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Top stories
 Irish citizens tell the Commission what they think

Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding speaking at the Citizens Dialogue in Dublin on 10 January 2013In a packed City Hall in Dublin yesterday, 200 Irish citizens from across the country, and many more online via Twitter, took their opportunity to tell Vice-President of the European Commission, Viviane Reding and Minister for European Affairs, Lucinda Creighton just what they think about the EU.

Moderated by Pat Kenny of RTE, the 'Citizens’ Dialogue' gave members of the public a chance to air their views and concerns on the economic crisis, citizens’ rights in the EU and the kind of Europe they want to live in. Lively discussions saw participants question the politicians on a range of topics from the unfairness of the bailout and soaring youth unemployment, to the gender pay gap and improving EU accountability.

Ms Reding recognised that too many people are still unaware of their rights as EU citizens and that the EU needs to engage citizens better than it has done to date. "We want to change the way we do politics. We want citizens to know who and what we are voting for in the next election," she said.

Proceedings kicked off earlier in the day with the official launch of the European Year of Citizens by Commission President José Manuel Barroso, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore.

 Launch of the European Year of the Citizen 2013

Taoiseach Enda Kenny, President Barroso and Vice President Reding"2013 is the European Year of Citizens. It is also the 40th anniversary of Ireland's accession to the European Union. And for the first six months of this year, the Council of the European Union will be presided over by Ireland. So I am delighted to start the year with you here in Dublin and to open this afternoon of dialogue and debate and also to have with me my colleagues from the Commission Viviane Reding and also the Irish Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn."

European Commissioner President Barroso was speaking yesterday (Thursday) at the launch of the European Year of the Citizen 2013 in Dublin City Hall, with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore and Commission Vice-President Viviane Reding.

 Statement by President Barroso following the meeting of the European Commission with the Irish Presidency

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the Irish Presidency in Dublin on 10 JanuaryIn his statement at the press conference following the meeting of the Commission with the Irish Presidency in Dublin yesterday (Thursday), President José Manuel Barroso said he was: "convinced that having Ireland at the helm of the rotating presidency of the Council at this juncture will be good for Ireland and good for Europe."

Closing his speech he acknowledged that "these last few years have not been at all easy for the Irish people, who have had to make big sacrifices to ensure the recovery."

He added: "But I believe the commitment to reform is paying off: economic growth was stronger than expected at the end of last year, the deficit is lower than predicted and Ireland has already made a tentative return to financial markets. The successful bond auction this week is further proof that investors look favourably on Ireland's efforts.

While important challenges remain – unemployment is at unacceptable levels and the deficit is still amongst the highest in the EU – Ireland is on track to completing the programme as planned at the end of the year. The European Commission will stand by you as we have been doing throughout the crisis. In general, as you know the Commission has been supporting every measure that will improve market confidence and increase public support for the adjustment programme and we have been at your side. Personally, at the European Council together with the Taoiseach, I was always making the case for the need for solidarity with Ireland and for the need for fairness in the European Union. This is the Commission position in favour of fairness."

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 Meet the Scientists!

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn with one of the young participants at the BT Young Scientist and Technology exhibitionWant to save lives? Keen to find out more about genetic evolution? Or find out what's lurking in the nether regions of space, or in the deepest ocean trench? Dreaming of a career that offers the chance to shape the future?  Then come along to the EU stand at the BT Young Scientists Exhibition, meet the scientists and discover the many different and interesting jobs in science out there for you - the next great discovery could be yours!

Irish scientists, many of whom are working on EU funded research projects, will be on hand to answer all your weird and wonderful questions from 11am to 1pm every day and from 3pm to 5pm on Thursday and Friday. And while you are there, why not test your fishing skills with our interactive fishing game "eco Ocean" and learn about sustainable fishing and how to avoid the depletion of our fish stocks.

Free resources on the themes of biodiversity and maritime affairs and on the European Union are available. Staff from the European Commission Representation in Ireland, the Joint Research Centre (the European Commission's in-house science service) and the European Parliament Information Office in Ireland will all be on hand to answer your questions.

