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Press Release Archive for October 2013
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€40 million for new EU research on resource efficiency (31 Oct 2013)

The European Commission has approved funding for 14 new research projects to shape a more resource-efficient economy in Europe. The projects, which involve the collaboration of over 140 partners from research organisations and private companies, including University College Dublin, will tackle the challenges of recycling waste materials from manufactured products and the agricultural sector to improve the quality of the environment and save money.

Each project addresses a key issue such as reusing discarded automobile tyres, recovering key elements from batteries, producing green fertiliser from animal waste, and generating renewable clean energy from food and plant waste.

The €40 million funds are included in the 2013 Environment call of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7) and will involve partners from 19 European countries.

The kick-off for these projects will take place next Tuesday and Wednesday in Brussels (5-6 November), where the project coordinators will meet the European Commission to set the priorities and coordinate the work ahead.

Resource-efficiency research projects

A summary of the 14 resource-efficiency research projects that will receive a total €40 million funding is presented here.

RECYCAL (High Shear Processing of Recycled Aluminium Scrap for Manufacturing High Performance Aluminium Alloys, EU budget contribution: €2.40 million, Project coordinator: TWI Limited, Cambridge, United Kingdom and partner University College Dublin): Secondary aluminium (post-consumer scrap) previously downgraded into low quality cast products, or exported, could now be transformed into a low cost, low carbon feedstock for wrought product and high quality castings by the adoption of the innovative technology. Recycle will bridge the gap from research to industrialization through the involvement of a research-capable SME who will design and manufacture a prototype small industrial-scale HSP unit and then make recommendations regarding improved equipment design and likely process costs. Other SME partners will assist with economic modelling, through a life cycle analysis, which will comprise the costs of the process and the energy savings together with the carbon footprint impact.

ANAGENNISI (Innovative Reuse of All Tyre Components in Concrete, EU budget contribution: € 3.12 million, Project coordinator: The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom): At the moment nearly 50% of all recycled tyres/components still end up as fuel, in low grade applications or in landfill. All tyre constituents (rubber, high strength steel cord and wire, high strength textile reinforcement) are high quality materials and deserve to be reused for their relevant properties. The aim of this project is to develop innovative solutions to reuse all tyre components in high value innovative concrete applications with reduced environmental impact. For instance, construction is the highest user of materials with concrete being the most popular structural material. Concrete is inherently brittle in compression (unless suitably confined) and weak in tension and, hence, it is normally reinforced with steel bars or fibres.

APSE (Use of eco-friendly materials for a new concept of Asphalt Pavements for a Sustainable Environment, EU budget contribution: € 2.45 million, Project coordinator: Acciona Infraestructuras S.A., Alcobendas, Spain): Road transport is the most important mode of surface transport in Europe- the EU disposes of 5.000.000 km of paved roads- and it is fundamental to its social and economic development. The asphalt industry is one of the largest consumers of energy and raw materials, and highest contributor to the emission of greenhouses gases. Developing novel technologies to integrate waste and recycled materials into the production cycle of asphalt mixtures is a solution that improves both sustainability and cost-efficiency of the asphalt pavement industry reducing the CO2 footprint of these pavements and the environmental impact and associated costs related to the waste generation and disposal.

COLABATS (Cobalt and lanthanide recovery from batteries, EU budget contribution: €3.59 million, Project coordinator: C-Tech Innovation Limited, Chester, United Kingdom): The COLABATS project will provide new industrial processes for the recycling of the critical metals Cobalt and Lanthanides and key economic metals Nickel and Lithium, from waste batteries, significantly improving recycling efficiencies and metal purity from existing recovery routes. These batteries are found in everyday consumer products such as mobile phones, portable media players, etc., as well as other industrial equipment, and are prevalent in hybrid and electric vehicles, which are becoming increasingly widespread on our roads.

ELICiT (Environmentally Low Impact Cooling Technology, EU budget contribution: €2.12 million, Project coordinator: Whirlpool Europe srl, Comerio, Italy): ELICiT's activities will help efficient gas-free magnetic cooling move from being a laboratory scale technology to being a high-volume marketable product. This project specifically focuses on the application of magnetic cooling technology to the domestic refrigeration market. This is a technology being developed by SMEs but which will eventually be used by global appliance manufacturers. The project aims to enhance the collaboration between SMEs, global appliance manufacturers, universities and research centres.

ILLUMINATE (Automated Sorting and Recycling of Waste Lamps, EU budget contribution: € 1.77 million, Project coordinator: C-Tech Innovation Limited, Chester, United Kingdom): The concept of the ILLUMINATE proposal is to develop automated systems that are able to effectively sort bulbs into different classes and remove foreign objects. This is essential for an economically viable process. An automated, sealed sorting unit will be created. It will be based on a sensor system combined with self-learning processing unit and will be able to recognize shapes, colours materials, and/or weight. To remedy the current situation where there is little or no separation of mercury containing from non-mercury containing materials from bulbs at end of life, the ILLUMINATE project will develop methods and processes for two main areas of the supply chain: collection of the waste streams and sorting of the waste.

ManureEcoMine (Green fertilizer upcycling from manure: Technological, economic and environmental sustainability demonstration, EU budget contribution: €3.80 million, Project coordinator: Universiteit Gent, Gent, Belgium): European pigs and cows jointly produce about 1.27 billion tonnes of manure per year, a largely unexploited resource of organic carbon and nutrients. ManureEcoMine proposes an integrated approach to the treatment and reuse of animal husbandry waste in nitrate vulnerable and sensitive areas and beyond, by applying the eco-innovative principles of sustainability, resource recovery and energy efficiency. Technologies of proven efficacy in the wastewater treatment field will be combined in several process configurations to demonstrate their technological and environmental potential at pilot scale for cow and pig manure.

PILOT-ABP (Pilot plant for environmentally friendly animal by-products industries, EU budget contribution: €1.79 million, Project coordinator: Instituto Tecnológico del Calzado y Conexas, Elda, Spain): Animal by-products (ABPs) are materials of animal origin that people do not consume and represent a significant part of the biowaste stream. Over 20 million tons emerge annually from EU from slaughterhouses, plants producing food for human consumption, dairies and as fallen stock from farms. In Europe, there is an increasing requirement for selecting solutions which demonstrate the best available technique for the treatment of ABP wastes. The PILOT-ABP project aims at developing new eco-innovative technologies associated to the animal by-products process, which allow on one hand an environmental improvement of the process, thanks to a more efficient consumption of the energy used in the process and a better recovery of raw materials, with a related decreasing in wastes production, and on the other hand an increasing of the added value of the obtained products which leads to a better financial profitability of SMEs.

PlasCarb (Innovative plasma based transformation of food waste into high value graphitic carbon and renewable hydrogen, EU budget contribution: €3.78 million, Project coordinator: Centre for Process Innovation Limited, Redcar, United Kingdom): 140 million tonnes of food and plant waste produced annually in Europe. PlasCarb aims to transform this into a sustainable source of significant economic added value, ie. high value graphitic carbon and renewable hydrogen. The vast majority of hydrogen and carbon used today in industry are derived from fossil petroleum sources, the majority of which are imported into the EU from regions which are often politically unstable or competitive. PlasCarb will extend beyond current Best Available Techniques (BAT) in the valorisation of food waste of anaerobic digestion (AD) in order to generate renewable energy.

REEcover (Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from magnetic waste in the WEEE recycling industry and tailings from the iron ore industry, EU budget contribution: € 6.00 million, Project coordinator: Norges Teknisk-Naturvitenskapelige Universitet NTNU, Trondheim, Norway): REEcover aims to improve European supply of the critical Rare Earth Elements and to strengthen SME positions in the production and recovery value chain. It demonstrates and compares the viability and potential for these routes on two different types of deposited industrial wastes: tailings from the iron ore industry and magnetic waste, which both have potential of becoming valuable feedstock.

ReFraSort (Innovative Separation Technologies for High Grade Recycling of Refractory Waste using non-destructive technologies, EU budget contribution: € 1.75 million, Project coordinator: Vlaamse Instelling Voor Technologisch Onderzoek N.V., Mol, Belgium): Refractory products are a vital element in all high-temperature processes and represent a substantial global market. Reuse of refractory material has a high potential to reduce waste production and primary raw material consumption. The aim of the ReFraSort project is to ensure that the developed technology is adapted to the needs of the refractory producing and recycling industry, and to maximize its valorisation potential, clear boundary conditions such as quality criteria for separation, economic feasibility and environmental impact will be defined. The industrial application potential will be proven by the production and assessment of refractory material with a significant content of secondary raw material.

ResCoM (Resource Conservative Manufacturing- transforming waste into high value resource through closed-loop product systems, EU budget contribution: €4.37 million, Project coordinator: Kungliga Tekniska Hoegskolan, Stockholm, Sweden): In a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy. The main objective of the ResCoM project is to develop an innovative framework and a collaborative software platform for the industrial implementation of closed-loop manufacturing systems. Pilot operations will demonstrate how the collecting, remanufacturing and upcycling of discarded products into new added-value products will be cost-effective, resource-efficient and more sustainable than the current linear manufacturing systems. To support pilot operations, the ResCoM consortium will develop a software platform consisting of a closed-loop product lifecycle management module coupled with a materials information module.

ShredderSort (Selective recovery of non-ferrous metal automotive shredder by combined electromagnetic tensor spectroscopy and laser-induced plasma spectroscopy, EU budget contribution: €3.38 million, Project coordinator: Lenz Instruments SL, Cornellá de Llobregat, Spain): Every year, more than 50 million vehicles reach the end of their service life throughout the World. In the EU, the amount of waste generated by the automotive industry rose up to 10 million tonnes in 2010, and it is foreseen that it will increase by 40% until 2015. Thus, the appropriate recycling of this waste has important implications from the environmental point of view. About 8% of the total weight in the automotive shredder corresponds to non-ferrous metals, which is often processed by Heavy Media Separation, and handsorting. This project aims at developing a new dry sorting technology for non-ferrous automotive shredder. First, shredder will be separated into different metals, based on their conductivity.

SIKELOR (Silicon kerf loss recycling, EU budget contribution: € 1.40 million, Project coordinator: Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf E, Dresden, Germany): Solar energy direct conversion to electricity is expanding rapidly to satisfy the demand for renewable energy. The most efficient commercial photovoltaic solar cells are based on silicon. While the reuse of feedstock is a severe concern of the photovoltaic industry, up to 50% of the valuable resource is lost into sawdust during wafering. Presently, the majority of silicon ingots are sliced in thin wafers by LAS (loose abrasive sawing) using slurry of abrasive silicon carbide particles. It is expected that FAS will replace LAS almost completely by 2020 for poly/mono-crystalline wafering. The intention of the proposed project is to recycle the FAS loss aiming at a sustainable solution.

Additional information on these and other relevant EU environmental technology projects can be found at: http://ec.europa.eu/research/environment/index_en.cfm?pg=technologies

About European research and innovation funding

In 2014 the European Union will launch a new, seven year research and innovation funding programme called Horizon 2020. Since 2007 the EU has already invested nearly €50 billion in research and innovation projects to support Europe's economic competitiveness and extend the frontiers of human knowledge. The EU research budget represents around 12% of total public spending on research by the EU's 28 member states and is focused mainly in areas like health, the environment, transport, food and energy. Research partnerships with the pharmaceutical, aerospace, car and electronics industries have also been formed to encourage private sector investment in support of future growth and high skill job creation. Horizon 2020 will have an even greater focus on turning excellent ideas into marketable products, processes and services.

For the latest information on European research and innovation, go to: http://www.facebook.com/innovation.union
http://twitter.com/innovationunion
Horizon 2020: http://ec.europa.eu/research/horizon2020/

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Ireland below EU average on vocational training (30 October 2013)

The European Commission Report-Education and Training Monitor 2013 outlines key figures in Irish education and training from pre-school through to lifelong adult learning. The Irish figures for 2012 are compared against 2009, against the EU average for the same years and also against the Europe 2020 targets.

Early leavers from education in Ireland have reduced from 11.6% in 2009 to 9.7% in 2012. This is well below the EU average of 12.7% in 2012, and just shy of the Europe 2020 target of 10%. Ireland also does well in third level educational attainment, with rates rising from 48.9% to 51.1% between 2009 and 2012. This is also above the 2012 EU average of 35.7% and above the Europe 2020 target of 40%.

Ireland also does well in digital skills, with 69.8% of primary school students using computers at school in 2011, compared to an EU average of 64.7%. 18-64 year olds came out as having above average confidence in their ability to start a business, at 45%, compared to an EU average of 42%.

Ireland did not perform well in languages, with just 10.2% of secondary school students studying two or more languages at school, compared with 60.8% across Europe in 2012.

While 50.3% of third level students across Europe are in vocational training, the comparable figure for Ireland is 34%.

See the full report here .

See full European Commission press release here.

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Commission proposes fishing opportunities in the Atlantic and North Sea for 2014 (30 October 2013)

The European Commission has today proposed fishing opportunities for 2014 for the Atlantic and the North Sea, as well as in international waters. This is the annual proposal for the amount of fish which can be caught by EU fishermen from the main commercial fish stocks next year.

The proposal sets levels of total allowable catch (TAC) and fishing effort both for stocks managed exclusively by the EU, and for stocks managed with third countries such as Norway or through Regional Fisheries Management Organisations across the world's oceans.

International negotiations for many of the stocks concerned are still on-going. The proposal therefore only includes figures for about half of the TACs at this stage. It will be completed once negotiations with third parties and organisations have taken place.

For the stocks not shared with third countries, the Commission proposes to increase or maintain the TACs for 36 stocks, and reduce them for 36 stocks, in line with the scientific advice.

The Commission's ultimate goal, and one of the pillars of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), is to have all stocks fished at sustainable levels, the so-called Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). Whenever possible, the scientists advise how to bring the stocks to MSY levels. This year, the so-called "MSY advice" could be issued for 22 EU stocks. This is a significant step forward as far as the availability and quality of scientific data are concerned.

Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "The Commission proposal contains good news for some stocks, while some cuts are required for others. Overall, our knowledge of many stocks has improved which enables sound management decisions to be made. For stocks where negotiations are on-going we will, as ever, make every effort to obtain the best outcome for our fishermen. We hope that our partners and the international community will mirror our commitment to sustainable fisheries."

The present proposal shall be discussed by the Member States' ministers at the December Fisheries Council and will apply from 1 January 2014.

Details of the proposal

For some EU stocks at MSY, such as herring in the Irish Sea, Northern hake, Megrims in Iberian waters or plaice in the Celtic Sea TACs can be raised.

At the same time, for some stocks in a poor state, the picture has unfortunately not greatly improved since last year. Cod stocks in the Irish Sea and the Kattegat continue to be in a dire state, and the poor data hampers the management of these stocks. Sole in the Irish Sea is at extremely low levels. Advice for haddock in the Celtic Sea demands a considerable TAC cut, so that the stock can be brought to MSY levels. Cod and whiting in the West of Scotland, subject to extremely high rates of discarding, are at a risk of collapse.

For stocks where data is not good enough to properly estimate their size, the Commission proposal reflects the advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) to adapt the TAC up or down by a maximum of 20%. Following a Council decision last year on precautionary reductions, TACS are proposed at the same level as in 2013 for 21 of these stocks.

For a limited number of EU stocks, the scientific advice has been received only recently, or it will be released later this month. For these stocks, the advice needs to be further analysed before a TAC figure will be proposed, later in the autumn.

For fish stocks shared with third countries (Norway, Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland, Russia), the European Commission, on behalf of the EU, negotiates towards the end of each year with these countries on the quantities of fish to be caught the following year, based on scientific advice.

For the stocks in international waters and for highly migratory species, such as tuna, the European Commission, representing the EU, negotiates fishing opportunities in the framework of Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs). These must subsequently be transposed into EU law.

More information:

Full Brussels press release

TACs and quotas: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/fishing_rules/tacs/index_en.htm

Scientific advice: the proposed catch limits are based on the scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), see: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/fishing_rules/scientific_advice/index_en.htm

Stakeholders were also consulted, based on the Commission's Consultation document from May : see IP/13/487

Multiannual management plans 

Map of fishing areas

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Innovative Medicines Initiative launches Call for proposals on flu vaccines (29 October 2013)

As the flu vaccination season gets underway, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is launching today a Call for proposals for a project to improve the development of new, more effective flu vaccines.

