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Top stories
 New action for growth, governance and stability

President Barroso and Vice President Rehn speaking at yesterday's press conferenceThe European Commission is accelerating its efforts for economic renewal, with moves to address three interwoven challenges facing the EU and the euro area in particular:

  • a divergent but generally lacklustre growth and employment performance
  • insufficiently coordinated and disciplined budgetary policies
  • and unstable sovereign debt markets suffering from a lack of liquidity.

The package contains four elements: the 2012 Annual Growth Survey setting out the economic priorities for the coming year; two Regulations to tighten economic and budgetary surveillance in the euro area and a Green Paper on Stability Bonds.

Accordingly, the Commission launched a public consultation (deadline 8 January 2012) on whether the eurozone should be able to collectively issue bonds to raise money for countries with debt problems. The revenue would bolster the eurozone’s bailout fund (see under Public Consultations for more details).

Commenting on the adoption of the package, President Barroso said: "To return to growth, Member States need to raise their game when it comes to implementing their commitments to structural reforms, as well as embrace deeper integration for the euro area." He continued: "The goals driving this package – economic growth, financial stability, budgetary discipline – are linked to each other. We need all of them if we are to move beyond the current emergency towards a Europe in which solidarity is balanced by strengthened responsibility."

 
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 Vice President Olli Rehn: How to fix the EU's economy

European Commission Vice-President Olli RehnYesterday (Wednesday), European Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs Olli Rehn addressed the European Parliament's ECON Committee on the Commission's initiative for growth, governance and stability.

In his address the Commissioner spoke about the Commission's vision for how we are going to emerge from the financial and economic – and, increasingly – the social crisis, which is ravaging Europe.

 
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 Environment: European Commission asks Ireland to recover costs of all water services

EU Environment Commissioner Janez PotočnikThe Commission is concerned that Ireland has incorrectly implemented the concept of water services as described in EU water legislation – leading to inappropriate water pricing.

On the recommendation of Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, the Commission is sending Ireland a reasoned opinion to ask it to adjust its national legislation accordingly.

If Ireland fails to reply within two months, the Commission may refer the case to the European Court of Justice.

The Water Framework Directive came into force in 2000, with Ireland's agreement. Member States had until 2003 to implement its various provisions. The current problem arises from differing interpretations of the rules by Ireland (and 5 other Member States).

Note: This case is not about domestic water charges. It is to do with the wider cost policy over all users, not just drinking water and sewage systems, based on the "polluter pays" principle. 

 
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 Creative Europe: Commission unveils plan to boost cultural and creative sectors

European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Androulla VassiliouThousands of people working in cinema, TV, culture, music, performing arts, heritage and related areas would benefit from increased EU support under the new 'Creative Europe' programme unveiled by the European Commission this week.

With a proposed budget of €1.8 billion for the period 2014-2020, it would be a much-needed boost for the cultural and creative industries, which are a major source of jobs and growth in Europe.

The new programme would allocate more than €900 million in support of the cinema and audiovisual sector (area covered by current MEDIA programme) and almost € 500 million for culture.

The Commission is also proposing to allocate more than €210 million for a new financial guarantee facility, which would enable small operators to access up to €1 billion in bank loans, as well as around €60 million in support of policy cooperation and fostering innovative approaches to audience building and new business models.

 
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 EU Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn in Dublin with SIPTU

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn with Minister for Research and Innovation Sean Sherlock TD and SIPTU General President Jack O'ConnorSpeaking to members of SIPTU in Dublin today (Thursday), European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said the EU's new Research and Innovation fund 2014 to 2020, "Horizon 2020", could boost the money available for grants from 55 billion to 80 billion Euro. Minister Sean Sherlock TD also participated in the event.

"...Providing 55 billion Euro of financing between 2007 and 2013, FP7 (Framework Programme 7) already supports the goals of Innovation Union, and finances collaborative research projects across Europe including industrial technologies for manufacturing, information and communication technologies, and support to SMEs....

...Ireland has already drawn down funding of 330 million Euro under FP7. One quarter of this funding has been secured by private sector companies.

Our proposal to increase investment in research and innovation to 80 billion Euro. This will now be discussed by the European Parliament and by EU Member States."

