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New car emissions tests to start next year as EU resists company lobbying
 FOLLOWING THE VOLKSWAGEN SCANDAL, IN WHICH THE giant German-based car manufacturer was found to have developed special software to fool environmental testers of its vehicles, the European Commission has resisted pressure to delay a new, tighter testing regime. Facing billions of dollars in fines and compensation in the U.S.A. VW and other manufacturers wanted to put back the deadline for the two new testing methods: Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedures (WLTP) and Real Driving Emissions test (RDE). The first one will measure Carbon Dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming, while the second will seek to control Nitrogen Oxide, an air pollutant that can cause bad health. Now both will start from 1st. September 2017 and make it much harder for manufacturers to optimise their cars’ performance for the test alone; the RDE will be an ‘on-the-road’ examination. Industry Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska was congratulated by environmental groups for her firm stand: ‘The adoption of this new test is a big win for consumers. They
have been demanding more realistic information about the fuel consumption and emissions performance of their cars for years’ said the Brussels-based consumer lobby group BEUC. However the companies have still won a significant concession as their diesel models will be allowed to emit over double the new limits for the toxic gases until 2020 and one and a half times as much after that date. Meanwhile the European Parliament continues to investigate the reason that the EU’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) at Ispra, Italy, which apparently found discrepancies in the test measurements in 2011, failed to take the matter any further. Although VW has put aside over €15 billion to settle U.S. law suits it has no plans to compensate European consumers which may force national governments to indict the company for criminal conduct. The EU itself has no power to do this but Commissioner Bienkowska insisted ‘Consumer confidence in the car industry and the credibility of national authorities depend on our collective ability to fully establish the facts, ensure consumers are treated fairly and demonstrate zero tolerance against fraud and circumvention of rules’.

Visit to the EU emissions lab in Italy



LGBT workers still face discrimination despite EU directives
TWO LAWS PASSED BY THE EUROPEAN UNION IN 2000 and 2006 aimed to outlaw discrimination, both at work and in a wider selection of services, on a number of grounds including sexual orientation. But the Employment Equality and Employment and Social Security directives appear to have failed to eliminate workplace disadvantages for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people. A number of surveys in recent years, including those conducted by EU agencies, have shown substantial proportions of LGBT workers feel discriminated against. A Fundamental Rights Agency report in 2013 found that level varying from 11% in Denmark to 30% in Cyprus while an average of 75% of employees in a 2015 Eurostat survey felt ‘comfortable’ with LGBT colleagues. The response from national governments and at EU level to this illegal discrimination has been patchy at best. One reason for this is underestimation of the problem due to LGBT employees hiding their sexual orientation. An average of 29% always do this at work say the surveys. Another problem is that the countries in which governments and agencies are taking action are the ones where the level of discrimination is less; The governments and social partners in Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Romania or Slovakia have not taken any significant actions according to the reports. The European Commission responded to the problem by publishing a programme of targetted actions to combat it last year but Hungary prevented the necessary agreement among Member States at the Council of Ministers.


How comfortable would you feel about having a colleague at work who is:
gay, lesbian or bisexual?

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