Binding 'say on pay' shareholder vote to be introduced
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
The Com­mis­sion pro­posed a pack­age of meas­ures on cor­po­rate gov­ern­ance and com­pa­ny law to ensure that com­pa­nies are well-man­aged and sus­tain­a­ble in the long term, which is cru­cial for the long-term financ­ing of the Euro­pe­an econ­o­my. One of the pro­pos­als is the revi­sion of the Share­hold­er Rights Direct­ive that con­cerns the gov­ern­ance of around 10,000 com­pa­nies list­ed on stock exchan­ges in Europe. A major part of the shares of EU list­ed com­pa­nies is owned by insti­tu­tion­al invest­ors such as pen­sion funds and insur­ance com­pa­nies. Although their inter­ests are long term ori­ent­ed - 10, 20 or 30 years - insti­tu­tion­al invest­ors often do not engage with the com­pa­nies' long-term prospects.
Tougher conditions for government wind and solar rower subsidies
Europe's ener­gy-inten­sive indus­tries scored a vic­to­ry in being large­ly let off the hook for foot­ing the bill for decar­bon­iz­ing the econ­o­my. The Com­mis­sion, under pres­sure from Ger­ma­ny, watered down some key parts of new rules on gov­ern­ment aid aimed at encour­ag­ing pro­duc­tion of ener­gy from renew­a­ble sour­ces, less­en­ing the finan­cial bur­den on heavy indus­tries and reduc­ing the scale of gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies for pro­vid­ers of renew­a­ble ener­gy.
A 1,700-strong financial pressure group sways Brussels
The finan­cial indus­try spends more than €120 mil­lion per year on lob­by­ing in Brus­sels and employs more than 1,700 lob­by­ists to influ­ence EU pol­i­cy-mak­ing, accord­ing to a study pub­lished last Wednes­day by Cor­po­rate Europe Obser­va­to­ry, the Brus­sels office of the Aus­tri­an Trade Union Fed­er­a­tion, and the Brus­sels office of the Aus­tri­an Cham­ber of Labour.
Ukraine Support Group created
The Com­mis­sion decid­ed last Wednes­day to cre­ate a Sup­port Group for Ukraine. The group will pro­vide a focal point, struc­ture, over­view and gui­dance for the Com­mis­sion's work to sup­port Ukraine. It will also help mobil­ise Mem­ber States' expert­ise and fur­ther enhance coor­di­na­tion with oth­er donors and the Inter­na­tion­al Financ­ing Insti­tu­tions. Enlarge­ment Com­mis­sion­er Ste­fan Fule will coor­di­nate the group, which will report to Pres­i­dent Bar­ro­so and VP Cath­er­ine Ash­ton and will draw on the con­tri­bu­tions of all rel­e­vant Com­mis­sion port­fo­li­os.
Law on private data storage overturned
The Euro­pe­an Court of Jus­tice struck down an EU-wide law last Tues­day on how pri­vate data can be col­lect­ed and stored, judg­ing it too inva­sive, news wires report­ed.
Making youth guarantee happen
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
How to make youth guar­an­tee a real­i­ty was in the spot­light of a debate with var­i­ous stake­hold­ers and experts from the EU coun­tries organ­ised by the Com­mis­sion in Brus­sels on 8 April.
Promoting EU farm products
A deal with the EU Coun­cil of Min­is­ters on meas­ures to boost sales of EU farm pro­ducts with­in the EU and abroad and to restore con­sum­er con­fi­dence in the event of mar­ket dis­rup­tions was approved last Mon­day by the Par­lia­ment Agri­cul­ture Com­mit­tee.
State aid up to 70% of investment costs
Busi­ness­es will be able to tap state aid for up to 70% of the invest­ment costs of pro­jects. The south­west­ern region will see sup­port capped at 25% of invest­ment costs, while the ceil­ing is set at 50% for the oth­er five regions, accord­ing to Bul­gar­ia's map for grant­ing region­al devel­op­ment aid between 2014 and 2020, adopt­ed by the Coun­cil of Min­is­ters.
Sofia, Hanoi develop 12 joint projects
Radoslav Kirov, Hanoi
An unnamed Bul­gar­i­an com­pa­ny is on the verge of secur­ing a con­tract to pro­vide con­sult­ing serv­i­ces on the con­struc­tion of Viet­nam's nucle­ar pow­er plant.