Every year, pharmaceutical companies develop vaccines designed to combat the strains of flu most likely to be circulating the following winter. A challenge in vaccine development is accurately assessing the level of protection offered by a new vaccine. The goal of this project will be to improve and standardise existing tests and develop new ones to improve the evaluation of new flu vaccines. The project will have a budget of €12.2 million, half of which will come from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), and half of which will come from in kind contributions by the large pharmaceutical companies taking part in the project.

Deadline for submitting Expressions of Interest in response to this Call: 28 January 2014

For more information on the 10th Call for proposals, including details of how to apply, visit http://www.imi.europa.eu/content/10th-call-2013-10 
 
About IMI 
The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) is the world’s largest public-private partnership in health. IMI is improving the environment for pharmaceutical innovation in Europe by engaging and supporting networks of industrial and academic experts in collaborative research projects. The European Union contributes €1 billion to the IMI research programme, and this is matched by in kind contributions worth at least another €1 billion from the member companies of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

The Innovative Medicines Initiative currently supports 40 projects, many of which are already producing impressive results. The projects are all working to address the biggest challenges in drug development, with the goal of accelerating the development of safer and more effective treatments for patients.

More info on IMI: www.imi.europa.eu

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Ireland reduces numbers of early school leavers-Europe 2020 indicators (29 October 2013)

New figures from Eurostat reveal that Ireland has performed well in reaching Europe 2020 targets in the areas of reducing early school leavers, third level education attainment, R&D expenditure, and employment rates, but needs to improve on poverty and social exclusion, greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy sources.

  • 9.7% of the 18-24 population left education or training early in 2011, this is 1.7% behind Ireland's Europe 2020 target of 8%;
  • 51.5% of the 30-34 age group had a third level qualification in 2012, below Ireland's Europe 2020 target of 60%;
  • R&D expenditure reached 1.72% in 2012, moving Ireland closer to the national target of spending about 2 % of GDP (2.5 % of GNP);
  • 63.7% of the working age population was in employment, behind the Europe 2020 target of 75%. Nevertheless, the country was still closer to its employment commitments for 2020 than the EU average;
  • Ireland lagged behind the EU average in the areas of climate change and energy, with the share of renewable energies at 6.7% of energy consumption, a 9.3 percentage point distance from Ireland's Europe 2020 target of 16%;
  • Ireland had reduced its GHG emissions by -6% in 2020, resulting in gap of 14 percentage points. The EU 2020 target is -20% reduction;
  • In 2011, Ireland was also the country furthest from its national poverty reduction target, implying that an additional 455,000 people need to be lifted out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion by 2016.

Today Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, publishes a new flagship publication: Smarter, greener, more inclusive? - Indicators to support the Europe 2020 strategy. This is the first of a new series of annual publications providing statistical analyses related to important European Commission policy frameworks or other phenomena in society. The purpose of this first publication is to provide statistics to support the Europe 2020 strategy and to back up the monitoring towards its headline targets. As Walter Radermacher, Director General of Eurostat, says in the foreword of the publication: “Impartial and objective statistical information is essential for evidence-based political decision-making and forms the basis of Eurostat’s role in the context of the Europe 2020 strategy”.

A broader picture of the headline indicators of the Europe 2020 strategy

The publication contains a chapter for each of the five headline indicators of the Europe 2020 strategy - on employment, research & development, climate change & energy, education and poverty & social exclusion. In each chapter, past trends are presented, covering the period since 2000 or 2005 to the latest data available (2011 or 2012). The purpose of the publication is not to predict whether Europe 2020 targets will be reached, but to help to understand the factors behind the changes observed so far in the headline indicators, by providing additional related statistics. Each chapter also links to various European Commission initiatives and reports which support the different areas.

What is the situation on a national level?

After the thematic chapters at EU level, follows a country profile for each Member State. These country profiles give a detailed picture of the situation at national level in relation to their national Europe 2020 targets. The profiles also set out the country-specific recommendations already given by the European Commission after their assessment of the national programmes.

For more information:

Eurostat press release: Eurostat new flagship publication

For country specific information: http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-02-13-238/EN/KS-02-13-238-EN.PDF

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President Barroso calls for urgent action and investment on the digital economy (25 October 2013)

Last night President Barroso called on Member States for urgent action in the digital economy and investment in ICT, after the first day of the European Council.

"Europe has been a global leader in this sector but it has lost ground to key competitors. We are simply not using the full opportunities offered by the digital economy", said the President. On the economic situation, President Barroso believes there are reasons to be "cautiously optimistic" but "the recovery is still fragile".

He said: "We have seen a return to positive growth in the euro area in the second quarter of the year. We must stay the course on fiscal consolidation and structural reforms. We also have to address the very important issue of targeted investment."

The text of the full speech is available here.

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EU law on right to interpretation during criminal procedures - 2 days to implementation (25 October 2013)

The deadline for Member States to implement the first EU law on rights of suspects in criminal procedures is 27 October. The EU law guarantees citizens who are arrested or accused of a crime the right to obtain interpretation throughout criminal proceedings, including when receiving legal advice, in their own language and in all courts in the EU.

The law was proposed by the European Commission in 2010 (IP/10/249) and adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in a record time of just nine months (IP/10/1305).

"This can be an historic moment for justice in Europe: the first ever law on fair-trial rights for citizens will become a concrete reality – if Member States live up to their legal obligations," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "This is the first to enter into application from three proposals made by the European Commission to guarantee fair trial rights for people everywhere in the EU, whether they are at home or abroad. The Commission is delivering on its promises to strengthen citizens’ rights everywhere in Europe. I expect Member States to deliver too. The European Commission will soon report on who has done their homework. We will not shy away from naming and shaming – after all, this law goes to the very heart of citizens' rights."

Background

There are over 8 million criminal proceedings in the European Union every year. On 9 March 2010, the European Commission made the first step in a series of measures to set common EU standards in all criminal proceedings. The Commission proposed rules that would oblige EU countries to provide full interpretation and translation services to suspects (IP/10/249, MEMO/10/70). The proposal was quickly agreed by the European Parliament and Member States in the Council (IP/10/1305). EU Member States have had three years to adopt these rules, rather than the usual two years, to give authorities time to put translated information in place.

The Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings  guarantees the right of citizens to be interviewed, to take part in hearings and to receive legal advice in their own language during any part of a criminal proceeding, in all courts in the EU. The Commission insisted on translation and interpretation rights throughout criminal proceedings to ensure full compliance with the standards provided by the European Convention on Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, as well as with the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Translation and interpretation costs will have to be met by the Member State, not by the suspect. Without minimum common standards to ensure fair proceedings, judicial authorities will be reluctant to send someone to face trial in another country. As a result, EU measures to fight crime – such as the European Arrest Warrant – may not be fully applied.

The right to translation and interpretation was the first in a series of fair trial measures to set common EU standards in criminal cases. The law was followed by a second Directive on the right to information in criminal proceedings, adopted in 2012 (see IP/12/575), and the right to access to a lawyer, adopted in 2013 (IP/13/921). The Commission is set to continue with its roadmap in this area of justice with proposals for another set of fair trial rights for citizens expected before the end of 2013.

More information

European Commission – fair trial rights

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner

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European Commission welcomes European Parliament's approval of a cash injection of €2.7bn into EU budget (24 October 2013)

EU Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski welcomes today's vote by the European Parliament on draft amending budget 6 (€2.7 billion to compensate for lower than expected customs duties as a source of revenue to the EU budget).

"We have avoided the risk of the EU ceasing payments to legitimate beneficiaries of EU funds, at least for the time being. It is an on-going battle to correct years of under budgeting and to avoid serious damage to tens of thousands of regions, towns, scientists, businesses, students and NGOs across Europe.

The postponement of the vote on a separate request for a top up to budget 2013 (draft amending budget 8) meant we would not have been able to mobilise the necessary additional resources before January 2014. Therefore, yes we needed this €2.7bn in revenue and we needed it now. We needed it in order to reimburse claims emanating from those beneficiaries of EU funds, in order to avoid creating financial problems to them. They rightly enough expect the EU to honour its commitments to contribute to infrastructure, business or research projects launched years ago.

The European Parliament and the Member States have been aware of this situation for a long time. I have repeatedly underlined that the EU would have to cease paying its bills linked to cohesion policy and rural development from November on unless a top up was agreed to. The same way I have warned both the European Parliament and Member States for years now that we cannot go on like this with heads of states and governments asking the EU to embrace more and more competencies while their finance ministers constantly cut the EU budget.

We are now on safer ground, but only for a few weeks. We absolutely need the adoption of draft amending budget 8 for €3.9bn in November to cover all our legal obligations towards beneficiaries of EU funds, and to finalise the agreement on the next financial period (MFF 2014-2020)."

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Commission adopts Work Programme for 2014: a year of delivery and implementation (23 October 2013)

With the adoption of its Work Programme for 2014, the European Commission puts a very strong focus on results: it identifies the priority growth-enhancing proposals to be completed in the months ahead; it focusses on the finalisation of the banking union, the single market and the digital agenda; and ensures that the new measures under the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020 swiftly become operational – in particular to combat youth unemployment.

"2014 will be a year of delivery and implementation", President Barroso said. "It is only through decisive and relentless action that we can show the citizens and businesses of Europe that they can look to the future with confidence. This is what the Work Programme 2014 is all about: decisive action. The Commission will actively help the European Parliament and the Council completing work on all the important proposals that are still pending. We will work hard to accelerate implementation on the ground. We will ensure that new EU funding programmes are up and running on time. We will deepen cooperation with and between the Member States to deliver the Europe 2020 strategy through the European Semester. There is a lot on the table and the Commission will push to finalize it".

Growth and jobs remain the Commission's top priority in 2014, with a particular focus on combatting youth unemployment and facilitating access to financing. In line with the Blueprint for a deep and genuine Economic and Monetary Union, the Commission will continue work on completing the banking union, reinforcing economic governance and exploring further deepening of the EMU. The adoption of the Single Resolution Mechanism Fund is a priority, and the Single Supervisory Mechanism becomes operational in 2014. The Commission will also take the opportunity to take a longer-term perspective and look ahead in a variety of key sectors: on energy and climate change, on a modern industrial policy, on justice and home affairs policies, and on the rule of law.

In terms of external action, key areas include the trade agenda, notably negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership with the US, and important international negotiations, such as on climate change and development. But the EU must also continue to make its contribution to peace and security and to addressing humanitarian and political crises as they arise.

The Commission will also be paying particular attention to ensuring the successful launch of the new package under the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2014-2020. It is essential that these measures are swiftly operational, so that citizens and businesses can benefit as soon as possible from new investment and the delivery of new programmes.

For the first time, the Commission Work Programme includes a list of already-adopted legislative proposals which the Commission believes deserve special attention, given their importance and given that they are sufficiently advanced to have a realistic chance of adoption in the coming months. These issues (Annex 1 of the work programme) give a clear indication of the areas where the Commission will invest its attention in the six months before the European Parliament elections.

List of priority items for adoption by the European Parliament and/or the Council:

  • Single Resolution Mechanism
  • Framework for Bank Recovery and Resolution
  • Deposit Guarantee Schemes
  • Markets in Financial Services Directive (MIFID)
  • Helping consumers in retail banking
  • Long-term investment funds
  • Fight against money laundering
  • Enhanced co-operation between Public Employment Services
  • Posting of workers
  • Free movement of workers
  • Network and information security
  • Telecoms package
  • Payments package
  • E-identification and signatures
  • 4th Railway package, completing the single European railway area
  • The Emissions Trading System and aviation
  • Actions for damages in competition law
  • Public procurement
  • Electronic invoicing in public procurement
  • Reform of insolvency rules
  • Data protection package
  • Establishment of the European Public Prosecutor's Office
  • Administrative cooperation: mandatory automatic exchange of tax information
  • Financial Transaction Tax
  • Tobacco products Directive
  • Regulation on the statute and funding of European political parties and foundations

The Commission Work Programme 2014 adopted today includes a list of priority items for adoption by the co-legislators, a limited number of new initiatives, proposals following from the Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme adopted on 2 October, proposals to be withdrawn, and a list of legislation that becomes applicable in 2014.

Read the full document: http://ec.europa.eu/atwork/key-documents/index_en.htm

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Saving EU businesses up to €15bn - Standard VAT returns (23 October 2013)

A new standard VAT return, which can cut costs for EU businesses by up to €15 billion a year, has been proposed by the European Commission today. The aim of this initiative is to slash red-tape for businesses, ease tax compliance and make tax administrations across the Union more efficient. The proposal also has the potential to reduce fraud across the EU as well as reduce the VAT gap.

The standard VAT return – which will replace national VAT returns – will ensure that businesses are asked for the same basic information, within the same deadlines, across the EU. The proposal foresees a uniform set of requirements for businesses when filing their VAT returns, regardless of the Member State in which they do it. Given that the simpler procedures are easier to comply with and easier to enforce, today's proposal should also help to improve VAT compliance and increase public revenues. 

The standard VAT return proposed today declaration will have only 5 compulsory boxes for taxpayers to fill in. Member States are given leeway to request a number of additional standardised elements, up to a maximum of 26 information boxes. This is a vast improvement on the current situation, whereby some Member States require up to 100 information boxes to be completed.

Businesses will file the standard VAT return on a monthly basis, while micro-enterprises will only be obliged to do it on a quarterly basis. The obligation to submit a recapitulative yearly VAT return, which some Member States currently demand, would be abolished. The proposal also encourages electronic filing, as the standard VAT return will be allowed to be submitted electronically throughout the Union. This major simplification of the process for VAT returns supports the Commission's wider commitments to reducing administrative burdens and obstacles to trade within the Single Market.

Every year, 150 million VAT returns are submitted by EU taxpayers to national tax administrations. Currently, the information requested, the format of national forms and the reporting deadlines vary considerably from one Member State to the next. This makes VAT returns for cross-border businesses a complex, costly and cumbersome procedure. Businesses operating in more than one Member State have also complained that it is difficult to remain VAT compliant, due to the intricacy of the process.

VAT accounts for around 21% of Member States' revenues, and yet around €193 billion went uncollected in 2011 (see IP/13/844). By creating an easier system for both taxpayers and administrations to work with, the standard VAT return can improve tax compliance and reduce the VAT Gap. As such, today's proposal could make an important contribution to fiscal consolidation across the EU by increasing income to the public purse. Today's proposal is also an important contribution to creating a more efficient and more fraud-proof VAT system, as set out in the Commission's Strategy for VAT reform (see IP/11/1508).

The Standard VAT proposal fully reflects the Commission's commitment to smart regulation and is one of the initiatives set out in the recent REFIT to simplify rules and reduce administrative burdens for businesses (IP/13/891)

Useful Links

The proposal is available here.               

MEMO/13/926 - Standard VAT Return: Frequently asked questions

Homepage of Algirdas Šemeta, EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-fraud

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Ireland's compliance with EU law - 2012 report (22 October 2013)

There were 39 infringement cases open against Ireland at the end of 2012, Ireland’s performance was tenth best in the EU 27 (with Slovenia). The Commission launched 14 new infringement cases against Ireland in 2012 by sending a letter of formal notice. Of the 39 infringement cases, 11 were in environment, 8 were in taxation, 6 were in energy and there were 14 in other policy areas. The 30th Annual Report on monitoring the application of EU law shows how Member States are performing in applying EU law.

Ireland is third in the EU for transposing Directives, with only 8 late transposition cases at the end of 2012. There were 110 complaints about Ireland made to the European Commission in 2012, the eleventh lowest in the EU. The areas in which most complaints were received were environment, justice, and the internal market.

Among the key infringement proceedings taken against Ireland by the European Commission in 2012 were:

  • Lack of transparency of conditions for access to the natural gas transmission networks
  • Alleged failure to protect peat bogs
  • Restrictions on foreign travel agencies irrespective of their country of establishment
  • Separation of accounts of railway undertakings and railway infrastructure managers
  • Restrictive exit tax for companies when they cease to be tax residents
  • Discriminatory tax exemption of termination payments
  • Reduced VAT rate on race horses and greyhounds

Ireland’s performance was below average in its reference group: Lithuania had 22 open infringement cases, Denmark had 27, Slovakia 30. However, it was better than Finland’s (43). Ireland ended the year with fewer infringement cases than in 2010 (58) and 2011 (42). The following chart shows the policy areas in which Ireland was most frequently subject to infringement procedures:

Graph showing main areas of infringement cases for Ireland

The Commission brought one case against Ireland before the Court in 2012 (there were two referrals in 2011), because the conditions for accessing the natural gas transmission networks were not transparent enough and because Ireland failed to take effective remedial action. In Ireland’s reference group, there were no referrals against Lithuania and Denmark. There was one referral against Slovakia and six against Finland.

