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  1. The business model is unusually communal. The field is “open” in the sense that he sells his produce to 320 people in the immediate neighborhood, who each pay between €220 and €320 per year, depending on their income, for the right to come and harvest food on his land.

    “The important thing is that everyone can join and the strongest can bear the heaviest weight,” Troonbeeckx said, recounting that part of the motivation behind his socially supportive model came from seeing his mother left far worse off after his parents divorced.

    “Since I’m not into international markets or the multinational economic system, I can create my own economy,” he said, looking out over a field of pumpkins and winter salad leaves.

    Troonbeeckx’s farm, though nowhere near as big, follows a similar ethic.

    He employs complex rotational methods that allow his cows to eat the grass, fertilize the soil and then change location to a new pasture so that vegetables can be planted using his newly-enriched soil. But getting such projects off the ground is much harder than it looks — in his first years of farming, he had to work in a restaurant just to makes ends meet.

    “Only people who have dreamt of being a farmer since a child should do it. It’s something that burns deep insides,” Troonbeeckx said. “If that fire does not burn then do not do it.”
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2018-01-04)
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  2. When in times past we have isolated ourselves from the Continent in the name of 'empire' or 'sovereignty,' we were soon sucked back in. This will inevitably happen again, given our power, trade, democratic values and sheer geography.
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-31)
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  3. The EU Council guidelines on transition and trade, published the same day, make clear that there is a binary choice and the UK cannot have Norway-style benefits with Canada-style freedoms. Britain needs to choose.

    And it is time for the Government to accept that the Canada deal does not fit our country. As Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, pointed out, it “does nowhere near enough to protect workers’ rights and public services”.

    A Canada-style deal would not protect jobs, living standards, environmental rights or protect the Good Friday Agreement.

    Only staying in the Customs Union and Single Market will secure all of the rights we have come to rely on. Labour was right to call for continued membership during the transition phase and put continued membership back on the negotiating table.

    MPs must now go further: vote to ensure the Government cannot force us out of the Single Market without Parliamentary approval, as well as backing the vote to make sure there is a meaningful vote in Parliament at the end of the Brexit process. The future of our country depends on it.
    Tags: , , by M. Fioretti (2017-12-13)
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  4. The joint divorce agreement hammered out in the intervening 528 days makes clear that little remains of the many red lines set out by Theresa May in her Lancaster House speech or party conference address of 2016.

    The first, and biggest, concession is buried in paragraph 49 of the 15-page report published early on Friday morning. Its implications will be anything but quiet in the weeks to come, for it undermines the prime minister’s previous insistence that Britain will be leaving the single market.

    It states clearly: “In the absence of agreed solutions, the United Kingdom will maintain full alignment with those rules of the internal market and the customs union.” In other words, the UK may not be a member of the single market, or have any direct ability to shape its rules in future, but it could yet have to play by them in perpetuity.

    Much will be made of the “in the absence of agreed solutions” caveat, yet what it means in practice is that the UK hopes to flesh out this pledge through a wider free trade agreement with the EU. If the other 27 members were reluctant to allow any wriggle room in the first phase of talks, they are even less likely to budge now that this principle is established as a back-stop.

    Then there is the UK’s promise to free itself from interference by the European court of justice. Where once this seemed the most implacable of red lines, signs of continued ECJ involvement are strewn throughout the divorce agreement.

    Most striking is the commitment to allow EU citizens living in UK to continue to rely on the court to enforce the many legal rights that will be enshrined as a result of the agreement.

    “For EU citizens the ECJ will still be competent,” said Jean-Claude Juncker, as he announced the deal.
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  5. Hogan warned there was “blind faith” from some UK ministers that Britain would secure a comprehensive Brexit free trade deal. He warned that Ireland would “continue to play tough to the end” over its threat to veto trade talks until it had guarantees over the border.

    “If the UK or Northern Ireland remained in the EU customs union, or better still the single market, there would be no border issue,” he said. “That’s a very simple fact. I continue to be amazed at the blind faith that some in London place in theoretical future free trade agreements. First, the best possible FTA with the EU will fall far short of the benefits of being in the single market. This fact is simply not understood in the UK. Most real costs to cross-border business today are not tariffs – they are about standards, about customs procedures, about red tape. These are solved by the single market, but not in an FTA.”

