Archive pour la catégorie ‘Information’

MEPs argue for an extension of Kyoto

Mercredi 9 novembre 2011

Discover the content of the discussions this week between MEPs on the extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

MEPs said the EU must come up with a clear strategy for the UN summit on climate change in Durban at the end of the year. In a discussion 7 November.

During the debate, Environment Committee chair Jo Leinen, who also chairs the EP delegation to the UN COP 17 Summit in Durban, wondered what the EU will propose to the summit, while committee vice-chair Karl-Heinz Florenz said the EU’s past intentions were good but didn’t go far enough. He asked if the EU has a practical strategy for climate change.

The EU has to be in a position to define a clear road-map and a time line, Hedegaard said, but the EU alone doesn’t have the answer for climate change, it’s urgent to find a common ambitious global solution. “Green and growth” go together as key priorities for the Commission, she added.

Vote in EP November

In a resolution, adopted by the committee on 26 October, to be voted in plenary in November, the EP says the EU should give “public and unequivocal” support to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol, which sets out legally binding measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in order to avoid any gap after the current phase expires at the end of 2012.

It also calls on the EU to go beyond its current 20% emissions reduction target for 2020 and says new measures are needed to curb aviation and marine emissions (which are excluded from the Kyoto protocol). MEPs want aviation to be included in the EU emissions trading system from 1 January 2012.

The EU supports SMEs in Egypt

Mardi 8 novembre 2011

European subsidies have been adopted to support the development of SMEs in Egypt. Particularly affected by economic turmoil related to Arab spring, the country recieves 22 million euros from the Commission.

Today the European Commission has approved a programme aimed at improving living conditions for the poor and stimulating job creation in rural areas in Egypt by supporting the development of agricultural Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The new support, worth €22 million, will improve access to finance for farmers and increase productivity in selected value-chains such as the dairy and aquaculture sector with the aim of improving farmers’ living conditions. The support will also provide capacity building and training in order to improve farmers’ business planning skills and enhance the understanding of local banks dealing with agricultural SMEs.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, Štefan Füle, said: “Small and medium enterprises have a vital role to play in creating jobs and growth in Egypt. By making it easier for them to access finance we are helping to remove one of the main barriers to job creation, enabling more Egyptian people to make a living and support their families as a result”.

The project follows up on the spirit of the Financial Investment and Sector Co-operation (FISC) – a Rural Component programme that ended last year and which was evaluated as a positive one. The project is expected to start following the establishment of the first democratic government in the second quarter of 2012 with the first farmers already benefitting in the second half of 2012.

Facts and figures on EU-Egyptian relations

EU financial co-operation with Egypt is governed under the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument which has foreseen an envelope of €449 million over the period 2011-2013. The priorities under this multi-annual framework are threefold:

(i) support to political reform, human rights and judiciary;

(ii) support to economic reforms and

(iii) support to sustainable development.

In 2011, a total of €122 million were committed to Egypt to assist in the areas of energy, social housing, trade enhancement and support to agricultural SMEs.

Agriculture

Agriculture has always been a key sector for the Egyptian economy, contributing 13.7% of GDP and providing approximately 30% of total jobs of the labour market. In the follow up to the historic events of January 25th 2011, the Commission support, which is part of the Annual Action Programme 2011, will help Egypt face some of its most important and urgent socio-economic challenges as it moves towards more democracy and shared prosperity.

The EU promotes access to education for all in developing countries

Lundi 7 novembre 2011

European funding to support education for the most vulnerable groups in developing countries will be decided tomorrow.

Tomorrow, the EU will pledge new funding for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), to improve basic education in over 46 developing countries. The EU’s new commitment will provide €31.8 million to the GPE Fund between 2011 and 2013.

The new support will be announced at a Pledging Conference in Copenhagen of over 200 participants from more than 40 countries, organised by the Global Partnership for Education to replenish and mobilise resources and political commitments to support education for all in developing countries.

The new “Agenda for Change” in EU development policy proposes to strengthen the EU’s commitment to education. It states that the EU should focus on those sectors which build the foundations for sustainable growth and help ensure that it is inclusive. These include education, health and social protection for all.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) works towards putting the 67 million out of school children in developing countries into a school for a quality education.

Facts and figures

Since 2004, thanks to bilateral Commission support:

- More than 9 million pupils have been enrolled in primary education

- More than 85,000 new female students have been enrolled in secondary education

- More than 720,000 primary school teachers have been trained.

The priority that the Commission places on education is reflected in its level of support in the current programming cycle (2007/8-2013).

Support to education in 46 countries with a total amount of €3.9 billion:

- €2.2 billion for primary and secondary education,

- €0.5 billion for Technical and Vocational Education and Training, and

- €1.2 billion for the EU’s higher education programmes with the developing world.

In addition to direct support to education, the European Commission provides a substantial contribution via general budget support to countries; many of which are GPE-endorsed. The total amount of general budget support amounts to €3.4 billion (2007/8-2013), out of which €2.3 billion are endorsed by countries belonging to Global Partnership for Education.

