Eu in brief

EP: reforms in Albania and the question of Kosovo Europe confirms the "open doors" towards all the Western Balkan states. However, a long path of rapprochement still lies ahead for a possible adhesion, provided the Copenhagen EU accession criteria are met. The European Parliament, convened in plenary session last week, defined its position on Albania and Kosovo, which led to a broader debate on EU-Balkan relations. In a resolution adopted with large majority vote, MEPs acknowledged "Albania’s progress on reform", but underlined "the need for further substantial efforts to consolidate democracy and the rule of law and to foster the country’s sustainable development". This must include "reform of the judicial system and the fight against corruption", which remains "a major political challenge". The EP thus calls for a solution "to the current political stalemate following Albania’s parliamentary elections of June 2009. According to MEPs, Tirana needs "”fully functioning institutions" which are "the backbone of a consolidated democratic system and an important political criterion for EU integration". Finally, MEPs say Parliament “would welcome the recognition by all Member States of the independence of Kosovo". Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence of 18 February 2008 has been recognised by 66 countries, of which 22 EU Member States.Pensions: Green Paper and EU27 debate "”The number of retired people in Europe compared to those financing their pensions is forecast to double by 2060 – the current situation is simply not sustainable". László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion presented a few days ago the Green Paper drawn up by the EU Executive for debate on the long-term financial sustainability of retirement systems in EU27. "In addressing the issue – he said – it is necessary to achieve the right balance between work and retirement". The document "does not make specific policy proposals but seeks views on possible future actions at European level". The consultation period will run for four months, ending 15 November 2010) during which anyone with an interest in the subject can submit their views via the website http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/ipm/forms/dispatch?form=pensions. The European Commission "will then analyse all responses and consider the best course for future actions to address these issues at EU level". Andor pointed out: "We are faced with poorer retired workers, higher social insurance contributions and higher numbers of people who work more and for a longer period. Ensuring that ageing doesn’t become the synonym of poverty is one of the major successes of the European social model".Holidays: the rights of air and train travellersEU holidaymakers travelling by plane or train are protected by a whole range of consumer rights. Bus and boat passengers are set to be given the same levels of protection soon. MEPs addressed the subject during the European Parliament sitting of July 5-8, in view of the upcoming summer holidays (four out of five Europeans are planning to go on holiday this year, according to a Commission survey). The website of the Commission – www.ec.europa.eu – underlines the rights passengers ought to demand to travel agencies. "Airline passengers have been well protected for some time now on their flights out and back home. If their flight is delayed by 2 hours or more, passengers are entitled to free food and drinks. If the delay is 5 hours or more, or if the flight is cancelled, passengers can opt for a refund on the price of their ticket within 7 days, a return flight to their starting point or alternative transportation to their destination. If a flight is postponed until the next day, passengers are entitled to a night in a hoteI". Needless say that notwithstanding Eu legislation, such rights aren’t always fully enforced. "Rail passengers now enjoy similar rights to air travellers – since the introduction of new EU rules last year", the Executive said. For delays of 1-2 hours, they can claim a 25% refund on their ticket – and a 50% refund for delays of 2 hours or more. Air and rail passengers must be compensated for lost or damaged baggage.

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