Europe's fast track to youth employment
Giles Merritt
Ita­ly's new prime min­is­ter, Mat­teo Ren­zi, wants to attack high youth unem­ploy­ment by cut­ting tax­es on labor. There is much to be said for that approach - not only in Ita­ly, but through­out Europe, where direct and indi­rect tax­a­tion on employ­ers and jobs accounts for half of the total tax take, while tax­es on cap­i­tal com­prise only a fifth.
Beyond cliches: only lies
Kancho Stoychev, sociologist
Euro­pe­an elites are being com­plete­ly out­ra­geous. They are lying shame­less­ly and man­u­fac­tur­ing con­flicts with the sole pur­pose of win­ning the upper hand in the upcom­ing elec­tions - in oth­er words, con­duct­ing them­selves in a way that is nor­mal­ly thought of as typ­i­cal­ly Bal­kan. It would seem that elec­tion cam­paigns give pol­i­ti­cians license to play dirty, i.e. lie and manip­u­late.
World's biggest electoral exercise
The big­gest ever elect­or­al exer­cise in the world is going on in India, where more than 800 mil­lion peo­ple are expect­ed to cast their vote. Elec­tions are being held in nine phas­es between 7 April and 12 May. Vot­ers will choose rep­re­sent­a­tives for the 543-seat low­er house of Par­lia­ment. Recent polls show that Nar­en­dra Modi of the Hin­du nation­al­ist Bha­rati­ya Jan­a­ta Par­ty is like­ly to win big, pos­si­bly an out­right major­i­ty.
All hopes pinned on four-way talks over Ukrainian crisis
With a sep­a­ra­tist sen­ti­ment rag­ing in the main­ly Rus­sian-speak­ing east­ern Ukraine, a break­through in the worst East-West cri­sis since the Cold War era emer­ges in the per­spec­tive for inter­na­tion­al peace talks.
EU gives Russia to WTO over pork ban
The EU announced last Tues­day it had appealed to the World Trade Organ­i­za­tion (WTO) over Rus­sia's ban of pork exports from the Union, news wires report­ed. "Rus­sia's blan­ket ban on Euro­pe­an pork is clear­ly dis­pro­por­tion­ate and goes against WTO rules. Europe will defend its pork pro­duc­ers," Trade Com­mis­sion­er Kar­el de Gucht said in a state­ment.
World Bank reduces its East Asia growth forecast
The World Bank has revised down­ward its 2014 growth fore­cast for emerg­ing econ­o­mies in East Asia, includ­ing the region's pow­er­house Chi­na.
Holcim, Lafarge merge to create cement giant
Swiss Hol­cim and French Lafarge unveiled last Mon­day a deal under which the two com­pa­nies will merge to cre­ate the world's big­gest cement mak­er with com­bined sales of €32bn, news wires report­ed.
Lim­er­ick meets Brus­sels
Maria Koleva, Brus­sels
Aft­er great suc­cess last year, Hal­les Saint Gery, the icon­ic cul­tur­al space in Brus­sels, wel­comes again the exhi­bi­tion of Irish art. This time it holds the title "Lim­er­ick meets Brus­sels - Brus­sels meets Sli­go", two coun­ties with a great cul­tur­al tra­di­tion in Ire­land. Lim­er­ick is the City of Cul­ture in 2014 and Sli­go is the Euro­pe­an Town of Sport 2014.
We laugh at the same things
Mari­ana Man­dich­eva
It is quite nat­u­ral that dif­fer­ent peo­ple have dif­fer­ent laugh­ter. But I see also that the sub­tle­ties of human feel­ing or nature are com­mon to all man­kind includ­ing Jap­a­nese and Bul­gar­i­ans.
See where architects live
More than 300,000 peo­ple from rough­ly 160 coun­tries vis­it­ed the 53rd Inter­na­tion­al Fur­ni­ture Fair in Milan (Salo­ne Inter­na­zi­on­ale del Mobile), which took place between 8 and 13 April, organ­is­ers say.
Latin princess' last haven
Ade­li­na Loza­no­va
Sur­round­ed by the Rho­dope Moun­tains' pic­tur­esque mas­sifs, the vil­lage of Dork­ovo strad­dles the Mat­nit­sa Riv­er to the east of the Vel­ing­rad health resort famous for its min­er­al waters.
In Brief
Order of Stara Planina for NATO's Rasmussen
NATO Sec­re­tary-Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­muss­en was award­ed on 11 April with the Order of Stara Plan­ina, Bul­gar­ia's highest dis­tinc­tion. Pho­to: EPA

