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Top stories
 Ireland in the clear as Commission publishes horsemeat test results

Horses in a fieldThousands of test results from across the EU released by the European Commission on Tuesday show that Ireland is one of only five countries where no beef products tested positive for horse DNA. Launched last month in the wake of the horsemeat scandal, the EU-wide control programme was put in place to establish the degree to which beef products were contaminated by horsemeat.

The Irish Food Safety Authority (FSAI) conducted 50 tests on beef products for the survey as part of the EU-wide inspection. Of these (47 pre-packed and 3 non pre-packed), none showed positive for the presence of horsemeat.

National food inspectors were also asked to test at least one sample for every 50 tonnes of horsemeat in the food chain for veterinary drug phenylbutazone, or 'bute'. Bute is commonly used by vets as a painkilling anti-inflammatory for horses, but which can be harmful to human health in high doses. Of the 840 samples tested in Ireland, only one revealed positive traces of bute.

Across all 27 EU member states, over 7,259 tests were carried out – 4,144 for horse DNA and 3,115 for bute. Of these, 193 revealed positive traces of horsemeat DNA (4.66 per cent) and 16 (0.51 per cent) showed traces of bute.

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 EU Commission: new CAP transition rules for 2014

Harvest imageThe European Commission has today (Thursday) published proposals to provide transitional arrangements in 2014 for certain Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) rules, notably the system of Direct Payments.

Although the Commission is working intensively with the European Parliament and the Council to reach a political agreement on CAP reform it is not realistic for Member States to have all the necessary administrative procedures in place by the start of next year.

In order to ensure continuity, transitional rules are therefore required for some elements of policy, most obviously for the system of direct payments. This would mean that the existing rules of the Single Payment Scheme, the SAPS (Single Area Payment Scheme) system and payments targeted under "Article 68"will continue in the 2014 claim year

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 Statement by Vice President Rehn on Cyprus in the European Parliament

Cyprus flagIn an address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Commission Vice President Olli Rehn said: "We are about to finalise a support programme for Cyprus. It will enable Cyprus to avoid a disorderly default with all its dramatic ramifications for the Cypriot people. This marks the beginning of a joint effort to bring Cyprus onto the path of sustainable growth and job creation.

The process that led us to this agreement has been very difficult, and not without mistakes. The Cypriot authorities, the Member States and the EU Institutions had to find unique solutions to exceptional problems. They had to do so without previously tested instruments and – in the final stages of negotiations – under enormous time pressure."

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 Calling all Women Innovators!

Female researcherThe European Commission has launched the second edition of the Women Innovators Prize to reward three women who have achieved outstanding innovations and brought them to market. The Prize aims to raise awareness of the need for more female entrepreneurs and to inspire other women to follow in their footsteps. The first prize is worth €100 000, the second prize €50 000 and third prize €25 000.

The contest is open to all women who have founded or co-founded their company and who have at some point of their careers benefitted from the EU's research framework programmes or the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme.

The deadline for applying is 15 October 2013. An independent panel of judges from business and academia will examine and select the three winners who will be announced in spring 2014.

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 5 Tasks- 5 EU Countries- 6 days: Eurotrip Citizen X participants make it back to Dublin

The Eurotrip finalists arriving back in Dublin AirportOn Friday April 12th, after six days of intense travelling and city hopping, the three teams of Eurotrip Citizen X participants made it back home to Irish soil after completing their final task in Brussels.  While in Brussels, they also met Irish European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.

Team One, Sarah Kearns (Co.Clare) and Paul Tracey (Co.Limerick) and Team Two Alexandra Webb and Ailbhe Kelly (Dublin) travelled from Dublin to Budapest last Monday April 7th, and made their way to Brussels via Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, and Frankfurt completing tasks along the way. Paul from Caherdavin, Co. Limerick said "Eurotrip was easily one of the best experiences of my life. I met some great people and had an amazing adventure.

