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European Union

EU’s Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency Surveillance Rules to Harm Consumers

The European Union’s final trialogue between Council, Commission, and Parliament has finished crafting the first part of legislation that makes up the new EU anti-money laundering package aligned with the Markets in Crypto-assets rules (MiCA).

These rules are drafted following recommendations from the so-called Travel Rule of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global treaty organization that combats money laundering. The aim of this rule is to effectively track financial assets, and included crypto assets like Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies beginning in 2019,

The EU’s proposed rules introduce regulations that are far from technologically neutral, are detrimental to innovation, and will harm consumers who depend on cryptocurrency services.

Crypto asset service providers are obliged to keep records and provide traceability from the first euro compared to traditional finance where that requirement is set for transfers larger than 1000 EUR.

Crypto asset service providers will be required to collect information and apply enhanced due diligence measures with respect to all transfers involving non-custodial wallets. A number of risk-mitigation measures will be in place for cryptocurrency exchanges before establishing a business relationship with exchanges in third countries. 

Putting such stringent regulations on non-custodial wallets, together with introducing strict and complicated measures for cryptocurrency exchanges, will introduce unfavorable conditions for the growing industry and will cause a number of businesses to be forced and move their operations abroad – depriving consumers of their ability to safely and securely enjoy crypto services.

Putting these high regulatory costs in place is already influencing the decision-making of crypto asset service providers, now considering changing jurisdictions and moving to more favorable ones. These ham-handed regulations won’t only affect the industry, but many of the consumers who rely on them, pushing them to use non-EU exchanges. 

We have seen consumers voting with their feet in the past, choosing service providers in different countries to avoid similar measures, and this will be no exception.

With more Orwellian stipulations requiring that a consumer who sends or receives more than 1000 EUR to or from their own non-custodial wallet be verified by the crypto exchange, we will be seeing a number of issues arising both for the industry as well as for the consumers, putting additional costs to all transfers. 

The European Union has been criticized in the past for its overregulation especially when it comes to innovative technologies. Even though the EU has been relatively early in creating a comprehensive legal framework for cryptocurrencies, a number of the regulations agreed on will undoubtedly bring harm to both the industry and the retail consumer.

Surveillance of each consumer coupled with copious regulations aimed at crypto asset service providers will once again leave EU citizens looking for alternatives within jurisdictions more open to innovation, decentralization, and consumer-orientated regulatory frameworks.

The entire point of cryptocurrencies is to provide an alternative to the government-controlled fiat money system. These rules aim to disrupt that aim, principally by forcing industry players to comply with even stricter rules imposed on traditional finance institutions.

There is a better way to do this in order to promote innovation, protect consumers, and create a better ecosystem that will benefit all Europeans.

Our Principles for Smart Cryptocurrency Regulations policy primer is available to all regulators, and offers core principles to uphold in order to create regulatory guidance for the nascent industry without hurting innovation.

PRINCIPLES

  • Prevent Fraud
  • Technological Neutrality
  • Reasonable Taxation
  • Legal Certainty & Transparency

The temptation to regulate cryptocurrencies and the blockchain economy based on financial considerations alone, rather than the innovative potential, is an active threat to entrepreneurs and consumers in the crypto space.

Penalizing first-movers in crypto innovation or subjecting them to outdated laws will only serve to limit the unparalleled economic growth currently provided by the sector, or risk pushing all investment and entrepreneurship to less reliable and lawful jurisdictions.

The policy primer can be read in full here

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

If you would like to help us defeat harmful Bitcoin and cryptocurrency regulation, also using crypto, consider investing value in the Consumer Choice Center via our Donate page.

The EU mandated harmonisation of charging ports will negatively impact innovation

Last month, the European Commission unveiled its plan to harmonise charging ports for electronic devices. With the new legislation, USB-C will be the required standard port for all smartphones, cameras, tablets, headphones, portable speakers, and video consoles. When the EU first proposed a common charger in 2009, they believed it would be the micro-USB standard.

