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Top stories
 New EU study urges overhaul of football transfer system

FootballerThe European Commission is recommending a wholesale reform of the transfer system in European football to correct imbalances and improve fair and balanced competition. According to the report, the current system mostly benefits the wealthiest clubs, superstar players and their agents. The proposals include limiting ‘inflated’ transfer fees and the introduction of a fair play levy on fees rising above a certain amount, to ensure football remains competitive at all levels and to rein in the rocketing costs of buying players.

Football clubs spend around €3 billion a year on player transfers but very little of this trickles down to smaller clubs or the amateur game, claims the report. The number of transfers in European football more than tripled in the period 1995-2011, while the amounts spent by clubs on transfer fees increased seven-fold. But most of the big spending is concentrated on a small number of elite clubs which have the largest revenues or are backed by very wealthy investors. The level of redistribution of money in the game, which should compensate for the costs of training young players and developing new talent, is insufficient to allow smaller clubs to develop and to break the stranglehold that the biggest clubs continue to have on the sport.

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 “Connect with Respect” – Safer internet for Children

Children using laptopTuesday was Safer Internet Day and the European Commission has presented the results of an initiative undertaken by a coalition of technological and media companies which aims to make the internet a safer and better place for children.

Members of the coalition, including companies like BT, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Telefónica and Vodafone, have committed to provide wider options for parental control and to strengthen age-appropriate privacy settings. The initiative also seeks to stop children's exposure to harmful material and reduce online bullying.

Seven is the average age when children first go online in the Europe. 38% of 9 to 12 year olds who are online say they have a social networking profile, in spite of age restrictions. More than 30% of children who go online do so from a mobile device and 26% via game consoles. 4 in 10 children report having encountered risks online such as cyber-bullying, being exposed to user-generated content promoting anorexia or self-harm or misuse of their personal data.

 Stronger rules against money laundering

€10 noteThe Commission earlier this week adopted two proposals to reinforce the EU's existing rules on anti-money laundering and fund transfers. The threats associated with money laundering and terrorist financing are constantly evolving, which requires regular updates of the rules.

In particular, the new Directive:

  • improves clarity and consistency of the rules across the Member States
  • by providing a clear mechanism for identification of beneficial owners. In addition, companies will be required to maintain records as to the identity of those who stand behind the company in reality.
  • by improving clarity and transparency of the rules on customer due diligence in order to have in place adequate controls and procedures, which ensure a better knowledge of customers and a better understanding of the nature of their business. In particular, it is important to make sure that simplified procedures are not wrongly perceived as full exemptions from customer due diligence.
  • and by expanding the provisions dealing with politically exposed persons, (i.e. people who may represent higher risk by virtue of the political positions they hold) to now also include “domestic” (those residing in EU Member States) (in addition to 'foreign') politically exposed persons and those in international organisations. This includes among others head of states, members of government, members of parliaments, judges of supreme courts.
  • extends its scope to address new threats and vulnerabilities 
  • by ensuring for instance a coverage of the gambling sector (the former directive covered only casinos) and by including an explicit reference to tax crimes.
  • promotes high standards for anti-money laundering
  • by going beyond the FATF requirements in bringing within its scope all persons dealing in goods or providing services for cash payment of €7,500 or more, as there have been indications from certain stakeholders that the current €15,000 threshold was not sufficient. Such persons will now be covered by the provisions of the Directive including the need to carry out customer due diligence, maintain records, have internal controls and file suspicious transaction reports. That said, the directive provides for minimum harmonisation and Member States may decide to go below this threshold. 
  • strengthens the cooperation between the different national Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) whose tasks are to receive, analyse and disseminate to competent authorities reports about suspicions of money laundering or terrorist financing.
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 Wanted: Citizen X to take on the Eurotrip Challenge

Image advertising is looking for two teams of two people to take on the Eurotrip Citizen X challenge and race across 5 EU countries over just 6 days.

With Ireland celebrating 40 years membership of the EU, as well as the European Year of Citizens 2013, want to put the EU rights Irish people have as EU citizens to the test.

