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14/02/2013

Top stories
 Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner proposes a coordinated control plan on horsemeat for EU countries

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Simon Coveney called a meeting yesterday evening of Agriculture Ministers from EU countries affected by the horsemeat crisis and the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg.

In his statement following the meeting, Commissioner Borg underlined that: "the evidence to date in relation to this episode does not suggest a health crisis. Horsemeat, according to EU legislation, can be used for the production of minced meat and meat preparations. However, it has to be declared on the label – the animal species must be indicated on the label of minced meat or meat preparations intended for the final consumer. The issue before us today is therefore overwhelmingly one of fraudulent labelling rather than one of safety."

He went on to outline a proposal for a coordinated control plan for Member States that will be discussed at tomorrow's (Friday) extraordinary meeting of the Standing Committee of the Food Chain and Animal health.

 
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 EU and US to launch negotiations for a Transatlantic Trade Partnership

Joint press conference by Commission President José Manuel Barroso and EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment PartnershipThe European Union and the United States have decided to take their economic relationship to a higher level by agreeing to launch negotiations for a comprehensive trade and investment agreement. When negotiations are completed, this EU-US agreement would be the biggest bilateral trade deal ever negotiated – and it could add 0.5% to the EU's annual economic output.

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will aim to go beyond the classic approach of removing tariffs and opening markets on investment, services and public procurement. In addition, it will focus on aligning rules and technical product standards which currently form the most important barrier to transatlantic trade. Studies show that the additional cost burden due to such regulatory differences is equivalent to a tariff of more than 10%, and even 20% for some sectors, whereas classic tariffs are at around 4%.

Together, the European Union and the Unites States account for about half of the world GDP (47%) and one third of global trade flows. Each day goods and services of almost € 2 billion are traded bilaterally, contributing to creating jobs and growth in our economies. Latest estimates show that a comprehensive and ambitious agreement between the EU and the US could bring overall annual gains of 0.5% increase in GDP for the EU and a 0.4% increase in GDP for the US by 2027. This would be equivalent to €86 billion of added annual income to the EU economy and €65 billion of added annual income for the US economy

 
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 Irish energy consumption down by 12% between 2008 and 2011

Electric plugEnergy consumption in Ireland decreased by 12 per cent between 2008 and 2011. This is the second largest drop in the EU according to figures issued today by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. The figures also show that Ireland is one of the most energy dependent countries in the EU with almost 89 per cent imports.

The Irish figures are in line with the EU as a whole where the economic slowdown observed since the beginning of the financial crisis is also visible in the evolution of energy consumption. Gross inland energy consumption in the EU27 fell from a level of 1,800 million tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) in 2008, to 1,700 mn toe in 2009, increased to 1,760 mn toe in 2010 and then fell again to 1,700 mn toe in 2011. Between 2008 and 2011, energy consumption in the EU27 has decreased by 6%.

The energy dependence rate, defined as net imports divided by gross consumption, and which shows the extent to which a country is dependent on energy imports, was 54% in the EU27 in 2011, nearly stable since 2008.

 
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 Investing in our future: Good examples of EU funded projects

Image of Waterbee irrigation projectThe European Union budget is relatively small (around 1% of EU GDP), but it can make a big difference. Around 94% of the EU budget supports researchers, businesses, farmers, regions, young people and lots more.

People are often unaware of EU projects on the ground and what they do. But click on this link and you will see some examples of how EU money is supporting great projects. First and foremost, you can see some projects which are taking place right here at home in Ireland. Further down you can check out some important things EU funds are spent on around Europe.

From cancer research to making our cities better places to live, from supporting local farmers to giving the unemployed a chance to re-train – the interactive links will give you more details on each one.

 
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 Financial Transaction Tax: EU Commission sets out the details

Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner responsible for TaxationThe details of the Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) to be implemented under enhanced cooperation have been set out in a proposal adopted by the Commission today. As requested by the 11 Member States (France, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Slovenia, Portugal, Greece, Slovakia, Italy, Spain, Estonia) that will proceed with this tax, the proposed Directive mirrors the scope and objectives of the original FTT proposal put forward by the Commission in September 2011.