The EU claims that this approach is needed to solve ‘consumer inconvenience’ and tackle the e-waste problem, but that logic falls short of making sense. This regulation will have a negative impact on innovation, do nothing to help the environment, and consumers will end up being the ones who have to foot the bill. The best thing the EU can do to help consumers and not impede innovation is to stay technology neutral.

Even though USB-C seems like the most efficient charger at the moment, we can’t predict how this technology will develop in the future. For example, in 2009, when the European Union first proposed a common charger, micro-USB was considered the standard Had this common charger been passed then, would European consumers have lost out on the now more-popular USB-C devices that are the new standard? Time has shown us that there are always better and more efficient technologies waiting in the wings. By legislating one common charger, the EU will be responsible for delaying innovation that will deprive consumers of choice not only now, but in the future. Adopting this proposal by the European Parliament and the Council could take many more months, by which time many companies may even find better solutions than what is currently proposed.

With fast-developing technology, there’s no guarantee that USB-C will still be considered the most efficient charging technology even months from now. Plus, as more and more companies are experimenting with wireless chargers it is very likely that charging cables will become obsolete. If this proposal is accepted, companies will be forced to provide the plug anyway. 

When Apple decided to drop the headphone port for iPhones in 2016, many were skeptical about the move. But consumers eventually came to appreciate wireless technology and not having to deal with wires that always mystically entangle the moment you put it in the pocket. Had the EU or any other government body tried to intervene and fix the “inconvenience”, we probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the benefits of them.

More disturbingly, this decision specifically targets Apple, the only company that uses a unique lightning cable for its products. Considering how many iPhone users exist in Europe, this proposal would have an immediate impact, forcing users to trash their existing wires and have to purchase new ones. It is hard not to be skeptical about this move. Innovators will keep innovating and we have new and improved versions of the products that pop up in the market almost daily. What we need is more competition, which is the main driving force behind innovation. Common charger mandates will do nothing but infringe on this entrepreneurial spirit, and mandate technology that will likely soon be obsolete. 

With this proposal, the EU is choosing favourites and endorsing a specific technology, when in reality it should be practicing technology neutrality. Rather than force companies to adopt a commission-favoured solution, the EU should simply issue general recommendations, leaving it up to the companies and consumers to make the ultimate choice of which charging wire they want to use.

Pay transparency is unaffordable for businesses and employees

A misguided way of fighting the gender pay gap.

The new EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has promised to move closer to closing the gender pay gap. The new instrument she intends on using is pay transparency—big mistake.

The European Commission works on creating pay transparency in the European Union. To fight the gender pay gap (which exists if you do statistics wrong on purpose), it wants to lay open the salaries of employees to check for discrepancies. Whether that would mean that businesses have to openly declare their contracts to the government or actually have to publicise salaries and other invoices remains unclear, however, some legislation already exists on the matter.

In Austria, a two-year reporting duty applies to private companies with at least 150 employees. It requires income reports to show gender-segregated mean or median pay in full-time equivalents per job category and qualification level indicated in the collective agreement and the number of male and female employees per job category.

In Belgium, the two-year pay reporting duty, introduced by the Gender Pay Gap Act 2012, is limited to the private sector but addresses companies with at least 50 employees. The data to be reported entail gender-segregated mean basic pay and allowances per employee category, job level, job evaluation class (if applied), seniority and education level.

France requires companies with 50 or more employees (and, in a more detailed form, companies with at least 300 employees) to annually draw up so-called ‘comparative equality reports’ concerning the situation of men and women employed, in terms of qualification, recruitment, training, pay, working conditions and work-family balance. Pay refers to the average monthly wage per job category.

Suppose the European Union decides to iron out the gender pay gap through pay transparency actively. In that case, it will create perverse effects inside companies, killing the incentive to ask for a raise.

Let’s say you write newspaper articles (close to home) and renegotiate the rate you receive per article. You end up receiving that raise. As this creates a gender wage gap within the company you’re working for, all female staff needs to get your raise as well, and – as the balance then tilts the other way – all the other male staff will also receive more.