The Commission referred Ireland to the Court with a request for financial sanctions under Article 260(2) TFEU because it failed to remedy its non-compliance with EU rules on assessing various projects’ environmental effects.
 
TRANSPOSITION OF DIRECTIVES

The Commission opened eight infringement procedures against Ireland for late transposition of various directives in 2012 (there were 28 in 2011), which shows significant improvement in this area. Ireland’s performance was the very good in its reference group: better than that of Lithuania, Denmark and Finland (10, 17 and 21 new late transposition cases, respectively), only Slovakia performed better (7). With 8 open late transposition cases by the end of 2012, Ireland ranked 3rd in the EU-27.

The policy area in which Ireland faced challenges in transposing EU directives was health and consumers (three late transposition cases).
 
COMPLAINTS

The Commission received 110 complaints against Ireland in 2012, the eleventh-lowest figure in the EU 27.

The areas in which most complaints were received were: environment (43 complaints, mainly on environmental impact assessment, waste water treatment, nature protection – Natura 2000); justice (28, especially on free movement of people); and internal market (11, many on public procurement, regulated professions). Other complaints concerned amongst others, the principle of free movement of goods (use of label of origin) and direct taxation (termination of payments).

EARLY RESOLUTION OF INFRINGEMENTS

The Commission and the Irish authorities were working on 43 open files in EU Pilot at the end of 2012, a much lower number than at the end of 2011 (118 open files). The Commission opened 40 new files on Irish issues in 2012. Ireland’s average EU Pilot response time (78 days) did not meet the 10-week target (75 days in 2011).

Ireland introduced several measures to ensure compliance with EU law in 2012. For example, it put in place measures to ensure that the National Development Plan conforms to the relevant environmental legislation; it implemented the First Railway Package; and it brought its direct taxation legislation in line with EU law by eliminating the discriminatory aspects of agricultural tax relief. Accordingly, these case were closed.
 
IMPORTANT JUDGMENTS

The Court imposed financial penalties on Ireland for failure to comply with two judgments on environmental laws. The first judgment concerned projects that were likely to have an impact on the environment, but which were not subject to any prior environmental assessment. In its other judgment, the Court found that Ireland had failed to fully adopt the measures necessary to implement the previous judgment on the incorrect transposition of waste legislation. The Court took into account the economic situation and in particular the recent trends in inflation and the GDP at the time of the Court's examination of the facts when it calculated Ireland’s penalty.
 
Further Information:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-13-984_en.htm

From 23 October, the full Annual Report will be available here.

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New EU law allows for cross-border healthcare (22 October 2013)

European citizens will be able to avail of healthcare in another EU country under a new EU law on patients' rights and healthcare which will enter into force on 25 October 2013.

The law clarifies patients' rights to access safe and good quality treatment across EU borders, and be reimbursed for it.

Patients travelling to another EU country for medical care will enjoy equal treatment with the citizens of the country in which they are treated. If they are entitled to that healthcare at home, then they will be reimbursed by their home country.Their reimbursement will be up to the cost of that treatment at home. In some cases, they may need to seek authorisation before travelling for treatment, in particular if the treatment requires an overnight stay at a hospital or highly specialised and cost-intensive healthcare.

This new law will benefit EU patients in several other ways. It will make it easier for patients to access information on healthcare in another EU country, and thus increase their treatment options. It will also make it easier for national health authorities to work closer together and exchange information on quality and safety standards of healthcare. It will support the development of "European Reference Networks" bringing together, on a voluntary basis, specialised centres of expertise already recognised in Europe. It will also promote co-operation between EU countries to help deliver the considerable potential benefits of Health Technology Assessments and eHealth.

What is the added benefit of this legislation?

This Directive will not affect the benefits already offered to citizens through the existing Regulations on social security, which have their basis in the EU Treaty article on free movement of people. However, it clarifies those patients' rights that have their basis in the free movement of services, and which have been set out in various European Court of Justice rulings. In the case of hospital care, one of the main achievements of this new Directive is that patients will be able to choose their healthcare provider.

Other advantages of the new legislation are:

  • More choice: the Directive covers all healthcare providers in the EU.
  • Less red-tape for patients: under the Directive, seeking prior authorisation should be the exception rather than the rule.
  • Information to patients: patients will receive all information they need to make an informed choice, for example on quality and safety of healthcare, through National Contact Points, which will be set up in all Member States. Moreover, the Directive introduces new measures to help all patients make the best use of their rights under both pieces of legislation.
  • Procedural guarantees: all patients are entitled to properly reasoned decisions, and to appeal if they feel their rights have not been respected. All patients have the right to complain and to seek redress (and all treatment must be covered by liability insurance or a similar guarantee). And patients have the right to a copy of their medical record.

When would I need prior authorisation from my national authority?

National authorities can introduce a system of "prior authorisation" for going to another Member State for treatment in 3 cases:

  1. For healthcare which involves overnight hospital stay of at least one night
  2. For highly specialised and cost-intensive healthcare
  3. In serious and specific cases relating to the quality or safety of the care provided by the particular provider in question

In these three cases, patients may need to ask for permission in advance from their national health authority in charge of reimbursement. Member States are required to set out publicly which treatments are subject to such authorisation – you can find the list via your National Contact Point.

What scale of cross-border healthcare are we talking about?

Patients prefer to receive healthcare in their own country. That is why the demand for cross-border healthcare represents only around 1% of public spending on healthcare, which is currently around €10 billion. This estimate includes cross-border healthcare which patients had not planned in advance (such as emergency care for tourists). This means that, at present, considerably less of that 1% of the expenditure and movement of patients is for planned cross-border healthcare, like hip and knee operations or cataract surgery.

What about the existing legislation in this area (Regulations on social security)?

Citizens needing care (including emergency care) when temporarily abroad will continue to benefit from the existing Regulations and the European Health Insurance Card, and be provided with the care they need.

For planned care, under the Regulation, a patient can apply for prior authorisation. This authorisation cannot be refused if he/she cannot be treated in the home country within a time limit which is medically justifiable.

It is important to note that the Regulations do not cover all healthcare providers. Some private providers are excluded, for example. In addition, under these Regulations, patients are usually obliged to apply for authorisation for all treatments, whereas under the Directive, authorisation should be the exception rather than the rule.

Can this authorisation be refused?

National health authorities can refuse authorisation if the treatment in question, or the healthcare provider in question, could present a risk for the patient. If the healthcare can be provided at home within a medically justifiable time limit, then authorisation can also be refused. However, Member States will need to explain why such a decision is necessary, and will need to base their assessment of what is "medically justifiable" on your individual case.

What if I am refused authorisation?

Patients have the right to request a review of any administrative decision on cross-border healthcare for their individual case.

How much will I be reimbursed after receiving a treatment abroad?

Patients will be reimbursed the same amount as they would receive in their own country for the same type of healthcare. Member States where care is free at the point of delivery will need to inform patients about their reimbursement tariffs. If the treatment abroad is cheaper than in the home country, the reimbursement will reflect the real price of the treatment.

Can I seek healthcare abroad if the treatment is not available in my country?

Yes, but you will only be entitled to reimbursement if it falls within the "basket of benefits" you are entitled to according to the legislation or rules of your home country.

Your National Contact Point will be able to advise you how to check whether a given treatment falls within your "basket of benefits".

Do I need to pay for cross-border treatment upfront?

Yes, generally the patient pays upfront and would then be reimbursed by their national authority as quickly as possible. The law also gives Member States the option of confirming the amount of reimbursement in writing in advance.

Member States also have the option of paying for the healthcare directly, rather than reimbursing patients.

Can I transfer my medical data to the Member State where I will be treated?

You have the right to a copy of your medical data from your home country prior to receiving treatment in another Member State, and from the provider in the country where you receive treatment before returning to your home country.

What should I do if something goes wrong whilst receiving treatment abroad?

The National Contact Point of that country will be able to explain your rights and give information on the regime applicable in the country of treatment.

Your home country is obliged to provide you with the same follow-up treatment it would have provided had the treatment taken place on its territory.

How can I be sure that the treatment I received abroad will be followed up properly on my return home?

Your home country has an obligation to ensure that the medical follow-up is of the same quality regardless of where in the EU the treatment took place.

Will my prescription be recognised in another EU Member State?

A prescription issued in another EU country should be recognised in a patient's country of residence and vice versa. This ensures that the healthcare provided in another EU country is properly followed-up on the patient's return home. The patient is entitled to obtain the prescribed medicine provided that the medicine in question is authorised for sale and available in the country where he or she wishes to have the product dispensed.

Although these principles are not new, in practice getting prescriptions recognised can be difficult. Although it will not solve the problem overnight, the provisions of the Directive should greatly increase the ability of pharmacists to understand and dispense prescriptions issues in another Member State.

What are the benefits of the networks on Health Technology Assessment (HTA) or eHealth?

Health Technology Assessments help decision-makers to make the right decisions on health investment and spending. There is clearly great potential benefit in greater collaboration between EU countries in this area, where currently each country makes such assessments on their own.

Similarly, eHealth has the potential to deliver great benefit to health systems. Formal and permanent cooperation between Member States will help decision-makes within countries, and improve interoperability between them.

These networks benefit national health systems directly, and patients indirectly.

Where can I find more information about my rights to healthcare abroad?

You can check with your National Contact Point, or on the Your Europe website, via a link which will be activated on October 25th, the day of entry into force of the Directive.

The link will be available in this document on Friday, October 25th.

For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/health/cross_border_care/policy/index_en.htm

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Ireland Government debt to GDP ratio 117.4% in 2012 (21 October 2013)

In 2012, the government deficit of both the euro area (EA17) and the EU28 decreased in absolute terms compared with 2011, while the government debt rose in both zones. In the euro area the government deficit to GDP ratio decreased from 4.2% in 2011 to 3.7% in 2012 and in the EU28 from 4.4% to 3.9%. In the euro area the government debt to GDP ratio increased from 87.3% at the end of 2011 to 90.6% at the end of 2012 and in the EU28 from 82.3% to 85.1%.

 

 

2009

2010

2011

2012

Euro area (EA17)

 

 

 

 

 

   GDP market prices (mp)

(million euro)

8 921 465

9 167 589

9 424 093

9 483 563

   Government deficit (-) / surplus (+)

(million euro)

-566 895

-569 127

-392 045

-350 146

 

(% of GDP)

-6.4

-6.2

-4.2

-3.7

   Government expenditure

(% of GDP)

51.2

51.0

49.5

49.9

   Government revenue

(% of GDP)

44.9

44.8

45.3

46.3

   Government debt

(million euro)

7 137 549

7 832 895

8 227 915

8 596 065

 

(% of GDP)

80.0

85.4

87.3

90.6

EU28

 

 

 

 

 

   GDP mp

(million euro)

11 815 748

12 337 163

12 711 549

12 967 508

   Government deficit (-) / surplus (+)

(million euro)

-810 811

-803 471

-565 254

-510 002

 

(% of GDP)

-6.9

-6.5

-4.4

-3.9

   Government expenditure

(% of GDP)

51.0

50.6

49.0

49.3

   Government revenue

(% of GDP)

44.1

44.1

44.6

45.4

   Government debt

(million euro)

8 783 969

9 848 092

10 461 819

11 031 610

 

(% of GDP)

74.3

79.8

82.3

85.1

EU27

 

 

 

 

 

   GDP mp

(million euro)

11 770 969

12 292 739

12 667 165

12 923 604

   Government deficit (-) / surplus (+)

(million euro)

-808 443

-800 647

-561 798

-507 828

 

(% of GDP)

-6.9

-6.5

-4.4

-3.9

   Government expenditure

(% of GDP)

51.0

50.6

49.1

49.3

   Government revenue

(% of GDP)

44.1

44.1

44.6

45.4

   Government debt

(million euro)

8 767 475

9 828 408

10 439 203

11 007 360

 

(% of GDP)

74.5

80.0

82.4

85.2

In 2012 the lowest government deficits in percentage of GDP were recorded in Estonia and Sweden (both -0.2%), Luxembourg (-0.6%) and Bulgaria (-0.8%), while Germany (+0.1%) registered a government surplus. Seventeen Member States had deficits higher than 3% of GDP, with the largest registered in Spain (-10.6%), Greece (-9.0%), Ireland (-8.2%),  Portugal and Cyprus (both -6.4%). In all, fifteen Member States recorded an improvement in their government balance relative to GDP in 2012 compared with 2011, twelve a worsening and one remained stable.

At the end of 2012, the lowest ratios of government debt to GDP were recorded in Estonia (9.8%), Bulgaria (18.5%), Luxembourg (21.7%) and Romania (37.9%). Fourteen Member States had government debt ratios higher than 60% of GDP, with the largest observed in Greece (156.9%), Italy (127.0%), Portugal (124.1%) and Ireland (117.4%). In all, six Member States recorded an improvement in their government debt relative to GDP in 2012 compared with 2011 and twenty-two a worsening.

In 2012, government expenditure4 in the euro area was equivalent to 49.9% of GDP and government revenue4 to 46.3%. The figures for the EU28 were 49.3% and 45.4% respectively. In both zones, the government expenditure and the government revenue ratios increased between 2011 and 2012.

Further information:

See here for the full Eurostat press release.

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71% of Irish believe firearm related crime will increase in next five years (21 October 2013)

According to a new Eurobarometer survey, 71% Irish people surveyed believe that firearm related crime will increase in the next five years, compared with an EU average of 58%. 87% of those surveyed have never owned a firearm. Today the European Commission is presenting suggestions on how to reduce gun related violence in Europe.

It identifies actions at EU level, through legislation, operational activities, training and EU funding, to address the threats posed by the illegal use of firearms. The suggestions include measures such as stricter EU wide rules on firearm deactivation, serial numbers for firearms, common criminal sanctions, as well as stricter EU wide rules on the possession and licensing of firearms.

The same Eurobarometer survey shows that overall 55 percent of Europeans want stricter regulation on who is allowed to own, buy or sell firearms. The Commission is therefore putting forward ideas to address weaknesses in the EU, across the whole lifecycle of weapons, including production, sale, possession, trade, storage and deactivation, while respecting strong traditions of lawful gun use, like sports shooting and hunting for example.

Over the last few years, tragic gun attacks in Europe have repeatedly caught our attention, notably in Norway, Belgium, Finland, France or Italy to mention but a few. No country is unaffected and in the EU as a whole, more than one thousand people are victims of homicide by firearms each year, and half a million firearms that have been registered as lost or stolen in the EU remain unaccounted for.

"Every week, we hear of new acts of violence being committed with firearms. Yet the debate about the illegal use and trafficking of guns in Europe is worryingly quiet. The American debate on gun prevalence is often more visible, when we should be focussing on the home front. We have plenty of work to do here in Europe to make sure handguns, rifles and assault weapons do not end up in the hands of criminals", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.

Stricter common EU-wide rules on how to deactivate firearms might ensure that once firearms have been taken out of use they remain inoperable.

The Commission will look at a common approach on how to mark firearms with serial numbers when they are manufactured in order to help trace those used by criminals.

It is necessary to consider EU legislation with common minimum rules on criminal sanctions to ensure that deterrence works in all Member States, and that there are no legal loopholes for traffickers. Such rules could prescribe which firearm offences should be subject to criminal sanctions (illicit manufacture, trafficking, tampering with markings, illegal possession of a firearm and intent to supply firearm), as well as specifying the level of sanctions that should be imposed by Member States.

Reducing gun violence could also be done by tightening the EU internal market Directive on the possession of weapons in the Member States, by for example reducing access to particularly dangerous weapons models for civilian use. Procedures for the licensing of weapons will also be looked at in search for concrete solutions.

Controls on the sale and illegal manufacturing of firearms should be properly enforced. The Commission will also look for more information on new technological challenges, such as online sales of weapons or 3D printing of weapons parts, but also on how to reduce the risk of illegal delivery of firearms by postal services.

The Commission will also look at how to reduce the threat of diversion from third countries through technical assistance, including to reinforce their arms export control systems, close down smuggling routes and better manage stockpiles of military weapons.

These suggestions will now be discussed with the European Parliament, Member States and stakeholders to assess the different options, including legislative action.

These priorities draw on discussions with law enforcement authorities, the views of victims of gun violence, NGOs and authorised manufacturers retailers and users, as well as the results of a Eurobarometer survey and the responses to a public consultation.

