European Parliament Bans Amazon From Its Premises

Longtime Slashdot reader Kant shares a report from Euractiv: The European Parliament decided to ban Amazon representatives from accessing its buildings on Tuesday (February 27), due to multiple events where the global retailing giant did not attend meetings requested by members of the European Parliament, the European Parliament press service confirmed Euractiv. “In line with rule 123/3 and at the request of the [Employment and Social Affairs] Committee, the Quaestors have authorized the Secretary General [Alessandro Chiocchetti] to withdraw the long-term access badges of the interest representatives of Amazon.” It is now the responsibility of the secretary general to concretely initiate the process of withdrawing their badges and to determine the duration of the ban, a European Parliament source close to the matter told Euractiv.

According to the EMPL chair Dragos Pislaru, who signed the letter, the US e-commerce company refuses to attend more than one meeting with EU lawmakers to discuss the condition of Amazon workers. Four cases are mentioned in the letter. The first occurred in May 2021, when Amazon did not attend a parliamentary committee meeting on “Amazon attacks on fundamental workers’ rights and freedoms: freedom of assembly and association, and the right to collective bargain and action.” The second event concerns the refusal by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to attend an exchange of views with EU lawmakers — instead, the company sent a written answer. The last two episodes happened in December 2023 and January 2024. In the former event, Amazon refused access to its facilities in German and Poland to a MEP, while on the latter, the company did not attend another parliamentary committee meeting dedicated to Amazon workers’ conditions. In a statement to Euractiv, an Amazon spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed with this decision, as we want to engage constructively with policymakers. […] Our commitment continues despite this decision. Amazon regularly participates in activities organized by the European Parliament and other EU institutions — including Parliamentary hearings — and we remain committed to participating in balanced, constructive dialogue on issues that affect European citizens.”

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EU to Fine Apple $500M+ for Stifling Music Competitors Like Spotify

“Apple will reportedly have to pay around €500 million (about $539 million USD) in the EU,” reports the Verge, “for stifling competition against Apple Music on the iPhone.
Financial Times reported this morning that the fine comes after regulators in Brussels, Belgium investigated a Spotify complaint that Apple prevented apps from telling users about cheaper alternatives to Apple’s music service…. The EU whittled its objections down to oppose Apple’s refusal to let developers even link out to their own subscription sign-ups within their apps — a policy that Apple changed in 2022 following regulatory pressure in Japan.

$500 million may sound like a lot, but a much bigger fine of close to $40 billion (or 10 percent of Apple’s annual global turnover) was on the table when the EU updated its objections last year. Apple was charged over a billion dollars in 2020, but French authorities dropped that to about $366 million after the company appealed.
The Verge cites an Apple spokesperson who said a year ago that the EU case “has no merit.”

Reuters that the EU’s fine “is expected to be announced early next month, the Financial Times said.”

More from Politico

The fine would be the EU’s first ever against Apple and is expected to be announced early next month, according to the FT report. It is the result of a European Commission antitrust probe into whether Apple’s “anti-steering” requirements breach the bloc’s abuse of dominance rules, harming music consumers “who may end up paying more” for apps… The Commission will rule that Apple’s actions are illegal and against EU competition rules, according to the report.
“The EU executive will ban Apple’s practice of barring music services from letting users know of cheaper alternatives outside the App Store, according to the newspaper.”

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Apple Confirms iOS 17.4 Removes Home Screen Web Apps In the EU

Apple has now offered an explanation for why iOS 17.4 removes support for Home Screen web apps in the European Union. Spoiler: it’s because of the Digital Markets Act that went into effect last August. 9to5Mac reports: Last week, iPhone users in the European Union noticed that they were no longer able to install and run web apps on their iPhone’s Home Screen in iOS 17.4. Apple has added a number of features over the years to improve support for progressive web apps on iPhone. For example, iOS 16.4 allowed PWAs to deliver push notifications with icon badges. One change in iOS 17.4 is that the iPhone now supports alternative browser engines in the EU. This allows companies to build browsers that don’t use Apple’s WebKit engine for the first time. Apple says that this change, required by the Digital Markets Act, is why it has been forced to remove Home Screen web apps support in the European Union.

Apple explains that it would have to build an “entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS” to address the “complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps using alternative browser engines.” This work “was not practical to undertake given the other demands of the DMA and the very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps,” Apple explains. “And so, to comply with the DMA’s requirements, we had to remove the Home Screen web apps feature in the EU.” “EU users will be able to continue accessing websites directly from their Home Screen through a bookmark with minimal impact to their functionality,” Apple continues.