IMF head warns of new crisis
The IMF head, Chris­tine Lagarde, warned world lead­ers that they need to repair pub­lic sec­tor and bank finan­ces to pro­tect against a repeat of the 2008 cri­sis. Pho­to: EPA

Firefighters' strike
Fire­fight­ers in Bar­ce­lo­na staged a pro­test last Thurs­day called by the union of the fire bri­gade due to the lack of fire­men and the work­ing day exten­sion decree. Pho­to: EPA

Putin threatens to cut gas deliveries to Europe
Pres­i­dent Vlad­im­ir Putin sent a let­ter to the lead­ers of 18 Euro­pe­an coun­tries, warn­ing that Rus­sia would cut nat­u­ral gas sup­plies to Ukraine if it did not pay its bills. This could lead to a reduc­tion of onward deliv­er­ies to Europe. Putin urged lead­ers to quick­ly help Ukraine set­tle its gas debt to Rus­sia. "Gaz­prom is com­pelled to switch over to advance pay­ment for gas deliv­er­ies and, in the event of fur­ther vio­la­tion of the con­di­tions of pay­ment, will com­plete­ly or par­tial­ly cease gas deliv­er­ies," Putin wrote.

Merkel, Samaras create Greek investment fund
Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Mer­kel paid a brief vis­it to Greece on 11 April seen as proof that the coun­try has final­ly "opened a new chap­ter" in its efforts to reform the econ­o­my. Accord­ing to the Ger­man finan­cial news­pa­per Hand­els­blatt, Mer­kel and Greek PM Anto­nis Sam­a­ras were expect­ed to sign a mem­o­ran­dum of under­stand­ing for the cre­a­tion of a Greek invest­ment fund. Greece and Ger­ma­ny will con­trib­ute €100m each to the fund.

Georgia set to sign EU association agreement by June
Geor­gia will sign an asso­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the EU by June, said the coun­try's For­eign Min­is­ter Maia Pan­jik­idze last Thurs­day dur­ing a vis­it to Ber­lin. She made the com­ment at a joint press con­fer­ence with her Ger­man coun­ter­part Frank-Wal­ter Stein­mei­er. The deal was agreed on in prin­ci­ple in Novem­ber at an East­ern Part­ner­ship Sum­mit in Vil­ni­us, togeth­er with Mold­o­va, but was over­shad­owed by the Ukraine cri­sis.

Graduate rates accross Union triple in 10 years
The share of uni­ver­si­ty grad­u­ates aged 30 to 34 last year increased com­pared with 2002 in all EU Mem­ber States, a Euro­stat sur­vey shows. The pro­por­tion has more than dou­bled in 10 coun­tries: Poland, Mal­ta, Slo­va­kia, Roma­nia, Lat­via, Por­tu­gal, Lux­em­bourg, Hun­ga­ry, Lith­u­a­nia and the Czech Repub­lic. In 2013, the highest share was observed in Ire­land (52.6%), Lux­em­bourg (52.5%), Lith­u­a­nia (51.3%), Swed­en (48.3%), Cyprus (47.8%) and the UK (47.6%), and the low­est in Ita­ly (22.4%), Roma­nia (22.8%) and Cro­a­tia (25.9%).

Top EU commission candidates struggle to find differences
Cen­tre-right Jean-Claude Junc­ker (R) and Social Dem­o­crat Mar­tin Schulz (L) argued polite­ly in French over the appro­pri­ate bal­ance between budg­et aus­ter­i­ty and invest­ment to pro­mote eco­nom­ic growth in a 50-minute debate on France 24 tel­e­vi­sion, 9 April. Pho­to: EPA

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