A Farce of Some Import


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It involves a byzantine voting system known as comitology — of which more later — which allows bureaucrats to vote in secret. David Cameron 'hobbled by unspeakable Tory Tea Party'.

EU drops olive oil jug ban after outcry. David Cameron ridicules EU olive oil jug ban.

EU to ban olive oil jugs from restaurant tables. The ban would have affected the eating habits of half a billion people in 27 European countries. Costly, wasteful and environmentally unfriendly, it was of no obvious benefit to diners who enjoy dipping bread into olive oil served in bowls in restaurants.

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On Thursday — nine days after the regulation was agreed in secrecy at an obscure European Union committee meeting — the measure was withdrawn. But only after its existence had been revealed by The Telegraph on the afternoon of the previous Friday, causing such a media storm that the embarrassed commissioner in charge of agriculture rescinded it. Critics say that how the European Union came to endorse such a regulation in the first place reveals in microcosm all that is wrong with its inner workings. The origins of the ban were in Portugal in with a clamour to clamp down on fraudulent restaurateurs passing off cheap oil as a quality product.

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The scale of the fraud there is disputed, but whatever the truth, the upshot was a move to tighten the law. Consumption had been rising steadily across Europe for two decades but suddenly, while demand was still rising, the price was falling significantly. Expensive extra virgin olive oil was being switched for the cheapest products, some imported from north Africa and Turkey. By , farmers were starting to go under. There are dozens — probably hundreds — of such advisory groups in the EU. Meetings are not open to the public or press. The olive advisory group meets about twice a year and is chaired by an EU official.

In , the most recent year for which figures are available, it received half a million euros in EU funding for its various activities.

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Copa-Cogeca has impressive clout and a hotline to Dacian Ciolos. Experts estimate that the various committees implement as many as 2, regulations a year, compared with about 50 directives passed by MEPs. With the industry in despair, about 18 months ago, a strong delegation from Copa-Cogeca, led by Rafael Sanchez de Puerta, a Spanish farmer, met Mr Ciolos in Brussels. That was followed in April , with a trip by Mr Ciolos to Cordoba, the Spanish city that lies at the heart of the olive region.

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At this meeting, the Spanish lobbying group put forward a series of measures to revive the industry. Mr Ciolos left with an olive oil action plan. With up to 70 million items of clothing stuck in transit and six out of 10 import quotas now filled , can some relief to the EU's textile and clothing crisis be at hand?

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Tomorrow a team of European Union trade negotiators will fly to China to try to resolve the crisis over blocked imports of Chinese textiles, and on August 25 the EU textiles commitee meets. Meanwhile the Guardian reports that British retailers and importers called last night for immediate action to lift the curbs on cheap Chinese clothes.

But have European producers benefited? Not much:.

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I have just got back from Bangalore in India where I was seeking alternative suppliers. Chinese clothing manufacturers, pessimistic about a resolution of disputes with both the European Union and the US to allow an expansion of restrictive quotas, say they have temporarily moved some operations elsewhere in Asia to beat trade barriers. So can we expect an early resolution?

Probably not, though some compromises are likely. The official added that the Commission would probably seek to inject some flexibility into the June 10 agreement by moving some of next year's quota into this year, or by moving quotas between the different categories. Some categories, such as cotton fabric, are still a long way from breaching their limit. But he insisted there would not be a full renegotiation of the quotas set by the agreement.

It is perhaps significant that a meeting between Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, and Bo Xiali, China's commerce minister, has yet to be scheduled. In the meantime we can expect more farcical stories like this: Chinese bras wing their way on to EU shelves. For Claus Walther Jensen, getting his hands on bras for Christmas is one of the most important aspects of running Change, a Danish lingerie chain. That is why the director went so far as to borrow a helicopter on Monday morning to secure one of the last European Union import licences for bras.

Maybe Europe won't go braless after all?

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