Out of the 46 countries supported by the Commission, 17 are fragile or affected by conflict, so that €900 million (or 33% of our funding to basic education and technical and vocational education and training) goes to these countries.

The Commission has recently committed new funding to Sudan, South Sudan (€12 million each) and Somalia (€30 million in addition to an earlier commitment of €55 million).

Global Partnership for Education

Established in 2002, the Global Partnership for Education is comprised of 46 developing countries, and over 30 bilateral, regional, and international agencies, development banks, the private sector, teachers, and local and global civil society groups. Over 15 more developing countries are expected to join the partnership in the coming years.

The Global Partnership for Education Fund has provided US$2.2 billion in financial aid between 2004 and 2010.

Since 2003, thanks to partners working together, 19 million children have been put into school, 200 million textbooks have been distributed, 300,000 additional teachers were hired, 30,000 classrooms were built and daily school meals were provided to 700,000 children.

In GPE countries, 68% of girls now finish primary school, the primary school completion rate has increased from 60% in 2002 to over 72% in 2009 and repetition rates have on average halved within 3-5 years of their entry to the Partnership.

European subsidies enhance the digital strategy of the EU

Lundi 7 novembre 2011

The Commission has allocated 600 000 euros here destination of the new Centre for pluralism and media freedom in the digital strategy of the EU.

The European Commission is establishing a Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom in Florence with a €600 000 grant to the European University Institute’s (EUI) Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies. Starting in December 2011, and headed by Professor Pier Luigi Parcu, the Centre will develop new ideas on how to ensure a highly diverse and free media, and work to enhance the quality of the reflection on media pluralism in Europe.

The Centre will carry out four specific activities: theoretical and applied research (working paper series, policy studies, observatory on media pluralism), debates, education and training activities (academic seminars, summer school) and dissemination of results and outcomes.

The EUI has been chosen to host the centre because of the Institute’s long experience in the area of European governance.

This initiative is a further step in the Commission’s ongoing commitment to improve the protection of media pluralism and media freedom in Europe and establish whether further action needs to be taken at European or national and regional level. It recently established a high-level group on this subject, chaired by Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga. The Commission is also in the process of establishing a multi-stakeholder group on the future of the media which will become operational in the near future.

Background

The right to freedom of expression and information is enshrined in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which establishes that the freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected. They constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society and are essential to the EU’s underlying democratic and societal values. The effective exercise of these rights may be detrimentally affected by both governmental and private actors and remain a source of concern.

It is also important to note that developments in information and communications technologies have permitted significant reductions in distribution costs and the lowering of barriers to entry for new media sources, they have also given rise to concern among policymakers about media diversity, for instance by challenging the established business model of the written press.

Both the European Commission and European Parliament have taken an active concern in maintain media freedom and media pluralism. The Commission has undertaken several actions in 2011 to ensure compatibility of national law with EU law. In particular, in January 2011, Vice-President Kroes addressed some of the most pertinent issues regarding the Hungarian Media Law and its compatibility with EU law in general and with the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in particular. The Hungarian government committed to change the Hungarian Media law on four points: i) obligation of balanced coverage, ii) country of origin principle, iii) registration requirements and iv) offensive content. The agreed amendments were adopted by the Hungarian Government on 7 March 2011.

The funding for the Centre is is drawn from funds originally earmarked for an “Erasmus for Journalists” programme proposed by Mr Paul Rübig MEP.

EU to strengthen public health infrastructure

Lundi 7 novembre 2011

Last weekend, a conference entitled “Strengthening public health infrastructure in the European Union - the network of National Institutes of Public Health” was held in Poznan, Poland. Back on the topics discussed.

Conferences of the Directors of National Public Health Institutes are organised cyclically, and their purpose is for experts to develop a common standpoint towards the issues of public health in Europe.

The participants in the meeting will continue the two topics already brought up at last year’s conference in Brussels - discussing the cooperation of National Public Health Institutes (NPHI) with the private sector and the development of communication of the Institutes with the public.

The international experts will also discuss new topics: they will analyse the results of the survey of the state of health of European residents, debate the strategies for preventing HPV infections, and raise issues of strengthening public health infrastructure in the European Union, as well as in the other countries in Europe.

The most responsible firms of the EU to boost economic growth

Mercredi 26 octobre 2011

The Commission believes that growth in Europe can be relaunched with the momentum of corporate responsibility.

A responsible approach to business means more, and more sustainable, economic growth. This is why the European Commission has presented a package of measures to support entrepreneurship and responsible business.

First, the Social Business Initiative will help this emerging sector to fulfil its unexploited potential. This is complemented by an ambitious strategy for Corporate Social Responsibility to generate a higher level of trust and consumer confidence and improve companies’ contribution to society’s well-being. Both initiatives reinforce Commission efforts to engage with the private sector on social and environmental issues, especially relevant in times of public budget constraints.

