Archive pour la catégorie ‘Human Rights’

Bill Gates calls for maintaining the budget for development aid

Mercredi 25 janvier 2012

Bill Gates calls for holding 0.7% of gross national income the budget of development aid for the next programming.

Mr Gates stressed that he cites the EU approach to development as an example when urging Chinese leaders or the US Congress to step up their development aid to the same level.

“Whether you like it or not, you are the leader in development aid and it is very unlikely we can do without this example if Europe does not continue its upward push. This is particularly important as you are looking at your 7-year budget. I know you have some difficult trade-offs to make because of the economic situation, but the money you devote to development will have a huge impact in the world”, said Mr Gates.

Speaking as co-chair of Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Gates offered “living proof” that development aid “works” to save lives in the world’s poorest countries. “I think this picture is more beautiful than any European anthem”, he said, presenting a graph showing that child deaths have fallen from 20 million to under 8 million in the past 50 years.

Mr Gates also noted that vaccines are an inexpensive way to save millions of lives, citing a 99% reduction in polio cases since 1988.

MEPs were almost unanimous in their praise of this presentation, although some criticized the Gates Foundation’s links to Monsanto, a biotech company that is trying to introduce hybrid seeds in Africa.

Catherine Grèze (Greens, FR), asked “we know that the majority of African countries are against GMOs. Is it true that one of the objectives of research centre financed by foundation is to pave the way to change the laws so that cotton GMOs can be introduced in Kenya, even knowing that one of the major concerns of developing countries is losing control of their own seeds?”

Mr Gates replied that Monsanto was currently working on a project to develop royalty-free drought resistant maize, and that since all African leaders are certainly against starvation and malnutrition, it was about time that they looked into new tools. “Seeds that are dramatically more drought resistant will benefit thousands of lives”, he insisted.

Parliament’s President Martin Schulz said he was “deeply impressed and fascinated” by the work of the Gates Foundation and stressed that EU has a moral duty to show international solidarity, given that it accounts 8% of the global population, but 30% of global wealth.

“We have to deliver on our promises if we do not want to risk our credibility and I hope that, irrespective of political colours in this house, Parliament will stand shoulder to shoulder with the aims of Gates Foundation”, said Mr Schulz.

The European Commission wants to reform Data Protection

Mercredi 25 janvier 2012

The aim is the protection of users and reducing costs for professionals.

The European Commission has today proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU’s 1995 data protection rules to strengthen online privacy rights and boost Europe’s digital economy. Technological progress and globalisation have profoundly changed the way our data is collected, accessed and used. In addition, the 27 EU Member States have implemented the 1995 rules differently, resulting in divergences in enforcement. A single law will do away with the current fragmentation and costly administrative burdens, leading to savings for businesses of around €2.3 billion a year. The initiative will help reinforce consumer confidence in online services, providing a much needed boost to growth, jobs and innovation in Europe.

The Commission’s proposals update and modernise the principles enshrined in the 1995 Data Protection Directive to guarantee privacy rights in the future. They include a policy Communication setting out the Commission’s objectives and two legislative proposals: a Regulation setting out a general EU framework for data protection and a Directive on protecting personal data processed for the purposes of prevention, detection, investigation or prosecution of criminal offences and related judicial activities.

Key changes in the reform include:

- A single set of rules on data protection, valid across the EU. Unnecessary administrative requirements, such as notification requirements for companies, will be removed. This will save businesses around €2.3 billion a year.
- Instead of the current obligation of all companies to notify all data protection activities to data protection supervisors – a requirement that has led to unnecessary paperwork and costs businesses €130 million per year, the Regulation provides for increased responsibility and accountability for those processing personal data.
- For example, companies and organisations must notify the national supervisory authority of serious data breaches as soon as possible (if feasible within 24 hours).
- Organisations will only have to deal with a single national data protection authority in the EU country where they have their main establishment. Likewise, people can refer to the data protection authority in their country, even when their data is processed by a company based outside the EU. Wherever consent is required for data to be processed, it is clarified that it has to be given explicitly, rather than assumed.
- People will have easier access to their own data and be able to transfer personal data from one service provider to another more easily (right to data portability). This will improve competition among services.
- A ‘right to be forgotten’ will help people better manage data protection risks online: people will be able to delete their data if there are no legitimate grounds for retaining it.
- EU rules must apply if personal data is handled abroad by companies that are active in the EU market and offer their services to EU citizens.
- Independent national data protection authorities will be strengthened so they can better enforce the EU rules at home. They will be empowered to fine companies that violate EU data protection rules. This can lead to penalties of up to €1 million or up to 2% of the global annual turnover of a company.
- A new Directive will apply general data protection principles and rules for police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The rules will apply to both domestic and cross-border transfers of data.
The Commission’s proposals will now be passed on to the European Parliament and EU Member States (meeting in the Council of Ministers) for discussion. They will take effect two years after they have been adopted.

Background

Personal data is any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. It can be anything from a name, a photo, an email address, bank details, your posts on social networking websites, your medical information, or your computer’s IP address. The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights says that everyone has the right to personal data protection in all aspects of life: at home, at work, whilst shopping, when receiving medical treatment, at a police station or on the Internet.

In the digital age, the collection and storage of personal information are essential. Data is used by all businesses – from insurance firms and banks to social media sites and search engines. In a globalised world, the transfer of data to third countries has become an important factor in daily life. There are no borders online and cloud computing means data may be sent from Berlin to be processed in Boston and stored in Bangalore.

On 4 November 2010, the Commission set out a strategy to strengthen EU data protection rules (IP/10/1462 and MEMO/10/542). The goals were to protect individuals’ data in all policy areas, including law enforcement, while reducing red tape for business and guaranteeing the free circulation of data within the EU. The Commission invited reactions to its ideas and also carried out a separate public consultation to revise the EU’s 1995 Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).

EU data protection rules aim to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, and in particular the right to data protection, as well as the free flow of data. This general Data Protection Directive has been complemented by other legal instruments, such as the e-Privacy Directive for the communications sector. There are also specific rules for the protection of personal data in police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters (Framework Decision 2008/977/JHA).

The right to the protection of personal data is explicitly recognised by Article 8 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and by the Lisbon Treaty. The Treaty provides a legal basis for rules on data protection for all activities within the scope of EU law under Article 16 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The European Parliament debate on the Hungarian law

Vendredi 13 janvier 2012

Concerns as to whether the laws implementing Hungary’s new constitution are compatible with EU rules and values were raised by Civil Liberties Committee MEPs in a debate on Wednesday.

The Commission’s Director General for Justice, Françoise Le Bail, said that the Commission’s evaluation of the compliance of the Hungarian laws with EU law was focusing on three issues: measures to retire judges and prosecutors at 62 years old, rather than 70, the independence of the judiciary and the independence of the data protection authority.

Replying to MEPs’ questions, Ms Le Bail explained that the retirement age measure was being checked against an EU directive on non-discrimination in employment, the independence of the judiciary one against Charter of Fundamental Rights Article 47 and the data protection authority one against the 1995 data protection directive.

Ms Le Bail said that the compatibility of some of these measures with EU law was “questionable”, and promised that the Commission would complete its analysis in time for the College of Commissioners to decide on 17 January how to proceed with respect to Hungary. The Commission is prepared to make full use of its prerogatives, which could entail the launching of infringement procedures, she added.

Risk of breach of EU values?

“We don’t have to wait to see what the Commission is doing. Parliament is entitled by the Lisbon Treaty to take action”, said Renate Weber (ALDE, RO). She recalled issues such as the Hungarian media law, the Roma in France, upon which the Commission had begun very bluntly but lost momentum thereafter, and voiced concern over Hungary’s cardinal laws, which she said “would allow legislation to be cemented for the next hundred years”.

