Archive pour novembre 2008

Warning to the European Youngs: the “European Union and citizenship”:competition is launched!

Vendredi 28 novembre 2008

The competition was launched today. The public is the young students in art and graphism, of 16 years old at less and EU citizen or residents. They are invited to create a comic strip pf one page without lyrics, that reflects their european citizenship concept. Through this competition, the European Commission expect them to express themselves on their own experience of citizenship in the EU.

In the words of Mr Barrot, “The concept of a citizen in the European Union, not just a citizen of the European Union, will enable us to involve actively in this project people who live in the European Union without necessarily being EU citizens, on the basis of a very broad definition of the citizenship concept. If you think about the idea of citizenship in Europe, you actually get to the very heart of your existence within the EU”, he added. And he continued: “That’s why, in the context of this competition today, I am suggesting to all art and graphics students of 16 or over that they create a comic strip that brings to life the concept of citizenship in the European Union.”

Those who decide to take part in the competition will have to produce their own design for a one-page comic strip - with no words - illustrating the concept of citizenship in the European Union. The competition is addressed mainly to art and graphics students of 16 or over who live in one of the 27 EU Member States. However, it is also open to anyone else aged 16 or over who lives in the European Union and is interested in this subject.

An initial selection will be made at national level - in each country, three prizewinners will be invited to a prize-giving ceremony on 3 April 2009.

Then, at European level, the 27 national prizewinners will be invited to Brussels from 9 to 11 May 2009, and three European prizewinners will be selected from among them. In a prize-giving ceremony hosted by Vice-President Jacques Barrot, the winners will receive €6 000 (first prize), €4 000 (second prize) and €2 000 (third prize).

The best comic strips will be posted on the websites of the Commission representations in the Member States and on the Europa website. They may also be used for future European campaigns on citizenship.

This initiative is particularly fitting since both the European Commission and the European Parliament have set themselves the aim of improving communications on the subject of citizenship.

Warning to the European Youngs: the “European Union and citizenship”:competition is launched!

Vendredi 28 novembre 2008

The competition was launched today. The public is the young students in art and graphism, of 16 years old at less and EU citizen or residents. They are invited to create a comic strip pf one page without lyrics, that reflects their european citizenship concept. Through this competition, the European Commission expect them to express themselves on their own experience of citizenship in the EU.

In the words of Mr Barrot, “The concept of a citizen in the European Union, not just a citizen of the European Union, will enable us to involve actively in this project people who live in the European Union without necessarily being EU citizens, on the basis of a very broad definition of the citizenship concept. If you think about the idea of citizenship in Europe, you actually get to the very heart of your existence within the EU”, he added. And he continued: “That’s why, in the context of this competition today, I am suggesting to all art and graphics students of 16 or over that they create a comic strip that brings to life the concept of citizenship in the European Union.”

Those who decide to take part in the competition will have to produce their own design for a one-page comic strip - with no words - illustrating the concept of citizenship in the European Union. The competition is addressed mainly to art and graphics students of 16 or over who live in one of the 27 EU Member States. However, it is also open to anyone else aged 16 or over who lives in the European Union and is interested in this subject.

An initial selection will be made at national level - in each country, three prizewinners will be invited to a prize-giving ceremony on 3 April 2009.

Then, at European level, the 27 national prizewinners will be invited to Brussels from 9 to 11 May 2009, and three European prizewinners will be selected from among them. In a prize-giving ceremony hosted by Vice-President Jacques Barrot, the winners will receive €6 000 (first prize), €4 000 (second prize) and €2 000 (third prize).

The best comic strips will be posted on the websites of the Commission representations in the Member States and on the Europa website. They may also be used for future European campaigns on citizenship.

This initiative is particularly fitting since both the European Commission and the European Parliament have set themselves the aim of improving communications on the subject of citizenship.

Europe’s education systems : learning by the ICT

Vendredi 28 novembre 2008

The European Commission has noticed a too limited presence of the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in the european education systems and would like to remedy to this fact. The report it has published recommends a reform in order to adapt these systems to the new technological progress.

Information and communication technologies (ICT) are not yet sufficiently present in Europe’s education systems, and reforms must be introduced to adapt them to the technological changes sweeping through our societies. This is the main conclusion of a report adopted by the European Commission.