If the company cannot afford to increase the rates of everyone, it is more likely not to give a raise at all. Ironically, if the company hires ONLY men, then that would be completely legal.

The idea that companies should not discriminate purely based on gender is a correct one. It is an arbitrary principle that has no place in a civilised society. The idea that statistical nonsense of gender wage gap statistics is proof of structural misogyny is utterly ridiculous. Women and men make different choices when it comes to education and the workforce — differences that are not accounted for in these statistics.

Therefore, the European Union’s policy on pay transparency is profoundly misguided and should not be implemented.

Originally published here.

The ConsEUmer Podcast nominated as a top European Union podcast by Welp Magazine

We’re excited to announce that the ConsEUmer Podcast, produced by Consumer Choice Center, was named as one of the best European Union Podcasts of 2021. The list was recently published by Welp Magazine and is intended for everyone wanting to boost their knowledge of everything related to the European Union. 

Various factors played a part in selecting these podcasts and it is worth noting that podcast hosts and guests come from across the political spectrum, so listeners have a chance to hear different points of views about the European Union. The ranking was created using the data provided by ListenNotes, Crunchbase, SemRush and Ahrefs.  

ConsEUmer Podcast is hosted by Bill Wirtz, a senior policy analyst at the Consumer Choice Center. Besides his active role at the organisation, Bill is a pro-liberty freelance journalist who publishes in 4 languages, he has been featured in multiple news outlets around the world. His podcast focuses on consumer issues, such as free trade, science-based policy making, privacy, digital single market, and more. The podcast also offers insightful commentary on the hottest EU related topics. Bill critically examines and evaluates strategies and policies of the EU and its member states. Each episode lasts around 20-40 minutes and features experts and policy makers from various fields. Some of the topics that have been discussed on the podcast include the Polish sugar tax, EU Beating Cancer plan and its effect on vaping, Farm to Fork strategy, the e-scooter revolution, nanny state index, and more. As you can see, the podcast is very diverse in topics and there’s definitely something for every taste. Stay tuned for podcast updates and in the meantime catch up with the past episodes below.

P.S. If you want to find out more about the work we do around Europe, we recommend checking out our European Railway Station Index 2021 as well as the list of Europe’s Most Passenger-Friendly Airports 2020

EP88: Germany's fiscal hawk, and No texts after work? (co-hosted w/ Fabio Fernandes) The ConsEUmer Podcast

This week's episode of ConsEUmer is co-hosted with Fabio Fernandes. In this episode: 🇩🇪 Germany's Christian Lindner: dove or hawk on fiscal discipline? 📱 Should your boss be allowed to send you text messages after work hours? The ConsEUmer podcast will be on a break until October 20th. Check out these websites if you want support Ukraine financially: https://www.blue-yellow.lt/en/ https://how-to-help-ukraine-now.super.site/?fbclid=IwAR2HawZT-H0iLD08QdXDMBG2qFKA3dpHsjDXt7bppN092YP2TVnQuDJ4j8A You can follow Fabio Fernandes on Twitter @DeFariaeSilva. Check out his new podcast Liberdade Para Escolher: https://bit.ly/LiberdadeParaEscolher September 15, 2022 Follow ConsEUmer wherever you get your podcasts: Apple: https://apple.co/2HR4TLTSpotify: https://spoti.fi/3l3GZdxGoogle podcasts: https://bit.ly/3fyyztoDonate: http://consumerchoicecenter.org/donateSee omnystudio.com/listener for privacy information.
  1. EP88: Germany's fiscal hawk, and No texts after work? (co-hosted w/ Fabio Fernandes)
  2. EP87: Truss time, Veganism fact-checked, and Protests in CZ (w/ Martin Pánek)
  3. EP86: France crackdown on private jets, Scholz argues EU enlargement, and The End of Vaping? (w/ Michael Landl)
  4. EP85: Spain's fights the robot voices, France bans fossil fuel ads, and Italian politics in turmoil (w/ Alberto Mingardi)
  5. EP84: Compensation headaches, Polish nuclear take-over, and Permanent COVID powers?