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 EU Commissioner for tax speaks in Dublin 'Towards more fairness and greater competitiveness'

Commissioner Algirdas ŠemetaEU Commissioner for Tax Algirdas Šemeta addressed the Institute of International and EU Affairs in Dublin today (Friday). The topic of his address was "Making progress on European Tax Policy: Towards more fairness and greater competition".

The Commissioner closed his address saying: "Taxation has a major role to play in ensuring smart consolidation and sustainable growth in the EU."

He added: "Our goal must be to make the Single Market the best place in the world to do business; to become a benchmark for competitive and efficient tax systems.

The European Union is currently designing the deepening of the Euro and the forging of a genuine Economic and Monetary Union. Taxation cannot be avoided in this debate. The day of isolated tax policy is over.

Coming closer together as a Union on tax matters reinforces every Member States' capacity to offer a sound and competitive business environment. It helps our businesses, and attracts investment. And it strengthens our common position when addressing international challenges and spreading the principle of fair taxation abroad.

I therefore strongly believe that for taxation, as for other policy areas, the answer to our current challenges lies in more Europe, not less. And I am confident that the Irish presidency will push this agenda forward."

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 EU steps up support for new entrepreneurs to create future growth

Vice President Antonio Tajani presenting the planNew plans out from the European Commission should help tackle many of the common obstacles facing budding entrepreneurs when setting up their own business. Coinciding with the publication of Eurobarometer survey revealing that 37% of Irish people aspire to be their own boss, the ‘Entrepreneurship Action Plan’ aims to boost entrepreneurship and give more support to business start-ups.

The survey, which compares attitudes to entrepreneurship in the EU and with other countries, also showed that the two greatest fears for Irish respondents when setting up a business were bankruptcy and losing their home. Ninety percent of Irish respondents (compared to an EU average of 79%) alluded to lack of available financial support and complexities of the administrative process.

The new drive seeks to tackle some of these fears and facilitate the creation of new companies by improving access to finance, making transfers of business ownership more successful and giving honest entrepreneurs a second chance after bankruptcy. As Europe struggles to deal with high levels of unemployment, the initiative stresses the importance of education and training for nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs to bring about new jobs, with a particular focus on helping young people, women, migrants and the unemployed start their own business.

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 Commission approves EUR 11 million of regional funds for update of rail cars on Dublin commuter belt

Hueston Station, DublinThe European Commission has approved an investment of over €11 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the acquisition of 33 Inter City type diesel railcars by Iarnród Éireann on the Athlone-Portlaoise-Dublin commuter belt. The high seat intensity rail cars allow the transport of a greater number of passengers in this region. The project will also improve transport connections across the Midlands region.

Commenting on the decision, Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn said “Connecting our towns and cities is a vital part of reinforcing growth in Europe's regions. Safe and reliable transport infrastructure is fundamental, not only for the smooth operation of the Union’s internal market, but also for the economic and social wellbeing of EU citizens.”

The project will improve the south-west corridor route in terms of passenger comfort and capacity.  It will also help to get rid of transport bottlenecks in the region. These railcars replace the existing 25 MK3 Push Pull sets. The project is expected to result in an increase of 7 daily services in the Border, Midlands, Western region alone.

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News in brief
 New European Cybercrime Centre launched

As from 11 January a new European Cybercrime Centre (EC3) will be up and running in the Hague.

The Centre will focus on illegal online activities carried out by organised crime groups, especially attacks targeting e-banking and other online financial activities, online child sexual exploitation and those crimes that affect the critical infrastructure and information systems in the EU. It will also facilitate research and development and ensure capacity building among law enforcement, judges and prosecutors and will produce threat assessments, including trend analyses, forecasts and early warnings. In order to dismantle more cybercrime networks and prosecute more suspects, the Centre will gather and process cybercrime related data and will provide a Cybercrime Help desk for EU countries' law enforcement units.

According to a recent Eurobarometer, Europeans remain very concerned about cyber security. 89% of European and 84% of Irish internet users avoid disclosing personal information online, and 12% or Europeans and 13% of Irish people surveyed have already experienced online fraud.