The report, entitled “The use of ICT to support innovation and lifelong learning for all - A report on progress”, describes how the use of e-learning has developed in Europe since 2000. It assesses the impact of ICT on school and higher education, while taking other education sectors into account. It then draws conclusions for the next stage of using information technology in education and training, and identifies the challenges posed by the need for improving the quality and efficiency in Europe’s education systems, and in particular for pedagogical, technological and organisational innovation.

The basic findings of the paper are:

* The impact of ICT on education and training is visible, but not as great as it could be. The extent to which businesses and public services have been transformed through ICT is not yet reflected in educational systems;
* Embedding ICT in education and training systems requires changes across the pedagogical, technological and organisational settings;
* The potential for ICT to help develop a ‘learning continuum’ between formal, informal and workplace learning is clear and has to be built upon.

Successful education depends increasingly on the confident, competent and innovative use of ICT. This was emphasised in the Recommendation of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers concerning ‘Key Competences for Lifelong Learning’, published in December 2006. The Recommendation identifies eight Key Competences that every citizen should develop by the end of compulsory education. Of particular interest in the current context is Key Competence Number 4, ‘Digital Competence’, which involves the confident and critical use of information society technology for work, leisure and communication.

An inclusive and open approach is very important in view of the digital divide. On this basis, the Commission proposes, as a priority for its policy cooperation work with the Member States, to exploit fully the potential of information technology in educational systems and, concretely, the associated need for accompanying pedagogical, organisational and technological innovations, by:

* developing innovative learning approaches, including them in curricula and supporting them through teaching guidelines and teacher training;
* adapting assessment methods and quality standards to the actual learning needs in education systems, and exploiting innovative learning resources such as open educational resources;
* building on the widespread use of digital devices and tools as an opportunity to foster the creative and critical use of ICT for learning and teaching.

Tempus- Financing new university cooperation projects

Vendredi 28 novembre 2008

60 million euro were allocated to the new phase of the TEMPUS Programme by the European Commission. It will finance 60 university cooperation projects and 13 others quality projects. 900 unviersities are involved in those projects.

The Tempus programme supports the modernisation of higher education and creates an area of co-operation in countries outside the EU. Established in 1990 after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the scheme now covers 28 countries in the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East.

The Tempus projects are based on multilateral partnerships between higher education institutions from the EU and partner countries. They can develop, modernise and disseminate new curricula or teaching methods, boost a quality assurance culture, and modernise the management and governance of higher education institutions.

This new, fourth phase of the Tempus programme has introduced new features such as the need to implement larger projects, with a more noticeable impact, involving both larger university networks and more non academic partners and stressing regional cooperation. Tempus IV has thus given a new impetus to structural measures, which contribute to the development and reform of higher education institutions and systems in partner countries, and increase their convergence with EU developments, which is in line with the EU’s priorities in its external policies.

In concrete terms, the projects selected by the European Commission for funding under Tempus IV cover a broad range of disciplines, from sustainable development and chemical engineering to intellectual property law, biomedical engineering and social work. Through a strict procedure and a consultation process with the national authorities, the Commission has ensured that the selected projects are both of high quality and in line with national educational priorities.

Conference in Brussels on the Behavioural Economics

Vendredi 28 novembre 2008

A conference on the Behavioural Economics will take place today with international experts and various actors that come to debate on the consumers behaviours, studies on theirs motivations and its influences on the market. This conference is organized by the EU Commissioner for Consumers Meglena Kuneva.

The European economy needs empowered consumers to boost its performance and drive competition. However, the complexity of today’s markets may limit the ability of consumers to make optimal choices. Today’s conference will focus on examples of where behavioural economics has already led to better policies which reflect these complexities, and participants will be invited to debate how behavioural economics can help to shape EU legislation in the future. This event could be the starting point of a increasing use of behavioural tools to improve policymaking in Europe.

Commissioner Kuneva said: “We are constantly working to improve the marketplace for Europe’s consumers and ensure that they have access to the best that is on offer. But we need to understand the consumers we are working for if we are to fully meet their needs. Behavioural economics offers very interesting insights which could help us to achieve this. Moreover, today’s conference is a chance to break down the wall between researchers and policy-makers, so that they can learn from each other and exchange ideas, and complement each other in their work to the ultimate benefit of the consumer.”