Ms Weber added that the Commission should also test Hungary’s laws against EU Treaty Article 2, which states that the EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

“There is every indication that Hungary will realign its legislation according to the Commission’s evaluation”, said Frank Engel (EPP, LU), adding that “I don’t see any reason for all this hysteria”. He proposed to wait until the “regular procedure is fulfilled” before coming to any conclusion “on a decision taken by a sovereign country”.

“We needed this new constitution”, said Kinga Gál (EPP, HU), adding that “it can happen that there are mistakes, but I don’t think this can give raise to any affirmation or rumour saying that there is a breach of democracy and the rule of law in Hungary”.

“The Charter of Fundamental Rights is primarily for the EU, not necessarily legally binding in this way for Member States”, said Axel Voss (EPP, DE), adding that “this should be addressed as a regular breach of the EU Treaties”. On the independence of the data protection supervisor, he said that “it should be discussed, but not in an exaggerated fashion”. “European law must be the cornerstone of our action”, he underlined.

“Let the Commission do what it has to do”, urged Ms Gál, adding that “these issues should not be politicised” and that it is “very good” that the Commission, as guardian of the treaties, “follows this and says what needs to be changed”.

“This is about the risk of breach of fundamental rights”, argued Sophie int’Veld (ALDE, NL), adding that activating Article 7 of the Treaty, in order to assess whether there is a risk of a serious breach of EU values, “would be justified”.

“I support my group’s request for the application of Article 7. These are basic rights that should be respected by all Member States in Europe”, added Sonia Alfano (ALDE, IT).

“We are facing a drift that is worrying this House”, said Rui Tavares (Greens/EFA, PT). “A dictatorial drift”, he added. “We see again and again that citizens expect us to act on fundamental rights”, he insisted, adding that “democracy means not only that majorities rule, it is also means that majorities change”. “Would a candidate country with this kind of laws have any chance to join the EU?”, he wondered.

Mr Tavares also advocated applying Article 7, in order to determine whether there is a clear risk of a serious breach of the values on which the EU is founded. This would be an “alert procedure” for Hungary, he said.

Media law, electoral law, church law

Kinga Göncz (S&D, HU), asked the Commission what it expected the Hungarian authorities to do after the legal analysis is concluded, suggesting that a more political answer would be required, and not just a legal one. In the previous year, there had been “cosmetic changes” to Hungary’s media law, she recalled, adding that this should be avoided now. Ms Göncz also asked the Commission to analyse Hungary’s electoral law and church law.

Kyriacos Triantaphyllides (GUE/NGL, CY), asked whether the infringement of labour laws and attacks against political parties were being addressed by the Commission. Krisztina Morvai (NI, HU) also urged that the Hungarian people and workers should be heard.

Csaba Sógor (EPP, RO), defended the media and religious laws passed by the Hungarian government. “There are nine Member States which recognise fewer churches than Hungary”, he said, adding that “in Hungary there is no state religion, as it happens in many other Member States”. He also claimed that the Club radio was not closed in Hungary.

Ana Gomes (S&D, PT), voiced concerns about the electoral laws, which could render the main political opposition party illegal, she said, adding that this debate “is not against the Hungarian people, it is for the Hungarian people”.

“What is happening in Hungary today is very serious for the European project and its universal values. This is a mutation of democracy”, said Louis Michel (ALDE, BE).

József Szájer (EPP, HU), called on the European Parliament to “make an investigation before passing any judgement, as the Commission is doing”. “What Fidesz inherited is something that needed to be restructured, we needed to create a new state that is functional”, he stressed, noting that the Hungarian parliament had passed 230 laws and 30 cardinal laws. “If there are only these 4 or 5 mistakes that we are discussing, I think we did a very good job”, he concluded.