Useful Links

Eurobarometer - Firearms in the European Union

Communication: Firearms and the internal security of the EU: protecting citizens and disrupting illegal trafficking

MEMO/13/916 - Reducing gun violence: the way forward Q&A

Cecilia Malmström's website

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EU and Canada strike free trade deal (18 October 2013)

Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have today reached a political agreement on the key elements of a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) after months of intense negotiations between EU Trade Commissioner De Gucht and Canadian trade Minister Ed Fast. It will be the first free trade agreement between the European Union and a G8 country.

Boosting our trade relations with Canada will generate new opportunities for growth and the creation of jobs in the EU. On the basis of this political breakthrough, the negotiators will now be able to continue the process and settle all the remaining technical issues. Subsequently, the agreement will need to be approved by Council and Parliament.

The EU-Canada agreement will remove over 99% of tariffs between the two economies and create sizeable new market access opportunities in services and investment. In the area of government procurement, Canada has not only taken commitments at the federal level, but has also opened its sub-federal level to European bidders to an extent never done before, thereby creating unique new opportunities. Amongst the many benefits, the agreement will also improve the protection of intellectual property rights in Canada as well as the protection of the names of our flagship agricultural products. Once implemented, the agreement is expected to increase two-way bilateral trade in goods and services by 23% or €26 billion, fostering growth and employment on both sides of the Atlantic. The overall benefits of the agreement are expected to raise the level of the EU’s annual GDP by approximately €12 billion a year.

"This is a highly ambitious and far-reaching trade agreement of great importance for the EU's economy," said President Barroso. "Canada is one of the most advanced economies in the world. This agreement will provide significant new opportunities for companies in the EU and in Canada by increasing market access for goods and services and providing new opportunities for European investors. It will be the basis for gaining a strong foothold in the North American market and so provide a catalyst for growth and the creation of jobs in Europe.”

"I am delighted that we have managed to conclude negotiations on the EU-Canada free trade agreement. Both sides have worked extremely hard in the last few months to achieve the political break-through needed to ensure the positive outcome that will be beneficial for both economies," stated EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht. He added: "It has been a real challenge to reach this agreement, and it's a real first when it comes to a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between two mature economies."

Besides bringing almost all tariffs to zero, CETA will also liberalise trade in services, in particular financial services, telecommunications, energy and transport. For the first time ever, all Canadian levels of government will open up their public procurement markets to European suppliers. CETA will also bring the Canadian protection of intellectual property closer to the level of the EU, benefitting the pharmaceutical sector and exporters of agricultural products of specific geographical origin known as GIs. The EU and Canada have also reaffirmed their strong commitment to the principles and objectives of sustainable development in trade. This means that the investment and trade should not develop at the expense of the environment, but rather foster mutual supportiveness between economic growth, social development, and environmental protection.

What is next?

Based on this political agreement, technical discussions will have to be completed so as to finalise the legal text of the agreement. For more information on the next steps following the technical conclusion of the trade negotiations please see: http://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2012/june/tradoc_149616.pdf

EU- Canada Trade in facts and figures

In 2012 Canada was the EU's 12th most important trading partner, accounting for 1.8% of the EU's total external trade. Based on 2011 figures, the EU was Canada's second most important trading partner, after the US, representing 10.4% of Canada's total external trade.

The value of bilateral trade in goods between the EU and Canada was €61.8 billion in 2012. Machinery, transport equipment and chemicals dominate the EU's exports of goods to Canada, and also constitute an important part of the EU's imports of goods from Canada.

As advanced economies, trade in services such as professional services, transport, banking, and insurance is an important aspect of the EU-Canada trade relationship. Equally, investment remains the most important mechanism through which services are delivered and manufacturing may be carried out. In 2011, the EU’s investment stock in Canada was around €220 billion while Canadian investment in the EU amounted to almost €140 billion.

Further information

EU trade relations with Canada 

MEMO/13/911 - Facts and figures of the EU-Canada Free Trade deal

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100% basic broadband coverage achieved across Europe (17 October 2013)

Every EU household can now have a basic broadband connection, thanks to pan-EU availability of satellite broadband. Satellite connections are now available in all 28 countries meaning every European can take out a satellite subscription, including the three million people not already covered by fixed and mobile broadband networks.

Vice President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, today welcomed the milestone achievement of one of the main goals of the Digital Agenda for Europe: “My motto is Every European Digital – now every European genuinely has the opportunity. We have more to do to improve networks and equalise the opportunity, but the opportunity is there.”

"Thanks to the extra coverage provided by satellite broadband, we have achieved our 2013 target of broadband for all. That's a great result for European citizens.

How we got to 100 % coverage?

FIXED (ADSL, VDSL, cable, fibre, copper)

96.1%

MOBILE (2G, 3G, 4G)

99.4%

SATELITE 

100%

By the end of 2012, 99.4% of EU household had access to basic fixed or mobile broadband coverage; including 96.1% of households in rural areas. But the final 0.6% (or roughly 3 million citizens) included many families and businesses in isolated or rural areas where fixed or mobile broadband rollout is more cumbersome and expensive.

Kroes says: “The EU is technology neutral, but for those in the most isolated areas, satellite is a good option to stay connected; and it's likely to remain so."

Many Europeans don’t realise satellite broadband is an option for them. That is why Neelie Kroes today launched broadbandforall.eua service developed by the European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) to enables citizens to check quickly their satellite broadband options.
 
There are 148 satellites providing services to Europeans. Basic packages start from €10 per month, with 20Mbps packages from €25 per month, with average prices for satellite dishes being €350 (can be cheaper if a premium subscription is taken out).

However, Kroes warned that basic broadband is not enough, and that faster broadband speeds were essential to deliver a truly Connected Continent: "Europe needs lightning-speed connectivity. We cannot leave some companies and citizens behind. Now we have basic broadband achieved, we have to immediately focus on investing in new fast networks.”

“Access to reliable and affordable higher broadband speeds of 30Mbps and 50 Mbps are essential for Europe's economic development and for the next generation of digital products and services like Connected Television, eHealth, Cloud Computing and Connected Cars,"

Background

The Commission's Connected Continent package to strengthen the telecoms single market aims to build strong European champions in other areas of the digital ecosystem. For example, measures like a single authorisation regime will ensure that the right to operate in one member state gives the right to operate in all. This will in particular be a boost for cross-border technologies like satellite. With a common framework and collaborative governance, there should be no need to have to deal with multiple separate bureaucracies.

Modern bi-directional KA-band broadband satellites can provide download speeds up to 20 Megabits per second.

Companies such as Eutelsat and Astra are world leaders in satellite broadband. Today, more than 250 satellites provide more than 20 000 television programmes from geostationary orbit and around 148 of them are European operated by ESOA members.

In addition to this, the Commission has funded two initiatives to support satellite broadband deployment to Europe's regions in which 43 partners participate from 16 Member States. The SABER and BRESAT projects bring together national and regional authorities are working together with leading representatives of the Satellite Industry to raise awareness, to share best practices in the use of funds, to analyse roadblocks as well as to provide solutions. 

Connectivity is essential to the broader EU digital ecosystem of equipment manufacturers, internet entrepreneurs, smart objects, wholesale, retail and logistics, European creative content, education and digital public services. In September, the Commission presented a package to strengthen the telecoms single market, and in particular stimulate investment in high speed broadband (see IP/13/828 and MEMO/13/779)

What is satellite broadband?

Internet-by-satellite, also referred to as satellite broadband, is a high-speed bi-directional Internet connection made via communications satellites instead of a telephone landline or other terrestrials means. Today satellite broadband is broadly comparable with DSL broadband in terms of cost and performance, with basic packages available from 10 euros per month. Whilst fibre and cable offers superior speed performance they are not available to all users, as satellite is today. This makes satellite attractive especially in isolated areas they may have poor or no fixed and mobile coverage.
 
What public support exists for further roll-out of broadband in rural areas?

Public funding also continues to play a role in delivering broadband connections to EU households and businesses, especially in rural areas. The Commission has generous State Aid Guidelines to help member states deliver broadband in a pro-competitive manner.

Support for broadband will be available through the Connecting Europe Facility, with ICT now a priority of EU structural funds, and new guidelines on state aid for broadband (see IP/12/1424).

What are the Commission’s next broadband targets?

Tomorrow's digital services – from connected TV to cloud computing and e-Health – increasingly rely on fast, effective broadband connections. Such connections are becoming critical to our economy and, it is estimated that a 10 percent increase in broadband penetration brings up the GDP by 1-1.5%. The Digital Agenda for Europe (DAE), has set a goal to make every European digital and ensure Europe's competitiveness in the 21st century. Essential to this goal is fast connectivity and the DAE broadband targets:

  • basic broadband for all by 2013;
  • Next Generation Networks (NGN) (30 Mbps or more) for all by 2020;
  • 50% of households having 100 Mbps subscriptions or higher

Useful Links

broadbandforall.eu

Case studies of satellite broadband assisting rural areas

Broadband, boosting jobs and growth

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Youth Guarantee: Commission and Member States working for immediate implementation (17 October 2013)

The European Commission and Member States are meeting to discuss the practical implementation of the Youth Guarantee at a seminar organised by the Commission on 17-18 October. The Youth Guarantee aims to tackle youth unemployment by ensuring that every young person under 25 receives a good quality offer of a job, continued education, an apprenticeship or a traineeship within four months of leaving school or becoming unemployed.

Every EU country has endorsed the principle of the Youth Guarantee, and must now submit a Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan setting out how the scheme will function in practice and be financed.

In particular, each Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan should set out

  • the roles of public education and employment authorities , youth organisations, employees and employers' representatives
  • the structural reforms and other initiatives which will be launched in order to set up the Youth Guarantee
  • how the Youth Guarantee will be financed, in particular through the support of the Youth Employment initiative and the European Social Fund (ESF)
  • a timetable for implementation and monitoring progress.

The European Social Fund, which will be worth more than €10 billion every year from 2014-2020, can help EU countries to set up Youth Guarantee schemes. Those Member States with regions of youth unemployment above 25% are eligible for additional EU funding through the €6 billion Youth Employment Initiative (which could be scaled up to €8 billion later).

European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor said, "I am delighted that all 28 Member States are meeting to discuss how best to deliver concrete results for their young people. Through learning from each other and with Commission support, Member States have the tools to finalise their Youth Guarantee implementation plans and ensure that no young person is left without hope or opportunity. I look forward to receiving the final Member State plans, so that implementation of the Youth Guarantee can begin immediately."

Member States eligible for this additional funding must submit Youth Guarantee Implementation Plans before the end of this year. Other Member States have until mid-2014 to submit their plans. Three Member States (the Czech Republic, Croatia and Poland) have already submitted first draft implementation plans.

Today's meeting forms part of an on-going programme set up by the Commission to help Member States design and develop their national Youth Guarantee schemes, which also includes technical support and financial assistance.

Background

Following the adoption of the Youth Guarantee Recommendation by the Council in April (MEMO/13/152) and a summer of intense political activity on youth employment issues, Member States must now prepare for implementation. This must begin with a dedicated and transparent planning process, which will also ensure optimal implementation of the Youth Employment Initiative. Following the Commission Communication "Call to Action on Youth Unemployment " (IP/13/558) and the related European Council conclusions, Member States with regions experiencing youth unemployment rates above 25% should submit a Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan by December 2013 and in 2014 for the other Member States.

The interactive event in La Hulpe will examine the building blocks of a Youth Guarantee Scheme, through facilitated discussion, practical examples and exchanges of best practices. Participants will be able to learn from other Member States' experiences and progress in drafting and improving their respective Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan. National Youth Guarantee coordinators, who will lead on the development of the Youth Guarantee Implementation Plan, will attend, as will representatives of the European Social Fund Managing Authorities.

For more information

Video stockshot on the Youth Guarantee 

News item on DG Employment website 

Youth employment webpage

Commissioner László Andor's website

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New EU policy for transport infrastructure (17 October 2013)

In the most radical overhaul of EU infrastructure policy since its inception in the 1980s, the Commission has today published new maps showing the nine major corridors which will act as a backbone for transportation in Europe's single market and revolutionise East–West connections. To match this level of ambition, EU financing for transport infrastructure will triple for the period 2014–2020 to €26 billion.

Taken as a whole, the new EU infrastructure policy will transform the existing patchwork of European roads, railways, airports and canals into a unified trans-European transport network (TEN-T).
European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: "Transport is vital to the European economy. Without good connections Europe will not grow or prosper. This new EU infrastructure policy will put in place a powerful European transport network across 28 Member States to promote growth and competitiveness. It will connect East with West and replace today’s transport patchwork with a network that is genuinely European."

The new EU infrastructure policy

The new policy establishes, for the first time, a core transport network built on nine major corridors: 2 North–South corridors, 3 East–West corridors; and 4 diagonal corridors. The core network will transform East–West connections, remove bottlenecks, upgrade infrastructure and streamline cross-border transport operations for passengers and businesses throughout the EU. It will improve connections between different modes of transport and contribute to the EU's climate change objectives. The core network is to be completed by 2030. The availability of funding will depend on the successful conclusion of negotiations on the overall MFF 2014-2020.

Financing for transport infrastructure will triple for the period 2014–2020 to €26 billion. This EU funding will be tightly focused on the core transport network where there is most EU added value. To prioritise East–West connections, almost half the total EC transport infrastructure funding (€11.3 billion from the "Connecting Europe Facility", or CEF) will be ring-fenced only for cohesion countries.

The new core transport network will be supported by a comprehensive network of routes, feeding into the core network at regional and national level. The comprehensive network, will ensure full coverage of the EU and accessibility of all regions. The aim is to ensure that progressively, and by 2050, the great majority of Europe's citizens and businesses will be no more than 30 minutes' travel time from this comprehensive network.
 
Taken as a whole, the new transport network will deliver:

  • safer and less congested travel
  • smoother and quicker journeys.

The €26 billion (current prices) allocated to transport under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) of the MFF (multi-annual financial framework) will effectively act as "seed capital" to stimulate further investment by Member States to complete difficult cross-border connections and links which might not otherwise get built. It is estimated that the cost of implementing the first financing phase for the core network for 2014–2020 (see attached list of projects) will cost €250 billion. The core network is to be completed by 2030.

The new core network – the figures

The core network will connect:

  • 94 main European ports with rail and road links 
  • 38 key airports with rail connections into major cities 
  • 15,000 km of railway line upgraded to high speed 
  • 35 cross-border projects to reduce bottlenecks

This will be the economic lifeblood of the single market, allowing a real free flow of goods and people around the EU.

A map of the core TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network) and the nine major corridors is below.

core TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network) and the nine major corridors

For more information

MEMO/13/897 - New EU transport infrastructure policy – background

http://ec.europa.eu/transport/index_en.htm

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90 million tonnes of food wasted annually in Europe (16 October 2013)

Around a third of food is wasted globally. This amounts to 1.3 billion tons per year according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, of which 90 million tonnes is wasted in Europe – agricultural food waste and fish discards not included. Today marks World Food Day - an occasion for the European Union to underline its commitment to reducing food waste in Europe.

Food is wasted along the entire food chain by farmers, food industry, retailers, caterers and consumers. The reasons are diverse and sector specific.

The main causes are:

  • Lack of awareness, lack of shopping planning, confusion about "best before" and" use by" date labels, lack of knowledge on how to cook with leftovers (households);
  • Standard portion sizes, difficulty to anticipate the number of clients (catering);
  • Stock management inefficiencies, marketing strategies that can lead to unnecessary purchases (2 for 1, buy 1 get 1 free) (retail);
  • Overproduction, product & packaging damage (farmers and food manufacturing);
  • Inadequate storage (whole food chain); and
  • Inadequate packaging.

Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Environment, said: "When 870 million people go hungry every day, there can be no excuse for wasting one third of the world's food. The EU has set itself an ambitious target, and is aiming to halve edible food waste by 2020. We are working on the sustainability of the food system as a whole, and looking to tackle resource inefficiencies across the food chain, starting with food waste. I hope this will ultimately help the world's food system to become more resilient."

Tonio Borg, European Commissioner for Health said: "It is vital to work with all actors involved in the food supply chain – from farm to fork - if we are to be resource efficient and tackle avoidable food waste without compromising on safety." Commissioner Borg added: "I welcome the recent move by Belgium to abolish the VAT on food donated to food banks.  This will increase the donation of food to food banks instead of wasting food close to its "best before/use by" date.  A win-win situation for both: retailers and food banks.  I would encourage other Member States to look into this issue."

EU Actions

The Roadmap to a resource-efficient Europe identified food as a key sector where resource efficiency should be improved. It announced that it will further assess how best to limit food waste throughout the food supply chain and that it will seek incentives to halve the disposal of edible food waste in the EU by 2020.

