State aid: European Commission approves the establishment of NAMA
26 February 2010 - The European Commission has approved, under EU state aid rules, the establishment of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), an impaired asset relief scheme for financial institutions in Ireland. The Commission is satisfied that the scheme is in line with its guidelines on impaired asset relief for banks that allow state aid to remedy a serious disturbance in a Member State's economy. The scheme will help address the issue of asset quality in the Irish banking system and promote the return to a normally functioning financial market.
Competition Commissioner Joaquín Almunia said: " Ireland's financial sector has been one of the most affected by the global financial crisis in Europe and the burst of the Irish real estate bubble has only compounded the problems. This impaired asset measure, which is specifically targeted at real estate assets, is therefore key to cleaning up Irish banks' balance sheets. This is an important step towards the overall restructuring of the sector and its return to a normal and responsible functioning of the market."
The purpose of NAMA is to restore stability to the Irish banking system by allowing participating financial institutions to sell to the agency assets whose declining and uncertain value is preventing the long-term shoring-up of the financial institutions' capital and, therefore, the return to a normally functioning financial market.
The scheme was open to all systemically-important credit institutions established in Ireland, including subsidiaries of foreign banks, with a 60-day application window that expired on 19 February. Five institutions will participate: Anglo Irish Bank, Allied Irish Bank, Bank of Ireland, Irish Nationwide Building Society and Educational Building Society.
The assets targeted by the measure are all loans issued for the purchase, exploitation or development of land and associated loans. Following the bursting of the Irish real estate bubble, these constitute the riskiest parts of the participating institutions' asset portfolios. The Irish authorities anticipate that NAMA will purchase land and development loans as well as associated commercial loans with a nominal value of approximately €80 billion for an estimated purchase price of € 54 billion.
NAMA's main objective is to manage the assets expeditiously with a view to maximising their value and recovery prospects in the interest of the State.
The Commission has found that the establishment of NAMA constitutes state aid to the participating institutions pursuant to Article 107(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), but that this aid is compatible by virtue of Article 107(3)(b).
The scheme and intended operations of NAMA are in compliance with the guidelines set out in the Commission's Communication on the treatment of impaired assets (see IP/09/322) as regards disclosure and ex ante transparency, eligibility of institutions and assets and the alignment of banks' incentives with public policy objectives. In particular, the Commission has found that the scheme includes an adequate burden sharing mechanism through the payment of a transfer price which is no greater than the assets' long-term economic value, and the inclusion of an adequate remuneration for the state in the rate used to discount the assets' long term economic cash flows.
Today's approval concerns only the NAMA scheme. The Commission will assess the compatibility (and, in particular, the actual transfer price) of the transferred assets when they are separately notified by the Irish authorities. These individual reviews will include a claw back mechanism in case of excess payments.
Finally, the Commission relies on a number of commitments from the Irish authorities to ensure that NAMA, whilst it performs its goal of maximising the recovery value of the purchased assets, does not lead to distortions of competition through the use of some of the specific powers, rights and exemptions granted in the NAMA Act. The Commission will also review individual restructuring plans to ensure that the participation of the financial institutions in this measure is followed up with appropriate restructuring measures to promote the return of those institutions to long term viability.
This is the second asset-relief scheme approved by the Commission after that submitted by Germany in May 2009 and cleared end July.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number N725/2009 in the State Aid Register on the DG Competition website once any confidentiality issues are resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News .
For information on the Commission's guidance for the treatment of impaired assets in the EU banking sector, please follow this link IP/09/322 from 25 February 2009.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn visits Joint Research Centre in Geel, Belgium as nuclear physics unveil secrets of Bronze Age sword
25 February 2010 - Physicists at the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC) have helped unveil the secrets of a Bronze Age sword with neutron beams normally used to study materials for nuclear reactors. The sword originates from the North Alps-Danuba region and was found near the village of Buggenum (Netherlands). It dates from 1300 – 1100 BC. Scientists at the JRC's Institute for Reference Materials and Measurements (IRMM) in Geel studied it using pulsed neutron beams as part of an EU-funded project called Ancient Charm.
Visiting the IRMM today, Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said: ""This is a reminder of the enormous breadth of innovative research carried out by the JRC for the European Commission. The analysis of an ancient sword using 21st century technology is an example of how European research work also enhances cultural and historical knowledge. I want to use my mandate to tell more people about this kind of fascinating research work and to show them that there is much more to Europe than Directives and Regulations."
Further details are available here .
Commission responds to calls for stronger EU border management agency
24 February 2010 - The Commission today made proposals to strengthen the Warsaw-based EU's border management agency, Frontex. The proposals include reinforcing the legal framework to make sure that fundamental rights are fully respected during Frontex activities. At the same time, the Commission wants to boost the operational capacity of Frontex to better support Member States with external borders to non-EU countries.
Ireland (along with the UK) cooperates with Frontex on a case-by-case basis.
The plan would see Frontex get its own equipment and co-lead border patrol operations with the EU country where they take place. Frontex's role would also include the provision of technical assistance to and deployment of liaison officers in third countries.
The Commission's proposals overall aim to do the following:
- Clarify the mandate and enhance the role of Frontex
- Ensure the availability of technical equipment for joint operations
- Ensure the availability of qualified border guards for joint operations
- Ensure all participating border guards are specially trained in international law on refugee rights
- Ensure efficient coordination, implementation and evaluation of joint operations
- Ensure efficient cooperation between Frontex and third countries on border management
- Improve efficiency of joint return operations
- Improve the evaluation of the performance of Member States in the area of border management
Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström said: "‘Today's proposal will pave the way for more solidarity and better cooperation between EU countries. This will give us the opportunity to better deal with illegal immigration and human trafficking, while at the same time strengthening the safeguards to guarantee full respect of fundamental rights. I hope that the European Parliament and Council will move quickly to turn this proposal into law to provide the human and technical resources that the EU needs."
Cooperation between EU countries on managing immigration through the EU agency Frontex has so far been limited by its lack of resources and of insufficient coordination between national authorities, according to evaluations carried out by the Commission and Frontex. Frontex is a key tool for maintaining an area without internal borders and helps EU countries to coordinate border patrols over air, land and sea, and provides rapid response teams that help national authorities deal with a sudden influx of irregular migration, for example.
Today's proposal would ensure that Frontex can provide appropriate technical and human resources in the framework of joint border patrols. EU countries would have to ensure that a pool of equipment such as boats and planes are at the disposal of the Agency, which would also be able to buy its own equipment. So far the majority of equipment has been provided by EU countries where an operation was taking place, and not from others.
