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Top stories
 Statement by EU Finance Ministers on Ireland and Portugal

Finance Minister Michael Noonan TD with the Finance Ministers from Italy and DenmarkThe Eurogroup on Monday and Finance Ministers on Tuesday discussed the state of play of the adjustment programmes in Ireland and in Portugal.

Both programmes are on track and performing well despite challenging macro-economic circumstances.

EU Finance Ministers commended the authorities’ strong commitment to their respective adjustment programmes, which have already been successful in addressing previously accumulated imbalances. Both countries have taken successful steps to re-enter the markets. In both meetings views were exchanged on how best to support their efforts to regain full market access and successfully exit their programmes.

We discussed whether EU Finance Ministers would be ready in principle to consider an adjustment of the maturities on the EFSF and EFSM loans to Ireland and Portugal in order to smooth the debt redemption profiles of both countries.

We agreed to ask the Troika to come forward with a proposal for their best possible option for each of these two countries for EFSF and EFSM loans.

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 Irish still feel European

Eurobarometer logoIrish people are more likely to feel a degree of EU Citizenship than the EU average (69% compared to 63%) according to the Autumn 2012 Eurobarometer National Report on Ireland. The report also shows that the percentage of Irish people who feel a strong sense of EU citizenship is up, from 20% last Spring to 33% in the Autumn.

The Eurobarometer National Report on Ireland is one in a long series that examines trends in European public opinion from varying perspectives defined by the different questions contained in successive Eurobarometer studies.  In Ireland, 1,000 people were interviewed for the survey by IMS Millward Brown between 3 and 18 November 2012.

The present report covers four main areas:

  • Irish attitudes to EU Citizenship
  • Irish citizens' subjective knowledge of EU matters 
  • Irish citizens and the European Citizens Initiative
  • Sources of news on EU matters
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 EU Commission fines Microsoft for non-compliance with browser choice commitments

European Commission Vice President Joaquin AlmuniaThe European Commission has imposed a €561 million fine on Microsoft for failing to comply with its commitments to offer users a browser choice screen enabling them to easily choose their preferred web browser.

In 2009, the Commission had made these commitments legally binding on Microsoft until 2014. In today's decision, the Commission finds that Microsoft failed to roll out the browser choice screen with its Windows 7 Service Pack 1 from May 2011 until July 2012. 15 million Windows users in the EU therefore did not see the choice screen during this period. Microsoft has acknowledged that the choice screen was not displayed during that time.

Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia said: "In 2009, we closed our investigation about a suspected abuse of dominant position by Microsoft due to the tying of Internet Explorer to Windows by accepting commitments offered by the company. Legally binding commitments reached in antitrust decisions play a very important role in our enforcement policy because they allow for rapid solutions to competition problems. Of course, such decisions require strict compliance. A failure to comply is a very serious infringement that must be sanctioned accordingly."

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 Word of mouth key to holiday choice

European Destination of Excellence: The Great Western Greenway, Co MayoA new Eurobarometer report on attitudes towards tourism has revealed that almost 3 in 4 (73%) Irish people used the Internet to book their holidays in 2012. This is well above the EU average of 53% and second highest in the EU after The Netherlands (75%). Only 16% of Irish people booked their holiday over the counter at a travel agency in 2012.

What’s more, only 14% of Irish people consider travel agencies to be an important source of information when deciding on their holidays. They are far more likely to rely on the information provided by their family/friends (58%) or the Internet (48%).

The report also reveals that 15% of Irish people are planning to stay in Ireland for their main holiday in 2013 but that less than 1% of Europeans are planning to come to Ireland for their main holiday and only 1% are planning to come to Ireland for other holidays.

In Ireland, 1,000 people were interviewed for the survey by IMS Millward Brown between 24 and 30 January 2013.

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 Passenger rights: better protection for bus and coach travellers in the EU

BusOn 1 March, Regulation (EU) No 181/2011 on bus and coach passenger rights became applicable, providing bus and coach travellers throughout the EU with new rights. The regulation lays down travellers' basic rights, and imposes a number of obligations on bus and coach companies and terminal managers concerning their responsibility towards the passengers. Every year around 70 million passengers travel by buses and coaches in the EU.

The bus and coach regulation lays down passenger rights similar to those for air, train and boat transport.

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 EU and Irish citizens think more women in power in developing countries would make a positive difference

Women carrying waterOn the eve of International Women’s Day 2013, a new Eurobarometer shows that 78% of Europeans think that having more women in positions of political power in developing countries would ‘make things better’.

In fact, over three quarters of respondents said that getting more women into leading roles in developing countries would improve respect for human rights, with 72% saying it would also improve living conditions and 65% believing it would prevent conflict and war. Irish respondents were even more likely to think that having more women in positions of power would improve respect for human rights (84%), living conditions (81%) and preventing conflict and war (73%).

