Archive pour mars 2008

Minimum taxes for diesel should rise to equal petrol tax minimums

Vendredi 14 mars 2008
 
 

The current EU-wide minimum rate of tax on diesel should be increased to match the current minimum rate for unleaded petrol, but no further, say MEPs.

MEPs also want to set a limit on further petrol and diesel tax increases in the Member States which already have the highest taxes.

The European Commission says the wide variation in rates of diesel (officially known as gas oil) taxes creates distortions in the road haulage market – and also increases environmental damage by encouraging “fuel tourism” by hauliers (i.e. making special journeys or using longer routes in order to fill up in a country with low taxes). Also, since diesel and petrol have similar impacts, especially from the point of view of CO2 emissions, there is no environmental reason for the two minimum rates to differ. The Commission is therefore proposing to raise the minimum rate on diesel up to the minimum rate on petrol.

Slower pace of increase
Adopting by 447 votes in favour to 64 against with 39 abstentions a report based on a draft by Olle Schmidt (ALDE, SE), MEPs agreed with this in principle, but said the minimum taxes on diesel should rise more slowly, from the current level of €302/1000 litres to the current petrol level of €359/1000 litres by 2015 rather than 2012. Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania should have until 2016 to reach the target. On the other hand, contrary to the Commission proposal, MEPs said Spain, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Greece did not need a transitional period.

No to further rises
Furthermore, the committee opposes the Commission’s plan to increase both minimum rates to €380/1000 litres in 2014. In addition, still with a view to avoiding divergence between tax rates getting worse, MEPs say those countries with current tax rates over €400/1000 litres on diesel and €500/1000 litres on unleaded petrol should not increase their taxes further until 2015.

As usual with taxation matters, Parliament’s role is consultative. Once the plenary has voted, the final decision is for the Council, which can act only if it can reach unanimity.

Impact on UK and Ireland
In the UK, current tax levels are well above the minimum EU levels, and this would still be true after the increases proposed by the Commission, so these changes would have little practical impact. If the Council were to adopt MEPs’ proposal of a moratorium on further rises, this would affect the UK.

The increases proposed by MEPs would make little difference in Ireland for the same reason, but an increase would be needed in the tax on diesel to if this was to reach the Commission’s goal of €380/1000 litres (the current rate is €368/1000 litres).

35 000 schools now involved in eTwinning virtual school partnerships

Vendredi 14 mars 2008
 
 

 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants to support to town-twinning actions stimulating active European citizenship

eTwinning is an EU initiative to encourage schools to network with each other over the internet.

In the three years since its launch, over 35,000 schools have signed up. At an eTwinning conference held in Bucharest on 14-16 March, the European Commission will be handing out prizes to eight outstanding eTwinning school projects.

The eTwinning action was launched in January 2005, and since then, over 35,000 schools across Europe have joined in. The action is now part of the Comenius action within the Lifelong Learning Programme, the Commission’s flagship funding programme in the area of education. The eTwinning action allows schools to find, free of charge, partners for collaborative school projects using the internet. In 2008, the emphasis will shift its focus from projects towards promoting online communities, where schools can share knowledge and participate in discussion platforms in addition to running projects.

This year’s annual eTwinning conference is held in Bucharest from 14-16 March 2008. The event will host over 400 participants, comprising teachers from across Europe, representatives from eTwinning’s central and national support services, and other important stakeholders in school education.

On the eve of the conference, Ján Figel’, the European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth, explained the significance of eTwinning: “This programme elegantly combines learning about other cultures with the use of information and communication technologies. With its virtual school partnerships, involving tens of thousands of European schools, eTwinning helps children familiarize themselves with computers, while at the same time breaking down barriers of ignorance that they may have about their fellow Europeans. In this European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008, I particularly welcome this aspect of the eTwinning experience.”

The highlight of the conference will be the award ceremony, at which awards will be handed out to eight of the best eTwinning projects from the 2006-2007 school year. There are four categories, three by age (4-10, 11-15, 16-19) and one for Science and Maths.

