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Top stories
 Bees and Pesticides: EU Commission to proceed with plan to better protect bees

BeeThe collapse of bee populations threatens plant pollination and food production Europe-wide. The problem is increasingly held to be caused by certain pesticides, so the Commission has proposed reducing their use. This week, EU Member State experts did not reach a qualified majority – either in favour or against - a Commission proposal to restrict the use of 3 neonicotinoid insecticides in a vote last Monday. It is now for the Commission to decide on the adoption of the proposed restriction.

The proposal restricts the use of 3 neonicotinoids (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for seed treatment, soil application (granules) and foliar treatment on bee attractive plants and cereals.

In addition, the remaining authorised uses are available only to professionals.

Exceptions will be limited to the possibility to treat bee-attractive crops in greenhouses, in open-air fields only after flowering.

The restrictions will apply from 1 December 2013.

As soon as new information is available, and at the latest within 2 years, the Commission will review the conditions of approval of the 3 neonicotinoids to take into account relevant scientific and technical developments.

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 EU 'Month of the Brain' - €150 million for brain research

Promotional imageWhether it’s Alzheimers, Parkinsons or trauma from an accident, one in three Europeans is likely to be affected by brain-related illness at some point in their lives.

Since 2007, the EU has spent almost €2 billion on research into fighting brain disease and understanding neuroscience better. To raise awareness of EU research into neuroscience and human cognition, Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, has declared May 2013 as 'EU Month of the Brain’ (#brainmonth).

To mark this, the Commission is putting €150 million into 20 new international brain research projects. There will be 50 special conferences and events across Europe this May, including one on 27/28 May in Dublin.

Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "One in three Europeans is likely to be affected by brain-related disease or illness during their lifetime. Treating those affected is already costing us €1.5 million every minute and this burden on our healthcare systems is likely to rise as our population ages. Brain research could help alleviate the suffering of millions of patients and those that care for them. Unlocking the secrets of how the brain works could also open up a whole new universe of services and products for our economies."

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 Spotlight on Africa's life source – first Soil Atlas of Africa

Image of the AtlasMap enthusiasts and Africa watchers will love the EU Commission's first SOIL ATLAS OF AFRICA, published last Friday. The first ever soil atlas for Africa uses striking maps, state-of-the-art computer mapping and stunning photographs to show the changing nature and special qualities of African soil.

More than just a normal atlas, this unique collaboration looks at how the soil in Africa relates to both local and global issues. It discusses the main threats to soil and the steps being taken to protect it. The Soil Atlas is a joint project of the EU's science and research service, the UN's FAO and African soil scientists. Up to now, there has been little up-to-date information of Africa's soil available, making it difficult to have good policies in place.

Some key facts from the atlas:

  • 98% of all calories consumed in Africa originate from the soil resources of Africa.
  • 60% of Africa's soil is desert or drylands.
  • Africa's soils store about 200 gigatonnes of organic carbon - 2.5 times more than contained in the continent's plants. 
  • Tropical rainforest soils are not naturally fertile but need a constant supply of organic matter from natural vegetation. Deforestation breaks this cycle.
  • In many parts of Africa, the soil of Africa is severely damaged by erosion and excessive nutrient depletion. Soils are losing nutrients faster than fertilisers can be added.
  • On average, African farmers, due to rural poverty, are able to apply only 10% of the nutrients that farmers in the rest of the world return to the soil.
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 Commission puts forward proposals to make it even easier for Europeans to go and work in another EU country

Finalist in 2012 Eurotrip looking for work in StockholmEU citizens have a right to live and work in another EU country. That fundamental right benefits individual workers but also, through their skills, the economies of the countries where they go to work. EU nationals working in another EU country should, in theory, enjoy equal treatment with locals in access to jobs, working conditions, social welfare and tax.

But in practice, many of the 10.7 million EU migrant workers face a range of discriminatory practices. For example, governments or businesses may set discriminatory recruitment rules, quotas, or nationality requirements for specific types of jobs. Pay and promotion rules might not be the same as for nationals. Experience and professional qualifications might not be recognised in the same way, if at all. These barriers serve to make more people reluctant to go and work in another EU country.