The Commission is also proposing to improve transparency and promote sustainable business among multinationals. Mining and forestry companies would have to be more open about taxes, royalties and bonuses paid worldwide.

Finally, the Commission is proposing to simplify accounting rules for SMEs, potentially saving them up to €1.7 billion per year. The proposals would also reduce burdensome reporting obligations for listed companies, including SMEs, adding further to cost savings.

European common aviation market: Moldova takes off

Mercredi 26 octobre 2011

Republic of Moldova will gradually integrate into the European common aviation market. Discover the content of the agreement between the EU and Moldova.

The Republic of Moldova and the European Union have today initialled a comprehensive air services agreement at a meeting in Chisinau, the capital of the Republic of Moldova. This agreement will open up and integrate the respective markets, strengthen cooperation and offer new opportunities for consumers and airlines. The Republic of Moldova and the EU will develop this “common aviation area” based on common rules in important areas such as aviation safety and security.

The agreement aims to open the respective markets and to integrate the Republic of Moldova into a wider European common aviation area. It will strengthen aviation relations between the two partners. The Republic of Moldova will harmonise its legislation with European standards and implement EU aviation rules in areas such as aviation safety, security, environment, consumer protection, air traffic management, economic regulation, competition issues and social aspects.

The agreement will be a further step in creating a wider common aviation area between the EU and its neighbours. Similar comprehensive air transport agreements with neighbouring countries have been concluded with the Western Balkan countries, Morocco, Georgia and Jordan – and negotiations are ongoing with Ukraine, Israel and Lebanon.

Air transport is the single most important mode of transport linking the Republic of Moldova to most EU Member States and has been growing steadily in recent years. It is expected that the agreement will offer more travel opportunities, more direct connections and economic benefits for both sides.

As a result of the agreement, all EU airlines will be able to operate direct flights to the Republic of Moldova from anywhere in the EU and vice-versa for Moldovan carriers. The agreement will remove all restrictions on prices and the number of weekly flights between the Republic of Moldova and the EU.

Today, there are direct flight connections between the Republic of Moldova and 13 EU Member States (Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom).

The European Commission received a mandate to negotiate a “common aviation area” agreement with the Republic of Moldova in June 2011. Both sides will now start their respective internal procedures to allow the agreement to be signed and enter into force. On the EU side, the agreement will be forwarded to the Council and the European Parliament. Following signature, the ratification process will begin.

The conclusions of the European Union Summit

Lundi 24 octobre 2011

Last weekend, the Summit of the European Union was held in Brussels. Discover the conclusions of these discussions.

In addition to addressing the immediate challenges posed by the financial crisis, it is essential to intensify efforts to secure sustainable and job-creating growth. Budgetary consolidation and debt reduction are of crucial importance in order to ensure the sustainability of public finances and restore confidence. At the same time, determined action is required to strengthen the economy already in the short run. It is therefore crucial for the European Union to implement all aspects of the Europe 2020 strategy. The Member States will accelerate structural reforms in line with the recommendations made in the context of the European semester. Within this framework, the European Council identified today a number of priorities which should be fast-tracked because of their significant impact on jobs and growth in the short to medium term. It also called for a stronger focus to be given to the growth-enhancing aspects of the European Union’s external policies in order to maximise their contribution to growth in Europe and to shape the conditions to attract more foreign investment. The European Council set the Union’s position for the G20 Summit, giving top priority to maintaining financial stability and restoring growth. It also discussed the preparations for the Durban conference on climate change, stressing the need to take ambitious steps towards a global and comprehensive legally-binding framework for the post-2012 period.

I. ECONOMIC POLICY

- In the light of the Commission’s report on growth-enhancing areas and further to the outcome of the political conference on the sources of growth held on 6 October 2011, the European Council identified a limited number of key priorities for internal economic policy that need to be pursued in the short term in order to achieve smart, sustainable and inclusive and green growth:

- The Single Market has a key role to play in delivering growth and employment. All efforts should be made to ensure agreement by the end of 2012 on the 12 priority proposals set out in the Single Market Act, giving utmost priority to those which can bring the most benefits to growth and jobs. The full implementation of the Services Directive will also deliver significant economic gains; Member States should complete its implementation by the end of this year and ensure that the points of single contact are fully operational and that economic operators are fully informed of the new opportunities it offers. The Commission will report on this issue by the end of 2011.

- The European Council invites the Commission to rapidly present the roadmap on the completion of the Digital Single Market by 2015, giving priority to proposals aimed at promoting a fully integrated Digital Single Market through the facilitation of e-commerce and the cross-border use of online services. Particular attention should be paid to ensuring rapid progress in achieving the broadband coverage objectives set out in the Digital Agenda, facilitating secure electronic identification and authentication and modernising Europe’s copyright regime with a view to ensure the EU’s competitive edge and unleash possibilities for new business models, while ensuring a high level of protection of intellectual property rights and taking into account cultural diversity. The European Council calls for rapid agreement on the Radio Spectrum Policy programme.