Over 90% of Europeans and 95% of Irish respondents thought that gender equality improves the way societies in general function and that all aid programmes should take specific account of women’s rights.

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News in brief
 Commission wants to simplify life for SMEs by easing the top 10 most burdensome EU laws

In a broad consultation initiated by the Commission, around 1000 SMEs and business organisations have now identified the top 10 most burdensome EU laws. The aim of the consultation was to check where EU regulation might be impeding jobs and growth and to identify areas or issues which would require further examination and action where necessary. The result published today (Thursday) indicates that SMEs see the biggest difficulties and costs as a consequence of the rules regarding the REACH chemical legislation, value added tax, product safety, recognition of professional qualifications, data protection, waste legislation, labour market related legislation, recording equipment for road transport, public procurement and the modernised customs code.

The 20.8 million European small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) create 85% of all new jobs in Europe, they employ 2/3 of the workforce in the EU and they contribute significantly to innovation and growth.

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 Eurostat: Irish people enjoy more years of healthy life than the EU average

Elderly coupleAccording to figures released this week by Eurostat, Irish women and men at birth can expect to live 67 and 66 years respectively in a healthy condition. This is 4 to 5 years longer than the EU average where, at birth, both women and men could expect to live 62 years in a healthy condition in 2011.

At all stages in life, Irish people’s healthy life years expectancy was higher than the EU average. At the age of 50, healthy life years expectancy for Irish women was 22 years (EU average of 18) and for Irish men was 21 years (EU average of 17.5). At the age of 65, Irish people could expect to enjoy 11 more years of healthy life (same for women and men) compared to an EU average of 8.6 years.

More generally, across all age categories people in Sweden had the longest healthy life expectancy while people in Slovakia had the lowest.

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 Ireland - Fourth highest volume of municipal waste per person in the EU

Rubbish dumpIrish people generated the 4th highest volume of municipal waste per person in the EU in 2011 at 623 kg per person compared to an EU average of 503 kg per person. On a more positive note, Ireland had the 2nd highest share of municipal waste that went to recycling (37% compared to an EU average of 25%).

Surprisingly Denmark (718 kg) had the highest volume of municipal waste per person while the newer member states of Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland and Estonia had the lowest (all below 400 kg per person).

Methods of treating waste also differ substantially between Member States. On average across the EU landfill (37%) was the most popular method of treatment followed by recycling (25%), incineration (23%) and composting (15%). However some countries (Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden) have managed to reduce the amount going to landfill to 1%.

Ireland was well above the EU average for both landfill (55%) and recycling (37% but below the EU average for incineration (5%) and composting (4%).

This information comes from Eurostat.

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 Environment: New timber regulation comes into force

LoggingLast Sunday, 3 March, new legislation came into effect to counter the trade in illegal timber. The new EU Timber regulation affects everyone in the wood trade. It prohibits the placing of illegally harvested timber on the European market in an effort to tackle the problem of illegal logging across the world. The new law affects both imported and domestically produced timber and timber products, and it covers an extensive range of products, from paper and pulp to solid wood and flooring. The aim is to put in place procedures to minimise the risk of illegal wood being traded. Anyone who first places a timber product on the EU market must apply "due diligence" to ensure that the wood they are trading is legal. Traders who buy or sell timber already on the market are required to keep adequate records so that the wood they deal in can be easily traced.

 Pharmaceuticals: New symbol to identify medicines undergoing additional monitoring

From September 2013 an inverted triangle will appear on the inside leaflet of certain medicinal products on the EU market, following a legal act adopted by the European Commission today (Thursday).

The symbol will allow patients and health care professionals to easily identify medicinal products that are undergoing additional monitoring, and its accompanying text will encourage them to report unexpected adverse reactions through national reporting systems.

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

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

Monday 11 March: Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (TTE Transport), Brussels

Monday 11 to Thursday 14 March: European Parliament Plenary Session, Strasbourg

Monday 11 March: Foreign Affairs Council, Brussels

Monday 11 March: General Affairs Council, Brussels

Wednesday 13 March: Public lecture on Career opportunities for economists in the EU institutions, EU House, Dublin 2

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 14 March: European Council, Brussels

Thursday 14 March: European Consumers Day

Monday 18 to Tuesday 19 March: Agriculture and Fisheries 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 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
 Consultation on plastic waste

Waste plastic bagsThe European Commission has just launched a public consultation about how to make plastic products more sustainable throughout their life cycle and reduce the impact of plastic waste on the environment.

Plastic is often perceived as a cheap and disposable material in our "throw-away" society, and recycling rates are low. Half of all plastic waste generated in Europe goes to landfill, which should be avoided as plastic can contain hazardous components and disposal can result in undesirable emissions and concentrated, polluting residues. Once in the environment, particularly in the marine environment, plastic waste can persist for hundreds of years. Up to 10 million tons of litter, mostly plastic, end up in the world's oceans and seas annually, turning them into the world's biggest plastic dump.