In response the Commission is proposing measures to make it easier for workers to exercise their EU work rights. The measures would require EU countries to:

  • provide official channels for EU migrant workers – and their employers – to get information, assistance and advice about these rights 
  • establish means of redress when workers from other EU countries are discriminated against 
  • allow labour unions and other organisations to launch administrative or legal procedures on behalf of individuals whose rights are not upheld.
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News in brief
 ECB reduces interest rates

At today’s meeting, which was held in Bratislava, the Governing Council of the ECB took the following monetary policy decisions:

  • The interest rate on the main refinancing operations of the Eurosystem will be decreased by 25 basis points to 0.50%, starting from the operation to be settled on 8 May 2013.
  • The interest rate on the marginal lending facility will be decreased by 50 basis points to 1.00%, with effect from 8 May 2013.
  • The interest rate on the deposit facility will remain unchanged at 0.00%
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 Eurostat figures on taxation trends in the European Union

According to figures released earlier this week by Eurostat, Ireland at 28.9% had the sixth lowest total tax-to-GDP ratio in the EU (after Lithuania (26.0%), Bulgaria (27.2%), Latvia (27.6%), Romania (28.2%), Slovakia (28.5%)). This was down from 32.1% in 2006. The overall tax-to-GDP ratio, meaning the sum of taxes and social contributions in % of GDP, in the EU stood at 38.8% in 2011, from 38.3% in 2010 and 38.4% in 2009. The overall tax ratio in the euro area increased to 39.5% in 2011, up from 39.0% in 2010 and 39.1% in 2009.

The GDP-weighted average implicit tax rate on labour in the EU27 was 35.8% in 2011. Ireland was well below the EU average at 28%. The lowest rates were in Malta (22.7%), Bulgaria (24.6%), Portugal (25.5%), and the United Kingdom (26.0%), and the highest were in Belgium (42.8%), Italy (42.3%), and Austria (40.8%).

The average implicit tax rate on consumption in the EU27 was 20.1% in 2011. Ireland was a little above the EU average at 22.1%. Implicit tax rates on consumption were lowest in 2011 in Spain (14.0%), Greece (16.3%), Latvia (17.2%) and Italy (17.4%), and highest in Denmark (31.4%), Sweden (27.3%), Luxembourg (27.2%), Hungary (26.8%) and Finland (26.4%).

The average top corporate tax rate in the EU27 is 23.5% in 2013, slightly higher than in 2012. The highest statutory tax rates on 2013 corporate income are recorded in France (36.1%), Malta (35.0%) and Belgium (34.0%), and the lowest in Bulgaria and Cyprus (both 10.0%) and Ireland (12.5%).

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 Tougher rules to prevent chemicals being diverted to illegal drug production

New rules to ensure that chemicals used in industrial processes, such as manufacturing plastics, textiles, aspirin, flu and allergy remedies, dyes and perfumes, are not diverted to the illegal production of heroin, speed or crack have been adopted by the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee and by the International Trade Committee.

Civil Liberties MEPs backed a proposal to require companies using acetic anhydride (AA), a chemical precursor widely used in industry to manufacture products including plastics, aspirin, dyes and textiles, to register with the authorities.

Currently, only companies producing or trading AA have to register but not those using it in their products. This leaves open a loophole allowing criminals to divert large quantities of the chemical, which is the main drug precursor for heroin, from legitimate trade within the EU. In 2008, 75% of the global seizures of trafficked AA occurred in EU countries.

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 Dog genes offer keys to human disease

For Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, Professor of Comparative Genomics at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, news that the EU was to provide funding for a project aimed at using research into canine genetics as a kind of 'fast-track' to help provide cures for many important human diseases marked the achievement of a long-held ambition. Dogs suffer from many of the same diseases as humans, including cancer, heart and lung disorders, epilepsy, diabetes, and skin problems. But in dogs these diseases are genetically much simpler to study than in humans. If researchers could understand these simpler canine genetics, not only would it help reduce the high level of inherited canine disease, but the implications for human medicine would be incredibly exciting as well.