 
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 Development aid: Eurobarometer survey shows drop in Irish support

Women carrying waterAccording to a new Eurobarometer survey released yesterday, 85% of Irish respondents consider it “very important” or “fairly important” to help people in developing countries, a drop of 10% since the last survey was carried out in 2010, but on a par with average levels of support across the EU (also 85%).

When asked whether EU promises to increase its assistance to developing countries to 0.7% of its gross national income by 2015 should be kept or aid increased further, support has dropped by 10% to 49% putting Ireland well below the EU average of 62%.

A further 23% of Irish respondents said that aid should not be increased, up 3% since the last survey and well above the EU average of 14%. And 22% of Irish people polled said that aid should be reduced as we can no longer afford it (up 7% on last year) compared to an EU average of 18%. 

The survey also shows that greater numbers of Irish people (55% compared to an EU average of 47%) would not be prepared to pay more for groceries or other products from developing countries to support people living in these countries (e.g. fair-trade products), which is well above the EU average of 47%. However, 32% of Irish people would be ready to pay up to 5% more for groceries or other products from developing countries, just below the EU average of 33%. 

 
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News in brief
 Regional unemployment rates in the EU

Regional unemployment rates varied widely across the EU27 in 2010, with the lowest rates recorded in the regions of Zeeland in the Netherlands and Bolzano/Bozen in Italy (both 2.7%) as well as Tirol (2.8%) and Salzburg (2.9%) in Austria, while the highest rates were registered in the French Overseas Department of Réunion (28.9%) and the regions of Canarias (28.7%) and Andalucía (28.0%) in Spain. Between 2009 and 2010 the unemployment rate rose in nearly two-thirds of the 271 NUTS 2 regions of the EU27.

Among the regions, 32 had an unemployment rate of 4.8% or less in 2010, half the average for the EU27. They included eight regions in the Netherlands, eight out of nine regions in Austria, seven in Germany, three in Italy, two in Belgium, and one each in the Czech Republic, Romania and the United Kingdom as well as Luxembourg. At the other extreme, thirteen regions had a rate of 19.2% or higher, double that of the EU27: nine regions in Spain and the four French Overseas Departments.

The two Irish regions had unemployment rates well above the EU average of 9.6% in 2010. The Border, Midlands and Western region had an unemployment rate of 14% in 2010 while the Southern and Eastern region came in slightly lower at 13.3%. Female unemployment in Ireland was a lot lower than male (9.5% compared to 16.7%) although the average across the EU was the same for men and women. The long-term unemployment share in Ireland was also higher than the EU average at 49% compared to 40%.

 
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 Environment: alarming decline in plants, molluscs and freshwater fish

Europe's natural heritage is showing an alarming decline, according to new research published earlier this week. The European Red List, a part of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™, assessed a considerable portion of Europe’s native fauna and flora, finding that a large proportion of molluscs, freshwater fish and vascular plants now fall into the threatened category.

The assessment of some 6,000 species reveals that 44% of all freshwater molluscs, 37% of freshwater fish, 23% of amphibians, 20% of a selection of terrestrial molluscs, 19% of reptiles, 15% of mammals and of dragonflies, 13% of birds, 11% of a selection of saproxylic beetles, 9% of butterflies, and 467 species of vascular plant species are now under threat.

 
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 Moving to the EU? Good advice is now just a few clicks away

Where do you apply for a German work permit? Does an Indian citizen need a residence permit to study in Spain? And if you have been exploited for work, who can you call for support?

Last week, the European Commission launched the 'EU Immigration Portal', a website with hands-on information for foreign nationals interested in moving to the EU.

The site, ec.europa.eu/immigration, is also directed at migrants who are already here and would like to move from one Member State to another. It provides specific information for each category of migrants about migration procedures in all 27 Member States.

 
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Agenda
 Agenda

Thursday 24 November: Transport, Telecommunications & Energy Council, Brussels

Monday 28 November to Friday 2 December: Exhibition "We Volunteer!", European Union House, Dublin

Monday 28 – Tuesday 29 November: Education, Youth, Culture & Sport Council, Brussels

Monday 28 November: EU-US summit, Washington DC

Tuesday 29 November: Eurogroup, Brussels

Wednesday 30 November: Economic & Financial Affairs Council, Brussels

Wednesday 30 November: Seminar on "European Economic Policy - What's in it for Ireland", Waterford

Wednesday 30 November: Information session on ‘Horizon 2020’ - the new instrument for EU research and innovation funding, Dublin

Wednesday 30 November – Thursday 1 December: Foreign Affairs Council, Brussels

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

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

 
 
 
 
 
Public consultations
 Public consultation on the feasibility of introducing Stability Bonds

The Commission adopted on 23 November a Green Paper on Stability Bonds which launches a public consultation on the feasibility of common issuance of sovereign bonds among the Member States of the euro area.

