Statement of clarification from the European Commission concerning Ireland's application for support from the European Globalisation Fund (27 October)
The EU's European Globalisation Fund is designed to give support to workers who have lost their jobs in certain circumstances.
The EGF works by complementing national measures through co-funding existing schemes and was never intended to be the only tool to help redundant workers.
To encourage a rapid reaction from Member States, EGF spending is eligible for co-financing from the announcement of job losses, up to 24 months later. Normally, spending by governments is expected to start straight away, with reimbursements following from the EGF.
Ireland applied for support from the European Globalisation Fund (EGF) for redundant Irish construction workers in June 2010. EGF applications demand a breakdown by sector and names of companies which Ireland did not give the Commission in full until the following year – in June 2011. EGF money must also be approved by the European Parliament and Council, which brings us to October 2011.
The Commission regrets that Ireland now has only 7 months left for the period of implementation of the EGF for redundant construction workers. The Commission plans to bring together the 27 national authorities to look at best practice in implementation of the EGF in order to raise standards in this area.
Joint letter of Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy to their G20 partners ahead of the G20 Summit (29 October)
On 29 October, European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy sent a letter to their G20 partners in order to summarise and explain Europe's comprehensive crisis response ahead of the upcoming G20 summit in Cannes on 3-4 November 2011.
The letter states: "We will implement these measures rigorously and in a timely manner, and we are confident that they will contribute to the swift resolution of the crisis. However, whilst we in Europe will play our part, this cannot alone ensure global recovery and rebalanced growth. There is a continued need for joint action by all G20 partners in a spirit of common responsibility and common purpose."
They call in this context for a renewed collective G20 spirit. The two Presidents also outline the EU's priorities for the G20 summit and stress that the Union's overall objective would be "to help restore global confidence, support sustainable growth and job creation, and maintain financial stability."
Full text of the letter:
"Dear G20 Colleagues,
The decisions we have taken in our G20 Summits to date have been crucial in steering us through the global financial and economic crisis. We have acted firmly and decisively with a sense of urgency and common purpose. In the current economic situation, with world growth slowing and the global economic outlook deteriorating, we need to renew this collective G20 spirit. So our overall objectives for the Cannes G20 Summit should be to help restore global confidence, support sustainable growth and job creation, and maintain financial stability.
Within the EU, we are taking all necessary steps to ensure the stability and growth of the euro area. The euro is at the core of our European project. On 26 October we agreed on a comprehensive set of measures to restore confidence and address the current tensions in financial markets. These measures include:
- a sustainable solution for Greece. Our agreement puts Greece on track to reach a public debt ratio of 120 percent of GDP in 2020. The solution includes a voluntary agreement for a nominal discount of 50 percent of Greek debt held by private investors. This will ease market pressure on Greece and allow the country to continue its programme of reforms. We aim at concluding work on a second financial assistance programme by the end of the year.
- a significant further strengthening of the resources of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which depending on the specific set-up is expected to leverage up to around 1 trillion euros. The subsequent ratification of the new European Stability Mechanism (ESM) Treaty will provide the euro area with a permanent instrument to support financial stability.
- a coordinated plan to reinforce Europe's banking system. We approved a coordinated scheme to recapitalise banks across Europe and we are working to design an approach for medium and long-term funding of banks. Banks will be required to temporarily increase the ratio of highest quality capital to 9% after taking account of sovereign debt exposures. Supervisors will ensure that banks' plans for recapitalization do not lead to excessive deleveraging or undue pressure on sovereign debt markets.
- determined action to ensure sustainable public finances and enhance growth. Euro area Member States that are experiencing tensions in sovereign debt markets will make a particular effort in terms of fiscal consolidation and structural reforms and we will accelerate our growth strategy notably by using the full potential of our single market of 500 million citizens.
- strengthening euro area governance. We agreed to put in place a set of concrete measures to strengthen economic and fiscal coordination and surveillance within the euro area, going above and beyond the recently adopted package on economic governance.
We will implement these measures rigorously and in a timely manner, and we are confident that they will contribute to the swift resolution of the crisis. However, whilst we in Europe will play our part, this cannot alone ensure global recovery and rebalanced growth. There is a continued need for joint action by all G20 partners in a spirit of common responsibility and common purpose.
In Cannes we should aim for ambitious outcomes on eight priorities:
1) Restoring growth and tackling global macroeconomic imbalances. The EU's main contribution to Cannes is the above-mentioned package to ensure the stability of the euro area. But more needs to be done at the global level. Many of the distortions underlying the large pre-crisis imbalances are still to be addressed – including undervalued exchange rates in key emerging surplus economies, and insufficient domestic savings in some advanced economies. In Cannes, we need to adopt an ambitious Action Plan to address the short-term vulnerabilities the global economy is facing, and to strengthen and rebalance global growth over the medium-term. The discussion of the various risks to the global economy must be balanced, and all countries must take action. Given the ongoing tensions in global markets, we also need to continue to ensure sufficient resources for the International Monetary Fund to address crisis situations in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.
2) Making tangible progress on implementing the financial market reform agenda. Our internationally agreed financial market reforms must be implemented in full while ensuring a level playing field among all G20 partners. The EU is honouring its G20 commitments and has already launched the legal process for implementing the Basel III agreement. We look to all other G20 partners to deliver in this area and together we should accelerate work to advance on other agreed reforms, such as Over-The-Counter and commodity derivatives – where the EU is already moving – and bank crisis prevention and resolution on which proposals are currently being finalised. And further work is needed to extend the framework agreed on Global Systemically Important Banks to all Systemically Important Financial Institutions, effectively regulate shadow banking, and quickly move towards a single set of high quality globally accepted accounting standards. It is also time to make the necessary changes to the governance of the Financial Stability Board so as to underpin its monitoring function. At Cannes we should also make a clear commitment in support of the Global Forum's work on non-cooperative jurisdictions. The European Commission has recently presented a legislative proposal for a financial transaction tax in the EU. The introduction of a global financial transaction tax should be explored and developed further.
3) Making the International Monetary System more resilient. The current international monetary system, despite certain identified shortcomings, has on balance more than proved its worth in terms of global economic and financial integration. But there is scope for improvement and reform to strengthen economic surveillance by the International Monetary Fund. We should agree principles to guide G20 members in the management of capital flows and a roadmap for broadening the IMF Special Drawing Rights to facilitate the internationalisation of key emerging market currencies. Improving the cooperation between Regional Financing Arrangements and the IMF developing the Fund's toolkit to support countries during systemic stress are among the measures that we now need to address as a matter of priority.
4) Boosting trade as the most effective way to support global growth. We together with some of our partners have worked very intensively on the WTO Doha Round, but it is clear that the Round will not be concluded in 2011. This is depriving the global economy of a significant boost, and risks encouraging protectionist measures. We therefore want the G20 to commit to a roadmap for an active WTO negotiating agenda, in particular for least developed countries, as well as on broadening the scope of issues being considered by the WTO in order to address new global challenges. The G20 should renew its anti-protectionism commitment taken in Toronto and agree to ensure a global market and open trading system for raw materials that is sustainable and transparent and free from distortion. Cannes should also send a strong message to the WTO December Ministerial to finalise Russia's WTO accession by the end of this year.
5) Enhancing the social dimension of globalisation. As reaffirmed by G20 Labour and Employment Ministers the Cannes Summit should underline that employment and poverty reduction are at the centre of global economic policy coordination. Youth and female employment must feature among our top priorities.
6) Ensuring Food Security and Promoting the G20 Development Agenda and Innovative Financing. We need to address the global food security challenge by fully endorsing the Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture agreed by G20 Agriculture Ministers. The G20 Development Agenda has become an important part of the G20 and we welcome this year's focus on food security and infrastructure. We look forward to discussing the report by Bill Gates on Financing for Development.
7) The G20 needs to tackle further the global climate and energy challenge and continue its fight against corruption. The G20 Summit will be an important opportunity to push for a successful outcome of the Durban Climate Conference (COP 17) and we welcome the initiative taken by the G20 to conduct further work on mobilising resources for climate change finance.
8) Improving global governance. Finally, we look forward to discussing the report on global governance by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The stakes for Cannes are high - for the credibility of the G20 and for each of its members. In the EU we have demonstrated our commitment to do everything necessary to restore confidence and growth. We look forward to a very constructive round of discussions with our G20 partners next week as together we take the necessary decisions to make a step change on the path of global economic recovery.
Herman Van Rompuy José Manuel Barroso
Further information on the EU at the G20, including an online flip book with facts and figures: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/president/g20/index_en.htm
Ireland has highest share of children living with one parent (27 October)
According to Eurostat figures released today, Ireland (along with Latvia) had the highest share of children aged less than 18 years living with one parent in 2008. In Ireland 23.2% of children lived with one parent compared to an EU average of 13.6%. Children born in Greece (4.8%) were least likely to live with one parent.
The report also shows that fewer Irish children live with married or cohabiting parents: 67.8% of Irish children live with married parents compared to an EU average of 73.8% and 7.4% live with cohabiting parents compared to an EU average of 11.5%. Living with married parents was most common for children in Greece (91.8%) and Cyprus (89%) and least common for children in Estonia (54%) and Sweden (54.4%). To live with cohabiting parents was most common in Sweden (27.3%) and least common in Cyprus (0.8%) and Greece (2.1%).
The number of children living without parents in Ireland is 1.6% compared to an EU average of 1.2%. Bulgaria (3.2%) had the highest numbers of children living without parents and Luxembourg the lowest (0.2%). Children living without parents are those who live with no adult who can be considered as a parent.
