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    Spotlight on: The Youth Guarantee 


Top stories
  Youth unemployment a priority for Barroso

President Barroso with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the IBEC conference in Dublin on 28 February“Here in Ireland, and all around Europe, too many young people are asking if they will ever find a job or have the same quality of life as their parents.”

European Commission President, José Manuel Barroso was speaking at an IBEC conference in Dublin yesterday morning (Thursday).

As he did so, EU ministers meeting in Brussels approved the Commission’s proposal for a “Youth Guarantee”. The Guarantee would see governments committing themselves to give every young European a job, further education, or work-focused training at the latest four months after becoming unemployed.

The Commission regularly expresses concerns over the skills mis-match in the EU labour market. President Barroso underlined that there are simultaneously high levels of unemployment and high levels of skill shortages, including in Ireland.

Click here mp3 - 6 MB [6 MB] to listen to a short interview with President Barroso in which he talks about two of the main issues of the day: youth unemployment and new rules for bankers' bonuses.

The full text of President Barroso's address to the IBEC Conference is reproduced here.

  Equal Pay Day: Women in Europe work 59 days ‘for free’

Illustrative image: Gender Pay Gap16.2 per cent: that’s the size of the gender pay gap, or the average difference between women and men’s hourly earnings across the EU. Ireland (13.9 per cent), while better than the EU average, is still behind nine of the 27 EU countries. This is according to latest figures released by the European Commission to coincide with Equal Pay Day. The EU-wide event marks the extra number of days that women would need to work to match the amount earned by men: currently 59 days, meaning this year the day falls on 28 February.

The report shows that the gap varies significantly between countries in the EU, from below 10 per cent in Slovenia, Poland, Italy, Malta, Luxembourg and Romania to above 20 per cent in Finland, Greece, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic and Estonia.

The figures confirm a slight downward trend in the gender pay gap from 17 per cent or higher in previous years. But at 16.2 per cent, the playing field is still far from level, with women consistently earning less than their male counterparts for work of equal value. The slight decline can also be partly explained by the impact of the economic downturn on many sectors traditionally dominated by male workers (such as construction or engineering), rather than improvements in pay and working conditions for women. At the same time, the proportion of men working part-time or in less well-paid jobs has increased in recent years.

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 Irish project to help mothers and babies gets €6 million EU funding

Pregnant woman with babyA project led by University College Cork (UCC) with a Cork based SME partner Metabolomic Diagnostics Ltd. has secured €6 million for their research into combatting pre-eclampsia, a life-threatening pregnancy complication. The condition, whereby high blood pressure arises in the second half of pregnancy, accounts for up to one-quarter of maternal deaths in Europe and more than 500,000 infant deaths annually worldwide. Ultimately, the project will help to improve the outcome of pregnancy for both mothers and babies.

The IMPROvED project (IMproved PRegnancy Outcomes by Early Detection) is one of 26 research projects focussing on rare diseases that the European Commission today, on Rare Disease Day 2013, announced will receive funding worth a total of €144 million. The projects will help improve the lives of some of the 30 million Europeans suffering from a rare disease.

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science said: "Most rare diseases affect children and most of them are devastating genetic disorders resulting in greatly reduced quality of life and premature death. We hope that these new research projects will bring patients, their families and health professionals closer to a cure and support them in their daily battle with disease."

Click here to listen to Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn explain more.

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 EU Commission prohibits Ryanair's takeover of Aer Lingus

Planes on runwayThe European Commission has prohibited the proposed takeover of the Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus by the low-cost airline Ryanair. The acquisition would have combined the two leading airlines operating from Ireland. The Commission concluded that the merger would have harmed consumers by creating a monopoly or a dominant position on 46 routes where, currently, Aer Lingus and Ryanair compete vigorously against each other.

This would have reduced choice and, most likely, would have led to price increases for consumers travelling on these routes. During the investigation, Ryanair offered remedies. The Commission assessed them thoroughly and carried out several market tests. However the remedies proposed fell short of addressing the competition concerns raised by the Commission.

Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "The Commission's decision protects more than 11 million Irish and European passengers who travel each year to and from Dublin, Cork, Knock and Shannon. For them, the acquisition of Aer Lingus by Ryanair would have most likely led to higher fares. During the procedure, Ryanair had many opportunities to offer remedies and to improve them. However, those proposals were simply inadequate to solve the very serious competition problems which this acquisition would have created on no less than 46 routes."

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 Almost two in five children are at risk of poverty in Ireland

Homeless person

According to data compiled by the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat, 38 per cent of Ireland’s under-18s are more at risk of one of three forms of poverty or social exclusion – that is living in homes with an income of less than 60 per cent of the national median, where their parents cannot afford to pay rent, mortgage or utility bills on time or where adults have paid work for less than 20 per cent of their available time. Only children in Bulgaria (52 per cent), Romania (49 per cent), Latvia (44 per cent) and Hungary (40 per cent) are more likely to be exposed to any of these types of poverty.

The Eurostat figures for Ireland relate to 2010 and may have worsened since then due to the ongoing impact of the economic crisis. The figures for the other EU countries relate to a year later, 2011, and show that children in the Scandinavian countries of Finland, Sweden and Denmark were the least likely to face poverty, at 16 per cent each, followed by Slovenia (17 per cent), the Netherlands (18 per cent) and Austria (19 per cent). The EU average is 27 per cent.

The European Commission has called for EU countries to spend more on early education and pre-school care to help “break the cycle of disadvantage”. In new recommendations proposed on 20 February, the Commission urges member states to channel more of their budgets into high-quality, accessible and inclusive pre-schooling as “the best way for ensuring that children achieve better and earn more later in life”. The recommendations form part of the 'Social Investment Package for Growth and Cohesion' aimed at improving economic growth through social policy.

The figures come from a report published by Eurostat and are based on data from the EU statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) survey - the EU reference source for comparative statistics on income distribution, poverty and living conditions. The report looks at several factors affecting child poverty, such as the composition of the household in which the children live and the labour market situation of their parents.

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 Winter forecast 2012-14: Gradually overcoming headwinds

While financial market conditions in the EU have improved substantially since last summer, economic activity was disappointing in the second half of 2012. However, leading indicators suggest that GDP in the EU is now bottoming out and we expect economic activity to gradually accelerate. The pick-up in growth will initially be driven by increasing external demand. Domestic investment and consumption are projected to recover later in the year, and by 2014 domestic demand is expected to take over as the main driver of strengthening GDP growth.

Olli Rehn, Commission Vice-President for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro said: "The ongoing rebalancing of the European economy is continuing to weigh on growth in the short term. The current situation can be summarised like this: we have disappointing hard data from the end of last year, some more encouraging soft data in the recent past, and growing investor confidence in the future. The decisive policy action undertaken recently is paving the way for a return to recovery. We must stay the course of reform and avoid any loss of momentum, which could undermine the turnaround in confidence that is underway, delaying the needed upswing in growth and job creation."

The headlines for Ireland are: Growth stronger than expected; Domestic demand first signs of revival; Positive signs from the financial markets; Mixed export performance; Subdued labour market and inflation; Strong fiscal outturn, Improved prospects.

The full report on Ireland is available here .

Table showing Forecasts for Ireland

 The future evolution of the Economic and Monetary Union

Vice President Olli RehnIn an address to a Meeting of Chairpersons of EU Finance Committees in Dublin on Monday (25 February), European Commission Vice-President Olli Rehn responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro said that the Winter Economic Forecast: "makes it clear that the work is not finished yet, we have great challenges ahead of us. The debate on the future of the EMU cannot be limited to institutional issues, but we must focus on growth, job creation and competitiveness of European industry at least with the same vigour and energy. We face three over-arching challenges.

First, we need to find a solution to the challenge of sustainable growth. Second, we need to continue with on-going efforts to meet the challenge of fiscal sustainability. Third, we have to meet the challenge of rebuilding the Economic and Monetary Union."

He concluded his speech saying: "The challenges ahead of us will not be resolved without hard work and serious efforts. There is no time for complacency. In the end, what we want to achieve with all of this is a competitive and inclusive economy that enables us to achieve sustainable growth and job creation, while maintaining our social model and ensuring a sustained rise in welfare. This requires an institutional set-up that supports these objectives. That's why rebuilding of the EMU is essential for our long-term welfare and for the sake of sustainable growth and job creation.

