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Top stories
 EU leaders to focus on reviving economy

The Justice Lipsius building in Brussels, where the summits are heldStronger economic governance in the eurozone will be the focus of leaders' discussions on 8-9 December in Brussels – alongside energy and the prospect of new countries joining the EU.

EU leaders will review the overall economic situation in Europe and measures to boost growth and jobs. They will consider proposals to monitor draft budgets and cut deficits for all eurozone countries – with even tighter economic and budget surveillance for countries facing serious financial instability or needing bail-outs.

Leaders will also examine the potential benefits of joint eurozone bonds, for instance whether they would help reduce and stabilise the interest rates countries have to pay to borrow money.

The Commission has put forward 3 options for these so-called stability bonds , with an analysis of financial and legal implications. An amendment to the EU's Lisbon Treaty – which governs how the Union functions – might be required.

 
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 Irish antibacterial tiles selected as star EU-funded research and innovation project at Innovation Convention Expo

Dr. Brendan Duffy (left) and Dr. Suresh Pillai, researchers at the Dublin Institute of Technology who used Enterprise Ireland funding to create antimicrobial coatings which are used by Vitra Ireland in the manufacture of ceramic tiles. The tiles will be on display at the EU Innovation Convention in Brussels 5th-6th December where the EU Commissioner for Innovation Maire Geoghegan-Quinn will visit the only Irish stand to learn about this innovative partnership between DIT and Vitra Ireland. Photo credit: Gary O’Neill Photo.Irish technology that kills MRSA and other disease-causing pathogens is playing a star role at the first European Innovation Convention taking place in Brussels  this week.  The Convention is being hosted by EU Commissioner for Innovation, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, and brings together 50 star projects from across the EU.

The Irish project is a light-activated antibacterial surface coating  that  has been developed by a team at the Centre for Research in Engineering Surface Technology (CREST) in Dublin Institute of Technology, working with ceramic manufacturer VitrA Ireland, with funding from Enterprise Ireland. The result is these special ceramic tiles that kill MRSA and other bugs and can be used in hospitals, medical centres, laboratories and other places where hygiene is essential.

Pictured here are Dr. Brendan Duffy (left) and Dr. Suresh Pillai, researchers at CREST DIT  who worked on the project.  

The 50 star projects were selected from over 450 entries to participate in Europe’s premier innovation event. The Innovation Convention 2011  was led by the President of the European Commission, Mr. José Manuel Barroso and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. The Crest Centre in DIT is the only Irish research organisation represented at the Convention.

 
 
 Commission opens formal proceedings to investigate sales of e-books

The European Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings to investigate whether international publishers Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing, France), Harper Collins (News Corp., USA), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., USA), Penguin (Pearson Group, United Kingdom) and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of inter alia Macmillan, Germany) have, possibly with the help of Apple, engaged in anti-competitive  practices affecting the sale of e-books in the European Economic Area (EEA)], in breach of EU antitrust rules.

The Commission will in particular investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition in the EU or in the EEA. The Commission is also examining the character and terms of the agency agreements entered into by the above named five publishers and retailers for the sale of e-books. The Commission has concerns, that these practices may breach EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU).

 
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 Public Health: Commission proposes effective measures to better protect citizens from a wide range of cross-border health threats

Operating theatreTo better protect Europeans from a wide range of health threats, and provide for a fully co-ordinated response in the event of a crisis, the European Commission adopted today a legislative proposal on the means to address serious cross border health threats.

Building on lessons learned with recent crises such as the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, the volcanic ash cloud in 2010 and the outbreak of E. coli in 2011, the Commission is proposing to beef up the means to prepare for and to address such crises.

The main measures proposed include:

  • to extend the existing co-ordination mechanism for communicable diseases to all heath threats caused by biological, chemical or environmental causes;
  • to reinforce the mandate of the Health Security Committee;
  • to strengthen preparedness for crises e.g. by enabling joint purchasing of vaccines;
  • to provide the means to recognise a European "health emergency situation" for the purpose of making medicines available faster;
  • and to agree on European wide emergency cross border measures when a crisis results in large scale mortality and national measures fail to stop the disease from spreading.
 
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 European Commission, EIB and EIF launch new scheme to help SMEs get loans for research and innovation

Small business owner working on accountsThe European Commission and the European Investment Bank Group this week launched a new guarantee facility for innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them access finance from banks. This builds on the success of the Risk-Sharing Finance Facility (RSFF), launched in 2007, that has so far helped 75 companies benefit from over €7 billion in EIB loans to projects enhancing European growth and competitiveness.

The new risk-sharing instrument for SMEs will be managed by the European Investment Fund (EIF). In addition, the EIB and the European Commission are to provide extra resources for research infrastructures.

