Archive pour la catégorie ‘Enlargement’

Local and regional EU representatives are discussing with their eastern neighbors

Vendredi 9 septembre 2011

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Cross-border cooperation programmes with the new neighbour countries

Yesterday, the inaugural conference of regional and local authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP) took place in the Polish city of Poznan. Bringing together 36 local and regional representatives of the EU invited to interact with representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, this conference encourages more cross-border cooperation and materialize a little bit more the Eastern Partnership of the EU.

Political developments in Europe’s Eastern neighbourhood have an impact on the EU’s prosperity and stability. This is why the European Union launched the ‘Eastern Partnership’ in December 2008. Proposed measures to deepen the EU’s relationship with the six neighbouring countries range from the negotiation of comprehensive free trade agreements to gradual visa liberalisation.

To support these plans, the EU Committee of the Regions set up the Conference of regional and local authorities for the Eastern Partnership (CORLEAP). Speaking at today’s opening session, Štefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood, welcomed the initiative. He is confident that the new platform will become a thriving centre of cooperation between regional and local authorities from the EU and the Eastern Partnership countries.

Committee of the Regions President Mercedes Bresso emphasised the local and regional dimension of the Eastern Partnership. Strengthening the relationship with Eastern neighbours is not just a matter for national governments and EU institutions. If the EU wants to support democratisation and the respect for its values, the EU has to work together with all levels of government, including local and regional authorities, as well as civil society.

In a declaration adopted today, CORLEAP members demanded that regional and local authorities be given more say in the Eastern Partnership and urged more funding for projects strengthening local democracy, human rights at local and regional level and citizens’ participation. They also requested that the new bilateral agreements to be negotiated between the EU and the Eastern partner countries must contain specific sections on strengthening local and regional self-government. Committee President Bresso will present these requests to heads of state and government at the Eastern Partnership summit, which will take place in Warsaw on 29-30 September.

Marek Wozniak, Marshal of the Wielkopolska Region which hosted the inaugural conference, emphasised the benefits of cross-border cooperation for citizens. The city of Poznan; is one of the symbols of Poland’s struggle for European values, and has recently become known for its openness to international dialogue. In Wielkopolska, they have enthusiastically supported and implemented concepts of tightening cooperation and dialogue with local governments of Eastern European and South Caucasian countries. Marek Wozniak can already present a portfolio of joint projects, which were conducted mainly with Georgia and Ukraine.

CORLEAP will continue as a yearly event. By holding regular thematic meetings and facilitating the exchange of project proposals, best practices and know-how, CORLEAP intends to become the hub for direct cooperation between regions and cities from the EU and the Eastern partner countries.

The dialogue between Serbia and Kosovo relieves the European Parliament

Jeudi 8 septembre 2011

Although some tensions persist around the border between Kosovo and Serbia, the recent dialogue between the two countries, highlighted this week at a meeting of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, is strongly supported by European parliamentarians.

Parliament’s strong support for Ms Jahjaga’s work was stressed, at the start of the meeting, by chair of the Delegation for relations with South-East Europe Eduard Kukan (EPP, SK). However, Mr Kukan also said MEPs were very concerned about recent incidents between the Serbian community and Kosovo police on the borders with Serbia. He reiterated the need for Kosovo to meet benchmarks, and especially for the integration of returnees, as a precondition for visa liberalisation for Kosovar citizens.

Rule of law throughout Kosovo

Ms Jahjaga said that there was no alternative to establishing the rule of law and implementing the constitution throughout in the territory of the Republic of Kosovo. She welcomed EU rule of law mission EULEX’s response to the torching of a border post at the end of July.

Ms Jahjaga said that the Kosovo is one, and any action that might eventually lead to any partition of Kosovo is and will always be unacceptable. She also said the Serbian community was a hostage of illegal and parallel structures in the north of Kosovo.

Serbia and Kosovo should support one another

Ms Jahjaga said that relations between Kosovo and EU were stagnating, and urged that it was time now to turn the European perspective into a European reality.

Ms Jahjaga said she fully supported dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. She says that Kosovo and Serbia need to shape their future, and it is towards the European Union. She adds that Serbia and Kosovo should support each other in this process.

There is support in Parliament for Kosovo to join the EU, said rapporteur on Kosovo Ulrike Lunacek (Greens, AT), adding that it was understandable that the Kosovo government had taken legitimate action in the northern part of the country.

Missing recognitions

Doris Pack (EPP, DE), observed that the five EU Member States that had not yet recognized Kosovo’s independence, had their own problems and were comparing things which are not comparable. In her reply, Ms Jahjaga admitted that the lack of recognitions was a real obstacle, but underlined that 81 countries had already recognised Kosovo.

