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Top stories
 EU Youth Employment Initiative: from rhetoric to reality

László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and InclusionThe European Commission has set out plans for implementing the Youth Employment Initiative agreed by EU Ministers last month. The €6 billion EU pledge to tackle youth unemployment includes a “Youth Guarantee”, which would give under-25s a guarantee of quality work, training or education within four months of leaving school or losing a job. One in three 16-24 year olds in Ireland are out of work and this mirrors a similar picture for young people across much of Europe.

Of the total, €3 billion is set to come from a new Youth Employment fund, with a further €3 billion from the European Social Fund (ESF). The bulk of the funding would be targeted on regions in the EU where youth unemployment rates are above 25%.

The economic cost of not integrating young people into labour market has been estimated by Eurofound (an EU research body based in Dublin) at over €150 billion per year, or 1.2% of EU GDP. For Ireland this amounts to around 2% of GDP. This far outweighs the fiscal costs of the proposed Youth Guarantee.  

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 EU and Irish women mark joint 40th anniversary on International Women’s Day

Left to right: Former Minister Mary O'Rourke, Journalist Carol Hunt and Head of the EC Rep Barbara NolanThe National Women’s Council of Ireland and the EU in Ireland joined forces to mark both of their 40th anniversaries. The event saw a discussion with former Minister Mary O’Rourke, journalists Roisin Ingle and Carol Hunt and “Belong To’s” Gillian McInerney. Singer Mary Coughlan provided the music.

Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland said: “Even though legislation on implementing equal pay has been in place for 40 years, we still have a gender pay gap in Europe of 16.2% that hurts women, society and the economy. Ireland (at 13.9%), while better than the EU average, is still behind nine of the 27 EU countries. We still have work to do.”

Orla O’Connor, Director of the NWCI said: “On our 40th anniversary we want to celebrate the many achievements of the women’s movement in Ireland without forgetting the many challenges that remain. Our Dail still only has 16% female TDs and only 9 % of women sit on the boards of our top private companies. Fewer than 1 in 4 voices on our news and current affairs radio belong to a woman. And women in Ireland still do not have access to full reproductive rights. Our 40th anniversary therefore is also a renewed invitation to women and men to join the campaign for women’s rights and equality.”

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 Letter from President Barroso to the Members of the European Council

Commission President José Manuel BarrosoAhead of the European Council President Barroso sent a letter to the members of the European Council stating: "We are not yet out of the crisis, as the unacceptably high levels of unemployment show, but we can see that the reform efforts of Member States are starting to bear fruit, correcting very important imbalances in the European economy."

"In my brief presentation to the European Council, I will focus mainly on the challenge of competitiveness and on youth unemployment. Improving competitiveness is not an end in itself but a means to drive prosperity and sustain European living standards and values. It is an indispensable element to underpin growth and jobs and a permanent challenge in today's global environment and for large parts of the EU," said the President adding that "gearing up our economies to tap into the potential of our single market, to compete globally and to take advantage of the trade opportunities we are negotiating should be an important topic for our discussion."

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 Green light for economic governance 'two pack'

On Tuesday, the European Parliament voted on the “Two-Pack” economic governance legislation. The Two-Pack comprises two Regulations designed to further enhance economic integration and convergence amongst euro area Member States.

It also introduces a common budgetary timeline and common budgetary rules for euro area Member States. Specifically, and starting with the forthcoming budgetary cycle:

  • By 30 April, euro area Member States must publish their medium-term fiscal plans (Stability Programmes), together with their policy priorities for growth and employment for the forthcoming twelve months (National Reform Programmes) in the context of the European Semester of economic policy coordination.
  • By 15 October, euro area Member States must publish their draft budgets for the following year.
  • By 31 December, euro area Member States must adopt their budgets for the following year.

A major innovation of the Two-Pack is that the Commission will examine and give an opinion on each draft budget, by 30 November at the latest. If the Commission detects severe non-compliance with the obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact, it will ask the Member State concerned to submit a revised plan.

The deal must now be formally approved by the Council.The rules should apply to the next budgeting period of the Eurozone countries, i.e. their 2014 budgets.