Who will really pay the “own revenues”?

Spoiler alert: consumers will.

Ever since the recovery package of the European Union was sent on its way through the institutions in Brussels, everyone knew that the joint debt obligations that the EU took up until 2058 need to be paid back somehow. This is particularly true because now that we’ve opened the slippery slope of taking up EU debt, you can rest assured that it won’t be the last time we will do it. The 750 billion Euros are said to be paid by own EU resources, meaning taxes.

On January 1st this year, the EU’s plastic tax has come into effect. The tax charges EU member states for their plastic packaging consumption and demands that a pro-rata amount be sent to Brussels for the EU budget. Also being discussed are a carbon border adjustment (fancy words to describe a CO2 tax), a digital tax, and a financial transaction tax. For many in the EU, this will allow the Union to become more independent from the interests of the European Council, to which the Commission all too often feels, and is, beholden when most of its more integrationist support lies in the European Parliament.

But who will actually pay these taxes? Is it that a digital tax on Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, or Facebook, will be paid by these big corporations from accross the pond and flow into the pockets of Berlaymont? Hardly so. The EU suggests taxing digital services where their transaction occurs, as opposed to taxing in the company’s country of residence. In the case of Apple, European sales are organised through the company’s HQ in Dublin, Ireland, to benefit from Ireland’s more advantageous tax system. In a similar way, Amazon benefits from rules in Luxembourg. Google and Microsoft sell more digital services, in the case of Google advertising services. Here, the cost of a tax would, much like VAT, put on the end consumers. This comes down to much of the free trade argument: the resident consumers pay protectionist tariffs in the country that imposes the tariff, not by the exporting party.

A carbon tax on imports does exactly that. Some goods coming from countries that do not share the EU’s ambitious climate regulations are competitive in price due to the low production costs in those countries. Attempting to push these goods off the market with a carbon tax means that EU consumers will pay more.

A financial transaction tax is an even more egregious example of misguided fiscal thinking. In the eyes of its advocates, it will hit the big players on the international financial markets, when instead it will be paid by low-level investors, low-level shareholders, consumers playing around with investment services that have popped up, particularly during the pandemic. 

It narrows down to the economic reality that companies do not pay taxes; people do. The building of a company cannot pay taxes; but is being paid because either the company reduces its share dividends of its shareholders, pays its workers less, or increases prices for consumers. All too often, the latter is the preferred solution.

The discussed EU taxes are supposed to create independence for the Union and tax big players to reduce inequities. It is more likely to do the former than the latter.

Originally published here.

Une taxe sur le carbone de l’UE est une erreur politique

En novembre 2020, la “European Round Table on Climate Change” a accepté un document sur le concept de taxe carbone prélevé à la frontière, également connu sous le nom de taxe carbone. Il est maintenant largement entendu que l’UE envisage sérieusement de mettre en œuvre un nouveau régime de taxes carbone dans le cadre de sa stratégie écologiste globale. 

En termes simples, il s’agit de taxes sur les marchandises provenant de pays qui ne respectent pas le niveau de protection environnementale de l’UE. Leur principal objectif est d’éviter les “fuites de carbone”, c’est-à-dire le déplacement des entreprises vers des pays qui n’imposent pas de coûts sur le carbone.

Le problème, avant tout, est que les droits de douane sont des taxes payées par les consommateurs nationaux, ce qui signifie que ce sont les consommateurs européens qui vont payer la facture en raison de l’augmentation du prix des produits internationaux. À l’heure où l’Europe tout entière attend la fin de la pandémie et l’inquiétante reprise économique qui s’ensuivra, un ajustement du prix du carbone qui gonflera les prix serait pour le moins gênant.

Les partisans de cette politique soutiendront qu’un ajustement aux frontières aura l’avantage d’encourager les exportateurs à fortes émissions à assainir leurs pratiques et de profiter ainsi à l’industrie européenne. L’idée est que si les produits étrangers deviennent plus chers, les produits européens deviendront comparativement moins chers.

