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Top stories
 Address by European Commissioner for Economy and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn to the European Parliament

Vice-President Olli RehnAs part of the preparations for the EU summit next week, Vice-President Olli Rehn addressed the plenary session of the European Parliament yesterday (30 November 2011) in Brussels.

In his concluding remarks, Vice-President Rehn said: "We have arrived at a point in time where serious choices and commitments have to be made. The Economic and Monetary Union will either have to be completed through much deeper integration or we will have to accept a gradual disintegration of over half a century of European integration.

This is a choice that needs to be consciously taken by the Governments of the EU Member States, and by all European citizens and their representatives in the national Parliaments and the European Parliament.

Our choice is clear – it is a choice for an ever closer union, for the sake of sustainable growth and job creation in Europe, and thus for the sake of legitimacy and, not least, for the sake of the future of the European unification. I trust such will also be the choice of the European Parliament, and of the citizens it represents."

 Audience in Waterford hears that cost of Euro falling apart would exceed cost of keeping it together

The seminar was addressed by (from left to right) Jim Power, Barbara Nolan and Nigel NagarajanAt a public seminar organised by the European Commission in Waterford last night, economist and commentator Jim Power emphasised that 'Europe is on the brink of an historic decision.'  

Students, lecturers and local business leaders and politicians were among the audience for last night's seminar, entitled European Economic Policy – What's in it for Ireland?' 

Held at the Waterford Institute of Technology, the seminar marked the first of a series of events organised by the European Commission to explain the current economic situation in the EU and to provide an opportunity for people to ask the questions they might have about it.

The seminar was chaired by Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland. It was also addressed by Nigel Nagarajan, Resident Adviser on Economic and Financial Affairs at the European Commission Representation in Ireland.

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 State aid: Commission extends crisis rules for banks

Vice President Almunia speaking at this morning's press conferenceThe European Commission has updated and prolonged a set of temporary state aid control rules to assess public support to financial institutions during the crisis. The main provisions consist in explaining how to ensure that the State is adequately remunerated if – as is increasingly likely in the future - Member States decide to recapitalise their banks using instruments, such as ordinary shares, for which the remuneration is not fixed in advance.

A revised methodology was also agreed concerning the remuneration of guarantees for banks' funding needs – the bulk of the support to date – to ensure the fees that banks pay reflect their intrinsic risk, rather than the risk related to the Member State concerned or the market as a whole.

The rules will apply as long as required by market conditions.

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 Better Airports Package Launched

Vice President Siim Kallas announcing the measures todayThe European Commission today announced a comprehensive package of measures to help increase the capacity of Europe's airports, reduce delays and improve the quality of services offered to passengers.

The measures address the quality of services passengers and airlines receive on the ground before they take off and after they land (for example, baggage handling, check-in, refuelling), the transparency of decisions on airport noise, as well as the efficiency of the complex network of take-off and landing slots that make up every journey.

Vice President Siim Kallas, European Commissioner responsible for Transport said: 'Europe's airports are facing a capacity crunch. If business and the travelling public are to take best advantage of the air network, we have to act now. 70% of all delays to flights are already caused by problems on the ground not in the air. On present trends, nineteen key European airports will be full to bursting by 2030. The resulting congestion could mean delays for half of all flights across the network."noise.

 European Toy Safety Campaign- Ensuring safety for our children

European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship Antonio TajaniChristmas is a very busy time of year for Santa Claus. He has to get the sleigh ready, feed his reindeers, check his list to be sure he hasn't forgotten any good girls and boys…and make sure that the toys the elves have purchased are not only fun, but also safe!

This year, his task will be easier than ever before: since July 2011, toys sold in the EU must satisfy the strictest safety rules in the world.

Safe and fun is the perfect combination, but it is actually not so obvious! What makes a toy safe to use will depend not only on the toy itself, but also on how it is used and the age of the child. What should you look for as a parent, to know if a toy is safe or not for your child? 

To offer some good advice, European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani is launched the European Toy Safety Campaign, intended to show how to get the safest toys, and how to use them safely. A video clip to be aired on TV stations around Europe explains the issues, reinforced by a card with safety tips to be handed out to consumers all over the EU when they are buying toys.

 Coalition of top tech and media companies to make internet better place for our kids

Small children using laptopTwenty-eight leading companies have come together to form a new Coalition to make a better and safer internet for children. Put together by the Commission, founding Coalition members are: Apple, BSkyB, BT, Dailymotion, Deutsche Telekom, Facebook, France Telecom-Orange, Google, Hyves, KPN, Liberty Global, LG Electronics, Mediaset, Microsoft, Netlog, Nintendo, Nokia, Opera Software, Research in Motion, RTL Group, Samsung, Sulake, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, Telenor Group, Tuenti, Vivendi, Vodafone. 

