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Top stories
 Eyes, ears and voice on the ground: three new EU Information Centres to inform citizens

EU information publicationsThe new generation of "Europe Direct Information Centres" in Ireland has been launched. This means that the network has been extended from seven to 10 centres, giving people easy access to practical information and advice on exercising their rights in the European Union.

The three new Europe Direct Information Centres are located in Mallow (Co. Cork), Mountmellick (Co. Laois) and Tubbercurry (Co. Sligo). Centres are also located in Blanchardstown (Co. Dublin), Ballinasloe and Carraroe (Co. Galway), Dundalk (Co. Louth), Letterkenny and Gaoth Dobhair (Co. Donegal) and Waterford.

"Europe Direct Information Centres are our frontline - the public face, the eyes, ears and voice of our policies on the ground," said Barbara Nolan, Head of the EU Commission's Representation in Ireland. "The figures are staggering: the seven current Centres received over 11,000 questions last year alone. So now we are extending the network so the centres may continue to play their part in answering citizens' questions and helping to stimulate a European debate at local level."

The new centres were selected by the European Commission Representation in Ireland for a five-year period on the basis of an open competition. The centres are run by Libraries Development, Local Government Management Agency.

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 Ireland tops class in third-level education attainment

Students at workNew figures out today (Thursday) from the EU's statistical office - Eurostat - show that Ireland has the highest proportion of young people who have successfully completed third-level education in the EU. With over half of 30 to 34 year olds (51.1 per cent) having completed third level, Ireland sits well above the EU target that at least 40 per cent of the population in this age group should have higher education qualifications (tertiary or equivalent) by 2020. Across the EU, in 2012, 35.8 per cent of 30-34 year olds had completed tertiary education, compared with 34.6 per cent in the previous year.

There are still wide gender disparities though with 57.9 per cent of Irish women having completed third-level education comparing to 44 per cent of men.

 Eurotrip: First tasks completed – more challenges to come

Screengrab from Eurotrip webpageOn Monday the three Eurotrip teams successfully kicked off their trips across Europe and Ireland in Budapest and Belfast.

Team one - Sarah Kearns from Co.Clare, and Paul Tracey from Co.Limerick - and Team 2 - Dublin natives, Alex Webb and Ailbhe Kelly - were tasked with putting EU policy into practice and finding jobs in Budapest in order to demonstrate the EU's flagship free movement of labour policy. Both teams managed to land themselves work in Budapest and capture everything on video.

Meanwhile in Belfast Team 3, made up of James Mitchell from Co.Meath and Dubliner Aaron O'Connor, was challenged with the same task closer to home. Aaron successfully landed himself some work with the help of a local clothes shop

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 Commission reviews macroeconomic imbalances in 13 Member States

The Commission published yesterday (Wednesday) the findings of the in-depth reviews carried out into 13 Member States identified in last November’s Alert Mechanism Report as showing signs of macroeconomic imbalances. This does not include Programme countries, such as Ireland.

The in-depth reviews have found that the macroeconomic adjustment in Europe is proceeding, though with differences in nature and pace among Member States. The reviews point to reductions in current account deficits, convergence in unit labour costs, corrections in excessive housing prices and reductions in private sector indebtedness. However, given different challenges and imbalances, cross-country growth differences are expected to persist in the coming years.

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 EU Maritime Commissioner Damanaki in Dublin this week

Commissioner Damanaki"Oceans and seas are of vital importance to the EU, its Member States and the European citizens. They are absolutely essential for trade and free commerce. Addressing the Maritime Security in a more effective manner will require quite a drastic change in the way we operate.  In brief, we should add a security angle to the Integrated Maritime Policy. And reversely, we should offer an effective maritime dimension to the Common Security and Defence Policy." So said EU Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki in Dublin on Monday.

She was speaking at the Conference on Challenges and Opportunities in Maritime security and Surveillance for Effective Governance and Innovation in the EU's Maritime Domain.