- Momentum should be maintained in implementing the 2007 Action Programme for the reduction of administrative burden in order to meet the objective of a 25% reduction by 2012; more rapid progress should be made regarding annual accounts, company law, taxation and customs. The European Council calls for the rapid adoption of the simplification proposals pending before Council and Parliament.

- The Commission is invited to further concentrate efforts to reduce the overall regulatory burden, in particular for SMEs, including by proposing concrete working methods within the context of the Smart Regulation agenda. It has committed to assess the impact of future regulations on micro-enterprises and to screen the acquis to identify existing obligations from which micro-enterprises could be excluded. The European Council looks forward to the Commission’s forthcoming report in order to return to these issues at its December 2011 meeting.

- Member States will ensure that the country-specific recommendations are fully reflected in national decisions as regards budgetary policy and structural reforms, given their crucial importance for ensuring sustainable public finances and creating jobs and growth. In support of this, the European Council calls for steps to be taken by the Council, working with the Commission, to ensure that all actions at the European Union level fully support economic growth and job creation.

- Energy, including energy efficiency, as well as research and innovation are key areas for the promotion of growth. The European Council will track progress made in those areas in December 2011 and in March 2012 respectively, further to the concrete orientations set in February 2011. It calls for the swift implementation of those measures which will have a direct impact on growth.

- Since the crisis has increased pressure on national budgets, it is important to optimise the use of available resources, in particular in countries implementing an adjustment programme. The European Council calls for the adoption before the end of the year of the proposals to temporarily increase cofinancing rates for EU funds, accompanied by a targeting of those funds on growth, competitiveness and employment. The EIB is invited to examine in close cooperation with the Commission the possibilities of further contributing to boosting investment in Europe, including for countries implementing an adjustment programme.

- The European Union now has more powerful tools to enhance its economic governance and to ensure that the required measures are taken to pull Europe out of the crisis: the Europe 2020 strategy continues to guide the Union and the Member States in promoting the delivery of growth-enhancing structural reforms; the European semester will help ensure that they remain on track in implementing these reforms in a coordinated manner; and the Euro Plus Pact will achieve a new quality of economic policy coordination amongst the participating Member States. The package of six legislative acts on economic governance agreed last month will allow a much higher degree of surveillance and coordination, necessary to ensure sustainable public finances and avoid the accumulation of excessive imbalances. The European Council emphasises its determination to implement this new framework in order to ensure that it is fully and effectively applied. In this context, we welcome the intention of the Commission to strengthen, in the Commission, the role of the competent Commissioner for closer monitoring and additional enforcement.

- The next European semester should be as ambitious as possible and draw fully on the lessons of the past. The European Council welcomes the Commission’s intention to bring forward its Annual Growth Survey to December 2011, which will allow the Council to prepare thoroughly the Spring 2012 European Council. Heads of State or Government will return to some themes of the Euro Plus Pact in December 2011; they will also be informed of progress made in structured discussions on tax policy coordination issues. Legislative work on the Commission proposals for a common consolidated corporate tax base is ongoing. The European Council takes note of the Commission proposal for a financial transaction tax.

- Strengthening financial regulation remains a key priority at the EU and the global level. Much has been achieved since 2008 with the reform of our regulatory and supervisory framework, but efforts need to be maintained to address the weaknesses of the financial system and prevent future crises. The European Council welcomes the agreement reached on short selling and calls for the speedy adoption of other important legislative proposals such as those relating to OTC derivatives and deposit guarantee schemes by the end of this year, and the ones on capital requirements by summer 2012. It welcomes the proposals on markets in financial instruments and market abuse and looks forward to the proposals the Commission will make on credit rating agencies and bank crisis management and resolution.

The European Council welcomes progress made by the Council (ECOFIN) on measures for the banking sector and invites the Council to finalise this work at its meeting of 26 October. These measures will be an essential component of a broader package whose other elements will be agreed by the Euro Summit of 26 October.

- The President informed the European Council on the state of preparations regarding the Euro Summit of 23 and 26 October. The European Council agreed on the need for coherence of the activities of the Euro area and the European Union, in full respect of the integrity of the European Union as a whole and its operation at 27. In this context, the European Commission has the responsibility to ensure compliance by all 27 Member States with EU legislation, including that relating to the internal market, and to safeguard a level playing field among all Member States including those not participating in the euro. The President of the Euro Summit will be designated by the Heads of State or Government of the euro area at the same time the European Council elects its President and for the same term of office. Pending the next such election, the current President of the European Council will chair the Euro Summit meetings. The President of the Euro Summit will keep the non euro area Member States closely informed of the preparation and outcome of the Summits. The European Council notes the intention of the Heads of State or Government of the euro area to reflect on further strengthening of economic convergence within the euro area, on improving fiscal discipline and deepening economic union, including exploring the possibility of limited Treaty changes. The European Council recalls that any Treaty change must be decided by the 27 Member States. The European Council will revert to the issue in December on the basis of a report by the President of the European Council in close collaboration with the President of the Commission and the President of the Eurogroup.