Both teams will start in the same destination, which will be a yet to be announced city in the EU, and will have to race each other to reach a final destination. The winners must cover 5 countries in just 6 days – no small feat – and, if that wasn't enough, they will also be given 5 unique and challenging tasks, designed to test EU policy around citizenship.

The two lucky winning teams will be asked to share their findings along the way online, by tweeting, facebooking and youtubing each day, talking about the places they visit, the people they meet and how they dealt with the challenges that they faced.

In an added twist this year, the public will vote to decide what tasks they want the two teams to undertake.

 Eurobarometer: Irish people less likely to check chemicals in products before buying

Eurobarometer logoA new Eurobarometer report on the “public's perception of chemicals and people's attitudes to their safety in Europe” has revealed that Irish people are generally less likely than the European average to check the ingredients or composition of products before purchasing (page 34).

For example Ireland has the second lowest percentage of people (69%), after the Netherlands (61%), who look at the ingredients in food before buying. Across the EU, the average is 81% with the highest percentage in Slovakia (88%).

When it comes to buying clothes we have the lowest percentage in Europe at 15% (along with Malta) who check the composition before buying. The average across the EU is 38% rising to just over half (51%) in Germany and Greece.

Irish people are also among the least likely to check toys at 33% compared to an EU average of 56%. And we’re also far less likely to check the composition of cosmetics/beauty products (45% compared to an EU average of 59%).

The report also shows that Ireland had the highest level of respondents who would buy newly released products containing chemical substances relatively soon after release, as long as they had heard nothing about possible adverse effects (20% compared to an EU average of 10%). We also had the highest percentage of people who would buy it immediately (6% compared to an EU average of 2%) and the lowest percentage of people who would buy it only after researching it (20% compared to an EU average of 30%). However, almost half of Irish (47%) and European (46%) respondents said that they would wait until a product had been proven to be working and safe over a long period of time before purchasing it.

One thousand people were interviewed in Ireland for the survey last October by IMS Millward Brown.

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 €2m for new marine living resources project

The Irish Marine Institute is one of 26 partners receiving European Commission funding worth €2 million for a new collaborative research project.  The project aims to promote sustainable exploitation of marine living resources and push innovation and competitiveness in fisheries, aquaculture, seafood processing and distribution to consumers. Entitled "Strengthening cooperation in European research on sustainable exploitation of marine resources in the seafood chains – ERANET" (or COFASP for short), it brings together 26 partners from 13 Member States, two Associated Countries (Norway and Iceland) and the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).

These 13 countries join forces under what the European Commission calls an ERA-NET instrument which aim to reinforce cooperation and coordination of research activities carried out at national or regional level in the Member States and Associated States through the networking of research activities and the mutual opening of national and regional research programmes.

The project started on 1 February 2013 and will run until 31 January 2017 and it will operate in a complex landscape as it is expected to develop synergies and collaborative work with other EU funded structures in the field of fisheries while avoiding duplications.

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News in brief
 Commission welcomes vote of European Parliament supporting its proposal for a new Common Fisheries Policy

Fisherman sorting catchThe European Commission welcomed yesterday's European Parliament vote on the Commission's proposal for a new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). With this vote the Parliament is paving the way for negotiations with the Council with a view to concluding an agreement on the new policy.

The 2011 proposal for the reform of the CFP aims to create the conditions for EU fishing fleets to be economically viable and to promote EU aquaculture, for the benefit of the communities that depend on these activities as well as for the benefit of consumers. The Commission's proposal to reform the basic rules of the Common Fisheries Policy is based on sustainability. Fisheries management should allow all stocks to be rebuilt to healthy levels that will maximise catches for fishermen. The wasteful practice of discarding perfectly edible fish must be gradually stopped with clear obligations and deadlines, allowing fishermen the time to adapt. Decisions on fisheries management must be taken with the involvement of fishermen and stakeholders, and must take into account the specificities of the sea basins.

