Archive pour octobre 2008

A new citizen Forum on energy

Mardi 28 octobre 2008

European Commission launches new Citizens’ Energy Forum to work for more choice and better deals for EU energy consumers

EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva and the Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs opened, today in London, the first ever meeting of a new Citizens’ Energy Forum, a platform designed to implement and enforce consumer rights on the energy market across the EU. The aim of the forum is to tackle consumer problems and propose practical solutions so that current EU-wide consumer rights exist in practice and not only on paper and improve regulatory conditions in the retail markets. The Forum brings together national consumer organisations, industry, national regulators, and government authorities to work on key issues such as switching energy suppliers, user-friendly billing, smart metering or protecting vulnerable groups.

The Citizens’ Energy Forum has been launched to help consumers by working to enforce their existing EU-wide rights and to provide them with clear, straightforward information on what choices are available to them when it comes to buying their gas and electricity. The idea of the Forum was proposed in the Commission’s 3rd package for the internal energy market and was presented by Commissioners Kuneva and Piebalgs at the May 2008 conference on Energy Consumers’ Rights. The forum will develop recommendations aimed at better implementation and enforcement of the rights of energy consumers, and better electricity and gas retail markets.

Topics which will be discussed in the Citizens Energy Forum:
- Billing: a gas or electricity bill is the simplest and best indicator of energy consumption for the average consumer; the bills must be simple, accurate and allow comparisons between providers
- Energy efficiency: labels on the efficiency of energy-using appliances must be simple and clear
- Switching suppliers: switching must be easy, swift and free of charge; information on how to switch must be clear and accessible
- Smart metering: new technologies can help improve accuracy of bills, easier understanding of how much you pay, and enable companies to better advice consumers according to their consumption profile
- Protecting vulnerable consumers: people who depend on energy to survive must be protected; the forum will address questions such as: how to avoid disconnection for people using heart and breathing support or undergoing dialysis? How to deal with people who are in financial difficulties and cannot pay their energy bills? National authorities, consumer organisations and industry should work out solutions to this issue.

The Commission has calculated that, with smart choices, an average EU family can save 1000 euros or more in gas and electricity bills per year. The impact of such choices is all the more important given that around 40 per cent of the EU’s energy is used in buildings – including our homes and businesses. The resulting cuts in carbon emissions are a further positive spin off.

Background

In parallel, the EU will continue to watch energy markets, and comprehensive market monitoring consumer data - gathered by the European Commission – indicating how gas and electricity markets are delivering for consumers, will feed into the work of the Forum. This data will be published annually as part of a broader market monitoring analysis “The Consumer Markets Scoreboard.” Member States will also report to the Forum on their monitoring of household prices, switching rates or complaints, a new power given to them under the Third Energy Package.

European Energy Research Alliance

Mardi 28 octobre 2008

EU research institutes have created this alliance to fostering “green” energy technologies

EU Commissioners for Research and Energy, Janez Potočnik and Andris Piebalgs welcomed today the initiative of leading research institutes in the European Union (EU) to found the European Energy Research Alliance (EERA). The Alliance is going to expand and optimise EU energy research capabilities through the sharing of world-class national facilities and the joint realisation of national and European programmes. This new Research Alliance will be a key actor of the EU Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) and will contribute to accelerate the development of new low carbon technologies for EU to move toward a low carbon economy.

The triple challenge of energy security, climate change and competitiveness that the EU currently faces is such that it will require scaling up and better coordination of all available resources to develop the energy technologies that will allow Europe’s citizens to enjoy a good quality of life in carbon constrained future. Going it alone at national level will lead to failure and waste of resources. Working together will put Europe in the driver’s seat on the way to a new energy era.

In November 2007, the European Commission launched the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan), which gives energy research in Europe an important push. It will combine the potential of research capacities of the major European institutes and universities with the engagement of European industry and the commitment of the Member States. Actions will be supported by reliable information provided by the Commission’s European Energy Technology Information System (SETIS).

The European Energy Research Alliance is the SET Plan’ research community pillar. The cooperation of major national research institutes and universities will move help to move from today’s model of collaborating on individual projects towards a new way of jointly implementing whole programmes which go from research and development through deployment. There are many scientific fields which have an impact on the development of energy technologies, from engineering to the social sciences. The Alliance is able to cover many different disciplines, bringing a much-needed multidisciplinary approach to energy research.