Behavioural economics studies how people actually make everyday choices, challenging traditional economic assumptions and relying on field and laboratory experiments to investigate the actual reasons for people’s decisions. It may help explain why people’s behaviour is not always selfish (e.g., they donate money), why they may not always act in an economically logical way (e.g. staying with a more expensive energy provider rather than changing to a cheaper competitor) or why they put a greater value on some items over others of an equal real value.

Behavioural economics could become, in the future, the equivalent to what the “wind tunnel” is for cars: a tool to test, optimise and streamline EU policies that seek to influence consumers in a wide array of fields, from consumer affairs, to energy, to health, to environment. It offers the opportunity to better understand the anomalies of human behaviour and responses, so that policies can be shaped to best suit consumers’ needs.

The conference today will focus on examples of where behavioural economics has already led to better policies – both in the EU and elsewhere – and will invite debate on its potential use and impact. Participants will also debate important questions such as whether it is really the right or responsibility of policy makers to intervene in consumers’ decisions.

VAT – Poland case refered by the Court of Justice

Jeudi 27 novembre 2008

The European Commission has decided to refer Poland to the Court of Justice because it must ensure that the EU VAT binding rules are applied by all Member States. In fact Poland may be in breach of law regarding the rate applied to the infants clothes and shoes.

It points out that more efficient instruments- such as direct subsidies or personal income tax allowance- can be easily (without the agreement of the 26 other Member States) implemented by Poland to reach its objectives.
Poland applies a reduced VAT rate of 7% to the supply of clothing and clothing accessories for infants and to the supply of children’s shoes.

According to the VAT Directive (Article 98, in connection with Annex III of Directive 2006/112/EC) only a limited list of supplies of goods and services may be subject to reduced rates of VAT. None of the aforementioned items are included in this exhaustive list, and Poland has been granted no derogation in this regard. The conclusion is that by applying a reduced VAT rate in these cases, Poland is in breach of Community Law.

Furthermore, in the state of the current VAT Directive, the Commission points out that other – and probably more efficient - instrument such as specific direct subsidies or personal income tax allowances can be used at national level by Member States in order to support their social policy.

The Commission sent a reasoned opinion to Poland in February 2008 (see IP/08/149). As Poland has not amended its legislation within the time limit laid down, the Commission has decided to refer the matter to the Court of Justice.

The Commission’s reference number is 2006/2510.

Bulgaria has been critized by the Commission for its environmental management

Jeudi 27 novembre 2008

Bulgaria has received warning letters by the Commission for being in breach of the environmental law, notably regarding its household waste management and its evaluation of incidences on the environment forecasted by the wild birds directive.

Final written warning to Bulgaria over waste management processes

Bulgaria is to receive a final written warning for failing to properly implement the EC waste framework directive[1]. The directive requires Member States to promote waste prevention, recycling and processing for re-use and prohibit the abandonment, dumping or uncontrolled disposal of waste.

In October 2007, the Commission sent Bulgaria a first written warning about insufficient measures to establish an integrated network of household waste management installations in Sofia. Following a thorough assessment of the Bulgarian authorities’ reply, the Commission still considers the situation to be unsatisfactory, and has decided to issue a final written warning. The Commission analysis concludes that, as there is no clear deadline for the contracting of the new integrated system, it remains unclear how the Bulgarian government will sustainably manage all waste generated in the Sofia Municipality.

Insufficient measures to protect flora and fauna

In a second case, the Commission is sending Bulgaria a first written warning for failing to properly apply the directive on wild birds[2].

Earlier this year, the Commission received a complaint that ongoing construction projects in the important bird area (IBA) of Kaliakra - located in the north-east of the country - are leading to the deterioration of a number of bird species habitats and disturbance of bird species protected by the EC law. Information made available to the Commission reveals several projects for the construction of large wind turbine development may have been authorised without taking their environmental impact into account. The Commission is also concerned that other sports, tourism and road infrastructure construction projects may have cumulative impacts on the environment which have not been properly assessed.

