Great Britain in mourning – who was Margaret Thatcher?

Joanna Górska

Margaret Thatcher was Britain’s first female prime minister and served three consecutive terms in office. She was one of the dominant political figures of 20th century Britain, and Thatcherism continues to have a huge influence.

Margaret Hilda Roberts was born on 13 October 1925 in Grantham, Lincolnshire. She was daughter of a grocer. She studied Oxford University and then became a research chemist, retraining to become a barrister in 1954. In 1951, she married Denis Thatcher, a wealthy businessman, with whom she had two children.

Within 11 years of rule, from 1979 to 1990, Margaret Thatcher had a huge impact on both the UK and around the world. She had steadfast belief that its duty is to directtion the country towards radical change. Above all her wanted to reverse the effects of what she considered the fall of her country: UK back in the direction of socialism. Since her depart from office took more than twenty years, but Thatcher remains the dominant figure of British politics, which – irrespective of how to evaluate it – irreversibly changed the country.

In the 1980’s, the Conservative government embarked on a series of reforms to make each individual less reliant on the state. Privatisation and deregulation were the order of the day as was taking on those who wanted Britain to become more involved in what is now the European Union. Thatcher believed in the ‘economy of the house wife’ and the resulting government cuts in services led to high unemployment, especially in areas most associated with heavy industry and classic Labour strongholds. The country seemingly became divided into those who agreed and supported ‘Thatcherism’ and those who did not. There were few in the middle ground. The clash with the miners was seen by many as simply being an attack on the power of trade unions while those in the City of London, who made their fortunes out of privatisation, were the success story of the Thatcher years in office.

In November 1990, Thatcher’s Foreign Secretary, Sir Geoffrey Howe, resigned from the Cabinet over her attitude to Europe and his resignation speech in the House of Commons set in motion a train of events that saw the party turn against her. The ‘Iron Lady’ was a figure not likely to be broken in future years. In 1995, she became the first non-royal Lady Companion of the Order of the Garter


The EU Emissions Trading System- the climate goals vs. competitiveness

Magda Dąbska

The Emissions Trading System (ETS) was a subject of a fierce discussion during the last plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The European Parliament rejected so-called “backloading” with 334 votes against it, 315 votes in favour of Commission’s proposal and 63 abstentions. It means that the project is returned to the EP environmental committee before the possible second voting at the EP. However, due to such a big opposition to the amendment of Directive 2003/87/EC, it is likely that the Commission will withdraw its proposal. Anyway, what is the ETS and why has it attracted the attention of media recently?

ETS was introduced in 2005 as a first international scheme regulating emission CO2. It is governed by the rule “cape-and-trade” what means that each enterprise within the EU has to obtain a special allowance for emission CO2 and other greenhouse gases. In that way, the ETS aims at implementation of the Kyoto Protocol in terms of Clean Development Mechanism and reduction of emission CO2. ETS imposes a fixed price for each ton of carbon that is emitted, and as a consequence, it forces industry to invest in green energy. How does it work in practice?

The scheme is very simple. Enterprises that maintain the emission of CO2 below their admitted limits can re-sell own “surplus of allowances” for a certain price determined by supply and demand at the given point of time. Those enterprises that exceed the emission of CO2 beyond their limits have a following choice. Firstly, they can reduce the emission of CO2 by investing in a new technology. Secondly, they can buy more allowances or can combine these two previous options.

Nevertheless, economic crisis affects the ETS. Due to decrease in a total volume of production within the EU, the price of allowances have considerably dropped. Therefore, the Commission tried to withdraw 900 million of such allowances (so- called “backloading”) to increase their price and submitted an amendment to Directive 2003/87/EC. However, the European Parliament refused to accept this manipulation of market. What means this rejection exactly? In simple terms, the EU is torn between its climate goals and building its own competitiveness. According to Matthias Groote – German Member of S&D, who was responsible for the proposal through the Parliament, the rejection of backloading is  “the beginning of the repatriation of climate policy”. Yet his opponents claim that the competitiveness of European industry could be at stake after adoption of Commission’s proposal. According to MEPs voting “against” ETS should be considered as a kind of fiscal tool in time of economic crisis and its implementation leads to uncertainty on the market. They firmly underline that increase of price allowances has resulted in a relocation of production from European countries to regions where the price of special emission allowances are lesser or they do not exist at all.