Pour ce qui est d’amener les pays à fortes émissions à respecter les normes européennes en matière de climat, il est naïf de penser que les pays en développement peuvent satisfaire à ces critères. Comme de nombreux acteurs de la politique de développement l’ont souligné à juste titre, le monde développé s’est propulsé vers son statut actuel en se concentrant d’abord sur la croissance, ce qui permet aujourd’hui à l’Europe de s’offrir le luxe d’adopter des politiques de protection de l’environnement. De ce fait, il est peu probable de voir les pays en voie de développement avoir la capacité, à court et moyen terme, de créer les infrastructures nécessaires pour répondre aux normes européennes.

Cela signifie que l’ajustement ne sert qu’à faire pencher la balance en faveur de l’industrie nationale. Si ce changement peut sembler positif pour certains, les tarifs douaniers imposés sous l’administration Trump nous donnent une étude de cas sur les impacts négatifs de ces sanctions douanières. Si l’objectif politique de Trump était d’une toute autre nature, il est important d’observer les impacts d’une hausse des tarifs douaniers sur la population et l’industrie.

Pour les machines à laver, les tarifs douaniers de Trump étaient de 20 % sur les 1,2 million premières unités importées, puis  50 % pour toutes les unités importées au-delà de ce montant. Il en a résulté une augmentation de 12 % du prix des machines à laver et des sèche-linge importés, qui, bien que non taxés, sont souvent vendus par paire. 

Malheureusement, les consommateurs ont également dû faire face à des prix plus élevés pour les lave-linges nationaux, en grande partie parce que les producteurs nationaux ont pu augmenter leurs prix à mesure que les prix de leurs concurrents augmentaient. Pour les consommateurs, le résultat final de cette politique a été une augmentation des prix d’environ 88 dollars par machine, ce qui a représenté une inflation totale des prix de 1,56 milliard de dollars, générant 82,2 millions de dollars de recettes tarifaires.

Les partisans des droits de douane pourraient faire valoir, comme l’a fait M. Trump, que même si les consommateurs payaient plus cher les produits importés, et ironiquement les produits nationaux aussi, cette politique a eu pour effet positif de renforcer l’industrie nationale et de créer des emplois. C’est effectivement vrai, la politique a créé des emplois dans le secteur manufacturier aux États-Unis, environ 1800 nouveaux postes. Le problème est que ces emplois ont eu un coût énorme pour les consommateurs américains, à tel point que ces derniers ont payé 811 000 dollars de prix supplémentaires par emploi créé. Ce chiffre est loin de correspondre à un bon résultat coût-bénéfice.

Nous ne savons pas quel serait le taux de l’ajustement carbone, mais il est probable que, conformément aux règles de l’OMC, il devrait correspondre aux taux actuellement appliqués par cette nation européenne. Si le tarif du carbone devait correspondre à la taxe carbone nationale française de 44,81 euros par tonne d’émissions de carbone, l’impact d’un ajustement carbone serait significatif. Si l’on reprend les chiffres du fiasco des lave-linges de Trump et qu’on les applique à tous les produits importés en Europe depuis des pays à fortes émissions, la facture que les consommateurs devraient payer serait tout simplement astronomique.

Will new EU digital regulations lead us to innovation or stagnation?

A recent event organised by the Consumer Choice Center looked at the role the Digital Services and Markets Acts will play in shaping Europe’s digital innovation future.

In December 2020, the European Commission presented the Digital Services Act (DSA) and Digital Markets Act (DMA). Both are aimed at regulating digital platforms, however, it remains unclear whether they will succeed in boosting innovation in the EU and ensuring fair rules of the game for all participants.

In particular, the DMA puts in place a series of ex-ante restrictions telling tech platforms how to behave and introduces a new “competition tool”. Although noble in its intentions, the worry is that the Act might fail to strike a balance between the need to incentivise European SMEs to innovate while preserving our freedom to choose services delivered by so-called “Big Tech” without excessive burdens.