And his travelling partner Sarah from Sixmilebridge Co. Clare said " Eurotrip 2013 was such a challenging yet rewarding adventure, it was a once in a lifetime experience and one I will never forget. I will look back on it with so many fond memories and I’m glad I got to share it with 5 amazing people. If anyone is thinking of applying next year I’d say go for it. You certainly won’t regret it."

Dublin duo Alex and Ailbhe from team two had this to say about their Eurotrip experience "It was one of the most intense weeks of our lives but full of fun and we learned something new and interest every day!"

Team Three, James Mitchell (Meath), and Aaron O'Connor (Dublin) had a more local journey, travelling from Belfast to Newry, Dundalk, Athenry, Dublin and then to a final destination of Brussels. James Mitchell said, "Being part of Eurotrip 2013 was a once in a lifetime experience. Brussels was the best part of the trip: It's an amazing city, and everyone is really friendly! I'd really recommend that anyone who loves an adventure and a challenge should apply to Eurotrip"

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 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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 Strengthening Europe's preparedness against natural and man-made disasters

Map showing projected rainfall in Europe 2071–2100The European Commission on Tuesday presented a new EU strategy on adaptation to climate change. This sets out a framework and mechanisms for taking the EU's preparedness for current and future climate impacts to a new level. On the same date, the Commission also published a series of maps showing projections for climate change in Europe.

The strategy focuses on three key objectives:

  • Promoting action by Member States: The Commission will encourage all Member States to adopt comprehensive adaptation strategies (currently 15 have strategies) and will provide funding to help them build up their adaptation capacities and take action.  
  • 'Climate-proofing' action at EU level by further promoting adaptation in key vulnerable sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and cohesion policy, ensuring that Europe's infrastructure is made more resilient, and promoting the use of insurance against natural and man-made disasters.
  • Better informed decision-making by addressing gaps in knowledge about adaptation and further developing the European climate adaptation platform (Climate-ADAPT) as the 'one-stop shop' for adaptation information in Europe.

The Communication setting out the adaptation strategy is addressed to the other EU institutions for their responses. The Commission will hold a stakeholder conference on the strategy on 29 April in Brussels.

 Dublin schoolgirl picks up top EU translation prize

Maeve Walsh with the Director General for Translation Rytis Martikonis and Androulla Vassiliou, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and YouthMaeve Walsh of Loreto High School Beaufort in Dublin has collected her trophy as the Irish winner of the Commission's annual Juvenes Translatores contest for young translators. Maeve was one of 27 teenage winners in Brussels yesterday to receive their prestigious award from Androulla Vassiliou, EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth.

More than 3,000 pupils aged 17, from 750 schools across the 27 EU member states, sat the contest. One winner was selected for each country. Each had two hours to translate a one-page text from an EU official language of their choice into another. Maeve chose to translate from Irish into English and her translation was judged to be the best from all entries received from the 12 Irish schools taking part. As well as attending the prize-giving ceremony, Maeve also met the national winners from each of the other EU countries and had a chance to see the Commission’s translators at work.

The results were marked by Commission translators who shared their impressions in this video: . One winner was selected for each Member State.

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News in brief
 Trafficking in human beings: more victims in the EU but Member states slow to respond

According to the first report on trafficking in human beings in Europe, published earlier this week by the European Commission, 23,632 people were identified or presumed victims of trafficking in the EU over the 2008-2010 period. The report also highlights that the number of people being trafficked in and to the EU increased by 18% from 2008 to 2010, but fewer traffickers end up behind bars, since convictions decreased by 13% over the same period.

In Ireland, the number of people trafficked rose from 66 (of which 57 were female and 17 were minors) in 2009 to 78 in 2010 (of which 61 were female and 19 were minors). The majority of the victims in Ireland in 2010 were trafficked for sexual exploitation (56). Trafficking for forced labour (19) came second and trafficking in other forms such as trafficking for criminal activities, including begging, followed with much smaller numbers (3). 

The report also shows that 9 suspected traffickers in 2010 held Irish citizenship. However, no Irish citizens were prosecuted for trafficking between 2008 and 2010. In fact there were no convicted traffickers in Ireland for the 2008 to 2010 period.

