Monthly Archives: December 2009

Can’t find my way home

I’m gearing up for a few days of travel chaos. I’m off to spend Christmas with my parents in France and am booked with BA. though I fly the day before the strike is due to start and come back the day after. But you never know… The boyfriend is also on BA right slap bang in the middle of the strike, so we’ll have to see how that works out. Added to that is my trip to Brussels this weekend on Eurostar which is threatened by strikes as well, and you can see why I thought this list of reminders for travellers was worth repeating. Although the UK isn’t implementing the Rail Passengers Rights Regulation yet (in spite of its entry into force on 3 December) the cross-border services like Eurostar are covered nonetheless.

1. If you travel by air and you are denied boarding, or if your flight is cancelled without notice or is subject to a more than five hour delay, ask for reimbursement or rerouting.

2. You also have the right to assistance and, in some cases, to a monetary compensation in case of cancellation or a delay exceeding 3 hours. In all cases the company has to inform you about your rights on the spot, when an incident occurs.

3. If your luggage gets lost or damaged, you have the right to a reimbursement of up to €1223 when you take the plane.

4. When you book your flight ticket online, remember that the final price must be clearly indicated on the first page.

5. When you check in at the airport, only take small quantities of liquids in your hand luggage (a maximum of 100 millilitres is permitted per container, which includes creams, powder and mousse). The total amount of liquids per person cannot exceed one litre.

6. If you are planning to travel by aeroplane outside Europe, check the black list of airlines banned in the European Union before buying your ticket.

7. If you are a passenger with disabilities or reduced mobility, you will be granted non discriminatory access conditions if you decide to travel by air or by cross-border train within the European Union. You have the right to free assistance before, during and after the flight, when travelling by air; to free assistance at the station and on board, when travelling by train. Inform your air carrier at least 48 hours in advance if you require such assistance.

8. When you travel by cross-border train within the European Union you are entitled to reimbursement (or rerouting) and compensation, plus assistance, in case of cancellation or delay at departure or at arrival of more than 1 hour. You will also enjoy adequate information before and during the journey.

9. If your luggage gets damaged during cross-border rail travel within the European Union, you are entitled to compensation of up to €1300. In case of accidents during the journey, you are entitled to advance payments and compensation for you or for your family.

10. If you are not satisfied with your cross-border rail journey within the European Union, keep in mind that each railway company has to communicate you the contact detail of the complaint handling body, which will answer to your complaint within one month.

11. When you buy a travel package, always make sure that both the price and all relevant information are clearly indicated.

12. Keep in mind that one out of four road accidents can be attributed to excessive alcohol or drug consumption. Don’t drive if you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs!

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What’s going on

The member of the team here that deals with regional issues has just come back from a couple of days in Northern England, talking to regional press and other media actors about what they need from us and what is of interest to them. One interesting point that came up was that journalists wanted to know what was being written about elsewhere in Europe. Since I moved back from Brussels, I haven’t had the overview of Europe’s press that I had there, but there are a couple of useful websites for those that would like a more Europe-wide perspective on the media.

The first is Presseurop. Their approach seems to be briefs on a particular issue, pulling together the approach from across Europe, and highlighting the main trends of comment. They link to the principal articles quoted. Certainly worth checking out. And if you’re on Twitter, they are worth a follow (@presseurop) – it’s a real person tweeting, complete with cheeky comments, rather than a feed.

The second, recommended to me by the excellent Jon Worth, is Eurotopics. They do a daily press review drawing on sources from across Europe. Rather than a precis by topic, they do English- (and other-) language summaries of articles, which opens up sources of comment and analysis that would otherwise be closed off for linguistic reasons.

Are there others? It would be good to hear about them if there are.

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Looking at the figures

We had a press briefing this morning with Eurostat, the European Commission’s statistical office. They were here to talk interested journalists through their new website. Over my years as a Spokeswoman I had the misfortune to talk journalists through the old version so was really impressed by the new site, which is much more user-friendly.

Particularly interesting were:

the country profile section, where you can set up custom tables, comparing one country with another, or with the average, or other parameters;

the structural indicators, which groups together those statistics that are most important for EU policy development – where there are targets agreed at EU level, for example.

the statistics database. Here there are main tables, where certain sets of data are already set up as tables, graphs and maps, but the user can cutomise the settings to get the graph s/he wants, or simply download the data to produce her/his own representations. Or if there’s a specific data set the user wants, s/he can use the database to create it.

You can register to get regular updates whenever new stats are put up on the site in a particular policy area, as well as a RSS feed for the news releases.

At all bits of the site, there is information about the methodology used, which is important from our point of view to make sure we are comparing apples and apples. There are still some differences in how statistics are presented, with governments presenting some at national level with slightly different methodology, usually for historical reasons, but also because of things such as a different financial year. So being open about our methodology allows proper comparison.

It might all seem a bit geeky, but I think it’s really important that there is a good statistical site to allow credible comparison at EU level. And I think Eurostat have managed to do so very well, steering a difficult course between being accessible to the ordinary person, and at the same time useful for experts.

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