The SET Plan also includes a series of new priority European Industrial Initiatives focusing on the development of technologies for which working at Community level will add most value. Initiatives in preparation focus on carbon capture and storage, bio-energy, wind and solar energy, the European smart grid and sustainable fission.

Conference of the EUROCITIES network on climate change

Lundi 27 octobre 2008

The conference organised today will focus on the adoption of the ‘Declaration of EUROCITIES mayors on climate change’

Under the aegis of the French Presidency of the Council of the European Union, EUROCITIES is organising a conference in Lyon that will bring together mayors and elected representatives from European towns to discuss topics relating to climate change and energy efficiency. The French prime minister, François Fillon, and the French minister for ecology, energy, sustainable development and regional development, Jean-Louis Borloo, are expected to attend.

The participants will focus mainly on the need to adopt an integrated approach to responding to climate change and promoting energy efficiency, as well as on the follow-up to the green paper on urban transport. These debates will be enhanced by contributions from Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for the Environment, and Antonio Tajani, the European Commissioner for Transport.

EUROCITIES is a network of 130 European towns that was set up in 1986. It allows its members to exchange information and to develop solutions and common positions with regard to the specific problems with which they are confronted.

This conference will above all be the occasion for presenting the ‘Declaration of EUROCITIES mayors on climate change’.

Toward a new european strategy for the outermost regions

Lundi 27 octobre 2008

The European Commission has just adopted a new communication on the outermost regions (OR) called ‘The outermost regions: an asset for Europe’

This communication follows a request from the Member States, who wanted to show the importance of the OR for the European Union as a whole. Far from the image of “problem regions”, henceforth they are being regarded more favourably as “hidden treasures”. Numerous projects supported by the European Union amply bear witness to the capacity of OR to specialise in leading-edge sectors and also provide vehicles for pilot-projects of benefit to the entire Union. The European Union has seven outermost regions: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Reunion Island, the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.

Notable examples include innovative projects conducted in the fields of energy (the “multi-purpose power station” contributing to electricity production in Madeira), agriculture and food (the Martinique Agriculture and Environment Centre), oceanography (the Oceanography and Fisheries Centre of the University of the Azores), astrophysics (the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute) and the environment (the SEAS project in French Guiana, which aims to monitor the Amazonian environment by satellite). These regions also provide priority testing grounds for combating the effects of climate change by virtue of their exposure to natural hazards. Their biodiversity is more extensive than mainland Europe’s and their marine ecosystems are very diverse, allowing innovations in the pharmaceutical and agricultural fields. The communication is also proposing that a “European Outermost Region Forum” be staged every two years with a view to enhancing dialogue and knowledge relating to OR specificities.

143 projects will be financed under the first LIFE + call for proposals

Lundi 27 octobre 2008

186 million euro will be financed by the European Union for projects from all EU Member States under the European fund for the environment

The European Commission has approved funding for 143 new projects under the first call for the LIFE+ programme (2007-2013), the European fund for the environment. The projects are from across the EU and cover actions in the fields of nature conservation, environmental policy, and information and communication. Overall, they represent a total investment of €367 million, of which the EU will provide €186 million.

Following the first call under the LIFE+ programme, the Commission received over 700 proposals from public or private bodies from the 27 EU Member States. Of these, 143 were selected for co-funding through the new programme’s three components: LIFE+ Nature and Biodiversity, LIFE+ Environment Policy and Governance and LIFE+ Information and Communication.

LIFE+ Nature & Biodiversity projects improve the conservation status of endangered species and habitats. Of the 264 proposals received, the Commission selected 58 projects for funding from partnerships of conservation bodies, government authorities and other parties. Situated in 21 Member States, they represent a total investment of €165 million, of which the EU will provide over €94 million. The majority (54) are Nature projects, contributing to the implementation of the Birds and/or Habitats Directives and the Natura 2000 network. The other four are Biodiversity projects, a new category of LIFE+ project for pilot schemes that tackle wider biodiversity issues.

