“As part of trade talks, the European Union wants to ban the use of European names like Parmesan, feta and Gorgonzola on cheese made in the United States.” Having achieved some success in negotiations with Canada and Central American nations, Europe may seek to restrict marketing of U.S.-made cheeses such as Asiago, fontina, Muenster, and Neufchatel.
And it may not be just cheese. Other products could include bologna, Black Forest ham, Greek yogurt, Valencia oranges and prosciutto, among other foods.
No word on renaming French fries. [AP]
A group in Iceland has sued to block construction of highway arguing (among other things) that it would disturb the ancient elves or “hidden folk” of the Icelandic countryside. “The group also claims the area the new highway would run through is of particular importance because it contains an elf church. A 2007 survey by the University of Iceland found that while only 8 percent of the population believe in elves, 54 percent would not actually deny their existence.” [PBS]
And a good thing too:
In 2008, 1.9 million Portuguese workers in the private sector were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Last year, the number was down to 300,000.
Spain has eased restrictions on collective layoffs and unfair dismissal, and softened limits on extending temporary work, allowing workers to be kept on fixed-term contracts for up to four years.
The New York Times being the New York Times, the trend story is largely anchored by the views of critics who detest the trend and view it as ushering in (new Times preoccupation) American levels of economic inequality, but it still more or less admits that labor market liberalization in Germany has contributed to that nation’s relatively strong economic performance in recent years. Comedy bonus: a description of the United States as a place “where the government hardly interferes in the job market.” [Eduardo Porter, New York Times]
An idea destined to come here as well? “Under the [European Commission] proposals new cars would be fitted with cameras that could read road speed limit signs and automatically apply the brakes when this is exceeded. Patrick McLoughlin, the [British] Transport Secretary, is said to be opposed to the plans, which could also mean existing cars are sent to garages to be fitted with the speed limiters, preventing them from going over 70mph.” [Telegraph]
More: EU denies having such plans (see comments). And in the U.S., federal regulators (NHTSA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) have considered speed governors on heavy trucks, drawing objections on safety and other grounds from independent truckers (2007), while the idea of speed limiters on ordinary passenger cars has drawn regulatory interest in both Canada and the U.S., as well as favorable note from such commentators as Matthew Yglesias and Ryan Avent.
The various member countries have very different traditions as to “collective redress” of legal claims, and while some have liberalized the procedures recently, none is anywhere near as liberal as the United States in permitting lawyers to assert class actions. That’s not going to change, according to Monique Goyens, director general of the European consumer organisation BEUC, which has pushed for new collective redress rules: “The key safeguards against exorbitant awards are in place. So we are not importing US class actions.” [Euractiv] More specifically:
The safeguards include swiftly ending unfounded cases and avoiding national systems where lawyers’ fees are calculated as a percentage of the compensation awarded, like current systems in the US and, to a lesser extent, in some European countries. The Commission also advises countries to avoid punitive measures, inflicted on top of actual damage and compensation for victims.
Maybe one of these days we could get some of those safeguards over here.
Many loyal users (including me) were beyond glum when Google decided to close down its venerable RSS reader, effective yesterday. Maxim Lott at Fox News has this report:
“You would think that it would take little effort to maintain the site, but compliance keeps the cost up,” the source ["familiar with the matter"] told FoxNews.com.
He gave one example of a costly regulation.
“In Europe they’ve had a regulation for years where basically, if someone requests that all their data on a site be deleted, the company must comply. Reader wasn’t compliant with that. So it comes down to, do you spend a lot more resources making the service compliant, or working on something new?”…
Google spokeswoman Nadja Blagojevic declined to comment about whether regulatory costs played a role in Reader’s demise.
“Photographs of infants are to be banned from baby formula packaging under new European Parliament rules.” [Irish Times via Stuttaford]
Even Brussels can get the message sometimes. The EU agriculture commissioner blamed public “misunderstanding.” [Telegraph via Alexander Cohen, Atlas Society; earlier] More: Kenneth Anderson.
Traditional refillable open-spouted vessels and dipping bowls will need to give way to “pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labeling in line with EU industrial standards.” [Bruno Waterfield, Daily Telegraph] In perhaps not unrelated news, a new poll finds Euroskepticism strong in the U.K. [Telegraph]:
When voters are asked the exact question Conservatives want to put to the public in the 2017 referendum, “Do you think that the UK should remain a member of the EU?”, 46 per cent opt to come out, a higher figure than in other recent polls, while just 30 per cent want to stay in.
Update: May 23 (proposal dropped).
This is totally appalling: “The European Union is quietly pouring millions of pounds into initiatives and groups seeking state-backed regulation of the press, including key allies of the controversial Hacked Off campaign.” [Andrew Gilligan, Telegraph]
Wait till you see how the market reacts, advises Marc Hodak [Hodak Value]
This idea, gaining some currency in Europe, would require government to get deeply into the control of privately published information content [Adam Thierer, Scott Greenfield, PC World]