The proposal also introduces an explicit requirement for all border guards taking part in operations to have been trained in fundamental rights, with the aim to safeguard that all immigrants are met with full respect of fundamental rights and in particular the principle of non-refoulement. (Non-refoulement is a principle in international law which is supposed to prevent refugees from being returned to places where their lives or freedoms could be threatened. It covers repatriation of people, generally refugees, into war zones and other disaster areas.)
The operational capacity will be enhanced by clarifying the respective roles of Frontex and the participating Member States, while respecting the principle that each Member States remains responsible for controlling its section of the external border; specific provisions are proposed concerning the operational plan, the evaluation of the operations and incident reporting schemes.
Frontex would also be able to coordinate joint operations returning immigrants to their country of origin, in full respect of fundamental rights and in particular the principle of non-refoulement. An independent monitor shall be present at all times during such operations and report to the Commission on the compliance by Member States with EU law and a code of conduct laying down detailed provisions on the respect of human dignity.
The proposals now have to be debated and approved by the European Parliament and EU governments in the Council.
Frontex was set up in 2005 to coordinate EU Member States' border control operations on the EU's external borders. With 220 employees, Frontex is funded by the EU with an annual budget of about €80 million.
Frontex coordinates cooperation between national border patrollers, provides training for border guards, centralises surveillance data from EU countries, and assists Member States in carrying out joint return operations.
At the European Council of 10-11 December 2009, EU governments agreed on a new work programme for the EU in the area of justice and home affairs, based on a Commission proposal earlier in the year. EU governments called on the Commission to propose improvements to Frontex, as part of the Stockholm Programme, at the European Council on 10-11 December 2009.
A Smarter, Greener Economy: Dublin audience given a preview of the Europe 2020 Strategy
24 February 2010 - A smarter, greener economy is the key platform of the Europe 2020 strategy that the European Commission will unveil officially on March 3. Once the Commission puts its ideas on the table, the strategy will be debated across Europe with a view to being approved by the Heads of State and Government at the Spring European Council at the end of March.
A preview of the strategy was presented today to an invited audience of diplomatic representatives, business leaders and regional councillors in an event organised by the European Commision Representation in Dublin. The keynote speech was delivered by Mr Conor Lenihan TD Minister of State with special responsibility for Science, Technology and Innovation and Natural Resources. Martin Territt, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, Dr. Eckehard Rosenbaum, Policy Analyst in the Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry, Brendan Butler, director of strategy, trade, EU and international affairs at IBEC and Paul Sweeney, Economic Advisor at ICTU, also spoke at the event.
Welcoming the speakers and guests, Mr Martin Territt, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, reminded the audience of the depth of the crisis – a 4% drop in GDP across Europe in 2009, a 20% fall in industrial production and 23 million unemployed. The Europe 2020 strategy, he said, encompasses three key priorities for sustainable growth and jobs. Firstly, growth based on knowledge and innovation; secondly, an inclusive high-employment society; thirdly, green growth and a competitive and sustainable economy.
In the keynote speech, Mr Conor Lenihan TD, Minister of State at the Departments of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and Education and Science, with special responsibility for Science, Technology and Innovation and Natural resources stressed that "The new strategy for sustainable growth and employment must take account of the immediate challenges of the changed economic environment. For Ireland, two elements – jobs and growth – must remain central to all our efforts as we seek to put in place a successor Strategy to Lisbon. Implementing a “smart economy” also means that we must increase the emphasis on both the efficiency and effectiveness of our research expenditure and on the synergies between investment in research, education and innovation. There is a strong need to demonstrate the tangible economic and societal benefits that arise from research in order to be able to sustain our investments. We must also continue to learn from each other in terms of mechanisms to improve the environment for industry-academic collaboration."
Minister Lenihan congratulated Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn in her appointment as Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science and said how particularly pleased he was that this portfolio is now held by an Irish person. "There is a high degree of complementarity between Ireland’s objectives in science, technology and innovation and wider European objectives in this area. The goals of European research and innovation policies are consistent with Ireland's strategy to be one of the world’s leading knowledge-based economies" said the Minister. .
Dr. Eckehard Rosenbaum, Policy Analyst in the Directorate-General Enterprise and Industry, who is responsible for the analysis of economic reforms in Ireland in the context of the growth and jobs strategy, highlighted certain key aspects of Europe 2020. "First" he said "there will be a stronger focus on social aspects and an inclusive society. This implies empowering people through appropriate education and skills. But it also implies providing adequate social protection obviously. Relevant policies in this respect could touch on making life-long learning more accessible for example, or they could aim at removing obstacles to labour mobility, for instance by improving the recognition of qualifications across Europe. Second, Europe 2020 will be a green-growth-strategy. And this means tackling climate change and turning the EU into a resource efficient economy. But it also means fostering the competitiveness of European manufacturing, for instance by improving the conditions for commercialising intellectual property, by fostering structural change towards greater eco-efficiency or by facilitating the access to finance. Last but not least, the imbalances in the Euro area have to be addressed. As pointed out by President van Rompuy, recommendations for the euro area as a whole and its Member States should focus more strongly on competitiveness and macroeconomic imbalances" said Dr Rosenbaum. .
Brendan Butler from IBEC said that Ireland should be comfortable with a plan for a smarter, greener economy as Irish industry had a strong high technology component and maintained excellent environmental standards. He called for closer links between universities and businesses and for applied research that led to products ready for market.
From ICTU, Paul Sweeney said that the strategy was a good start but more effort was required. The unions, he said, were in favour of the social market and policies of inclusion. But, he questioned grounding the strategy in the Growth and Stability Pact which, he said, has been broken and re-iterated the unions' opposition to deflationary measures as a means of exiting from the crisis.
Letter of President Barroso to EU Heads of State and Government on climate action
19 February 2010 - President Barroso has today written to EU Heads of State and Government informing them of the next steps in the Commission's work on climate action
President Barroso underlines that the international process needs to continue, building on what could be agreed in Copenhagen and finding new ways to instil trust back into the process. He states that an important element in the strategy is the implementation of the fast start financing for developing countries agreed in December.
In his letter, President Barroso states that the core goal must be to bring all partners closer to the EU's ambitions and commitment to a multilateral agreement. President Barroso has therefore asked Commissioner Hedegaard to undertake a consultation of key international partners to find new ways to reinvigorate the international process. President Barroso will feed this first assessment into the Spring European Council and then in full into the Ministerial level negotiations and the June European Council.
President Barroso will discuss with President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy on how best to prepare the discussions in the European Council and how to ensure a powerful and unified EU voice on these critical issues for the future.
