“We simply don’t need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level,” EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said, adding that in the context of skyrocketing food prices and general economic difficulties, it made “no sense” to throw away perfectly good products due to their shape.
The “eurocrats” in Brussels have suffered a number other symbolic defeats by European citizens fed up with runaway regulations. In March 2013, for example, the British government relaxed EU rules defining fruit jam.
According to EU rules, jam can only be labelled as such if it has more than 60% sugar in it. However, under new rules proposed by London, that figure will fall to 50%. The difference had created what has been called a “no-jams land,” meaning that jams with a sugar content between 50% and 60% had no legal name; anything containing less than 60% had to be called a “fruit spread,” while jams with less than 50% sugar were to be called a “conserve.”
“This is exactly the sort of ridiculous red tape that we want to do away with,” according to Vince Cable, the British Business Secretary, said in an interview with the London Telegraph. “This looks like jam, smells like jam and tastes like a jam—the only thing stopping it being called jam is some outdated rules. We want to sweep away unnecessary bureaucracy like this which is costing business time and money and stopping them doing what they should be doing: creating jobs, boosting the economy and in some cases, making jam.”
In May 2013, the European Commission announced plans to ban the use of refillable bottles and dipping bowls of olive oil at restaurant tables. The refillable bottles are a staple on restaurant tables across Europe for diners who want to douse bread or salads.
The EU said that as of January 1, 2014, restaurants may only serve olive oil in tamper-proof packaging, labelled to EU standards. It said the move would protect consumers and improve hygiene.
But after critics accused Brussels of unwarranted meddling at a time of economic crisis, the European Union quickly backed down. According to Dacian Cioloş, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, the ban was “not formulated in such a way as to assemble widespread support.”
The EU’s reversal was possibly influenced by the release on May 13 of a Pew Research Center poll showing that positive views of the European Union are at historical lows in most of the eight countries surveyed, even among the young, the only hope for the EU’s future. According to the poll, entitled “The New Sick Man of Europe: The European Union,” the favorability of the EU has fallen from a median of 60% in 2012 to 45% in 2013.
In Germany, meanwhile, opposition is mounting to an EU directive on water-saving showerheads and faucets. According to the German business newspaper Handelsblatt, German appliances are already using 20% less water than in 1990, leading to a situation where the country’s sewage pipes are in danger of drying up and cracking because not enough water is being flushed through the system.
In any event, German politicians appear increasingly fatalistic about the future of the EU’s Soviet-style “central planning” apparatus. According to Sven Giegold, a Member of the European Parliament with Germany’s Green Party, Europe’s economic system “has now become too complex for a democracy.”
Holger Krahmer, a Member of the European Parliament for Germany’s business-friendly Free Democratic Party (FDP), puts it this way: “We are heading for a dictatorship of bureaucrats.”
About the Author: The writer is the Senior Analyst for Transatlantic Relations at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group, one of the oldest and most influential foreign policy think tanks in Spain.
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