8. As regards the external aspects of economic policy, Europe will continue to promote free, fair and open trade whilst at the same time asserting its interests, in a spirit of reciprocity and mutual benefit in relation to the world’s largest economies. The European Union can take a number of measures in its external relations that can contribute to boosting its growth potential, both in the short and longer term:

- Whilst strengthening and widening the multilateral system and concluding the WTO Doha Round remain crucial objectives given their expected benefits in terms of growth and job creation, renewed emphasis should be given to bilateral and regional agreements, particularly with strategic partners and those whose markets are expanding at a significant pace. Such efforts should in particular be geared to the removal of trade barriers, better market access, appropriate investment conditions, the protection of intellectual property, access to raw materials and the opening up of public procurement markets. Concerning the latter, the European Council looks forward to the forthcoming Commission proposal for an EU instrument.

- The Union should capitalise on the special relationships it enjoys with its neighbouring regions in order to foster closer economic ties and open up new trade and investment opportunities, including by pursuing where appropriate deep and comprehensive free trade agreements. Promoting a more business-friendly environment throughout the EU neighbourhood is an essential investment in wider regional prosperity. The Union should pursue the integration of specific sectors which have a significant impact on growth and employment, such as energy and aviation.

- The Union should also seek to reap full benefits from a regulatory environment applied in an expanding economic space and take the lead in the setting of standards. It should develop a comprehensive investment policy, aimed at achieving effective two-way investment liberalisation and protection as an integral part of the Union’s overall common commercial policy. It should also ensure increased coherence between the external aspects of sectoral policies such as energy, transport and visas, within the overall balance of its economic interests and foreign policy objectives.

9. Work will be taken forward on these issues as a matter of priority, with the required resources and instruments being devoted to that end. The Commission is invited to report on progress achieved by next Spring. Whenever required, EU summits with third countries and regions will be more focused on settling outstanding issues in agreements under negotiation with them.

II. G20

10. The European Council discussed the preparations for the Cannes G20 Summit. It confirmed the orientations agreed by the Council in preparation for the G20 Finance, Agriculture, Employment and Development ministerial meetings.

11. Determined action is necessary to maintain financial stability, restore confidence and support growth and job creation. The G20 should approve an ambitious action plan containing specific commitments and measures from all G20 countries to respond to the serious challenges emanating from the current economic slowdown and to ensure strong, sustainable and balanced growth while implementing credible fiscal consolidation.

12. The Cannes Summit should also achieve real progress on the following:

reforming the international monetary system (IMS), in particular by reinforcing surveillance and crisis management tools and better coordinating economic and monetary policies; sound macroeconomic policies should be the first line in responding to capital flow shocks and the G20 should continue to promote open capital markets and avoid financial protectionism; further progress is expected on a criteria-based path to broaden the special drawing rights basket, as a contribution to the evolution of the IMS, based on the existing criteria. The G20 should ensure that the IMF has adequate resources to fulfil its systemic responsibilities and should explore possible contributions to the IMF from countries with a large external surplus.

- Strengthening the regulation and supervision of the financial sector, by ensuring the full and consistent implementation of past commitments, implying the timely and consistent implementation of Basel II, II-5 and III, the reform of OTC derivatives, and remuneration principles and standards. Progress is needed on achieving internationally consistent frameworks for all systemically important financial institutions, on identifying and publically listing non-cooperative jurisdictions, on the convergence of accounting standards, on strengthening the regulation of the shadow banking system, on combating the existence of tax havens and on reducing overreliance on credit ratings. To keep pace with ambitious financial reform, the Financial Stability Board’s institutional footing, resources and governance will be strengthened. The introduction of a global financial transaction tax should be explored and developed further;

- Tackling the excessive volatility of commodity prices, notably by enhancing transparency in commodity markets and improving the functioning and regulation of derivative markets; the G20 Action Plan on food price volatility and agriculture constitutes an important further step towards providing an internationally coordinated response to the food security challenge;

- Promoting global recovery and sustainable and inclusive growth by supporting an active WTO negotiating agenda, including for the least developed countries, and by fully implementing the G20 Development Agenda through concrete measures; the social dimension of globalisation should also be enhanced;

- Advancing international trade liberalisation and resisting protectionism in particular by agreeing a credible plan as a basis for concluding the Doha Development round and considering innovative approaches to strengthen the multilateral trading system;

- Combating climate change, in particular by mobilising sources for climate change finance.

III. CLIMATE CHANGE

13. The European Council endorses the conclusions of the Council of 4 and 10 October 2011 which outline the EU position for the Durban conference on climate change in detail. It underlines that an ambitious international regime to combat climate change is crucial if we are to reach the agreed objective of maximum 2°C increase of global temperatures. The European Union will work towards an ambitious and balanced outcome at the Durban conference, building upon what was agreed last year in Cancun. It is urgent to agree on a process towards a comprehensive legally binding framework and a clear time line, ensuring global participation, including from major economies. The European Council confirms the openness of the European Union to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol as part of a transition to such a framework, as set out by the Council on 10 October 2011.

