News in brief…News in brief…

• The European Commission has decided to grant 200 million euros for a R&D programme aimed at fighting AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in developing countries. The European and Developing Countries Clinical Trials Programme will support partnerships between developed and developing countries for clinical trials to combat these three devastating diseases in the countries where they are most prevalent. The programme will be led by Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Spain, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, the UK, Sweden and Norway. These countries have agreed to co-ordinate and exchange knowledge, best practice, human resources and finance for a period of five years. These countries will, together, bring another 200 million euros to the programme.

• Foreign Minister Teresa Gouveia has told foreign envoys to Portugal that the stalled EU Constitution talks had made leaders of member countries seek a solution to benefit all sides. Gouveia said that negotiations on the Constitution must continue and all participating sides should have the goodwill to settle disputes and find a solution that benefits all EU members.

• While more upbeat about their household finances than six months ago, most Europeans remain much less hopeful about their economic future than their American counterparts, and few European investors are willing to dive back into equities, according to a new survey. As a result, investment advisers say they may miss out on rising stock prices.

• Unemployment registered in the Centres of Employment and Professional Training in Portugal totalled 453,727 in November 2003, exceeding the barrier of 450,000 people. According to IEFP, the number of unemployed in November 2003 was up 19.6 per cent year-on-year and up 1.3 per cent month-on-month. Employment in the Portuguese construction sector registered a 7.1 per cent year-on-year decrease in October 2003. Salaries in the construction sector registered a three per cent year-on-year, and a 0.7 per cent month-on-month decrease. Employment in Portugal’s service sector fell 2.8 per cent year-on-year for October 2003, with the rentals and restaurant services marking the highest decrease of 4.1 per cent.

• The European Commission has told Belgium, Portugal, Spain and France to stop discriminating against foreign pension funds and quickly change their tax laws. If the countries fail to amend their laws within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the Court of Justice. Portugal has argued that its tax legislation is coherent in that there is a link between tax deductibility of contributions and taxation of pensions in case of Portuguese pension funds, and between the non-tax deductibility of contributions and the non-taxation of pensions in case of foreign pension funds (similar to the coherence accepted by the Court in the Bachmann judgement (C-204/90 of 28 January 1992). However, the Commission is of the opinion that such cohesion does not exist in the Portuguese legislation.

• EU agriculture ministers agreed new rules to track movements of all goats and sheep, aiming to prevent any renewed epidemic of the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease. From mid-2005, all sheep and goats will be tagged individually. From 2008, electronic microchips must be used when selling sheep and goats throughout the EU; but this date may be reviewed following a European Commission report in 2006.

• The city authorities in Lisbon are spending less on advertising than their predecessors, announcing the good news in a splurge of full-page ads. “Today Lisbon city hall spends less on advertising. Facts are facts,” said the ads, which were taken out by the centre-right administration of Pedro Santana Lopes in three national daily newspapers.

• Portugal insisted recently that road access to the 10 stadia to be built or completely renovated for this year’s European football finals will be ready by the June 12 kick-off. The organisers also plan to boost passenger capacity at Lisbon International Airport before the start of the European 2004 football finals, preparing for the expected arrival of thousands of football fans. The airport will get 12 new boarding gates and 40 new aeroplane parking spots before the three-week championship gets underway.

• Following similar contracts with the Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Royal Belgium Air Force, RADA Electronic Industries Ltd has announced that it has signed an agreement with the Portuguese Air Force to equip its new Mid Life Upgrade F-16 fleet with FACE. The contract value exceeds $5m.

• President Jorge Sampaio has called on all Portuguese to adopt a more “humane” approach on questions of immigration and to reject knee-jerk reactions of fear and xenophobia.

• Portugal recently called a tender for the construction of a high security prison in Monsanto, in the outskirts of Lisbon. The maximum security prison, which will receive mostly prisoners convicted of terrorism and traffic of drugs, will have a capacity to accommodate some 600 inmates, a source from Portugal’s General Directorate of Prison Services said.

• The Portuguese Government is in the process of preparing changes to the media law, which will enable two regional networks, TSF and RCP, to broadcast nationally. Currently, TSF broadcasts only in the north of the country and RCP in the south. The new law will also impose quotas of Portuguese music on the two networks.

• The trial in Portugal of seven women accused of having illegal abortions has re-ignited debate over the country’s abortion laws, which are among the most restrictive in the European Union.

• Parliament has passed a new law to ease restrictions that have effectively frozen the building of hypermarkets since October 2001. The new law will take effect this month and applies to retail outlets covering more than 500 square metres.

• Officers from the PJ have announced the dismantling of an internal drug-trafficking ring from Latin America and the seizure of 450kg of cocaine, which had been concealed among packets of sweets.

• EU ministers ended a 30-hour marathon recently with a deal on 2004 fish catches that aims to save cod and other species from extinction, but may still ruin many fishermen who face tying up their boats for weeks on end.

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