But we cannot get lost in institutional arm-wrenching, neither at national or European level. In looking to the future the over-arching objectives need to be at centre stage. Through hard work and team play I am confident that we can meet the challenges and achieve these objectives."

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News in brief
 Irish Presidency reaches breakthrough on new rules on bank bonuses

On Wednesday night (27 February), the Irish Presidency reached provisional agreement with the European Parliament on an overhaul of banking rules in the EU.

The provisional agreement with the European Parliament sets out new rules that include restrictions on bankers pay to make sure that pay practices do not lead to excessive risk-taking as well as new provisions to make European banks more transparent. The new rules will also help make sure that European banks hold enough good quality capital to withstand future economic and financial shocks.

This agreement will have to be approved by EU Member States before it is final.

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 Health and Safety: Commission proposes to improve workers' protection against exposure to hazardous chemicals

The European Commission has proposed to better protect workers from risks linked to exposure to chemicals at the workplace. In particular, the Commission has proposed to amend five existing EU health and safety Directives on protection of workers from exposure to harmful chemicals to align them with the latest rules on classification, labelling and packaging of chemicals ( Regulation (EC) 1272/2008). The proposal now goes to the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers for adoption.


 Ireland's Marine Institute - watching over the world's oceans

The Irish Marine Institute is part of a European research consortium which is playing a vital part in ARGO, a global programme for monitoring the earth’s oceans and, in particular, the effects of global warming on sea levels. EURO-ARGO deploys about 250 floats every year and maintains an array of 800 floats at any given time (the average float lifespan is about four years). It currently has about 500 floats in service, mainly in the Atlantic and Indian oceans, but it will be at least 2014 before the full array is deployed. The floats ride the ocean currents and descend into the water column down to 2,000m. They rise to the surface after about 10 days. By then, they will have collected information on temperature and salinity - two essential climate variables describing the oceans’ physical and thermodynamic state. Upon surfacing, they send the data out by satellite. Each float acquires 200 profiles over a five-year lifetime.

The EURO-ARGO consortium has received EU funding to the tune of €3 million.

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 Oscar triumph for MEDIA-backed films Amour and Searching for Sugar Man

European Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou has paid tribute to the makers of EU-backed films Amour and Searching for Sugar Man after their success at Sunday night's 85th Academy Awards in Hollywood. Austrian director Michael Haneke scooped the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film with Amour, a moving portrayal of an elderly couple as they approach the end of their lives. Searching for Sugar Man, the true story of rock guitarist Sixto Rodríguez, who vanished into obscurity in the mid-70s only to be re-rediscovered working as a labourer, won Best Documentary Feature. The two winners were among six nominated films supported by the MEDIA programme for cinema, which have received € 2 million in EU funding to date.

 Avoiding damage from space debris - space surveillance and tracking proposal

Satellite orbiting earthIt is estimated that up to 600,000 objects larger than 1 cm orbit the Earth, and at least 16,000 larger than 10 cm. An object larger than 1 cm hitting a satellite will damage or destroy sub-systems or instruments on board, and a collision with an object larger than 10 cm will destroy the satellite. Space debris also poses a risk to ground-based infrastructures and citizens' security when it falls out of orbit and re-enters the Earth's atmosphere.

Yesterday (Thursday), the European Commission proposed a new programme to help EU Member States combine their space surveillance capacities and offer services to locate and monitor this dangerous debris and alert satellite operators of collision risks and public administrations of so called uncontrolled re-entries – services known as space surveillance and tracking (SST).

 Exposure to second-hand smoke reduced, but still too high, says Commission report

Protection from passive smoking has improved considerably in the EU, according to a report published by the Commission last week. In 2012, 28% of Europeans were exposed to second-hand smoke in bars – down from 46% in 2009. At 8%, although slightly up from 2009, exposure to second-hand smoke in Ireland remains among the lowest in the EU, behind only Sweden (3%) and the UK (6%). The report also revealed a slight fall in Irish smokers, from 31% in 2009 to 28% in 2012.

