The results of the Spring Eurobarometer opinion poll have just been published. Data show that optimism is on the rise in Europe with an increasing majority of people in the EU positive about the future of the European Union. Irish people are the most optimistic of all (77%) and most likely of all to have a positive image of the EU, at 58%, up 3 points since autumn 2016. Close to a majority of Europeans are now also optimistic about their national economy, while support for the euro shows its highest score since 2004. Over two-thirds of Irish people are positive about the national economy (68%, up 4 points since autumn 2016).
Ireland is to receive over €2.9 million from the new EU school fruit, vegetables and milk scheme for the 2017/2018 school year. The new scheme, which brings together the old School Fruit and Vegetables and School Milk Schemes, aims to promote healthy eating habits among children. It will include the distribution of fruit, vegetables and milk products in schools, as well as dedicated educational programmes to teach pupils about the importance of good nutrition and to explain how food is produced.
The European Commission's 2017 Consumer Scoreboard just published, shows Ireland in the top ranks for online commerce.
More and more EU consumers are shopping online and their trust in e-commerce has increased, in particular in buying online from other EU countries. The pattern is particularly strong in Ireland, with Irish consumers also showing very high levels of trust in buying online.
At a press conference following the second round of Article 50 negotiations this week, the EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier said: "On Ireland, we had a first discussion on the impact of Brexit on two key subjects: the Good Friday Agreement and the Common Travel Area. We agree that the important issue of the Good Friday Agreement, in all its dimensions, requires more detailed discussions. In particular, more work needs to be done to protect North-South cooperation between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Today, that cooperation is embedded in the common framework of EU law and EU policies. We need to better understand how the UK intends on ensuring the continuation of this cooperation after Brexit. We also agreed that the UK should clarify in the next session how it intends on maintaining the Common Travel Area after leaving the EU."
The EU Commissioner for Security Union, Julian King, was today at this year's McGill summer school for a town-hall style debate on the EU's latest moves to boost cooperation between Member States in the fight against cyber attacks and radicalisation. At a time when people's personal data is held for ransom by hackers, when even democratic elections are subject to cyber-threats, what is the EU doing to protect its citizens?
See below for the full text of the Commissioner's speech.
Consumers can now pursue cross-border claims through the European Small Claims Procedure up to the value of €5,000. This raises the threshold for cross-border claims made by consumers through the European Small Claims Procedure (ESCP) from €2,000 to €5,000. It's part of a package of new rules which take effect today, 14th July 2017.
Ireland had the highest birth rate in the EU in 2016 and the joint lowest death rate. There were 63,900 live births in Ireland in 2016, or 13.5 per 1,000 inhabitants, the highest birth rate in the EU and well above the average of 10 births per 1,000 inhabitants. At the same time, there were 30,400 deaths or 6.4 per 1,000 inhabitants, joint lowest rate in the EU with Cyprus. This led to a natural population change of +7.1 per 1,000 inhabitants, the largest natural rise in the EU.
Cyprus (+4.7‰) saw the second largest natural growth in its population in 2016 followed by Luxembourg (+3.6‰), France (+3.0‰), Sweden and the United Kingdom (both +2.7‰) and Malta (+2.6‰).
Gerry Kiely, Head of the European Commission Representation in Ireland, was presented this week with the official copy of the Special Seanad committee report "Brexit: Implications and Potential Solutions". Mr Kiely has transmitted this report directly to the negotiating team in the European Commission.
Agricultural policy is best managed at the EU level, focusing on core issues of support for farmers and environmental protection - this is one of the key results from the recent public consultation on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy unveiled in Brussels today.
Speaking at "The CAP - have your say" event in Brussels this morning, Commissioner Phil Hogan identified what he said were four key takeaways from the process. He said: "We can see from the results that Europeans want high quality food; Europeans want farmers to do more to protect the environment; Europeans want more investment in rural areas, and, I am pleased to see, two-thirds of farmers are willing to do more for climate and the environment."