EU member states have until Jan. 2006 to implement a series of new directives and regulations, bringing improvements to, among other things, victim compensation, food safety and energy conservation.
New EU directives are expected to improve safety in various fields
Justice directive: victim compensation
Up until now, EU citizens who became victims of crime in countries other than their own have had very little chance of being compensated for damages. That will change as of Jan, 1. A system of cooperation between the authorities of the EU member states will facilitate access to compensation regardless of where the criminal act took place.
"If German citizens, for example, who are vacationing in France, get robbed there, they can -- together with German courts -- apply for compensation from the French authorities," explained EU Commission spokesperson Friso Roscam Abbing.
Even in those cases in which the offender doesn't have the necessary means to satisfy a judgment on damages, or cannot be identified or prosecuted, the state in which the crime took place will be responsible for securing the appropriate compensation funds.
Health regulation: food safety hygiene
Food safety controlls will become more efficient in 2006
Described by the Health and Consumer Protection Directorate-General as "the most radical shake up for 25 years of the Community's food safety hygiene rules," the new EU health regulation is a response to the numerous scandals -- such as the mad cow disease, the appearance of a highly toxic herbicide in organic food, or the bird flu -- that have hit the bloc's food industry over the past few years.
The new regulation will simplify and harmonize the food safety requirements, which have been previously scattered over 17 existing directives, into a single, transparent hygiene policy applicable to all food and all food operators, from the farm to the table.
"Food producers are responsible for controlling every link in the production chain and making sure that only healthy food products arrive on the market," said EU Commission spokesperson Philip Tod.
Food producers will ensure the safety of their products through the use of programs for self-checking and modern hazard control techniques, while also maintaining the traceability of all food and food ingredients. Producers will also be required to put in place procedures for the withdrawal from the market of products presenting a serious risk to consumer health.
Anti-discrimination of third-country nationals
Long term resident status should contribute to the integration of foreign nationals
The EU wants a better system of integration for some non-EU citizens. Starting on Jan. 23, non-EU nationals who have been legally living in an EU member state for five years, who have sufficient income and are covered by health insurance, will be granted European Union long-term resident status. Persons who have acquired long-term resident status will have their rights approximate those of EU nationals.
"The new regulation does not say: New immigrants can come to the EU, or you don't have to work and we'll give you more rights, even if you're living at the expense of our tax payers," said EU Commission spokesperson Friso Roscam Abbing.
"It says: You've contributed to the development of our countries, paid taxes and social security. As reward, we'll be making your legal position stronger," said Roscam Abbing.
Some countries, however, believe that this reward is going too far: Denmark, Great Britain and Ireland will not be following this directive.
Energy directive: save more!
40 percent of all energy in the EU is consumed in residential and public buildings, with the tendency rising. In order to fulfill the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol and reduce the emission of carbon dioxide, more energy needs to be saved. A new EU directive will prescribe concrete measures starting Jan. 4.
Germany will introduce energy passes later in 2006
Heaters and air-conditioners will have to be regularly maintained. An energy pass, listing details about energy consumption, will be obligatory for all property leases or sales. This, in turn, will make the additional expenses for building maintenance more transparent and contribute to the competitiveness on the European real-estate market.
German tenants will nonetheless have to wait a little longer for their energy pass: the German government will incorporate the new energy directive into the German judicial system later in 2006.
Competitiveness in the art market
If you are an artist, quietly working on your latest masterpiece and waiting to be discovered, there is good news for you. Starting Jan. 1, authors of an original work of art will not only be compensated on their first sale, but also, partially, on each subsequent sale of their work.
Artists should also benefit from the European single market
The so-called resale rights constitute an intellectual property right which allows an artist or his heirs to receive a percentage of the selling price of a work of art when it is resold at an auction or in a gallery. Some European countries have already implemented resale rights, but for those that haven't, the new directive will restore some balance between the economic situation of artists and that of other creative workers who have the possibility of exploiting their works several times over.