The full Eurostat press release, which also looks at the living arrangements of men and women aged 65 and over, is available at: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=STAT/11/156&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
Statement by President Barroso at the press conference following the meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the euro area (27 October)
See below the text of the statement made by President Barroso at the press conference following the meeting of the Heads of State or Government of the euro area
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,
When I presented the Commission's Roadmap for Stability and Growth two weeks ago – calling for action in five essential areas – I made it very clear that Europe needed to deliver a comprehensive response to the sovereign debt crisis. And I believe that now we have a very solid way forward.
Indeed, on all five points of this Roadmap, Europe has taken important steps forward. Let me briefly outline these.
"First, on Greece. Our overriding objective is to bring the country’s debt back to sustainable levels. And that is essential not only for Greece, but for the European Union as a whole. Tonight opens the door to an appropriate degree of voluntary involvement of private sector investors, which will allow work to proceed on a second financial assistance programme for Greece. We are determined to conclude this by the end of this year.
The Euro Summit has asked the Commission to play an even more active role in monitoring the implementation of this second programme. Greece must continue with its structural reforms and fiscal consolidation measures in order to transform its capacity to generate growth.
Second, we have agreed to endorse two options for leveraging the EFSF. Together, these will allow us to more effectively prevent contagion. I have long insisted on the necessity to equip the EFSF with adequate flexibility and resources, so I am particularly pleased with this decision.
Third, we are also pleased that all Member States of the European Union agreed a series of measures to restore confidence in the banking sector.
These measures address both capital and funding. Let me emphasise that our goal is to ensure banks maintain lending to the real economy. National supervisory authorities must work to make this happen, namely with the European Banking Authority (EBA). Tonight’s conclusions also make clear that "banks should be subject to constraints regarding the distribution of dividends and bonus payments” until recapitalisation is complete. Because increased responsibility and a fair contribution of the financial sector is also central to our approach.
Fourth, as you know these are exceptional measures for exceptional times. Europe must never again find itself in this situation. That is why we must further improve our economic governance, namely in the euro area. Tonight’s Euro Summit paves the way to a further strengthening of coordination and surveillance. The Commission’s central role here is reinforced. We are already working on concrete ideas that go beyond the recently agreed six pack, so the recently approved legislation and we will be presenting these in the very near future.
Lastly, we also addressed the issues of stability and growth. We discussed growth on Sunday, so I will not repeat, but just want to underline it: this is also about growth. We need to have fiscal discipline, but at the same time we need to show to our citizens that there is hope, that we can restore growth through deepening our internal market, through structural reforms, but also countries need to pursue efforts in terms of stability. That is why we particularly welcomed the announcements made by Italy.
To conclude, the package we have agreed tonight is a comprehensive package that confirms that Europe will do what it takes to safeguard financial stability. I have said it before and I will say it again: this is a marathon, not a sprint. The technical work needed to finalise certain aspects of this package will be completed by the relevant authorities in the coming weeks. And the Commission will make further proposals for a Community way out of this crisis.
Next week, we will be able to show our partners in the G20 that Europe is able to do that: an agreement to conclude measures to restore confidence in the European banking sector; ensuring the adequate firewalls; accelerating our ambitious agenda for growth; and further strengthening economic surveillance and coordination. To show our partners and our citizens that we are ready to complete our monetary union with a true economic union.
Address by President Barroso to the European Parliament on the conclusions of the European Council of 23 and 26 October 2011: http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/11/714&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
Euro Summit statement: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/125644.pdf
Remarks by President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, following the meeting of the Euro Summit: http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/ec/125646.pdf
Five-point plan for stability and growth in Europe (21 October)
The Commission roadmap sets the agenda for a meeting between Europe’s heads of state and government on the economy (23 October).
The plancalls for decisive action in five areas: Greece, stabilising the euro, banks, growth-enhancing policies and economic governance.
Calling for agreement on these five points at the 23 October meeting, Commission President José Manuel Barroso said, ‘Only in this way will we be able to convince our citizens, our global partners and the markets that we have the solutions that measure up to the challenges all economies are facing.’
The details of the roadmap:
EU leaders must remove any doubt as to Greece’s economic sustainability.
The Commission has already coordinated bilateral loans worth €110 billion provided by other EU countries and the IMF. The loans are provided in instalments – making the sixth such instalment available quickly will help dispel concerns over the Greek economy.
The final loan is foreseen for June 2013, and the Commission is now calling for EU countries to reach agreement on a second plan, involving both the public and private sectors.
Decisions taken in March and July increased the EU’s lending capacity to €440 billion and increased the flexibility of the European Financial Stability Facility, under which the EU can provide financial assistance to eurozone countries in trouble. The Commission is calling on these decisions to be implemented as soon as possible.
Only a coordinated approach will strengthen Europe’s banks. The EU has already changed the way banks are supervised. New rules increase the amount of capital base that banks must have, address risky re-securitisation practices, ensure salary policies do not encourage excessive risk, and increase protection for ordinary bank deposits.
The roadmap calls for the banking system to be strengthened through recapitalisation. Banks should first use private sources of capital, with national governments providing support if necessary.
Policies for growth
A number of growth-boosting policies have been agreed, but not all have been implemented. EU countries need to remove barriers to trade in the services sector , for example. Fully implementing the free trade agreement with Korea will boost growth, as will speeding up decisions on a European patent, simplified accounting for small businesses, energy savings and more.
The roadmap seeks to integrate initiatives such as the European Stability Mechanismand the Stability and Growth Pactinto one economic governance system. This would enable the Commission or Council to intervene in the preparation of national budgets and monitor their execution.
Ordinary people have not been forgotten in the drive for growth and stability. The EU has set targets for lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty, increasing employment and increasing the number in education.
The results of the discussion on these points will feed into the next G20 meeting, scheduled for 3 and 4 November.
Factsheets: "The Commission's roadmap to stability and growth explained"
The EU response to the financial crisis
Europe 2020 – the EU plan for sustainable economic growth
Animal welfare: Commission urges Member States to implement ban on hen cages or risk facing legal action (20 October)
The European Commission once again urged today the Member States to implement a ban on un-enriched cages for laying hens, which enters into force on 1st January 2012, and warned that it will adopt measures against those that will fail to comply with the relevant EU legislation.
"The political decision for the ban was taken in 1999. Twelve years have gone by and the situation in some Member States is reportedly unsatisfactory. The consequences on animal welfare and the risk of market distortions are real. These would undermine investments and compliance efforts already made as well as consumer trust and this is clearly unacceptable," Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli said during his intervention at today's Agriculture Council, which discussed the issue. "The Commission," he added, "does not intend to postpone the deadline of the ban and it will not hesitate to start, infringement procedures in cases of non-compliance."
Commissioner Dalli also announced that experts from the Commission's inspection service, the Food and Veterinary Office (FVO), will start visiting targeted Member States as of January 2012. Any decisions on infringement procedures will be based on the outcomes of these audits.
Efforts undertaken to speed up implementation
In recent years, the Commission has taken every opportunity to remind Member States of their responsibility to implement the legislation. Among other things, it asked Member States to submit specific action plans, containing sanctions in case of non-compliance, to enforce the ban within the deadline. Between 2008 and 2010, the FVO audited 20 Member States and examined the state of enforcement there.
In December 2010, Parliament adopted a resolutionsupporting the implementation of the ban without delay and calling on the Commission to take action to ensure compliance with the legislation.
In January of this year, the Commission organised a multi-stakeholder meeting to discuss possible options to ensure the ban's full implementation across the EU. In order to enable a proper assessment of the state of implementation, the Commission also asked the Member States to send data on the number of laying hens, categorised by farming system by 1 April 2011. The data revealed that in some Member States there will still be laying hens in un-enriched cages at the end of the year.
What is at stake
The legislation on the minimum standards for the protection of laying hens exists since 1999, when the EU Member States agreed on its provisions and on a timeframe to comply with the requirements.
According to the legislation un-enriched cages will have to be phased out by 1 January 2012. They should be replaced by other systems more capable to satisfy the biological and behavioral needs of the animals. Un-enriched cages provide the hens with less living space than enriched ones and lack structures, such as a nest or a perch, that contribute to a more humane keeping of the hens.
The need for the replacement of the unenriched cages is supported by a 2005 EFSA opinionon the welfare aspects of various systems of keeping laying hens.
Rural development funds for upgrading the rearing systems for laying hens have been available, but only some Member States (like Ireland, for example) have used them for better compliance with the legal requirements. Some Member States upgraded their rearing systems even before the Directive came into application. Sweden (1999), Luxembourg (2007), Austria (2009) and Germany (2010) have reported 100% conformity with the legal provisions.
The EU is self sufficient in shell eggs, according to a study carried out in 2010 by the European Parliament . Its imports concern mainly egg products and the quantity has never been significantly high.
The European citizen can get information on the type of farming directly from the eggs. A number, related to the farming system, is stamped directly on the egg shells. This is the only compulsory European labelling system existing so far referring to the type of farming. Thanks to this classification system the EU has witnessed an important increase in the consumption of free range eggs.
The enforcement of the laying hens Directive (1999/74/EC ) falls under the sole responsibility of the Member States.
For more information please visit: http://ec.europa.eu/food/animal/welfare/farm/laying_hens_en.htm
Statement by the EC, ECB, and IMF on the Review Mission to Ireland (20 October 2011)
Staff teams from the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB), and International Monetary Fund (IMF) visited Dublin during October 11–20 for the regular quarterly review of the government’s economic programme. As envisaged when the mission was scheduled, policy discussions have been concluded with the exception of the specific fiscal measures to be included in Budget 2012, which are being determined by the Government and will be assessed by the three institutions in the coming weeks. Following these decisions, the EC and IMF missions will seek approval for the completion of this review from the European Council and the IMF Executive Board respectively.