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 EU Commission: Helping companies and consumers navigate the green maze

The European Commission is proposing EU-wide methods to measure the environmental performance of products and organisations, and encouraging Member States and the private sector to take them up.

Today, companies wanting to highlight the environmental performance of their products face numerous obstacles. They have to choose between several methods promoted by governments and private initiatives, they are often forced to pay multiple costs for providing environmental information, and they face the mistrust of consumers confused by too many labels with information that makes products difficult to compare.

This week's proposal, a Communication on Building the Single Market for Green Products and a Recommendation on the use of the methods, should bring comparable and reliable environmental information, building confidence for consumers, business partners, investors and other company stakeholders.

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 Migrant children more likely to end up in poor schools, report says

Cover of reportNewly arrived migrant children are more likely to face segregation and end up in schools with fewer resources, according to a new study conducted for the European Commission. This leads to under-performance and a high probability that the children will drop out of school early. The study suggests that Member States should provide targeted educational support for migrant children such as specialist teachers and systematic involvement of parents and communities to improve their integration.

The study examines national policies in support of newly arrived migrant children in 15 countries, including Ireland, which have seen significant recent immigration flows in recent years.

The study distinguishes 5 types of educational support systems. Ireland (country file here ) has been classified as the only country having an "Integration Model", characterised by well-developed cooperation and intercultural education policies. Liaison between school, parents and local community is systematic, while intercultural learning is well integrated into the curricula and promoted in school daily life. However, the lack of focus on linguistic support was highlighted.

Sweden and Denmark are seen to have the best model, the "Comprehensive Support" model, providing continuous support in the areas which are most relevant to the inclusion of newly arrived migrant children: linguistic support, academic support, parental involvement, intercultural education and friendly learning environment.

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News in brief
 Report shows women still under-represented in EU research

Female researcherAlthough the proportion of female researchers in Europe is increasing, the under-representation of women in scientific disciplines and careers still persists. This is the message of the latest edition of the "She Figures", published last Friday by the European Commission. Women represent only 33% of European researchers, 20% of full professors and 15.5 % of heads of institutions in the Higher Education sector.

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "Despite some advances in recent years, women in research remain a minority, and a glass ceiling is in particular blocking women from top positions. This is a serious injustice and a scandalous waste of talent. The Commission is focused on fostering gender equality in our research programmes, and working to change a deeply-rooted institutional culture.”

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 EU Commission opens investigation into MasterCard inter-bank fees

The Commission has opened formal proceedings to investigate whether MasterCard may be hindering competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) with regard to payment cards, in breach of EU antitrust rules. The Commission has concerns that some of MasterCard's inter-bank fees and related practices may be anti-competitive. An opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

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 Award-winning innovation revolutionises vaccine production

An EU-funded research project has opened up a radical new era in the world of vaccine discovery and production. Focused on veterinary vaccines, the project's work has made possible a dramatically faster and more effective route to the creation of vaccines to combat some of the most devastating diseases affecting farm livestock. The same accelerated route can be used to uncover a vast new range of urgently-needed vaccines for humans as well.

Named PLAPROVA (Plant Production of Vaccines), the project was the successful result of an unprecedented co-funding initiative between the EU and Russia, with Russia matching the €2 million of funding provided by the EU under its 7th Framework Programme. Consisting of six research teams from various EU countries, four from Russia and one from South Africa, the PLAPROVA consortium focused on the use of plants proteins to produce vaccines against diseases such as avian flu, bluetongue, foot and mouth disease, and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome.

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 Ireland records second lowest rise in labour costs in the EU

Bakers at workIreland recorded the second lowest increase in labour costs in the EU between 2008 and 2012 at 0.8%, after Portugal at 0.4%. The only decreases were observed in Greece (-11.2%) and Lithuania (-1.4%). However, labour costs in Ireland, at €29.1per hour in 2012 were still above the EU average of €23.4 and the euro area average of €28.0 per hour. The lowest labour costs in 2012 were recorded in Bulgaria at €3.7 per hour and the highest in Sweden at €39 per hour.