On 3 March, the Consumer Choice Center hosted a high-level debate on the future of digital innovation in Europe and the role the said acts will play in shaping it. Below are some of the main points raised by our panellists.

“We need to ensure that the DMA doesn’t turn into an anti-American notion. The DMA must not be a protectionist tool used against companies from certain countries, and this is something I will keep an eye on as we move forward with the digital market reform. Digital innovation requires us to stay open, and this is only possible if we cooperate internationally, especially with our democratic partners such as the US. Small players will benefit from this too. However, safeguarding fair competition is pivotal, and that has to be at the centre of our DMA efforts,” said Svenja Hahn, a Member of the European Parliament for Germany (Renew Europe Group).

Eglė Markevičiūtė, Vice Minister at the Ministry of the Economy and Innovation of the Republic of Lithuania, joined the event in her personal capacity to comment on how to improve the alignment on data protection when it comes to the DSA and DMA. “There really is a need for greater flexibility on the enforcement and specific obligations when moving towards a set of criteria that would be applicable over a wide range of platforms and service providers. The goal is not to restrain big online platforms as a source of potential danger but to ensure that consumers as well as small and medium enterprises are protected,” she said.

“Digital innovation requires us to stay open, and this is only possible if we cooperate internationally, especially with our democratic partners such as the US” Svenja Hahn (DE, RE)

“I think the Commission sets out in the DMA to allow platforms to unlock their full potential by harmonising national rules so as to allow end users and business users alike to reap the full benefits of the platform economy and the digital economy at large. What is needed at the EU level is to ensure that harmonisation. To achieve that, I think you have to use objectives and administered rules as you can’t use very subjective or ambiguous standards,” added Kay Jebelli of the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

“In the United States we tend to look at things around antitrust or competition using the consumer welfare standard which is basically the question of who’s being harmed. Europe, on the contrary, follows a more precautionary principle that can be summed up as ‘can we get ahead of what we think potential harm might be’, and the American mindset tends to be like ‘why do you want to regulate inefficiency into the system’,” said Shane Tews, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

With the world of technology constantly evolving, it is crucial that the European Union is able to keep up with latest developments, thereby providing European consumers with a wide array of choices.

Originally published here

European Green Deal wird für Verbraucher teuer werden

Eine Folgenabschätzung der Europäischen Kommission legt die Kosten des “European Green Deal” dar – für Verbraucher wird es wohl teuer werden. Von Gastautor Fred Röder.

Der European Green Deal (EGD) ist einer der Eckpfeiler der Von der Leyen-Kommission in Brüssel. Es ist in den letzten Jahren klar geworden, dass es größeren Wählerdruck gibt um eine grünere Politik zu betreiben. Auf EU-Ebene hat dies zu hitzigen Debatten beim Thema Freihandel, Landwirtschaftsreformen und Emissionshandel geführt.

Der EGD ist ehrgeizig – er strebt an, bis 2050 null Nettoemissionen zu erreichen, wobei “Wirtschaftswachstum von der Ressourcennutzung abgekoppelt” werden soll. Dies soll durch Strukturreformen im Bereich der Landwirtschaft, die Entkarbonisierung des Energiesektors und die Einführung neuer Besteuerungssysteme zur Vermeidung nicht-nachhaltiger Importe nach Europa erreicht werden. Eine entscheidende Frage wird jedoch ausgeklammert:: zu welchen Kosten? Die zusätzlichen Ausgaben für die Europäische Union werden sich auf satte 260 Milliarden Euro pro Jahr (zwischen 2020 und 2030) belaufen. Es wird allerdings nicht nur der EU-Haushalt belastet, sondern direkten Kosten für Verbraucher werden ebenfalls steigen.