14. The European Council welcomes the ongoing work of the High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, established by the UNSG, to find new effective ways to promote global sustainable development.

IV. FOREIGN POLICY

15. Europe remains committed to supporting the democratic transformation of its Southern Neighbourhood through the European Neighbourhood Policy. Democratic transition and economic development in the whole region remains essential for the establishment of democracy, fully respecting the rule of law and human and civil rights. The rapid launch of concrete projects within the Union for the Mediterranean can contribute much to this process.

16. The death of Muammar Gaddafi marks the end of an era of despotism and repression from which the Libyan people have suffered for too long. Today Libya can turn a page in its history, pursue national reconciliation, and embrace a new democratic future.

- The European Council pays tribute to the courage and determination of the people of Libya. It looks forward to the formation of an inclusive and broad-based government, to the launch of a democratic, peaceful and transparent transition that reaches out to all Libyans and to the preparation of free and fair elections in accordance with the Constitutional Declaration by the National Transitional Council. It reaffirms the commitment of the European Union to support the emergence of a democratic Libya. The European Council reiterates its support for a democratic, pluralist and stable Egypt as a key partner to the EU. The interim authorities have the crucial task of organising the first democratic and transparent elections, while ensuring law and order in a manner respectful of human rights. The European Council is concerned about the recent tragic clashes in Egypt and underlines the importance of the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief, including the protection of religious minorities as an essential component of any democratic society. The European Council welcomes the holding of the first free elections in Tunisia today. The European Union will support the new authorities in their effort in favour of democratisation and sustained economic development, including through the EU/Tunisia Task Force.

17. The European Council fully endorses the Council conclusions on Syria adopted on 10 October. The Syrian people must be able to define the future of their country without the fear of repression. The European Council welcomes the efforts of the political opposition to establish a united platform. The creation of the Syrian National Council is a positive step forward. It remains gravely concerned about the current situation in Syria and stresses its strong support to the Syrian people as they express their legitimate aspirations for a life in freedom and dignity. It condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing brutal repression led by the Syrian regime against its population as well as the widespread human rights violations. President Assad must step aside to allow a political transition to take place in Syria. The EU has decided to place restrictive measures aimed at those responsible for or associated with the violent repression and those who support or benefit from the regime, not at the civilian population. The EU will impose further and more comprehensive measures against the regime as long as the repression of the civilian population continues. The European Council urges all members of the UN Security Council to assume their responsibilities in relation to the situation in Syria.

18. The European Council welcomes the reinforcement of EU restrictive measures against Iran due to unacceptable human rights violations and the adoption of restrictive measures against five individuals following the foiled plot to assassinate the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States. It urges Iran to respect all obligations under international law. It expresses its continued concern over the expansion of Iran’s nuclear and missile programmes, in violation of UNSC and IAEA Resolutions, as well as its lack of cooperation with the IAEA in addressing outstanding issues, including those pointing to possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme.

We urge Iran to enter into constructive and substantial talks with the E 3+3 in a way to arrive at a comprehensive, negotiated, long-term solution of the nuclear question in order to avoid possible further restrictive measures. At the same time the European Council invites the Foreign Affairs Council to prepare new restrictive measures to be decided upon and to be implemented at the appropriate moment in the case that Iran continues not to co-operate seriously nor to meet its obligations. It endorses the statement delivered by the High Representative on 21 September. It reiterates the commitment of the European Union to work for a diplomatic solution of this issue.

19. The European Council welcomes the second Eastern Partnership Summit held in Warsaw on 29-30 September and welcomes the intention of the High Representative and the European Commission to propose a roadmap that would list the objectives, instruments and actions with a view to the next Eastern Partnership Summit in the second half of 2013. The pace and depth of these countries’ political association and economic integration with the EU will depend on their upholding of the democratic principles and rule of law which are the basis of the Partnership.

Protectionism in the heart of the concerns of the EU at the G20 summit

Vendredi 21 octobre 2011

The EU used the G20 summit this week to highlight its concerns about rising protectionism.

In a monitoring report issued today the European Commission finds a lack of progress in the reduction of trade barriers within the group of G20 countries. It concludes that G20 members have to do more to stick to their initial commitment to refrain from introducing new barriers to trade since the break-out of the crisis. The report counts no less than 424 restrictive measures to open trade since the start of the Commission’s monitoring in October 2008. In the past 12 months alone, 131 new restrictions have been introduced while only 40 have been removed.

The main conclusions of the report:

- Between October 2010 and 1 September 2011, 131 new trade restrictive measures have been introduced by the EU’s trading partners. This brings the total figure of measures in force since the beginning of the crisis to 424 (as compared to 333 the year before).

- The strong economic recovery in many countries - notably in emerging economies - has not translated into a reversal of this tendency, given that about 17% (76) only of all measures have so far been removed or lapsed. The state of G20 countries’ compliance with their roll-back commitment is clearly below the expected.

