EU in Brief

Cross-border regulations/1: citizens’ rightsCitizens “must be put at the heart of EU policies” underlined EU Commission President José Manuel Barroso and vice-president Viviane Reding upon presenting the the EU Citizenship Report to Justice Ministers (December 3) and to the Ministers of Social Affairs (December 6). The report drawn up at the end of October proposes measures to make EU citizens lives easier when they exercise their rights and extend aspects of their lives beyond national borders, “when they travel, study, work, get married, buy a house or car in another EU country”. The report includes 25 measures the Commission plans to take in the next three years, prior to adoption by EU Member States. The Commission “The Commission will update the rules protecting holiday makers from, for example, bankruptcy of their travel provider during their holiday and will propose additional ways to strengthen the rights of passengers in all modes of transport”. The Commission “will help consumers get redress if they have problems with a trader, by facilitating the fast and inexpensive out-of-court resolution of disputes across borders”. A delicate and controversial section is devoted to couples. In fact, the Commission will propose legislation to make it easier for international couples to know which courts have jurisdiction and which country’s law applies to their jointly owned house or bank accounts”. (The controversial measures on “cross-border divorce” were drawn up a few days ago). Cross-border regulations/2: safer roads “A foreign driver is three times more likely to commit an offence than a resident driver. Many people seem to think that when they go abroad the rules no longer apply to them. My message is that they do apply and now we are going to apply them”, European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas, responsible for Transport said commenting on the agreement reached by EU Transport Ministers, stipulating that drivers will be punished for traffic offences they commit abroad. EU figures suggest that “foreign drivers account for 5% of traffic but around 15 % of speeding offences”. Most go unpunished, with countries unable to pursue drivers once they return home”. Ministers have reached an agreement on a text that targets traffic offences with a critical impact on road safety, including the four “big killers” causing 75% of road fatalities, namely, speeding, failing to stop at traffic lights, failing to wear seatbelts, drink driving”. Frequent offences include: driving under influence of drugs, failing to wear safety helmets, illegal use of an emergency lane, illegal use of mobile phone while driving. “The proposals would enable EU drivers to be identified and thus prosecuted for offences committed in a Member State other than then one where their car is registered”. Once the owner’s name and address are known, “an offence notification, for which a model is established by the proposed Directive, will be sent to him/her”. The Directive does not harmonise either the nature of the offence nor the penalties for the offence. Cross-border regulations/3: confiscation of “criminal assets” The seat of the European Parliament in Brussels will be hosting a two-day meeting that will address the fight against organized crime. “We need to maintain our economy clean. We must enable judicial authorities to confiscate crimina assets no matter where and ensure they are not reinvested” in legal economy “through recycling and corruption”. EU Commissioner for Domestic Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom, thus presented the initiative of Flare Network (whose inspirers include the organization Libera), the EU and other international bodies, aimed at “bringing the fight against organized crime and illegal economies in the heart of Europe” and supporting an EU directive for the confiscation and the social reutilization of criminal assets. Conferences, thematic workshops and debates focus on the EU draft law on the confiscation of patrimonies accumulated by organized crime, that will be launched in the first Semester of 2011. According to UN figures, the impact of organized crime amounts of 10% of global GDP. It is often accompanied by corruption and other illegal phenomena. Speakers include Claude Moraes, Jana Mittermaier, Sradhanand Sital, Emine Bozkurt, Ioannis Dimitrakopoulos, don Luigi Ciotti, Raul Romeva i Rueda. The initiative was proposed on the occasion of the International Anti-Corruption Day (December 9) and the Human Rights Day celebrated December 10.

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