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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 March: Eurogroup meeting, Brussels

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

Tuesday 5 March: Economic and Financial Affairs Council, Brussels

Tuesday 5 to Wednesday 13 March: Slovenian Fashion and Product Design Showcase: 'Between Sense & Sanity', European Union House, Dublin 2

Wednesday 6th March 2013: WiSER Public Lecture - “Approaches to Equality for Women Faculty in Science:  Changing Institutions, Changing Individuals – Lessons from the MIT Story” by Professor Nancy Hopkins, EU House, Dublin

Wednesday 6 March: Public lecture - "Between the 'Blue Card' and Circular Migration: The Crisis of the EU's Immigration Policy for Third-country Nationals" by Professor Binod Khadria (Jawaharial Nehru University), Trinity College Dublin

Monday 11 March: Public hearing: "Digital public procurement in an integrated Single Market", Eurofound, Wyattville Road, Loughlinstown, Dublin 18

Wednesday 13 March: Public lecture - "The ESM and its Constitutionality", by Dr Peter M Huber (German Federal Constitutional Court), Trinity College Dublin

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

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

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

Public consultations
 Public consultations on specific measures to improve tax collection and ensure better tax compliance across the EU.

The European Commission this week launched two public consultations on specific measures which could improve tax collection and ensure better tax compliance across the EU.

The first consultation is on the development of a European Taxpayer's Code, which would clarify the rights and obligations of both taxpayers and tax authorities.

The second consultation is on a European Tax Identification Number (EU TIN), which would facilitate the proper identification of taxpayers in the EU.

Both the Taxpayer's Code and the EU TIN were among the measures proposed by the Commission last December in its Action Plan to tackle tax fraud and evasion. The aim of the public consultations is to gather examples of best practices in the Member States on collecting data on taxpayers' identities as well as taxpayer compliance and transparency. The results of both consultations will be used to identify and develop the appropriate policy responses by the end of 2013.

The consultations will run until 17 May 2013.

Spotlight on: The Youth Guarantee
 President Barroso welcomes Council agreement on Youth Guarantee

President Barroso speaking to members of the Trinity College Historical Society in Dublin on 28 FebruaryEuropean Commission President José-Manuel Barroso has welcomed the political agreement reached on the proposed Youth Guarantee  Recommendation at the EU's Council of Employment and Social Affairs Ministers on 28th February. Under the Youth Guarantee Member States should put in place measures to ensure that young people up to age 25 receive a good quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

Speaking in Dublin yesterday (Thursday), President Barroso commented "Too many young Europeans are asking if they will ever find a job or have the same quality of life as their parents. They need answers from us. That is why, for the past two years, the European Commission pushed the urgent need to tackle youth unemployment to the top of Europe's political agenda. 6 billion euros have been earmarked for the Youth Employment Initiative to help the young unemployed.  Now, with the Youth Guarantee, young people have a real chance of a better future. I call on Member States to translate this agreement into concrete action as swiftly as possible."

Click here mp3 - 183 KB [183 KB] to listen to President Barroso explain more.

The agreement was also welcomed by European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor, who said "Given the record numbers of young jobless, I am very pleased that the Council has approved the Youth Guarantee proposal so quickly. It is crucially important that Member States urgently put in place measures to make the Youth Guarantee a reality and so to urgently get young people into work. EU funds can help but they also need to invest their own money to avoid higher costs in the future."

The youth guarantee schemes aim to ensure that unemployed young people are quickly offered employment or training.

All young people under the age of 25 who lose their job or do not find work after leaving school should receive a good-quality offer of employment, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within 4 months. Member states should implement the schemes as soon as possible, preferably as from 2014. In countries with severe budgetary difficulties and higher rates of youth unemployment, however, a gradual implementation could be considered.

The youth guarantee is a response to the worsening youth employment situation in Europe, where an increasing number of young people are without employment, education or training. The investment required for such schemes is to be set against the high social and economic costs wide-spread youth unemployment would entail in the longer term.

Part of the scheme funding will be supported by EU funds which will be reinforced by a new initiative making €6 billion available for the period 2014-2020. It will help regions with youth unemployment rates above 25 % to take steps to boost youth employment. Half of that amount will be allocated from the European Social Fund, the other half from a dedicated youth employment budget line.