Over 400 project entries were assessed, based on their innovative nature, integration in the curriculum, collaboration, creativity and transferability. The top eight finalists came from 26 schools from 17 countries (Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom).

The top four winning projects win a trip to the eTwinning Camp in May.

 
  Source:
Press Room - European Commission
 
  More information:
Etwinning

Minister Rupel heads EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council

Mercredi 12 mars 2008

On March 11th in Brussels, the current President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dr Dimitrij Rupel, chaired the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Council.

The Ukrainian delegation was headed by Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko. The two delegations discussed cooperation between the European Union and Ukraine and exchanged their views on burning political issues.

The current President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Dr Dimitrij Rupel, welcomed the progress Ukraine has made in the transition towards pluralist democracy. He outlined the importance of the transition process which should be based on the principles of the rule of law and respect for human rights.  Among other important factors, transparent political and economic processes and the freedom of the media were mentioned. Minister Rupel also noted that an appropriate constitutional system with an independent constitutional court should be set up and highlighted the beneficial assistance of the Venice Commission. The Slovenian Foreign Minister, Dr Rupel, stressed in particular the importance of combating corruption and ensuring the independence, impartiality and effectiveness of the judiciary; in this context he expressed concerns about occurrences incited by racism and anti-Semitism.

Minister Rupel also encouraged Ukraine to undertake reforms which would enable the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and urged the country to ratify the Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data. At the meeting, some specific issues were also touched upon, among them energy, nuclear safety, transport, the environment, health, the judiciary, freedom and security; the delegations later initiated talks on the negotiations concerning the new extended agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, discussed in particular, during the meeting, by the representatives of the Secretariat and the Commission.

As regards general political issues, Minister Rupel focused exhaustively on the situation in Kosovo and explained the positions of the European Council on this issue. He also gave an assessment of the recent presidential elections in Russia and the prospects for the development of cooperation between the European Union and Russia.

Standards to boost innovation and competitiveness

Mercredi 12 mars 2008

Standardisation can make an important contribution to the development of sustainable industrial policy, unlock the potential of innovative markets and strengthen the position of European economy through more efficient capitalising of its knowledge basis.

These are the main conclusions of a European Commission communication “Towards an increased contribution from standardisation to innovation in Europe” published today. It identifies the most important challenges faced, presents concrete objectives for standardisation and the use of standards, and consolidates on-going efforts and proposed measures to be launched both by relevant stakeholders and by the Commission. The communication identifies key elements for focusing EU standardisation policy on innovation such as commitment to market-led standardisation and to the voluntary use of standards, inclusion of new knowledge in standards or access to standardisation of all interested stakeholders, in particular small and medium enterprises, but also consumers and researchers.

Standardisation must adapt to growing international competition in standards-setting from emerging powers, who consider standardisation an important strategic asset. Faced with this background, the Commission proposes to Member States, industry, users, standards bodies and other stakeholders key elements for focusing EU standardisation policy in support of innovation and competitiveness. The intention is increase the impact of Europe in global standardisation, to facilitate the inclusion of new knowledge in standards, to make effective the access to standardisation to all stakeholders, in particular to Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), to accelerate the uptake of standards by users, and to reform the infrastructure and procedures of European standardisation in order to render it more supportive to innovation.

As a result, the EU expects standardisation to make an important contribution to the following priority actions for innovation and competitiveness:
Sustainable industrial policy: this aims at improving the energy and resource efficiency of products, processes and services and the competitiveness of European industry. Standardisation is important in enabling the uptake of eco-innovation and environmental technologies.
Lead markets: Standardisation is one of the key elements for the success of the lead market initiative which aims to accelerate the emergence of innovative market areas such as eHealth, sustainable construction, recycling and renewable energy. A European lead in developing globally accepted standards would facilitate the growth of these markets both in Europe and abroad (see IP/08/12).
Public procurement: the appropriate use of standards in public procurement may foster innovation, while providing administrations with the tools needed to fulfil their tasks.
The integration of ICT in industry and administrations: the potential to improve the competitive position of the European economy through a more efficient and effective use of ICT tools is important, and standards are essential to realise this potential.