The approach of taxing all transactions with an established link to the FTT-zone is maintained, as are the rates of 0.1% for shares and bonds and 0.01% for derivatives.

 
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 Irish SME leads the way in making kidney transplants safer

All too often, kidney transplants fail because the body rejects the donor organ. But an Irish-led European research project appears to be overcoming many of the problems linked to organ rejection with a new drug. The EU-funded project, MABSOT, is developing a drug to reduce the inflammatory reactions and the rejection that affects transplants.

The project is the result of the collaboration by nine European research and clinical groups under the banner of MABSOT, or Monoclonal Antibody Solid Organ Transplantation. It aims to develop a drug, OPN-305, to treat delayed graft function, which is defined as the need for dialysis in the first week after surgery. Delayed graft function occurs in 40% to 60% of patients receiving a transplant from higher risk donors but OPN-305, an antibody developed to reduce inflammation, could lessen this complication. 

The MABSOT consortium is led by Opsona Therapeutics, an Irish drug development SME spun-out from Trinity College Dublin, which last year won an Outstanding Achievement Award at Ireland’s Champions of EU Research event.

 
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News in brief
 Immune cells in 'love handles' could provide immunity against obesity

Three Irish Marie Curie Research Fellows have uncovered a potential ally in the fight against obesity, together with a team of international researchers. The ally, found in our 'love handles', is a type of anti-tumour immune cell which protects against obesity and the metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes. Their results indicate that the invariant natural killer T-cells (iNKT) - which are vital for immunity - are lost when humans become obese, but can be restored through weight loss. As a result of their discovery they were able to show that therapies that activate iNKT cells could help manage obesity, diabetes and metabolic disease.

Dr Lydia Lynch of Trinity College Dublin, Consultant Endocrinologist at St Vincent's University Hospital Professor Donal O'Shea, and Trinity's Professor of Comparative Immunology Cliona O'Farrelly, have discovered iNKT cells in human omental fat, which up until now had been considered rare in humans. Omental fat is the layer of tissue that lies underneath the muscles in the stomach - commonly referred to as the beer gut or love handles.

Click here mp3 - 189 KB [189 KB] to listen to Professor Donal O'Shea explain more.

 
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 Just out! General Report on the Activities of the European Union 2012

Image from cover of reportDo you want to know what the European Union did in 2012? Which decisions the EU took to counteract the financial and economic crisis? What was done to help boost growth and preserve and create jobs? How European citizens benefited from the Union? What contribution the Union made on the international scene?

Now you can find all the answers in the 2012 General Report. The General Report is published every year by the European Commission and it gives an account of the EU's major initiatives and achievements throughout the year.

The Report is now also available in an e-book.

 
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 European Innovation Partnership to reduce the EU's dependency on raw materials

The European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on raw materials was launched earlier this week by Industry and Enterprise Commissioner Antonio Tajani, Research Commissioner Maire Geoghegan Quinn and Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik with a view to making Europe a world leader in raw materials exploration, extraction, processing, recycling and substitution by 2020. To this end, the Commission proposes concrete targets to be achieved by 2020 to reduce Europe's dependency on imported raw materials, to replace rare materials with substitutes and to set up innovative pilot actions, e.g. pilot plants for exploration, mining, processing, collecting and recycling.

Raw materials are the lifeblood of EU industry: at least 30 million jobs in the EU depend upon access to them. But much of Europe’s industry is heavily dependent on international markets to secure the raw materials it requires.  For example , 100% of the primary platinum, cobalt, rare earths and natural rubber used by European industry is currently imported from outside the EU.