Programme implementation continues to be strong. The authorities have completed the key initial phase of the comprehensive financial sector reforms launched in March. The fiscal deficit limit of 10½ percent of GDP in 2011 is expected to be met and important structural reforms are being put in place. These strong policy efforts have underpinned the decline in Irish sovereign spreads in recent months, together with improved EU financing terms.
In a welcome sign of Ireland’s strengthened competitiveness, economic growth in the first half of 2011 was stronger than expected. But the slowdown in key trading partners is likely to cool Ireland’s export growth. In addition, domestic demand is expected to contract slightly faster than was projected at the time of the previous review. Together, these factors will dampen the economic recovery with real GDP growth rate expected to be about 1 percent in both 2011 and 2012.
The authorities are firmly committed to fiscal consolidation to put the country’s debt on a downward path, by bringing the general government deficit to below 3 percent of GDP by 2015. The forthcoming 2012 Budget will make progress along that path by implementing sufficient consolidation to safely limit next year’s deficit to no more than 8.6 percent of GDP, striking a balance between debt reduction imperatives and limiting the drag on growth and job creation.
To underscore their commitment to sound fiscal policy, the authorities intent to update the medium-term fiscal consolidation plan in the coming weeks, with the supporting measures to be provided with the 2012 Budget. These measures will be guided by the authorities’ Comprehensive Review of Expenditure, enabling savings to be made in a targeted manner rather than through across-the-board cuts. We welcome the establishment of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and the release of its first fiscal assessment report.
The key initial phase of the comprehensive financial sector reforms launched last March has been implemented. Recapitalization of the banking sector has been completed at a lower than expected cost to the budget, benefiting from private investor participation and burden-sharing with the holders of subordinated bank debt. Deleveraging of the banking sector is progressing as planned, despite challenging conditions and banks have secured term funding reflecting improved confidence. Further progress in these areas is needed to allow banks to fulfill their essential role in the economy.
The authorities are implementing structural reforms to support job creation and growth. To help reduce unemployment sectoral wage agreements are being prepared, together with a strengthening of activation and training policies. Legislative changes are being introduced to enhance competition in the medical, legal and pharmacy sectors with the view to lowering costs.
The objectives of Ireland’s EU-IMF supported programme are to address financial sector weaknesses and to put Ireland’s economy on the path of sustainable growth, sound public 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 €45.0 billion and a €22.5 billion Extended Fund Facility with the IMF. Ireland’s contribution is €17.5 billion. Approval of the conclusion of this review will allow the disbursement of €3.8billion by the IMF and €4.2 billion by the EU. The mission for the next programme review is scheduled for January 2012.
A video of the press conference is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/player/streaming.cfm?type=ebsvod&sid=189123
New survey shows Irish people among the happiest in Europe (18 October)
A new Eurobarometer survey published this week by the European Commission on the EU's social climate shows that 91% of Irish respondents are very (46%) or fairly satisfied (45%) with the life they lead, sixth highest in the EU. This compares to an EU average of 81%. Respondents in Finland and Sweden had the highest levels of satisfaction (97%) followed by Denmark and Luxembourg (96%) and the Netherlands (95%). Only two countries had satisfaction rates below 50% - Bulgaria (48%) and Romania (49%).
Twenty-five per cent of Irish people also expect their general life situation to get better in the next twelve months compared to an EU average of 26%; only 9% expect things to get worse which is below the EU average of 14%. Swedish respondents were most optimistic about the next twelve months (45%) and Greeks the least (7%).
On the issue of their national economy, however, Irish respondents were among the least satisfied in Europe. Only 4% were satisfied (and 95% unsatisfied) compared to an EU average of 30%. However, a few other countries scored even worse: Greece (0% satisfaction rate) and Latvia, Portugal and Spain (all 3%). Three countries had satisfaction levels of 80% or more: Germany (80%), Luxembourg (85%) and Sweden (87%).
Irish respondents (45%) were also less satisfied with their personal job situation than the EU average (56%). Greece (28%) and Hungary (26%) had the lowest levels of satisfaction with their personal job situation and Sweden (81%), Austria and Denmark (78%) the highest. When it came to the national employment situation only 3% of Irish respondents were satisfied compared to an EU average of 24%. Only in Greece were people less happy (2%). Luxembourg (68%) and the Netherlands (69%) had the highest satisfaction ratings.
Surprisingly 63% of Irish respondents were satisfied with the financial situation of their household, only a little below the EU average of 68% and well above Hungary (30%), Bulgaria (35%) and Greece (38%). Sweden (91%), Finland (90%) and Denmark (86%) scored highest. However, 24% of Irish respondents expect their financial situation to worsen over the next 12 months.
• Irish respondents are also among the most likely to be satisfied with the area they live in at 95% compared to an EU average of 88%. Only Finland (98%), the Netherlands (96%) and Sweden (97%) scored higher with Luxembourg also at 95%. Respondents in Bulgaria were least satisfied at 61%.
• However Ireland (42%) was well below the EU average (62%) when it came to overall satisfaction with healthcare provision. More Irish people were unsatisfied (53%) than satisfied (42%). Respondents in Belgium (95), Austria (94%) and Luxembourg (90%), the Netherlands (89%) and the UK (84%) were most satisfied and respondents in Romania (13%) and Greece (22%) least. A further 37% of Irish respondents expect the healthcare system to get worse in the next 12 months with only 9% expecting it to improve.
• On the issue of unemployment benefits, Irish respondents (54%) were a lot more satisfied than the EU average (37%). Countries like Austria (78%), Belgium (72%) and the Netherlands (70%) had the highest satisfaction levels while Romania (5%) and Greece (7%) had the lowest. However 49% of Irish respondents expect unemployment benefits to get worse over the next 12 months (well above the EU average of 33%).
• Regarding the cost of living Irish people were far more likely to be unsatisfied (87%) than satisfied (12%). On the whole 26% of EU respondents were satisfied and 73% unsatisfied. Only countries like Sweden (72%), the Netherlands (65) and Austria (61%) had satisfaction rates above 60%. Romania (3%), Greece (4%) and Portugal (5%) had the lowest satisfaction levels. When asked about their expectations for the next twelve months, 58% of Irish people and 59% of Europeans expect things to worsen.
• On the cost of energy, only 20% of Irish respondents were satisfied with the affordability of energy compared to an EU average of 30% and 76% were unsatisfied compared to an EU average of 67%. Estonians were by far the happiest with energy costs at 82% and Portuguese (4%), Greece (6%) and Romanians (7%) least. Furthermore 72% of Irish respondents thought that things had got worse compared to 5 years ago and 58% expected things to get worse in the next 12 months, a rise of 20% from the previous survey in 2010.
• On the affordability of housing, 35% of Irish respondents thought it was good (a rise of 8% on the previous survey in 2010) and 58% disagreed. This compares to EU averages of 25% and 71%. The Danes at 62% were most satisfied with the affordability of housing and the Cypriots least at 4%. When asked if the affordability of housing would get better in the next twelve months, opinion in Ireland was rather balanced with 27% agreeing and 28% disagreeing.
• When asked about the way inequalities and poverty are addressed in their country, Irish respondents were a little more satisfied than the EU average (31% compared to EU average of 27%). Satisfaction rates were lowest in Lithuania (5%) and Latvia (7%), and highest in Luxembourg (58%), the only country above 50%. 25% of Irish respondents expect the situation to worsen in the next 12 months compared to an EU average of 31% and a high of 67% in Greece.
For more information:
The survey was carried out across the EU in June 2011: 1,016 people were interviewed in Ireland between 4 and 17 June by Ipsos MRBI.
Special Eurobarometer survey on the social climate 2011
Full report : http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_370_en.pdf
Summary : http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_370_sum_en.pdf
Special Eurobarometer survey on the social climate 2010
Full report : http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_349_en.pdf
Summary : http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_349_sum_en.pdf
Subscribe to the European Commission's free e-mail newsletter on employment, social affairs and equal opportunities : http://ec.europa.eu/social/e-newsletter
Irish EU officials go Back to School (14 October)
Brussels can seem a long way from Dublin, Cavan or Galway but those are just some of the counties that Irish EU Officials will be visiting over the next few weeks.
Commission Spokesperson Cristina Arigho will be visiting St. Joseph of Cluny Secondary School in Killiney, Dublin. Economic and policy analyst Betty Lee will visit her former school St Clare's College Ballyjamesduff, Cavan and Mary Teresa Moran who works on coordination of foreign policy for the Commission in Brussels will visit St Joseph's Patrician College (The Bish) on the 27th of October and St Mary's College Galway City on the 28th of October.
These three are amongst almost 50 Irish people working in EU-Institutions across Europe will be coming home to visit their old schools and talk to secondary school students about how the EU works and career opportunities available.
"This is the third time Irish EU officials have taken part in the 'Back-to-School' activity. It's clear that Irish people working for the EU are really keen on taking part and letting young people know what is out there for them.", said Barbara Nolan, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland.
Amongst them are officials from the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, the EU Delegation in Sarajevo or the Joint Research Center in Petten. They will all be taking part in the "Back to School" activities this year - from translators to scientific researchers and financial managers. They will get the chance to talk to young people at home and hear their views. It's also a chance to let students know about careers in the EU, the challenge of living and working abroad as well as issues of broader interest such as climate change and the EU's response to the economic crisis.
The 'Back to School' initiative is taking place across the EU. It all started in 2007 when the German officials went 'back to school' to mark the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome and it proved so popular that it has expanded every year, with more and more people taking part.
