France: On 1 July 2009 France’s national minimum hourly wage increased from €8.71 to €8.82. The rate traditionally goes up annually on 1 July, but going forward the date will change to 1 January from the start of 2010. The Government has also set up an expert group to advise it going forward on the appropriate level of increase in the wage rate.

Ireland: The Irish Government has secured agreement from both employer and trade union representatives there to a new job subsidy scheme aimed at employers badly affected by the recession. The €250 million scheme will provide a subsidy of €9,100 per employee over fifteen months to qualifying exporting companies in the manufacturing and/or internationally traded services sector. The scheme is being introduced to assist in the retention of jobs and to help retain the economy’s export potential. This is in addition to the €100 million Enterprise Stabilisation Fund put in place by the Irish Government earlier this year. The scheme will run from 24 August 2009.

Greece: On 1 July 2009 Greece imposed a smoking ban in public places, its third attempt to outlaw smoking in the last decade. Under the new law smoking will be banned in hospitals, schools, vehicles and in all public places. Cafes and bars over 70 square metres will however be allowed to create smoking areas, provided they are totally separate. Smaller premises will have to decide whether to go totally tobacco free or to just cater for smokers. In addition, companies with more than 50 employees will be allowed (but not required) to set up smoking areas on their premises. More than 37% of Greeks aged over 15 smoke on a daily basis, the highest level in the EU.

Sweden: On 1 July Sweden took over the Presidency of the EU for the next six months. The newly elected Parliament will begin its work in September and the next European Commission will be appointed in November. EU Commissioners are nominated by their national governments and must be approved by the European Parliament.