The LUPA project brought together partners from 12 European countries, including Ireland, and received just under €12 million in EU research funding. In a major feat of organisation and coordination, the group collected 10,000 DNA samples from purebred dogs from a number of specifically chosen breeds. The focus was on purebred animals because they offer the greatest simplicity in genetic terms.

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

Thursday 2 May: Conference on the Social Investment Package, Institute for Ireland in Europe, Leuven, Belgium (to be addressed by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton TD)

Friday 3 May: Conference - The Future Role of the EU Structural Funds to Assist the Transition to Community Living for Older People and Persons with Disabilities, Centre for Disability, Law and Policy, NUI Galway

Friday 3 May: World Press Freedom Day event: Media and Intercultural Relations in the Euro-Mediterranean Region, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin Castle

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

Wednesday 8 to Thursday 9 May: European Parliament plenary session, Brussels

Wednesday 8 to Friday 10 May: Future Internet Assembly 2013, Dublin City University

Wednesday 8 to Friday 10 May: European Forum on Architectural Policies, Dublin Castle

Thursday 9 May: Europe Day 2013: A Taste of Europe, EU House, Dublin

Thursday 9 to Friday 10 May: Conference on equality, fundamental rights and the rule of law, Farmleigh House, Dublin

Friday 10 May: Europe Week Conference, Dublin Castle

Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 May: Health Hack Dublin 2013, Ballsbridge, Dublin

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

Monday 13 May: Eurogroup meeting, Brussels

Monday 13 to Wednesday 15 May 2013: eHealth Week 2013, Dublin

Monday 13 and Tuesday 14 May: Agriculture and Fisheries Council, Brussels

Tuesday 14 May: European Brain Research Conference, Brussels

Tuesday 14 May: Economic and Financial Affairs Council, Brussels

Tuesday 14 May: Launch of the Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs Programme – Dublin, EU House, Dublin

Tuesday 14 to Wednesday 15 May: Researcher Careers & Mobility Conference, Dublin Castle

Tuesday 14 and Wednesday 15 May: Conference: Researchers careers and mobility, Royal Hospital, Kilmainham, Dublin

Wednesday 15 May: TCD EURO-VISIONS Lecture: “Collateral Roadkill: The death of ‘Central Europe’ as a concept somewhere Sarajevo and Brussels (Prof Clemens Ruthner, TCD), Trinity Long Room Hub, TCD, Dublin

Thursday 16 May: InterTradeIreland: Collaborate to Innovate Conference, Croke Park, Dublin

Thursday 16 May: Lecture on “Responsible Capitalism", EU House, Dublin

Thursday 16 to Friday 17 May: European Company Law and Corporate Governance Conference, Convention Centre, Dublin

Monday 27 to Tuesday 28 May 2013: Conference - Healthy brain: healthy Europe, Dublin

Monday 27 May to Friday 21 June: Exhibition - Charles de Gaulle : 'A Quiet Holiday', EU House, Dublin

Job Opportunities
 European School in Brussels recruiting English mother tongue secondary teachers

The European School Brussels (secondary school) is looking to recruit English mother tongue teachers for the following subjects:

  • English
  • Chemistry
  • Physics and Mathematics
  • Geography and Human Sciences
  • Music

The appointments are fixed term contracts (one year) as a locally recruited teacher for the school year 2013-2014 and should start as from 2 September 2013.

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Calls for tender
 Call for tenders for the supply of vehicles with driver and drivers (26/04/2013)

The European Commission Representation in Ireland has issued a call for tenders for the supply of vehicles with driver and drivers to drive its own official vehicles.

The estimated maximum budget attributed to this project is €15,000 (excl. VAT).

If you are interested in this tender, please ask for the tender documents by sending an email to before 8th May 2013.