 
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 European Citizens' Initiative hits 1 million signatures

Organisers of the Right2Water initiative have announced that they have collected more than one million signatures: this could be the first European Citizens' Initiative to succeed in collecting the necessary number of statements of support. Organisers of the initiative believe that 'water is a public good, not a commodity'. They invite the European Commission to 'propose legislation implementing the human right to water and sanitation as recognised by the United Nations, and promoting the provision of water and sanitation as essential public services for all'.

Although the organisers could submit their initiative to the European Commission, they have chosen to continue collecting signatures. However, before submitting their initiative to the European Commission, the number of statements of support they have collected will have to be certified by the competent authorities in the Member States. For initiatives that have collected at least one million signatures, achieving the minimum number required in at least seven Member States, the Commission will have three months to examine the initiative and decide how to act on it.

 
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 Tour operators and travel agents join '112' emergency number campaign

Promotional image for the 112 numberThe European Commission and The European Travel Agents' and Tour Operators' Associations (ECTAA) are asking tour operators, travel agents to promote the pan-European emergency number '112' on their websites, on e-tickets, and at major tourist destinations.

112 is the European emergency number, reachable from fixed and mobile phones, free of charge, everywhere in the EU. 112 links the caller to the relevant emergency service (local police, fire brigade or medical services) and allows them to speak to an operator in a choice of European languages. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 112 is now operational in all EU Member States. It is also being used in countries outside the EU, such as Switzerland, Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey.

 
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 Euro coin counterfeiting in 2012

The number of counterfeit euro coins removed from circulation increased by 17% from 157,000 in 2011 to 184,000 in 2012. With 16.5 billion genuine euro coins currently in circulation, the counterfeit ratio is 1 for every 100,000 genuine coins. The 2-euro denomination remains by far the most affected by this criminal activity, representing almost 2 out of every 3 counterfeit euro coins detected.

As far as counterfeit euro banknotes are concerned, around 531,000 notes were withdrawn from circulation in 2012, according to figures from the European Central Bank which is in charge of protecting banknotes against counterfeiting.

 
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Agenda
 Agenda

Thursday 14 and Friday 15 February: Bioeconomy Stakeholder Conference, "Bioeconomy in the EU: achievements and directions for the future", Dublin Castle

Thursday 14 and Friday 15 February: Foundation Forum, Dublin Castle

Friday 15 February: Meeting of the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport (EYCS) Council, Brussels

Monday 18 February: Public lecture - "European Identity and the Crisis" by Professor Ettore Recchi (UNICH) in the Trinity College Long Room Hub, Dublin starting at 6.15 p.m.

Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 February: Conference - "Integration, Innovation and Improvement - The Professional Identity of Teacher Educators", Dublin Castle

Monday 18 February: Competitiveness Council, Brussels

Monday 18 February: Foreign Affairs Council, Brussels

Tuesday 19 February: Hearing on EU Citizenship, Brussels

Wednesday 27 February: Public lecture - "Performance, Identity and Memory in Europe: Trauma, Ethics, Politics" by Professor Milija Gluhovic (Warwick) in the Trinity College Long Room Hub, Dublin starting at 6.15 p.m.

Thursday 28 February to Friday 1 March: Europe 2020 Conference - Agenda for new skills and jobs, organised by the Committee of the Regions, Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin

Monday 4 and Tuesday 5 March: Atlantic Forum Workshop (workshop aimed at raising awareness of the Atlantic Forum and EU funding processes), University College Cork

Thursday 14 to Friday 22 March: Exhibition - 'EU-Ireland(at)40: Looking back over 40 years', European Union House, Dublin 2

 
 
 
 
 
Competitions
 The World You Like Challenge

Image from contest websiteClimate Action Commissioner Connie Hedegaard earlier this week launched a low-carbon contest, calling on creative and innovative minds from across the EU to put their green initiatives to the test. The World You Like Challenge is part of the European Commission's climate action campaign: A world you like.