Hannes Swoboda (S&D, AT), underlined that the missing recognitions could be brought about only, if Kosovo and Serbia could solve their problems by dialogue. He referred to Austria’s role in Italy’s South Tyrol, as a potential example of a way to represent Serbia’s justified interests in an organised way. There is a broad support in Parliament for visa liberalisation, he added.

Regional approach

Rapporteur on Serbia Jelko Kacin (ALDE, SL), said recent dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade had helped Serbia to achieve EU candidate country status. He said only the regional approach could bring stability and prosperity for Western Balkan countries. Mr Kacin believed Kosovo was part of the solution, and not that of the problem, in the region.

European citizens making more requests for Commission documents than ever before

Mercredi 17 août 2011

Europe’s citizens are showing an ever greater interest in Commission activities, over a growing number of policy areas. That’s the conclusion of the latest annual report on public access to documents, which shows an 18% increase in the number of requests for documents in 2010.

In total, the Commission received 6,361 requests for access to documents in 2010. This compares to 5,401 in 2009 – and just 450 ten years ago. These requests concerned everything from a single document to entire files concerning various administrative procedures. The many requests for documents that were already publicly available are not included in these figures.

Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič said: “These figures reflect a growing interest in Commission activities and I welcome that. Disclosure of documents is often in the public interest and is a key way of increasing transparency. This can only be a good thing. Greater transparency ensures that the Commission is open to public scrutiny and accountable for its work.”

Competition policy topped the list of areas of interest, accounting for nearly 1 in 10 requests, followed by home and justice affairs, transport and energy, the internal market and the environment. The biggest proportion of requests came from people or organisations based in Belgium (17.95%), with Germany close behind (16.62%).

In certain limited circumstances defined by the legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001), the Commission can refuse to supply a document. Nevertheless, full access was granted in more than four out of five cases. The principal reasons for refusing an initial request in 2010 were: protection of the purpose of inspections, investigations and audits, protection of the Commission’s decision-making process, and protection of commercial interests.

This reflects the fact that many requests concern a specific, private interest rather than a general, public interest. Complainants in infringement proceedings, competitors or alleged victims of anti-competitive behaviour are among those who request documents of interest to themselves, but which cannot be made publicly available without harming a legitimate countervailing interest.

The report points out that analysing such requests creates a substantial administrative burden that consumes significant public resources. But recent case law from the Court of Justice, also outlined in the report, should help establish a balance between different rights, and increase efficiency in dealing with requests.

European demography EU27 population 502.5 million at 1 January 2011 More than 5 million children born in the EU27 in 2010

Jeudi 28 juillet 2011

On 1 January 20111, the population of the EU27 was estimated at 502.5 million, compared with 501.1 million on
1 January 2010. The population of the EU27 grew by 1.4 million in 2010, an annual rate of +2.7 per 1000 inhabitants, due to a natural increase of 0.5 million (+1.0‰) and net migration of 0.9 million (+1.7‰).

The population of the euro area (EA17) was estimated at 332.0 million on 1 January 2011, compared with 330.9 million on 1 January 2010. The population of the euro area grew by 1.0 million in 2010, an annual rate of +3.1‰, due to a natural increase of 0.3 million (+1.0‰) and net migration of 0.7 million (+2.1‰).

These figures come from a report2 published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Highest natural growth rates in Ireland, Cyprus, France, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom

In 2010, 5.4 million children were born in the EU27. The crude birth rate was 10.7 per 1000 inhabitants, the same as in 2009. The highest birth rates were recorded in Ireland (16.5‰), the United Kingdom (13.0‰), France (12.8‰), Cyprus (12.4‰) and Sweden (12.3‰), and the lowest rates in Germany (8.3‰), Latvia (8.6‰), Hungary (9.0‰), Italy (9.3‰), Austria (9.4‰), Portugal (9.5‰) and Malta (9.6‰).

There were 4.8 million deaths registered in the EU27 in 2010. The crude death rate was 9.7 per 1000 inhabitants, unchanged compared with 2009. The highest death rates were observed in Bulgaria (14.6‰), Latvia (13.4‰), Hungary (13.0‰), Lithuania (12.8‰) and Romania (12.1‰), and the lowest rates in Ireland (6.2‰), Cyprus (6.7‰), Malta (7.2‰) and Luxembourg (7.4‰).

Consequently, the highest natural growth of the population (the difference between live births and deaths per 1000 inhabitants) was registered in Ireland (+10.3‰), well ahead of Cyprus (+5.7‰), France (+4.4‰), Luxembourg (+4.2‰) and the United Kingdom (+3.9‰). Eight Member States had a negative natural growth, with the largest declines in Latvia (-4.8‰), Bulgaria (-4.6‰), Hungary (-4.0‰), Germany and Romania (both -2.2‰).