- New industrial policies of several G20 members raise concerns about open trade and investment, as they are often based on import substitution, local content requirements and restrictions in public procurement. In emerging countries, a lot of trade restrictive measures have been locked in as part of national industrialisation plans.

Background

What are trade barriers?

Trade barriers can range from import and export restrictions in the form of higher import or export duties or lower export quotas applied at the border of a country, to so-called “behind-the-border” measures, such as technical barriers to trade in the form of conformity assessment and certification requirements which are applied in a stricter way on imported goods or which go beyond international practices and requirements. Argentina, for example, continues to determine prices for imported goods which are a reference for customs valuation and therefore import duties; India - a significant player on the steel market - increased an export duty on iron ore; Indonesia continues to adopt mandatory national standards which differ from international ones and require that conformity assessments be performed by Indonesian laboratories; several countries consolidated restrictions to their public procurement market by favouring domestic bidders. In the past twelve months, Brazil introduced a stringent tax regime for cars with insufficient local content, thus infringing the national treatment principle.

Which countries are being monitored?

The report covers 30 of the EU’s main trading partners, including the G20 countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Egypt, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, and Vietnam.

About the report on the monitoring of potentially trade restrictive measures identified in the context of the economic crisis

This report is the eighth in the series of periodic reports prepared by Directorate General Trade of the European Commission to assess trade-restrictive developments in world trade. Reporting activities were launched in October 2008 after the outbreak of the economic and financial crisis, with the objective to take regular stock of compliance of G20 countries with the commitment not to resort to trade restrictive measures and remove those in place without delay, made initially at the G20 Summit in November 2008 in Washington.

At the London Summit in April 2009, G20 members committed to rectifying measures that have already been taken since the beginning of the crisis. Successive summits, including the latest G20 summit in Seoul in November 2010, extended the commitments until 2013, confirmed the engagement to roll-back measures in place and provided an explicit mandate to the WTO, OECD and UNCTAD to monitor and to report publicly on the evolution of the situation on a quarterly basis.

The EU is firmly committed to this pledge. Its own report published by Directorate General Trade, which it considers the main monitoring tool to assess the risk of trade protectionism and ensure vigilance among policy-makers, complements the monitoring exercise done by the WTO in cooperation with UNCTAD and the OECD.

The EU re-directs its energy policy

Vendredi 21 octobre 2011

Find out what the Commission on energy infrastructure to meet the EU targets for 2020.

Why do we need new pipelines and electricity grids?

Energy infrastructure – pipelines, electricity grids – are key to all our climate and energy goals.

To increase the share of renewable energy to 20 percent of our final energy consumption by 2020, we need to bring the energy generated by wind parks and solar power stations to the consumers. For this, we need a more integrated and powerful network than exists today.

To save 20 percent of our estimated energy consumption in 2020 via technology, we need smart meters and smart grids, which allow consumers to control exactly their power consumption and to save money and energy by changing their habits.

To secure gas supply also in the event of a crisis, we need to diversify our sources and new pipelines which bring the gas from new regions directly to Europe.

To have a functioning internal market with competition and fair and competitive prizes, we need the interconnections between member states, allowing companies to offer their energy in all member states.

How much investment is needed in the EU?

In the next ten years, around Euro 200 billion (bn) are needed for the construction of gas pipelines and electricity grids. More specifically: € 140 bn for high-voltage electricity transmission systems, storage and smart grid applications, €70 bn for gas pipelines, storage, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminals and reverse flow infrastructure (to allow gas to flow in both directions), and € 2.5 bn for CO2 carbon dioxide transport infrastructure.

This means that current investment levels have to be increased considerably. Compared to the period 2000 to 2010, this would result in a 30% increase in investments in the gas sector, and a 100% increase in the electricity sector compared to the same period before.

Why is there a need for the EU to become active?

It is estimated that the investments needed to achieve the 2020 goals will not be made or not be made on time, mainly because of two reasons:

1. Building permits take too long to obtain. Currently, it can take more than 10 years to build an overhead electricity line.

2. Not all the investments needed are commercially viable. Some electricity lines and gas pipelines may not be commercially viable because the market alone does not offer a good return on investment. It makes a difference if you plan a gas pipeline for a region where annual gas consumption is only about 10bcm, as in the case of the three Baltic States and Finland or for a country such as Germany where annual consumption is about 80 bcm. Still, these countries should be linked to the European energy market to foster competition and fair prices for the consumer and guarantee that different gas suppliers can step in, in the event of a gas crisis.

In some cases, two countries are concerned: one has the costs, but the other the benefits. This is the case, when compressors are installed to make gas flow in two directions to help out the neighbouring country in the event of a gas crisis or when electricity lines are built in one country to accommodate excess wind generation from another country.

What is new?