See below for the full text of the President Barroso's letter:
"Working together to maintain our ambitions on climate change will remain one of our most important challenges for this year. Since we did not have time to discuss this at our meeting last week I would like to share some thoughts on the work going on in the Commission as I believe we should prepare well the important decisions ahead of us.
In fact if the European Union does not take the initiative we may end up driven by the initiatives of others.
Most of us were in Copenhagen, and I think none of us were satisfied with the outcome. However, Copenhagen was a reality check. We had hoped that leading by example, and our commitment to step up our efforts to 30%, would be enough to bring others on board. This did not happen. But this is not the time for the EU to start doubting its commitments. This would be a mistake.
We need to show that we have not given up on our ambitions, even if many of our partners found it easier to limit themselves to the lowest common denominator. We should rather show our commitment to press ahead with delivery – implementing our climate and energy package showing how tackling climate change is a dynamic element in a strategy for growth by creating jobs and boosting energy security under the Europe 2020 approach that I presented and we discussed last week.
Besides the internal dimension of our work, the international front is as important as ever to tackling the threat of climate change. We need the international process to continue, building on what we could agree in the Copenhagen Accord and finding new ways to instil trust back into the process.
An important element in this strategy should be the implementation of the fast start financing we have committed to last December. We should not forget that those who were working more closely with us in Copenhagen were the developing countries, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable.
But our core goal must be to bring all partners closer to our own ambitions and to our commitment to a multilateral agreement. Copenhagen showed us just how tough it will be. Hence if we are to progress, we have to rethink our approach to these partners.
I have therefore asked Connie Hedegaard, the Commissioner for Climate Action, to undertake a consultation of key international partners to find ways to reinvigorate the international process. I would hope to have some first thoughts by the Spring European Council, and then to feed the results in full into the Ministerial level negotiations announced by Chancellor Merkel and the June European Council. I would of course hope that this process can also benefit from your own reflections on the direction of partners' thinking.
The work we are already doing to tackle climate change can act as a powerful lever for others to follow – but it must be seen as a genuinely collective approach. I will be discussing with Herman Van Rompuy the best way to address these elements in March as well as how we can ensure a powerful and unified EU voice on these critical issues for the future."
Cork boy scoops EU prize in EU Healthy Eating Campaign "Tasty Bunch"
19 February 2010 - Young Corkonian Seamus Hickey has won a top EU prize in a Europe-wide competition testing children's knowledge of balanced lifestyle and healthy eating habits. Seamus and his mother went to the European Commission Representation in Dublin on Friday 19 February to receive a certificate from Martin Territt, the Director of the Representation.
Seamus is a pupil of Glasheen Boys national school and came second in Europe in the on-line Treasure Hunt competition organised by the Agriculture and Public Health services of the Commission. Competitors had to guess the right answers to a series of questions on nutrition and exercise. The other winners were children from Spain and Italy.
The lucky winners had the chance to choose among a ping-pong table, mountain bike, juice or yoghurt machines. Seamus chose a shiny new mountain bike all the way from Brussels and he has already been giving it a turn around The Lough in Cork.
Martin Territt said: "It's great to see that young people show a huge interest in nutrition and physical activity. Achieving a balanced diet for children is a constant challenge and we must act now. Raising awareness among them is the first step. EU agriculture provides the necessary elements for healthy nutrition and with the new school schemes we are supporting more a balanced diet among European school children".
Launched in September 2009, "The Tasty Bunch" runs alongside the EU’s School Fruit Scheme and School Milk Scheme –initiatives to encourage a more balanced diet and healthier eating habits amongst children.
The Treasure Hunt has been running since September 2009 on the Tasty Bunch website, http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/tasty-bunch/ where sporty and healthy fruit, vegetables and dairy characters helped more young competitors to answer 16 questions on balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.
The site also has tips for parents on how to get kids to eat the healthy options and meals and snacks.
The Healthy Eating Campaign brings the message: Eat it, Drink it, Move it right into schools. Over 17.000 children and their teachers took part in the Tasty Bunch's roadshow games throughout Belgium, France, the UK, Ireland, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland. Feed-back has been very positive with schools calling the event interesting, instructive and interactive.
The attractive video testimonial featuring Belgian tennis champion Justine Henin and the 8 year old Guinness record holder Rosolino Cannio encouraging children’s eating habits for the better.
Parents can also find a range of useful tips and advice on how to get their kids to eat a balanced breakfast or choose a healthier snack between meals. The Teachers' corner offers access to Best initiatives, Facts and figures and Pedagogical tools in all EU languages to support the teachers in their work at school.
A recent Eurobarometer survey showed three quarters of respondents “totally agreeing” that “there seems to be more overweight children these days than five years ago". Indeed, around 22 million kids are overweight in the EU, of which 5 million are obese.
For further information:
Tasty Bunch campaign: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/tasty-bunch/
Treasure Hunt: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/tasty-bunch/treasure-hunt/index_en.htm
Address by Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn to the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union
18 February 2010 - EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn gave an address in Brussels today to representatives of American multi-national companies outlining the case to them why technological companies should further invest within the EU into the future.
See below for the full text of the Commissioner's speech to the American Chamber of Commerce to the European Union in Brussels.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am most satisfied to be giving one of my first speeches as a European Commissioner to AmCham.US companies are by far the largest source of foreign direct investment for the European Union.
My job title covers research, innovation and science. I am glad that President Barroso decided to connect up these different areas.While science and research creates a pool of ideas, innovation policy must bring these ideas to the market. So, it makes sense to link them.
In fact, I am the first ever European Commissioner for innovation – a clear sign of its growing importance for our jobs and growth and our society. Since it cuts across many European Commission departments, I intend to work very closely with my colleagues to achieve a joined up approach.
I will be chairing a cross-cutting group of Commissioners on Innovation, with the task of producing a new political initiative by this summer. This will also cover innovation which is not directly related to research, such as new business models, designs and service or social innovation.
All of us here know of the importance of research and innovation. You all know that it is the key driver of growth in your companies. I am passionate about fostering an innovation culture in Europe because it can change people's lives and transform our society. For example, it can deliver better treatment for diseases such as Alzheimer and diabetes. And it will help us to meet our growing energy needs in sustainable ways.
Most importantly, it is the key to a durable economic recovery and our only means of creating cleaner, greener and smarter jobs to replace those which have been lost.
That is why the recent EU leaders' summit made it clear that innovation will be a central plank of the European Union's economic policy over the next 5 to 10 years. The EU leaders have scheduled a special discussion on this specific matter at the Autumn Summit. And the Spanish Presidency has made it one of its key priorities too.
At the heart of our agenda will be the major societal challenges that we face, such as climate change, energy and food security and health care for an ageing population.