The Green Paper contains five chapters: rationale and preconditions for stability bonds, options for the issuance, fiscal framework for Stability Bonds boards, Implementation issues, conclusions and way forward.

The objective of the Green Paper is to have a broad debate on the issues raised. It allows all interested parties to see which areas the Commission has identified as relevant for the common issuance of sovereign bonds.

It is also an opportunity for everybody to express their views on the questions raised, and to provide any relevant material.

Finally, the Green Paper allows to flag items the Commission has not considered so far.

In parallel, the Commission will seek the views of Member States in the appropriate bodies of the European Union. During this process, the Commission will in particular seek the advice of the European Parliament.

The public consultation is open until 8 January 2012.

For further information go to: http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/consultation/index_en.htm and http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/11/820&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

 
 
 
 
 
Spotlight on: Erasmus for All
 'Erasmus for All' : 5 million in line for EU funding

330,000 masters students to benefit from new loan guarantee schemeUp to 5 million people, almost twice as many as now, could get the chance to study or train abroad with a grant from Erasmus for All, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport proposed by the European Commission today.

(Note: Irish young people make up 1% of the total taking part in the Erasmus programme, behind some countries of similar size or smaller -see table below. The short-fall is thought to be due to Irish students' hesitance to study in a non-English speaking country. Taking part would allow them to improve their language skills and build networks in other EU countries where they have the right to live and work.)

 1 million teachers, trainers and youth workers would receive funding to teach or train abroadThe new scheme can include up to 3 million higher education and vocational students. Master's degree students would also benefit from a new loan guarantee scheme set up with the European Investment Bank Group. The seven-year Erasmus for All programme, which would have a total budget of €19 billion, is due to start in 2014.

Investing in education and training is the best investment we can make for Europe's future. Studying abroad boosts people's skills, personal development and adaptability, and makes them more employable. We want to ensure that many more people benefit from EU support for these opportunities. We also need to invest more to improve the quality of education and training at all levels so we are a match for the best in the world and so that we can deliver more jobs and higher growth," said Androulla Vassiliou, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

The Commission's Erasmus for All proposal would allow:

  • 2.2 million higher education students to receive grants to spend part of their education and training abroad (compared to 1.5 million under current programmes);
  • This figure includes 135,000 students getting support to study in a non-EU country, as well as non-EU students coming to study in the Union;
  • 735,000 vocational students would be able to spend part of their education and training abroad (compared to 350,000 under the current programme);
  • 1 million teachers, trainers and youth workers would receive funding to teach or train abroad (compared to 600,000 under current programmes);
  • 700,000 young people would go on traineeships in companies abroad (compared to 600,000 under the current programme);
  • 330,000 Master's degree students would benefit from loan guarantees to help finance studies abroad under a brand-new scheme;
  • 540,000 young people would be able to volunteer abroad or participate in youth exchanges (compared to 374.000 under the current programme);
  • 34,000 students would receive grants for a 'joint degree', which involves studying in at least two higher education institutions abroad (this compares to 17,600 supported under the current programme);
  • 115,000 institutions/organisations involved in education, training and/or youth activities or other bodies would get funding to set up more than 20,000 'strategic partnerships' to implement joint initiatives and promote exchange of experience and know-how;
  • 4,000 education institutions and enterprises would form 400 'knowledge alliances' and 'sector skills alliances' to boost employability, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Background

 735,000 vocational students would be able to spend part of their education and training abroadErasmus for All would bring together all the current EU and international schemes for education, training, youth and sport, replacing seven existing programmes with one. This will increase efficiency, make it easier to apply for grants, as well as reducing duplication and fragmentation.

The Commission is proposing an increase of approximately 70% compared to the current seven-year budget, which would allocate €19 billion to the new programme in 2014-2020. The figure takes account of future estimates for inflation and includes expenditure foreseen for international cooperation.