 
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 Commission proposes new European Fund for the EU's Maritime and Fisheries Policies

Fishermen processing fishThe European Commission last week proposed a new fund for the EU's maritime and fisheries policies for the period 2014-2020: the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

The Fund will help deliver the ambitious objectives of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and will help fishermen in the transition towards sustainable fishing, as well as coastal communities in the diversification of their economies.

The fund will finance projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts. Red tape will be cut so that beneficiaries have easy access to financing.

This new fund will replace the existing European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and a number of other instruments. The proposed envelope amounts to € 6.5 billion for the period 2014 to 2020.

 
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 Pet food: Commission publishes labelling code that will benefit millions of pets in the EU

Fox terrierA Code of good labelling practice for pet food was published today by the European Commission. It will allow millions of pet owners across the EU to keep their animals healthy, thanks to improved labelling allowing informed choices on the pet food they buy.

More than 70 million households in the Union keep pet animals and thus regularly purchase pet food. The estimated 64 million cats, 60 million dogs, eight million aquaria and other pet animals (estimated at 65 million) consume about 8.3 million tons of pet food every year (for a total value of 13.5 billion €).

The code is also expected to help the pet food industry to better cope with the legal requirements. The "layman's guide" contained in the code will enable consumers to understand pet food labels better and to chose the right food for their animals.

 
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News in brief
 Statement of Vice President Olli Rehn on the adoption by the Italian Government of extraordinary fiscal and economic measures

Vice-President Olli RehnFollowing the adoption by the Italian Government of a far-reaching package of fiscal measures and economic reforms, the Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro, Olli Rehn, delivered the following statement.

"I welcome the adoption of the significant package of budgetary and economic policy measures by the Italian government today. This package is a very important step to shore up the public finances and support economic growth, while preserving social equity and fairness, through measures concerning taxes, pensions, reform of public administration, liberalisations and incentives to firms…”

 
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 Asylum policy: Less talk, more solidarity

Thematic photo: asylum seekersThe European Commission last week adopted a communication on "Enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum" which seeks to reinforce practical, technical and financial cooperation, move towards a better allocation of responsibilities and an improved governance of the asylum system, and to contribute to the finalisation of the "Common European Asylum System" by 2012.
 

 
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 New EU fundraising rules: boosting venture capital for SMEs and easing access to credit

The European Commission is presenting a strategy to promote better access to finance for SMEs with an EU Action Plan which includes increasing financial support from the EU budget and the European Investment Bank and a proposal for a regulation setting uniform rules for the marketing of venture capital funds.

 
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Agenda
 Agenda

Today (Thursday) 8 - Friday 9 December: EU Council, Brussels

Monday 12 – Thursday 15 December: European Parliament plenary session, Strasbourg

Monday 12 – Tuesday 13 December: Transport, Telecommunications & Energy (Transport) Council Brussels

Tuesday 13 – Wednesday 14 December: Justice and Home Affairs Council, Brussels

Wednesday 14 December: Foreign Affairs Council (trade issues), Brussels

Thursday 15 – Friday 16 December: Agriculture and Fisheries Council, Brussels

 
 
 
 
 
Public consultations
 Public consultation on review of current regime for licensing of technology

The European Commission invites comments on the application of EU antitrust rules for the assessment of technology transfer agreements, i.e. patent, know-how and software licensing. The aim is to strengthen the incentives for research and innovation, facilitate the diffusion of intellectual property and stimulate competition.

The current regime, which entered into force in May 2004, will expire in April 2014. In light of stakeholders' submissions, the Commission will make a proposal on how to assess technology transfer agreements after the expiry of the current regime.

All stakeholders, including consumer interest associations, public authorities, and, in particular, the business community (including SMEs) who have had experience of applying the current rules on technology transfer agreements and/or are affected by such technology transfer agreements, are encouraged to participate in the consultation.

Comments can be submitted until 3 February 2012.

 
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 Public consultation on acquisitions and holdings in the financial sector

The European Commission launched a consultation today (Thursday) seeking views on the application of Directive 2007/44 EC as regards acquisitions and increase of holdings in the financial sector.

Following events at the time, the Commission tabled a proposal in 2006 to minimise the scope for national supervisors to invoke rules in order to hinder cross-border mergers and acquisitions for protectionist reasons. The Directive was adopted in 2007 and laid down uniform rules and evaluation criteria for national supervisors to prudentially assess mergers and acquisitions in the financial sector. It contains a clause, calling for the Commission to review the application of the Directive and submit a report to the European Parliament and the Council, together with any appropriate proposals to review the Directive.

The responses to the consultation launched today will provide important information on how the Directive has been applied at national level and will feed into a report that the Commission is to prepare.

Replies can be submitted up to 10 February 2012.