For the full list of participants go to: http://ec.europa.eu/ireland/education/back_to_school/who-where-when-2011_en.htm
Trinity College gets EU 'blue skies' research grant (14 October)
Trinity College Dublin researcher, Professor Jonathan Coleman, has won an EU grant, worth up to €150 000, for his work on electronics*.
The "Proof of Concept" grants are designed to help European researchers get good ideas to market and maximise their value.
The success rate for applications is about 40% and a total of 78 proposals were received for the first June deadline. A second deadline is on 8 November 2011.
Using a very limited part of the whole European Research Council budget, the initiative is designed to unleash considerable innovation potential. Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, said: "In this time of economic crisis, investing in excellence and innovation in Europe is vital. This targeted backing can help high potential ERC projects capture the maximum value from frontier research. We need to stimulate innovation and bring more ideas to market."
In total, 30 top researchers already receiving ERC grants will be able to bridge the gap between their research and the earliest stages of a marketable innovation. The funding can cover activities related to intellectual property rights, technical validation, market research or investigation of commercial and business opportunities.
The projects selected cover a wide range of topics. They include research on needle-free injections of vaccines, safer mobile communications, responses to consumers' concerns on health and food safety, as well as on controlling electronic devices like wheel chairs simply by sniffing.
For more information, please click here .
Professor Coleman's Project details: * Layered materials represent a diverse and largely untapped source of 2-dimensional (2D) systems with exotic electronic properties and high specific surface areas that are important for sensing, catalysis and energy storage applications. While graphene is the most well-known layered material, transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs), transition metal oxides (TMOs) and other 2D compounds are also important. The latter materials are of particular interest as topological insulators and thermoelectric materials. Current production methods for these materials make them uneconomical for most commercial applications. The project will develop and explore commercialisation of a unique method developed by the PI for producing single atomic layer materials. It will also evaluate the potential opportunity to commercialise the materials and or devices made using these materials. The project is linked to an ERC Starting Grant awarded to Prof Jonathan N Coleman in TCD called Semiconducting and Metallic nanosheets: Two dimensional electronic and mechanical materials (SEMANTICS). The proposal will seek to up-scale the process which has been developed within SEMANTICS (and which has already generated one patent application), and engage the commercialisation professionals in CRANN and the Technology Transfer resources in TCD to bring this technology out to the market place
September 2011: Ireland has lowest inflation in the EU (14 October)
Euro area annual inflation was 3.0% in September 2011, up from 2.5% in August. A year earlier the rate was 1.9%. Monthly inflation was 0.8% in September 2011.
EU annual inflation was 3.3% in September 2011, up from 2.9% in August. A year earlier the rate was 2.3%. Monthly inflation was 0.6% in September 2011.
These figures come from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
Inflation in the EU Member States
In September 2011, the lowest annual rates were observed in Ireland (1.3%), Sweden (1.5%) and the Czech Republic (2.1%), and the highest in Estonia (5.4%) and Lithuania (4.7%). Compared with August 2011, annual inflation fell in seven Member States, remained stable in five and rose in fourteen.
The lowest 12-month averages up to September 2011 were registered in Ireland (0.6%), Sweden (1.6%), the Czech Republic and Slovenia (both 1.9%), and the highest in Romania (6.9%) and Estonia (5.2%).
The main components with the highest annual rates in September 2011 were transport (5.9%), housing (5.0%) and alcohol & tobacco (3.7%), while the lowest annual rates were observed for communications (-1.9%), recreation & culture (0.5%) and household equipment (1.3%). Concerning the detailed sub-indices, fuels for transport (+0.55 percentage points), heating oil (+0.19) and electricity (+0.12) had the largest upward impacts on the headline rate, while telecommunications (-0.16), vegetables (-0.11) and rents (-0.10) had the biggest downward impacts.
The main components with the highest monthly rates were clothing (14.1%), education (1.0%), household equipment and alcohol & tobacco (both 0.5%), while the lowest were recreation & culture (-1.1%), hotels & restaurants (-0.8%) and communications (-0.3%). In particular, garments (+0.64 percentage points) and footwear (+0.16) had the largest upward impact, while package holidays (-0.15), accommodation services (-0.12) and air transport (-0.09) had the biggest downward impacts.
Figures and graphs are available here.
Ireland's productivity well above EU average (14 October)
The annual EU report on competitiveness perfromance and policy, out today, shows Ireland as one of the best performers in Europe.The report analyses industrial competitiveness across the EU and presents policy measures adopted by Member States to improve their competitiveness, and by implication, the competitiveness of Europe as a whole.
1. Labour productivity (per person employed in manufacturing) can be classified in three groups:
- The group of countries with a productivity rate considerably above the EU average includes Ireland, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden and Germany.
- The group of countries with a rate slightly above and below the EU average includes the United Kingdom, France, Denmark, Spain, Greece, Italy and Malta.
- The group of countries with a productivity rate considerably below the EU average includes Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland, Cyprus, Portugal, Estonia, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia and Bulgaria.
The main short-term challenge for Ireland is to return to a balanced growth path in line with the Council recommendations. At the same time, the undisputed need to consolidate public finances necessitates a careful review of spending and taxation priorities with a view to avoid the emergence of future bottlenecks to growth, in particular with regard to infrastructure and research.
Ireland’s efforts to shift growth from foreign direct investment based on labour cost and construction to more innovative sectors and services had already born some fruit before the onset of the current crisis. Long-term efforts to provide incentives for more sustainable growth also go in the right direction.
In addition, Ireland scores significantly above the EU average on many aspects of its business environment and work force. The country is therefore relatively well-placed to overcome the crisis although some challenges remain. In particular the capacity of indigenous firms to innovate could be stepped up further, capitalising as much as possible on the increased investment in public R&D and the development of a green tech sector.
Figure 1: Labour productivity per person employed in manufacturing
The graph illustrates the different levels of labour productivity in manufacturing, as measured by Gross Value Added in Purchasing Power Standards per person employed in the Member States.
2. The share of innovating companies among all companies can be classified in four groups:
- The group of Member States with a share higher than 60 % of all companies includes Germany and Luxembourg.
- The group of countries with a share higher than 50% includes Belgium, Portugal, Ireland, Estonia, Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Sweden, Italy, Finland, Denmark, Slovenia and France.
- The group of countries with a share higher than 30% includes the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Malta, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
- The group of Member States with a share lower than 30% includes Hungary, Poland and Latvia.
Figure 2: Share of innovating companies among all companies in %
Source: Community innovation surveys
The analysis focuses on enterprises which have introduced new or significantly improved goods, services and/or processes, as well as marketing or organisational innovation during an observation period of three years. The graph illustrates the share of those innovating companies in relation to the total number of active enterprises.
3. According to a recent survey among business executives, the business friendliness of government regulation was assessed as follows:
- The group of Member States where the regulation was assessed as least burdensome for companies (rating higher than 3.5) includes Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Cyprus, Sweden and Luxembourg.
- The group of Member States where it is more burdensome for companies (rating between 3,5 and 2.5 ) includes the Netherlands, Austria, Ireland, Latvia, Bulgaria, the United Kingdom, Germany, Slovenia, Spain, Lithuania, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, France and Poland.
- The group of Member States where the regulation was assessed as most burdensome (rating below 2.5) includes Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Hungary and Italy.
Figure 3: Business-friendliness of government regulation
Source: World Economic Forum survey
The results are derived from a World Economic Forum survey among business executives which assessed how burdensome it is for businesses in the respective countries to comply with governmental administrative requirements such as permits, regulations or reporting requirements. The lower the values, the more burdensome the regulatory framework was assessed in the survey (1 = extremely burdensome; 7 = not burdensome at all).
See herefor information on other Member States.
Press briefing following the meeting of Barroso and Kenny (13 October)
The President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, congratulated Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Ireland's performance under the EU/IMF programme. "We have seen good steady progress in implementation of the programme and there are clear signs that this is paying off. Interest rates have come down and growth has resumed. Continued strong policy implementation remains essential, especially in the current market conditions. The agreement of European Union leaders to reduce the margin on EU loans to Ireland is a significant achievement. It will bring important savings for Irish tax payers."
President Barroso added, that it was "a very timely and constructive meeting because we share the same views on the future of Europe. We believe that we have to be stronger in our response. It has to be a decisive comprehensive response. We have very similar views on what needs to be done. We exchanged ideas also on how to have a community based approach to future economic governance."
The full press briefing is available as video and audio:
A roadmap for stability and growth (12 October)
Today (Wednesday), the Commission has presented a roadmap outlining the comprehensive response that is needed to restore confidence in the Euro area and the European Union as a whole. This response is designed to break the vicious circle between doubts over the sustainability of sovereign debt, the stability of the banking system and the European Union's growth prospects'.
Delivering on the commitments made in President Barroso's State of the Union Address, the Commission outlines five areas of action that are interdependent and need to be implemented together and as quickly as possible. The five areas are: a decisive response to the problems in Greece; enhancing the euro area's backstops against the crisis; a coordinated approach to strengthen Europe's banks; frontloading stability and growth enhancing policies, and building robust and integrated economic governance for the future.
President Barroso said, "This roadmap charts Europe's way out of the economic crisis. Reactive and piecemeal responses to different aspects of the crisis are no longer sufficient. We now need to get ahead of the curve. Confidence can be restored through an immediate deployment of all the elements needed to solve the crisis. Only in this way we will be able to convince our citizens, our global partners and the markets that we have the solutions that measure up to the challenges all economies are facing. We need to reach agreement at the European Council on the 23rd October".
The roadmap calls for:
- Decisive action on Greece – so that all doubt is removed about Greece's economic sustainability. This must include disbursement of the sixth tranche, a second adjustment programme, based on adequate financing through public sector and private sector involvement and continued support from the Commission Task Force.