It’s understandable that Apple wouldn’t offer support for Home Screen web apps for third-party browsers. But why did it also remove support for Home Screen web apps for Safari? Unfortunately, that’s another side effect of the Digital Markets Act. The DMA requires that all browsers have equality, meaning that Apple can’t favor Safari and WebKit over third-party browser engines. Therefore, because it can’t offer Home Screen web apps support for third-party browsers, it also can’t offer support via Safari. […] iOS 17.4 is currently available to developers and public beta testers, and is slated for a release in early March. The full explanation was published on Apple’s developer website today.

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Germany Quits Nuclear Power, Closes Its Final Three Plants

“Germany’s final three nuclear power plants close their doors on Saturday,” reports CNN, “marking the end of the country’s nuclear era that has spanned more than six decades….”
[D]espite last-minute calls to keep the plants online amid an energy crisis, the German government has been steadfast. “The position of the German government is clear: nuclear power is not green. Nor is it sustainable,” Steffi Lemke, Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection and a Green Party member, told CNN.”We are embarking on a new era of energy production,” she said.

The closure of the three plants — Emsland, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim — represents the culmination of a plan set in motion more than 20 years ago. But its roots are even older. In the 1970s, a strong anti-nuclear movement in Germany emerged. Disparate groups came together to protest new power plants, concerned about the risks posed by the technology and, for some, the link to nuclear weapons. The movement gave birth to the Green Party, which is now part of the governing coalition…

For critics of Germany’s policy, however, it’s irrational to turn off a low-carbon source of energy as the impacts of the climate crisis intensify. “We need to keep existing, safe nuclear reactors operating while simultaneously ramping up renewables as fast as possible,” Leah Stokes, a professor of climate and energy policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, told CNN. The big risk, she said, is that fossil fuels fill the energy gap left by nuclear. Reductions in Germany’s nuclear energy since Fukushima have been primarily offset by increases in coal, according to research published last year.

Germany plans to replace the roughly 6% of electricity generated by the three nuclear plants with renewables, but also gas and coal…. Now Germany must work out what do with the deadly, high-level radioactive waste, which can remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years.

CNN also notes how other countries approach nuclear power:

Denmark passed a resolution in the 1980s not to construct nuclear power plants
Finland opened a new nuclear plant last year
Switzerland voted in 2017 to phase out nuclear power
France, which gets about 70% of its power from nuclear, is planning six new reactors.
Italy closed its last reactors in 1990

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EU Agrees To the World’s Largest Carbon Border Tax

Longtime Slashdot reader WindBourne writes: EU is creating a tariff on certain imported goods based on their CO2 emissions that went into production and transportation. While many have opposed this, others have been correctly pointing out that little would change until nations started charging other nations for their polluting the world. In some ways, this already has a number of attributes going for it. With Kyoto, Europe forced that emissions from bio would count at the point where it was harvested and not where it was burned/utilized. This was because Europe is a major importer of bio products for heating and electricity. With this tariff, it will apply any use of bio, including H2, at point of usage, not of production.

What remains to be seen is:
1) How they will apply it to size (Nation? State? City?)?
2) What data will be used (Information from the local government? Satellite?)?
3) How the data will be normalized (GDP? Per capita?)?
4) How to calculate emissions per good (Total emissions? Worst item? Certain parts?)?
This will no doubt cause a number of nations to scream about it, as well as smaller nations, but hopefully, more nations will join in as well. Looks like the world is finally going to get serious about stopping greenhouse gas emissions. “The measure will apply first to iron and steel, cement, aluminum, fertilizers, electricity production and hydrogen before being extended to other goods,” notes CNN. “Under the new mechanism, companies will need to buy certificates to cover emissions generated by the production of goods imported into the European Union based on calculations linked to the EU’s own carbon price.”

Details of the Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism can be found here.

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EU Unveils Plans To Cut Europe’s Plastic and Packaging Waste

The EU executive wants to ban mini-shampoo bottles in hotels and the use of throwaway cups in cafes and restaurants, as part of sweeping legal proposals to curb Europe’s mountains of waste. The Guardian reports: A draft EU regulation published on Wednesday also proposes mandatory deposit and return schemes for single-use plastic drinks bottles and metal cans, as well as an end to e-commerce firms wrapping small items in huge boxes. The new rules, which will have to be approved by EU member states and the European parliament, are intended to tackle the surge in plastic and other packaging waste. EU officials estimate that 40% of new plastics and 50% of paper are used in packaging, making the sector a vast consumer of virgin materials.

The EU passed a law in 2019 to ban the most common single-use plastic items, such as plastic cutlery, stirrers and straws, but officials want to go further to tackle soaring amounts of packaging rubbish. The average European is thought to generate 180kg of packaging waste each year, which could rise by 19% by 2030, without action. Under the latest proposals, EU member states would have to reduce packaging waste per capita by 15% by 2040 compared with 2018. Officials think this could be achieved by more reuse and refilling, as well as tighter controls on packaging. For example, e-commerce retailers would have to ensure that empty space in a box is a maximum 40% in relation to the product.