 
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Job opportunities
 Reminder: Open Competition for Secretaries (AST 1) having English or Irish as a main language

The closing date for online registration for Open Competition (EPSO/AST/117/11) for Secretaries (AST 1) having Greek, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, Irish, Hungarian or Italian as a main language is 20 December 2011.

 
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 Open Competition for Assistants in the fields of financial management/accounting, communication and project management

The European Personnel Selection Office is organising an open competition to select assistants (EPSO/AST/118/11 – Assistants (AST 3)) to work in the institutions of the European Union in the following fields:

  • Financial Management / Accounting 
  • Communication 
  • Project Management / Programme Management / Contract Management  

Applicants must have at least 3 years of professional experience in the field chosen after having obtained a post-secondary diploma (for field 1: a diploma in finance or accounting; for field 2: a diploma in communication, media studies, journalism or public relations; no particular specifications for field 3 );

OR have at least 6 years of relevant professional experience in the chosen field after having completed secondary education.

The closing date for online registration is midday (Brussels time – CET) on 17 January 2012.

 
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Competitions/Polls
 Vote for the best European multimodal journey planner!

BannerEuropean citizens were this week invited to start voting for their favourite multimodal journey planner as part of the first European Mobility Challenge launched by the European Commission.

Twenty-eight examples of journey planners were submitted to the challenge for a pan-European travel planner, which was open to everyone, companies and organisations or anyone with an interest in travelling. 12 of these were short-listed.

Now it is time for the public to cast its vote, between 5 December 2011 and 13 January 2012, on the 12 short-listed planners. In parallel, an expert jury will meet to deliberate on the submitted ideas. The best entries in each category will be announced by Vice-President Kallas at an event in Brussels in February 2012.

 
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Spotlight on
 European Commission President Barroso and Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn launch the first ever EU Innovation Convention in Brussels

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn with Michael O'Leary, CEO of Ryanair, at the Innovation Convention in Brussels earlier this weekThe first ever European Union Innovation Convention, organised by European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, will be officially opened this afternoon by European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso.  The Convention takes place over two days in Brussels and has over 1,200 delegates in attendance.

The over arching aim of this Convention is to drive home the message that innovation is the key to sustained growth and job creation.  This is vitally important if we are to develop new goods and services that the people will use, that will help to improve the quality of our living and ensure that we can build a better society, both in a European and in a global context.  Developing a proper innovation environment is a central component of the Europe 2020 Strategy. 

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said, "We have to introduce new political and regulatory changes in Europe if we are to properly implement the objectives of the Innovation Union flagship initiative.  We must ensure that more innovative practices are introduced in both the public and private sectors in Europe.  Europe is home to the best scientists in the world but we must introduce changes so that we can properly translate new scientific breakthroughs and develop new products for the future."

The Innovation Convention is set to bring together some of the best and the brightest people from across all sectors involved in research, innovation, and science, including the following:

  • Eric Schmidt, the Executive Chairman of Google,
  • Craig Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Microsoft,
  • Michael O'Leary, Chief Executive of Ryanair,
  • Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline,
  • Jean-Paul Agon, CEO of L'Oreal,
  • Ben Verwaayen, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent,
  • Sam Pitroda, Advisor to the Prime Minister of India on Public Information Infrastructure and Innovation,
  • Prof. Sir Lescek Borysiexicz, Vice-Chancellor, Cambridge University,
  • Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairman and Managing Director of Biocon Limited, Bangalore,
  • Silvia Venturini Fendi, Creative Director, Fendi Accessories,
  • Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO,
  • Phillipe Maystadt, President  of the European Investment Bank (EIB),
  • Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, author and Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University from 1985 to 2008,
  • Will Hutton, Chair, Big Innovation Centre,
  • Dr. Henry Chesbrough, ESADE Business School, Haas School of Business-UC Berkeley,
  • Prof. Andre Geim, physicist and Nobel Laureate in Physics, 2010, University of Manchester,
  • Prof. Dr. Helga Nowotny, President of the European Research Council,
  • Don Tapscott, Chairman, Moxie Insight,
  • Vivienne Westwood, Fashion Designer,
  • Prof. Xue Lan, Executive Associate Dean of School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University,
  • Herbert Reul MEP, Chairperson of the European Parliament Committee on Industry, Technology, Research and Energy (ITRE), and
  • Leo Enright, Chairman of the Irish Government's science awareness programme.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has also pre-recorded an address that will be shown at the opening of the Convention today.  Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn will also sign a co-operation agreement between the EU and the European Investment Bank on a new Risk-Sharing Finance Facility to support higher risk and reward investment in research and innovation.

For further information, please review the following:

Innovation Union website: http://ec.europa.eu/research/innovation-union/index_en.cfm?pg=home

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn's website: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/geoghegan-quinn/index_en.htm

 
 
 
 
 
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