Ende September hat die Europäische Kommission eine Folgenabschätzungsstudie veröffentlicht. deren Ergebnisse sowohl von der Kommission als auch in der breiteren Medienlandschaft weitgehend ignoriert wurden. Das ist jedoch überraschend, denn in fast allen Modellen kommt es zu einem Rückgang des europäischen Bruttoinlandsprodukts. Die teilweise gravierenden Einbrüche werden vor allem durch Rückgänge bei Beschäftigung, Konsum und Exporten verursacht. Besonders verheerend wird der wirtschaftliche Schaden für die Mitgliedstaaten sein, die stark von Exportindustrien abhängig sind und für viele Menschen mit begrenzten Wiederbeschäftigungsmöglichkeiten in diesen Ländern. Deshalb wird insbesondere Deutschland die Folgen dieser Politik zu spüren bekommen Als Exportnation wird es Deutschland härter treffen als weniger von Industrie abhängige Länder..

Bereits bestehenden soziale Ungleichheiten werden durch steigenden Energiepreise für Verbraucher noch extremer werden. Wie die Energiewende in Deutschland bereits zeigte, hat ein überstürzter Umstieg  erneuerbaren Energiequellen, der über Subventionsprogramme und nicht Verbrauchernachfrage erfolgte, die Energiepreise für die Verbraucher stark erhöht. In der Folgenabschätzung der Kommission wird dies anerkannt, allerdings in einer Formulierung die von wenig Mitgefühl für die betroffenen Bürger zeugt: “Ein Nachteil aus sozialer Sicht sind die höheren Energiepreise für die Verbraucher”. Es als “Nachteil” zu bezeichnen, wird den immensen Kosten für einkommensschwache Verbraucher nicht gerecht.

In der Debatte um den European Green Deal wird häufig davon gesprochen, dass umweltpolitische Veränderungen die Schaffung von Arbeitsplätzen und Wohlstand ermöglichen. EGD-Superkommissar Frans Timmermans spricht gerne von “grünen Arbeitsplätzen” und bezieht sich dabei auf die Möglichkeiten, die durch die Pläne der Kommission geschaffen werden. Anstatt dass ihn die COVID-19-Krise einen sanften Ton anschlagen lässt, meint Timmermans, dass “unsere Antwort auf die Covid-19-Krise es uns ermöglicht, Arbeitsplätze nicht für Jahre, sondern für Jahrzehnte zu retten und neue Arbeitsplätze zu schaffen. Wir werden vielleicht nie wieder so viel ausgeben können, um unsere Wirtschaft wieder anzukurbeln – und ich hoffe, dass wir das nie wieder tun müssen”. Wird er es sich jetzt noch einmal überlegen, nachdem die Folgenabschätzung seiner eigenen Kommission drei Wochen nach seiner Rede ergeben hat, dass die Kosten für diese Strategie erheblich sind und insbesondere die unteren Einkommensschichten treffen werden?

Angesichts der angespannten Lage, in der die Wirtschaft und dadurch auch die Bürger besonders leiden, sollten die Diskussion um die Energiewende, wie die des EGD, alle relevanten Aspekte beinhalten – auch die negativen Auswirkungen auf die Konsumenten. Natürlich kann man meinen, dass die Kosten des EU-Plans im Angesicht der klimapolitischen Ziele gerechtfertigt sind, doch man sollte dabei nicht vertuschen, dass Verbraucher, Arbeiter, und kleine Unternehmer besonders unter diesen Entscheidungen leiden werden. Eine offene Diskussion im Sinner der Prinzipien Transparenz und verantwortlicher Regierungsführung ist notwendig, bevor Millionen von Menschen die Rechnung für diese Energiepolitik vorgelegt bekommen.

Originally published here.

Post-Brexit opportunity: making the internet less annoying

They’re cookies, and they’re not the delicious kind: internet cookies pop up on every new website we click on. The pop-up often says something like this: “We use cookies to help our site work, to understand how it is used, and to tailor the adverts presented on our site. By clicking “Accept” below, you agree to us doing so. You can read more in our cookie notice. Or, if you do not agree, you can click “Manage” below to access other choices.” What cookies do essentially is store information on your device on how and where you navigate on their website.