 New Eurobarometer on Air Quality: Irish people least likely to think air quality has deteriorated

SunsetAccording to a new Eurobarometer called Attitudes of Europeans towards Air Quality, Ireland has the lowest percentage (29%) of people who believe that air quality has deteriorated in the last 10 years. Across the EU, a majority (56%) believe that air quality has deteriorated in the last 10 years with numbers highest in Italy (81%). Ireland also has one of the highest percentages of people who think that air quality has improved over the last 10 years, 27% compared to an EU average of 16%.

The survey further shows that the top three threats to air quality for Irish people come from industrial activities (54%), transport activities (52%) and emissions from farms (32% - highest in Europe and double the EU average).

When asked how they would feel if a shale gas project were located in their neighbourhood, Ireland had the 3rd highest percentage of people (81%) who said that they would be concerned. The EU average was 74% with levels of concern highest in France (89%) and lowest in Poland (46%). Ireland (71% compared to EU average of 61%) also had one of the highest levels of support for the development of harmonised and consistent approaches in the EU to manage unconventional fossil fuels extraction, such as shale gas.

 CityNet – Energy efficiency project advances a promising career

More than half of the world's population now lives in cities, a figure that will continue to rise even as energy prices elevate and pressures on energy supplies grow. With a mix of real-life case studies and laboratory modelling, the EU-supported research project, CityNet, looked at how to make the cities of the future as energy efficient as possible.

The CityNet project has developed a sophisticated energy management tool for urban areas. Unlike other energy management projects that assess individual buildings or complexes, the project analysed the energy performance of entire city neighbourhoods. Additionally, CityNet looked at both demand-side issues, namely energy efficiency measures, and supply-side issues, such as the use of renewable forms of energy. 

CityNet, in which University College Dublin was one of 9 participants, also developed an online monitoring, simulation and visualisation platform to assist other researchers in their own energy management work. The platform provides live energy demand and supply data, and simulation tools for generating custom energy management scenarios.

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 Where the European Commission's humanitarian aid will go in 2013

The European Commission has just adopted its plan for the allocation of over €661 million in humanitarian aid funding for 2013. This so-called World-Wide Decision on Humanitarian Aid will be the financial backbone of the Commission's humanitarian aid operational strategy for 2013. The Commission will fund humanitarian interventions run by more than 200 of its partner organisations in nearly 80 countries or regions.

Based on an in-depth assessment of the needs of the most vulnerable populations in the world, the five largest humanitarian operations will be in the Sahel region of West Africa, including further response to the conflict in Mali (€82 million), Sudan and South Sudan (€80 million), the Democratic Republic of Congo (€54 million), Pakistan (€42 million) and Somalia (€40 million). All of these are large-scale, protracted crises resulting from conflict, food shortages or both. Geographically, the largest portion of aid will go to sub-Saharan Africa to which €344.5 million, representing 52% of the Commission's pre-programmed humanitarian funding, is targeted.

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 New action plan to combat the rising threat of antibiotic resistance

A major European and global health issue is resistance to or inappropriate use of antibiotics. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) estimates that each year, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) results in 25,000 deaths and related costs of over €1.5 billion in healthcare expenses and productivity losses. Over the last four years, there has been a significant increasing trend of combined resistance to multiple antibiotics in both Klebsiella pneumoniae and E. coli in more than one-third of the EU/EEA countries. In addition, in several Member States, between 25% and up to more than 60% of Klebsiella pneumoniae from bloodstream infections show combined resistance to multiple antibiotics.

The European Commission has adopted an action plan against the rising threats from AMR with 12 actions for implementation with EU member countries and seven areas where measures have been identified as necessary. These include: making sure antimicrobials are used appropriately in both humans and animals, preventing microbial infections and their spread, developing new effective antimicrobials or alternatives for treatment and improving communication, education and training.

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 Ireland has one of the highest proportions of innovative enterprises in the EU

The proportion of innovative enterprises in Ireland (60%) was well above the EU average between 2008 and 2010.

