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Reporting Europe 24 July 2014RSSRss
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EU News

European Commission proposes a higher and achievable energy savings target for 2030

New opportunities for European businesses, affordable energy bills for consumers, increased energy security through a significant reduction of natural gas imports and a positive impact on the environment: these are some of the expected benefits of the energy efficiency target for 2030 put forward this week by the European Commission in a Communication. The proposed target of 30 % builds on the achievements already reached: new buildings use half the energy they did in the 1980s and industry is about 19% less energy intensive than in 2001. The proposed target goes beyond the 25% energy savings target which would be required to achieve a 40% reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030. At the same time the framework on energy efficiency put forward today aims to strike the right balance between benefits and costs. Günther H. Oettinger, Vice-President of the EU Commission responsible for energy said: "Our proposal is the basis to drive the EU towards increased security of supply, innovation and sustainability, all in an affordable way. It is ambitious and at the same time it is realistic. The energy efficiency strategy will complete the 2030 framework on energy and climate which has been presented in January 2014. Our aim is to give the right signal to the market and encourage further investments in energy saving technologies to the benefit of businesses, consumers and the environment." The Communication on energy efficiency and its contribution to energy security and the 2030 framework also reviews progress towards the European Union's 20% energy efficiency target for 2020. The EU is currently forecast to achieve energy savings of 18-19% in 2020; however, the agreed target of 20% can be reached if all EU countries fully implement the already agreed legislation. The Commission does not intend to propose new measures, but calls on the Member States to step up their efforts to ensure collective delivery of the 2020 target.

 

 

Commission publishes encouraging second round of EU-wide test results for horse meat DNA in beef products

A second round of coordinated pan-European testing for horse meat DNA in beef products was launched in April this year. This testing was a follow-up to the exercise carried out in 2013 in the wake of the horse meat crisis, where 4.6% of products tested positive. This second round of testing was requested and co-financed by the Commission. The findings are encouraging as they show that the situation has significantly improved, with only 0.61% of samples testing positive.  EU Commissioner for Health, Tonio Borg said "Today's findings confirm that our collective efforts are bearing fruit and that increased controls to uncover food fraud are having real impact. Restoring the trust and confidence of European consumers and businesses in our food chain is vital for our economy given that the food sector is one of the EU's largest economic sectors. I believe that this on-going work will continue to pay dividends. Fraudulent practices must be tackled through joined-up efforts to target the weakest links in the food supply chain." The purpose of the coordinated monitoring plan was to test food marketed as containing beef to detect the presence of unlabelled horse meat. The testing scheme was co-financed at 50% by the European Commission. In each EU country, the number of tests recommended to detect the extent of the mislabelling varied between 10-150 samples depending on the size of the country. Some EU countries exceeded the number of tests recommended by the Commission. Overall, 2 622 tests were carried out by the competent authorities in the 28 EU countries, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. Of those tests, only 16 revealed positive traces of horse meat DNA, or 0.61% of the samples. This is a considerable improvement on the results of the first round of coordinated controls carried out in 2013, where 4.6% of samples tested returned traces of undeclared horse meat.

All the 16 cases are being followed-up by the competent authorities in the Member States concerned with appropriate enforcement measures (market withdrawal, tracing, relabeling, extra controls at food business operator) and penalties. The Commission will continue to work closely with EU countries and other partners to strengthen Europe's ability to tackle food fraud by implementing a series of initiatives set out in the action plan that was launched in response to the 2013 horse meat scandal. These initiatives include creating an EU Food Fraud Network for the exchange of administrative assistance and cooperation between EU countries and developing a dedicated IT tool that will underpin the work of the network and enable members to rapidly exchange information on potential cases of cross-border fraud.

The use of ad-hoc coordinated control plans has proven a useful tool to uncover fraud in the food supply chain. The Commission plans to make further use of this tool and is currently discussing with EU countries the prioritisation of products that will be the focus of future testing schemes.

 

 

COSME: European Commission and European Investment Fund sign agreement which will boost funding opportunities for SMEs

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Europe will soon have access to up to € 25 bn of additional finance, as a result of an agreement signed today between the European Commission and the European Investment Fund (EIF). The signing ceremony of the agreement will be hosted by the newly-appointed Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, Ferdinando Nelli Feroci. Thanks to the € 1,3 bn allocated in the COSME budget for SME financing, it will be possible to mobilise up to € 25 bn via leverage effects from financial intermediaries over the next seven years. The agreement paves the way for providing equity and debt financing for SMEs under the EU Competitiveness of Enterprises and SMEs (COSME) programme by the end of 2014. Following the signature of the agreement, the EIF will open a call for expression of interest to which eligible financial institutions (banks, guarantee institutions, funds etc.) can apply. After a thorough due diligence process, the EIF will select financial intermediaries which can then make the new finance available to European SMEs across all sectors. Ferdinando Nelli Feroci, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship, said: "Thanks to COSME, European SMEs will soon have access to up to € 25 bn in additional finance in the form of both loan guarantees and equity. This is an important part of the EU's response to overcome the well-known difficulties SMEs face in obtaining access to credit. The signing of this agreement today shows that the European Commission is firmly committed to help EU SMEs thrive: they are the back-bone of the EU economy, and are responsible for the creation of 85% of all new jobs."  Pier Luigi Gilibert, Chief Executive of the EIF said: "Through COSME, the EIF will be able to support even more SMEs across Europe over the next 7 years. Building on the successes of the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme, COSME’s predecessor, which has enabled SME financing of approximately €20 bn and helped to support more than 1 million jobs, we aim to further improve the access of finance for SMEs and to contribute to growth and employment in Europe."

