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The latest from Brussels


Blair runs for the presidency
Which international organisations have a President and a Foreign Minister? Does the UN? Does NATO? No: only the EU wants to. Blair says he'll be President – but only if we give him more powers, especially over defence.

Disappearing opt-outs
Blair said of the Lisbon Treaty, "It is absolutely clear that we have an opt-out from both the Charter and judicial and home affairs." Europe Minister Jim Murphy admitted on 21 January, "...the UK does not have an opt-out on the Charter of Fundamental Rights."

An EU ambassador said, "The issues of the EU Foreign Minister and the common diplomatic service will be dealt with last, after ratification of the Lisbon Treaty by Britain, because the subject is too explosive." EU leaders also plan to take decisions, by majority vote, about the role and powers of the EU President if the Constitution has been ratified.

EU usury gets fingers on the Beeb
The BBC has received £141 million in low interest loans from the EU-backed European Investment Bank to fund commercial expansion. The EIB is "an autonomous body set up to finance capital investment furthering European integration by promoting EU policies". The BBC refuses to disclose what rates the EIB is charging. It has also received £1.4 million in grants from the EU over the past five years.

Biofuels bananas
The EU Commission wants a law requiring the EU by 2020 to source a fifth of all energy use from renewables, and 10 per cent of transport fuels from biofuels. Britain's target will be 15 per cent of our overall energy use from renewables by 2020 – seven times current levels, needing around 10,000 new onshore and offshore wind turbines. A leaked DTI paper estimated this would cost £5 to £11 billion a year.

Biofuels are the least cost-effective way of reducing carbon emissions, especially those grown in Europe. Sugar beet-based biofuels cost over £300 for every tonne of carbon avoided, against a government guideline of £33. The 10 per cent EU target would lead to total annual transfers to the biofuels industry of between 11 billion and 23 billion euros.