    The Irish government wants a written guarantee that there will be no hard border with Northern Ireland, something Dublin believes can only be achieved, in effect, by keeping the region within the single market and customs union. However, the Democratic Unionist party, whose support is propping up May’s government, warned on Saturday it would never accept a post-Brexit deal that would effectively see a customs border pushed back to the Irish Sea. May has repeatedly made clear Britain will leave the single market and customs union.

    The Irish crisis came as Britain’s former EU ambassador, Sir Ivan Rogers, warned May’s Brexit strategy was “an accident waiting to happen”. Speaking after a speech at Hertford College, Oxford, he said completing the Brexit process was “guaranteed” to take a decade. He said that the prime minister’s unrealistic hopes of securing a bespoke trade deal meant a car crash in the next few months was “quite likely”.
    EU commissioner Phil Hogan
    EU commissioner Phil Hogan. Photograph: Michael Gottschalk/Getty Images

    “The internal market is an extraordinarily complex international law construct that simply doesn’t work in a way that permits the type of options that the current government is pushing for,” he said. “So there is an accident waiting to happen ... and it is going to happen because the other side is going to put on a table a deal which looks broadly like a Canada or a Korea deal.

    “The only safe way to leave without enormous turbulence and trouble over a lengthy transitional period is to have a reasonable slope ... take your time and try and go for as smooth a glide path as possible from here to the mid-2020s. I can guarantee you that this is going to take a decade to do. We will not have reached a new equilibrium in British economics and politics until 2030.”

    Hogan warned Britain may struggle to keep the 59 trade deals it now has through the EU on the same terms. “The UK would be running to stand still,” he said. “When it comes to trying to negotiate new FTAs with the rest of the world, Britain will be pushed around the way the EU – with currently more than eight times the UK population – will never be.

    “The US have already started their attack on standards, so chlorine chicken and hormone beef for the British Sunday roast post-Brexit? India will insist on visas that the UK can never give. Australia and New Zealand are a long way away and of very limited economic interest. And any deal with China will be a one-way street in terms of costs and benefits for the UK.”

    Ministers are under mounting pressure to come clean over the extent of economic damage that a “no deal” outcome could cause to the economy. In the budget, Philip Hammond announced that the Office for Budget Responsibility revised downwards forecasts for UK growth over the next few years, mainly because of concerns of low productivity growth. But the OBR made clear that these downgrades were premised on a benign outcome to Brexit negotiations. Both the Treasury, privately, and leading independent economists recognise that actual growth will be considerably lower than the gloomy budget projections if the UK does not achieve most of its negotiating goals, or if there is a “no deal” result.
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  6. before Eurosceptics start using Catalonia as another opportunity to lash out at the EU for its passivity and cynicism, a few reminders may be useful.

    The EU has long been ill at ease with separatist issues within its member states. It has no mechanism to sort out a dispute of this kind. Article 4.2 of the 2009 Lisbon treaty states that the EU “shall respect” the “essential state functions” of its members, “including territorial integrity” and “maintaining law and order”. The EU has no power over how a member state decides to organise itself or its constituent regions.
    King Felipe accuses Catalan authorities of fracturing Spanish solidarity – video

    Supporters of Catalan independence may well argue this needs to be fixed, but no one in the EU wants to open a Pandora’s box. The EU will only deal with a case of newly declared independence if that independence results from a negotiated, legally based process. That is not the case in Catalonia, but would have been the case in 2014 if Scotland had voted to secede from the UK.

    The Catalan vote was “not legal” and the issue was “an internal matter for Spain”, the EU commission insisted on Monday. Just as it had in the case of Scotland, it also made clear that if the region seceded from Spain, Catalonia would find itself outside the EU, with no automatic way back in. There are clear limits on the EU’s powers of mediation. It’s true that it played a role in addressing the Northern Ireland question (and still does today), but that was only made possible after a peace accord had been reached.
    I was Catalan, Spanish and European. But Mariano Rajoy has changed all that
    Irene Baqué
    Read more

    This leaves the issue of fundamental rights. On this point, the EU commission statement that “violence can never be an instrument in politics” is, to say the least, timid. The wording steers clear of laying any blame. The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, may have been spared a dose of EU wrath because of his party’s link to the centre-right group in the European parliament.