Our policy will take account of the impact of social networking technologies, which are making the innovation process much more open. And we must also understand how new technologies, such as cloud, mobile and collaborative computing, are revolutionising the relationships of firms with their customers, suppliers and competitors.
It will strengthen every link in the innovation chain: the generation of ideas, financing and the protection of intellectual property rights.
And of course, it can only succeed if there is maximum co-operation between the EU and the Member States. The old dichotomy of either Member States actionorEU action must be replaced by co-ordinated and complementary actions.
My key priorities include the following issues:
First our research system. The basis for the innovation economy. The EU's Research Framework Programme for the period 2007-2013 is a vehicle for innovation in fields ranging from energy, transport and the environment to health and food. I plan to simplify its financial and administrative procedures so that it can be even more effective.And in collaborative research projects involving public and private sector partners, I want 15% of the funding to go to small and medium-sized businesses.
My predecessor, Janez Potočnik, made an excellent start in creating a single, unified research area in Europe, with the objective that researchers and knowledge can move freely across national borders. It is known as the European Research Area. I plan to better leverage the use of 86 bn euro of EU Structural Funds for research so that all Member States can participate in it fully. The completion of the European Research Area is one of my top political priorities.
That means bringing down the barriers to researcher mobility in Europe. I very much welcome the fact that the Spanish Government will hold a meeting in March, bringing together Ministers from the employment, social affairs and research areas, to move forward on this issue.
We must ensure excellence is at the heart of the EU Research Policy. The European Research Council is already shaking up the established order – awarding funding on the basis of merit alone – regardless of where proposals come from – and making funding available for 'blue sky' research which would probably not otherwise have been able to find funding.
The importance of this work cannot be over-stated. We can, and we will, be a world leader in a range of sciences, including nano-technology and bio-technology.
At the same time, we must put an end to the fragmentation of national research efforts and avoid duplication. I know of one case where 72 research centres were doing the exact same research on the exact same bacteria. This makes no sense! So, we are embarking on joint programming in areas relating to the major societal challenges which, as I said, are the focus of our policy. There was agreement on this in the Competitiveness Council on 16 December last.
We are also pooling our resources to finance large-scale research infrastructures. Support has recently been given to the extreme light infrastructures project which will operate in central Europe. This will provide the next generation of lasers.
And of course, some of these challenges are so big that no one continent can solve them alone. The United States of America is Europe's most important science and technology partner. It is the top third country partner in the Framework Programme, and we have strategic partnerships in specific areas, such as the "EC-US Task Force on Bio-technology." I am keen for these activities to be extended in the next 5 years. Staying open to the world is essential.
I want more of the 4,000 third level institutions in the EU to collaborate with industry, and to do so in an EU 27 context. Indeed, we must strengthen the links between all three sides of the knowledge triangle – higher education, business and research centres.
This is a top political priority for President Barroso. He has shown a deep personal commitment to promoting EU Policies in the areas of research, innovation and science. Indeed, his commitment to the entire research and innovation agenda is very strong.
Research, if properly managed, can lead to the development of novel goods and services that customers want. We can fast-forward this process by supporting public private partnerships. A number are already active in areas such as fuel cells and hydrogen, which can potentially replace petrol in cars and the next generation of aircraft. I am confident that more public private partnerships will be launched under my political mandate.
This brings me to my next point. Europe has a large and and excellent knowledge base. It is the largest producer of scientific publications. But we are not good enough at transforming our inventions into commercial successes.
For example, the MP3 standard for compressing audio data was invented in Europe, but commercialised in America – as was Apple's IPod.
This has to change. Europe is in fact nearly level pegging with the US in terms of the number of patents registered. Yet, the cost of patents in the EU is much higher than in the US. If we could change this, if we could deliver a large and harmonised single market for services, together with a European venture capital market, just imagine how much we could achieve.
That is why I spoke during my parliamentary hearing on January 13thlast of a 'Single Market for Innovation.' The idea is to identify the bottlenecks to innovation and then tackle them. I will work closely with my colleague, Internal Market Commissioner, Michel Barnier, on this specific issue.
I am also convinced that, in key areas connected with the major societal challenges, it will be necessary to launch specific initiatives aimed at solving particular problems.
I am thinking, for example, of the health sector, where innovation can lead to life-changing improvements for millions of our people, or the low carbon energy sector.
Once again, the aim will be to strengthen every link in the chain.
To boost research in Europe, we will mobilise both public and private sector resources, combining Member States and Community budgets effectively, and involve the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund
And to encourage the development of new markets, we will draw up packages of measures to tackle bottlenecks, including health and safety regulations to boost consumer confidence, rapid development of European standards or smarter, greener procurement.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I want Europe to be a vibrant innovation economy, a true 'Innovation Union', where companies, such as your organisations, will want to do business and invest. I fully recognise that we have strong global competition from China and India. It will be a tough battle. But it is one that I am prepared to fight, and which I believe that we can win, as long as we work together, and adapt to changing realities.
To win this battle, we have to work closely with you. I want to know what the needs of business are. That is why I am here today.
What I have set out for you is a first expression of my views. I would very much welcome direct feedback from you in the coming months as we develop our new Research and Innovation Initiatives.
I hope therefore that we can set up effective communication channels very soon.
Top of the class: Limerick schoolgirl bags top prize
12 February 2010 - The winners of the European Commission's third annual ‘Juvenes Translatores’ (Latin for ‘young translators’) contest for schools are announced today. The Irish winner is Rachel McNamara of Laurel Hill Secondary School, Limerick who translated from Irish into English.
Rachel, along with the national winners from 26 other Member States, will be invited to Brussels in March to receive a prize from the European Commissioner responsible for multilingualism.
'I congratulate all the winners', said Androulla Vassiliou, the Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth. ‘Our translation contest is becoming more popular each year. This time 599 schools across the EU took part, with registrations up 30% compared to a year ago. I hope that the contest will encourage more young people to learn languages. Knowledge of languages can take you far and boost your job prospects.’
In the course of a three-day trip to Brussels for themselves and an accompanying adult, each of the 27 winners will receive a prize and a certificate from Commissioner Vassiliou at an award ceremony on 25 March 2010. They will also get a chance to meet EU translators at work.
The latest contest was held on 24 November 2009 at the same time in all Member States and supervised by the schools. The pupils were given two hours to translate a text from any of the 23 official languages of the EU into another official language of their choice (for example, from Polish into French or from Swedish into Spanish). No fewer than 2253 translations covering all the official languages and 139 language combinations were submitted.
Marking and evaluating the translations was no easy matter as the quality was very high and competition really tight. The panel entrusted with this task consisted of translators from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Translation (DGT). Each translation was assessed by a native speaker of the language into which the text had been translated. A board chaired by the Director-General of DGT then picked the best translation from each Member State.