The Commission proposes to select a number of projects of “Common Interest” which are important to reach its climate and energy goals. Projects having obtained this label have two advantages:

- They benefit from a special permit granting procedure which is easier, faster and more transparent than normal procedures: Each member state will designate a single competent authority responsible – “a one stop shop ” – for the completion of the entire permit granting process. The whole permit granting procedure will not exceed 3 years.

- They are eligible for EU funding, be it grants, project bonds or guarantees. In the period 2014 – 2020 € 9.1 bn is earmarked for energy infrastructure under The “Connecting Europe Facility” (CEF).

Did the EU finance energy infrastructure projects before?

This is the very first time that the EU is co-financing the construction of large energy infrastructure from its regular budget. In the past financial period (2007-2013), the EU financed mainly feasibility studies with a total amount of Euro 155 million. Euro 3.85 billion were invested into energy projects under the European Energy Plan for Recovery, set up in the context of the economic and financial crisis. These were one-off amounts.

Which are the selection criteria for projects of common interest?

They should display economic, social and environmental viability and involve at least two Member States. Additional sector-specific criteria will ensure that projects notably strengthen security of supply, enable market integration, foster competition, ensure system flexibility, and allow transmission of renewable generation to consumption centres and storage sites.

How are the projects of common interest selected?

The selection is done in a two stage process:

1. The Regional level: The project promoter will submit its proposal to the relevant regional group. These groups bringing together Member States, regulators, transmission system operators and project promoters draw up their proposed list.

2. The EU Level: The final decision on the Union-wide list of projects of common interest will be taken by the Commission. The first list will be adopted by 31 July 2013 and then updated every two years.

How much funding can a project get?

The EU will co-finance up to 50% of the costs for studies and works and in exceptional circumstances up to 80% for projects that are crucial for regional or EU-wide security of supply or solidarity, require innovative solutions or have cross-sector synergies.

Do all projects of common interest get automatically the EU funding?

No. Once they have the status, they can apply for EU funding. To be considered for grants for works, they will have to prove that they are commercially not viable. Being selected “project of common interest” is no guarantee for EU funding. It does however mean that the project will benefit from the faster permit granting procedures and specific regulatory treatment foreseen for these projects.

Can you give examples of projects financed in the future?

The EU could finance

- An offshore grid in the Northern Seas to transport electricity produced by offshore wind parks to consumers in the big cities

- Innovative projects to store electricity

- Complex gas pipeline projects that allow bringing gas from new supply sources, such as the Caspian region into the EU

- Compressors which enable gas to flow in both directions. This would allow countries to help each other out in the event of a gas crisis.

What new instruments does the financial portfolio include for energy infrastructure projects?

The instruments will include equity instruments (e.g. investment funds) and risk-sharing instruments (e.g. loans and guarantees, and notably project bonds), which create a bigger multiplier effect than grants. By combining various forms of support, it will be possible to tailor the financial assistance provided to the particular needs of a project. Risk-sharing instruments are likely to be suitable for larger project-financed investments, such as big gas import pipelines involving numerous shareholders. Highly innovative projects with a significant technological risk, notably in offshore transmission, might require grant support to get off the ground.

How exactly would the permit granting procedure improve?

The completion of energy infrastructure projects, particularly in the electricity sector, can take more than ten years. This is mainly due to long and complex permit granting procedures which take up about 2/3 of this time. Projects of European interest will benefit from faster permit procedure which will not exceed 3 years. In addition, project developers will not have to address several authorities for permits but only one single national competent authority coordinating the permit granting process and issuing a comprehensive decision.

The proposed procedure will cut administrative costs for a given project throughout Europe by on average about 30% on the promoters’ side and about 45% on the authorities’ side.

If permits are given in 3 years, does that mean that citizens will not be heard?

The new rules improve the possibility of citizens to get involved in a project and their voice to be heard. The Regulation says that citizens have to be involved at a very early stage of the permit procedure. The regulation says that this needs to be done BEFORE the project developer submits his formal application for the permit. In this way, citizens concerns can still be taken into account in the planning phase of the project. In many Member States it is currently practice that public consultation is held AFTER the submission of the file to the authority.

Will the EU environmental standards, and in particular the protection of Natura 2000 sites be respected?

Environmental standards, in particular standards set by the Natura 2000 directive, will be fully respected, and in particular the need to carry out appropriate impact assessments and to minimise the impact on protected habitats. In addition, the new system will contribute to improve the quality of these assessments, as environmental concerns will, through better public and stakeholder involvement, be identified and taken into account at an earlier stage of the process.

When it comes to the preservation of biodiversity and the environment, existing standards will be maintained. Where there are crucial projects that need to be built despite adverse impacts on a site, it will be ensured that the least harmful route is granted the authorisation, that there are no alternative routes, and that the necessary compensation measures are taken, as foreseen in the Natura 2000 Directive.

What is the timeline for the adoption of the draft regulation and the related process of call for proposals?

The Regulation should be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council by the end of 2012 for an entry into force at the beginning of 2013. This will leave enough time for the establishment of the first Union-wide list of projects of common interest, in view of their possible financing under the CEF, which will enter into force in 2014.