Background
Standardisation is a voluntary cooperation among industry, consumers and public authorities for the development of technical specifications based on consensus. In the EU standards are developed by the European Standards Organisations CEN, CENELEC and ETSI contributing to the EU’s Better Regulation policy as a key element in keeping EU legislation simple and limiting it to the essential elements for the protection of public interests such as health and safety of citizens.

Common rules for safeguarding civil aviation - sky marshals must be “specially selected and trained”

Mercredi 12 mars 2008

The European Parliament adopted a new regulation that aims to ensure a high level of aviation security throughout the EU.It lays down common rules and standards, such as screening of passengers and cabin baggage, access control and aircraft security checks. The regulation also deals with in-flight-security measures, such as the deployment of “sky marshals” and the carriage of weapons on board an aircraft. The conciliation was approved with 583 votes in favour, 21 against and 35 abstentions.

European Parliament and Council representatives were able to strike a deal in conciliation on civil aviation security beginning of January after long and extensive negotiations.

Security programmes at national airport and air carrier level
Common basic security standards include, inter alia, screening of passengers and cabin baggage, access control, screening of hold baggage, aircraft security checks, security controls for cargo and mail, staff recruitment and training as well as patrols and other physical controls.

Security programmes at national airport and air carrier level shall assure that the common rules are applied and maintained.

Member States are free to apply more stringent measures. However, those measures must be “relevant, objective, non-discriminatory and proportional” to the risk that is being addressed.

Sky marshals
For the first time, in-flight security measures such as access to the cockpit, unruly passengers and in-flight security officers (’sky marshals’) are addressed at European level.

The new regulation doesn’t oblige Member States to deploy in-flight security officers.  Each Member State retains the competence to do or not to do so.

Parliament and Council agreed that those Member States that decide to deploy sky marshals must ensure that they are “specially selected and trained”. Strict rules concerning sky marshals were a crucial point for Parliament at the first and second readings.

As regards the carriage of weapons, those must not be carried on board an aircraft (with the exception of those carried in the hold), unless the required security conditions in accordance with national laws have been fulfilled and authorisation has been given by the States involved.

Financing security measures
Each Member State determines the shares of the cost of security measures to be borne respectively by the state, the airport entities, air carriers, other responsible agencies or users. Additionally, the Commission will, no later than 31 December 2008, present a report which will consider what steps need to be taken in order to ensure that security charges are used exclusively to meet security costs, and to “improve the transparency of such charges”. If appropriate, this report will be accompanied by a legislative proposal.

One-stop security checks
Passengers and/or their baggage arriving on flights from third countries that have aviation security standards equivalent to the EU law need not be re-screened. Therefore, agreements between the EU and third countries, which recognise that the security standards applied in the third country are equivalent to the EU standards, should be encouraged.

Entry into force
The regulation enters into force on the twentieth day after publication in the Official Journal and will be applied not later than 24 months after this date.

Lifelong learning as a key factor in a knowledge-based society

Mercredi 12 mars 2008

Lifelong learning is an increasingly topical issue. It is one of the European Union’s priority guidelines and, as a foundation for establishing a knowledge-based society, also an integral part of the Lisbon strategy and the Bologna process. The conference entitled “Universities and Lifelong Learning” organised by the Slovenian Presidency featured presentations by some leading experts on lifelong learning. The conference was also attended by representatives of the EU Member States, the Western Balkans countries, higher education institutions, ministries, various international associations and networks, and student organisations.

The two-day conference was opened on 10 March 2008 with a welcome address from Mojca Kucler Dolinar, the Slovenian Minister for Higher Education, Science and Technology.The core message of the conference was that these knowledge and skills should be given the kind of public recognition which would further stimulate individuals to continue their education.