It’s not only about Hungary

We are talking about “shared principles and values” and “Parliament cannot turn a blind eye to what is happening”, said Birgit Sippel (S&D, DE), stressing that “this is not a discussion between the Commission and Hungary only. As the EU we lose all our credibility if one of our Member States is not respecting fundamental rights”.

“This isn’t about Hungary, it is about any Member State of the EU having problems with fundamental rights. I think no other Member State would have been treated differently. The Copenhagen criteria do not disappear when a country joins the EU and Article 7 also allows the Parliament to initiate proceedings”, said Alexander Alvaro (ALDE, DE).

Sophie int’Veld (ALDE, NL), observed that “Hungary took a sovereign decision to adhere to the EU treaties” and must therefore respect them. “The situation in Hungary is exceptionally serious”, but there are other Member States not respecting fundamental rights, se said, citing the treatment of Roma people in France or that of migrants and asylum seekers in her own country.

Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL, DE), described the way in which the Roma issue had been handled as a “fiasco”, and called for action to prevent the treaties from being violated.

A strictly legal issue?

“We accept that this is not only a legal issue, it is both legal and political”, Ms Le Bail told MEPs after the debate. “What the Commission is expecting from Hungary is full compliance with EU laws, the wording and the spirit of the EU Treaties and with the Charter of Fundamental Rights”, she concluded.

The European Commission guarantees gender equality for insurance premiums

Jeudi 22 décembre 2011

In its decision of 1 March 2011 in the case of test-purchases, the Court of Justice gave insurers until 21 December 2012 to provide equal treatment between men and women in regard to premiums and benefits of insurance.

Vice-President Viviane Reding, the EU’s Justice Commissioner, met with leading EU insurers in September 2011 to discuss how the industry should adapt to the Court’s ruling (MEMO/11/624).

Following consultations with national governments, insurers and consumers, the new Commission guidelines respond to the need for practical guidance on the implications of the ruling. They aim to benefit both consumers and insurance companies.

The guidelines adopted today cover a series of issues which emerged from in-depth consultations with Member States and stakeholders. For example, they clarify that the ruling applies only to new contracts, in particular to contracts concluded as from 21 December 2012. They also give specific examples of what is considered a “new contract” to ensure a comprehensive application of the unisex rule at EU level from the same date.

In addition, the guidelines provide examples of gender-related insurance practices which are compatible with the principle of unisex premiums and benefits, and therefore will not change because of the Test-Achats ruling. These practices are very diverse, ranging from the calculation of technical provisions to reinsurance pricing, medical underwriting or targeted marketing.

Background
The implications of the judgment were discussed on 20 June with Member States and stakeholders at the Forum on Gender and Insurance set up by the Commission in 2009. European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding also met leaders of European insurance companies on 21 September.

The Test-Achats ruling does not mean that women will always pay the same car insurance premiums as men.

At the moment, a careful young male driver pays more for auto insurance just because he is a man. Under the ruling, insurers can no longer use gender as a determining risk factor to justify differences in individuals’ premiums. But the premiums paid by careful drivers – male and female – will continue to decrease based on their individual driving behaviour. The ruling does not affect the use of other legitimate risk-rating factors and price will continue to reflect risk.

Gender is a determining risk-rating factor for at least three main product categories: motor insurance, life insurance/annuities and private health insurance. In all three categories, it is likely that a transition towards unisex pricing will have consequences on premiums and/or benefits at the individual level for men and women. Depending on the product concerned, premiums might increase or decrease for certain categories of consumers.

The insurance industry is competitive and innovative. It should be in a position to make these adjustments and offer attractive unisex products to consumers without unjustified impact on the overall price level. Price reductions resulting from unisex pricing should be passed on to consumers with the same level of fairness as price increases.

The Test-Achats case (C-236/09), which was referred by the Belgian Constitutional Court, concerned gender discrimination in insurance pricing. On 1 March 2011, the Court of Justice of the European Union declared invalid as from 21 December 2012 an exemption in EU equal treatment legislation which allows Member States to maintain differentiation between men and women in individuals’ premiums and benefits.