The commission also hopes to end confusion about recycling: it proposes harmonized labels, probably pictograms, to make it clear to consumers which bin to use. In a separate law, the commission seeks to ensure that products claiming to be “biobased,” “biodegradable” or “compostable” meet minimum standards. In an attempt to clamp down on greenwashing, consumers would be able to tell how long it takes an item to biodegrade, how much biomass was used in its production and whether it is really suitable for home composting.

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EU Wants To Know If Microsoft Will Block Rivals After Activision Deal

EU antitrust regulators are asking games developers whether Microsoft will be incentivized to block rivals’ access to “Call of Duty” maker Activision Blizzard’s best-selling games, according to an EU document seen by Reuters. From the report: EU antitrust regulators are due to make a preliminary decision by Nov. 8 on whether to clear Microsoft’s proposed $69 billion acquisition of Activision. The EU competition enforcer also asked if Activision’s trove of user data would give the U.S. software giant a competitive advantage in the development, publishing and distribution of computer and console games, the EU document shows. The planned acquisition, the biggest in the gaming industry, will help Microsoft better compete with leaders Tencent and Sony. After its decision next month the European Commission is expected to open a four-month long investigation, underscoring regulatory concerns about Big Tech acquisitions.

Games developers, publishers and distributors were asked whether the deal would affect their bargaining power regarding the terms for selling console and PC games via Microsoft’s Xbox and its cloud game streaming service Game Pass. Regulators also wanted to know if there would be sufficient alternative suppliers in the market following the deal and also in the event Microsoft decides to make Activision’s games exclusively available on its Xbox, its Games Pass and its cloud game streaming services. They asked if such exclusivity clauses would reinforce Microsoft’s Windows operating system versus rivals, and whether the addition of Activision to its PC operating system, cloud computing services and game-related software tools gives it an advantage in the video gaming industry. They asked how important the Call of Duty franchise is for distributors of console games, third-party multi-game subscription services on computers and providers of cloud game streaming services.

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EU Proposes Rules Making It Easier To Sue Drone Makers, AI Systems

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed rules making it easier for individuals and companies to sue makers of drones, robots and other products equipped with artificial intelligence software for compensation for harm caused by them. Reuters reports: The AI Liability Directive aims to address the increasing use of AI-enabled products and services and the patchwork of national rules across the 27-country European Union. Under the draft rules, victims can seek compensation for harm to their life, property, health and privacy due to the fault or omission of a provider, developer or user of AI technology, or for discrimination in a recruitment process using AI.

The rules lighten the burden of proof on victims with a “presumption of causality”, which means victims only need to show that a manufacturer or user’s failure to comply with certain requirements caused the harm and then link this to the AI technology in their lawsuit. Under a “right of access to evidence,” victims can ask a court to order companies and suppliers to provide information about high-risk AI systems so that they can identify the liable person and the fault that caused the damage.

The Commission also announced an update to the Product Liability Directive that means manufacturers will be liable for all unsafe products, tangible and intangible, including software and digital services, and also after the products are sold. Users can sue for compensation when software updates render their smart-home products unsafe or when manufacturers fail to fix cybersecurity gaps. Those with unsafe non-EU products will be able to sue the manufacturer’s EU representative for compensation. The AI Liability Directive will need to be agreed with EU countries and EU lawmakers before it can become law.

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Dutch Join Germany, Austria, In Reverting To Coal

The Dutch joined Germany and Austria in reverting to coal power on Monday following an energy crisis provoked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. France 24 reports: The Netherlands said it would lift all restrictions on power stations fired by the fossil fuel, which were previously limited to just over a third of output. Berlin and Vienna made similar announcements on Sunday as Moscow, facing biting sanctions over Ukraine, cuts gas supplies to energy-starved Europe. “The cabinet has decided to immediately withdraw the restriction on production for coal-fired power stations from 2002 to 2024,” Dutch climate and energy minister Rob Jetten told journalists in The Hague. The Dutch minister said his country had “prepared this decision with our European colleagues over the past few days.”

Germany however said it still aimed to close its coal power plants by 2030, in light of the greater emissions of climate-changing CO2 from the fossil fuel. “The 2030 coal exit date is not in doubt at all,” economy ministry spokesman Stephan Gabriel Haufe said at a regular news conference. The target was “more important than ever,” he added.

Austria’s government meanwhile announced Sunday that it would reopen a mothballed coal power station because of power shortages arising from reduced deliveries of gas from Russia. The authorities would work with the Verbund group, the country’s main electricity supplier, to get the station in the southern city of Mellach back in action, said the Chancellery. The European Commission noted Monday that “some of the existing coal capacities might be used longer than initially expected” because of the new energy landscape in Europe.

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