Participants at the conference also pointed out that demographic changes and the increased retirement age had changed the outmoded thinking that a person’s learning career was over once they had completed their formal higher education. They agreed that higher education institutions should offer education and training programmes not only to the conventional student population but also to all the population groups and to the economic sector. These programmes should be officially recognised in the same way that formal education currently is.

The emphases and conclusions of the conference will be used in future as material for the EU Commission in drawing up documents and will also serve as a basis for debates during the French Presidency. They will also be discussed within the Bologna Process monitoring group.

Eu tender : Enteric pathogens — microbiological support for surveillance at the EU level - Stockholm (2 lots)

Mardi 11 mars 2008
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Enteric pathogens — microbiological support for surveillance at the EU level - Stockholm (2 lots)
Reference 2008/S 49-066887
Type Contract notice
Type of prestation Technical assistance
Publication March 11th, 2008
Domains concerned Research  |  Health
DG / Agency / Service European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
Regions European Union
  Description
Description of contract ECDC wishes to conclude a framework contract for the implementation in the European Union of laboratory surveillance of salmonella, campylobacter and STEC/VTEC as well as for mapping the needs and improving capacities for the laboratory surveillance of these infections. The tenderer should offer a combination of laboratory expertise and management as well as coordination skills, and ensure the application and the harmonisation of appropriate and updated laboratory techniques for these enteric infections in MS. The tender is divided into 2 lots, 1 for each organism. If the 2 lots are awarded to several contractors, they are requested to coordinate their work in agreement with and under the supervision of ECDC.
The tenderer should prepare, in close collaboration with ECDC, a detailed proposal on how to provide EQA schemes for the national reference level laboratories for salmonella in the Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
- Lot 1: External quality assurance (EQA) schemes for salmonella
- Lot 2: External quality assurance (EQA) schemes for STEC/VTEC in 2008
Time-limit for
receipt of tenders
April 21st, 2008
  More Info
Contact European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
Procurement
Tomtebodavägen 11A
S-171 83 Stockholm
Tel: 46 8 58 60 10 00
Fax: 46 8 58 60 10 01 procurement@ecdc.europa.eu
More info www.ecdc.europa.eu.
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Creation of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT)

Mardi 11 mars 2008

The European Parliament adopted today the Regulation establishing the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT).

The next steps include appointing the EIT’s Governing Board by June 2008 and establishing the first two or three Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) towards end of 2009.
To boost Europe’s innovation capacity, the EIT will operate on the basis of highly integrated partnerships known as “Knowledge and Innovation Communities”. These KICs will pool together a critical mass of the best resources from higher education institutions, research organisations, businesses and other stakeholders in the innovation process. They will be selected and coordinated by an independent Governing Board, composed of 18 renowned personalities from business, research and academia. The involvement of business at both the strategic and operational levels is the cornerstone of the whole EIT initiative.

The Governing Board members will be appointed in June 2008. In January, the Commission already set up an ad-hoc Identification Committee[1] whose task is to identify and propose future members of the Board. In this capacity, the Committee has just launched an open consultation on the main criteria to be taken into account. The entire identification process is expected to take approximately four months.

The first two or three KICs will be selected within 18 months after the appointment of the Governing Board. The focus will be on strategic areas where the EU faces vital current and future challenges. These are likely to include climate change, renewable energies and the next generation of information and communication technologies.
Following the adoption of the Regulation, the European Council will decide on the location of the EIT’s future headquarters, possibly as early as June this year.

Creation of the European Migration Policy Centre

Mardi 11 mars 2008

One of the European Union’s top political priorities is to devise and implement an effective and forward-looking European Migration Policy that benefits the EU Member States, their citizens and migrants alike.