The Juvenes Translatores contest is the only one of its kind in which 17-year-old school pupils can test their translation skills in any of the official languages of the EU. It was run for the first time in 2007 as a pilot project aiming to give a foretaste of what it is like to be a translator and to raise the profile both of the translating profession and of language learning in schools. From the outset it has created a lot of enthusiasm among the participating schools as it provides a true challenge in testing the language skills learned at school. Feedback from the teachers involved shows that it is also a lot of fun for the participants.
Full details, as well as the winning translations, can be found on the ‘Juvenes Translatores’ website at http://ec.europa.eu/translatores.
Too good to be true? International scams and how to avoid them
12 February 2010 - Have you ever received an email telling you that you have won an international lottery? Or been contacted by the relative of a deceased international politician informing you that a large amount of money is available in his bank account and you can help to access it? If so, then you have been contacted by scammers.
Cheap methods of mass communication, such as telephone, direct mail, email and the internet can be used as tools to perpetrate fraud and mass marketed consumer fraud now operates on a global scale. In Ireland the National Consumer Agency has identified the top ten scams operating here, which include the above scams as well as others, such as pyramid schemes, work at home scams, and bogus holiday clubs.
Research carried out in the UK by the Office of Fair Trading shows that each year UK consumers lose about £3.5 billion to scams, or about £70 per year for each adult living in the UK. Almost half the UK adult population is likely to have been targeted by a scam and of these just under 10% admit to having been a victim of a scam at some time. This figure is likely to under-estimate the real incidence of scams as people can often be too embarrassed to admit it. What is of concern is that once you have been scammed once, you are more likely to be targeted again, with 30% of victims falling for another scam within the following 12 months. This is because organized criminal gangs trade “suckers lists” with the personal details of individuals considered susceptible to fraud. This can lead to chronic victimization amongst vulnerable consumers and unfortunately it appears likely that Ireland is not immune to this practice.
It is often believed that older people are more vulnerable to scams and this can be true as once an older person is scammed they are likely to lose twice as much as others. However, research shows that anyone can be taken in by scams because scams are customised to fit the profile of the people being targeted. As the OFT points out, there really is a scam for everyone.
In Ireland, recent scams include “free trials” for diet supplements which really lead to the charging of consumers’ credit cards by multiple companies for sums that can often up mount up to hundreds of Euro. Perpetually popular too is the vehicle matching scam where a consumer with a car for sale is phoned by a company that “guarantees” him a buyer in return for an administration fee.
ECC Ireland receives complaints from consumers about scams on a weekly basis. However as scams are by definition fraud we are unable to offer more than advice as fraudulent companies will not respect the law and recognise their legal obligations to their customers. Therefore all we can do is offer the following advice:
If you have been sent unsolicited material:
- Stop, think and be sceptical. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not rush into sending off money to someone you do not know, however plausible they might sound.
- How likely is it that you have been “specially chosen”? Thousands of other people are likely to have received the same offer.Think about how much money you could lose from replying to a potential scam – it is not a gamble worth taking.
- If you are unsure, speak to family or friends or see the European Consumer Centre website
The European Consumer Centre is funded by the European Commission and the National Consumer Agency.
Telecoms: Commission calls on Member States to step up awareness of Europe's single emergency number 112
11 February 2010 -To mark European 112 Day on February 11, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes has written to Member States calling on them to intensify their efforts to raise awareness of Europe's single emergency number 112.
While awareness has increased slightly, three out of four EU citizens still do not know they can call 112 in an emergency to contact the police, fire brigade or medical services, either from home or when travelling in the EU.
Having the reflex to dial this 112 lifeline, which now works in all EU countries, could save lives and reduce injuries. While the 112 number is fully operational in Ireland, just 16% of Irish people realise that they can dial this emergency number anywhere in the EU, not just at home.
Digital Agenda Commissioner, Neelie Kroes said "A single European emergency number only helps if people know about it. On European 112 Day, I call on national authorities to step up and do more to inform their citizens about 112, a number that can save lives."
A recent Eurobarometer survey shows that just a quarter (25%) of EU citizens questioned could spontaneously identify 112 as the number to call emergency services anywhere in the EU. This is only one percentage point improvement at EU level since 2009 (up from 24%).
In some countries however, citizens are much more aware of 112 as the EU-wide emergency number than last year: Belgium and Slovakia (9 percentage point improvement), Slovenia (up 7 percentage points) and Poland (up 6 percentage points), Lithuania and Hungary (up 5 percentage points). In the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia and Finland more than half of the population know about 112.
However, like last year, in Italy, Greece and the UK less than 10% of citizens know about 112, the lowest awareness levels in the EU.
In 21 EU countries the European emergency number 112 appears in telephone directories and on emergency vehicles in 20 EU countries. However, only 22% of EU citizens said they have received information related to 112, according to the report. A majority (62%) also said they are not sufficiently informed about the EU emergency number.
Many citizens also face language problems: one in ten people had difficulties in communicating in another language when calling 112 while abroad, even though Member States say their 112 emergency centres can handle 112 calls at least in English.
Receiving information about the location of 112 callers can speed up the arrival of emergency services, reduce the severity of injuries and even save lives. Call centres in 20 EU countries (compared to 9 countries in 2008) almost instantly give emergency services the location of 112 callers thanks to 'push' or near-instant 'pull' location systems. However, the Commission has taken legal action against Italy as caller location information is not yet provided to emergency services for 112 calls from mobile phones.
Situation in Ireland
Can I call 112 from fixed phones and public pay phones?
Can I call 112 from mobile phones?
If I live in Ireland and my mobile network does not cover the area I am in but another mobile network does, can I still call 112 (national roaming)?
If I am visiting Ireland, can I call 112 through the mobile phone subscription I use in my home country (international roaming)?
Can I call 112 from a mobile phone that does not have a SIM card?
How long does it take for the 112 operator to answer my call?
95.37% of calls are answered within 5 seconds; 0.98 seconds on average;
Can 112 operators in Ireland answer my call if I speak another European language?
Yes, operators can speak French, German, Italian and Polish;
If I am unable to tell the 112 operator where I am, will the emergency services be able to locate me? If so, how quickly?
Yes, in 30 seconds on average for fixed calls;
Is Ireland taking measures to raise awareness about 112?
Yes, for example information is displayed in airports;
In Ireland, how many people know that they can call 112 from anywhere in the EU?
Disclaimers: the data is based on the information provided by Member States in the Communications Committee in January 2009 and on the "Eurobarometer Flash Survey on the European Emergency Number 112" (February 2009).
