Maritime Safety

Bulgaria and Slovakia are on a grey list of flag states not in compliance with ship and maritime safety matters. The listing of states is based on inspections between 2010 and 2012. The two countries were on the black list (i.e. in breach of IMO rules) as were Latvia, Poland and Romania. These three states have gone from the black to the white list. Since the report was compiled Slovakia has decided not to renew licences for its registered sea going ships. Bulgaria still has a number of anomalies.

Maritime Labour

The ILO’s Maritime Labour Convention which has been transposed into EU law entered into force in August 2013. In the first months of operation 7 ships were detained. Two of the ships were from Cyprus and one from the Netherlands (the others were from Liberia, Tanzania and Panama). The Convention sets standards on sailors’ living and working conditions and applies to all flagged ships in the port of a signatory to the Convention. Italy ratified the Convention in November 2013 and it will enter into force in Italy (allowing Italy to    inspect    ships    for    compliance    with    the Convention) as from 19 November 2014.

Calls for Proposals for Transport projects

On 11 December the Commission launched two calls   for   proposals   for   European   transport infrastructure           projects.                                The               total    amount available is €350 million. All transport modes are covered. The deadline for proposals is 11 March. Of   the   total   amounts   about   €80   million   is reserved for the ‘motorways of the sea’. Detailed information  can  be  found  on  tentea.ec.europa. eu/en/apply_for_funding/follow_the_funding_proces s/calls_for_proposals_2013.   htm

More Competition in the Transport sector

The European Parliament voted 604 in favour, 48 against with 41 abstentions for stricter enforcement of EU competition rules particularly in the transport sector. There was particular emphasis on rail transport and state aids to airlines but all transport modes are affected. The call for greater enforcement goes not only to the Commission in Brussels but also to the national competition authorities which have more and more influence in this area.

WTO deal in Bali on Trade Facilitation

Expect to see a lot of developments over the next years on trade facilitation. This is the main outcome of the Bali agreement within the WTO. Forget the big money numbers for the gains to be gotten from this deal. Economist will always give a figure as to the expected welfare gain from any international deal. Politicians demand it so as to make headlines. However, the benefits of trade facilitation are real. Eventually it will speed up trade and reduce delays and bureaucracy. As the UK ministry of developments says: «Meeting trade facilitation commitments will require investment, and many will be capital intensive. Developing countries, and in particular LDCs, will need finance and technology to upgrade and improve TF. Section 2 of the Bali Declaration provides assurance that developing countries and LDCs will  be supported in building capacities to implement the agreement».

Russia takes the EU to WTO on anti-­‐dumping

Traders always want to know about anti-­‐dumping. Anti-­‐dumping duties can close down markets and cause significant deflections of trade  shifting goods from one destination to another overnight. The EU has anti-­‐dumping measures in place against certain Steel and Fertiliser products coming from Russia. In simple terms, the dumping margins are based on the difference of the sales prices in Russia and the EU. However the EU does not use the sales price in Russia as the starting point. It constructs a price. And in that construction it does not use the price Russian’s pay for gas. The EU claims that this price is not a true price and uses instead a substitute price based on prices paid in the EU. This is what Russia is challenging. If the WTO rules in Russia’s favour don’t expect to see the duties disappear but it can be expected that they would be reduced. That being said there are many who consider that the EU will win this one.

Sharing limited resources

The Mackerel war in the north Atlantic is an ongoing symptom of something that we are becoming more and more familiar with: the allocation of limited resources. Science tells us that there is only a certain amount of fish that can be taken from the sea while maintaining stocks. So who gets the right to fish? Norway and the EU claim that Iceland is taking too much. They claim that Mackerel is under shared management. For lawyers the real question is how do you enforce agreements to divide up the quotas and bring parties to the table to make reasonable agreements. There is no Court for these things. So the power of big brother, the EU comes into play. An example of how big brother works can be seen in relation to Herring. The EU thinks the Faroe Islands are over fishing this limited resource. So, in August 2013, the EU imposed sanctions on the Faroes: there is a ban on Faroe boats using EU ports (except for emergencies) and a ban on the import of mackerel and herring into the EU from the Faroes. Now  it gets more complicated. The Faroes don’t like this. They think the EU’s trade ban is a breach of WTO trade rules. So they want to take the EU to the WTO to get a ruling on this.

But the Faroes are not an independent state. In international affairs they are part of Denmark. So they ask Denmark to take a WTO action against the EU. And Denmark agrees. We now have the situation whereby Denmark (on behalf of the Faroes) is taking legal action against an international institution, the EU, of which Denmark is a part. Complex. Yes. Fun, for lawyers, definitely. But finally, and most importantly, of vital interest to the Faroe Islands.

Monitoring C02 and NOx emissions from Ships

A big fight is brewing between the EU Parliament on the one hand and the Council and the Commission on the other hand in relation to ship emissions. Essentially, there are moves in the Parliament to require emission monitoring for both substances on ships over 400 gross tons. The Council and the Commission appear to agree that the monitoring should only apply to CO2 and ships over 5000 gross tons. The NGO Transport and Environment is lobbying the Parliament. Watch this space.

Competition

The EU doesn’t back away from big issues. The EU’s competition authority, the Commission, stated on 15 January that it is planning to send statements of objections to Google and Gasprom for breach of a dominant position in relation to internet search services and provision of gas respectively. This is the beginning of the end for these companies. The Commission can fine companies up to 10% of turnover and does not hold back. Saint Gobain was fined €880million in 2008 and Philips, a little over €700 million in 2012. A total amount of €1.4 billion fines were imposed in the TV and computer screen cartel. Google is accused of copying content from other search engines and imposing exclusive conditions on advertisers. Gasprom is accused of dividing the gas market in the most eastern members of the EU.

Consultation on economic aid from the State 

When  we  speak  of  ‘state  aids’  we  often  forget some very simple aspects  of this branch  of EU

Competition law. Not all that is provided by the 

state is a state aid. It is only in specific circumstances that aids can be subject to the EU rules and subject to pre-­‐approval and/or sanctions from the EU Commission in Brussels. The EU is currently in a process of modernising the state aid system. As part of that effort the Commission has published a consultation paper which sets out the basics of what a state aid is. In essence there must be an economic activity from which the beneficiary of the aid draws an economic advantage. The benefit must originate in the state, must be specific (not generally available) and affect competition and trade between EU Member States. Interested parties have until 14 March 2014 to submit comments.

The Right to Water

We’re not  speaking seawater  here. Nor  are we talking about freedom of the seas and the right to sail where you want to. No. This is about the right to drinking water. The Right2Water campaign has collected 1.65 million signatures across 16 EU Member States claiming that all citizens need clean drinking water and quality sanitation. The campaign asks the European Union to guarantee these human rights through the promotion of water supply and sanitation as essential public services for all. The Treaty of Lisbon, the EU’s constitution, gives citizens the right to start European Citizens’ Initiatives. If the initiative gathers enough support across the Union then the European Commission (the EU’s executive) must decide whether to promote legislation on the issue or to drop it. This is a tricky problem for the EU Commission. Most Member States are in the process of either privatising water supply or introducing specific charges for the supply of water. The Right2Water campaign tries to counter these trends. In fact one of the campaign’s goals is to stop liberalisation of water services.