Council Directive 2004/113/EC on equal treatment between men and women in regards to the access to and supply of goods and services (adopted unanimously by the EU Council of Ministers) prohibits direct and indirect gender discrimination outside of the labour market.

Article 5(1) of the Directive says that “Member States shall ensure that in all new contracts concluded after 21 December 2007 at the latest, the use of sex as a factor in the calculation of premiums and benefits for the purpose of insurance and related financial services shall not result in differences in individuals’ premiums and benefits.”

Before the ruling, Article 5(2) of the Directive gave Member States a right to derogate from the unisex rule with regard to insurance contracts: “Member States may decide before 21 December 2007 to permit proportionate differences in individuals’ premium and benefits where the use of sex is a determining factor in the assessment of risk based on relevant and accurate actuarial and statistical data. The Member States concerned shall inform the Commission and ensure that accurate data relevant to the use of sex as a determining factor are compiled, published and regularly updated.”

All Member States made use of this derogation for some or all insurance contracts. Belgian law includes a derogation for life insurance in its national legislation. A dispute about the legality of Belgium’s derogation led to the Court of Justice’s Test-Achats ruling.

The Court found the exemption to the unisex rule in Article 5(2) incompatible with the purpose of the Directive as laid down in Article 5(1) and, therefore, with the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Court ruled:

“Article 5(2) of Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services is invalid with effect from 21 December 2012.”

The European Union is committed more than ever to the Millennium Development Goals

Mercredi 21 décembre 2011

Additional support was given to 36 ACP countries in the fight against hunger, child mortality, maternal health and providing access to water.

This additional funding will focus on reducing hunger and child mortality and securing better maternal health and drinking water and sanitation facilities. With today’s decision the EU is delivering on its €1 billion MDG initiative, announced in September 2010, at the UN MDGs Summit in New York.

Examples of actions to be financed under the MDG initiative include:
- ensuring better access to food for the poorest households in Haiti
- providing milk to children in nurseries and primary schools in Rwanda
- increasing the number of healthcare professionals in Ghana to reduce maternal mortality
- improving access to save water in Samoa, mainly through rainwater harvesting and better sanitation facilities
The MDG initiative focuses on those African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries that have designed projects of high quality to achieve results in the areas where progress is most needed: hunger, water and sanitation, maternal health and child mortality. Today’s allocation amounts to 700€ million. Project proposals have been identified in partnership with the respective countries and are fully results-oriented: they put clear and measurable indicators in place to secure the benefits of the additional money.

Background
The MDG Initiative

The MDG initiative mobilises money from one of the EU’s main instruments of development aid, the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). It envisages a total extra financial effort of €1 billion. Regarding today’s allocation of €700 million, the European Commission and the EU delegations, in coordination with EU Member States representations and national authorities in the partner countries, will soon start working on the preparation of detailed project designs and specific financing proposals for all the actions to be supported by the MDG initiative, with a view to starting the implementation of most projects by the end of 2012. (For a full list of countries and targeted MDGs, see MEMO/11/930).

In parallel to today’s decision, approximately €300 million of the MDG initiative are in the process of being allocated as a reward to 18 well-performing countries, in the framework of the 10th EDF Mid-term Review.

Progress on the MDGs
The UN Millennium Goals Report 2011 confirms that the world has made significant progress on some of the goals. By 2015, global poverty is currently expected to fall below 15%, which is well below the target of 23%. Increased funding and intensive control efforts have led to a reduction of 20% of global deaths from malaria; HIV infections have been declining steadily and the availability of retroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS has increased massively in recent years. Important steps have been made globally towards providing universal primary education.

The European Commission strengthens consular protection

Mercredi 14 décembre 2011

The Commission has proposed to strengthen assistance to citizens in crisis situations in third countries.

