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A Strong Economy, Chickens and other Species, Babies and Customs Officers

  • May 11th, 2007
  • Posted by EUEditor

eu-flag-reduced-larger4.pngNew information from the European Commission shows the economy to be strong; women somewhat disappointed about babies; and authorities active on border controls, guarding the world’s species, and industrial care of chooks.


The European economy has been going “from strength to strength”, according to this year’s economic review, the Annual Statement on the Euro Area, published 3.5.07.

It says:

“Since last year’s annual statement … the euro-area grew by 2.7% last year, its fastest growth rate since 2000, and well-above its long-term average. Employment growth accelerated to around 1.5% in 20056 … yielding an increase of close to two million new jobs. Inflation remained around 2% in 2006 but it came down towards the end of 2006 as energy prices eased.

“The euro-area’s positive growth performance partly reflects the current cyclical upturn but it may also show that structural reforms are beginning to take effect. There are signs of an increasing resilience to global disturbances. The employment effect of recent growth has been particularly intense. In December 2006 the unemployment rate dropped to 7.5%, its lowest level in 15 years.”

The Euro Area is defined as the 13 EU member countries which use the Euro currency: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany. Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Slovenia. The other 14 member countries are committed by treaty to adopt the common currency, and either have negotiated delays, or are working to achieve economic performance standards which will entitle them to participate.


Agreement has been reached among EU member governments on the next stage in setting up a joint electronic customs system for regulating movement of goods and services across external borders (8.5.06). Ministers attending the European Council after long discussions agreed on a proposal for a “paper free environment for customs”, to send to the European Parliament for approval. The EU has declared its intention to connect customs services electronically through an ongoing step-by-step process.


An EU Directive has set a maximum stocking density standard for broilers – chickens kept for meat production. The EC Health Commissioner, Markos Kyprianou, said the new animal welfare rules approved by the European Council (8.5.07) would reduce overcrowding. The standard set was 33kg/m2, or 39kg/m2 if other, stricter welfare standards were met. The Council allowed for further changes as a result of ongoing research, and prospective new welfare labelling of food products.


The EU has signed up as a partner in the SpeciesBase project to keep a central record of all species of life – along with Australia, Brazil, India, South Africa and the United States. Formation of the global database was announced in Washington (9.5.07). A European Commission statement said information about species was important for researchers, policy makers, land managers, farmers and conservationists, “as well as the general public”.


“Europeans today are not having the number of children they desire”, says a research report from the European Commission (10.5.07).

It says women aged 40-54 with children, reaching the end of their child-bearing years, have had 20% fewer children than they would have liked (2.36 against 2.97). The main factor for this gap, it says, appears to be the difficulty of reconciling work and family life, as well as such other personal factors as not having a partner, health, and more general concerns like fear for the future.

Among the six larger countries, the actual number of children for each woman in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom is less than two. The figure for “actual” children is particularly low in Italy, just under 1.5 for each mother; against just over 2.0 as the desired level. In Germany it is at 2, closely matched to the “desired” level, still appreciably less than the EU average. The figure for France is a little less than the average, and there is a large gap, with women indicating a preference for having well over 2.5 children. Poland has a close match of preferred and actual numbers, the latter a little below the 2.36 average.


Commission of the European Community, Communication … Annual Statement on the Euro Area 2007, Brussels, 3.5.07, COM(2007) 231 final

EC D-G Economic and Financial Affairs, Economic Forecast – Spring 2007, Brussels, 2007

European Commission, Promoting Solidarity Between Generations, (citing results of the 2006 Eurobarometer on fertility and ageing), Brussels 10.5.07, MEMO/07/179