The EU in brief

Water, everyone’s right. The EU’s commitment”Every minute, three more children die from drinking dirty water” in developing countries – that’s 4,000 every day. Half of the hospital beds in developing countries are taken up with people suffering from diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene”. This “is simply unacceptable and it’s clear that more and faster progress is necessary”. Commissioner for Development Andris Piebalgs delivered a statement in the framework of the World Water Week 2012 (August 26-31; the World Water Day is scheduled for March 22) to underline the need for international cooperation with Poor countries with limited access to drinking water. Over the past decade EU aid has reached around €2bn a year for projects linked to Millennium Development Goals. Commissioner Pielbags pointed out that water “isn’t only vital for drinking and hygiene purposes, it is also key to agriculture”. “It’s clear that access to water and food security are therefore closely interlinked”. Piebalgs said: “I want to confirm the EU’s strong commitment to making sure that everyone, no matter where they live, has access to clean, safe water and sanitation”.Waste recycling: “virtuous” Northern EuropeAccording the latest report of the European Commission on how Member States manage their municipal waste Northern Europe ranks first (with evaluations on total waste recycled, pricing of waste disposal, and infringements of European legislation scored at national level). The report shows startling differences across the EU. Top of the table are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, while Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia rank last. These countries register poor or non-existent waste prevention policies, a lack of incentives to divert waste from landfills, and inadequate waste infrastructure. The issue is set to be debated during a meeting in Prague on September 19 notably with the ten worst performing Member States. The Commission is looking to use EU structural funds to improve waste management. Accordingly, Member States are called to comply with specific requirements which include the development of Waste Management Plans in accordance with the Waste Framework Directive and with the waste hierarchy, favouring prevention, reuse and recycling over incineration with energy recovery, with landfilling or incineration without energy recovery as a last resort. Environment Commissioner Janez Potoènik said: “The picture that emerges from this exercise confirms my strong concerns. Many Member States are still landfilling huge amounts of municipal waste – the worst waste management option – despite better alternatives, and despite structural funds being available to finance better options. Valuable resources are being buried, potential economic benefits are being lost, jobs in the waste management sector are not being created, and human health and the environment suffer”.A new stage in EU-Russia trade “WTO accession is a major step for Russia’s further integration into the world economy”, said EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht, welcoming Moscow’s ratification of the agreement whereby Russia joins the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as its 156th member today. “It will facilitate investment and trade, help to accelerate the modernisation of the Russian economy and offer plenty of business opportunities for both Russian and European companies. I trust that Russia will meet the international trading rules and standards to which it has committed”, the Commissioner underlined. This accession is particularly important for the EU, as the EU “is Russia’s first trading partner and Russia is the EU’s third trading partner”. The WTO accession “will have a positive impact on the conditions of trade and investment between Russia and the European Union. The “geographical position of Russia and the importance of its market in terms of volume and growth make it a very important trading partner” Community Europe. As a consequence of the WTO accession, Russia will amongst others lower its import duties, limit its export duties, and grant greater market access for EU services providers”.

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