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 Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 for Dummies

Interested in finding out more about the Multiannual Financial Framework or EU Budget for 2014-2020. The European Commission has just published a  "Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020 for Dummies". This provides a quick glossary to the terms that will be used at the MFF European Summit which takes place today and tomorrow in Brussels.

 Women in development - Kapuscinski development lecture - 21st Feb

Michelle Bachelet, is the first ever Executive Director of UN Women and she will speak at the Kapuscinski development lecture in Dublin on women's empowerment and role of gender equality in implementation of the current Millennium Development Goals as well as in the process of setting new, post 2015 global goals.

The lecture is in Clinton Hall, University College Dublin, at 6:30 p.m. on 21 February and is free to attend. You must, however, register and the deadline to do so is the 19th February.

For those of you who are not lucky enough to attend the lecture you can still get involved:

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 Diamonds - A cancer patient's best friend

Diamonds have long been recognised as a girl’s best friend. But now an EU-funded research project has demonstrated that the unique properties of diamonds extend far beyond that legendary sparkle. They also offer a radical new way to detect the onset of cancer far earlier than has previously been possible – opening up the possibility of more effective treatment and potentially saving the lives of countless cancer patients. Cancers result when abnormal growth patterns start to occur in human cells. If science could devise a way of monitoring the transformation processes taking place within living cells in real-time, it could not only provide a vital early warning of any potentially cancer-causing abnormality, but also offer the opportunity of correcting it before it developed further. 

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 EU regional funds to help save Pompeii

EU Regional Affairs Commissioner Johannes Hahn yesterday launched the start of work to help save the world renowned UNESCO site of Pompeii in the Italian region of Campania. The total cost of the project is €105 million of which €41.8 million comes from EU Regional Funds (ERDF). It will use some of the most sophisticated and up-to-date technology to conserve the ruins of the site which has been badly damaged in recent years. The project is also taking a variety of measures to protect itself from the influence of organised crime - the Camorra - which infects many parts of the region.

Currently around 2.3 million visitors come to Pompeii every year. It is expected that by 2017 with the restoration of the site, that should increase by at least 300,000 people with huge direct and indirect benefits for the region in terms of jobs and spin-off commercial activities.

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 Digital Agenda: OMEGA research project uses light to help achieve higher broadband speeds

An EU-funded research project has created a system for higher broadband speeds that can connect many more devices in the home. Today, Wi-Fi is the home networking solution everyone uses, but it is unlikely to be able to meet future demands by itself. To ensure, for example, that families could stream multiple movies at the same time, researchers on the "HOME Gigabit Access" (OMEGA) project have developed a network using a combination of power cables, radio signals and light. This technology could ensure that every office and household has enough bandwidth to connect a range of "smart" objects to each other like phones, cars and domestic appliances.

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

Thursday 7 to Friday 8 February: European Council, Brussels

Monday 11 and Tuesday 12 February: Informal Meeting of Ministers for Development Cooperation, Dublin Castle

Monday 11 February: Eurogroup meeting, Brussels

Monday 11 February: Seminar - 'Active Citizens Combating Social Exclusion', EU House, Dublin

Tuesday 12 February: Meeting of Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN), Brussels

Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 February: Informal Meeting of Ministers for Defence, Dublin Castle

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.

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 20 to Friday 1 March: Exhibition - 'EU-Ireland at 40: Looking back over 40 years', EU House, Dublin

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 unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain in Europe

Unfair trading practices in the food and non-food supply chain have a detrimental effect on the whole EU economy as they affect companies’ (especially SMEs’) ability to invest and innovate. This Green Paper (consultation paper) makes an initial assessment of the problems posed by unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships along the food and non-food supply chain, including the lack of efficient enforcement of existing national rules and the resulting impact on the Single Market.

The objective of the Green Paper is to launch a consultation with stakeholders on this analysis and to identify possible next steps in addressing the problem. All interested parties are invited to submit their views in response to the questions contained in this Green Paper.

Contributions should be sent to reach the Commission by 30 April 2013 at the latest.