- Completing Euro area intervention – including making the decisions agreed on 21 July 2011 operational, maximising the effectiveness of the EFSF, accelerating the launch of the European Stability Mechanism to mid 2012 and the provision of sufficient liquidity by the European Central Bank.
- A fully coordinated approach to strengthen Europe's banks - this should be based on a reassessment by the supervising authorities using a temporary significantly higher capital ratio of highest quality capital after accounting for exposure. Banks should first use private sources of capital, with national governments providing support if necessary. If this support is not available, recapitalisation should be funded via a loan from the EFSF. Pending this recapitalisation, these banks would be prevented by national supervisors from distributing dividends or bonuses.
- Speeding up stability and growth-enhancing policies – including rapid implementation of existing commitments on services, energy and free trade agreements; swift adoption of pending proposals to enhance growth such as tax initiatives, fast-tracking forthcoming proposals, especially those that extend the benefits of the Single Market and targeted investment at the European Union level, including through project bonds.
- Building robust and integrated economic governance for the future, based on the existing treaties (Article 136), reinforcing the Community approach. Building on the reinforced "six pack" on economic governance and the European semester already adopted, the proposals seek to integrate the European Stability Mechanism and the Stability & Growth Pact into the same fully integrated governance system to increase coherence and efficiency. This would provide new powers for the Commission/Council to intervene in the preparation of national budgets and monitor their execution. Enhanced cooperation should be envisaged in all cases where otherwise decisive action would be held back.
The roadmap presented by the Commission will be submitted to the European Council and Euro area Summit that will take place on the 23rd October 2011.
The full document adopted by the Commission can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/president/index_en.htm
A list of the previous proposals of the Commission on economic governance, financial repair and re-capitalisation of banks since 2008 can be found at:
Economic and Financial Affairs: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/economy_finance/index_en.htm
Internal Market and Services: http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/internal_market/index_en.htm
Speech by President Barroso: "A Roadmap to Stability and Growth" to the European Parliament on 12 October 2011
European Commission proposes a new partnership between Europe and its farmers (12 October)
The European Commission has presented today, 12 October, a draft reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the period after 2013. This draft aims to strengthen the competitiveness, sustainability and permanence of agriculture throughout the EU in order to secure for European citizens a healthy and high-quality source of food, preserve the environment and develop rural areas.
'The European Commission is proposing a new partnership between Europe and its farmers in order to meet the challenges of food security, sustainable use of natural resources and growth. The next decades will be crucial for laying the foundations of a strong agricultural sector that can cope with climate change and international competition while meeting the expectations of the citizen. Europe needs its farmers. Farmers need Europe's support. The Common Agricultural Policy is what feeds us, it's the future of more than half of our territory', said Dacian Cioloş, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development.
The reformed CAP will make it possible to promote innovation, strengthen both the economic and ecological competitiveness of the agricultural sector, combat climate change, and sustain employment and growth. It will thus make a decisive contribution to the Europe 2020 strategy.
The ten key points of the reform
1) More targeted income support in order to stimulate growth and employment
In order to enhance the EU's agricultural potential, the Commission is proposing to support farmers' income in a fairer, simpler and more targeted manner. Basic income support will affect only active farmers. It will reduce gradually from EUR 150 000 (degressivity), with a ceiling of EUR 300 000 per farm per year, and will take account of the number of employees created by holdings. It will also be more fairly distributed among farmers, regions and Member States.
2) More responsive and adequate crisis management tools in order to meet new economic challenges
The volatility of prices is a threat to the agricultural sector's long-term competitiveness. The Commission is proposing more effective and more responsive safety nets for the agricultural aspects of the supply chain that are most at risk of crisis (private storage and public intervention) and to promote the creation of insurance and mutual funds.
3) 'Green' payments for long-term productivity and for preserving ecosystems
In order to reinforce the ecological durability of the agricultural sector and enhance the efforts of farmers, the Commission is proposing to dedicate 30% of direct payments to practices which enable optimal use of natural resources. Those practices, which are easy to implement and are ecologically efficient, are: crop diversification, maintenance of permanent pasture, preservation of ecological reserves and landscapes.
4) Additional investment in research and innovation
In order to put in place knowledge-based farming and competitive agriculture, the Commission is proposing to double the agronomy research and innovation budget and to take steps in order to ensure that the research results are translated into practice by means of a new partnership for innovation. This funding will encourage the transfer of knowledge and advice to farmers and support research projects relevant to farmers by ensuring closer cooperation between the agricultural sector and the scientific community.
5) A more competitive and balanced food chain
Agriculture is at the base of the food chain, but it is highly fragmented and unstructured. To strengthen the position of farmers, the Commission proposes to support producer organisations and inter-branch organisations and to develop short circuits between producers and consumers (without too many intermediaries). Furthermore, the sugar quotas, which have lost their relevance, will not be extended beyond 2015.
6) Encouraging agri-environmental initiatives
The special nature of each territory should be taken into account and agri-environmental initiatives at national, regional and local level encouraged. In order to do this, the Commission is proposing that the preservation and the restoration of ecosystems and the fight against climate change, together with the effective use of resources, should be two of the six priorities of rural development policy.
7) Aid for young farmers setting up
Two thirds of farmers are over 55. In order to support job creation and encourage the younger generation to enter the agricultural sector, the Commission is proposing to create new start-up assistance accessible to farmers under 40 during the first five years of their project.
8) Rural employment and entrepreneurship stimulated
In order to promote employment and entrepreneurship, the Commission is proposing a number of measures to stimulate economic activity in rural areas and encourage local development initiatives. For example, a ‘starter kit’ will be created which will provide support for micro-business projects with financing of up to EUR 70 000 over a period of five years. LEADER local action groups will be strengthened.
9) Better account taken of fragile areas
With a view to avoiding desertification and preserving the richness of our territory, the Commission is enabling the Member States to provide more support for farmers located in areas with natural handicaps by means of additional compensation. Such aid would be in addition to other subsidies already available in the context of rural development policy.
10) A simpler and more efficient CAP
To avoid unnecessary additional administrative costs, the Commission is proposing to simplify several CAP mechanisms, including the cross-compliance rules and control systems, without sacrificing effectiveness. Moreover, support for small farmers will also be simplified. A flat-rate payment will be created for the latter, ranging from EUR 500 to 1 000 per farm per year. The sale of land by small farmers who cease agricultural activity to other farms willing to restructure their farms will be encouraged.
For more information: MEMO/11/685
For further information and documents concerning the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, see: http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/cap-post-2013/legal-proposals/index_en.htm
Commissioner Olli Rehn - text of speech to Irish Bankers this morning (12 October)
Commissioner Olli Rehn - text of speech to Irish Bankers this morning
How To Restart Growth in the Midst of a Financial Crisis
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a pleasure to address this conference of the Irish Banking Federation, with its very timely focus on the topic of 'Building the New Banking Architecture'. I only regret that I am not able to be there in person with you due to crisis-related pressing commitments in Brussels.
Ireland is one of the worst hit economies in the financial and economic crisis which started in Europe in the autumn of 2008. GDP declined by some 12 % in 2008 to 2010. Unemployment has increased from below 6 % to 14 %, and public debt from 25 % to 110 % GDP. This audience does not need anybody from outside the country to explain what these cold numbers have meant and mean to Ireland and to the Irish people.
An unfortunate fact is that recoveries from financial crises tend to be a protracted affair. A key element of almost all financial crises is excessive, unsustainable debt levels, private or public or both. Improving the balance sheets requires higher savings which are away from investment and consumption, and thus away from job creation.
A prerequisite for the resumption of growth and job creation is that the financial market turbulence calms down, that interest rates and asset price volatility come down and credit starts to flow to businesses and households again. This is the first part of any successful recovery.
I'm glad to note that Ireland has come far in this first part of paving the way for a sustained recovery. This is based on effective policy action to ensure the liquidity and solvency of both the sovereign and the banking sector. The EU-IMF financial assistance programme set up last autumn to help Ireland, and the strong support from the ECB, have been essential for this. But of course the biggest contribution comes from the Irish authorities and the Irish people themselves.
Ireland indeed has made significant progress on both the financial sector front and the fiscal policy front.
The recapitalisation of Irish banks has now been completed. It has lead to significantly lower costs for the taxpayer than originally anticipated. This has been achieved thanks to the burden-sharing with subordinated debt holders, the sales of assets and a sizable infusion of private capital into one of the two pillar banks.
Banks are also making progress towards the agreed deleveraging targets and reducing the size of their balance sheets. Two planned mergers (of Allied Irish Banks with EBS Building Society and of Anglo Irish Bank with INBS) have been completed ahead of schedule, and bank boards are being renewed. And Irish banks' success in regaining access to term wholesale funding markets is also encouraging.
Overall, Ireland is well on track to achieve its objective of creating a smaller and better capitalized banking sector, which can regain investor confidence and provide financing to credit-worthy borrowers in the country.
Similarly, substantial budgetary adjustments have taken place. Their overall impact by the end of this year will be close to 12 % of GDP, a very sizeable figure. The budget deficit from 2011 is projected to be well below the 10½ percent of GDP programme ceiling.
Overall, the government is succeeding in its objective of restoring sustainability to Irish public finances, and I welcome its strong commitment to reduce its budget deficit to below 3 percent of GDP by 2015, in line with the recommendations of the ECOFIN Council. Tough decisions remain ahead but I have full trust that they will be taken with the same determination as the decisions so far.
Restoring a solid and well-functioning financial sector and budgetary consolidation are necessary conditions for resuming growth, but they are not sufficient. When growth cannot be based on fiscal stimulus or increasing private debt, the first push has to come from exports. This should then feed into a gradually increasing productive investments, job creation and finally strengthening domestic consumption based on incomes and savings rather than debt.