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 New EU rules for safer and more environmental lorries

Image of aerodynamic lorryThe European Commission this week proposed new rules to allow manufacturers to develop more aerodynamic lorries which will reduce fuel consumption by 7-10%, cut emissions of greenhouse gases, and also enhance the safety of vulnerable road users.

The proposal will allow cabins with a rounded shape and for the use of aerodynamic flaps at the back the trailer. These measures will considerably improve the aerodynamics of vehicles, saving approximately € 5,000 per year in fuel costs for a typical long-distance lorry covering 100,000 km. This represents a 7–10% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (or 7.8 tonnes of CO2 for the same long-distance lorry covering 100,000 km). At the same time, the field of vision of the driver will be improved, helping to save the lives of 300 to 500 vulnerable road users such as pedestrians or cyclists every year.

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 New classification and labelling of chemicals

Chemical symbols pictogramThe classification and labelling of chemicals is changing! New pictograms with a white background are replacing the orange ones in the EU.

Products containing these labels may cause harm if not handled correctly. Make sure you learn what the labels mean and read the instructions to ensure safe use.

Check how well you know the symbols on this interactive quiz.

 UK, Spain and Portugal top destinations for trips abroad for Irish residents in 2011

In 2011, Irish residents made 10.9 million holiday trips of which 43% were outside Ireland. The United Kingdom was the top foreign destination (34% of all outbound trips) followed by Spain (25%) and Portugal (7%).

Overall, EU residents made 1.0 billion holiday trips in 2011, of which around one quarter were trips outside the country of residence (outbound trips). Spain was the top foreign destination of EU residents in 2011 (13% of all outbound trips), followed by Italy and France (both 9%). It should be noted that these figures refer to trips made by EU residents. They do not include trips made by non EU residents to the EU.

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 Car body parts that store electricity!

An EU-funded research project is looking at how lightweight carbon composite body parts that also store electricity could be used in electric cars. Powering a car with batteries is basically a question of numbers. The more you have, the further you can expect it to go. However, larger batteries do not necessarily bring more mileage. Their sheer weight and size can cancel out power gains and limit performance; a battery in a 1200 kg Tesla Roadster weighs in at a hefty 450 kg.

Reducing weight is therefore a key factor in determining the final performance of any electric vehicle, and the project has already shown quite how much weight might be saved using this material. Carbon composites are already being used in products such as sports equipment, aircraft and some high-performance sports cars to provide strength and reduce weight in the products.

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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

Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 April: Informal Environment Council, Dublin

Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 April: Informal Energy Council, Dublin

Tuesday 23 April: "Its our Europe: Let's get active!" - interactive event with the European Ombudsman to help focus on European citizens and how they can concretely contribute to shaping the European Union, European Parliament Office, Molesworth Street, Dublin

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

Wednesday 1 and Friday 3 May: Informal Competitiveness Council, Dublin

Tuesday 7 and Wednesday 8 May:  Strategic Energy Technology Plan Conference 2013, Dublin

Monday 13 to Wednesday 15 May: High Level e-Health Conference, Dublin Castle

Job Opportunities
 Open competition for Food Safety Experts

The European Commission is looking for highly-talented food safety experts specialised in either policy and legislation or audit, inspection and evaluation.

For the policy officer role, you will need to have at least three years' experience in the food safety, nutrition, animal health, animal welfare or plant health fields, focusing mainly on developing policy or legislation, and managing or implementing existing legislation.

For the audit/inspection/evaluation role, you will need at least six years' experience in similar roles, with particular emphasis on conducting audit, inspection and evaluation. Experience in the implementation of related EU legislation, or of relevant quality management systems would be an asset. We are also looking for those with experience in audit, inspection and evaluation in the area of active pharmaceutical ingredients, medical devices and clinical trials for human medicines.

The policy officers will be based mainly in Brussels or Luxembourg and the inspectors/auditors will work out of the Food and Veterinary Office in Grange (Ireland), but the work extends throughout Europe and the world.

