20/03/2012 Europe and You: Laying hens and beef with hormones

Every year, looks at what the European Union does for you, for your rights, your health and your daily life. This week there is debate around the issue of the increase in the price of eggs, due to the improvement in living conditions for laying hens, as well as an agreement on the importation of high quality beef that has been adopted by the European Parliament, which will end 20 years of trade war between the EU and the US and Canada.

The protection of laying hens is expensive for producers

Adopted in 1999 and implemented on the first of January, the European directive relating to the protection of laying hens considerably improves their living conditions. 80% of French farms carried out renovations so as to comply with the European norm. Three months after its implementation, and despite ultimatums from Brussels, 10% of French farms have yet to comply with the directive, according to the National Committee for Egg promotion (CNPO).

The directive mainly requires larger cages (750cm2 instead of 550, with an animal density of less than nine hens per square meter of usable surface area), and ensures that they are housed more comfortably (with a nest, perch, bedding and watering area).

Supply for the industry that produces biscuits, cakes or pastry, which have set prices, have especially felt the effect of this modernisation in hens’ living conditions. However, boxed-eggs, sold in super markets, are sold at a fixed contract price, established for a fixed amount of time between the producer and the shop.

The renovations carried out by producers, which caused a temporary halt in production, caused price increases of over 75%. But this should not affect the price of biscuits and cakes, as Jean-Loup Allain explains, the secretary general of the union for biscuit and cake producers, as supermarkets are against any renegotiation of the contracts.

European countries are worried about a lack of eggs, especially with Easter coming up. It is tradition in these countries to paint eggs and then hide them in the garden. So many Europeans have asked for a drop in the price of eggs coming from the US, Mexico or even Turkey.

End of the trade war on beef with artificial hormones

The European Parliament, yesterday passed with a large majority the trade agreement between the EU and the US and Canada relating to the importation of high quality beef, which has ended the trade war that started in 1988 when the EU stopped the importation of beef containing hormones coming from both countries.

And then, with the endorsement of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), sanctions were adopted by the US and Canada in 1999 against various European products. The effected products, like Roquefort, chocolate or even mustard have created a loss of income of up to 116,8 million US dollars a year, and 11,3 million Canadian Dollars a year.

International agreement on cacao: agreed on the 14th March by the European Parliament, it will strengthen cooperation between producing and importing countries. 80% of the cacao used in the European chocolate industry, which is the largest in the world, comes from West Africa. It also seeks to improve the working conditions of the bean producers, mostly located in Africa (90%) and to deal with the problem of child labour, which is considerable in this sector.

The agreement, negotiated in May 2009, hopes to create importation quotas of 48,200 tonnes of American beef that has not been treated with hormones per year. Thirteen years after having torn down a McDonald’s restaurant in Millau to protest retaliation measures undertaken by the US and Canada, the Green European deputy José Bové welcomes this ‘great victory’. In addition to this, the French delegation of the European People’s Party have called it a ‘victory for European diplomacy’, before adding that ‘it is especially a victory in terms of respect for European consumers.’

European strategy against diabetes

In a report adopted on March 14th, Euro deputies dwelled on the development of a European strategy in the fight against diabetes. Many people are unaware that they are affected by this illness that can cause serious eye and cardiovascular problems.

In Europe, diabetes affects 10% of the population, that is 32 million people and causes 325,000 deaths per year. By 2030, due to the aging population, 16,6% of the population could be affected by this illness.

The European strategy is based on several ideas, like the promotion of a special diet, an increase in physical exercise, or even screening to ensure earlier treatment. The European parliament also encourages the coordination and financing of research in Europe, as well as the launch of national programmes against diabetes.

More clarification on cross-border inheritance laws

Inheritance problems, when the death of a person involves the legal systems of various member states, are quite common in the EU. In fact 10% of inheritances, about 450,000 per year, involve more than one country and are worth about 123 billion euros.

The resolution voted on the 13th March by the Parliament looks to clarify the applicable regulations in European territory. In the case of international inheritance, two proposed rules would help to decide which national legal system to apply when the cases involve more than one member state:

  • In the case of the death of an individual in a state that is not his country of origin, the inheritance should be dealt with through the legal system of the country in which he was normally resident;
  • But an individual may chose, while writing his will, that his inheritance be dealt with through the legal system of a country of which he holds nationality. According to Euro-deputies, this measure would allow expats to ‘maintain close links with their countries of origin and to ensure that certain national arrangements, like the regulations governing inheritance, be respected’.

The text adopted by the Parliament also hopes to create a ‘European inheritance certificate’, the optional use of which would allow to clarify the legal situation of someone who creates a will. This certificate would then help the inheritors and claimants to prove their statute and their rights in another member state.

This regulation, that must now be adopted by the Council, will not be applied in the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark, these three countries having exercised their right to opt-out.

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