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 Public consultation on the review of the CAP schemes providing agricultural products to school children

There are currently two school schemes in the area of agriculture specifically targeting children in schools. European School Milk Scheme (SMS) provides school children with dairy products, while the more recent School Fruit Scheme (SFS) co-finances the distribution of fruit and vegetable products. In the school year 2010/2011, the schemes have together benefited more than 25 million children across participating Member States, distributing around 43.000 tons of fruit and vegetables and 300.000 tons of milk and milk products.

Recent studies have identified the need to make further improvements to the school schemes to increase their efficiency and effectiveness. Therefore, it is necessary to explore further possible ways to improve the two schools schemes, in particular the current fragmented approach in providing agricultural products to children, by considering different options, as identified in the consultation paper. 

In this context, this public consultation aims at:

  • informing and allowing interested parties to submit their views on the problem definition, challenges and options proposed
  • gathering facts and analytical documents to help the impact assessment.

Contributions should be sent to reach the Commission by 22 April 2013 at the latest.

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Funding Opportunities
 Government calls for applications for funding for projects to raise awareness of the EU's role in our daily lives

Applications are now being invited for funding under the Department of the Taoiseach’s Communicating Europe Initiative (CEI) from voluntary organisations, educational bodies, and civil society groups. Proposals are being sought for projects aimed at deepening public awareness of the role that the European Union plays in our daily lives. 

 2013 is a significant year for Ireland and its role in the European Union.  Not only do we hold the Presidency of the EU – we’ll be running the agenda from January until June – Ireland is also celebrating the 40th anniversary of its accession to the Union.  All this in the year that the European Commission has designated as European Year of Citizens. 

The Irish Presidency sees 2013 as a real opportunity for people across Ireland to focus on what four decades of membership has brought us; the rights that European citizenship has given us and to reflect on how we see our future in Europe.

For that reason, the 2013 awards for funding under the CEI will be made to projects which encourage citizens to actively engage and participate in the debate on their future in Europe.    In awarding funds in 2013, priority will be given to proposals for:

  • events which promote public conversations and debate – at local or national level
  • cultural and media projects that explain Ireland in Europe and Europe in Ireland- at local or national level
  • projects or events designed to celebrate the European Year of Citizens
  • events that celebrate Europe Day on Thursday 9 May.

The closing date for funding applications will be Friday 15 February 2013. Successful applicants will be notified in early March. Further details and an application form are now available on the websites of the EU Presidency ( and on the Department of the Taoiseach (

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 RegioStars Awards 2014

The EU RegioStars are awarded every year to recognise outstanding regional projects funded by the EU. Their objective is to identify good practices in regional development and to highlight original and innovative projects which could be attractive and inspiring to other regions.

The application process for the 2014 RegioStars Awards is now open. The Award Categories for 2014 are:

  • Cat. 1: Smart Growth: SME innovation
  • Cat. 2: Sustainable Growth: Green growth and jobs through Bio-economy
  • Cat. 3: Inclusive Growth: Creating jobs for the young generation
  • Cat. 4: CityStar: Investment projects in sustainable urban public transport
  • Cat. 5: Major Investment Projects: Energy efficiency and the low carbon economy

Applications should be sent by 19 April 2013 to the electronic address . The selected finalists will have the opportunity to showcase their projects before an independent jury during the eleventh annual European Week of Regions and Cities - OPEN DAYS 2013. The Award ceremony itself will take place in Brussels in early 2014.

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Spotlight on: 9th Troika Review
 Statement by EC, ECB and IMF on the ninth review mission to Ireland

Staff teams from the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Dublin during January 29–February 7, 2013 for the ninth review of the government’s economic programme and met with a range of stakeholders. Ireland’s strong track record of programme implementation has been maintained, contributing to substantial improvements in market access and conditions for the sovereign and also – albeit more moderately – for the banks. EC/ECB/IMF mission teams continued technical discussions with the authorities on the scope for further improving the sustainability of the well-performing adjustment programme. Mission teams also began discussions on how best to prepare for and support a successful and durable exit from programme financing.