The Commission is analysing in close cooperation with stakeholders, experts and EU Member States how to reduce food waste without compromising food safety and is discussing options for EU actions. The Working Group on Food Waste is developing good practices, obstacles and options for EU actions to reduce food waste. A wide number of topics are addressed such as: donation of surplus food to food banks, date labelling, feed, short food supply chains, bio-energy, etc.

The Commission has also launched an awareness raising information campaign which includes: a viral clip on food waste, "10 tips to reduce food waste" in all EU languages, and a clarification of "best before” and “use by” labels in all EU languages.

Good practices are also being compiled by the Commission on food waste reduction initiatives.

Next Steps

Following up on the Resource Efficiency roadmap and the public consultation on sustainable food, the Commission services are currently examining how the concept of resource efficiency can be better applied to the production and consumption of food, with a focus on avoiding food waste. The Commission plans to come forward with an initiative in this area in the coming months.

Background

Food waste in industrialised countries is as high as in developing countries: over 40% of food losses occur at retail and consumer level in industrialised countries and over 40% occurs after harvest and during processing in developing countries.

For more information:
http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eussd/food.htm
http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/sustainability/index_en.htm

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President Barroso and Commissioner Barnier welcome ECOFIN approval of the creation of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (15 October 2013)

President Barroso and Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier welcomed the approval today by EU Finance Ministers meeting in Luxembourg of the creation of the Single Supervisory Mechanism for banking in the Eurozone.

Statement by President Barroso and Commissioner Barnier following the Council's final approval of the creation of the Single Supervisory Mechanism for the eurozone

President Barroso said:

“It is good news that the Council has given the final sign-off to the Single Supervisory Mechanism, the first leg of our Banking Union. The Commission is ready to help in any way with the European Central Bank's intensive preparations to ensure the SSM begins its work next year. Now it is urgent to put the second leg in place by agreeing the single resolution mechanism and fund and the single rule book for bank resolution tools and deposit guarantees. These new rules will help build a stable financial sector, restore fair lending conditions across the EU and ensure that banks, not taxpayers, pay for their own mistakes. We owe it to our citizens to deliver before the European Parliament's elections in May.”

Commissioner Barnier said:

“Today, the Council has given its final approval for the Single Supervisory Mechanism, the first pillar of the Banking Union. We have written regulatory history. This is a momentous step: the start of a new era for the supervision of Eurozone banks.

The ECB will soon take on vast new powers. Many challenges lie ahead but I am confident that it will succeed. The credibility of the banking system is at stake.

I would in particular like to acknowledge the crucial roles played by the Cypriot, Irish and Lithuanian presidencies and the European Parliament in finding this agreement.

But better supervision is not enough. A banking union also requires action to restructure non-viable banks when necessary. That is why the supervisory system needs to be complemented by an integrated European resolution system for all countries participating in the banking union.

We have had a useful discussion in Luxembourg today on these issues. We must find a final agreement on the Directive on Banking Resolution for Member States and political agreement in Council on the Single Resolution Mechanism by the end of year.” 
 
Background

On 12 September 2012 the Commission adopted two proposals for the establishment of a single supervisory mechanism (SSM) for banks led by the European Central Bank (ECB). The proposal for the SSM regulation aimed to confer upon the ECB specific supervisory tasks over credit institutions in the Euro area. The accompanying proposal for the regulation on the European banking Authority (EBA) aimed to introduce limited amendments to the Regulation setting up the EBA to ensure a balance in its decision making structures between the euro area and non-euro area Member States.

This legislative package followed the Euro area summit on 29 June 2012, which called on the Commission to present proposals for the setting up of a single supervisory mechanism as a precondition for a possible direct recapitalisation of banks by the ESM (European Stability Mechanism).

A unanimous agreement was reached in the ECOFIN Council on 13 December on the Commission's proposal for a Single Supervisory Mechanism. The European Council of 14 December welcomed the agreement reached and called on the co-legislators “to rapidly agree so as to allow its implementation as soon as possible”.

Following intensive trilogue negotiations during January and February, co-legislators reached agreement on the package on 19 March 2013.

The European Parliament had given its assent in principle to the package in May. This was followed by national parliamentary procedures which have been completed in the meantime. After the EP vote, the Council has formally confirmed the agreement, and the legal texts will be published by the end of October. The SSM is expected to enter into force on 4 November 2013.

The supervisory powers of the ECB will be fully effective and operational one year after the entry into force of the text. New rules adapting the operating rules of the European Banking Authority (EBA) to this new framework will also enter into force in parallel.

Key elements of the SSM:

The establishment of the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM) is a first step towards a banking union and one of the pre-conditions for direct recapitalisation by the ESM. An integrated “Banking Union” will also include a common bank resolution mechanism, underpinned by a single rulebook.

  • The SSM applies to all the euro-area Member States and is open to the participation of other Member States who wish to embark on a path of deeper integration for supervision.
  • Non-euro area Member States may decide to join the SSM by establishing a close cooperation between their competent authorities and the ECB. In that case they may, on an equal footing with the euro-area Member States, participate in the activities of the newly created Supervisory Board which is in charge of planning and executing the supervisory tasks conferred upon the ECB.
  • The Regulation confers key supervisory tasks and powers to the ECB over all the credit institutions established within the euro area. The ECB carries out its tasks within a SSM composed of the ECB and national competent authorities.
  • Within the SSM, the ECB will be responsible for the supervision of all 6000 banks of the euro area. In particular:
    • the ECB shall ensure the coherent and consistent application of the Single rulebook in the euro area.
    • the ECB will directly supervise banks having assets of more than EUR 30 billion or constituting at least 20% of their home country's GDP or which have requested or received direct public financial assistance from the EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) or the ESM.
    • the ECB will monitor the supervision by national supervisors of less significant banks. The ECB may at any moment decide to directly supervise one or more of these credit institutions to ensure consistent application of high supervisory standards. The work of national supervisors is integrated into the SSM: for instance, the ECB will send instructions to national supervisors, and national supervisors have a duty to notify the ECB of supervisory decisions of material consequence.
  • The governance structure of the ECB will consist of a separate Supervisory Board supported by steering committee, the ECB Governing Council, and a mediation panel to solve disagreements that may arise between national competent authorities and the Governing Council. Clear separation between the ECB’s monetary tasks and supervisory tasks is fully ensured.
  • For cross-border banks active both within and outside Member States participating in the SSM, existing home/host supervisor coordination procedures will continue to exist as they do today. To the extent that the ECB has taken over direct supervisory tasks, it will carry out the functions of the home and host authority for all participating Member States.
  • The rules on the functioning of the EBA have been adapted and its role reinforced. The EBA will continue developing the single rulebook applicable to all 27 Member States. In order to foster consistency and efficiency of supervisory practices across the whole Union, it will develop a single supervisory handbook. It will also ensure that regular stress-test are carried out to assess the resilience of European banks. There will be safeguards for non-euro zone Member States by means of double majority voting requirements for EBA decisions on mediation and on technical standards. This ensures that decisions are backed by both a majority of the participating and the non-participating Member States. 
  • The SSM will be in place one year after the entering into force of the agreed texts. To allow for a smooth transition some flexibility by means of transitional arrangements is foreseen.
  • The Commission also hopes for quick agreement by the end of the year on the pending proposals on bank restructuring and resolution and deposit guarantee schemes, and on the Commission's proposal for a single European resolution mechanism to deal efficiently with cross-border bank resolution and avoid taxpayers' money going into rescuing banks.

More information:

Commission proposal for a Single Resolution Mechanism (SRM)

MEMO/13/780: Legislative package for banking supervision in the Eurozone – frequently asked questions

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57% of Irish internet users shop online (15 October 2013)

A new survey from Eurostat reveals European internet shopping habits. 57% of Irish internet users have shopped online in the last twelve months.  26% have bought clothes and shoes online in the last twelve months compared to 11% in 2008. 43% bought travel and holiday accommodation in 2012, up from 32% in 2008, while the percentage of people purchasing books, magazines and e-learning materials online increased by a third between 2008 and 2012. The percentage of people buying food and groceries online has doubled, from 3% to 6% in the same period.

On average, 60% of EU internet users shop online, with the highest rates found in the UK at 82%. The country with the least online shopping is Romania at 11%.

Germany and the UK are the top online purchasers of clothes and shoes at around 50%, while only 8% of Italians purchased clothes and shoes online in 2012.

60% of Swedes purchased travel and holiday accommodation online in 2012, while only 4% of Romanians did. Luxembourg had the highest rates of online purchases of books, magazines and e-learning materials at 47%, whereas only 4% of Latvians, Romanians and Bulgarians purchased in the same category. The UK came out on top again, for online food shopping in 2012, at 21, while only 1% of Czechs, Romanians and Latvians shop for food and groceries online.

Internet access in the EU28 is widespread and today people use the internet for a wide range of activities, among others to order goods and services online. In the EU28 in 2012, 75% of individuals aged 16 to 74 had used the internet in the previous 12 months, and nearly 60% of these internet users reported that they had shopped online. Among the Member States, the highest shares of online shoppers were registered in the United Kingdom (82% of internet users), Denmark and Sweden (both 79%), Germany (77%), Luxembourg (73%) and Finland (72%), and the lowest in Romania (11%), Bulgaria (17%), Estonia and Italy (both 29%).

In the context of the European Year of citizens 20132, the week from 14 to 20 October 2013 is dedicated to “Shopping online”. On this occasion, Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, publishes data on online purchases by individuals coming from its annual survey on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) usage in households and by individuals.
 
Further Information:

Eurostat press release

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Kodaline win European music award (15 October 2013)

Kodaline have won a 2014 EBBA Award (European Border Breakers Awards), celebrating the best new pop acts in Europe which have achieved cross-border chart success.

The winners will receive their awards in a ceremony hosted by TV personality and musician Jools Holland at the Eurosonic Noorderslag festival in Groningen, Netherlands, on 15 January 2014. The ceremony – including performances by all or most of the winning acts – will be streamed live via YouTube and broadcast by Dutch National Television (NTR), as well as other European TV channels and radio stations.

One of the winners will receive a Public Choice Award based on votes cast from 1 November to 20 December on the EBBAs website. Up to 15 voters will be invited to the award ceremony: each will be able to bring a friend and the prize includes their flight and hotel costs.

Now in their eleventh year, the awards are funded by the EU Culture Programme and organised by Eurosonic Noorderslag, in partnership with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Former winners of the EBBAs include Adele, Stromae, Emeli Sandé, Gabriel Rios, Of Monsters and Men, Mumford & Sons, Caro Emerald, Lykke Li, The Darkness, Katie Melua, The Ting Tings, C2C, Tokio Hotel, The Script, Zaz, Swedish House Mafia, Saybia, Damien Rice, KT Tunstall, Alphabeat, Milow and Afrojack.

In cultural terms, Europe is a fragmented market with many small countries and a large number of languages. As a consequence, it is often difficult for artists to work internationally and achieve sales success across borders. The EBBAs seek to help artists overcome these obstacles.

The European music industry makes a significant contribution to growth and jobs, as part of the cultural and creative sectors which provide jobs for more than 8 million people in the EU and up to 4.5% of Europe's GDP. The total value of the EU recorded music market is around € 6 billion a year. The European recorded music market presents around a fifth of the total music market which is worth close to € 30 billion.

In January 2014, the Commission will launch Creative Europe, its new funding programme for the cultural and creative sectors. It aims to strengthen the international competitiveness of the sectors and to promote cultural diversity. It is envisaged that the new programme will have a total budget of €1.46 billion1 in 2014-2020. This represents a 9% increase compared with current funding levels.

For more information

Website of the awards 

Creative Europe

European Commission Culture website

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Remarks by Vice-President Olli Rehn at the Eurogroup Press Conference (15 October 2013)

Speaking at a press conference following yesterday's Eurogroup meeting, Vice President Olli Rehn said: "We are now two months from the end of the Irish programme and three months from the end of the Spanish financial sector programme. Both programmes are on track for a successful conclusion. The conditional financial support has helped to deliver an economic turnaround in the two countries concerned."

He added: "Ireland has posted positive growth every year since the beginning of the programme. Exports have remained resilient and there are signs that domestic demand is picking up."  

The full statement is reproduced below:

"Ireland has posted positive growth every year since the beginning of the programme. Exports have remained resilient and there are signs that domestic demand is picking up. In Spain, exports have reached record levels and bold structural reforms are helping to transform the country’s competitiveness. In both cases, unemployment has begun to fall in recent months, although it still remains much too high.

In the coming weeks, the Central Bank of Ireland will complete its balance sheet assessment and the Bank of Spain will carry out its forward-looking exercise to analyse the resilience of the banking sector in these two countries. Without prejudging the outcome of these exercises, we can say that both countries have a very good chance of successfully concluding their programmes in a sustainable manner. 

The second point I wish to make is in relation to the construction of a Banking Union. The guiding principles behind our approach to bank restructuring and resolution are that taxpayers should be protected and financial stability be maintained. In this context, there is a clear pecking order to be followed in case next year’s balance sheet assessments reveal capital holes. The bill should be footed first via private solutions and internal resources, in other words via shareholders and junior creditors. Only then can there be recourse to public backstops, first at the national and if needed, finally at the European level, in line with the Spanish model. Where state support is necessary, the new state aid rules in force since 1 August will apply.

Last week, I wrote to Finance Ministers of the EU to clarify the treatment of capital injections under EU fiscal rules. I explained that these are normally considered as "relevant factors for financial stability" and/or as so-called one-off, or temporary, measures. This means they are not included in the structural balance and thus do not count against the Member State in the context of the Excessive Deficit Procedure. As such, our fiscal rules create no disincentive to effective public backstops, even if these could only be needed as a last resort, when other options are exhausted.

So it is, indeed, essential that we maintain the momentum for the completion of the Banking Union. This means, in particular, working constructively to agree rules for the Single Resolution Mechanism, on the basis of the Commission’s legislative proposal. This was, in fact, a key message delivered by our international partners at the IMF annual meetings in Washington this past weekend, and it is a message with which the Commission fully agrees. 

Finally, let me conclude by congratulating Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem, and the Netherlands for being able to agree on difficult but necessary consolidation measures a few days ago, which will help ensure the sustainability of its public finances.  This was, in a nutshell, a victory for responsibility over brinkmanship and with this in mind one can say that it is high time for US politicians to go Dutch.  We urgently need to see a similar victory for responsibility in Washington in order not to inflict serious damage on the world economy and jeopardise the nascent recovery underway now in Europe."

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Ireland worst in class for foreign languages (15 October 2013)

The European Day of Languages, celebrated in Ireland on 17 October, is a day to promote the importance of language learning, celebrate the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe, and encourage lifelong language learning in and out of school.

However, Irish students are at a disadvantage to their European counterparts when it comes to foreign languages. According to recent statistics from Eurostat, only 7% of Irish 10 year olds learn a foreign language, compared with an EU average of above 70%. In the UK almost 75% of 10 year olds learn a foreign language. In most European countries children start to study languages as a compulsory part of the curriculum between 6 and 9 years of age, and as young as three in some parts. The Irish figures are expected to get steadily worse given that the State-sponsored scheme to encourage the learning of foreign languages in primary school ‘The Modern Languages in Primary School Initiative’ was suspended in 2012.

In the EU 50% of secondary school students study 2 or more languages, whereas in Ireland the comparable figure is only 8%. While in Czech Republic 2 or more languages are studied by 100% of secondary school students, 19% of Irish students at Leaving Cert level study no foreign languages, while 73% study one foreign language.

Leading employers and industry experts have repeatedly pointed out that the poor language performance of the Irish education system is a limiting factor to graduate employment. Paypal, for example, has had to hire 500 employees from abroad to meet its linguistic requirements, which Irish graduates and jobseekers lack.

There is an increasing uptake among Irish students of the Erasmus programme, the EU funded university student exchange programme. 1.42% of the total student population went on an Erasmus exchange in the academic year 2011/2012, up from 1.29% in the academic year 2010/2011. This is a promising trend.

European Day of Languages celebrations in Ireland will take place on Thursday 17 October with a programme including music, dancing and food. There will also be an opportunity to try out your languages or learn a few phrases in a new language at the speed learning event.

This free event will take place from 7pm on Thursday, 17 October, in The Mercantile, Dame Street, Dublin 2.

