Archive for December, 2009


December 12, 2009

Shifty SWIFT

December 11, 2009

When paying a bill, do you ever wonder what personal information you are giving out about yourself – and to whom?

– Nordea doesn’t give information of the requests for transfers besides for the parties that are involved in the process. An exception is, though, crime investigation specified by the police, and in some cases financial supervisory authority. (more…)

Lobbying in the EU

December 11, 2009

The register of interest representatives in EU, lobbyists, was announces one year ago. The aim of this register is to e.g. improve transparency, to give European citizens information about different interest groups.

At the moment nearly 2 200 interest representatives have registered to the system, most of them are so called in-house lobbyists and trade associations active in lobbying. There were 24 registered interest groups from Finland. The registration is still voluntary but there are opinions that it should be made obligatory.

At the moment there are two registers, one for EU Commission and the other for EU Parliament. The EU Commission’s opinion is that there should be only one register for all. Some parties are against that. In their opinion the interest representatives in the EU Commission and the Parliament work in a different manner. Also the matter of security rules should be taken into consideration. There are differences in access rights to the buildings of these two parties.

The discussion about different registrations was launched about 5 years ago. Now there is a register, which already is a positive change in culture of transparency and openness in the EU. The advantages of this register are still hard to estimate since this register has been used only one year.

What is lobbying all about?

Lobbying in EU is a way of influencing by communicating with the EU decision makers and officials. There are about 15 000 active interest representatives operating in Brussels. Most of the professional lobbyists are so called in-house lobbyists or representatives of different trade associations.

Lobbying is a very essential part of daily operations in the EU. Lobbyists are important sources of information for the members of the Parliament and they are usually very competent experts in their own branches. A good lobbyist respects the EU rules and presents his/her own ideas in a condensed, reasoned and well-grounded way. He doesn’t ask what the MEP is going to do in favour of his matter.

The estimates are that the expenses of the lobbyists are about 750 – 1 000 million euros per year.

Merja Karjalainen and Pauliina Rahunen

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region: is there a catch or is it just another paper?

December 11, 2009

The Baltic Sea

Major threats to the Baltic Sea are eutrophication caused by agriculture and scattered settlements and increasing volume of chemical and oil sea transport. Data is based on the Helsinki Environment Agency questionnaire of the Baltic Sea.

Questionnaire was an Internet survey of citizens’ opinions and observations of the Baltic Sea. The survey was part of the ongoing Helsinki and Turku urban challenge launched by the Baltic Sea campaign. Although the survey was quite small, it consist the basic threat elements commonly recognized. This is why European Union has announced Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region.

– There is a huge risk built in the Finnish government´s statement on the strategy, says Finnish MEP Ville Itälä (EPP).

He refers to financing the strategy, which in Finnish government´s opinion, should be the same model as funding of the Northern Dimension. This has also been Commissions opinion.

– This means that that there will be a new strategy, but without any sufficient funding for implementation. A good program, but it is without a real meaning.

MEP Itälä is in the heart of the big question. Is there any real meaning in this new strategy, or is it only a new paper without a catch? Is there any real influence on the decision making in EU or in national government. Funding is the key factor implementing any strategy.

Four cornerstones

The Strategy aims at coordinating action by Member States, regions, the EU, pan-Baltic organizations, financing institutions and non-governmental bodies to promote a more balanced development of the Region.

The four cornerstones of the Strategy are to make this part of Europe more:

1. To make the Baltic Sea region an environmentally sustainable place
2. To make the Baltic Sea region a prosperous place
3. To make the Baltic Sea region an accessible and attractive place
4. To make the Baltic Sea region a safe and secure place

(summary of the strategy)

Safety issues in sea were important to Finland, when making the strategy. Finland aimed to improve co-operation in the design and implementation of the Baltic Sea. Coordinate the fragmented command and control, routing and information systems. Improve education of maritime officers on the ships and personnel in the maritime centers.

The most important objective is the development of Baltic Coast guard, which would be able to answer increasing threats on oil leakages and other emergencies in the Baltic Sea region.

This and all the other actions are funded throughout another programmes. The Strategy itself has no funding.

Almost 240 MEUR is available

However there are funds available to the Baltic Sea region. Over 230 million euro earmarked by the European Commission and the Government of Norway. Total 236,6 MEUR is available to Baltic Sea Region Programme (2007-2013).

There are planed 46 transnational co-operation projects, so moreover own co-funding will come from project partners. Next years will show how much EU and the other countries could do in the Baltic Sea Area.

EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (pdf, 205 kb)
Action Plan (pdf, 98 kb)

Is Europe facing migration from south to north?

December 11, 2009

The climate is changing, and during the next 50 years Europe might face massmigrationg because of a unbearable living conditions.

The rise of the sea level, desertification, melting of Earth´s ice cover, lack of food supply and extreme weather conditions are the consequencies for the climate change.

Because of the hard living conditions the people of north Africa and south Europe might become climate refugees although this term needs to be clarified.
”International law does not define or recognise ”a climate refugee”. Lack of a commonly accepted definition further complicates estimating migration flows. Negotiations are currently ongoing within the United Nations to find a common definition”, says Finnish green party polititian and member of parliament Oras Tynkkynen.

There are several ways to approach the Europes possible climate refugee issue, but at the moment there is a concencus that the Mediterranean area becomes too hot and dry place to live for the population of the modern day. Although it is hard to count the total number of possible refugees world wide, the Mediterranean figure would be as much as 150 million people. And because the Africa is impossible direction to migrate then the refugees would travel to northern Europe, also to Finland.
”Home and its surroundings are important to everyone. If the living conditions would become unbearable I would rather think that instead of moving for example to Finland, the possible refugees would stay as close as their home as possible”, tells Paula Lehtomäki, the minister of the environment. Her opinion is shared by Oras Tynkkynen.
”The biggest migration flows appear within countries and between neighbouring developing countries. According the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), only 0,03 percent of global refugees were seeking asylym in Finland in 2008. It is unlikely that this big picture will change radically.”
According to Mr. Tynkkynen the best policies against forced migration related to climate change are effective mitigation and adaptation strategies.
”Limiting global warming to a maximum of two centigrade will greatly decrease the likelyhood of the most disastrous effects of climate change”, he reasons. Two centigrade would be bearable, but three degrees would place the Earth to entirely different position.

Talk is cheap when considered what to do to prevent the people all over the world to turn to climate refugees.
”Every year the world is using 50 percent too much of the Earths natural recources, and even within the European Union we haven´t been able to secure the natures biodiversity”, defines Paula Lehtomäki.

The Copenhagen Climate Summit is on, and there are several decisions to make in order to keep the Earth is clean as possible. First there needs to be an understanding among the nations of the world that the greenhouse effect must turn down by reducing the release of the greenhouse gases. Secondly the industrial world is in a position to help the undeveloped countries to adjusts to the climate change. And thirdly because the climate refugees are already knocking in our landareas, there needs to be an official statement about the issue of how to define refugee. Within the next 50 years millions of europeans might move from south to north and for that we need to be ready. But as a consumers, even today, we can still make the difference and change the Earth.

Eliisa Anttila, Janne Pantsu, Jari Hemmilä