LIFE+ Environment Policy & Governance projects are pilot projects that contribute to the development of innovative policy ideas, technologies, methods and instruments. Of the 325 proposals received, the Commission selected 74 projects for funding from a wide range of public and private sector organisations. The winning projects, situated in 21 Member States, represent a total investment of €185 million of which the EU will provide €84 million. Projects targeting waste and natural resources (29 projects) account for the largest share of EU funding (approximately €26 million). Climate change is the second most targeted priority area with 22 projects (approximately €24 million). A further 24 projects deal with various issues including water, urban environment, soil, noise, forests, chemicals, air and environment and health.

LIFE+ Information and Communication projects disseminate information and raise the profile of environmental issues, and provide training and awareness-raising for the prevention of forest fires. Of the 118 proposals received, the Commission selected 11 projects for funding from a range of public and private sector nature and/or environment organisations. The projects are situated in Spain, France, Finland, Italy, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom, and represent a total investment of €16 million of which the EU will provide €8 million.

The LIFE+ programme

LIFE+ is the new European financial instrument for the environment with a total budget of €2143 million (two billion one hundred and forty three million euros) for the period 2007-2013. During this period, the Commission will launch one call for LIFE+ project proposals per year.

7th Asia-Europe forum in Beijing

Vendredi 24 octobre 2008

The Heads of State and Government representing the European Union and Asia will meet in Beijing for the 7th ASEM Summit on 24 and 25 October

Their discussions will focus on the means to tackle the international financial crisis.
They will also address the major global challenges facing citizens in both regions: peace and international stability, sustainable development, human rights, climate change, energy and food security, trade issues and the fight against terrorism.

This ASEM Summit will be the biggest ever in terms of participation: six new members - India, Pakistan, Mongolia, Romania, Bulgaria and the ASEAN secretariat - will take part for the first time. This brings the total number of ASEM members to 45, that is, 43 countries, the European Commission and the ASEAN secretariat. The meeting in Beijing will bring together almost all of Asia and Europe and account for half of global GDP, nearly 60% of the world’s population and 60% of global trade.

China will chair the Summit, while France as holder of the Presidency will head the European Union delegation. Civil Society, parliamentarians and business leaders will attend related meetings on the sidelines of the Summit. The Asia-Europe People’s Forum (AEPF) will take place in the Chinese capital on 13 and 14 October, while the Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF) will be held from the 21 to the 23 October. The Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP) held its last meeting on 18 June.

Welcome to Erasmus Mundus II

Vendredi 24 octobre 2008

The European Commission confirms the European Parliament’s vote on the establishment of the second phase of Erasmus Mundus for the 2009-2013 period. This programme aims at enhancing quality in higher education and the promotion of intercultural understanding through co-operation with third countries

The European Commission welcomes today’s vote in the European Parliament in favour of establishing the second phase of Erasmus Mundus (2009-2013) programme. The European Union will thus continue to support joint programmes in Europe with grants to the most highly-talented students and professors from third countries, but will also extend the scope of the programme to the doctoral level and give more financial support to European students.
Erasmus Mundus is a European action programme for the enhancement of quality in higher education and the promotion of intercultural understanding through co-operation with third countries. During its first phase (2004-2008) more than 6,000 students from outside Europe will have received an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to obtain a degree in Europe and more than 1,000 teaching staff from third countries will have been given a scholarship to actively contribute to masters courses in teaching or research activities.

The new phase of the programme proposes the integration of the “Erasmus Mundus External Cooperation Window” under the “Erasmus Mundus” umbrella. Partnerships funded under this action will continue to allow for the transfer of know-how and exchanges of students and professors at all levels of higher education according to the “Erasmus” model, while respecting the needs and priorities of the countries concerned.

The first joint initiatives under the new actions of the Erasmus Mundus can take place in the academic year 2010/11. The programme should therefore be adopted as soon as possible in order to allow its implementation within the period of 18 months:
- 6 months to launch call for proposals and carry out selection procedures
- 6 months for successful courses to invite students to submit applications and carry out the selection
- 6 months before the start of academic year to inform the selected students.

«Study in Europe»: European higher education on internet

Jeudi 23 octobre 2008

The European Commission has launched a new web portal www.study-in-europe.org to attract student to European higher education

The European Commission has launched a new web portal called “Study in Europe” to promote the attractiveness of European Higher Education to students from other parts of the world. The portal, at www.study-in-europe.org, is part of a wide-ranging campaign to increase the number of students from outside Europe who study in the EU. “Study in Europe” provides clear and up-to-date information about the range of courses on offer in European higher education institutions, admission procedures, costs, scholarships and the higher education environment in Europe.