Between 2008 and 2012, hourly labour costs expressed in euro rose by 8.6% in the EU27 and by 8.7% in the euro area. Within the euro area, the largest increases were recorded in Austria (+15.5%), Slovakia (+13.8%), Finland (+13.7%) and Belgium (+13.1%).  For Member States outside the euro area, and expressed in national currency, the largest increases in hourly labour costs were registered in Bulgaria (+42.6%) and Romania.

Labour costs are made up of wages & salaries and non-wage costs such as employers' social contributions.

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 Commission welcomes Member States' endorsement of EU Open Data rules

The European Commission yesterday (Wednesday) welcomed the endorsement by the EU Committee of Member States' Permanent Representatives (Coreper) of the Commission's effort to open-up public sector data for re-use across Europe.

Once fully implemented into national law, the revision of the 2003 Public Sector Information Directive would make all generally accessible (that is, non-personal) public sector information available for re-use. Developers, programmers, businesses and citizens will be able to get and re-use public sector data at zero or very low cost in most cases. They will also have access to more exciting and inspirational content, for example including materials in national museums, libraries and archives. The proposed new rules now need to be formally approved by the European Parliament.

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 House prices down in the EU and Euro area

Apartment buildingHouse prices fell by 1.8% in the euro area and by 1.4% in the EU in the fourth quarter of 2012 compared with the same quarter of 2011, according to data published today (Thursday) by Eurostat.

Latvia (+9.8%), Estonia (+5.8%) and Malta (+5.4%) recorded the highest annual increases in house prices for the fourth quarter of 2012 while Spain (-12.8%), Romania (-9.1%), and Slovenia (-8.8%) recorded the largest decreases.  In Ireland, house prices were down 4.5% in the last quarter of 2012 compared to the last quarter of 2011.

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 European researchers make advances in HIV and cancer detection

A multidisciplinary EU-funded research team has successfully tested a pioneering HIV-detection technique that is ten times more sensitive than any identification method used to date. The new methodology, which offers a much simpler and cheaper naked-eye-based read-out and could be commercialised in future, has also achieved positive results in similar early detection tests for different types of cancer.

The EU-funded MIMIC project is currently working towards a breakthrough in cancer diagnostics which is based on an ultra-sensitive detection system that is able to pick up minute concentrations of disease-related molecules in body fluids. The method it uses draws on the body's natural processes of biomineralisation – the production of minerals.

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To December 2013: Exhibition: EU-Ireland at 40: Looking back over 40 years, EU House, Dublin 2 and venues around the country

Friday 12 to Saturday 13 April: Eurogroup meeting, Dublin Castle

Friday 12 to Saturday 13 April: Informal Meeting of ECOFIN Ministers, Dublin Castle

Friday 12 April: Screening of the film "A DARING GAME - Un gioco ardito: Twelve variations of the theme of Domenico Scarlatti", EU House, Dublin

Monday 15 to Thursday 18 April: European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg

Thursday 18 April: Screening of Euro-paeans – a series of short films celebrating Ireland and Europe in film, EU House, Dublin

Thursday 18 April to Friday 26 April: Slovak photography exhibition - Love Song to Slovakia, EU House, Dublin

Thursday 18 April: "Euro Crisis Roundtable", Trinity Long Room Hub, TCD

Wednesday 24 April: Public lecture - "EU enlargement in Central and Eastern Europe: Happy Ever After?" by Dr Vera Sheridan and Dr Sabina Stan (DCU), Trinity Long Room Hub, TCD

Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 April: Conference: Fostering Innovation and Strengthening Synergies within the EU, TCD, Dublin

Job Opportunities
 Reminder: Deadline for Economists competition approaches

The European Commission recently launched a competition to recruit highly-talented economists specialised in financial or macro-economics.