The aim is to ease cooperation between consular authorities and strengthen European citizens’ right to consular protection. EU citizens abroad have the right to ask for assistance from a consulate or an embassy of another EU Member State when their Member State is not represented in the country. EU Member States must also help citizens evacuate as if they were their own nationals. Today’s proposals will strengthen these rights by clarifying when a citizen is considered not represented and specifying the type of assistance Member States typically provide in cases of need, such as arrest, serious accident or lost documents. The Commission has also developed an interactive website on consular protection, which lists the contact details of all EU Member States’ embassies and consulates outside the EU – searchable either by EU nationality or by country.

Recent major crises have highlighted the importance of consular protection outside the EU. Around 150,000 EU citizens were affected by the crises in Libya and Egypt after the democratic uprisings in spring 2011 and following the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Many were assisted by other EU countries’ consulates or embassies where their own country was not (or was no longer) represented. The right to consular protection also applies in day-to-day situations, such as when a holidaymaker is seriously ill or falls victim to a crime.

The Commission’s proposed legislation aims to provide a stable framework for cooperation and coordination among Member States. It clarifies that EU citizens are considered as unrepresented when an embassy or consulate of their own Member State is not ‘accessible’, meaning that they cannot reach it and return to where they started at least the same day. The proposal also specifies to what extent citizens’ non-EU family members are eligible for help. It provides how assistance should be coordinated with the citizens’ home Member States. In crisis situations, the new rules promote the role of the ‘lead’ Member State that is in charge of coordinating and leading assistance of unrepresented EU citizens.

Background
In 2009, consular protection was provided by Member States’ consuls in 300,000 cases. Every year, 5.12 million EU citizens travel to countries outside the EU where their home Member State is not represented and a further 1.74 million EU citizens live in such countries. EU citizens are also increasingly exposed to crisis situations, both natural and man-made.

The EU Treaties guarantee all EU citizens the right to equal treatment regarding protection from the diplomatic and consular authorities of any Member State when they are travelling or living outside the EU and their own country is not represented (see Articles 20(2)(c) and 23 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union; Article 46 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights). In almost all countries in the world, at least one EU state is not represented. The only three countries where all 27 EU Member States are represented are the United States, China and Russia.

In its Citizenship Report of October 2010 (see IP/10/1390 and MEMO/10/525), the Commission committed to increasing the effectiveness of EU citizens’ right to be assisted in third countries, including in times of crisis, by the diplomatic and consular authorities of all Member States, by proposing legislative measures and by better informing citizens via a dedicated website and targeted communication measures (action 8).

In its Communication of March 2011 (see IP/11/355 and MEMO/11/185), the Commission also announced that within the next 12 months it would present legislation to establish the coordination and cooperation measures necessary to facilitate consular protection for unrepresented EU citizens.

Consultation publique au sujet des personnes handicapées

Mardi 13 décembre 2011

The European Commission today launched a public consultation to develop future initiatives for people with disabilities.

The consultation will help the Commission to prepare its proposals for a European Accessibility Act, planned for autumn 2012. The initiative aims to ensure that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, to transport and to information and communication services. It will also benefit people with limited mobility, such as the elderly. The consultation – itself fully accessible – is aimed at gathering views from businesses, people with disabilities and the general public and will remain open until 29 February 2012.

The Commission adopted a comprehensive strategy last year to create a barrier-free Europe for disabled people by 2020 (IP/10/1505). The plan outlines how the EU and national governments can empower people with disabilities so they can enjoy their rights.

One of the key actions included was an accessibility initiative. The aim is to use standardisation or public procurement rules to make all goods and services accessible to people with disabilities while fostering an EU market for assistive devices. This market is expected to grow considerably in the coming years, following the experience in the United States.

A study by the UK’s Royal National Institute of the Blind showed that a £35 000 investment by a supermarket chain in making their website accessible brought in additional revenue of over £13 million a year. In Germany, a study found that more accessible facilities would increase travel by persons with disabilities, yielding between €620 million and €1.9 billion in additional turnover for the German tourism industry.

