from the EU aid budget. The money was earmarked for aid to
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Rwanda. Two officials have been
suspended from their positions in the European Commission
and the investigation has been handed over to the Luxembourg
police. The European Commission received harsh criticism for
failing to detect and stop the fraud in the EU aid
organization ECHO, which has issued a number of contracts
with doubtful consultancy firms in Luxembourg. During the
fall, UCLAF (the EU fraud scam) investigated 950 cases of
suspected cheating with aid money.
British beef is allowed by the EU again
exported. Exports were halted in March 1996 after
researchers warned of a possible association between BSE
(mad cow disease) in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
that can affect people. Only boneless meat is allowed to be
exported outside the British Isles. The slaughtered animals
must be between six and thirty months old and born after
August 1, 1996. In addition, each animal must be traceable,
either via computer or through individual ID tags. Meat
exports from the UK are expected to resume in the spring of
The EU moped with a maximum speed of 45
kilometers per hour became legal in Sweden from October 1.
Driving the faster moped requires that the driver is 16
years old and has a driving license. During the first half
of 1999, the rules are changed. Then the EU moped can be run
by 15-year-old who have received driving training at school.
The National Insurance Fund in each EU country
is obliged to reimburse the costs of care in other EU
countries. According to an EC ruling in the spring, the free
movement of services also applies to healthcare. The
background to the verdict is two Luxembourg men. One man
bought a pair of glasses in neighboring Belgium, but was
refused compensation from the insurance fund. The other man
did not get the insurance fund's permission to take his
daughter to a dentist in Germany. However, the European
Court of Justice gave the men the right.
Parental allowance can be withdrawn if parents
move to another EU country, according to a decision in the
European Court of Justice. The decision applies to a Finnish
woman who worked in Sweden for eleven months. She then
became unemployed and received unemployment benefits until
she gave birth to children. After the birth, the woman moved
back to Finland. The Social Insurance Office then withdrew
the parental allowance. According to the European Court of
Justice, the Social Insurance Agency has the right to stop
the payment of parental benefit if a person who is no longer
working is moving to another EU country. However, working
people are entitled to parental allowance.
carbon dioxide emissions from passenger cars
will be reduced according to an agreement concluded between
the European Commission and ACEA, the organization of the
European car industry. Cars account for 26% of carbon
dioxide emissions in the EU, and emissions from transport
are increasing. Since carbon dioxide, which contributes to
the greenhouse effect, cannot be cleaned with the help of
catalysts, the fuel consumption in vehicles must be stopped.
Under the agreement, European car manufacturers commit to
reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by 25% from
the 1995 level by 2008 at the latest. During the year, the
EU also decided to reduce all health hazardous emissions
from motor vehicles from 2000. All leaded petrol is banned
and stricter controls on motor vehicles are banned. In 2000,
the EU will have the world's toughest exhaust regulations.
According to the European Commission's estimates, hazardous
emissions such as sulfur,
Withholding tax. The European Commission wants
to put an end to the possibility of exempting from tax on
capital by investing savings in an EU country with low or no
tax on capital income. The Commission proposed two options.
Either 20% can be deducted from the tax on capital income
belonging to citizens living in another EU country or you
can inform the tax authorities in the citizen's home
country. The proposal is intended to curb tax evasion to
countries such as Luxembourg, Ireland and Austria, which
today do not levy tax on capital income belonging to
citizens residing in other Member States.
Membership. Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and
Austria proposed that the EU introduce a ceiling for
membership fees to the EU. The four countries are the EU's
largest net payers and want to reduce both Union spending
and individual countries' payment burden. The claim was
criticized by the EU's southern member states, who are
worried that the support there will be reduced if the four
countries receive their wishes. A fee ceiling will be
discussed in the negotiations for the next long-term budget,
which covers the years 2000–06. Negotiations began during
the autumn and are expected to be completed before the
summer of 1999.
VAT on services such as private cleaning,
elderly care, laundry, repair work and other household
services will be lowered if the European Commission gets
through its will. Today, the VAT on such services must be at
least 15%, but the Commission is convinced that lower VAT
creates more jobs. In the fall of 1997, all EU countries
supported the idea of lower VAT. However, when the
Commission proposed a three-year experiment in 1998,
Denmark, Germany, Austria and Portugal were negative about
the proposal. They do not believe that reduced VAT creates
Parallel imports of branded products from
countries outside the EEA, i.e. Countries outside the EU as
well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein were banned during
the year by the European Court of Justice. The prohibition
applies to the import and sale of branded goods such as
clothing from e.g. US and Asia without the manufacturer's or
general agent's permission.
Patent on life. The EU got a law on European
patent in biotechnology. The law regulates what can and
cannot be protected by biotech patents. European patent can
now be applied for genetically modified plants and parts of
the human genome. Patents, on the other hand, are not
granted on altered germ cells, cloned humans or on animals
whose suffering is not matched by a medical benefit to man.
For example, allowed to change a person's genes to prevent a
genetic disease, but not to change genes so that the change
persists in the next generation.
Piracy. The European Commission presented a
so-called Green Paper on how to combat the extensive piracy
in the EU. In the Green Paper, the Commission discusses
current legislation and methods in this area, while
presenting a number of ideas on how the EU should put a stop
Travel allowances for Members of the
European Parliament will be reviewed. Following
criticism from the EU Court of Auditors, Parliament
initiated a review of the remuneration of the MEPs when
traveling to meetings in Brussels and Strasbourg. One
suggestion is to reimburse the parliamentarians' actual
travel expenses only. Under current rules, they are replaced
by a lump sum based on the distance between the place of
residence and Brussels or Strasbourg. There are also
proposals to introduce equal pay - SEK 52,000. - for all EU
parliamentarians. Today, they have the same salary as their
home country parliamentarians.
Rules. EU labor ministers agreed on common
protection rules for chemical risks in the workplace. The
new rules lay down basic requirements for handling
chemicals, ranging from maximum exposure time for toxic
substances to workplace ventilation and the use of
protective clothing. A majority of labor ministers also
advocate tougher laws against asbestos. They have called on
the European Commission to propose stricter rules for the
management of asbestos. Nearly 6,700 people died in 1995 in
the EU in asbestos-related diseases.
Tax-free sales. The ban on duty-free sales may
be delayed for five years. Originally, it was intended that
tax-free sales of boats, aircraft and airports would cease
on July 1, 1999, but France, Germany, the United Kingdom and
Ireland want to push the ban.
The telecommunications market was liberalized on
1 January. In most EU countries, there are now at least two
telecom operators. The increased competition has resulted in
calls prices falling over the past two years on average by
40% in all EU countries, according to a report from the
Enlargement. Negotiations to expand the EU
further with eleven countries from Central and Eastern
Europe and Cyprus began in the spring. The negotiations are
expected to take several years as thousands of laws in the
applicant countries will be harmonized with the EU.
Moreover, the political structure must change in several of
the countries that want to become members of the Union.
Furthermore, the EU must change the current rules on
regional and agricultural aid before new members are
admitted. But in the not too distant future, the Union can
cover up to 26 countries and nearly 500 million. people.
Openness. The Journalist newspaper won a case in
the European Court of Justice on the right of access to the
EU Council of Ministers. The Court annulled the Council of
Ministers' refusal to release documents on EU police
cooperation Europol. The newspaper requested three years ago
to issue 20 documents on Europol. The Council of Ministers
refused to release 16 of the documents, citing that it would
threaten public safety. Swedish authorities had previously
released 18 of the 20 documents to the Journalist. This is
the second time the European Court of Justice has rejected
the Council of Ministers' refusal to publish documents.