According to the Community Innovation Survey 20102, covering the EU27 Member States, Iceland, Norway, Croatia, Serbia and Turkey and published by Eurostat, 53% of enterprises in the EU from industry and services reported innovation activity between 2008 and 2010. Among the EU27 Member States, the highest proportions of enterprises with innovation activity were recorded in Germany (79% of enterprises), Luxembourg (68%), Belgium (61%), Portugal, Sweden and Ireland (all 60%), and the lowest in Bulgaria (27%), Poland (28%), Latvia (30%), Romania and Hungary (both 31%).

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Monday 14 to Thursday 17 January: European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg

Tuesday 15 January:  Information Seminar in Dublin on new Late Payment Directive, EU House, Dublin

Tuesday 15 to Wednesday 16 January: Feeding the World in 2050 Conference, O'Reilly Hall, University College Dublin

Thursday 17 to Friday 18 January: Informal Meeting of Ministers for Justice and Home Affairs, Dublin Castle

Sunday 20 to Monday 21 January: Informal Meeting of Ministers for European Affairs, Dublin Castle

Monday 21 January: Eurogroup meeting, Brussels

Tuesday 22 January: Meeting of Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), Brussels

Monday 28 January: Meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AGRI FISH), Brussels

Thursday 31 January:  Meeting of Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), Brussels

Wednesday 30 and Thursday 31 January: Higher Education Conference - "Rankings and the Visibility of Quality Outcomes in the European Higher Education Area", George's Hall, Dublin Castle

Wednesday 6 February: Book Launch: "Life in Post-Communist Eastern Europe after EU Membership", EU House, Dublin

Public consultations
 Public consultation on state aid rules for agriculture and forestry

A public consultation on the state aid rules applicable in the agricultural and forestry sector was opened by the European Commission on 20 December, with stakeholders invited to provide their comments in the next 3 months.

The consultation takes place in the context of the Commission's State Aid Modernisation (IP/12/458) initiative. The results from this public consultation will therefore feed into the review of the current legislation on state aid for agriculture and forestry, where the Commission is hoping to focus its controls on state aid cases that could give rise to the most significant distortions of competition in the Internal Market and to reach faster decisions.

The review will also enable the current regime to be aligned with the new rules that will be applicable to agriculture and rural development under the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, as the legal basis for state aid in the agricultural sector expires on 31 December 2013.

The deadline for submissions in this public consultation is 20 March 2013.

 Public consultation on the future development of unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas in Europe

The European Commission is holding a public consultation on the future development of unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas in Europe – often referred to as fracking.

All interested individuals, organisations and public authorities are welcome to share their views on the development of such projects and on the best ways to address the challenges identified so far.

In the past, exploration for and production of natural gas and oil in Europe focused mainly on conventional resources. While opportunities for this type of domestic extraction are becoming increasingly limited, technological advances are now opening up new possibilities for the extraction of unconventional fossil fuels such as shale gas, tight gas and coal bed methane from geological formations that were previously too complex or too expensive to exploit.

The European Commission aims to ensure that any further development of unconventional fossil fuels is carried out with the proper health, climate and environmental safeguards in place, with maximum legal clarity and predictability for citizens and operators. This will help ensure that the potential economic and energy security benefits of such developments can be reaped in a safe manner that does not compromise human health or the environment. The questions in the consultation cover issues such as broad opportunities and challenges, possible measures to reduce health and environmental risks, measures to increase the transparency of operations, and general recommendations regarding action at EU-level.

The consultation is open until 20 March 2013.

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Job opportunities
 Assistants in fields of Audit, Finances/Accountancy, Economics/Statistics

The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) has launched a competition with a view to recruiting highly-organised experienced professionals with a good command of two official languages of the EU (your native language plus English, French or German).

Succesful candidates can look forward to a long-term career at the heart of Europe, plus a competitive salary and benefits package and, if appropriate, a family allowance and relocation assistance.

The deadline for applications is 12.00 (CET) on 22 January 2013.

Further information is available at:

 Assistants in the research sector

The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's in-house science service. Operating in Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands, with a headcount of over 2800, the JRC is currently seeking laboratory assistants and technicians with the right blend of competence and experience to support the cutting-edge scientific and technological developments that underlie EU policies.