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Female company board members increase by 2%- Ireland still has catching up to do (14 October 2013)

The percentage of women on the boards of listed companies in Ireland increased by 2% between October 2012 and April 2013.  10.7% of company board members are female in Ireland, compared to an EU average of 16.6%. This is an increase from 15.8% in October 2012. The leading countries in female representation are Finland and Latvia, at around 29%, followed by France and Sweden at above 26%.

The European Commission has today launched a report on female representation in leadership and decision making, covering the period from October 2012 to April 2013. The European Parliament has also today passed a vote in support of addressing the gender imbalance on company boards in Europe.

In the six months covered by today's report on women and men in leadership positions (October 2012-April 2013), an increase in the share of women on company boards has been recorded in 20 Member States.The largest increases occurred in Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria. The share of women on boards declined in Romania, Lithuania, Poland, Malta, Greece, Portugal and the UK.

The latest EU-wide figure of 16.6% represents a 0.9 percentage point (pp) increase in the six months from October 2012 or an annual equivalent rate of 1.7 pp, down from the rate of 2.2 pp between 2011 and 2012.

With this vote, the European Parliament (which decides with the Council of Ministers on an equal footing on this proposal), paves the way for further progress of the draft law in the EU legislative process.

These are main points from the report voted today by the European Parliament Committees:

  • It confirms the Commission's approach to focus on a transparent and fair selection procedure (so-called "procedural quota") rather than introducing a fixed quantitative quota.
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises remain excluded from the scope of the directive but Member States are invited to support and incentivise them to significantly improve the gender balance at all levels of management and on boards.
  • There will be no possibility for Member States to exempt companies from the Directive where members of the underrepresented sex make up less than 10% of the workforce.
  • It strengthens the provision on sanctions by adding a number of sanctions that should be obligatory, rather than indicative, as the Commission has proposed. Sanctions for failure to respect the provisions concerning selection procedures for board members should include the exclusion from public procurement and the partial exclusion from the award of funding from the European structural funds, the two Committees say.

Next Steps: In order to become law, the Commission's proposal needs to be adopted jointly by the European Parliament and by the EU Member States in the Council (which votes by qualified majority). Todays' decisive vote follows positive opinions on the initiative from three other Parliament committees: the Employment (EMPL), Internal Market (IMCO) and Economic Affairs (ECON) Committees (MEMO/13/672). The JURI and FEMM committees, which are jointly responsible for piloting the proposal through the Parliament, have now adopted their report. This will pass to the European Parliament’s plenary session for a vote expected in November.

The Council, which on this proposal decides on an equal footing with the European Parliament, took stock of progress achieved under the Irish Presidency at the meeting of Employment and Social Affairs ministers (EPSCO Council) on 20 June 2013 (MEMO/13/584). The Lithuanian Presidency is now pursuing the discussions further.

"Regulatory pressure works. The cracks are starting to show on the glass ceiling. More and more companies are competing to attract the best female talent. They know that if they want to remain competitive in a globalised economy they cannot afford to ignore the skills and talent of women," said Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU's Justice Commissioner. "The example has been set by countries such as France and Italy, who have adopted legislation and are starting to record significant progress. I would also like to thank the rapporteurs Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou and Evelyn Regner for their tireless efforts and support on the Commission's proposal. We have got the ball rolling. I will continue working with the Parliament and the Council to make swift progress on the draft law which places qualification and merit centre stage."

New Report on Women in decision-making released today:

Since 2010, when the European Commission published its Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015) and first raised the prospect of targeted initiatives to address the under-representation of women in decision-making positions,the share of women on boards has risen by 4.8 pp at an average rate of 1.9 pp/year, almost four times the rate of progress from 2003 to 2010 (0.5 pp/year). This acceleration (see Annex 3) has been further fuelled by the women on boards proposal adopted by the European Commission on 14 November 2012 (IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860), which outlined a 40% objective for women on boards based on qualification. Recent developments also reflect the impact of EU-wide discussions about the need for a targeted intervention to raise the number of women on boards.
It is important to note that the most significant developments since 2010 have largely occurred in countries where binding legislation has already been adopted, such as France (+ 14.4 pp to reach 26.8%), the Netherlands (+8.7 pp to reach 23.6%) and Italy (+8.4 pp to reach 12.9%). This further emphasises the importance of regulatory pressure for results.

Today’s report also presents an overview of the current situation and trends for the representation of women and men in politics, in public administrations and in the judiciary (see MEMO/13/882). Although the representation of women and men in decision-making positions in these fields is more balanced than in the business and finance sectors, there are still substantial opportunities for progress in a number of Member States.

Today's mid-term figures on women on boards were collected in April 2013 and are compared to the data set from October 2012. The full data are accessible online.

Gender equality mid-term review

The Commission has also released a mid-term review of its broader gender equality strategy for equality between Women and Men (2010-2015) which set out 24 key actions under five headings: equal economic independence for women and men; equal pay for work of equal value; equality in decision-making; dignity, integrity and ending gender violence; and promoting gender equality beyond the EU (see MEMO/13/882).

The report finds that, half-way through the period covered by the strategy, the Commission is delivering on its commitments. It has taken action in the majority of areas covered, in particular in improving the gender balance in economic decision-making, tackling female genital mutilation, promoting equal pay and promoting equality within the EU’s overall economic strategy.

Background

On 14 November 2012, the Commission adopted a proposal for a directive setting a minimum objective of 40% of the under-represented sex in non-executive board-member positions in listed companies in Europe by 2020, or 2018 for listed public undertakings (see IP/12/1205 and MEMO/12/860).

Main elements of the draft law:

  • If a publicly listed company in Europe does not have 40 per cent of women among its non-executive board members, the new law will require it to introduce a new selection procedure for board members which gives priority to qualified female candidates. 
  • The law places the emphasis firmly on qualification. Nobody will get a job on the board just because they are a woman. But no woman will be denied a job because of their gender either.
  • The law only applies to the supervisory boards or non-executive directors of publicly listed companies, due to their economic importance and high visibility. Small and medium enterprises are excluded.
  • Individual EU Member States will have to lay down appropriate and dissuasive sanctions for companies in breach of the Directive.
  • The law is a temporary measure. It will automatically expire in 2028.
  • The law also includes, as a complementary measure, a "flexi quota": an obligation for companies listed on a stock exchange to set themselves individual, self-regulatory targets regarding the representation of both sexes among executive directors to be met by 2020 (or 2018 in case of public undertakings). Companies will have to report annually on the progress made.

For more information

"Women and men in leadership positions in the European Union, 2013, a review of the situation and recent progress

European Commission database on women and men in decision-making 

Press pack – Women on boards 

Homepage of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Justice Commissioner

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Irish energy infrastructure projects to benefit from EU cooperation (14 October 2013)

A number or Irish energy infrastructure projects, including electricity, gas and smart grids are set to benefit from EU cooperation. These "Projects of Common Interest" benefit from accelerated licensing procedures and improved regulatory conditions and may have access to financial support from the Connecting Europe Facility, under which a €5.85 billion budget has been allocated to trans-European energy infrastructure for the period 2014-20.

This will help them get implemented faster and make them more attractive to investors. Once completed, the projects will help Member States to integrate their energy markets, enable them to diversify their energy sources and help bring an end to the energy isolation of some Member States. They will also enable the grid to avail of increasing amounts of renewables, and consequently help reduce CO2 emissions.

Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said: "We have to make sure that our limited funds are used wisely and that EU money goes where it can create most benefits to European consumers. With this list of energy infrastructure projects and their accompanying benefits, we also hope to attract more investors."

The list includes up to 140 projects in the field of electricity transmission and storage, about 100 projects in the field of gas transmission, storage and LNG, and several oil and smart grids projects. The projects will benefit from a number of advantages:

  • accelerated planning and permit granting procedures (binding three-and-a-half-years' time limit);
  • a single national competent authority will act as a one-stop-shop for permit granting procedures;
  • less administrative costs for the project promoters and authorities due to a more streamlined environmental assessment procedure, whilst respecting the requirements of Union law.
  • increased transparency and improved public participation;
  • increased visibility and attractiveness for investors thanks to an enhanced regulatory framework where costs are allocated to the countries that benefit most from a completed project;
  • possibility to receive financial support under the Connecting Europe Facility. This will play a key role in leveraging the necessary private and public funding, and possible financing can come in as early as 2014.

For a project to be included in the list, it had to have significant benefits for at least two Member States; contribute to market integration and further competition; enhance security of supply, and reduce CO2 emissions.

The Commission will monitor closely the implementation of the permit granting measures and the construction of the projects. Finally, the list of PCIs will be updated every two years with the aim to integrate newly needed projects and remove obsolete ones.

For more information on the list of projects of common interest: http://ec.europa.eu/energy/infrastructure/strategy/2020_en.htm

  1. I-072796 EU Energy (part 1) – 2012
  2. I-074166 EU Energy (part 2) – 2012
  3. I-074167 EU Energy (part 3) - 2012

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Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn welcomes Hefei Statement on Research Universities (11 October 2013)

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has welcomed a statement from organisations representing many of the world's leading research universities. The 'Hefei Statement on the ten characteristics of contemporary research universities' sets out how and why research universities fulfil their long-term mission in research and education.

The statement also calls for government policies that support existing research universities in these goals, and help develop research universities where they do not exist. The statement was signed by the League of European Research Universities (LERU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Consortium of China 9 Research Universities (C9), and the Group of Eight Australia (Go8), at the annual meeting of the C9 universities in Hefei, China.

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This is a welcome initiative from LERU and its partners, who together represent a very significant proportion of global research. I appreciate the recognition by universities that they contribute to solving societal issues, to fostering innovation and supporting the local economy. Short term and applied research is absolutely vital to our modern knowledge economy. At the same time, I fully support their objective to push the boundaries of research. This needs time and freedom to set priorities. The European Commission will continue its commitment to funding frontier research in our next research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020. This includes a massive boost in funding to the European Research Council, one of the premier funders of blue-sky research worldwide. Through the European Research Area and Innovation Union, the European Commission also supports the framework conditions in which research and innovation can thrive."

Link to the Hefei Statement (LERU website): http://www.leru.org/index.php/public/news/Hefei-Statement/

Horizon 2020: http://ec.europa.eu/research/horizon2020/index_en.cfm

Twitter: @EU_H2020 @innovationunion

ERC: http://erc.europa.eu/

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28,000 children in global conflicts benefit from EU Nobel Peace Prize (11 October 2013)

28,000 children who are victims of conflict around the world have benefitted from the European Union's Nobel Peace Prize of 2012. It was decided to dedicate the monetary value of the award to projects supporting children – victims of conflict around the world. The reason for this decision was that every girl and every boy, no matter where they were born, should have the opportunity to develop their talents and grow up in peace.

The European Commission matched the award value with its own funding bringing it to a total of €2 million for 2012 and €4 million for 2013. The European Commission invested this fund in humanitarian aid projects for children in Africa, Latin America and Asia. The past year has seen intensive work developing the projects.

Today, 28,000 children benefit from these projects in very practical ways: through access to education and child-friendly spaces, so badly needed in conflict zones.

Among the beneficiaries of the EU's commitment to peace are around 4000 Syrian refugee children in camps at the border between Iraq and Syria. This is indispensable support for the most vulnerable victims of the Syrian crisis; without support like that of the European Union, they risk becoming a 'lost generation'. The EU Children of Peace project for Syrian children has so far provided €400,000 for education and other activities helping kids. A "Child-friendly space" opened in Domiz camp, for example, offers one of the few places where children are able to participate in supervised recreational and therapeutic activities.

The consequences of conflict can last long after the hostilities have abated, and keep hurting the most vulnerable members of the affected population: children. In Colombia and Ecuador, the EU Children of Peace project is helping educate and protect the kids affected by conflict. The European assistance (€400 000) translates into school materials and uniforms, into renovating schools and dedicating spaces where it is safe for children to play and study, away from the risks of illegal recruitment by armed groups. More than 5,000 Colombian children, many of them refugees in Ecuador, benefit from this project.

Nearly half of the EU Children of Peace funding goes for children in Africa: more than 11,000 children benefit from the European initiative in Ethiopia's Dollo Ado refugee camps and in Northern Kivu, the Democratic Republic of Congo. In both countries, children get what many of them never had before - safe learning spaces, schoolbags, teachers' kits and other items that keep them in schools and give them much-needed respite from their difficult surroundings.

In Pakistan, similarly, the EU Children of Peace project has in the past year reached out to 3,000 children in the conflict-affected north of the country. There are 20 more schools in the Jalozai camp today thanks to the European assistance (€300 000) reaching out, in particular, to Pakistani girls, few of whom had access to education before. The European assistance also includes school-in-a-box supplies, training for teachers and psychosocial counselling.

Committed to keep making the difference for children who need special care to overcome the consequences of conflict, the EU Children of Peace initiative will continue beyond its first year. In 2014, the European Commission intends to increase its funding for education of children in conflict zones – a new symbol of the European Union's dedication promoting real, lasting peace where it is so badly needed.

On 20 November (Universal Children’s Day) an event analysing the track record of the EU Children of Peace initiative in its first year will take place. This will also be the opportunity to announce new EU Children of Peace projects to be run by EU humanitarian partners and thus ensuring a lasting legacy from EU's Nobel Peace Prize.

For more information

IP/12/1392: EU Children of Peace initiative: President Barroso announces Nobel Peace Prize projects to help 23,000 children affected by war and conflicts

Website of the European Commission's humanitarian aid and civil protection 

Website of the European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response, Kristalina Georgieva

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4.0% reduction in CAP Direct payments in 2014 budget year (10 October 2013)

This year's CAP Direct payments will be reduced by 4.00% [4.001079%] because the available budget is €1.47bn below budgetary requirements, according to a European Commission decision taken today.

A threshold will apply to exempt the first €2000 from this "Financial Discipline" instrument.

An amending letter to the 2014 draft budget, aimed at updating forecast budget requirements, is expected in mid-October, and in this context the Commission may propose to the Council to adapt the percentage reduction to be applied.

The Financial Discipline mechanism was first established in the 2003 CAP reform to ensure that the programmed phasing-in of Direct Payments in the EU-12 or any unexpected market spending did not breach the budget ceilings set in the 2007-2013 EU multiannual financial framework. However, it was not triggered in that period. With the real-term reduction in the CAP amounts for the 2014-2020 period and the move within the MFF to fund the new agricultural Crisis Reserve (of €424m a year) from within the CAP 1st Pillar envelope, the mechanism has now been triggered for the 2014 budget year.

The Commission made its initial proposal for Financial Discipline at the end of March (see IP/13/297). The rules required the Parliament and the Council to reach agreement on the original March proposal by the end of June, otherwise the power for adopting Financial Discipline would pass back to the Commission. As the 2 co-legislators could not reach agreement in time, the Commission is today fulfilling its responsibility through an implementing regulation, in line with the CAP reform and the initial proposal.

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New European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, meets with European Parliament and Commission Presidents (9 October 2013)

The new European Ombudsman, Emily O'Reilly, has discussed the need for high administrative standards in the EU with the President of the Parliament, Martin Schulz, and the President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso. In two separate meetings, O'Reilly stressed her willingness to co-operate closely with both institutions and outlined her priorities for the coming year.

Both Presidents underlined the importance they attach to good co-operation with the European Ombudsman and the vital role she plays for citizens and for raising standards of good administration.

She explained: "The EU administration has to serve as a role model when it comes to openness, accountability, and good administration in the Union. This is a key precondition for winning the trust of Europe's citizens. A lot has been done in the past, but there is no room for complacency."

The Transparency Register for EU interest groups

The Commission and the Parliament jointly operate the Transparency Register for interest groups with an eye to making the EU's decision-making process more transparent. Around 6 000 companies, NGOs, and other interest groups have registered so far. The Register is currently under revision. The Ombudsman has received several complaints about it, including concerns about the accuracy of the information contained in it. O'Reilly stated: "If over time we see that the Transparency Register does not work on a voluntary basis, serious consideration should be given to making it mandatory."

The European Ombudsman investigates complaints about maladministration in the EU institutions and bodies. Any EU citizen, resident, or an enterprise or association in a Member State, can lodge a complaint with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman offers a fast, flexible, and free means of solving problems with the EU administration.

For more information: http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu

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Stricter EU rules on aircrew fatigue (9 October 2013)

The European Commission has welcomed the European Parliament's support for new stricter rules on aircrew fatigue.

The proposal includes more than 30 provisions aimed at improving the crew protection against fatigue, offering them safer and better working conditions. They include important issues such as in-flight rest for cabin crew, and strict limits on night flights, standby and reserve.