112 is the European emergency number, reachable from fixed and mobile phones, free of charge, everywhere in the EU. Since July 2009, citizens using their mobiles while roaming in another EU country receive an SMS with information about 112.
The reform of EU telecoms rules strengthened EU rules on 112, in particular for quicker provision of caller location information to emergency authorities, awareness raising (specially for travellers), extending access obligations to certain types of internet telephony (VoIP) providers and access for disabled users.
To ensure 112 is working effectively, the Commission started legal action against 14 Member States over the lack of availability of caller location; 13 are now closed following corrective measures. Legal action was also launched and closed against Poland and Bulgaria concerning the availability of 112, and against Italy concerning the appropriate handling of 112 calls by emergency services, where the case was recently closed.
112 now works in all EU countries. While 112 works in parallel with existing national emergency numbers, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, Romania and Malta have decided to make 112 their main national emergency number.
The Commission 112 website is now available in six languages (German, French, English, Spanish, Italian and Polish).
For further information, visit: http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/112/index_en.htm
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn's website goes live
10 February 2010 - As newly appointed Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn took office this morning, her website went live. And in pride of place on the home page is a video message to all stakeholders: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/geoghegan-quinn/index_en.htm
In it the Commissioner speaks in English, French and Irish and underlines the importance of putting Research, Innovation and Science at the forefront of economic recovery.
She called for political support for research and innovation and a concerted effort to communicate its benefits to the public at large.
See below for the text of Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn's video message:
"Je m'appelle Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
Je suis très fière d'être membre de la nouvelle Commission européenne et je suis très heureuse que José Manuel Barroso m'ait confié le portefeuille de la recherche, de l'innovation et de la science. Je suis passionnée par la tâche qui m'attend au cours des cinq ans de mon mandat.
Mon ambition est de mettre la connaissance au cœur de la politique européenne, afin que la science puisse contribuer au maximum à la renaissance de l'économie européenne.
I have had a stimulating and enjoyable career as a Minister and politician in Ireland and recently as a member of the European Court of Auditors. But the challenge I am taking on as European Commissioner for research, innovation and science is perhaps the most exciting of all.
Because Europe is at a crossroads. After the worst economic crisis in decades, we face tough economic times over the next few years.
But we also have an unprecedented opportunity to cement recovery, and to move towards the green, social market economy of the future.
So the new Commission of which I am a member will propose in March a strategic action plan called Europe 2020. The aim is to get Europe working together to put our economy back on its feet. And then to build an economy that will give us the chance to increase our prosperity and that of our children in a sustainable way.
Research, innovation and science will be at the centre of this new economy. At the centre of Europe.
Because research and innovation are the keys to creating the new products and services that will allow us to face up to fierce global competition. The keys to tackling climate change. The keys to boosting energy security and to supporting a healthy ageing society.
Without science, without scientists, there can be no sustainable prosperity. Without science, we cannot improve our society.
To make full use of the potential of science, we need the right political framework, the right funding mechanisms, the right working conditions and opportunities for researchers.
We must complete the European Research Area. We must deliver a single market in innovation. We must stop wasting talent and get more women into science.
I want to work with my Commission colleagues, with the European Parliament and with all stakeholders – scientists, businesses, universities, national, regional and local authorities – to build on the impressive achievements of Janez Potocnik and my other predecessors. I want to help make the European Union a true innovation union.
To do that we will need public and political support. So all those of us who believe deeply in the power of knowledge to improve lives must present a united front.
We must invest more energy than ever before into communicating the benefits and outcomes of research and innovation
It will not be easy and there will be no overnight miracles.
But we have never had a chance like this. Let's take it.
Ní minic a fhaightear deis mar seo. Caithfimíd í a thapú."
Think before you post online! Safer internet Day, Tuesday 9 February
9 February 2010 - 50% of European teenagers give out personal information on the web – according to an EU study – which can remain online forever and can be seen by anybody. Today, Safer Internet Day (Tuesday 9 February), the European Commission is sending a message to teenagers: "Think before you post!"
The Commission welcomed actions to protect children using social networking websites taken by the 20 companies who signed the Safer Social Networking Principles last year.
The EU wanted companies to protect young people by:
- setting profiles of under 18s to "private" by default and make them not searchable via search engines
- providing an easy to use and accessible "report" button, allowing users to report inappropriate contact or conduct
- responding to notifications of illegal content or conduct.
- reviewing illegal or prohibited content/conduct through moderation tools, filtering software or community alerts.
However, a report out today (Tuesday 9 February) shows that not all the companies have implemented the agreement and more needs to be done to protect children online, the Commission says. Less than half of all social networking companies (40%) make profiles of under-18 users visible only to their friends by default and only one third replied to user reports asking for help.
“If we want children to think before they post, social networking companies should post the right information using the right language. Last year the European Commission urged companies to act, and I am glad that many have heeded this call," said EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane Reding. "However I expect all companies to do more. Minors' profiles need to be set to private by default and questions or abuse reports have to receive quick and appropriate responses. The internet is now vital to our children, and it is the responsibility of all to make it safe.”
Click here [821 KB] to listen to Ruth Deasy, Press Officer at the European Commission Representation in Ireland, explain more.
At last year's Safer Internet Day, social networking companies recognised the need for young users – and their parents – to feel safe when socialising online and signed the Safer Social Networking Principles. These resulted from discussions set up by the European Commission in April 2008 with social networking sites, NGOs and researchers. 18 companies signed the Safer Social Networking Principles in February 2009 and were joined by another two in June 2009.
One year on, the Commission has published a report on the implementation of the Principles on the 25 sites run by the signatories – Arto, Bebo, Dailymotion, Facebook, Giovani.it, YouTube, Hyves, Windows Live, Xboxlive, Myspace, Nasza-klaza.pl, Netlog, One.lt, Piczo, Rate.ee, Skyrock, SchülerVZ StudiVZ MeinVZ, Habbo, IRC Galleria, Tuenti, Yahoo!Answers, Flickr, and Zap.lu.
Findings show that 19 out of 23 sites provide safety tips and information specifically targeted towards children and/or teenagers (this measure is non applicable for 2 services). This information is both easy to find and easy to understand on 14 sites: YouTube, Habbo Hotel, Hyves, IRC Galleria, MySpace, nasza-klasa, Netlog, One, Rate, SchülerVZ, Skyrock, Yahoo!Answers, Yahoo!Flickr, Zap.
The report also shows that most of the companies empower minors to deal with potential online risks and employ a safe approach to privacy by:
- Making it easy for users to block other users and remove comments from their profiles;
- Making privacy options easy to change so that users can choose whether only their friends or the entire world can see what they post online;
- Giving users control over the display of their online status (which allows other users to see whether they are online or not).