I have three reasons to be confident that this process of export-led recovery will succeed in Ireland.
The first one is the experience of my home country Finland and the neighbouring Sweden. Both of them experienced deep financial and economic crises in the early 1990s, which in fact resemble very much what Ireland has been going through now. For Finland some of the numbers were even uglier than those for Ireland. In particular, unemployment increased in three years from less than 4 % to 17 %.
Both of these countries put the banking sectors on a sound basis by very unpopular bank support measures and in the case of Finland brutal restructuring: half of the 50 000 jobs in the banking sector disappeared. Both consolidated public finances strongly. At the same, a lot was done to improve the competitiveness of the economy. Currency devaluation – not an option for Ireland – was one of them. But it was not the only one. In both countries public financial support and incentives for innovation were increased in the midst of budget cuts. Integration of the economies with the rest of Europe was strengthened by EU membership. In Finland a major tax reform was implemented to encourage capital formation.
The results were impressive. The average growth rates for the following 6 years until the global slowdown in 2001 were 4.5 % and 3.7 %, for Finland and Sweden, respectively. Public sector deficits turned into substantial surpluses and also employment recovered, although painfully slowly, particularly in Finland.
My second reason for optimism is the fundamentals of the Irish economy. While a large part of the pre-crisis unsustainable boom was due to excessive domestic demand, also a lot of it was based on the attractiveness of Ireland as a business environment. And here I’m not talking about the controversial low corporate tax rate, but about the availability of highly educated labour force, the increased emphasis on innovation policies, and flexible labour markets.
Thirdly, and I would say most importantly, the last six months have provided evidence that Ireland indeed is on its way to an export-led recovery. Exports are increasing robustly and the current is turning positive. And despite the continued deleveraging of households, companies and banks, domestic demand has held up reasonably well, most probably based on the confidence that things are getting better in a not too distant future. As a result, GDP increased by 2.3 % in the second quarter (y-on-y).
I would emphasize a very important aspect: labour market flexibility. The fact that Ireland is part of a wider currency area has not prevented it from improving its cost competitiveness fast. This is thanks to wage flexibility. The Irish labour market is flexible also in other dimensions. I know that some of this flexibility, i.e. the emigration of young Irish to seek employment elsewhere is a matter of concern, and rightly so. But I’m also pretty confident that these flows turn when the Irish economy continues to recover, and at that point the work experience abroad can be an additional asset for the these people and the Irish economy.
What about Europe at large? While some countries have steamed ahead quite robustly and even on average the EU has been on a steady although slow path of recovery already for two years, growth is now stalling. Moreover this is happening while unemployment only has stabilised at a high level and public finances still are badly in the red.
We are indeed in a very dangerous situation. We have not been able to put down the stubborn financial market bush fires centring on the sovereign debt market. These are now spreading again leading to new worries about the solidity of the European banking system. The real economy has been clearly affected: most of the recent slowdown can be traced back to the renewed financial market turbulence. If we don’t get an upper hand of this turbulence soon, the standstill we are now experiencing will turn into a new recession. No part of Europe would be saved from the consequences, including of course Ireland, which so much depends on the growth of its export markets for its recovery. Strong coordinated action is needed, now.
Fortunately, the necessary sense of urgency of action – crisis consciousness if you like – is emerging. Also consensus about what needs to be done is in the making:
- First, we need to get certainty about Greece
- Second, we have to build much stronger fire walls, including making the maximum of the reformed financial backstop EFSF, and taking concerted action to beef up the capital base of the European banks
- Third, based on the newly adopted six-pack on fiscal and macroeconomic surveillance, we have to strengthen the stability orientation in economic policy making
- Fourth, create a vision of and a road map towards substantially tighter economic governance in the euro area, and
- Fifth, we must frontload structural reforms to enhance growth and job creation.
The Commission will present its proposals of taking these policy initiatives forward very soon. In fact, we will finalise our ideas when you are watching this recording.
The European Council and the euro area summit next week are a key juncture. If we can agree on determined policy action on the five points I mentioned, we have a good chance of not only averting a financial calamity, but to put Europe back to the path of sustained recovery. The determination Ireland has shown in its efforts to conquer its economic crisis should be the example for all European policy makers.
Thank you very much for your attention.
State aid: Commission clears aid from Irish Insurance Compensation Fund for restructuring of Quinn Insurance (12 October)
The European Commission has approved under EU state aid rules support measures of over €700 million provided by the Irish Insurance Compensation Fund (ICF) for the restructuring of Quinn Insurance Limited (QIL), an Irish general insurer which ran into difficulties in 2010 and is currently in administration. As part of the restructuring, the viable Irish general insurance part of QIL has been sold to a joint venture between the US insurer Liberty Mutual and Anglo Irish bank, while the non-viable UK operations will be wound-down. The viability of the healthcare insurance of QIL is not assessed in this decision as its own sales process is still going on.
Commission Vice-President Joaquín Almunia, in charge of competition policy, said: "The administrators of Quinn Insurance have worked out a plan that provides for a viable future for the healthy parts, ensured an adequate burden sharing by the shareholders and limited the distortions of competition."
QIL was put under administration in 2010 due to a breach of regulatory solvency requirements. The Commission's decision finds that QIL's Irish general insurance business is viable, because it represents the historically profitable part of the firm and will benefit from Liberty Mutual's expertise. Anglo Irish Bank is itself the subject of an orderly winding down, and does not contribute in cash to the transaction. It is merely an existing creditor to the Quinn Group. In this context, by releasing some guarantees, Anglo Irish will receive partial ownership of QIL and will improve its position as a creditor, acting thereby as a private creditor would.
An important measure to restore viability was the closure of the loss-making UK business, with the exception of the private motor insurance business, which will be continued until it can be sold or closed down. Furthermore, the Irish general insurance parts of QIL were split-off and sold to the highest bidder. Overall, the restructuring measures result in a substantial reduction of the market presence of QIL. As a result, the restructuring of QIL is in line with the Commission's Communication on restructuring in the financial sector during the crisis (see IP/09/1180) and as such is compatible with Article 107.3.b of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).
QIL has been providing general insurance service to the Irish and UK market since 1996 and was put under administration in March 2010 due to a breach of regulatory solvency requirements.
To allow the administrators to conduct the reorganisation of QIL as a going concern, the Irish Insurance Compensation Fund (ICF), a state-body established to finance the repayment of policyholders' claims in case of an administration or liquidation, will cover the gap between the firm's assets and liabilities. With the help of the ICF, QIL could continue to compete on the Irish and UK general insurance markets until the good parts of it will be sold. The policy holders' claims will be repaid from the proceeds of these sales. Without this support, QIL would have been liquidated, leading to limits on the repayments to policy holders.
The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.33023in the State Aid Registeron the DG Competitionwebsite once any confidentiality issues have been resolved. New publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the Official Journal are listed in the State Aid Weekly e-News.
EU Commission wants optional common sales law to boost trade and lower prices (11 October)
Traders who are put off doing business in other EU countries are missing out on at least €26 billion every year, the European Commission said today.
Today, the Commission proposed a solution: an optional Common European Sales Law.
Getting rid of the 27 different sets of contract sales law would mean lower prices and greater choices, especially in smaller national markets such as Ireland. And it would make it much easier and cheaper for small companies to do business with their EU neighbours.
The Common European Sales Law will offer a single set of rules for cross-border contracts in all 27 EU countries. If traders offer their products on the basis of the Common European Sales Law, consumers would have the option of choosing a user-friendly European contract with a high level of protection with just one click of a mouse. (For more details, scroll down to last section)
The Commission's proposal now needs approval from EU Member States and the European Parliament, which already signalled its overwhelming support in a vote earlier this year (IP/11/683).
"The optional Common European Sales Law will help kick-start the Single Market, Europe's engine for economic growth. It will provide firms with an easy and cheap way to expand their business to new markets in Europe while giving consumers better deals and a high level of protection," said Vice-President Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "Instead of setting aside national laws, today the European Commission is taking an innovative approach based on free choice, subsidiarity and competition."
Some figures for Ireland
What is the problem with cross-border sales and purchases in Ireland?
Irish consumers are not fully benefitting from the EU’s Single Market.
- At present, 34% of Irish consumers buy online from other EU countries, while 26% do so in Ireland.
- Legal barriers mean businesses sometimes refuse to sell to consumers living abroad – around 3 million European consumers are affected each year in the EU, and more than 300,000 of them are in Ireland.
Irish companies are not taking advantage of the full potential of the EU’s Single Market.
Business-to-consumer transactions (B2C)
55% of Irish retailers (EU: 55%) active or interested in selling to consumers outside their national market said they were held back by a range of contract-law related obstacles:
Business-to-business transactions (B2B)
50% of Irish businesses (EU: 49%) active or interested in selling to businesses outside their national market named a variety of contract-law related obstacles as a barrier to cross-border trade:
Finding out about foreign contract law 39% (EU: 40%)
Obtaining legal advice on foreign contract law 33% (EU: 31%)
Complying with different consumer protection rules abroad 39% (EU: 38%)
Resolving cross-border disputes 31% (EU: 32 %)
Obtaining legal advice on foreign contract law 37% (EU: 35%)
Finding out about foreign contract law 30% (EU: 35%)
Solving cross-border contractual disputes 32% (EU: 34%)
Agreeing on which contract law should apply 30% (EU: 30%)
54% (EU: 71%) of Irish businesses said they would use a single EU contract law for cross-border sales to consumers.
49% (EU: 70%) of Irish traders would use a single EU contract law for cross-border transactions with businesses
Improvements for Irish consumers:
- The Common European Sales Law will encourage consumers to buy across borders by offering them a set of rights that ensure a high level of consumer protection, especially when buying online.