Ireland’s economic recovery is continuing and is expected to gradually gain momentum, with growth forecast to firm to over 1 percent in 2013 and over 2 percent in 2014. The growth of Irish exports is a key driver of the on-going recovery, but is highly dependent on the pace of recovery in trading partners. Net exports are nevertheless supported by a significant reversal of competitiveness losses experienced during the boom period. At the same time, high unemployment and still weak balance sheets continue to weigh on the domestic economy. A timely resolution of banks’ non-performing loans will pave the way for improving the situation in the banking sector, restoring credit supply, reducing uncertainty, and, ultimately, enabling a durable revival in domestic demand.

The government is estimated to have comfortably met the 2012 fiscal targets and it remains committed to a 2013 deficit ceiling of 7.5% of GDP and to correcting the excessive deficit by 2015. Market confidence in Ireland’s continued solid fiscal consolidation is essential for the country’s durable return to market financing, making the strict implementation of Budget 2013 measures essential. In particular, the government’s efforts to ensure stronger management of the health budget, where spending overruns occurred in 2012, must deliver high quality health services while achieving value-for-money more in line with other EU countries. A timely conclusion of the negotiations with public sector unions should allow savings to be achieved while protecting the delivery of core public services.

Unemployment remains stubbornly high, and is increasingly long-term in nature. Reducing it must remain an urgent policy priority. A revival in private sector employment is expected to begin in 2013, but the unemployment rate may decline only gradually, hindered by the prevailing significant skills mismatches among the unemployed. Stepped up efforts to help the long-term unemployed are needed, including redeployments to raise the number of case managers and ensuring their adequate training, mobilising resources for activation through the involvement of the private sector and providing relevant education and training opportunities for the unemployed. Accelerating the implementation of investment projects, including those funded by the European Investment Bank, National Pension Reserve Fund, private investors, and by a portion of state asset sale proceeds could also help to address the unemployment challenge in a timely manner.

Good progress has been made in repairing Ireland's financial sector, which should permit the timely removal of the costly Eligible Liabilities Guarantee scheme, improving banks’ profitability. Nonetheless, decisive actions remain essential to ensure banks’ capacity to lend and support the recovery. The priority in 2013 must be for banks to make demonstrable progress in enhancing asset quality. The management of mortgage and SME loans in arrears needs to be further enhanced to achieve sustainability for households and distressed but viable businesses. Given the scale of mortgage arrears, supervisors should ensure that banks intensify their engagement with customers in order to find durable solutions appropriate to borrowers' circumstances. Timely activation of the new personal insolvency framework will support these efforts.  As a complementary step, greater efforts can be made to pursue legal remedies for unsustainable investment-property related debts. Strengthened progress in resolving SME loan arrears is also important given the key role of this sector in job creation.

Market conditions for Irish bonds continue to improve, with benchmark 8-year yields now below 4.5 percent and recent bond issues attracting broad investor interest. There have also been encouraging improvements in financing conditions for banks and semi-state utilities. The significant yield declines on Irish sovereign debt reflect growing international confidence in Ireland’s robust policy implementation, as well as the euro area leaders' statement on June 29 and the ECB's announcement of Outright Monetary Transactions in early September. But market confidence remains vulnerable given high public and private debts and the mission teams stressed the need for continued strong policy efforts by the Irish authorities in order to lay solid foundations for successful programme exit at end 2013 and a durable return to market financing.

The key objectives of Ireland’s EU-IMF supported programme are to address financial sector weaknesses and put Ireland’s economy on the path of sustainable growth, sound finances and job creation, while protecting the poor and most vulnerable. The programme includes loans from the European Union and EU member states amounting to €45 billion and a €22.5 billion Extended Fund Facility with the IMF. Conclusion of this review would make available a disbursement of €1 billion by the IMF and €1.6 billion by the EFSM/EFSF, with EU member states expected to disburse a further €0.5 billion through bilateral loans. The next review mission is scheduled for April 2013.

Statement by Vice-President Rehn on the conclusion of the ninth review mission to Ireland