The new programme will focus on EU added value and systemic impact, with support for three types of action: learning opportunities for individuals, both within the EU and beyond; institutional cooperation between educational institutions, youth organisations, businesses, local and regional authorities and NGOs; and support for reforms in Member States to modernise education and training systems and promote innovation, entrepreneurship and employability.

Two-thirds of the funding would be spent on mobility grants to enhance knowledge and skills.

The streamlined structure of the new programme – together with its significantly increased investment – means the EU will be able to deliver many more opportunities for students, trainees, young people, teachers, youth workers and others to improve their skills, personal development and job prospects. Erasmus for All will also promote research and teaching on European integration, and support grassroots sport.

Since 2007, an average of 400,000 people per year have received EU grants for study, training and volunteering abroad. Under the Commission's proposal, this figure would nearly double to almost 800,000. (In 2010, 560,000 received grants in the 27 Member States, see Annex 1).

Next steps

This proposal is now under discussion by the Council (27 Member States) and the European Parliament who will take the final decision on the budgetary framework for 2014-2020.

For more information:
See also MEMO/11/818
http://ec.europa.eu/education/erasmus-for-all

Commissioner Vassiliou's website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/vassiliou
European Commission: Education and Training website: http://ec.europa.eu/education/index_en.htm

Annex 1:

Table shows the number of recipients of EU grants for study, training and volunteering under the Lifelong Learning Programme and Youth in Action in 2010. (Erasmus for All will encompass both programmes and aims to nearly double the number of beneficiaries across the EU).

Country

Number of participants*

 

Lifelong Learning Programme

Youth in Action

Total

%

Austria

11000

2500

13500

2.41

Belgium

12000

4500

16500

2.95

Bulgaria

6000

5000

11000

1.96

Cyprus

1500

1000

2500

0.45

Czech Republic

14000

3000

17000

3.04

Denmark

6000

2000

8000

1.43

Estonia

3000

5000

8000

1.43

Finland

23500

2000

25500

4.55

France

52000

11000

63000

11.25

Germany

63000

15000

78000

13.93

Greece

8000

2500

10500

1.88

Hungary

8000

4500

12500

2.23

Ireland

4000

2000

6000

1.07

Italy

43500

6000

49500

8.84

Latvia

4500

3000

7500

1.34

Lithuania

7000

4500

11500

2.05

Luxembourg

1000

900

1900

0.34

Malta

250

100

350

0.06

The Netherlands

19500

3000

22500

4.02

Poland

23000

10500

33500

5.98

Portugal

21000

2500

23500

4.20

Romania

12500

7500

20000

3.57

Slovakia

6000

3500

9500

1.70

Slovenia

3500

2000

5500

0.98

Spain

52000

10500

62500

11.16

Sweden

8500

3500

12000

2.14

United Kingdom

20750

7500

28250

5.04

Total

435000

125000

560000

100.00

* All figures are rounded to the nearest hundred. The figures include participants in mobility projects who did not travel to study, learn or work abroad, such as school classes.

Annex 2:

Proposed funding levels by sector 2014-2020, compared to the 2007-2013 programmes (€ Million, EU-27)

 

Erasmus for All

2007-2013 programmes*

Average year
2014-2020

% Increase

Concentration

Erasmus Higher Education (including tertiary VET1)

585

1100 – 1150

85 %-95 %

Students, staff, joint programmes, masters, strategic partnerships, knowledge alliances

Erasmus Higher Education -international dimension (heading 4 funding)

220

259

17%

Students, staff and capacity building in particular in neighbourhood countries

Erasmus Training (VET1 and adult learning)

330 of which 60 for adult learning

500 – 540 of which around 110 for adult learning

50 %-60 % overall,
around 80 % for adult learning

Students, staff, strategic partnerships, sector skills alliances, IT platforms

Erasmus Schools

180

250 – 275

40 %-55 %

Staff, strategic partnerships, web platforms

Erasmus Youth Participation

150

190 – 210

25 %-40 %

Young people, staff, strategic partnerships, IT platforms

Operating grant (National Agencies)

55

63

15 %

 

Policy support

75

92

20 %

 

Jean Monnet

(teaching and research on European integration)

30

45

50 %

 

Sport

NA

34

NA

 

1 Vocational education and training

 
 
 
 
 
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