October 12, 2015
Guest blog post by Andrew Roberts, freelance investigative journalist, part-time political observer of the European Union.
People continue to wonder what all of these politicians are doing in Brussels throughout the year… You would be surprised at how many laws and regulations being created and passed that you have never heard of…and yes, a lot of them sound like we could live without them. But some of these regulations sometimes make their way to our doorsteps, and that’s when you realize that the EU could be putting its time and energy to better use…
The Telegraph recently came out with a quiz about crazy EU laws to find out if they are real, some of which included, “bananas shouldn’t be too bendy,” “water doesn’t hydrate you,” “diabetics are banned from driving,” “eggs cannot be sold by the dozen,” among others…all true.
In 2010, the EU said that food items could no longer be priced per quantity (for example, a practice that was historically for a dozen eggs or ten apples) and instead all prices should be based on weight. Last October, British Prime Minister David Cameron mocked the EU directive that banned diabetics from driving, and while this law is not enforced, it is real. And when it comes the fate of bananas, guidelines that were put in place in 1995 to throw them out if they were too bendy, was thankfully repealed in 2008. And if you think water is supposed to hydrate you, apparently you are wrong. The EU actually prohibits manufacturers of bottled drinking water to label their product with anything that would ‘suggest consumption would fight dehydration.’ (1)
This is what elected officials are spending their time on in Brussels. And while these insignificant laws might seem to not impact your daily lives – unless you have a banana farm – some of the regulations created by the EU do indeed affect you.
It is interesting to see that the EU can be “over-regulating” some small businesses and practices, while also being destructive to the freedom of its own citizens and making absurd decisions that truly threaten the livelihood of many Europeans.
Recently, Jean Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission expressed his vow to change the regulations and laws in terms of copyright throughout Europe. Once again, copyright may not sound like a huge issue, but inevitably that impacts everyone’s daily lives and Juncker’s vows are now threatening Europe’s cultural landscape.
Through the Reda report, put out by MEP Julia Reda from the Pirate Party, Juncker communicates his wish to reform copyright laws. The idea behind the project is to transform the copyright laws into more homogeneous and ‘digital age friendly’ regulations. Having chosen Reda as the rapporteur for the project greatly deregulated the regulations.
The idea overall is to change the copyright laws, which were until now beneficial to the artists, writers and inventors, into copyright laws that would only benefit the viewers and consumers, making it easier for them to access the creative content anywhere and any time. At the same time, this threatens the work of artists, threatening their ability to be compensated for it, threatening their livelihood and their motivation to keep creating new content.
In the long run, the entire ‘European Cultural Exception’ could be threatened. But culture is only one of the industries that feel endangered by the EU’s absurd regulations. For instance, the issue impacts organic farmers, who feel that the EU could rapidly become too restraining for them.
Last year on March 24th, the EU Commission released a proposal for a complete overhaul of the EU organic regulation. Imports were at the center of the proposal, which foresees the replacement of the laws of today and instead require absolute compliance of EU regulation. This means that an organic product currently entering the EU would need to comply with reliable organic standards equal to that of the native countries. But the absolute compliance doesn’t look at the regional specificities, which invites absurd situations that could affect the import into the EU.
There are many products that are not grown in Europe but that are well appreciated by Europeans, such as coffee, with organic coffee becoming a major import this past decade. However in many parts of Africa for example, today it is impossible for the farmers to comply with the EU regulations. “An African organic mango farmer who feeds household waste to a pig on his farm or buys a non-organic young goat for milk production may, under the new rules, no longer be able to export his produce to the EU as this would not comply with the foreseen regulation” according to a member of the European Organic Agriculture Associations (2) Whether it’s organic food or culture, the EU seems to have the same process when making regulations: “The EU Commission wants to strengthen organic in Europe, yet it creates new hurdles”
(1). An increasing number of Europeans will keep protesting to avoid these hurdles and to keep hoping that the EU starts getting smarter about the designs of their regulations.
(2) Controversial overhaul of EU organic regulation raises red flags, April 17th 2014, organic-market-info