Highest population growth in 2010 in Luxembourg, Sweden, Malta, Belgium and the United Kingdom

In 2010, over 60% of the increase in the EU27 population came from migration. In relative terms, Luxembourg (+15.1‰), Malta (+5.4‰), Sweden (+5.3‰), Italy (+5.2‰) and Belgium (+5.1‰) had the largest net inflows, while Lithuania3 (-23.7‰) and Ireland (-7.5‰) recorded the highest net outflows.

In conclusion, the population increased in twenty Member States and decreased in seven, with considerable variations between Member States. The largest relative increases were observed in Luxembourg (+19.3‰), Sweden (+8.0‰), Malta (+7.8‰), Belgium (+7.2‰) and the United Kingdom (+6.6‰), and the largest decreases in Lithuania3 (-25.7‰), Latvia (-8.4‰) and Bulgaria (-7.8‰).

Ombudsman: Commission should improve its rules on conflicts of interest of Special Advisers

Lundi 18 juillet 2011

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has criticised the European Commission’s rules for the handling of possible conflicts of interest involving the tasks of Special Advisers and their outside activities.

The Ombudsman also advised the Commission on how to improve the rules. The Commission has six months in which to inform the Ombudsman of the follow-up it has given to these remarks. The Ombudsman’s intervention followed his investigation into a complaint by an NGO that the Commission failed adequately to follow its existing procedures before it appointed a former President of the European Parliament as Special Adviser to a Commissioner. The Ombudsman said “I hope that the Commission will take rapid action to address the general problems concerning its procedures governing this matter, which my inquiry has revealed”.

NGO complained about Special Adviser to former Commissioner Kuneva

From 2007 to 2010, the former President of the European Parliament, Mr Pat Cox, acted as an unpaid Special Adviser to Meglena Kuneva, who was at the time the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.

In February 2010, the NGO Corporate Europe Observatory turned to the Ombudsman, alleging that the Commission had failed adequately to address the issue of a possible conflict of interest between the Special Adviser’s tasks and his remunerated activities for multinational companies, as well as lobbying firms.

In its opinion, the Commission stated that there had been no conflict of interest, since Mr Cox advised Ms Kuneva in the field of political communication on consumer issues and not on policy definition.

After his investigation of the case, the Ombudsman concluded that, because the Commission failed adequately to follow its own procedural rules, it was impossible for him adequately to examine the issue of a possible conflict of interest in this case. The Ombudsman therefore criticised the Commission for failing to adhere to the procedural obligations required by its own rules on Special Advisers, as regards the appointment of Mr Cox in 2007 and 2009. In addition, the Ombudsman called on the Commission to improve its rules for handling possible conflicts of interest involving the tasks of Special Advisers and their outside activities.

The EU Budget under discussion at the EESC

Lundi 18 juillet 2011

Following the Commission proposal of 29 June on the Multi-annual Financial Framework (MFF) 2014-2020, the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) held on 14 July a debate on the future EU Budget with the Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, Janusz Lewandowski.

“We have put our proposal for the next Multi-annual Financial Framework 2014-2020 on the table. The Commission proposal is fundamentally a new vision of Europe for the next years, and we have decided to shape it in line with austerity, making the best of tax-payers money. However, this does not mean we will downgrade citizens’ demands and expectations. The European Commission is committed to going ahead with the European construction, to get a more profound Europe for citizens, and to continue properly implementing the Treaty of Lisbon”, stated Commissioner Lewandowski during his intervention. EESC Vice president Jacek Krawczyk underlined the point that the review of the budget was not an accountancy issue but a political project, and that the future of cohesion policy was a fundamental issue at stake.

Concerning the new MFF 2014-2020, the EESC, which already issued an opinion on the EU Budget Review ahead of the Commission’s proposal, is eager to implement a new own resources system to provide the EU with direct revenues and thereby abandon the “juste retour” principle which is . Furthermore, the EESC considers that the public should be properly informed of how the EU is spending tax-payers money and the EU should aim to drastically reduce administrative burden.

“It would be unacceptable for the process of European integration to be held to ransom by the imperative of reducing national deficits, as it would present a direct threat to the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy. Indeed, although an increase in the EU’s budget affects the national budgets, the cost of “non-Europe” would be even higher. And it is more intense European integration that will make it possible for Member States to find ways to reduce their deficits and hence to generate new growth and get back into a virtuous circle. This is because of the room for manoeuvre it provides, the economies of scale it generates and the leveraging effects it creates “, said Gérard Dantin, Vice-President of the Workers’ Group of the EESC and co-rapporteur of the EESC opinion on the EU Budget Review together with President of the Employers’ Group, Henri Malosse.