The deadline for applications is: 16 April 2013, 12.00 (Brussels time)

Anyone interested in applying should have at least six years' professional experience and a strong academic background, in either of the two fields.

 Vacancies at the European Medicines Agency, London

The London-based European Medicines Agency is currently advertising to fill the following positions:

  • Head of IT Development Sector
  • IT Programme Manager
  • Lead Business Architect
  • Lead Data Architect
  • Lead IT Infrastructure Architect
  • Scientist
  • Contract Staff (long-term)
  • Statistician
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Calls for Proposals
 Open call for proposals for researchers who have already been awarded an ERC grant

The ERC has launched a new funding initiative, called "Proof of Concept" open to researchers who have already been awarded an ERC grant.  ERC grant holders can apply for this additional funding to establish the innovation potential of ideas arising from their ERC-funded frontier research projects.

ERC "Proof of Concept" in brief

  • All Principal Investigators benefitting from an ERC Advanced or Starting Grant that is either ongoing, or where the project has ended less than 12 months before the publication date of an ERC Proof of Concept call. The Principal Investigator must be able to demonstrate the link between the idea and the related ERC-funded project 
  • Funding per grant: up to €150,000 
  • Duration: 12 months 
  • Calls for proposals: First deadline 24 April 2013 and Final deadline 03 October 2013
Spotlight on: Economic Governance
 The 'six pack' and 'two pack'?? New EU economic governance explained

We've all heard about the new EU rules for Member States drawing up their national budgets but it's hard to find the information in one place. Yet countries are already putting these rules into practice, including in Ireland.

Below you can see the timeline that Member States have agreed to follow. Here in Dublin's European Commission Representation, we thought you might find it useful. You can find out more on the links at the end or here.

  • November:
    1. The Commission’s "Annual Growth Survey" which sets out overall economic priorities for the EU for the following year.
    2. The "Alert Mechanism Report" identifies Member States with risks and which require an "In-Depth Review" of their economies.
  • February:
    1. The European Parliament and the Council/s of Ministers debate the Annual Growth Survey.
    2. The Commission publishes its Winter Economic Forecast.
  • March: The European Council agrees on economic priorities for the EU, based on the Annual Growth Survey.
  • April:
    1. Member States submit their "Stability/Convergence Programmes" and their "National Reform Programmes", which should be in line with the Annual Growth Survey.
    2. The Commission publishes the In-Depth Reviews and Eurostat checks the fiscal data to see that that Member States are hitting their Stability and Growth Pact targets.
  • May:
    1. The Commission proposes individual Country-Specific Recommendations based on the EU priorities and on national budget and reform plans.
    2. The Commission publishes its Spring Economic Forecast.
  • June: The European Council endorses the Country-Specific Recommendations, and EU ministers discuss them in the Council of Ministers.
  • July: European finance ministers (in the Ecofin Council) adopt the Country-Specific Recommendations.
  • October: (euro area only) Member States must submit their draft budgets for the following year to the Commission - before they are voted through in national parliaments. If the Commission finds that a draft budget is out of line with a Member State's medium-term targets, it can ask for it to be redrafted
  • December: The budgets should be adopted by national parliaments by the end of the month.


The European Commission's ideas for the future are set out in the Blueprint on a Deep and Genuine Economic and Monetary Union, published on 28 November 2012 (see IP/12/1272). The Blueprint sets out how to build on the architecture we have, step-by-step, on a more long-term basis.

The Commission has given its ideas for coordination of major structural reforms and on a how to encourage and support Member States that are carrying out difficult reforms (see IP/13/248). Further proposals will be made in the course of 2013.

Illustrative image: The European Semester timeline

Further information:

Economic Governance

European semester: a new architecture for the new EU Economic governance – Q&A

EU Economic governance "Six-Pack" enters into force

‘Two-Pack’ completes budgetary surveillance cycle for euro area and further improves economic governance

A Blueprint for a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union (EMU): Frequently Asked Questions"