Europe’s migration strategy covers policy areas such as Europe’s labour market needs, demographic changes, the integration of immigrants into increasingly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies and the fight against illegal migration, while at the same time ensuring a secure environment for the free movement of its citizens. In order to underpin policies that address these complex challenges, the EU should create a special platform where research focuses on the evolving needs of policy-making in the area of migration management. It is from this perspective that Vice-President Frattini supports the establishment of a European Migration Policy Centre (EMPC), the opening of which is envisaged for as early as the autumn of 2008.
One of the European Union’s top political priorities is to devise and implement an effective and forward-looking European Migration Policy that benefits the EU Member States, their citizens and migrants alike. Europe’s migration strategy covers policy areas such as Europe’s labour market needs, demographic changes, the integration of immigrants into increasingly multi-cultural and multi-ethnic societies and the fight against illegal migration, while at the same time ensuring a secure environment for the free movement of its citizens. In order to underpin policies that addresses these complex challenges, the EU should create a special platform where research focuses on the evolving needs of policy-making in the area of migration management. It is from this perspective that Vice-President Frattini supports the establishment of a European Migration Policy Centre (EMPC), the opening of which is envisaged for as early as the autumn of 2008.

The main objectives of the Centre are to develop specific tools to ensure that research serves policy-making and actions and provide policy-makers and other stakeholders with methodologies that address migration governance needs. The centre will also support the production and efficient use of databases on the main dimensions of migration: demographic, economic, social, legal and political, including the collection of good and bad practices. It is expected to construct a large pool of scholars and influential thinkers to advance European and global thinking on migration issues and therewith provide a forum for confronting and discussing ideas and opinions among participants with diverging interests, while maintaining its independence with high-quality scientific standards.

The European University Institute (EUI) in Florence is to set up the new Centre, given that it already conducts highly specialised research in the area of European and international migration policies. The European University Institute will anchor the management of the EMPC, from a base in the Robert Schuman Centre. The Centre will be governed by a Director supported by a scientific committee.
Efforts will be geared towards opening the new Centre as early as the autumn of 2008. The financial support will come from the European University Institute, external funding from private and public sources, and contributions will be made by sponsoring institutions and foundations. The European Commission is reviewing the possibilities for EU funding.

The European Commission streamlines rules on protection in case of maritime pollution

Mardi 11 mars 2008

The European Commission today presents a proposal which further strengthens the existing Community legislation regarding sanctions on those responsible for pollution by ships.

The new proposal for a directive will replace Framework Decision 2005/667/JHA “to strengthen the criminal-law framework for the enforcement of the law against ship-source pollution”. This Framework Decision was adopted in 2005 to supplement Directive 2005/35/EC “on ship-source pollution and on the introduction of penalties for infringements”. Both instruments were adopted out of concern about the illegal operational discharges of polluting substances from ships at sea and in the aftermath of major accidental oil spills. While the Directive contains a precise definition of the infringements along with the rule that they will “be subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties, which may include criminal or administrative penalties” (IP 05/888), the Framework Decision included provisions on the nature, type and levels of criminal penalties. In a ruling issued on 23 October 2007, the European Court of Justice, seized by the Commission, annulled the Framework Decision and ruled that the provisions related to the definition of criminal offences and to the nature of sanctions should be adopted in an instrument based on the EC Treaty if necessary to ensure that the Community’s rules on maritime safety are fully effective.
The new proposal follows the lines of the judgment and copies the content of relevant provisions of the Framework Decision into a Directive which will amend the existing Directive 2005/35/EC.
With today’s proposal, the Directive 2005/35/EC would be amended in a way that its content mirrors the original Commission proposal presented five years ago (IP 03/316).

The new directive will clarify that the infringements defined in Directive 2005/35/EC have to be considered as criminal offences and are to be sanctioned by criminal penalties. The Directive will also oblige Member States to ensure that companies can be held liable for criminal offences committed for their benefit and that these companies are subject to effective, proportionate and dissuasive penalties of an administrative or criminal nature.
The annulment of the Framework Decision and the forthcoming negotiations on today’s proposed directive do not affect the implementation of the provisions of the existing Directive 2005/35/EC.