The Coalition is a cooperative voluntary intervention designed to respond to emerging challenges arising from the diverse ways in which young Europeans go online. Companies signatories to the Coalition committed to take positive action throughout 2012 in 5 areas: simple tools for users to report harmful content and contact, age-appropriate privacy settings, wider use of content classification, wider availability and use of parental controls, effective take down of child abuse material.

On average, children in Europe now start going online when they are seven. 38% of 9 to 12 year olds who are online say they have a social networking profile, in spite of age restrictions. More than 30% of children who go online do so from a mobile device and 26% via game consoles.

News in brief
 Digital Agenda: European robots helping to perform safer, quicker brain surgery

Surgeon working with robotic aidsEU-funded researchers from Germany, Italy, Israel and the UK have achieved a breakthrough development in robotic neurosurgery. The ROBOCAST project, has developed a new type of robot that gives two important advantages to surgeons: 13 degrees (types) of movement, compared to the four available to human hands during minimally invasive surgery, and "haptic feedback" the physical cues which allow surgeons to assess tissue and perceive the amount of force applied during surgery. The robot has performed accurate keyhole neurosurgery on dummies, and when ready for humans, could ease the suffering of millions of Europeans diagnosed with tumours, and conditions such as epilepsy, Parkinson's disease and Tourette syndrome.

 EU budget for 2012 approved by Parliament

In a vote earlier today (Thursday), the European Parliament endorsed the final size and priority spending areas of the 2012 EU budget, as agreed by its negotiating team and the EU Member States on 18 November.

The increase in payment appropriations will be limited (1.86%) as requested by the Member States. The Commission, Council and Parliament agreed to take stock in the course of next year to see if the budget is realistic or if repairs are necessary. Member States signed a declaration to this end. The overall budget for next year will amount to €129.1 billion (1.86% increase) in payments and €147.2 billion (+3.8%) in commitments.

The EU Budget is equal to 1% of EU GDP.  Administrative costs account for 6% of the budget.

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 World Aids Day

Today is World AIDS Day 2011. This year is a special anniversary. It has been 30 years since the world learned about HIV and AIDS. In December 1981, the first AIDS cases were discovered. 30 years of struggle and personal sacrifice of millions of people, 30 years of more than 30 million lives lost and 16 million children orphaned by AIDS. HIV and AIDS have touched all countries and countless communities and families. Today, an estimated 33.3 million people live with HIV worldwide and more than 7.000 new infections occur every day, mostly among people in low and middle income countries.

The European Commission is committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS and, between 2002 and 2010, has provided almost $10 billion to the The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). This represents 51% of the GFATM resources. By June 2011 the GFATM reported some impressive results: a total of 7.7 million lives saved, fewer new HIV infections and 3.2 million people receiving antiretroviral HIV treatment. 

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 EU and US boost economic partnership

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, US President Barack Obama, and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso at the EU-US Summit earlier this weekThe European Union and the United States this week strengthened transatlantic economic ties through a number of new initiatives. At the Transatlantic Economic Council (TEC), senior EU and US leaders agreed to facilitate their customs procedures, to strengthen their cooperation on electric vehicle and smart grid research and in the fields of new technologies, such as cloud computing, and raw materials.

The leaders also discussed a number of strategic economic questions, in particular transatlantic economic cooperation in the Southern Mediterranean and in emerging economies. Furthermore, the EU-US Summit yesterday tasked the TEC to establish a new High-Level Working Group on Jobs and Growth to identify options to further enhance EU-US economic relations.

 Ireland fifth largest EU exporter of goods to USA during first half of 2011

Ireland was the fifth largest EU exporter of goods to the USA in the first half of 2011 when it accounted for 8% of total EU exports to the USA or just under €10.9 bn. Germany (35 bn euro or 27% of EU exports of goods) was by far the largest exporter to the USA during this period, followed by the United Kingdom (20 bn or 16%), Italy (12 bn or 9%), France (11 bn or 9%). Ireland also had the second largest trade surplus with the USA after Germany in the first half of 2011 at a little under €6.9 bn. Overall Irish exports to the USA in the first half of 2011 were €1.5 bn higher than the same period in 2010 while imports dropped by over €100 m.