Public consultations
 Public consultation on new film support rules

The European Commission has launched the third and final public consultation in its review of the state aid criteria it uses to assess Member States' support schemes for films and other audiovisual works.

The Commission proposes to continue allowing Member States to impose territorial spending obligations up to 80% of the overall production budget. However, restrictions on the origin of goods and services, which are incompatible with the basic principles of the EU Single Market, would be clearly prohibited. Compared to the previous rules adopted in 2001, the new draft ensures proportionality of territorial obligations with the aid granted and takes into account the specific characteristics of tax incentives.

The revised draft Communication and other information about the public consultation are published at: .

Comments should be sent by 28 May 2013 to:

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Spotlight on: Finance for SMEs
 Improving access to finance for SMEs: key to economic recovery

Vice President TajaniAs the Informal Competitiveness Council takes place in Dublin today and tomorrow, the Commission has published a joint report with the EIB on access to finance for SMEs.

Launched today ahead of a visit to Dublin by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani, (Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship), the report comes at a time when the situation remains difficult and reveals that the EIB Group's support for European SMEs reached € 13 billion in 2012.

In addition, with a budget of € 1.1 billion, Commission-funded guarantees (in the form of the European Investment Fund) helped to mobilise loans worth more than € 13 billion, boosting nearly 220 000 small businesses across Europe.

A fact sheet for Ireland on EIB and EIF funding is available here.


Today´s report covers the results of the current funding schemes as well as the new generation of financial instruments for SMEs. Financial resources for SMEs will be significantly enhanced through the increase of the capital in the EIB with €10 billion.

As part of the Commission’s continuing efforts to support SMEs, Vice President Tajani, responsible for enterprise and industry policy, today also launched a new single online portal on all EU financial instruments for SMEs as well an information guide to promote SME stock listings, at a meeting of the SME Finance Forum on the eve of an Informal Competitiveness Council on 2 and 3 May in Dublin.

Vice President Tajani, said: "Access to finance of SMEs remains difficult and is one of the main reasons for the current economic downturn. Therefore we intend to enlarge our loan guarantees to SMEs under the new COSME programme as of 2014. Each euro dedicated to our guarantees has a power to stimulate - on average – 30 Euros in bank loans This is crucial to help Europe's job engine, our small enterprises to run smoothly again. It is them who create 85% of all new jobs."

Almost 220,000 SMEs profited from Commission CIP programme

With a budget of €1.1 billion, the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP) has helped to mobilise over €13 billion of loans and €2.3 billion of venture capital for SMEs across Europe. Under its SME guarantee facility, CIP has helped nearly 220,000 SMEs to access loans. These loan guarantees are used in cases where the entrepreneur or the small enterprises do not have sufficient collateral to offer and the bank will not provide a loan. 90% of the beneficiaries have 10 or less employees and this is the category that has most difficulties to get a loan. The average guaranteed loan is about €65, 000.

Each euro dedicated to CIP guarantees has a power to mobilise - on average – 30 Euros in bank loans. As a result, with a limited budget of €1.1 billion, CIP was able to stimulate so far more than €15 billion of financing for SMEs.
Single access point to all EU financial instruments for SMEs

The new single access point provides simple and easy access to over €100 billion of EU financing available under the different EU programmes in the current programme period (2007-2013). Europe is providing a mix of flexible financial instruments under programmes such as the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme (CIP), Progress Microfinance, the Risk Sharing Instrument (FP7), EIB loans and Structural Funds.

Better access to equity markets – promotion of SME listings

The European Commission launched today also a targeted information campaign to promote SME listings and stimulate investors’ interest in SMEs and mid-caps. To this end the Commission published a web-based information guide for SME stock listings. This tool provides advice to small and medium-sized businesses on how to go public.

It will be combined with the creation of an award to reward the best European stock market listings among small and mid-cap companies.

Further information

MEMO/13/393: Improving access to finance for SMEs: key to economic recovery

The new single access point to all EU financial instruments for SMEs

Guide to promote SME stock exchange listings

The EIB/Commission report