5.5 billion for reforms in the Western Balkans, Turkey and Iceland

Mardi 12 juillet 2011

In the framework of the Instrument for Pre-Accession assistance (IPA), the Commission has adopted the Multi-Annual Indicative Planning Documents that enable it to earmark 5,5 billion euro to support reforms in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iceland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo.

“The funds should act as a catalyst to drive forward reform in the enlargement countries and support the countries along their path of European integration. The EU assistance will also directly impact upon the daily lives of citizens by contributing to improved rule of law, governance, social conditions and economic prospects, particularly important as a number of countries in the region recover from the economic crisis”, said European Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Štefan Füle.

The funding will focus on areas such as reform of the judiciary and public administration, enhancing regional cooperation in the fight against organised crime and corruption, building up a vibrant civil society, fostering reforms and regional cooperation in education, as well as underpinning sustainable recovery from the economic crisis through investment in strategic infrastructure projects.

The European Commission has taken a number of steps in recent years to strengthen the link between the priorities established in the EU enlargement strategy, the Commission’s Progress Reports and the programming of IPA assistance. With this goal in mind the Commission has adopted sector-based planning of pre-accession assistance. Sectors given special attention in the different beneficiary countries also include, inter alia, private sector development, transport, environment, climate change and energy, agriculture and rural development.

Around 10% of the available IPA funds will be allocated to strengthen multilateral relations in the Western Balkans and Turkey, in areas identified as crucial for European integration and stability in the region where there is a clear need for regional co-operation: tackling cross-border problems, seeking greater efficiency through closer co-operation, leveraging existing instruments and facilitating networks of experts. Funds available for this will total around €521 million for the period 2011-2013.

Parliament endorses 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations

Lundi 11 juillet 2011

The support by the European Parliament is the final step before the launch of the European Year next January. The Council of Ministers endorsed the Year at their Employment and Social Affairs meeting in June.

Logo of the European Year 2012

The support by the European Parliament is the final step before the launch of the European Year next January. The Council of Ministers endorsed the Year at their Employment and Social Affairs meeting in June.

The European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations will raise awareness about meeting the challenges of ageing as well as sharing best practices.

Active ageing can give older people the opportunity to stay in work and share their experience, to continue to play an active role in society and live as healthy, independent and fulfilling lives as possible.

It calls for action in many different areas — employment, social protection, education and training, health and social services, housing and public infrastructure.

The European Year will go beyond awareness-raising and rally public and political support to encourage all policymakers and stakeholders to set themselves goals and take concrete action. To ensure follow-up, all commitments made will be published on the website of the European Year.

Poland takes over EU Council Presidency

Vendredi 1 juillet 2011

Today marks the start of Poland’s chairmanship of the Council of the European Union. Poland is taking over the Presidency from Hungary which has presided over the EU for the past six months.

The Polish Presidency gets under way amid many serious economic and social challenges now facing the European Union. Poland’s program and plan of activity are its response to those challenges. Poland’s objectives already enjoy the support of many European countries and community institutions. Surveys have shown that the Presidency is supported by Polish society, one of the EU’s most euro-enthusiastic.
The goals to be pursued over the next six months are efforts to deepen the integration of the EU market which should lead to swifter economic growth. Efforts will also be made to further enlarge the EU and strengthen cooperation with neighbours, guaranteeing greater stability in this region of the world, both in the south and the east. Another goal is the strengthening of Europe’s energy, food and military security. Also during Poland’s Presidency, the extremely important discussion on the new EU budget for 2014-2020 will get under way.
Today in Warsaw Prime minister Donald Tusk is playing host to the President of the European Council Herman van Rompuy, the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barrosoand Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, from whom he will symbolically take over the EU Council chairmanship.
A ceremony at the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera will mark the official inauguration of Poland’s Presidency, where the premiere performance of Karol Szymanowski’s opera ‘King Roger’ will be staged.

Successful start of Iceland’s membership negotiations with the EU

Mardi 28 juin 2011

The first four chapters of negotiations on Iceland’s accession to the EU were opened at the intergovernmental conference today and two of these chapters have been already provisionally closed.

Stefan Füle, European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, said: “This accession conference marks an important step forward in Iceland’s accession process. I am pleased that at this early stage of negotiations we open four and even close two negotiating chapters, and I am confident that this achievement provides momentum to meet the challenges of the accession process.”

The EU’s common negotiating positions were presented at the conference by the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, in response to those of the Icelandic government. The chapters in question cover public procurement, information society and media, science and research, as well as education and culture. In these areas Iceland has already taken on a large part of EU legislation due to its membership in the European Economic Area. Simultaneously, negotiations on two chapters – science and research and education and culture – were provisionally closed in view of Iceland’s advanced state of preparedness.

The conference also marks the successful conclusion of the screening process – an in-depth analysis and comparison of the EU’s and Iceland’s rules and legislation – and the beginning of a new phase in which substance and detail are negotiated.