 2014 European Parliament Elections: Commission recommends that political parties nominate candidate for Commission President

European ParliamentPolitical parties should nominate a candidate for European Commission President in the next European elections and they should display their European political party affiliation, under a recommendation adopted by the European Commission on Tuesday. The proposals aim to better inform voters about the issues at stake in next year's European Parliament elections, encourage a Europe-wide debate and ultimately improve voter turnout. The Commission is also calling on Member States to agree on a common voting date for the elections, traditionally spread out over a period of four days.

The recommendation is backed by a new Eurobarometer survey (also released on Tuesday) which found that

  • 84% of respondents across the EU (and 93% of Irish respondents) think turnout in European elections would increase with more information about the EU’s impact on their daily lives;
  • 73% of EU respondents (and 78% of Irish respondents) believe more information about candidates’ European political affiliations would encourage people to vote;
  • 62% of EU respondents (and 69% of Irish respondents) think having party candidates for Commission President and 62% of EU respondents (and 68% of Irish respondents) think a single voting day would help bolster turnout.
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 EU bans animal testing in cosmetics

Laboratory miceA Europe-wide ban on the sale of cosmetic products that have been tested on animals comes into effect across the EU last Monday 11 March. This will affect all toiletries and beauty products, from skin creams to soap to toothpaste, making the EU the world’s first ‘cruelty-free’ cosmetics zone. A marketing ban for all products tested on animals within the EU has been in place since 2009. The total ban taking effect today also makes it illegal for new products manufactured outside the EU, and which have been tested on animals outside the 27-country bloc, to be sold within the union.

The European Commission has thoroughly assessed the impacts of the marketing ban and is convinced that the benefits derived for animal welfare and for advancing innovation in testing methods outweigh any negative impacts. This is in line with the views of many people across Europe - that the development of cosmetics does not warrant animal testing.

The Commission will continue to support research into alternative testing methods while promoting animal welfare worldwide.

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 Rail transport: Commission seeks to improve access to rail travel for persons with disabilities and passengers with reduced mobility

Connolly Station, DublinThe European Commission is making accessibility an essential requirement for rail infrastructure when newly built, upgraded or renewed. Accessibility can be achieved by preventing or removing barriers and through other measures such as provision of assistance. The rules apply to infrastructure (e.g. obstacle-free routes, ticketing, information desks, toilets, visual and spoken information, platform width and height, and boarding aids) and to rail carriages (e.g. doors, toilets, wheelchair spaces, and information).

Having common rules on accessibility at EU level enhances and facilitates the travel experience across the EU of persons with disabilities and all those whose mobility is reduced, for example by the natural ageing process, temporary impairments due to accidents, or by travelling with children. Accessibility features also improve the overall quality of the transport experience for all passengers, and help with implementation by the rail sector since one common solution will work across the EU. In these times of austerity, having coherent rules across the EU is an effective way to reduce costs and technical hurdles. 

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News in brief
 EU Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş visits the Family Farm in Dublin Zoo

Commissioner Ciolos with pupils from St Catherine’s Infant School, CabraDuring his visit to Dublin earlier this week to attend a meeting of EU Farm Ministers, Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Cioloş went to see the Family Farm in Dublin Zoo. The Family Farm was developed by Agri Aware and Dublin Zoo to educate the general public about the importance of fresh food and family farming. It recently took first prize in the ‘Communications to the Public’ category of the Commission’s CAP at 50 Communication Awards.

During his visit, Commissioner Cioloş met primary level students from St Catherine’s Infant School, Cabra, and watched as they learnt how to make butter, plant seeds in the garden and prepare healthy fruit and green salads. The Commissioner also met the Family Farm’s resident animals; Bella the dairy cow and her two week old calf, the beef cow, goats and their recently born kids, sheep, lambs, pigs and poultry.

The Commissioner’s visit culminated in a tree planting ceremony at the Family Farm. The tree planting will be marked by a plaque, to be unveiled by Agri Aware and Dublin Zoo in the coming weeks, to commemorate the Commissioner’s visit to the Family Farm.

 European nano-warriors tackle a big killer ... cancer

European researchers are waging war on cancer, a major medical and societal challenge today. An EU-funded nanotechnology project led by Trinity College Dublin is developing sensitive portable devices to diagnose cancer much earlier and to better monitor treatment when and where it is needed. The prototype devices being developed during the four-year project will detect common cancer cells much earlier and, with timely treatment, improve the chances of recovery.

According to the project leader, Professor Yuri Volkov of Trinity College Dublin’s School of Medicine, the portable nanodevices are based on innovative lab-on-a-chip, -bead and -wire technologies applicable in different settings – clinical, research, or point of care (i.e. hospitals). These lab-on-x technologies exploit the photo-luminescent (‘glow-in-the-dark’ light emitting), plasmonic (‘light-on-a-wire’), magnetic and unique optical properties of nanomaterials.  

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 New EU rules to ensure rapid redress for disappointed shoppers

EU shoppers will get easier access to rapid, cheap and impartial mediation in disputes with traders over goods or services thanks to two new laws voted by Parliament on Tuesday. They aim to help shoppers to avoid long and costly court cases, especially over on-line or cross-border purchases.

The new rules on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), aim to step up the use of ADR schemes in the EU by giving shoppers a fast, cheap and informal way to settle disputes with traders as an alternative to often lengthy court proceedings.


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 A growing EU illicit drugs market shows the impact of the crisis

Syringe with tabletsThe economic crisis is expected to have a major impact on the drugs market, for example through an increase of demand for illicit drugs, according to the findings of a study published yesterday (Wednesday) by the European Commission. This study reveals that more young people are expected to sell or even produce drugs – especially home grown cannabis – to make money. But the economic crisis is also expected to lead to cuts in budgets devoted to drug policy, in particular for treatment and harm reduction measures.

According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, new psychoactive substances are an increasing problem. A total of 49 new psychoactive substances were officially notified for the first time in 2011 via the EU early-warning system. This represents the largest number of substances ever reported in a single year, up from 41 substances reported in 2010 and 24 in 2009. And preliminary data for 2012 show no signs of a decline, with over 50 already detected.

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 European Parliament seats after 2014 elections: no member state to lose more than one MEP

To comply with the 751-seat limit set by the Lisbon Treaty and make room for Croatia, 12 EU member states would each lose one seat at the next European elections and none would gain any, under the solution adopted by the European Parliament on Wednesday. This proposal now goes to the heads of state and government in the European Council, who must decide by a unanimous vote.

Parliament currently numbers 754 MEPs. When Croatia joins the EU this year it will be entitled to 12 seats, bringing the total number of MEPs to 766. To comply with the maximum of 751 seats set by the Lisbon Treaty from next year's European elections, 15 seats must be given up. The proposed solution means that 12 member states - Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal and Romania - would each lose one seat at the next European elections. The remaining three seats have to come from Germany, whose share must go down from 99 seats to 96, the maximum allowed by the Lisbon Treaty.

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 SMEs: Damaging late payment culture due to end on 16 March

Every day across Europe, dozens of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) go bankrupt as their invoices are not paid. As a result jobs are lost and business opportunities remain unexploited. To end late payments the European Union therefore adopted Directive 2011/7/EU on combating late payment in commercial transactions. By 16 March 2013 Member States will need to have integrated the revised Late Payments Directive into their national law. It obliges public authorities to pay for goods and services within 30 calendar days or, in very exceptional circumstances, within 60 days. Businesses will have to pay their invoices within 60 calendar days, unless they expressly agree otherwise and if it is not grossly unfair to the creditor.

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 Dam for Flood Control

Image of floodingFloods in Europe have been increasing at an alarming rate, with occasionally disastrous consequences. Back in the autumn of 2011, floods in France, Italy and Ireland caused huge amounts of damage to humans and property. Climate change has increased the severity and frequency of extreme weather events, resulting in heavy precipitation, storms and storm surges. Year after year, serious floods continue to threaten the personal and economic lives of European citizens and businesses.

In response to the severe floods, the European Commission has funded several projects including the INFLATER project as a concerted attempt to help reduce the severity of flooding. The project entitled "Development of a universal flood protection tool using the force of the water to protect against floods" is receiving €1.1 million funding from the Seventh Framework Programme of the European Commission and has 9 partners including Dublin City Council. The project consists of an inflatable dam that uses the force of the water to protect against floods. The novelty is that this dam is portable and can be placed anywhere quickly with not a great deal of manpower.  

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 New EU policy to improve nutrition across the world and save millions of lives

The European Commission yesterday (Wednesday) adopted a new policy to improve the nutrition of mothers and children in order to reduce mortality and diseases, as well as the impediments to growth and development caused by under-nutrition.

The new policy aims to reduce the number of children under five years of age who are stunted (with a low height for their age and impaired mental development). This will be achieved by delivering on the EU's commitment to help partner countries reduce stunting in this age group by at least 10% (7 million) by 2025. Wasting of children (meaning that they are too thin for their height due to malnutrition) will also be addressed by the new policy.

The Communication envisages to allocate more funds for nutrition and food aid from the EU humanitarian and development budgets, as well as to target this aid more effectively and accountably. Both the consequences and the root causes of under-nutrition will be addressed. For example, the EU intends to promote breastfeeding and other behaviour changes, provide essential micronutrients such as iron, and support activities such as deworming and supplementary and therapeutic feeding (like treatment of severely malnourished children)

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

Thursday 14 and Friday 15 March: European Council, Brussels

Thursday 14 March: European Consumers Day

Monday 18 to Tuesday 19 March: Agriculture and Fisheries Council, Brussels

Monday 21 March: Environment Council, Brussels

Thursday 21 March: Public lecture - "The Balkans as a region of EU Growth, Conflict and Hope" by Dr Silvija Jestrovic (Univ of Warwick), Trinity Long Room Hub, TCD

Friday 22 to Saturday 23 March: Informal meeting of Ministers for Foreign Affairs, Dublin Castle

Monday 25 March: Public lecture - "Europe in Search of Itself, in Search of the other" by Professor Joep Leerssen (Amsterdam), Trinity Long Room Hub, TCD

Tuesday 26 March to Friday 5 April: Exhibition - A European Canvas (exhibition of paintings celebrating Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU by the lin Painting and Sketching Club), EU House, Dublin

Wednesday 27 to Thursday 28 March: European Parliament plenary session, Brussels

 Competition to recruit experienced economists specialised in either financial or macro-economics

The European Personnel Selection Office (EPSO) has just launched a search for experienced financial and macro-economists. Applicants should have a university education (preferably post-graduate) and at least six years' professional experience in the field of macro-economics or finance.

Positions will be primarily based in the European Commission's Directorates-General for Economic and Financial Affairs, and Internal Market. But other institutions and Commission departments are also looking to reinforce their economic analysis capacity.

Applications open today Thursday and close at midday (CET) on 16 April 2013.

As well as relevant professional experience and educational background, applicants must be an EU citizen, fluent in one of the official EU languages, with either English, French or German as a second language.

Spotlight on: Air passenger rights
 New measures to strengthen air passenger rights

Air passengerThe European Commission today announced a package of measures to ensure that air passengers have new and better rights to information, care and re-routing when they are stranded at the airport. At the same time there will be better complaint procedures and enforcement measures so passengers can actually obtain the rights to which they are entitled.

At the moment the main problem for passengers is that, while they have very strong passenger rights defined under EU law, they can have difficulty claiming them and feel frustrated when air carriers do not appear to apply them.

Vice President Siim Kallas said "It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper.  We all need to be able to rely on them when it matters most – when things go wrong. . We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting. The aim is to get passengers where they want to be as quickly as possible while giving the airlines the time they need to sort problems out."

The new air passenger rights proposal clarifies legal grey areas and introduces new rights where necessary, for full list see MEMO/13/203.