However, there has been less systematic implementation of other equally important measures designed to protect privacy:
40% of social networking sites assessed make minors’ personal information visible only by their friends by default including: SchülerVZ, Facebook, Tuenti, Giovani, Flickr, Yahoo Answers, One, Habbo, Windows Live and MySpace;
Only 11 out of 22 make it impossible for the private profiles of minors to be found through search engines including: Arto, Bebo, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Piczo, SchülerVZ, Windows Live, Yahoo! Answers, Yahoo!Flickr and Zap;
While 19 sites out of 25 have a link for reports available at all times, only 9 (out of 22) responded to complaints submitted during the assessment including: Arto, Dailymotion, YouTube, Habbo Hotel, Hyves, IRC Galleria, MySpace, Rate, Windows Live. There is therefore an urgent need for better services to respond to users' reports asking for help.
The Safer Social Networking Principles for the EU were signed on 10 February 2009 by 18 major social networking service providers active in Europe, and joined by 2 further signatories in June 2009 (IP/09/232, MEMO/09/58). All signatories, except Giovani.it, provided their self-declarations to the European Commission by June 2009. The evaluation report of implementation of the Safer Social Networking Principles presented today is based on an analysis of the companies' self-declarations and actual testing of the respective sites from end of October to beginning of November 2009.
The Safer Internet Day is supported by the European Commission's Safer Internet Programme and has been organised by INSAFE every year since 2004, with events in more than 60 countries in Europe and worldwide.
The results of the report will be presented by the Commission and discussed at today's (Tuesday 9 February) Safer Internet Day event organised in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, with the support of Mrs Roberta Angellilli, Vice President of the European Parliament.
A press pack can be found here.
Article by Commisssioner Androulla Vassiliou, new European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
9 February 2010 - How Europe can make a difference for education, culture, youth and sport?
Article by Commisssioner Androulla Vassiliou, new European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth
As European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, my priorities will concentrate on areas where we can make a difference in peoples' lives and contribute to a better Europe.
Education and training are at the heart of the Commission's 'Europe 2020' strategy for a competitive, green and sustainable economy. My priorities follow the Commission’s broad policy guidelines for the next 5 years:
- improving skills and access to education and training, focusing on market needs
- increasing learning mobility and opportunities for young people
- nurturing cultural expression and creativity for all.
Improvements in education, research and innovation are needed to:
- help Europe compete globally
- equip the young for today's job market
- address the consequences of the economic crisis.
Improvement must start with the youngest pupils, especially through better teacher training – teachers are still the number-one factor in a child's success in life. Higher standards will also enhance the intrinsic value of children's education.
We will actively help the:
- 1 in 6 young people who leave school early
- 1 in 5 fifteen-year-olds with poor reading skills
- 80 million people surviving with only low or basic skills.
I will encourage policies to reduce early school leaving and make proposals to strengthen benchmarking to improve policies on employability, learning mobility and language learning.
Higher education is also vital for raising skill levels. Despite real progress through the Bologna higher education reforms, not many of our universities match the world's best. We must do more to ensure they do.
I intend to work towards energising and modernising higher education, making Europe a destination of choice for students and researchers through the:
We will help the EIT become a flagship for Europe's knowledge-based future. The Marie Curie scheme will reinforce efforts to bring together the European Areas of Higher Education and Research so that knowledge – and the researchers and students who generate it – moves freely across borders, stimulating innovation across Europe.
The Erasmus programme has been a success, but I want to do more to promote it by improving funding and quality. We’re still some way from our target of 3 million Erasmus students by 2012 and participation is declining in one-third of the countries involved.
Erasmus Mundus, which supports exchanges between EU and international academic institutions, has become a flagship for integration and bridge-building across the world. I will promote it far and wide to enhance the global visibility of EU higher education.
To implement all of this, I will work closely with national authorities, mapping out common approaches to shared challenges, based on best practice and benchmarking. I will also push for more EU resources for this work.
As EU programmes show, learning mobility is very effective in enhancing skills (including languages) and employability and opening people's minds to other cultures. My aim is to establish a framework for the 'Youth on the Move' initiative in summer 2010 and propose a programme for it as soon as possible. This will boost cultural diversity, intercultural dialogue and language learning.
I will work for an environment conducive to creativity, innovation and cultural expression. I will encourage our cultural and creative industries (which account for 2.6% of Europe's GDP) to spur more innovation and growth. A Green Paper in 2010 will help us target European and national action in this area.
I will soon present a proposal for a European heritage label , giving visibility to sites that epitomise European ideals, to foster a sense of shared European identity and belonging.
I intend to build on the success of the MEDIA programme, which helps showcase European culture globally by financially supporting the production and distribution of European films and related training. Our aim is to promote a world-beating industry, which creates jobs and growth. I will also pay particular attention to the impact of digital technologies on cinema.
On copyright, I will work closely with my fellow commissioners on the new digital agenda to achieve a balance between wider access to culture and fair remuneration for artists (vital for cultural diversity).
More broadly, I want to incorporate cultural priorities in other EU policies.
Language learning and use help us both professionally and socially, opening people's minds to the cultural diversity which is an integral part of the EU's wealth. We must support not just the EU’s 23 official languages but Europe’s 60 regional and minority languages.
One of my key tasks will be to promote language learning from a young age. Our goal is for every EU citizen to speak at least 2 foreign languages as well as their own. Knowledge of languages improves job prospects, communication and understanding, both inside Europe and beyond.
Sport may not be in my job title but I consider it an important part of my portfolio. I want to explore how to take full advantage of the new EU powers in sport under the Lisbon Treaty. Sport's importance for education, training, social integration and health is immense. It also has an important economic impact.
I will work closely with professional and amateur organisations to ensure we:
• promote fair play
• fight doping
• protect young athletes – amateur and professional
• combat racism and violence
• promote grassroots sport and lifelong amateur sport for all, so Europeans have a healthy lifestyle from pre-school to old age.
Like many Europeans, I have passionate views on education, culture, languages, youth and sport.
That's why I'll be listening carefully to all stakeholders at an early stage of policy formulation. By working together, we will achieve more representative, credible and concrete results.
Want to comment on these priorities?
New commission set to take office
9 February 2010 - MEPs approved 26 candidates for the European commission today, enabling President Barroso’s new team to get down to business. The vote was 488 in favour, 137 against (with 72 abstaining), well over the majority required.