    But whatever political calculations are at work, the EU commission lacks the tools to determine whether a government has violated human rights. These are enshrined in the 1950 European convention on human rights, which the European court of human rights is responsible for upholding, and which the Council of Europe also monitors. Perhaps a court case will one day be mounted against the police action in Catalonia, but that will be up to the judges, not to EU institutions in Brussels.

    Drawing a comparison with Poland and Hungary is also hazardous. The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and the government in Poland have dismantled democratic checks and balances, curtailed media freedom and put the independence of the judiciary in jeopardy. However dismal the situation in Spain, nothing comparable has been undertaken by Rajoy. It also takes a good deal of twisting of historical facts to equate the Spanish police’s heavy-handed tactics in Barcelona with the repression, systematic arrests and curtailing of individual freedoms under Franco.

    The EU has set itself the goal of countering rising illiberalism and nationalism, and it’s struggling

    It took a long time for the EU to react to Poland and Hungary’s erosion of the rule of law. As a recent report by the Open Society European Policy Institute points out, EU leaders “are reluctant to criticise one of their peers because they worry about setting a precedent that could one day be used against them”. But the same report stresses that in the end the EU decided to take steps against these governments not simply because they had trampled on democratic practices, but also because their capture of independent state institutions was undermining the implementation of EU law itself. The European club’s integrity was at stake. Spain has not gone down that road.
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-10-04)
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  7. At a press conference to mark the end of the latest round of talks, Mr Barnier said: “The UK wants to take back control, it wants to set its own standards and regulations, but it also wants to have these standards recognised automatically in the EU, that is what the UK position papers say. This is simply impossible: you cannot be outside the single market and shape its legal order.”

    One British position paper about data protection rules released last week suggested that the UK could still shape EU regulations after Brexit, and have its own regulations automatically recognised by the EU on a preferential basis.
    Tags: , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-09-01)
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  8. Google doesn’t generally make money from Google News itself, because it doesn’t place advertisements in the service (though it does of course place ads in its main search service, where results are sometimes augmented with Google News results). In contrast, ancillary copyright destroys the entire business model of small aggregation startups. CEDRO, Spain’s equivalent to VG Media in this arena, recently decided that aggregators should pay €0.05 per user per day in ancillary copyright fees – for the popular local aggregation startup Menéame, this works out as 20 times the company’s turnover. Obviously, this is completely untenable for a small business.

    So, given the German and Spanish experiences, what is the push for ancillary copyright actually trying to achieve? On the face of it, the aim is to get Google to pay publishers for sending readers to their articles. This is in itself a very strange idea, as publishers get to make money from showing ads to those readers, but let’s take it at face value for a moment. Even if Google were to continue to use those snippets, and if it started to pay those fees, the law would kill its small, European competitors in the news aggregation space – no-one would invest in them, because their businesses would haemorrhage money. Wealthy Google, if it stayed in the space, would end up dominating the EU news aggregation market even more than it does now.

    But this isn’t going to happen. Google is not going to start paying anyone to link to their online content, because that would be the beginning of the end for Google’s core business model – a win-win situation where the company benefits from being the gatekeeper for the public’s attention, and linked-to sites benefit from the traffic Google freely sends them.

    Günther Oettinger has claimed that the might of a pan-EU law would force Google to open its coffers, but he’s wrong. Nobody can force a company to engage in a line of business that will lose it money. If pushed, Google would undoubtedly do across the EU what it did in Spain: shut down Google News. This may benefit the traditional press publishers that hate online competition – and perhaps this is why they, with their vast offline marketing budgets, have lobbied so hard for an EU ancillary copyright law. But it would cause infinite harm to smaller European publishers and the innovative European startups that are trying to develop cleverer ways of connecting publishers with their readers.

    There are many flaws in Article 11 as proposed – its vague wording could penalise social media users; there’s no guarantee that journalists themselves would benefit from the fees; and it could lead to the last two decades of journalism becoming less accessible to the public. But even if the wording were tweaked, the basic concept remains fundamentally flawed. Nobody would benefit, apart from the handful of large press publishers that are trying to turn back the clock to protect their bottom lines.