The new legislation includes:   

  • The reduction of flight duty time at night by 45 minutes (maximum 11h instead of 11h45),
  • The reduction of the maximum number of flying hours from 1,300 to 1,000 in 12 consecutive months,
  • The increase of the weekly rest by 12 hours (2 days instead of 1½ day) twice a month,
  • The grant of up to 5 days of rest at home base in case of significant time zone crossing (instead of 2 days currently, or even less in some Member States),
  • An important reduction of the maximum duty time (standby + flight time) in case of airport standby (16h instead of 26–28h in some Member States).

The purpose of this new legislation to modernise the high European standards on aviation safetyis to clarify and improve the current regulations on flight and duty time limitations(known as flight time limitations, or "FTL") — taking into account the latest scientific and technical evidence.

FTL safety rules are without prejudice to the applicable EU and national legislation, including rules concerning working time, health and safety at work or existing and future collective labour agreements (CLAs). In addition, the relation between safety and social rules is based on the principle that the most protective rule applies.

Following the European Parliament's vote in plenary today, Vice-President Kallas said: "I am pleased with this vote which opens the way for new stricter EU-wide rules on pilot fatigue. It will bring better protection of passengers and safer working conditions for crew. This is a victory for common sense."

In supporting the draft regulation, the European Parliament confirmed the view of the majority of aviation safety professionals in favour of a comprehensive and well balanced approach which will bring about safety improvements to flight attendants and pilots in the European aviation sector — to the benefit of passengers.

The draft Commission regulation received a positive vote in the EASA Committee meeting on 12 July 2013 and was submitted to the EP for a three-month scrutiny.

Next steps:

The Commission will now formally enact the Regulation. It can be expected to come into force at the end of 2013 and will become fully applicable two years later.

There will be a continuous on-going assessment of the new FTL regime, run by EASA alongside Member States and involving stakeholders and scientific expertise, which will be based on real operational data, to monitor the effectiveness of the system. EASA's first regular report on the results of the monitoring programme is due no later than three years after the date of application of the rules.

Further information

IP/13/690 - Aviation safety: Member States support the revision of aircrew fatigue rules

MEMO/13/854 - Pilot and crew fatigue — frequently asked questions

For background: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-13-854_en.htm

Follow Vice-President Kallas on Twitter

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Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn congratulates winners of Nobel Prize in Physics (8 October 2013)

European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has today congratulated Belgian physicist François Englert and British physicist Peter W. Higgs for winning the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics.

They received the prize "for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles, and which recently was confirmed through the discovery of the predicted fundamental particle, by the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN's Large Hadron Collider."

Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn said: "This is recognition of the contribution made to modern physics by François Englert and Peter Higgs. I would also like to pay tribute to the thousands of scientists who have worked tirelessly at CERN over many years to detect this elusive particle. EU-funded research has contributed to the research at CERN, including enabling the processing of the huge amounts of data from the LHC experiments that confirmed the predictions." 
 
More information:

MEMO/13/861 

http://www.nobelprize.org/

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Irish 3rd level graduate literacy skills equal to or less than Finnish and Dutch secondary school graduates (8 October 2013)

The results of a study carried out by the European Commission and the OECD reveal today that literacy scores from recent upper secondary school graduates in the Netherlands and Finland are close to or better than those of higher education graduates in Ireland.

The study also finds that Ireland is not making the best economic use of its skilled workforce. In Ireland, around one in four adults with high levels of proficiency in literacy and numeracy is outside the workforce, compared to less than one in five in the US.

There is also a bigger earnings gap in Ireland between the low-skilled and the highly skilled than in a number of other countries in the study.

The PIAAC report published by the OECD is launched today by the European Commission and the OECD. It is based on a survey of literacy, numeracy and problem-solving ICT skills of adults aged 16-65 in 17 EU Member States - Belgium (Flanders), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Cyprus, The Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden and the UK (England/Northern Ireland), as well as in Australia, Canada, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States. The findings underline the need to target investment at improving education and training to increase skills and employability in European countries.

 One in five adults in Europe have low literacy and numeracy skills, and even a university degree in the same subject is no guarantee of the same level of skills in different countries, according to the first comprehensive international Survey of Adult Skills published today by the OECD and European Commission.

The survey, also known as the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC), was launched by Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Ángel Gurría, Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

"The Survey of Adult Skills points to weaknesses in our education and training systems that must be addressed if we are to equip people with the high-level skills they need to succeed in life. It's not acceptable that that one fifth of our population has only low levels of skills. We have to fix this problem. There are no short-cuts. At EU and national level, we have to invest more efficiently in better education and better training."

This view was echoed by László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, who called on funding for education and employment reforms to be a priority. "I urge Member States to make better use of the European Social Fund to invest in skills and training, both for the young unemployed and for the lifelong learning of middle-aged and older workers," he commented.

The Survey's key findings:

  • 20% of the EU working age population has low literacy and numeracy skills: the figure is higher among the unemployed who are likely to be caught in a 'low-skills trap' because they do little or no adult learning;
  • 25% of adults lack the digital skills needed to effectively use ICT (addressing this is one of the objectives of the Commission's new Opening up Education initiative);
  • There are striking differences between countries in skills provided through formal education: recent school leavers with an upper secondary qualification in some Member States have similar or better skills than higher education graduates in others;
  • Lifelong learning policies must aim at sustaining skills over time given the gaps between generations revealed by the survey and the significant economic and social benefits of higher skills. 

Differences between Member States

The evidence from the data collected by the OECD shows significant differences between Member States. Examples are given below:

One adult in five has low literacy or numeracy skills in Ireland, France, Poland and the UK. This rises to almost one adult in three in Spain and Italy.

More than 40% of the adult population in the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden have high problem solving skills in ICT environments, while almost one in five adults have no computer experience in Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Poland and Slovakia.

Literacy scores from recent upper secondary school graduates in the Netherlands and Finland are close to or better than those of higher education graduates in Ireland, Spain, Italy, Cyprus and the UK (England/Northern Ireland).

In Belgium (Flanders), Spain, France and Finland, the level of proficiency in literacy and numeracy among 25-34 year olds is significantly better than the generation aged 55-65.

Next steps

The survey findings and their implications for education and training will be discussed with Member States to help identify actions to remedy weaknesses. The new Erasmus+ programme for education, training and youth will support projects aimed at developing and upgrading adult skills. The survey can also help Member States define priorities to finance from the 2014-2020 European Social Fund, which is a key source of investment in skills and training and can also improve access to training for vulnerable groups.

Background

The Survey of Adult Skills directly assesses the skills of about 5 000 adults aged 16-65 in each participating country, representing the working age population. The skills tested are literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments. The survey also asks about the use of ICT at work and in everyday life, generic skills required at work, whether the skills and qualification match work requirements and questions about education, work and socio-economic background.

The survey was conducted in 2011/2012 in 23 countries, among them 17 EU Member States, representing more than 80% of the EU28 population.

The European Commission and the OECD have recently signed a new cooperation agreement to work closer together in three areas: skills strategies, country analyses and international surveys.

The Commission and the OECD will launch a new Education and Skills Online Assessment tool later this autumn. This will allow people to test their skills and benchmark their own abilities in an international context.

This afternoon, Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director of the OECD's Education and Skills Directorate, and Xavier Prats Monné, Deputy Director-General for Education and Culture in the European Commission, will host a briefing for education and training stakeholders on the implications of the survey for European policy-making. The briefing will take place from 14:30-16:00 in the auditorium of the Commission's Madou building, Place Madou 1, 1210 Saint-Josse-Ten-Noode. Accredited media are welcome.

For more information

MEMO/13/860 PIAAC Survey of Adult Skills – frequently asked questions

Survey of Adult Skills on the OECD website

Implications of the Survey of Adult Skills on education and training policies in Europe  – European Commission analysis – Executive Summary

European Commission website: Education and training

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European regions encouraged to offer SMEs vouchers of up to €10,000 to go digital (8 October 2013)

The European Commission is piloting a scheme whereby Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) can benefit from a grant worth up to €10,000 in order to increase their digital capacity. The funding will be made available through "innovation vouchers" to ensure funding allocated to SMEs to enhance their e-commerce and ICT capacities is spent quickly and in full. The vouchers worth up to €10,000 will be made available for purchasing and learning to make use of digital (ICT) services. Such ICT innovation voucher schemes are being piloted in the Spanish Regions of Murcia and Extremadura.

The vouchers worth up to €10,000 will be made available for purchasing and learning to make use of digital (ICT) services. Such ICT innovation voucher schemes are being piloted in the Spanish Regions of Murcia and Extremadura.

Web-connected small businesses across G-20 countries have 22% higher revenue growth than those with low or no web-use. In Germany, 93% of small and medium-sized businesses with an active web presence increased employment over three years, compared with only 50% of those not online. Going online and using other digital technologies increases competitiveness, exports, and domestic market opportunities.

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said: "Small businesses using digital services grow twice as fast, export twice as much, and create twice as many new jobs. Everyone should benefit the way Murcia and Extremadura are benefiting in Spain.”

Commissioner for Regional Policy Johannes Hahn said: "Giving access to digital technologies is one of the many ways that Regional Policy can help small businesses be more competitive. For 2014-20 the digital agenda and support for SMEs are key priorities for structural funds.  SMEs are the lifeblood of Europe's economies and the source of future jobs in our cities and regions."

The regional voucher schemes would allow small businesses to exchange their vouchers for specialist ICT services such as website development, learning how to sell through eCommerce, or adopting more sophisticated ICT tools for business processes, such as supply chain management and customer relations management.

The Commission is offering regions a detailed blueprint to help implement the scheme. The blueprint will help authorities identify the needs of SMEs to go digital and to assess whether vouchers are fit to address this. The guide outlines how to set up a tailor-made voucher scheme for their region or to expand existing schemes by an ICT window. The value of the voucher may vary according to the needs of the SME and the regional priorities, and the schemes should be made easy for SMEs and providers, supported by light administrative procedures. The vouchers should allow ICT services to be purchased from a range of providers including private companies, universities and research centres.

Background

On average, European companies are only slowly adopting ICT for their business (from 2010 to 2012, there was just a 6% increase in European businesses with a website, another 6% in sharing information electronically within businesses, a 4% increase in the use of Enterprise Resource Planning).

The pilots in Murcia and Extremadura target SMEs willing to invest in e-commerce, more streamlined management processes or enhanced customer services. They were announced on 2 July at the "Digital Agenda: what role for regions and cities" conference.  ICT innovation vouchers will cover a majority of the euros invested by SMEs in the project. The associated funding allocated by the regions for the pilots schemes is provided through the European Regional Development Fund.

In addition to facilitating SMEs' access to know-how and technology, the vouchers can stimulate demand for a large range of innovative ICT-related services in all sectors of the economy and cross-border online sales. Such schemes help unfold the potential of the digital single market and thereby contribute to the Digital Agenda for Europe.

In the period 2007-2013 some EUR 14.2 billion Structural Fund investments are earmarked for ICT-related investments, including over EUR 3 billion that should go directly to SMEs to enhance their e-commerce and ICT capacities. In total over 20,000 ICT projects were so far supported thanks to this, with Spain, Hungary and Portugal being in the lead.

Useful links

ICT Innovation Vouchers on the Digital Agenda for Europe website

Commission staff working document 'SMEs going digital: A blueprint for ICT innovation vouchers'

ICT Innovation Voucher flyer

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Ireland has one of highest falls in employment rates-New Eurostat report (7 October 2013)

A new report published by Eurostat today reveals EU regional statistics on the economy, population, health and labour market, as well as other sectors.

Among the main findings on Ireland are:

  • Ireland has seen one of the highest falls in employment rates between 2008 and 2011. Employment rates fell by 8.2% in the southern and eastern regions, and by 9.2% in the borders, midlands and western regions during that period.
  • Ireland's population at risk of poverty and social exclusion is 29.4%, above the EU average of 24.3%. This is slightly lower, at 27% in densely populated areas, and 33% in areas with intermediate population density.
  • The Midlands region has seen the highest population increase at 1.2%, while the mid-east's population has grown by 1.1%. However the populations of the border counties and the west have decreased by -.48% and -.45% respectively.
  • Ireland's population is growing at its highest pace in the east of the country, and Ireland has the highest fertility rates in the EU.

The Regional yearbook 2013, published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, presents regional statistics from a wide range of fields, giving a more detailed and diverse picture of the EU than national level data. It also enables an analysis, for example, of how the financial crisis has affected regions across the EU. It indicates, among other things, in which regions employment, population and GDP have decreased the most and in which there have been increases. It also shows how poverty has affected the population differently depending on whether they live in a densely or more thinly populated area.

The publication shows data for the 272 NUTS level 2 regions and, for some indicators, the 1 315 NUTS level 3 regions of the Member States of the EU as well as, when available, the regions in the four EFTA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and three of the candidate countries (Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey).

As last year, the interactive tool Statistical Atlas on the Eurostat website provides access to all the maps from the latest edition of the Eurostat regional yearbook. This application allows users to display detailed information on a specific region or city and gives the possibility to download individual maps as high resolution PDF.

Eurostat has also recently launched a new interactive tool, Regional Statistics Illustrated, to visualise regional data. This tool contains more than fifty constantly updated indicators at NUTS 2 level. Through an interactive map, selected regions can be analysed and compared through different visualisation options. An animated timeline shows how regions have performed over time. It should be noted that Regional Statistics Illustrated always uses the latest available data in the Eurostat database, while the Statistical Atlas shows maps based on data as published in the Regional yearbook.

The full Eurostat press release with detailed tables is available here.

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Crowdfunding in the EU – consultation launched today (3 October 2013)

The European Commission has today launched a consultation on Crowdfunding. The consultation invites stakeholders to share their views about crowdfunding: its potential benefits, risks, and the design of an optimal policy framework to untap the potential of this new form of financing. The consultation is launched following the Workshop on Crowdfunding organised on 3 June 2013 in Brussels.

Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier said: "Crowdfunding – this alternative form of fundraising that is collective, participatory and interactive – is becoming increasingly important. It has the potential to bridge the financing gap many start-ups face and to stimulate entrepreneurship. Considering the development of crowdfunding and the diversity of regulatory, supervisory, fiscal and social frameworks for it across the EU, do we need a single European framework to support both those who develop crowdfunding platforms and to reduce the risks to those who make use of such platforms to finance projects. That is what I am asking."

Whereas many crowdfunding campaigns are local in nature, others would benefit from easier access to financing within a single European market. But to make sure crowdfunding is not just a momentary trend that fades away, but rather a sustainable source of financing for new European projects, certain safeguards are needed, in particular to ensure people's trust. The ultimate objective of this consultation is to gather data about the needs of market participants and to identify the areas in which there is a potential added value in EU action to encourage the growth of this new industry, either through facilitative, soft-law measures or legislative action.

The consultation covers all forms of crowdfunding, ranging from donations and rewards to financial investments. Everyone is invited to share their opinion and fill in the on-line questionnaire, including citizens who might contribute to crowdfunding campaigns and entrepreneurs who might launch such campaigns. National authorities and crowdfunding platforms are also particularly encouraged to reply. The consultation will run until 31 December 2013.

To find out more about Crowdfunding, its benefits and its risks take a look at: MEMO/13/847

The consultation is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/2013/crowdfunding/index_en.htm

Further information:

Workshop on Crowdfunding – 3 June 2013

Commissioner Barnier's speech at the Workshop on Crowdfunding

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More women in ICT would boost EU annual GDP by €9 billion, EU study shows (3 October 2013)

According to a new study from the European Commission, there are now too few women working in the ICT sector; only 19.2% of ICT-sector workers have female bosses, compared to 45.2% of non-ICT workers. If the trend were reversed and women held digital jobs as frequently as men, the European GDP could be boosted annually by around € 9 billion (1.3 times Malta's GDP).

Getting more girls interested in a digital career and getting more women into digital jobs would benefit the ICT industry, women themselves and Europe's economy. This is the key finding of the European Commission survey on women active in the ICT sector, published today. The study also found:
• Of 1,000 women with a Bachelors or other first degree, only 29 hold a degree in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (as compared to 95 men), and only 4 in 1000 women will eventually work in the ICT sector.
• Women leave the sector mid-career to a greater extent than men and they are under-represented in managerial and decision-making positions (even more than in other sectors).
The study also suggests that women who work in the ICT sector earn almost 9% more than women in other parts of the economy, and also have greater flexibility in arranging their working schedules and are less susceptible to unemployment (by 2015, there will be 900,000 unfilled ICT positions in the EU).
The ICT sector would benefit since organisations which are more inclusive of women in management achieve a 35% higher Return on Equity and 34% better total return to shareholders than other comparable organisations.
European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said: "We now know, beyond doubt, that more women in a business mean a healthier business. It is high time the IT sector realised this and allowed women a chance to help the sector and Europe's economy benefit from their enormous potential".