The vote culminates a process that began in September when the president won parliamentary support for a second term. The new team includes Irish member, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said in Strasbourg today: "I am delighted that the European Parliament has now approved the new European Commission and I am very excited about the next five years as Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science. I want to make sure we make full use of Europe's research excellence, Europe's talent and Europe's entrepreneurial spirit. Those qualities will be decisive in creating the green, hi-tech economy of the future and in making the 21st century a European century".
Click here [903 KB] to listen to some further comments from Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn on the new Commission.
The new commission was supposed to take office in November 2009 but the appointment was held up by delayed ratification of the Lisbon treaty and by the withdrawal of the Bulgarian candidate after her confirmation hearing in January. Rumiana Jeleva was replaced by World Bank vice-president Kristalina Georgieva, who sat for her hearing in parliament last week.
With Mr Barroso, the new line-up comprises 27 members, one from each EU country. Fourteen, including the president, served in the previous executive. Their term lasts five years.
The Barroso II team will take office once EU leaders have formally appointed it.
Policy guidelines for the new Commission
New commission 2009 - 2014
Photo of President Barroso with the new Commission
Irish agency Vita secures €3m EU funds to fight hunger in Africa
9 February 2010 - Irish development agency, Vita, has secured €3 million from a special EU rapid response fund (The European Commission Rapid Response to Food Prices in Developing Countries) which they will use to tackle the causes of hunger in Africa. Three Vita projects, supported by the European Commission fund, in the East African countries of Eritrea and Ethiopia, are starting this week to expand local food production there.
Malnutrition is a major problem in Eritrea and Ethiopia with malnutrition rates in Eritrea as high as 68% of the population. Ethiopia and Eritrea are two of the world’s poorest countries and have suffered recent wars, soaring food and fuel prices and extremes in climate change.
The projects, which will run for 20 months, will focus on increasing food production and thus reduce food prices. This will impact directly on 20,500 households and more than 500,000 (five hundred thousand) consumers in the region.
Vita, previously known as Refugee Trust International which was established 20 years ago, is an Irish development agency working to tackle hunger and climate change in Africa. Vita is the only Irish agency to receive funding from this particular EU source.
John Weakliam, chief executive of Vita, praised the support from the European Commission which complements Vita’s existing support from Irish Aid and the Irish public.
He said: “Hunger is one of the most challenging issues of the day and with this new support we can begin to deal with the problem. The new fund is a tremendous boost to Vita’s efforts to make people in Africa more self-reliant. Irish Aid is a world leader and is at the cutting edge of best development practice.
“We are working in partnership with farmers in Eritrea and Ethiopia in introducing new technology and modern food production through improved seeds and fertilisers.”
"After years of humiliating dependency on Western food aid, many African governments and African people now have more ownership of their own development. If we care, we can help them build their own permanent solutions to drought, hunger and climate change. All it requires is a little of the good old-fashioned kindness and hope, fashioned from the experiences of Famine and strife, that the Irish have for our fellow man."
The new projects will be implemented by Vita staff, supported by Eritrean and Ethiopian government staff together with Irish agricultural experts. Dr. Seamus Crosse, former director of administration and research in Teagasc, is adviser to the project. Dr. Crosse and Larry O’Loughlin, area manager, Teagasc, who is a member of the board of Vita, visited Africa to assess the projects.
For further information, please contact: John Weakliam (CEO), or Tom Carroll (Programme Officer), Vita, 73a Blessington Street, Dublin 7, Tel: (01) 8820108.
Vita is an Irish international development agency that is fighting hunger and climate change in Africa. The mission of the agency is to bring an end to extreme poverty and reduce the vulnerability of people in Africa by helping them to build sustainable long-term livelihoods for themselves.
Vita, which means ‘Way of Life’, was originally called Refugee Trust International (RTI) when it was founded in 1989 by the late Fr. Kevin Doheny, a Holy Ghost priest who was born in Ballinakill, County Laois. Fr. Doheny, who was known internationally as an outspoken and radical priest, respected by governments throughout the world, worked for 46 years in various countries in Africa including Nigeria (during the war in Biafra) and Ethiopia.
Vita is supported by the Irish Government through Irish Aid - the international aid section of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the European Union through EuropeAid, and by voluntary work and donations of the people of Ireland. The annual budget of Vita is Euro 3 million (three million Euro).
In 2010, Vita has seven staff in Ireland supported by volunteers around the country, and 40 staff working on agricultural and community-led development projects in Eritrea, Ethiopia and Kenya, helping more than 100, 000 people become self sufficient and less dependent on aid from the West.
Members of the board of Vita are: Fr. Norman Fitzgerald,CSSp, President; Brendan Casey, (former head of strategy , AIB), Chairman; Larry O’Loughlin, (regional manager, Teagasc), Vice-Chairman; Robert(Bobby) Gahan, (former director general of RTE); Tom Barry (former head of AIB Corporate Finance); Brian Buggy, (partner, Matheson Ormsby Prentice); Patricia Hallahan, (director, Dementia Ireland); Sean Hurley,(former editor, the Kilkenny People) and Fr. Brian Starken (Irish Provincial, The Spiritans).
John Weakliam is chief executive and John Wallace is company secretary.
Commission launches public consultation on a future EU-US data protection and information sharing agreement
8 February 2010 - The Commission has launched a public consultation on a future EU-US data protection and information sharing agreement. The consultation aims at gathering the views of stakeholders and the public at large on the basis of a discussion paper as part of the preparatory work for the recommendation to authorise the negotiation of a future EU-US agreement.
All stakeholders and organisations involved in the protection of personal data and/or processing, transfer or sharing of information for law enforcement purposes in the transatlantic context as well as the general public are invited to respond to the public consultation. The closing date of the consultation is 12 March 2010. The consultation document can be found on the "Your voice in Europe" website at: http://ec.europa.eu/yourvoice/consultations/index_en.htm
The European Council of 10-11 December 2009 adopted the Stockholm Programme which defines the framework for EU policy in the area of Justice, Freedom and Security for the period 2010–2014. The European Commission is invited in the Stockholm Programme to propose a recommendation for the negotiation of a data protection and, where necessary, data sharing agreement for law enforcement purposes with the United States of America.
See here for further information.
Latest poll on social climate across EU just published
2 February 2010 - The latest Eurobarometer poll on the social climate across the EU has just been published this morning in Brussels. It contains cross-country comparisons of how Europeans in different member states, including Ireland, feel about subjects like:
- Personal job situation
- Cost of living
- Affordability of energy and housing
- The way public administration is run
- Health care
- Intercultural relations
- How poverty is addressed
…and more. To find all references to Ireland, simply use the search option inserting "Ireland".
Full report: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_315_en.pdf
European Commission Social Situation Report: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=675&langId=en