The Green Paper aims to gather facts and views in order to assess the impacts of plastic waste and define a European strategy to mitigate them. Stakeholders are invited to contribute their views on whether, and how, existing legislation should be adapted to deal with plastic waste and promote re-use, recycling and recovery of plastic waste over landfilling. Views are also sought on the effectiveness of potential recycling targets, and of economic measures such as landfill bans, landfill taxes and pay-as-you-throw schemes. The Green Paper also asks how to improve the modular and chemical design of plastic to improve recyclability, how to reduce marine litter and whether there is a need to promote biodegradable plastics.

The consultation is open until the beginning of June 2013.

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 Consultation on combating female genital mutilation in the EU

The European Commission has just launched a public consultation calling for views on how best to develop measures at EU level to fight female genital mutilation.

The target groups are: Member States; civil society organisations with an interest in gender equality issues, violence against women, female genital mutilation and/or social issues; equality bodies; and other organisations or individuals.

This public consultation is open until 30 May 2013.

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 European Day for Border Guards photo competition

Poster advertising Frontex photo competition 2013Frontex is pleased to announce the launch of the European Day for Border Guards photo competition 2013! The aim of the contest is to reflect the distinctive nature of European borders across the continent and to gather inspiration from the beauty of European landscapes. With that in mind, the theme for this year is: “Ties that Bind: Bridging borders in modern Europe”.

All entrants must be over 18 years of age on the date of submission of their entry.

Chosen winners will receive a cash prize of 500 (1st place), 250 (2nd place) and 200 (3rd place) Euros respectively, as well as a chance to participate in ED4BG in Warsaw, Poland!

The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2013.

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 EMI 40 Years of Change Bursary Award supported by KBC Bank Ireland

In recognition of Ireland’s 40 years of membership of the EU, the European Movement Ireland has teamed up with KBC Bank Ireland to announce an exciting new competition for third-level students. The EM Ireland 40 Years of Change Bursary Award, supported by KBC Bank Ireland, is an essay competition that challenges undergraduate students across the island of Ireland to produce an essay on the topic of Ireland and the EU: Forty Years of Change. The competition invites students to critically examine how Ireland and the EU have developed over the past forty years and how this relationship may develop over the next forty.

Entries will be reviewed by an independent panel of judges drawn from the worlds of academia and politics to select a winner. Chaired by KBC Bank Ireland Chief Executive, John Reynolds, the panel includes Dr Mary Canning, member of the Royal Irish Academy and member of Board of the Higher Education Authority and European Movement Ireland, and David Byrne, former EU Commissioner and Chancellor emeritus Dublin City University.

The author of the winning essay will be announced at a gala dinner in Dublin at the end of May 2013 and will receive a bursary award of €1,500. Second and third place runners-up will also receive prizes on the night.

The deadline for the receipt of entries is 5 p.m. on Monday, 15 April 2013.

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Spotlight on: International Women's Day
 Almost a third of women and 5% of men having a young child worked part-time in 2011

Mind the gender gap: it's still there

Woman at Stop signAhead of International Women's Day, new figures released today by Eurostat - the EU's statistical office - on women in employment reveal that there is still some way to go to achieve real equality in the workplace. Part-time working remains much more common for females with more than one in four (26 per cent) employed Irish women with one child working part-time compared to just below eight per cent of their male counterparts.

See here for tables

In line with the EU average, only one third of managers in Ireland are female. While there were fewer female than male managers in all member states, some countries are doing better with the highest proportions of female managers recorded in 2011 in Latvia (45 per cent), Hungary (41 per cent) and France (40 per cent ). Cyprus is the lowest with only 15 per cent.

Women dominate the teaching profession in Ireland, particularly in primary education, as in all EU countries. In 2011, 85 per cent of primary school teachers in Ireland were women. While there are also more female than male teachers at upper secondary level, the pattern across the EU is less pronounced. Sixty five per cent of secondary teachers in Ireland were female, slightly above the EU average of 59 per cent.

The figures also include data on reconciling work and family life. In 2011, almost one third of employed women with one child under six in the EU worked part-time, rising to half of employed women with three children or more. For employed men, the rates were significantly lower (5 per cent and 7 per cent respectively).
The data on flexible working hours appears more progressive with around one third of both Irish men and women using flexitime (35 per cent and 32.5 per cent respectively). This is above the European average of 28.7 per cent for men and 25.9 per cent for women. The largest share for both women and men was registered in the Nordic countries  with 53 per cent of Finnish women and 59 per cent of men having some form of flexible working, just above next in line Sweden (49 per cent and 47 per cent) and Denmark (both 44 per cent).

Further information

Full Eurostat News Release

More data on gender equality available on the Eurostat website