 

The right to a basic bank account for all European citizens

The European Commission has welcomed the adoption by the EU’s Council of Ministers of the Directive on the transparency and comparability of payment account fees, payment account switching and access to a basic payment account The Directive will foster the creation of a real Single Market for retail financial services bringing numerous benefits to EU citizens by providing them with a right to a basic payment account irrespective of their place of residence or financial situation. The Directive will also substantially improve the transparency of bank account fees and make it easier to switch a bank account from one bank to another.

The Directive will now be signed by the European Parliament and published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member States will then have two years after its entry into force to implement the Directive into their national law. Vice-President Michel Barnier, responsible for Internal Market and Services said: "We are very happy that the Council has confirmed its support for a very important piece of legislation. The Directive will help millions of consumers who often encounter difficulties in accessing a bank account in the EU, allowing them to better enjoy the benefits of the single market in this area and to participate fully in the economic and social life of a modern society. Until now, many consumers were paying excessive fees for their bank account although better alternatives existed. Thanks to the new Directive, consumers will get clearer information about the fees they have to pay," Commissioner for Consumer Policy Neven Mimica said. "People will be able to compare the costs of different accounts and switch to the better option more easily," he added.

 

Commission welcomes Council's agreement to improve how seas and coastal areas are used

The EU's General Affairs Council has adopted legislation to improve the planning of maritime activities. The new Maritime Spatial Planning Directive will help Member States develop and coordinate various activities taking place at sea so that they are as efficient and sustainable as possible. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki welcomed the Council's green light: "We want to make the growth of maritime sectors both smart and sustainable. The Directive reconciles the diverse uses of the sea and will make access to maritime space more predictable. This will help avoid potential conflicts between users, so that businesses can enjoy a more stable and assured environment, and so that we can better manage the impact of human activities on the marine environment." Commissioner for the Environment Janez Poto─Źnik added: "This is a good example of how economic development and safeguarding the environment can go hand in hand. Good planning means a win on both counts." The Directive is a cornerstone in the EU's Blue Growth strategy, allowing more efficient implementation of EU legislation for both economic and environmental gain. With Maritime Spatial Planning, operators and developers will have greater certainty about their investments and should also see a reduction in red tape. Each relevant EU Member State must now transpose the Directive into their national legislation and to nominate a Competent Authority in charge of its implementation by September 2016. Although national maritime spatial plans must comply with a number of minimum requirements set by the Directive, countries are free to tailor the content of the plans to their specific economic, social and environmental priorities, as well as to their cultural traditions and legal context.

 

 

News in Brief

Stay road smart this summer with new EU road app

What is the speed limit on Spanish motorways? Do cyclists need to wear helmets in Sweden? What safety equipment should be carried in cars driven in Slovakia? From now on, holiday makers don't need to spend time checking and remember the different road rules in Europe if they download the European Commission's new free smartphone app "Going Abroad". The app covers information about all the important road safety information, such as speed and alcohol limits, traffic lights and the use of mobile phones. In fact, those areas which are the greatest cause of accidents, as well as other helpful advice. The app also contains a road safety quiz and a memory game to help educate as well as entertain passengers, young and old, during long car journeys. The app is available for iPhone and iPad, Google Android and Microsoft Windows phones in 22 languages. Its release just prior to the start of the summer holidays is timely because July and August are the deadliest road traffic months with on average some 50% more road deaths than in the "safest" month, February. Download the "Going Abroad" app

Useful tips for a worry-free summer

With the holiday season already starting and millions of Europeans planning trips across the continent and beyond, here are a few tips on what to do when faced with a problem. If you are wondering who will cover the costs of your treatment in case of an accident or want to know what papers to prepare before taking your dog aboard, here is a list of the things the European Union is doing to assist you on your travels. See MEMO/14/365.

Top News 

Top News from the European Commission: 19 July – 30 September.

Consultations

Have your say on the future of science: public consultation on Science 2.0

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on ‘Science 2.0’, in order to gauge the trend towards a more open, data-driven and people-focused way of doing research and innovation. Researchers are using digital tools to get thousands of people participating in research, for example by asking them to report if they catch flu in order to monitor outbreaks and predict possible epidemics. Scientists are being more open too: sharing their findings online at an early stage, comparing and debating their work to make it better. Increasingly, scientific publications are available online for free. By some estimates, 90 percent of all available data in the world has been generated in the past two years, and scientific data output is growing at a rate of 30 percent per year. The consultation will look at awareness of and participation in these trends, as well as get views on the opportunities created by ‘Science 2.0’ to strengthen the competitiveness of European science and research. The deadline for responses is 30 September 2014. The consultation, as well as background information, can be found at the European Commission website: Your voice in Europe (http://ec.europa.eu/research/science-2.0).

EU Corporate Social Responsibility policy: The Commission seeks stakeholders’ views on achievements and future challenges

The Commission is seeking stakeholders’ views about the impact of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Strategy over the past three years and on the role it should play in the future. The Commission's 2011-14 CSR Strategy set an ambitious agenda to strengthen its implementation at international level and created a number of models on how to practically implement its principles. More and more CSR is becoming a valuable tool to improve a company's competitiveness: encouraging social and environmental responsibility in the corporate sector can also bring benefits in terms of cost reductions, access to capital, improved customer relationships, human resource management and innovation capacity. Amongst others, the consultation that the Commission is launching asks for concrete feedback on how successful the Commission’s actions have been in enhancing market reward for CSR, further integrating CSR in education, training and research and better aligning European and global approaches to CSR avoiding red tape in particular for SMEs. For more information, see the full consultation which will be open for contributions until 15 August. 

Information on the EU is also available at the website of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland.   For a full list of press releases issued by the European Commission, see the RAPID website. 

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