    There’s no doubt that the news industry is in crisis, nor that digitalisation is largely to blame. It’s a deeply complex problem, and solutions are urgently needed. But ancillary copyright is not one of those solutions. If anything, it would hold back the innovation that’s so desperately needed to rescue the industry – innovation that might come not from Google, but from the bright minds in the EU.
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  9. So what can Theresa May do?

    The only way May could secure a good deal for the UK would be by diffusing the EU’s spoiling tactics, while still respecting the Burkean Brexiteers’ strongest argument, the imperative of restoring sovereignty to the House of Commons. And the only way of doing this would be to avoid all negotiations by requesting from Brussels a Norway-style, off-the-shelf arrangement for a period of, say, seven years.

    The benefits from such a request would be twofold: first, Eurocrats and Europhiles would have no basis for denying Britain such an arrangement. (Moreover, Schäuble, Merkel and sundry would be relieved that the ball is thrown into their successors’ court seven years down the track.) Second, it would make the House of Commons sovereign again by empowering it to debate and decide upon in the fullness of time, and without the stress of a ticking clock, Britain’s long-tem relationship with Europe.
    Barnier: Brexit deal will not be quick or painless – video

    The fact that May has opted for a Brexit negotiation that will immediately activate the EU’s worst instincts and tactics, for petty party-political reasons that ultimately have everything to do with her own power and nothing to do with Britain’s optimal agreement with the EU, means only one thing: she does not deserve the mandate that Brussels is keen to neutralise.
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  10. ora che alla Casa Bianca non c'è più Barack Obama la Silicon Valley trema. Con Donald Trump si è spezzata quella catena di comando che dai quartier generali californiani dei colossi del tech arrivava direttamente nelle stanze della Commissione o del Parlamento europeo attraverso la Casa Bianca e il Dipartimento di Stato. Una vera lobby di governo capace di difendere a spada tratta gli interessi della tecnologia a stelle e strisce. Ora i giganti come Apple, Google, Facebook o Amazon tremano. Se dai tempi di Mario Monti (nella veste di commissario europeo) e Microsoft l'Europa non ha evitato di colpirli, ora che sono del tutto privi di ombrello politico temono il peggio.

    La lobby della Silicon Valley con Trump è disarmata. I grandi amministratori delegati californiani sostenevano e finanziavano i democratici. Obama (loro grande sponsor) prima, Hillary Clinton poi. Basti pensare che Erich Schmidt di Google, tra i 140 uomini più ricchi del pianeta, ha fondato una startup che in campagna elettorale collaborava direttamente con la candidata democratica. Ora le relazioni tra l'industria tech e la Casa Bianca sono ai minimi. Vuoi per l'appartenenza politica dei suoi proprietari, vuoi perché la constituency di Trump - alla quale deve l'elezione nel nome dell'America First - è la grande industria manifatturiera come quella dell'auto.

    Dunque a Bruxelles sono finiti i tempi in cui i Ceo californiani erano in contatto diretto con la Casa Bianca che poi tramite il Dipartimento di Stato faceva arrivare le direttive direttamente alla rappresentanza americana presso l'Unione europea a Bruxelles. Dove agli ordini dell'allora ambasciatore Anthony L. Gardner lavoravano mano nella mano con i lobbisti della Silicon Valley per influenzare le decisioni della Commissione e del Parlamento europeo. A Bruxelles oltretutto gli Stati Uniti non hanno ancora nominato un nuovo rappresentante presso la Ue e prima che questo avvenga passeranno diversi mesi. Così gli addetti ai lavori raccontano che quel team di esperti agguerriti nel difendere gli interessi del tech si stia sfaldando: "Oggi lavoriamo senza indicazioni da Washington - racconta uno di loro - ci limitiamo a concentrarci sull'ordinaria amministrazione ".

    D'altra parte i rapporti tra Washington e Bruxelles dall'elezione di Trump sono ai minimi: basti pensare che il 25 maggio il presidente Usa sarà nella capitale europea per un vertice della Nato ma ad oggi non è prevista una bilaterale tra il tycoon newyorkese e il presidente della Commissione, Jean-Claude Juncker, che pure dietro le quinte si è dato da fare per organizzare l'incontro. Il che certo non aiuta le aziende americane che con la Commissione hanno a che fare ogni giorno.
    Tags: , , , , by M. Fioretti (2017-05-05)
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