- It will increase the goods and services that are on offer. With businesses competing on a broader market, the consumer will have more choice of goods at lower prices.
- Under the Common European Sales Law, if a business fails to deliver the goods, a consumer can require the business to do so. Such a general right does not exist in Irish law: courts will usually offer a financial compensation to the consumer instead of imposing the delivery of the goods. In certain circumstances, this is less convenient and effective for the consumer as he will have to look for another seller of the same good, at the same conditions and conclude a new transaction.
Improvements for Irish companies, particularly small firms:
- At a time when Europe is recovering from a deep economic and financial crisis, the EU must do all that it can to help remove unnecessary costs and expand opportunities for business to export into new markets.
- Irish businesses exporting to new markets can rely on a comprehensive set of identical contract law rules that they can use no matter where they trade in the EU.
- Under the Common European Sales Law, smaller firms benefit in cases where a business imposes unfair terms or conditions in a contract. If a large company uses unfair terms which grossly deviate from good commercial practice and are contrary to good faith, the other party will not be bound by them. Irish law does not currently contain such an explicit provision regarding the control of unfair standard contractual terms.
The Common European Sales Law breaks down barriers and maximises benefits for consumers and businesses.
1. Advantages for Companies:
- Providing one common (yet optional) regime of contract law that is identical for all 27 Member States so that traders no longer need to wrestle with the uncertainties that arise from having to deal with multiple national contract systems: According to a Eurobarometer released today, 71% of European companies stated that if able to choose, they would use one single European contract law for all cross-border sales to consumers from other EU countries.
Cutting transaction costs for companies that wish to trade cross-border: Currently, businesses wishing to carry out cross-border transactions must adapt to up to 26 different national contract laws, translate them and hire lawyers, costing an average €10,000 for each additional export market.
Helping small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) to expand into new markets: currently only 9.3% of all EU companies sell across EU borders and thereby forego at least €26 billion per year.
2. Advantages for Consumers:
- Providing the same high level of consumer protection in all Member States: Consumers will be able to rely on the Common European Sales Law as a mark of quality. For example, it offers consumers a free choice of remedies in case they buy a defective product – even several months after a purchase. This means that consumers could terminate the contract, ask for a replacement or repair or a price reduction. Today, such a free choice of remedy only exists in five EU countries (France, Greece, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal).
- Providing a wider choice of products at lower prices: Currently, consumers who proactively search for better deals across the EU, in particular online, are often refused sale or delivery by the trader. At least 3 million consumers experienced this over a one year period.
Providing certainty about their rights in cross-border transactions: 44% of consumers say that uncertainty about their rights discourages them from buying from other EU countries.
Increasing transparency and consumers' confidence: consumers will always be clearly informed, and will have to agree to use a contract based on the Common European Sales Law. In addition, an information notice will clearly lay out the consumers' rights in their language.
The Common European Sales Law will be applicable:
- only if both parties voluntarily and expressly agree to it;
- to cross-border contracts where most of the problems of additional transaction costs and legal complexity arise; Member States will have the choice to make the Common European Sales Law applicable to domestic contracts as well
- to contracts for the sale of goods – the bulk of intra-EU trade – as well as digital content contracts, such as music, movies, software or smart-phone applications for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions
- if one party is established in a Member State of the EU. Traders could use the same set of contract terms when dealing with other traders from within and from outside the EU, giving the Common European Sales Law an international dimension.
Contracts are essential for running businesses and making sales to consumers. They formalise an agreement between parties and can cover a broad range of matters, including the sale of goods and associated services such as repairs and maintenance.
Companies use a wide variety of contracts that are governed by different national contract laws when operating in Europe’s Single Market. The 27 different sets of national rules can lead to additional transaction costs, a lack of legal certainty for businesses and a lack of consumer confidence. These can act as a deterrent for both consumers and businesses to shopping and trading across EU borders. Small and medium-sized companies are particularly affected by higher transaction costs.
This contrasts with the United States’ internal market, where a trader in Maryland can easily sell his products to a consumer in Alaska.
Under the Europe 2020 strategy (IP/10/225), the Commission is tackling bottlenecks in the Single Market to drive economic recovery. This includes making progress towards a European contract law.
In July 2010, the Commission put forward several options in a Green Paperfor a more coherent approach to contract law. The Commission then held a public consultation that ran until 31 January 2011 and resulted in 320 responses(MEMO/11/55).
On 3 May 2011, an expert group established by the Commission delivered a feasibility study on a future initiative on European contract law (IP/11/523). The Commission consulted stakeholders and citizens during the feasibility study and received 120 responses.
On 8 June 2011, the European Parliament backed an optional European contract law in a plenary vote on an own-initiative report by MEP Diana Wallis (MEMO/11/236).
For more information
Press pack: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/newsroom/news/20111011_en.htm
European Commission – Common European Sales Law website: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/policies/consumer/policies_consumer_intro_en.htm
Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner: http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/reding/index_en.htm
Irish people more concerned about economy than climate change (7 October)
Irish people (57%) are less likely than the European average (68%) to see climate change as a very serious problem a special Eurobarometer survey published today shows.
The poll, carried out in June 2011, also found that concern about climate change among the Irish public has remained unchanged since 2009, although it has increased on a Europe-wide basis. Furthermore for Irish respondents the economic situation remains a greater worry than climate change although the reverse is true for the EU as a whole.
Perceptions of climate change as a global problem – Irish respondents see poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water as a more serious problem
- Climate change is considered by European citizens (20%) to be the second most serious problem facing the world today after poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water (28%). Irish people (13%) however were second least likely (after Portugal at 7%) to consider climate change to be the most serious problem facing the world today.
- When asked what other serious problems faced the world, just over half of those polled across the EU (51%) named climate change as one of the most serious global problems. Poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water (considered as a single issue) was the second most frequently mentioned problem (64%), with the economic situation in third place (45%) after climate change.
- For Irish respondents (69%), poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water (considered as a single issue) was the single most serious problem facing the world today, followed by the economic situation (67%) and climate change (45%) in third place. French respondents were most likely to put poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water in first place (81%) and Italians least likely (46%), Malta was the only country which put climate change ahead of poverty, hunger and lack of drinking water (53% compared to 52%). Portuguese respondents (28%) were least likely to consider climate change to be the single most serious problem facing the world compared to Swedish respondents (68%) at the other end of the scale.
- Furthermore, fewer Irish respondents considered climate change to be a very serious problem than the EU average (57% compared to an EU average of 68% - up from 64% in 2009). However 87% of Irish respondents (compared to EU average of 89%) saw it as a serious problem (either 'very serious' or 'fairly serious'). On a scale of 1 (least) to 10 (most), the seriousness of climate change was ranked at 7.4, against 7.1 in 2009. Irish respondents ranked it at 7.0 unchanged compared to 2009.
Responsibility for climate change – Irish people less likely to consider business/industry or themselves responsible
- Although Irish respondents were more or less in line with the EU averages in putting the responsibility for tackling climate change with national governments (39% compared to EU average of 41%) and the EU (36% compared to EU average of 35%) in first and second place, they were far less likely to consider it the responsibility of business and industry (18% compared to EU average of 35%) or of themselves personally (14% compared to EU average of 21%). Spanish respondents were most likely to think it the responsibility of national governments (58%), Belgians the responsibility of the EU (54%) and Germans the responsibility of business and industry (57%). Swedish respondents were most likely to consider themselves to have a personal responsibility at 45% and Bulgarians least at 4% (followed by the Italians and Portuguese (both 5%).
Personal action to tackle climate change – Irish least likely to say they have not taken any action
- Irish people were fifth most likely to have personally taken action to combat climate change in the last six months (at 66%) after Sweden (75%), Slovakia and Luxembourg (both 74%) and Spain (71%). The EU average was 53% with Romania in bottom place at 27%.
- Irish people were also the least likely in the EU to have stated that they had not taken any action to combat climate change (21% compared to EU average of 41%) and a high of 65% in Latvia and Estonia.
- The actions Irish people were most likely to have taken to combat climate change include: reducing waste and recycling (79% compared to an EU average of 66%), cutting down on consumption of disposal items e.g. packaging (62% compared to EU average of 46%) and insulating their home (28% compared to EU average of 18%). However Irish people were less likely to use public transport or walking/biking/car sharing as an alternative to private cars (15% compared to EU average of 26%). They were also less likely to choose energy efficient domestic appliances (24% compared to EU average of 30%). Furthermore Irish people were more likely to say that they avoided short haul flights wherever possible (3% compared to EU average of 9%).
Taxing energy – majority of Irish people agree to basing taxation more on energy use
- Irish people were a little less likely to agree with the idea of basing taxation more on people's energy use (63% compared to EU average of 68%). Only 17% of Irish people disagreed compared to an EU average of 21%. Support was highest in Portugal (87%) and lowest in Romania at 52%.
Attitude to the Green Economy
- 78% of EU and Irish citizens see economic benefits in fighting climate change and improving energy efficiency. Cyprus and Sweden (both 92%) were the most positive about the economic benefits of fighting climate change while Poland (69%), Latvia and Estonia (both 68%), Romania (67%) and Lithuania (66%) were least positive.
Energy – Irish more positive than EU average about future use of renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Irish people are far more positive about the future use of renewable energy, with 63% saying usage will definitely increase compared to an EU average of 50%. Danish (82%) and Swedish (79%) were most positive and Portuguese (32%) and Polish and Romanian respondents (both 34%) least positive. A further 29% of Irish respondents said it was probable that in 2050 people would be using more renewable energy than now.