For three months, starting on 11 February, you can submit your own low-carbon success story for the World You Like Challenge. All projects, big or small, coming from individuals or organisations based in an EU Member State will be considered, provided that their main aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This could be an electric bike that serves to transport goods; an innovative production process that drives down greenhouse gas emissions and energy bills; sustainable buildings or heating solutions. Or it could be a group of firemen such as those in Kilbarrack Fire Station, Dublin, who have reduced energy consumption in their fire station by 80%.

The contest is open to individuals, entrepreneurs, businesses and public and private organisations who can put forward any inspirational low-carbon project within the EU, no matter how big or small.

The three winners will be invited to an award ceremony in Copenhagen in the autumn of this year.

 
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Spotlight on: Safer products for consumers
 Safer products for consumers

Enterprise Commissioner Antonio Tajani and Consumer Protection Commissioner Tonio Borg speaking at the press conferenceThe European Commission yesterday (Thursday) proposed new rules to improve the safety of consumer products circulating in the Single Market and to step-up market surveillance concerning all non-food products, including those imported from 3rd countries. Unsafe products should not reach consumers or other users and their improved identification and traceability will be a key improvement that will help to take them quickly out of the market.

Who will benefit and how?

  • Consumers – Safe and compliant products throughout the EU with an even higher level of protection. This means more consumer confidence in the internal market.
  • Manufacturers/Businesses – More coherent rules across all product sectors. This means lower compliance costs for businesses, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. Moreover better coordination of product safety checks means eliminating unfair competition from dishonest or rogue operators.

At the moment, Union rules on market surveillance and consumer product safety are fragmented and scattered over several different pieces of legislation, thus creating gaps and overlaps. The legislative proposals that the Commission adopted today will enable better coherence of the rules regulating consumer products identification and traceability and improved coordination of the way authorities check products and enforce product safety rules across the European Union.

European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "If we want to reap the full economic benefit of the single market, we need a set of high quality rules on the safety of products and an effective, well-coordinated, Union-wide implementation system to back it up. Better coordination of product safety checks, especially at the EU external borders, will eliminate unfair competition from dishonest or criminal rogue operators". Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy added: "Consumers expect that the products on the European market are safe. Businesses expect to operate under fair trading conditions. Authorities need the right tools to operate in an efficient and effective way. The package of proposals that the Commission adopted today aims at meeting these expectations.  We are convinced that consumers, businesses and national authorities will greatly benefit from clear and consistent rules across the Single Market, more effective market surveillance and improved traceability of products."
 
The key changes of today's package are:

  • Alignment of the general obligations of economic operators to ensure the safety of all consumer products with clearer responsibilities for manufacturers, importers and distributors.
  • More effective tools to enforce safety and other product-related requirements and to take action against dangerous and non-compliant product across all sectors through a single set of coherent rules for market surveillance.
  • Improved traceability of consumer products throughout the supply chain – enabling a swift and effective response to safety problems (e.g. recalls). To do that manufacturers and importers shall ensure that products bear an indication of the country of origin of the product or, where the size or nature of the product does not allow it, that indication is to be provided on the packaging or in a document accompanying the product. For products manufactured in the Union, the indication shall refer to the Union or to a particular Member State. The indication of origin supplements the basic traceability requirements concerning the name and address of the manufacturer. Such information can facilitate the task of market surveillance authorities in tracing the product back to the actual place of manufacture and enable contacts with the authorities of the countries of origin in the framework of bilateral or multilateral cooperation on consumer product safety for appropriate follow up actions
  • Creation of a more cooperative system of market surveillance across the EU.
  • Streamlined procedures for the notification of dangerous products, and synergies between the existing Rapid Alert Information System (RAPEX) and the Information and Communication System for Market Surveillance (ICSMS).

The proposals will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council. The new legislation is expected to come into effect in 2015.
 
Background

Within the EU's single market, goods move freely and consumers and businesses can buy and sell products in the 27 EU Member States and the 3 EFTA/European Economic Area countries with a total population of more than 490 million. EU product safety rules and the market surveillance of national authorities that underpins them are the basis for a safe single market.

More information:Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package 2013 - Questions and answers

 
 
 
 
 
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