EU Hits and Myths

“Eurocrats produce absurd rules”. This platitude is often heard in the EU, and must have some basis in truth, if the ‘first among equals’ Frans Timmermans has been appointed Commissioner for Better Regulation. But as all misconceptions of any note , it reaches levels beyond belief, which can verge on the mendacious. Here are a few things the Eurocrats have not had their say on, despite what the newspapers say.

It’s not true that Brussels intends to ban double-slot toasters.

The alarm was raised by Matteo Salvini in a post that soon went viral on Facebook; it claimed that “heating two slices of bread at the same time will no longer be possible”. In actual fact the toasters – all 180 million of them in European households – have only been included, like other appliances, in a report prepared for the Commission by external consultants. The purpose of the study, part of the Ecodesign Directive, is to select domestic appliances for which energy consumption levels can be reduced.

The study does not threaten to halve the number of slots on toasters. The consultants have simply pointed out that toasters that enable just one slot to be on at a time mean you don’t have to heat both when you only want one slice of toast, thus reducing energy consumption. The study did not call for this measure to become compulsory (and in any case one would still be able to heat two slices at the same time), nor for the time being has the Commission introduced new rules on toasters. Toast lovers can breathe a sigh of relief. 

It’s not true that the EU has imposed a “fuel diktat” on Channel ferries

FALSE - Another country, another round, or so they say, of Brussels’ meddling: according to the British Daily Mail tabloid, the EU has imposed a directive on ferry fuel prices that would lead to a hike in the price of ferry trips to France. It is true that as of the first of January of this year, a Sulphur Emission Control Area has been instituted that includes the English Channel and within which the sulphur content of fuels cannot exceed 0.1%. These rules, however, did not originate in Brussels: they were negotiated within another institution, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), an United Nation's agency responsible for marine pollution prevention. And that’s not all: it was actually Britain itself that wanted these rules to apply to the Channel, having verified that the previous rules were too lax. No ‘diktat’ therefore, just successful British diplomacy.

It’s not true that the UE has banned Bembel

FALSE - In Italy we worry about toasters; in Germany, according to the BILD tabloid, Brussels’ tentacular directives are responsible for a ban on Bembel – a traditional earthenware jug used to serve apple cider. Actually, this is a rather inappropriate implementation on Germany’s behalf of a non-compulsory regulation issued by the EU on transparent containers used to serve beverages (to ensure the client receives the right amount). In implementing the rule, Germany has specified exceptions on frothy drinks (i.e., beer), forgetting to include Bembel in the exemption. Following the many complaints from the states where the jug is traditionally used, the government has promised to protect this specific container. The ‘guilty’ bureaucrats in this case are in Berlin, rather than in Brussels. 

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