- Irish people were also among the least likely to agree that usage of renewable energy would definitely or probably not increase by 2050 (2% compared to EU average of 5%).
- Irish people were just below the EU average in thinking that cars would be fuelled in a more efficient way in 2050 than with conventional fuels like petrol and diesel (71% compared to an EU average of 73%).They were also only slightly behind the EU average (12% compared to 13%) in thinking that cars would still be fuelled by petrol/diesel.
- Irish people were also sixth most likely in the EU to think that in 2050 people would consume energy more efficiently than they do now (60% compared to an EU average of 45%). Swedish (75%) and Danish (74%) respondents were most positive and Portuguese least (30%).
The full report of the Eurobarometer is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/eb_special_379_360_en.htm#372
Structural funds after 2013: Commission bids for new budget (6 October)
The Commission today set out its stall for the future of the Cohesion Policy that brings Structural and other Funds to Member States and accounts for one third of the EU budget.
The final allocations by Member State, and lists of eligible regions by category, will only be decided after the final adoption of the package by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers.
The package envisages several important changes e.g. support from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF) for new categories such as farmers and the self-employed, minimum amounts to be spent on energy efficiency and social inclusion, new co-funding percentages and a simplification of the rules.
For more detailed concrete information, see MEMO/11/663
This is the first stage in the negotiations for this part of the new EU budget and the Parliament and Council of Ministers will now examine the proposals with a view to adoption by the end of 2012.
Note: In the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) in June 2011, the Commission proposed to allocate €376 billion to cohesion policy with the following breakdown:
Proposed budget 2014-2020
Less developed regions
More developed regions
Extra allocation for outermost and sparsely populated regions
Connecting Europe Facility for transport, energy and Information and Communication Technologies
EUR 40 billion (with an additional EUR 10 billion ring fenced inside the Cohesion Fund)
European Social Fund
At least EUR 84 billion (within the above allocations for less developed, transition, and more developed regions)
*All figures in constant 2011 prices
Main press release:
EU cohesion policy has been a force for change over the last ten years, making a genuine contribution to convergence and growth in the EU and directly creating over one million jobs, investing in training to improve the employability of over ten million people, co financing the construction of over 2 000km of motorway and 4 000km of railway and setting up at least 800.000 Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs).
To continue this work in the future and strengthen the focus on European economic priorities the European Commission has today adopted a legislative package for cohesion policy for the period from 2014 until 2020. It is designed to boost growth and jobs across Europe by targeting EU investment on Europe's Growth and Jobs Agenda ("Europe 2020").
The focus on fewer investment priorities in line with these objectives will be at the heart of the new Partnership Contracts, which Member States will agree with the European Commission. They will set clear targets and set aside a financial performance reserve to reward regions who do best in reaching their goals.
To ensure that the impact on growth and jobs of EU investments is not undermined by unsound macro-economic policies or by weak administrative capacity Commission can ask to review programmes or suspend the funding if remedial action is not taken.
The impact of the funds will also be strengthened by simplifying and harmonizing the rules of different funds, including rural development and maritime and fisheries. One set of rules for five different funds. And a more integrated approach will make sure the various funds serve coherent goals and strengthen each other's impact.
Today's proposals will bolster in particular social investment, empowering people to face future challenges of the labour market, with the Globalisation Adjustment Fund and a new Programme for Social Change and Innovation complementing and reinforcing the European Social Fund.
Johannes Hahn, Commissioner for Regional Policy commented: "Cohesion policy has already contributed a lot to building prosperity in the EU. But given the economic crisis, it must now become a motor for growth and competitiveness. Our proposals will make EU funds work even harder. By targeting investments on the keys to growth -– Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs), innovation, energy efficiency - we will achieve a greater impact. And we are modernising the policy with conditions to ensure performance and results, incentives for those who deliver most effectively, and simplified procedures"
László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion added: "This integrated proposal strengthens the social dimension of cohesion policy by securing minimum shares for the European Social Fund and by strengthening the Globalisation Adjustment Fund. Putting people first is an important part of our effort to exit from the crisis. These funds are the financial levers that translate our policies into a reality on the ground for millions of citizens, helping them to find employment and contribute to a job-rich recovery”.
The package includes:
- An overarching regulation setting out common rules governing the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). This will allow for the better combination of funds for a stronger impact of EU action.
- Three specific regulations for the ERDF, the ESF and the Cohesion Fund.
- Two regulations dealing with the European territorial cooperation goal and the European grouping of territorial cooperation (EGTC).
- Two regulations on the European Globalisation Fund (EGF) and the Programme for Social Change and Innovation.
- A communication on the European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF)
These proposals will now be discussed by the Council and the European Parliament, with a view to adoption by the end of 2012, to allow for the start of a new generation of cohesion policy programmes in 2014.
Negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework for the whole EU budget will continue in parallel. The Commission has already proposed to allocate €336 billion for cohesion policy instruments in 2014-2020. (IP/11/799)
The final allocations by Member State, and lists of eligible regions by category, will only be decided after the final adoption of the package on the table today.
For more detailed analysis, see MEMO/11/663
The European Week of Regions and Cities("Open Days 2011") from 10 to 13 October will provide an opportunity for stakeholders working on the policy to discuss the new proposals.
For the legislative texts please see:
€35 million for Irish construction workers from Globalisation Fund (5 October)
The European Commission has today proposed to provide Ireland with €35m from the European Globalisation adjustment Fund (EGF) to help 5,987 redundant construction workers across Ireland back into employment. The money, requested by the Irish authorities through three applications, will cover ex-workers from 3,348 mostly small enterprises. The proposal now goes to the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers for their approval.
"Construction in Europe, particularly in Ireland, has plummeted and its workers are facing huge difficulties in finding new opportunities. I am confident that the support and training the EGF can provide to the Irish workers will help them and allow a smooth transition to a new job," said László Andor, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion. He added: "These applications demonstrate how the Fund benefits workers from small and medium sized enterprises as well as those from larger companies."
The Irish applications relate to a total of 9,089 redundancies from small and medium sized enterprises operating in the construction sector. The dismissals were a direct consequence of the financial and economic crisis.
Of the total 9,089 workers made redundant, the 5,987 workers with the greatest difficulties of re-integration into the labour market are targeted for assistance from the EGF. The package will help the workers by providing them with occupational guidance, training programmes (vocational/second & third level education programmes), enterprise/self-employment supports, and training allowances and income supports.
It is an innovative feature of these applications that 2,258 redundant apprentices will be helped with on- and off-the-job training by means of alternating temporary employment and college education, enabling them to finish their apprenticeships and gain internationally recognised qualifications.
The total estimated cost of the package is €55 million, of which the European Union has been asked to provide EGF assistance of €35.7 million.
When the crisis hit, the share of those employed in construction in Ireland dropped from 12,25% at the end of 2007 to 9,2% in the first half of 2009 and 6,25% towards the end of 2010.
The entire State of Ireland has been affected by the redundancies. Following a decade of low unemployment of between 4% and 6%, the unemployment rate in construction increased more than six-fold between the second half of 2007 and the 2009. In mid-2009, one in three construction workers were out of work.
The EGF was established by the European Parliament and the Council at the end of 2006. In June 2009, the EGF rules were revised to strengthen the role of the EGF as an early intervention instrument. It forms part of Europe's response to the financial and economic crisis.
Further information: http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=326&langId=en
Online shopping abroad: still room for improvements (4 October)
Have you ever been tempted by a cheaper online offer from another EU country but wondered how reliable it was to shop abroad? 'Mystery shoppers' from the EU-supported European Consumer Centres' Network have checked just that.
Their report shows the results of 305 purchases in 28 countries. Delivery from abroad has turned out to be reliable overall, with 94% of orders delivered (up from 66% in 2003) and only 1% of the products found to be faulty.
But shoppers had more problems when returning the goods (as part of the EU-wide cancellation rights). When shoppers returned the products under the EU 'cooling-off' rules, the product cost was reimbursed in 90% of cases. However, 57% of shoppers had problems getting reimbursed for the original delivery costs, as required under EU rules. Also, some traders placed illegal restrictions on returning the goods (e.g. by telling the shoppers that they had no such right).
Under EU rules, consumers can cancel an online order for any reason within at least 7 days of receiving it (more in some countries), and send it back to the seller (though they may have to pay the cost of shipping the product back).
The foreign websites were originally preselected based on a set of minimum criteria for 'cross-border friendliness' (such as the willingness to sell abroad as well as payment and language options). But in practice 60% of these sites presented difficulties which made them unsuitable for online shoppers from other countries (e.g. because delivery to the consumer's country was not in fact possible).
Health and Consumer Commissioner John Dalli said: “It is important for consumers that, once they place an order, the delivery of the products bought online from another EU country is reliable and that, when things go wrong, consumers have easy access to effective redress across Europe. There are still barriers that limit consumers' choice and undermine confidence in the Single Market. I am determined to continue the work to abolish them"
The exercise confirms the European Commission's own earlier findings. Before the end of 2011, the Commission will outline its vision and action plan on how to help EU consumers make the most of e-commerce opportunities.
The full report can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/ecc/consumer_reports_en.htm
Full details on ECC-Net and more case studies: http://ec.europa.eu/ecc-net
President Barroso question and answers on You Tube (3 October 2011)
Want to make your voice heard? Ask Commission President Barroso a question and watch the answer live on youtube.
You have until Wednesday 5 October to submit your ideas, questions and vote on which ones go into the live interview at www.youtube.com/worldview.
On Thursday 6 October at 9 am (Irish time) President Barroso will answer the questions in a live interview web-streamed on Youtube (same site as above) and Euronews TV.
You can also follow it at the dedicated Twitter account:
President Barroso's State of the Union address.