Background
One in six people in the European Union – around 80 million – have a disability that ranges from mild to severe. Over one third of people aged over 75 have disabilities that restrict them to some extent. These numbers are set to rise as the EU population grows progressively older. Most of these people are all too often prevented from fully participating in society and the economy because of physical or other barriers, as well as discrimination.

The EU Charter of Fundamental Rights says that the “Union recognises and respects the right of persons with disabilities to benefit from measures designed to ensure their independence, social and occupational integration and participation in the life of the community.” In addition, the EU and all its 27 Member States have already committed to creating a barrier-free Europe by signing the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities (UNCRPD).

‘Accessibility’ means that people with disabilities have access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transportation, information and communications technologies and systems, and other facilities and services.

On 1-2 December 2011, the Commission organised a major conference in the context of the European Day of People with Disabilities, which also focused on the disability rights perspective of the economic crisis. During the conference, Vice-President Reding announced that Salzburg, in Austria, was the winner of the 2012 Access City award, the EU prize for accessible cities (IP/11/1492).

On 6 December 2011, leaders of the EU institutions came together for the first time with the European Disability Forum, at a high-level meeting, to discuss issues facing Europeans with disabilities (IP/11/1507).

The European Commission defends freedom of expression on the Web.

Lundi 12 décembre 2011

The new strategy “No Disconnect” is to ensure that ICT remains a factor in democratic and economic development in the world.

VP/HR Catherine Ashton and Vice President Neelie Kroes want to ensure that the European Union and its Member States cooperate closely towards these goals, supporting bottom-up approaches to building and strengthening Internet freedom and democracy in countries where Europe perceives that a vibrant and open Internet is not the norm or where grave human rights abuses take place. Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg will liaise with Member States, third countries and NGOs which are committed to work in this area and advise on how to advance the strategy in a co-ordinated and effective manner.

The “No Disconnect strategy” will assist people in four ways:

- Developing and providing technological tools to enhance privacy and security of people living in non-democratic regimes when using ICT.
- Educating and raising awareness of activists about the opportunities and risks of ICT. In particular assisting activists to make best use of tools such as social networks and blogs while raising awareness of surveillance risks when communicating via ICT.
- Gathering high quality intelligence about what is happening “on the ground” in order to monitor the level of surveillance and censorship at a given time, in a given place.
- Cooperation. Developing a practical way to ensure that all stakeholders can share information on their activity and promote multilateral action and building cross-regional cooperation to protect human rights.

Background
The Joint Communication, “A Partnership for Democracy and Shared Prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean” (COM(2011) 200) committed the Commission to develop tools to allow the EU, in appropriate cases, to assist civil society organisations or individual citizens to circumvent arbitrary disruptions to access to electronic communications technologies, including the internet. This followed evidence of such disruption or attempted disruption by authoritarian governments during the Arab Spring uprising, for example in Egypt.

Enabling citizens of authoritarian countries to bypass such surveillance and censorship measures depends on two basic conditions: availability of appropriate technologies (in particular software programs that can be installed on one’s desktop computer, laptop, smart-phone or other device) and awareness / knowledge, both of the techniques used by authoritarian regimes to spy on citizens and censor their communications, and of the appropriate counter-measures to use.

The enlargement is positive for Europe !

Jeudi 8 décembre 2011

The Council welcomed progress made by the candidates but efforts are still needed.

Key challenges remain in the enlargement countries. Good governance, rule of law and administrative reforms are essential to come closer to the EU. Problems affecting freedom of expression and the media remain a particular concern. Improving the social and economic inclusion of vulnerable groups, including the Roma, should continue.

Enlargement countries are also affected by the global economic and financial crisis and have taken steps towards economic recovery. Further efforts to deliver structural reform and fiscal consolidation reforms for jobs and growth should accelerate these countries’ recovery and growth.

Regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations remain essential parts of the enlargement process. They contribute to prosperity, stability, reconciliation and a climate conducive to addressing disputes and the legacy of the past. All parties concerned should address bilateral issues in a constructive spirit.

The enlargement process continues to reinforce peace, democracy and stability in Europe and allows the EU to be better positioned to address global challenges. It generates far-reaching political and economic reform in the enlargement countries which also benefits the EU as a whole.

The enlargement countries are the candidate countries (Iceland, Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey) which have opened accession negotiations, and potential candidates, two of which (Albania and Serbia) have applied for membership, whereas two others (Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo) have not applied. Croatia has concluded negotiations, and the signature of the Accession Treaty takes place on 9 December in the margins of the European Council.

The summit on 9 December will decide on the possible next steps for any country moving towards EU membership on the basis of each of the countries’ own merits.

One in three migrants in the EU are over-qualified for their jobs

Jeudi 8 décembre 2011

One in three foreign-born persons aged 25 to 54
overqualified for their job, compared with one person in five among the native-born.

Over the years, migration has had an impact on the composition of European societies. In 2010, foreign-born persons accounted for 9.4% of the EU27 population. Their socio-economic situation was in general less favourable than for native-born persons.

In 2008 in the EU27, the unemployment rate of foreign-born persons aged 25-54 was higher than for native-born persons in this age group (10% compared with 6%). When employed, foreign-born persons often have more difficulties to find a job corresponding to their education level. This can be measured using an overqualification rate, which refers to the percentage of persons with a high level of education who have a job which does not
correspond to this level. In the EU27 in 2008, foreign-born persons aged 25-54 registered a significantly higher overqualification rate than native-born persons (34% compared with 19%).

These figures come from a publication issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. This publication looks at a broad range of characteristics of migrants aged from 25 to 54 living in the European Union and EFTA countries. It looks separately at foreign-born persons, foreign citizens and second generation migrants.

It covers the socio-economic situation of migrants including labour market status, income distribution and poverty. Reasons for migration and length of residence are also examined.

Higher rates of unemployment and overqualification for foreign-born persons

In 2008, the unemployment rate of foreign-born persons aged 25-54 was higher than for native-born persons in this age group in all Member States for which data are available, except Greece and Hungary. Particularly high gaps were registered in Belgium (14% for foreign-born compared with 5% for native-born), Sweden (11% and 3%), Finland (11% and 5%), Spain (15% and 9%), France (12% and 6%) and Germany (12% and 6%).

As regards employment, foreign-born persons aged 25-54 registered a significantly higher overqualification rate than native-born persons in 2008 in all Member States for which data are available. The difference was particularly marked in Greece (62% for foreign-born compared with 18% for native-born), Italy (50% and 13%), Spain (58% and 31%), Cyprus (53% and 27%), Estonia (47% and 22%) and Sweden (31% and 11%).

One in three foreign-born person aged 25 to 54 at risk of poverty or social exclusion

In 2008 in the EU27, 31% of the foreign-born aged 25-54 were assessed to be at risk of poverty or social exclusion, following the criteria set by the Europe 2020 strategy. The native-born registered a lower rate of 20%. This pattern was observed in all Member States for which data are available, except Hungary and Lithuania. Particularly high gaps were recorded in Belgium (36% for foreign-born compared with 13% for native born), Sweden (32% and 10%), Greece (45% and 23%), France (34% and 14%), Austria (32% and 13%), Finland (31% and 13%) and Denmark (31% and 13%).

Foreign-born persons are also in a less favourable situation with regard to housing conditions. In 2008 in the EU27, foreign-born persons aged 25-54 were more likely to live in overcrowded dwellings than native-born persons (23% compared with 19%). The differences were particularly high in Austria (40% for foreign-born compared with 9% for native born), Greece (49% and 26%), Slovenia (61% and 41%), France (26% and 8%) and Denmark (21% and 6%).