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Today (Thursday 1 December): Festive party for people with disabilities (to mark European Day for People with Disabilities), Europe Direct Centre, Killarney

Today (Thursday 1) – Friday 2 December: Employment, Social, Health & Consumer Affairs Council, Brussels

Wednesday 7 December 2011: Lecture on War and Memory in Europe after World War II, 18 Dawson St. Dublin 2

Friday 9 December: EU Council, Brussels

Public consultations
 Public consultation on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory

The European Commission launched on 29 November a public consultation on ways to improve the safe-keeping of cultural goods and the return between Member States of national treasures unlawfully removed from their territory. The consultation will provide an insight into the views of public authorities, citizens and other stakeholders on the most effective way to facilitate such return.

Interested parties may submit their contributions to the following address:

The public consultation will be open until 5 March 2012.  

 Launch of poll for Ireland's 2013 EU Presidency

Hannah Gorman (Ireland) Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Domas Askelovicius (Lithuania) Joanne Dieppe (Germany), Minister Lucinda Creighton and Michay Drapik (Poland)Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and European Affairs Minister Lucinda Creighton yesterday (Wednesday) launched an online public poll to select the logo that will represent Ireland’s EU Presidency in the first six months of 2013.

The public is being asked to choose one of four logos which they think will best represent Ireland during its EU Presidency. The design with the highest number of votes will be used as the logo.

The poll will close at 5pm on 21 December and the winning design will be announced in early January 2012.

Calls for tender/proposals
 Call for applications for experts on the international aspects of agriculture to participate in a CAP Advisory Group

The Commission launched on 29 November a call for applications for experts on the international aspects of agriculture to participate in a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Advisory Group dedicated to the subject.

With three meetings of the "Advisory Group - International aspects of agriculture" scheduled for 2012, the first at the end of January, the Commission is looking in particular to select NGOs active in the field of trade and development in relation to agriculture.

The deadline for submitting applications is 9 December 2011

Spotlight on: €80 billion to boost growth and jobs
 €80 billion to boost growth and jobs

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn presenting the Horizon 2020 package in Brussels yesterdayThe European Commission has presented a package of measures to boost research, innovation and competitiveness in Europe. In an information session in the Commission's Representation in Dublin, the new €80 billion Horizon 2020 programme for investment in research and innovation was outlined yesterday (Wednesday).

Horizon 2020 boosts EU funding for research to €24.6 billion over 7 years. And for the first time, it brings together all EU research and innovation funding under a single programme. It focuses more than ever on turning scientific breakthroughs into innovative products and services that provide business opportunities and change people’s lives for the better. At the same time it drastically cuts red tape, with simplification of rules and procedures to attract more top researchers and a broader range of innovative businesses.

Presenting Horizon 2020 in Brussels today, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "We need a new vision for European research and innovation in a dramatically changed economic environment. Horizon 2020 provides direct stimulus to the economy and secures our science and technology base and industrial competitiveness for the future, promising a smarter, more sustainable and more inclusive society."

Click here[298 KB] to listen to further comments by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn.

Horizon 2020 will focus funds on three key objectives. It will support the EU’s position as a world leader in science with a dedicated budget of €24.6 billion, including an increase in funding of 77% for the very successful European Research Council (ERC). It will help secure industrial leadership in innovation with a budget of €17.9 billion. This includes a major investment of €13.7 billion in key technologies, as well as greater access to capital and support for SMEs. Finally, €31.7 billion will go towards addressing major concerns shared by all Europeans, across six key themes: Health, demographic change and well-being; Food security, sustainable agriculture, marine and maritime research and the bioeconomy; Secure, clean and efficient energy; Smart, green and integrated transport; Climate action, resource efficiency and raw materials; and Inclusive, innovative and secure societies.


Horizon 2020 is a key pillar of Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at enhancing Europe's global competitiveness. The Commission proposal will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption before the end of 2013.

Funding provided by Horizon 2020 will be easier to access thanks to this simpler programme architecture, a single set of rules and less red tape. Horizon 2020 will mean: drastically simplified reimbursement by introducing a single flat rate for indirect costs and only two funding rates - for research and for close to market activities respectively; a single point of access for participants; less paperwork in preparing proposals; and no unnecessary controls and audits. One key goal is to reduce the time until funding is received following a grant application by 100 days on average, meaning projects can start more quickly.

The Commission will make major efforts to open up the programme to more participants from across Europe by exploring synergies with funds under the EU's Cohesion policy. Horizon 2020 will identify potential centres of excellence in underperforming regions and offer them policy advice and support, while EU Structural Funds can be used to upgrade infrastructure and equipment.

For further information


Programme for Business Competitiveness and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises:

Horizon 2020:

Innovation Union:

Europe 2020

Digital Agenda

CIP programme:

EIT website: