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Top stories
 Vice-President Olli Rehn's remarks following ECOFIN meeting

Vice-President Olli Rehn with Finance Minister Michael Noonan at the Ecofin meetingAt the press conference following Tuesday's meeting of EU Economic and Finance Ministers, Vice President Olli Rehn said: "we need to support Ireland and Portugal as they move into the concluding phase of their respective programmes and prepare to return to full market financing. Today's ECOFIN reaffirmed the growing confidence in both countries' prospects for a successful return to market financing. This confidence stems from the determined implementation of the economic reform programmes that we have seen in both Ireland and Portugal."

He added: "I want to underline that a successful return to the markets for these two countries is both in the interests of themselves and, indeed, certainly in the interests of the entire European Union. In the coming months, the ECOFIN and Eurogroup will explore, together with the European Commission, how to further facilitate this successful return to market financing."

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 Two researchers in Ireland win top European awards

Professor Robert KitchinThe European Research Council (ERC) has announced the names of two senior researchers – Professor Peter Humphries and Professor Robert Kitchin - who will each receive a prestigious 'Advanced Grant' of up to €2.5 million to develop ideas at the frontiers of knowledge and build their own research teams. 

Professor Humphries, from Trinity College Dublin, was awarded the grant for his project exploring and developing new avenues for the prevention of glaucoma - a leading cause of blindness if left untreated.  And Professor Kitchin, from the National University of Ireland Maynooth, was awarded the grant for his project analysing the creation of smart cities, using Dublin as one of his case studies.

Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: "The ERC continues to identify the very best researchers. ERC funding is leading to an increasing number of scientific breakthroughs and discoveries, as well as more publications in recognised scientific journals. Promoting frontier research at the highest level is vital for Europe's competitiveness, and this is why we have proposed to increase the ERC budget as part of our Horizon 2020 programme."

The two researchers are among 302 top researchers awarded €680 million in EU funding by the European Research Council (ERC).

 €200m from EIB to support 23 Water Projects across Ireland

Water treatment plantThe European Investment Bank will provide €200 million to support improvements in Ireland’s Water Services Investment Programme (WSIP). A total of 23 individual projects included in the WSIP will benefit from the EIB investment. The water investment initiative also includes replacement of over 300km of old water mains in Dublin City, South Tipperary, Galway and Limerick. In addition the project will increase drinking water supply through two new reservoirs in Kerry and North Tipperary. 

Waste water treatment will be enhanced through six new treatment plants in Kildare, North Tipperary, Kerry, Galway and Roscommon. Three local schemes will specifically ensure safe drinking water supply and 28km of new water mains will be laid in Kildare and 13km in Longford.

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 EU launches enhanced cooperation on the financial transaction tax

Finance Minister Michael Noonan with Commissioner Semeta at the Ecofin CouncilOn Tuesday (22 January), EU Economic and Finance Ministers meeting in Brussels adopted a decision authorising eleven member states to go ahead with enhanced cooperation on a financial transaction tax (FTT).

"Today was about process, it was about moving the financial transaction tax forward through enhanced cooperation, but it was not about the content or the substance of any financial transaction tax", said Finance Minister Michael Noonan after the meeting. "Member states which don't want to participate in the ultimate financial transaction tax will be fully involved in the process, and will participate fully in the discussions, so it's still a process which will involve the 27 members."

EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Ĺ emeta said that he would "present the substantive proposal on the FTT within the next few weeks – drawing largely on our original proposal, as has been requested of us. It will then be for these 11 Member States to take the reins, and discuss and agree this FTT they want to implement."

Enhanced cooperation can be launched at the request of at least nine member states. The eleven member states wishing to introduce a financial transaction tax through enhanced cooperation are Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia. Any other member state may join the enhanced cooperation, if they so wish.

The Commission's original proposal involved a harmonised minimum 0.1% tax rate for transactions in all types of financial instruments except derivatives (0.01% rate). The aim was for the financial industry, which many consider to be under-taxed, to make a fair contribution to tax revenues, whilst also discouraging transactions that do not enhance the efficiency of financial markets.

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News in brief
 New 5 euro notes to be introduced on 2 May

New 5 euro note - frontAs of 2013 the second series of euro banknotes, the "Europa" series, will be introduced across the euro area. The new banknotes are to be introduced gradually over several years, in ascending order. The denominations remain unchanged: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The new banknotes are called the Europa series because some of their security features contain a portrait of Europa, a figure from Greek mythology and the origin of the name of our continent. The new euro banknotes incorporate enhanced  security features that draw on advances in banknote security and technology.

The €5 banknote is the first banknote in the Europa series to be introduced and will be issued on 2 May 2013 across the euro area.

 Commission boosts its humanitarian aid in Mali

The European Commission has boosted its humanitarian aid for the Mali crisis with €20 million. The new emergency funding will be used to help severely malnourished children, to assist about 100,000 refugees from Mali in neighboring countries, and to provide up to 150,000 people in Mali affected by the ongoing fighting with food and basic services.

The humanitarian situation in Mali is increasingly volatile: intense fighting is causing population displacements while humanitarian organisations are struggling to access certain areas.

The intensification of the conflict is aggravating the on-going food and nutritional crisis with millions of Malians at risk of food insecurity in 2013. Despite a good harvest, prices of staple foods remain high, making them inaccessible to the poorest. Severe malnutrition rates remain above emergency thresholds in certain areas in the south while surveys could not be carried out in the north.

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 Fighting social dumping: Commissioner Andor meets with European Federation of Building and Woodworkers

Commissioner Laszlo Andor"There is an urgent need to tackle undeclared work and abuse of posted workers by unscrupulous employers that take advantage of weak national controls or lack of cooperation between national authorities" underlined László Andor, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at his meeting in Brussels on 23rd January with representatives of the European Federation of Building and Woodworkers.

The Commissioner urged the EU's Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to adopt as soon as possible the Commission's March 2012 proposal to boost enforcement of the 1996 posted workers Directive, which acts as a safeguard against social dumping.

The Commissioner also underlined the need to step up the fight against undeclared work and announced an initiative later in 2013 on establishing of an EU platform for a more effective cooperation between the Member States to address undeclared work.

The posting of workers (i.e. workers sent by their employers to work in another Member State than the one in which they reside, for a limited period of time) can remedy temporary labour and skills shortages in certain regions and/or professions such as construction, agriculture, transport and information technology. Each year, around 1.2 million workers are posted by their employers across EU borders. This is 0.4% of the EU workforce.

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 European Parliament Agriculture Committee adopts plans for modern and flexible EU farm policy

EU farm policy reform must distribute EU funding more fairly, make "greening" measures mandatory but flexible, better equip farmers to cope with market challenges and cut red tape. So says the Agriculture Committee's opening position for negotiations with EU member states, as set out in texts voted on this week. This will be the first EU farm policy reform shaped by Parliament as a full co-legislator with member states.

The Agriculture Committee's negotiating position must win the blessing of Parliament as a whole before MEPs can start negotiations with member states on the final shape of future EU farm policy. The plenary vote is provisionally scheduled for March session in Strasbourg, pending final figures for the EU's Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2014 to 2020. The next summit of EU heads of states and governments to deal with the future MFF is scheduled for 7-8 February.

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Today Thursday 24 January: Public lecture - "Do we need Growth to Emancipate Vulnerable People?" by Professor Jean Philippe Plateau (Namur) in the Trinity College Long Room Hub, Dublin starting at 7.30 p.m.

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

Wednesday 30 January: Public lecture - "Multiculturalism and Muslims in Europe" by Dr Erkan Toguslu (KU Leuven) in the Trinity College Long Room Hub, Dublin starting at 6.15 p.m.

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

Friday 1 February: Defence Seminar, Dublin Castle

Monday 4 to Tuesday 5 February: COFACE and ICA conference "Vulnerable Families - What can Europe do?", Dublin Castle

Monday 4 February: General Affairs Council, Brussels

Monday 4 to Thursday 7 February: European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg

Tuesday 5 February: Public lecture - "Does Europe need an Asia Strategy", by Professor Philomena Murray (Melbourne) in the Trinity College Long Room Hub, Dublin starting at 6.15 p.m.

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

Thursday 7 to Friday 8 February: Informal meeting of EPSCO (Ministers for Employment and Social Affairs), Dublin Castle

Friday 8 February: European Council, Brussels

Thursday 14 February: Public lecture - "How to think of Ethno-Linguistic nationalism in Central Europe" by Professor Tomasz Kamusella (St Andrews) in the Trinity College Long Room Hub, Dublin starting at 6.15 p.m.

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.

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

Public consultations
 Public consultation on energy technologies and innovation

The European Commission intends to publish a Communication on energy technologies and innovation during the first half of 2013. It intends to give a European energy technology policy perspective in the follow-up to the Energy Roadmap 2050.

As part of the preparatory work on this Communication, a public consultation has been launched to gather opinions on possible options for a European energy technologies policy and to receive feedback and additional ideas on this proposal.

The consultation is targetted at public authorities, Member States authorities, research organisation, universities, industries, utilities, private organisations, industry associations, SMEs, citizens, consumer organisations, trade unions, NGOs, environmental organisations, consultancies, financing institutions.

The consultation runs until 15 March 2013.

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Job opportunities
 Upcoming job opportunities

Administrators in the Building Sector

An open competition will be launched on Thursday 31 January to recruit Administrators in the Building Sector in the fields of Building Security and Building Services Engineering.

This competition will be announced in Official journal C 29 A to be published on 31 January. The closing date for online registration will be 5 March 2013.

Research staff

Applications will shortly open for research contract staff to work in the Institutes of the Joint Research Centre.

The deadline for applications will be 1 March 2013.

Further information on both the above will be posted on the website of the European Personnel Selection Officenext week.

Calls for Expressions of Interest
 Call for expressions of interest by experts to participate in shaping the agenda of Horizon 2020

The European Commission has today (Thursday) launched a call asking experts from all fields to participate in shaping the agenda of Horizon 2020, the European Union's future funding programme for research and innovation. This marks the first time that the Commission has launched such a call for its research programme.

Advisory groups will provide high quality and timely advice for the preparation of the Horizon 2020 calls for project proposals.  Groups will be set up on topics of major concern for European citizens, such as climate change, making renewable energy more affordable, ensuring safe food or coping with the challenges of ageing. The groups will encourage dialogue between all levels of government, civil society and business from all EU Member States, and influence the direction of EU research and innovation funding from now until 2020.

The expert advisory groups will start their work during spring of this year to provide advice in time for the first Horizon 2020 calls, which are expected to be launched by the end of 2013. Individuals and actors wishing to be considered for the first advisory groups have until 6 March 2013 at 5 p.m. Brussels local time to register. The call for expressions of interest will stay open for the lifetime of the Horizon 2020 programme in order to accommodate the renewal of groups at the end of each mandate.

Individuals can express their interest, acting either in a personal capacity, as representatives of collective interest groups or as representatives of organisations. Details of the criteria on which selection will be based, including the profile of experts, are set out in the call.

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Spotlight on: More clean cars
 New Strategy for more clean cars on Europe's roads

Vice President and Transport Commissioner Siim KallasThe European Commission wants to break up the vicious circle that hampers the use of clean fuels in European cars: Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. Consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there.

The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed.

For Ireland the Commission is proposing to increase the number of charging points from the current 640 points to 2,000 by 2020 which should serve 350,000 electric cars by then.

EC Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said. "Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe's economy more resource efficient, to reduce our overdependence on oil and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century.  Between them, China and the US plan to have more than 6 million electric vehicles on the road by 2020. This is major opportunity for Europe to establish a strong position in a fast growing global market."

The main measures proposed are:

Electricity: the situation for electric charging points varies greatly across the EU. The leading countries are Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK. The aim is to put in place a critical mass of charging points so that companies will mass produce the cars at reasonable prices.

A common EU wide plug is an essential element for the roll out of this fuel.  To end uncertainty in the market, today the Commission has announced the use of the "Type 2" plug as the common standard for the whole of Europe.

Hydrogen: Germany, Italy and Denmark already have a significant number of hydrogen refuelling stations although some of them are not publically accessible.  Common standards are still needed for certain components such as fuel hoses. Under this proposal, existing filling stations will be linked up to form a network with common standards ensuring the mobility of Hydrogen vehicles. This applies to the 14 Member States which currently have a Hydrogen network.

Biofuels: already have nearly 5% of the market. They work as blended fuels and do not require any specific infrastructure. A key challenge will be to ensure their sustainability.

Natural Gas (Liquefied (LNG) and Compressed (CNG):
LNG: Liquefied natural gas is used for trucks, but there are only 38 filling stations in the EU. The Commission is proposing that by 2020, refuelling stations are installed every 400 km along the roads of the Trans European Core Network.

CNG: Compressed natural gas is mainly used for cars. One million vehicles currently use this fuel representing 0.5% of the fleet - the industry aims to increase this figure ten-fold by 2020. The Commission proposal will ensure that publically accessible refuelling points, with common standards, are available Europe-wide with maximum distances of 150 Km by 2020.

Member States will be able to implement these changes without necessarily involving public spending by changing local regulations to encourage private sector investment and behaviour. EU support is already available from TEN-T funds, cohesion and structural funds. 

Please see also: MEMO/13/24 - Clean power for transport – Frequently asked questions