Potential students will find help to decide which country they should go to, which university they should choose, what they may need before they leave home and what will happen when they arrive at their chosen campus. “Study in Europe” covers thirty-two European countries, their universities and what it takes to live and study in them.

To help European universities and higher education institutions market themselves internationally more effectively, the Commission has also developed a “Study in Europe” Communication Tool-Kit. This Tool-Kit is free, and contains guidance on such issues as how to formulate key messages, and how to develop marketing techniques, media strategies, alumni relations and higher education fairs.

Europe has more than four thousand higher education institutions, from top-level research establishments to small, teaching-focused colleges. Since the adoption of the Bologna Declaration in 1999, Europe’s higher education has entered a new phase of reform, aligning degree structures and opening the door to the mutual recognition of qualifications and cross-border periods of study. A comprehensive quality control process is planned for 2010.

“Study in Europe” will be present at two higher education fairs, in Moscow (13-15 November 2008) and Sao Paolo (21-22 March 2009).

Background

The “Study in Europe” campaign has been devised under terms of reference established by the European Commission to build on the success of the Erasmus Mundus programme. Its main objective is to promote the attractiveness of European Higher Education to students from other parts of the world.

The “Study in Europe” website (www.study-in-europe.org) is an important element of the project and is available in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian.

The site is an international, non-bordered portal that aims to make European Higher Education more easily accessible to students outside the EU (but it can be equally useful for students within the EU, of course). The following countries are currently covered:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

The “Study in Europe “logo has been specially developed for the project.

A safer internet for children: here is the will of the EU

Jeudi 23 octobre 2008

MEPs adopted a report on a proposal to ensure better protection for children against these dangers where it backed the latest “Safer Internet” programme for 2009 -2013 whose budget is some €55 million

Children and teenagers are keen internet users - 12 to 15-year-olds spend at least three hours a day on screen - but are not always aware of the dangers: not just sites showing child pornography or violence but also the risk of bullying or grooming.

The proposal seeks to introduce a new “Safer Internet” programme to run from 2009 to 2013, following on from the success of the current programme (2005-2008). The aim is to anticipate discernable trends in the online environment. With a budget of €55 million, the programme will combat illegal content, promote a safer online environment, raise public awareness and establish a “knowledge base” for research purposes. Parliament is working on this legislation in co-decision with the Council of Ministers.

The programme will provide for:
- National contact points for reporting illegal content and harmful conduct
- Involvement of children and young people in initiatives to create a safer online environment
- Greater public awareness (information campaigns, exchange of best practice)
- A knowledge base, bringing together researchers engaged in child safety online.

The report drafted by Roberta Angelilli (UEN, IT), supports the Commission proposal with a number of amendments including greater emphasis on combating new developments such as the electronic harassment and psychological manipulation of children and the showing of physical and/or psychological aggression. The House says that setting up a common “child-safe” label for webpages, as well as information packages for teachers, carers and parents.

MEPs also say hotlines should be available for reporting illegal online content, and filters should be set up to prevent offending content from passing through on-line technologies. In addition, they wish to facilitate information exchange between Member States, since illegal content can be uploaded in one country and viewed in another.

The report was adopted with 672 votes in favour, 9 against and 19 abstentions.

2008 Sakharov Prize, and the winner is…

Jeudi 23 octobre 2008

The 2008 Sakharov Prize is awarded today by the European Parliament to Chinese political activist Hu Jia

Hu Jia is a prominent human rights activist and dissident in the People’s Republic of China. He has embraced a wide range of causes, including environmental issues, HIV/AIDS advocacy and a call for an official enquiry into the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. He has also acted as a coordinator of the “barefoot lawyers movement”.

20th anniversary of Sakharov Prize

The Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, named in honour of the Soviet physicist and political dissident Andrei Sakharov, has been awarded by the European Parliament every year since 1988 to individuals or organisations who have made an important contribution to the fight for human rights or democracy. To mark the 20th anniversary, a special event to which all previous winners of the prize are being invited will be held in Strasbourg on Tuesday 16 December.

This year’s prize, consisting of a certificate and a cheque for €50,000, will be awarded in Strasbourg the next day, Wednesday 17 December.