The 10 basic passenger rights

10 Basic rights (current situation)The new proposal
All passengers have equal access to transport and are in particular protected against discrimination based on nationality, residence or disability.
No change needed
PRM have the right to be assisted at no additional cost when travelling by all modes of transport to allow them to enjoy the same possibilities to travel as other citizens
• no limitations to the right to care for PRMs
• compensation to its full value of damaged or lost mobility equipment (if  checked-in)
Passengers have the right to be correctly informed of the ticket price, their rights and the circumstances of their journey in a timely and relevant manner before the journey as well as during and after the travel in case of disruption.
Better information of passengers about the occurrence and the nature of the disruption and about their rights. The carrier must inform the passengers of the situation as soon as possible and in any event no later than 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time, and of the estimated departure time as soon as this information is available.
Air carriers will also provide clear information about baggage allowances, both for cabin and checked baggage, at booking and at the airport.
In the event of long delayed, cancelled travel or denied boarding, passengers have the right to the reimbursement of the full ticket price.
Right to renounce to travel clarified with respect to tarmac delays: after maximum 5 hours, the passenger has the right to renounce to the travel and have the ticket price reimbursed. In case of tarmac delays, this includes the right to disembark.
In the event of long delayed, cancelled travel or denied boarding, passengers have the right to receive an alternative service of transport, as soon as possible, or to rebook at their best convenience. The choice must be offered by the carrier as soon as the disruption takes place, in a clear and uncontroversial way.
Reinforcement of the passenger's triple choice between reimbursement, immediate rerouting or alternative flight at a later date. In particular with regard to re-routing:  where the carrier cannot provide the rerouting on its own services within 12 hours, it must offer rerouting via alternative carriers or alternative transport modes where available.
Stranded passengers have the right to be provided a minimum level of care immediately, on the spot at terminals/stations and/or on board while waiting for the beginning or the continuation of the delayed journey or for their rerouting.
• Clarification of the rights of passengers in case of missed connecting flights (for care/assistance)
• The right to care is prioritised. It is not anymore dependant on the flight distances but is always after 2 hours
• Right to care clarified in case of tarmac delay (where a tarmac delay exceeds one hour, the carrier must provide, free of charge, access to toilet facilities and drinking water, must ensure adequate heating or cooling of the passenger cabin, and must ensure that adequate medical attention is available when needed).
• Airports, air carriers and other airport users must prepare contingency plans to care for passengers stranded in mass disruptions (including in case of airline insolvency).
Under certain conditions in case of long delayed or cancelled travel and always in case of denied boarding in air, passengers are entitled to a standardised financial compensation for the trouble suffered. Such  compensation varies for each mode according to the time lost due to
the disruption, the distance of the journey and/or the ticket price.
Right to compensation in case of long delays is confirmed by its integration into the text of the Regulation: the delay threshold is extended from three to five hours for all intra-EU flights and short international flights (to encourage carriers to operate and not cancel flights)  The thresholds are 9 hours or 12 hours for the remaining international flights.
New right to compensation  for rescheduled flights (when notified less than 2 weeks in advance)
Clarification of the right to compensation in case of missed connection flights: depending on the circumstances, the passenger may claim compensation from the operating carrier of the delayed flight.
Rights in case of denied boarding reinforced with the right to have spelling mistakes corrected and with a partial ban of the "no show" policy (no denied boarding on return flight just because outbound flight was not taken)
Under International conventions and EU Law, carriers are liable for passengers and their luggage. In case of death, injury and baggage problems and in some cases of delay, passengers may be entitled to compensation to be determined according to the damage they suffered. Such compensation can be limited depending on the applicable law.
Strengthened enforcement for baggage rules and specific rules for mobility equipment and music instruments: National authorities will be responsible for the enforcement of compensation rules for mishandled baggage and the new rules on the transport of musical instruments make sure that their carriage is not refused on other grounds than safety or technical specificities of the aircraft.
Passengers have the right to lodge a complaint with the carrier if dissatisfied. In case of lack of answer after a certain time-limit, or dissatisfaction with the carriers' answer, they have the right to lodge a complaint within the competent National Enforcement Body, which should treat it within a reasonable timeframe. Out of Court and Court procedures are also available under EU and national law (e.g. Alternative Dispute Resolution systems, national or European Small Claim Procedure at Court).
• Air carriers must provide efficient means to passengers to submit complaints. While passengers have to submit their claim within 3 months after the departure time, carriers must also reply within given deadlines (one week for the acknowledgment of receipt and two months for the formal reply).
• Passengers will be able to turn to out-of-court complaint handling bodies which will treat the complaints within reasonable times and which will act with the support of the national enforcement bodies.

Passengers have the right to count on a proper application by carriers and on an effective enforcement of EU rules from National Enforcement Bodies 

• The proposal reinforces the coordination and exchange of information among the National Enforcement Bodies with the support of the Commission. The latter can also request the launch of (joint) investigations by the national authorities.

For more information see MEMO/13/203: Air Passenger Rights Revision - Frequently Asked Questions Air passenger rights – summary