If you have several years of lab experience in Chemistry, Biology and Health Sciences, Physics and Materials Science, Nuclear Research, Civil and Mechanical Engineering, or Electrical Engineering, you could make all the difference within the JRC’s stimulating multicultural environment. In return, you can expect a lifetime of different opportunities, a competitive remuneration package, and the chance to become involved in some of the most exciting research initiatives in Europe today. For the ‘nuclear research' field, a limited number of posts will be on offer in the European Commission's Directorate-General for Energy  (DG-ENER) in Luxembourg.

To apply, you'll need to be a European citizen. In addition to your native EU official language, you'll have a good command of one of our working languages – English, French, or German. You'll need at least three years of relevant professional experience as a laboratory assistant or technician.  To learn more, visit or watch the JRC at a glance video. 

The deadline for applications is 12.00 (CET) on 22 January 2013.

Further information is available at: 

Calls for Tender
 Study on knowledge transfer and open innovation.

The overall objective of this study is to consolidate an EU-wide information base on open innovation and knowledge transfer. This includes an in-depth analysis on performance of public research organisations and higher education institutes performing research (hereafter PROs and HEIs) in knowledge transfer through new and emerging mechanisms, as well as perceptions of stakeholders on the barriers, challenges, ongoing practices and success factors as well as set of recommendations for open innovation and knowledge transfer mechanisms.

Deadline for submission of tenders: 15 February 2013

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 Study for the development and design of inducement prize competitions in key areas under Horizon 2020

New and innovative solutions are needed more than ever to address existing and emerging societal challenges. 'Ex ante' prize competitions are a proven way to achieve focus and progress in R&I through projects that are otherwise rarely pursued via normal grants and business processes in enterprises. To this end, the Commission launches a study to develop complete 'turnkey' inducement prize designs in key areas of the societal challenges. The study shall conclude with a minimum of 5 possible designs (containing proposed scenarios, rules, appropriate incentive schemes and media plans). The competition designs will have to identify advancements that are both feasible for the time-frame planned and sufficiently far from the state of the art to make them challenging. The designs developed by the study will prepare the way for running competitions in key areas under Horizon 2020.

Deadline for submission of tenders: 11 February 2013

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Spotlight on: The Irish Presidency
 Ireland in the driving seat - 01/01/2013

Irish Presidency logoEconomic stability, growth and jobs are Ireland’s priorities for the next 6 months as it takes over the EU presidency from Cyprus. This is Ireland's 7th turn at the EU helm, and by chance it coincides with the 40th anniversary of Ireland’s joining the EU. The 6-month presidency gives Ireland a chance to prioritise issues that it considers to be particularly important – in this case economic stability, jobs and growth.

Jobs & growth

Ireland will push ahead with the compact on growth and jobs – a package of measures addressing fiscal consolidation, lending, unemployment, international trade and other areas with the potential to create growth and jobs.

Other priorities include new rules

  • on the recognition of professional qualifications in other EU countries
  • modernising public procurement
  • making clear the rights of workers posted abroad within the EU.

To stimulate innovation and research, Ireland will seek to conclude negotiations on the next round of EU funding, known as the Horizon 2020 programme, and will in particular promote nanotechnology, photonics, advanced manufacturing, cloud computing and high-speed computing.

The economy

To restore confidence in the European economy, Ireland will ensure that the new EU system for economic and budgetary coordination includes a focus on fundamental issues, such as wages, wage indexation, labour market reforms, pensions, education and poverty.

EU budget

With agreement on the EU's budget for 2014-2020 eluding EU leaders in November, a new meeting will take place under the Irish presidency. Once the overall figures have been agreed, Ireland will focus on how the budget is divided between policy areas.

Ireland’s priorities here are reform of the common agricultural policy and fisheries policy, spending on research and innovation, funding for poorer EU regions and the Connecting Europe Facility, which will create growth and jobs by improving European infrastructure.

In addition to initiatives intended to promote growth and jobs, Ireland will also stress the environment, transport, new countries joining the EU, justice and support for development.

On 1 July, Ireland will hand over to Lithuania, who will hold the presidency until the end of 2013.

More on the Irish EU presidency