When retrieving the information from your device, the website knows what particularly caught your eye, and they can improve their website structure or marketing based on this data. However, cookies can also be useful to the user, in that it stores your password, and keeps you logged into your favourite social media platform or airline account. The way rules are today, you need to opt-in to allowing cookies to be stored.

It wasn’t always that way. Prior to the “Citizen’s Rights Directive“, users were assumed to having opted-in to the sites cookie policy, automatically and then explicitly opted-out if they wished. In 2009, this directive changed the approach from an opt-out to an opt-in, as it was with the privacy directive since 2002. This has created a wave of annoying pop-ups, that can sometimes block half the screen, and deteriorate user experience.

Part of the directive sets the rules regarding cookie consent, and only implies two instances for implicit consent (meaning you are assumed consenting to the use of cookies), both relating to providing a service that the user specifically requested. For instance, an online shop remembering what you put into your shopping cart, does not need explicit consent.

The reformed privacy regulation of the European Union – ePrivacy Regulation – is set to come into effect this year, but no reform of cookie consent riles is planned. This would continue the cycle of annoying cookies. However, implementations can vary. Germany has an opt-out approach, so long as data collected by cookies immediately undergo pseudonymisation and are kept in a pseudonymised state. Your cookie disclaimer in Germany will also always state that continued use of the website implies consent.

But there is an easier option already on the market. A well-reflected reform would put all cookie use under implicit consent, with the knowledge that users can use often free and already existing software that allows them to opt-out of all cookie use that they deem unsuited for them. This allows consumers to take their data use into their own hands, without an unnecessary and ineffective pop-up on every website. This could also be an integrated feature in browsers, that would allow consumers to easily navigate their privacy rules in one centralised place.

This represents yet another way in which regulatory independence would allow the UK to diverge from bad EU policies.

Bill Wirtz is a Senior Policy Analyst for the Consumer Choice Centre.

Originally published here

MERCOSUR: More opportunities for the EU

EU-Mercosur agreement will significantly boost trade between the EU and the Mercosur bloc. By giving the Mercosur bloc a preferential access to the European food market, the deal would allow European consumers to enjoy a greater choice of beef, poultry, sugar, and honey at a lower price. The EU-Mercosur FTA is undoubtedly a big win for consumer choice.

Attempts to block it on the grounds of climate change not only undermine the significance of this opportunity but also fail to realise the benefits following from this new trade relationship. These are numerous on both ends and include exports too. Duties on exports of wine and industrial goods from the EU would be reduced, meaning that the deal would give European exporters a considerable access to the Southern Common Market.

This should be kept in mind when considering voices against the deal: the EU would pass on the opportunity to grow, foster a closer relationship with a fast-growing foreign partner, and, most importantly, to bring cheaper products to consumers in the 4 Mercosur countries.

Moreover, in terms of much-feared agricultural imports, the deal would define a number of food imports that can be imported tariff-free or at a lower rate. Free trade agreements do not mean an unrestricted flow of goods from abroad. They aim to expand trade while retaining some regulations and keeping in mind potential challenges for domestic producers brought about by foreign competition.

Farmers should adapt to reality

Though these fears raised by farmers across the EU are highly exaggerated. For instance, in 2017, the EU produced about 15.0 million tonnes of poultry meat. Under the EU-Mercosur FTA, only 180,000 tonnes of poultry from the Mercosur would be allowed to be imported tariff-free. The numbers and rates are different and do take into consideration the state of food production in the EU. Therefore, seeing the deal as a dark hour for the agricultural sector in the EU is rather unjustified.

For the Mercosur countries, the historic deal with the EU would open the door to many other trade agreements across the world. Concluding a big trade agreement with such an important player in the field of international trade as the EU would attract other countries to the Mercosur and increase its bargaining power for future trade negotiations. Additionally, the deal would also encourage investments as well as boost consumer choice and enhance international cooperation.

Overall, the EU-Mercosur deal is an exciting opportunity for the EU to put the interests of European consumers first and to send a powerful pro-trade, pro-cooperation message to the world.

Read more here

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