The study also suggests four priority areas where action should be taken:

  • Building a renewed image of the sector among women and society, with actions such as disseminating most appealing ICT topics for young women (exciting, diverse, profitable etc.);
  • Empowering women in the sector, e.g. promoting, together with industry, harmonised European educational curricula to foster clear and straightforward ICT careers paths;
  • Increasing the number of women entrepreneurs in ICTs, e.g. improving access to seed and venture capital programs for women entrepreneurs;
  • Improving working conditions in the sector, e.g. by highlighting the improved performance of businesses employing women.

Background

Some of the study's key findings:

  • On women leaving the sector too early: while 20% of women aged 30 with ICT-related degrees work in the sector, only 9% of women above 45 years of age do so;
  • On women being underrepresented in managerial and decision-making positions: 19.2% of ICT-sector workers have female bosses, compared to 45.2% of non-ICT workers;
  • On the number of female entrepreneurs in ICTs being too low compared to non-ICT sectors: women make up 31.3% of self-employed Europeans and only 19.2% of ICT entrepreneurs.

The study also points to the factors that prevent women from fully participating in the sector: (a) cultural traditions and stereotypes about women's role, (b) internal barriers and socio-psychological factors, such as lack of self-confidence, lack of bargaining skills, risk-aversion and negative attitudes towards competition and (c) external barriers, such as a strongly male-dominated environment, difficulties in balancing personal and professional life and lack of role models in the sector.

The study showcases a variety of profiles of women working in the area of digital technology: from a videogames developer and a digital communications specialist to an ICT policy-maker. Profiling of digital role models for girls and giving visibility to women in the sector is the key way to attracting many more girls to consider a career in the ICT sector, the report concludes.
 
Useful links

Women active in the ICT sector executive summary

Women active in the ICT sector study

Women in ICT in the Digital Agenda

Have Your Say

Digital Agenda for Europe

Neelie Kroes

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European Commission and Member States to assess barriers restricting access to regulated professions (2 October 2013)

The European Commission has today adopted a communication announcing the start of an evaluation of national regulations on access to professions. Regulated professions are professions to which access is conditional upon the possession of specific qualifications or for which the use of a specific title is protected, e.g. pharmacists or architects.

There are very good reasons why such restrictions may exist, for example consumer protection. However, overly restrictive conditions for accessing certain professions may discourage or even prevent young people from entering the labour market. Different regulatory regimes may make it difficult for qualified professionals to apply for job vacancies in other Member States.

Improving access to professions, in particular through a more proportionate and transparent regulatory environment in Member States, would facilitate the mobility of qualified professionals in the single market and the cross-border provision of professional services. It could also have a positive impact on the employment situation and enhance economic growth, especially since professional services alone amount to around 9% of GDP in the European Union.

In order to provide a more complete picture of the barriers affecting the access to and exercise of regulated professions, a report on the findings of the peer review on legal form and shareholding requirements conducted under the Services Directive is also published today. These requirements, which often come in addition to restrictions on access to professions, may hamper the setting up of subsidiaries and multi-disciplinary practices.

Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: "Despite our best efforts, mobility of professionals across the European Union is still low. Conditions for accessing certain professions can be complex, burdensome and very often vary greatly from one Member State to another. This discourages workers from seeking and finding employment in other Member States. I am convinced that Member States mapping out which professions are regulated, and then carrying out a screening and evaluation of the barriers to accessing professions will be a useful exercise. This is not about deregulating professions or sanctioning Member States but rather about ensuring better access to professional services through reviewing what entry structures best promote a simplified, proportionate, safe and transparent system."

Main elements of the communication

Today’s communication implements requirements set out in the revised Professional Qualifications Directive – one of the 2011 Single Market Act I priorities. It foresees first a transparency exercise: each Member State will have to report the list of professions it regulates, including those at regional level. The Commission will then publish this list in the form of a European map of regulated professions that will clearly display which professions are regulated and for which countries. Thanks to this map, a professional wanting to work in another Member State should know what conditions each country requires for the job he or she would like to apply for.

Conditions for accessing professions can vary significantly between EU countries. The reasons behind those differences are often not well understood. The process launched today invites Member States in a second stage to conduct over the next two years a mutual evaluation of the respective barriers they have in place limiting the access to certain professions. It sets out an ambitious work plan for the Commission and the national administrations participating in the mutual evaluation. Stakeholders, particularly those representing professionals, will be fully involved during this exercise. This should also allow a dialogue between Member States using different approaches, where the impact of all types of formal and informal restrictions on the access to professional activities should be examined.

The results of the Special Eurobarometer ‘Internal Market’ (issue 398) also published today give an indication of how consumers perceive these issues. EU citizens consider, when choosing a service provider, that as well as possessing specific qualifications,  reputation and professional experience are very important.

Background

Disproportionate burdens in accessing regulated professions was among the issues highlighted in the European Council conclusions of 2 March 2012, which called for the removal of unjustified regulatory barriers in the Single Market. On 14 June 2012, the European Parliament also called on the Commission to "identify areas where Member States are disproportionately blocking access to regulated professions". Major reforms are already underway in Portugal, Poland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain to facilitate access to regulated professions. The issue was also raised in the Country Specific Recommendations of some Member States.

In its Communication “A partnership for new growth in services 2012-2015” of 8 June 2012 (see IP/12/587), the Commission highlighted the importance of modernising the regulatory framework for professional services and announced a communication on regulated professions.

Today's communication will begin the implementation of Article 59 of the revised Professional Qualifications Directive – one of the 2011 Single Market Act I priorities. This provision of the Directive - for which political agreement was reached in June (see MEMO/13/552) - requires all Member States to review all their national regulations restricting access to professions and to engage in a mutual evaluation.
This Communication also builds on the outcome of a workshop organised on 17 June 2013 with national ministries and stakeholders representing professions.

In July 2012, the European Council endorsed recommendations from the Commission to several Member States on the need to open up professional services to strengthen their economies and competitiveness. These were maintained and even extended in 2013 for some Member States.

More information:

See MEMO/13/839: Evaluating national regulations on access to professions – frequently asked questions

The EU Single Market: Policy Developments - Professional Qualifications

2013 Special Eurobarometer 398 on the Internal Market

2013 Irish summary of Eurobarometer 398

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European Commission simplifies procedures and regulations for businesses and consumers (2 October 2013)

Whereas regulation at EU level is essential in many areas, it is often accused of stifling businesses, especially the smallest ones, or of interfering too much in citizens' daily lives. 74% of Europeans believe that the EU generates too much red tape. In response to that concern, the Commission has made a concerted effort over the past few years to streamline legislation and reduce regulatory burdens. In his 2013 State of the Union address on 11 September, President Barroso stressed the importance of smart regulation and declared that the European Union needs to be "big on big things and smaller on small things".

Today, the Commission takes another important step in ensuring that EU legislation is fit for purpose. In a Communication the Commission sets out in a concrete way, policy area by policy area, where it will take further action to simplify or withdraw EU laws, ease the burden on businesses and facilitate implementation. It is the result of a screening of the entire stock of EU legislation. The Commission also announced today the intention to publish a scoreboard to track progress at European and national in this regard. This exercise is at the heart of the Commission's Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT).

President Barroso said: "Europe is there to help find solutions to the big challenges we are collectively facing. However, to be effective, we need to make sure we concentrate on the right priorities and have the right dose of regulation. Not everything that is good is good at European level. Let's think twice whether, when and where we need to act at European level. The President continued: "With REFIT, the Commission has undertaken the most comprehensive exercise to date to make EU law lighter and simpler. Our resolute application of the principles of subsidiarity and proportionality will not put into question the important benefits for citizens and business of EU regulation, particularly the rules underpinning the Single Market. Today's REFIT package provides a pragmatic outlook for the future of regulation in Europe just a few months ahead of the European elections in May 2014."

In today's "REFIT" - Communication on the results and next steps on regulatory fitness and performance, the Commission

  1. gives an overview of what has been achieved in recent years to keep EU laws fit for purpose by simplifying and reducing costs. During the past 10 years the Commission has initiated major policy reforms. These include proposals for the reduction of the cost of broadband deployment, the Water Framework Directive, the Schengen Visa Code initiative, the Consumer Rights Directive, the Services Directive, the Unitary Patent Regulation, and the Union Customs Code. Since 2005, the Commission approved 660 initiatives aimed at simplification, codification or recasting. More than 5.590 legal acts have been repealed. The Top Ten consultation of SMEs on the most burdensome EU laws has fed-in the priorities of business into the Commission's regulatory fitness agenda. Concrete improvements are being introduced for SMEs for example: the requirements for recording equipment (tachograph) in road transport are being simplified and fees for SMEs under REACH have been reduced by between 35-95%; a standard VAT declaration will be proposed still in October. Between 2007 and 2012, a decrease of 26% of administrative burden for businesses has been achieved, equivalent to savings of EUR 32.3 billion per year with a further EUR 5 billion still pending adoption by the co-legislator. The Commission itself has gone beyond the target by tabling proposals with a burden reduction potential close to EUR 41 billion (33%). Unfortunately, some of this potential, estimated at more than EUR 3 billion, was lost in the legislative process as the Commission proposals were amended. Promoting e-invoicing in the VAT area as well as exemptions or special regimes for SMEs in the areas of accounting, electronic waste and intra-EU trade statistics were among the main achievements of the programme. And above all, the way in which the Commission prepares regulation has changed significantly: Impact assessments, stakeholder consultations (including with social partners) and ex-post evaluations are systematically applied across the Commission and will be strengthened further.
  2. presents important legislative initiatives for simplification and burden reduction that are before the co-legislator, for example in the area of animal health, consumer product safety and market surveillance, public procurement, the Common Consolidated Corporate Tax base, clinical trials for pharmaceuticals and package travel.
  3. lists areas for further action for 2013-14 to simplify existing legislation through amendments and consolidation of existing EU law (e.g. in the areas of information and consultation of workers, business statistics, company law, introduction of a standard VAT declaration, zoo-technical measures and trade regulations); and by following up on evaluation recommendations: a major outcome of the screening exercise was the identification of areas that need assessment to better identify regulatory burden relief so as to meet EU policy goals at least cost and best achieve the benefits of EU regulation. Up to the end of 2014, the Commission will have carried-out or launched 47 evaluations, Fitness Checks or other reports with a view to reducing regulatory burden. A particular effort is made in the areas of environment, enterprise and industry and employment. This includes new Fitness Checks in the fields of chemicals not covered by REACH, NATURA 2000, type approval of motor vehicles, waste, and the general food law. Evaluations with a focus on regulatory fitness have notably been programmed on health and safety at work, the temporary agency workers Directive, on assessment and management of environmental noise, remedies in public procurement and excise duty arrangements. The Commission is also starting to plan evaluation of the coherence of the new range of EU regulation in the Financial Services sector.
  4. identifies those areas where the Commission considers to withdraw pending proposals and repeal existing EU law. Broadly speaking one can distinguish the following cases: 1) areas where the Commission continues to work assessing the issues but where the Commission has decided not to table proposals: This includes legislation in the area of occupational safety and health for hairdressers pending on on-going evaluations, muscular skeletal disorders and screen displays and environmental tobacco smoke. 2) legislation that is no longer needed in light of developments and where the Commission plans to propose their repeal. 10 proposals to repeal legislation are planned, for example legislation on the promotion of clean and energy-efficient road transport vehicles, the supply of crude oil and petroleum products, the classification, packaging and labelling of dangerous preparations, steel statistics. 3) Proposals that have stalled in the co-decision procedure and where there is little realistic chance of progress. Therefore the Commission will consider to withdraw proposals identified in this category including the soil directive and a directive simplifying VAT obligations, a proposal on the statute of a European private company2, the regulation on statistics on steel and the retrofitting of mirrors to heavy goods vehicles.
  5. outlines new horizontal actions to make EU law fit for purpose. The Commission would for example identify the administrative obligations stemming from EU law and its national implementation and review it regularly to identify possibilities for reduction. Best practice exchange among Member States will be facilitated to keep national implementation of EU law as light as possible. The Commission will also undertake dedicated actions to facilitate the implementation of new obligations, particularly in areas of specific concern to SMEs. The Commission will also identify all REFIT legislative initiatives including withdrawals, repeals and consolidations in its annual work programme. Business, including SMEs, and all other interested parties will be in a position to suggest areas in which they see potential for Fitness Checks.
  6.  announces the annual publication of a REFIT scoreboard to track progress at European and national level and facilitate dialogue on regulatory fitness with citizens, Member States, business and civil society at large.

Next steps

In order to be successful in implementing the commitment to smart regulation, the European Parliament and the Council need to show a similar level of ambition so that the proposed measures to simplify and reduce regulatory burden can be adopted swiftly. The Commission will make every effort with the other institutions to ensure this. It will also continue to cooperate closely with Member States and stakeholders to collect views and suggestions on regulatory fitness that can be addressed within the REFIT programme and to further improve its effectiveness.

The background:

On 11 September in his State of the Union address, President Barroso said the following: "I value subsidiarity highly. For me, subsidiarity is not a technical concept. It is a fundamental democratic principle. An ever closer union among the citizens of Europe demands that decisions are taken as openly as possible and as closely to the people as possible. Not everything needs a solution at European level. Europe must focus on where it can add most value. Where this is not the case, it should not meddle. The EU needs to be big on big things and smaller on smaller things - something we may occasionally have neglected in the past. The EU needs to show it has the capacity to set both positive and negative priorities. As all governments, we need to take extra care of the quality and quantity of our regulation knowing that, as Montesquieu said, 'les lois inutiles affaiblissent les lois nécessaires'.['Useless laws weaken the necessary ones'.] But there are areas of major importance where Europe must have more integration, more unity. Where only a strong Europe can deliver results."

Regulating at EU level adds value in areas such as competition, trade and the internal market to build a level playing field that creates opportunities for business and consumers. It also protects the health, safety and rights of citizens. EU legislation creates a common framework by replacing or aligning twenty eight different national laws. It allows the EU Member States to work together to deal with problems that do not respect national borders.

Smart regulation is a continuous process, not a one off operation. Ensuring that EU legislation is 'fit for purpose' is essential for putting Europe back on track towards more growth and jobs. Therefore, the Commission initiated a Regulatory Fitness and Performance Programme (REFIT) in December 2012. REFIT is the expression of the Commission's commitment to a simple, clear, stable and predictable regulatory framework for businesses, workers and citizens. It will benefit citizens and businesses alike, provided that also the other institutions and Member States show a similar level of ambition.

Further information

More details and examples: MEMO/13/833

Infographic about Refit  

Read the text of the Communication,its annex, infographics and further information: http://ec.europa.eu/refit

About smart regulation in general: http://ec.europa.eu/smart-regulation

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Two Irish projects shortlisted for European Enterprise Promotion Awards 2013 (1 October 2013)

The Student Enterprise Awards and Senior Enterprise, two Irish projects promoting entrepreneurship, have been shortlisted for the 2013 European Enterprise Promotion Awards. The Student Enterprise Awards Programme is shortlisted in the Promoting Entrepreneurial Spirit Category and Senior Enterprise is shortlisted in the Investing in Skills Category. The European Enterprise Promotion Awards are run by the Enterprise and Industry Directorate General of the European Commission.

The Student Enterprise Awards Programme provides students with an opportunity to gain business and entrepreneurial skills in a practical real-life scenario where they establish and run their own mini-enterprises for six months or more. The City & County Enterprise Boards, a Government backed network of support agencies for the small firms sector, established a nationwide competition run annually at different levels in secondary schools. Numbers participating have grown year-on-year and now exceed 17,000.

Senior Enterprise is specifically designed to encourage a greater involvement with enterprise by those aged 50 and over, and to raise awareness of their potential to start a business, acquire or invest in a business started by someone else, or to become a volunteer mentor. As a result almost 1,000 individuals receiving some support from Senior Enterprise in Ireland, the UK and France, have set up new businesses.

The Irish projects are two of nineteen shortlisted in total. The Awards scheme received several hundred entries from 26 EU countries – including new EU Member State Croatia – as well as Turkey and Serbia. Winners for each of the six categories will be announced by European Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani at the SME Assembly on 25 November 2013 in Vilnius, Lithuania. One project will also receive the prestigious Grand Jury Prize.

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Last update: 11/12/2013  |Top