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Austerity might be the rule outside the Brussels bubble, but the inside looks even more like a parallel dimension after a longstanding levy on the salaries of officials was allowed to lapse – meaning that since 1 January, EU civil servants are better off to the tune of up to 3.5 percent of their net salaries, writes Stephen Gardner.

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Back in 2008, before the economy tanked, the European Commission came up with a plan to help save the climate by backing carbon capture and storage. By 2015, 12 full-scale projects would be underway, the Commission said. Dirty power plants and industrial facilities could carry on polluting, except that the pollution would be captured and buried underground, writes Stephen Gardner.

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“The European Union is made of its citizens and for its citizens!” proclaims the European Commission. There is even a €215 million “Europe for Citizens” kitty for projects to “give the citizen a key role in the development of the European Union”. But if citizens try to question the Commission's decisions, the hand of generosity is withdrawn, writes Stephen Gardner.

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Britain's Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt might have been exchanging chummy text messages with the Murdochs and their representatives while supposedly impartially judging their bid for BSkyB, but at least he wasn't going into clandestine meetings with them, then refusing to disclose the content of discussions. At the European Commission, there are no such qualms.

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European Union research grants sometimes look suspiciously like industrial subsidies. One clear example of this is the Clean Sky 'green aviation' initiative, writes Stephen Gardner.

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The European Union's research and development grant scheme, the Seventh Framework Programme, commits €2.83 billion (5.6 percent of the total budget) to space and security research between 2007-2013. Much of this money is being spent on surveillance or even pseudo-military projects, though spending of EU research funds on weapons R&D is forbidden, writes Stephen Gardner.

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The European Commission has had a rethink on corporate social responsibility. It previously insisted that CSR could not be forced on firms. But at the end of October 2011, it published a range of proposals that will entail new obligations for companies, writes Stephen Gardner.

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Should corporate tax dodgers be allowed to benefit from public R&D subsidies? Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts says not. "This is a red line," he says. Shareholders should not profit from publicly funded research if the company is not paying its fair share, writes Stephen Gardner.

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For weary Brussels watchers, it feels like déjà vu all over again. Campaigners and interest groups on one side, and business federations on the other, are gearing up for a fight over a possible European Union law, even though the legislative proposals will not be published before the middle of next year, writes Stephen Gardner.

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Electric vehicle charging infrastructure is spreading increasingly rapidly across Europe, writes Stephen Gardner. But the development is not necessarily well coordinated.

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