The deadline for applications is 22 May 2013, 12.00 (Brussels time).

Public consultations
 Public consultation on Insurance of Natural and Man-made Disasters

The European Commission launched on 16 April a consultation (green paper) on the Insurance of Natural and Man-made Disasters.

The Green Paper poses a number of questions concerning the adequacy and availability of appropriate disaster insurance. The objective is to raise awareness and to assess whether or not action at EU level could be appropriate or warranted to improve the market for disaster insurance in the European Union. More generally, this process will also expand the knowledge base, help to promote insurance as a tool of disaster management and thus contribute to a shift towards a general culture of disaster risk prevention and mitigation.

All citizens and organisations are welcome to contribute to this consultation. Contributions are particularly sought from consumers, market participants, academia, national governments and national competent authorities.

The consultation runs until 30 June 2013.

Spotlight on: Last weekend's Eurogroup and Ecofin meetings
 Last weekend's Eurogroup and Ecofin Informal Councils in Dublin

Commission Vice President Olli Rehn, Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, ECB Chief Mario Draghi and Head of the EFSMA Gathering of European Union finance ministers and central bank governors at Dublin Castle on April 12-13 resulted in some good news for Ireland on the financial front.

The informal ECOFIN meetings were hosted in the Irish capital as part of the State’s responsibilities under the Irish Presidency of the EU and agreement was reached on a major step towards helping Ireland exit the EU-IMF rescue programme on schedule later this year.

At the first meeting, attended only by Eurogroup finance ministers, it was agreed in principal to increase the average maturities of loans made under the rescue programme by seven years.

This will reduce the country’s financing needs over the next few years and should smooth Ireland’s path back to the financial markets from which it was forced to exit when the financial crisis struck.

Portugal will also benefit from the proposed agreement, which was endorsed, as required, at a second meeting attended by all ECOFIN minsters, including those from member states not using the euro currency.

The agreement to lengthen maturities of loans to Ireland through the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) and the European Financial Stability Mechanism (ESFM) means that the amount of money Ireland needs to borrow over the next seven years will be less.

And that’s expected to make Ireland more attractive to private investors so the country can trade in the financial markets at sustainable rates.

The proposed agreement will now be put forward to a formal ECOFIN meeting due to be held in May, where it’s expected to be rubber stamped.

Vice-President of the European Commission and member of the Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn, who also attended the summit at Dublin Castle, described the agreement as “a very important step”.

“It will help to facilitate a sustained return to full market financing and a successful programme exit for Ireland and Portugal,” he said.

Lengthening maturities of the EFSF and ESFM loans is dependent on Ireland continuing to successfully implement its rescue programme, something the Irish Government was widely praised for during the two day summit.

The Dublin meetings also made significant progress on the important topic of a European banking union, an issue that’s been earmarked as a priority by the Irish Presidency.

A Eurozone banking union is seen as essential in reversing financial fragmentation in Europe and preserving the integrity of the Single Market.

“It is also critical to ensure economic recovery and underpin the smooth functioning of the Economic and Monetary Union,” added European Commission Vice President Rehn.

“A banking union will reinforce financial stability by assuring more uniform and high-quality arrangements for the supervision and resolution of banks. It will further reinforce financial stability by diluting the link between banks and their national sovereign.

“Accordingly, the Commission believes that the timeline for establishing a banking union should be as short as possible.”

The fministers also discussed advancement of the main elements of a future new instrument for direct bank recapitalisation by the ESM - a permanent financial crisis resolution mechanism for Eurozone member states that entered into force last year.

Following these discussions, it’s now hoped operational framework for direct bank recapitalisation through the ESM will be ready in June, before the end of the Irish Presidency.

Financing options for economic growth were also discussed during the ECOFIN meetings, something Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, described as “critical” in terms of driving economic growth and generating employment.

“This two day meeting of EU finance ministers has made significant progress towards Ireland's Presidency objectives of stability, jobs and growth,” he said.

Further information

Olli Rehn welcomes extension of maturities for Ireland 

Statement by the Eurogroup and Ecofin Ministers