Regulation of electronic cigarettes at the European level

Magda Dąbska

According to survey of over 20 000 Polish students, one-fifth of them have tried e-cigarettes. No one questions that electronic cigarettes have become more attractive recently to compare with nicotine replacement therapies. They are available to purchase in various retail channels and over the Internet. Consumers considered them as attractive substitute of normal cigarettes and start using them in social situation. However, the market for e-cigarettes appears the next field where the interest of industry and the European Institutions are confronted.

How do electronic cigarettes work?

Electronic cigarettes are customized to needs of people who do not want smoke tobacco but cannot or do not want overcome their nicotine addiction. They do not contain tobacco and there is no combustion, and as a consequence there is no smoke and odour. Consumers inhale a vapour that usually consists of propylene glycol, nicotine and flavourings. Therefore, the users prefer to describe themselves as a “vaper” than “smokers”.

Although the market for electronic cigarettes is growing rapidly, there are not sufficient data concerning their safety. Only within the European Union the value of electronic cigarettes market is estimated at 400-500 million euros. However, the European Commission warns consumers against dishonest producers. It appears that many electronic cigarettes included traces of nicotine despite that some of them are labelled as “nicotine-free”. Moreover, ingredients of the liquid are not often published and they are not controlled in terms of safety and quality.

Regulation of electronic cigarettes in the European Union

There is no common regulation concerning electronic cigarettes within the European Union so far. The particular Members States take different approaches to the issue. Greece and Lithuania chose the way of complete prohibition of these products due to lack of sufficient evidence of safety. Malta regulates electronic cigarettes as tobacco products, whereas other fourteen Members States (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Sweden) consider them as medicinal products. Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Slovenia, Spain and United Kingdom have no specific rules in this matter and treat electronic cigarettes as consumer products. Poland is the only one country in Europe that bans advertising for electronic cigarettes. The European Commission’s proposals submitted to the European Parliament and Council aimed at revision of Tobacco Products Directive and classified electronic cigarettes as medicinal products. However, the electronic cigarettes industry claims that these products should be regulated as consumer products because they are neither tobacco nor medicinal products. Moreover, such regulation enables producers to attract consumers through appropriate design, labeling and advertising campaign. At this moment, Commission’s proposal is discussed within the EP’s Environment Committee.

Main References:

Gregor Erbach, Library Briefing, Library of the European Parliament 27/03/2013

Member States dilemma – EU policies and national projections

Katarzyna Sosnowska

EU Policies are mostly multilevel, what means that in some point they interact with policies of particular Member States. Those have to adjust their goals in scrupulous areas to the common vision but on the other hand do not want to loos their national priorities out of sight. Is it possible to reconcile national adaptation to EU level with maintenance of national projections?

As it was mentioned in EU Foreign Policy and National Foreign Policies Member States share different power level. For smaller countries it can create the situation that they will have no chance to pursue their national interests if they are not common ones for more participants. When it comes to particular goals to achieve I agree with the distinction of 4 main categories of interests: collective, common, common but where MS are competitors and totally incompatible ones. There are some tasks that cannot work out or be build properly  at the national level itself but within European Union they are considered to be basic values ​​and can be called „collective interests”. For some Member States it was and still is easier to achieve their goals in that area (creation of democratic society, protection of human rights, economic progress, building national structural policy, etc.) in the Community. Limited number of common interests is perceive as a main obstacle in forming a single position. However, as it can be see nowadays, states with familiar visions can develop a very strong position and achieve the desired goal  (especially when it comes to the biggest states like Great Britain, France and Germany).

Problem appears when it comes to stability of interests. National roles and conceptions, country priorities can varied during the time and are also dependent from political changes. Among EU’s priorities we can say that it is more stable and oriented on long-term perspective. The difference in the reactions of the EU countries that have different power level on the international stage, thus have different requirements, feasibility, etc. could be the obstacle to forming common policy on the EU level

National adaptation require changes in values, policy-making mechanism, priorities and so on, but on the other hand every country know what can expect from joining the EU. That process should not be generalized, because so-called Europeanization require different changes in different countries. During the time of accession negotiations countries have already started to change and adjust their national policies to EU level, so it shouldn’t make a huge significance.

To sum up it is necessary from my point of view to highlight that national adaptation to the EU level can be perceive as a win win game. All participants can profit from it in one way or the other. This may require compromise from Member States on the entry of national projections but can spill in other areas. On the side of EU – they help particular countries in adjusting and in return gets other advantages i.e. special relations with certain regions. Relation between national and European policies should be should be seen more as a complementary and facilitating to each other. Perfect summary for the subject is a quote Europeanization process is interactive, with the member states ‘uploading’ their policies to the EU level, and the EU influencing member states’ foreign policies.