Waste Directive

The waste framework directive (2006/12/EC) consolidates and replaces Directive 75/442/EEC. The objective is to promote waste prevention, recycling and processing for re-use and prohibit dumping and uncontrolled disposal. The measures seek to establish an integrated and adequate network of disposal installations (taking account of the best available technologies) in the Member States so as to enable the Community as a whole to become self-sufficient in waste disposal and the Member States to move towards that aim individually. This network should enable waste to be disposed of in one of the nearest appropriate installations, so as to guarantee a high level of protection for the environment and human health.

Special protection areas

Under the wild birds directive, Member States are obliged to designate all of the most suitable sites as Special Protection Areas (SPAs) to conserve wild bird species. The designation of SPAs must be based on objective, verifiable scientific criteria, the so called ornithological criteria. To assess whether Member States have complied with their obligation to classify SPAs, the Commission uses the best available ornithological information. Where the necessary scientific information is lacking, national inventories of Important Bird Areas (IBAs), compiled by the non-governmental organization (NGO) Birdlife International, are used. While not legally binding, the IBA inventory is based on internationally recognized scientific criteria. The Court of Justice has already acknowledged its scientific value, and in cases where no equivalent scientific evidence is available, the IBA inventory is a valid basis of reference in assessing whether Member States have classified a sufficient number and size of territories as SPAs.

Legal Process

Article 226 of the Treaty gives the Commission powers to take legal action against a Member State that is not respecting its obligations.

If the Commission considers that there may be an infringement of EU law that warrants the opening of an infringement procedure, it addresses a “Letter of Formal Notice” (first written warning) to the Member State concerned, requesting it to submit its observations by a specified date, usually two months.

In the light of the reply or absence of a reply from the Member State concerned, the Commission may decide to address a “Reasoned Opinion” (final written warning) to the Member State. This clearly and definitively sets out the reasons why it considers there to have been an infringement of EU law, and calls upon the Member State to comply within a specified period, usually two months.

If the Member State fails to comply with the Reasoned Opinion, the Commission may decide to bring the case before the Court of Justice. Where the Court of Justice finds that the Treaty has been infringed, the offending Member State is required to take the measures necessary to conform.

Article 228 of the Treaty gives the Commission power to act against a Member State that does not comply with a previous judgement of the European Court of Justice. The article also allows the Commission to ask the Court to impose a financial penalty on the Member State concerned.

Human rights - the Universal Children Day focus on the child labour

Jeudi 27 novembre 2008

Joint Statement of Commissioners Ferrero-Waldner, Ashton, Michel and Špidla has emphasized the importance of the child labor and has tried to remind the employers responsability in the whole world.

Background on ongoing activities:

The Commission supports various actions worldwide to strengthen children’s rights and prevent child labour. Through the European Initiative on Democracy and Human Rights, the Commission has supported the implementation by NGOs of a series of projects in Brazil (‘Empowerment of the Waste Picker’s Associations and Protection of their Rights’ and ‘Stock Market-School Citizen - Income and Education to Prevent Child Labour Exploitation’), Cambodia (‘Utilising the Buddhist monks and school students to prevent sexual abuse and child labour’), Egypt (‘Campaign Against Child Labour in the Egyptian Agrarian Sector’) and Morocco (‘Awareness to Fight Against Child Labour’).

Moreover, the “Project for Eradicating the Worst Forms of Child Labour” – supported by the European Delegation in Turkey (the budget allocated was 5.3 million euros) – aimed at enhancing the capacity of the Child Labour Unit in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and providing approximately 3000 Turkish children and their families with education, rehabilitation and support services in seven different provinces.

Most recently, the European Commission, the ILO’s International Programme for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and Pakistan’s government signed an agreement to implement a project to combat child labour in Pakistan. The Commission’s contribution (€4.75 million) will help Pakistan’s government and IPEC to tackle child labour in the formal and informal economies, for example domestic work, car repair workshops or recycling of waste. The project, due run until 2013, aims to take children out of the worst forms of work immediately and rehabilitate them. It will also involve prevention work.

Finally, the European Commission also supports initiatives by the business community to promote decent work through corporate social responsibility (CSR).

EUROCITIES awards: what are the winners 2009?

Jeudi 27 novembre 2008

Espoo (Finland), Ghent (Belgium) and Newcastle (United Kingdom)were elected for the EUROCITIES Awards 2008. This rewards the city councils’success in involving their citizens in local governance. The conference will take place on Friday, 29 November in The Hague.

Now in its third year, the EUROCITIES Award scheme celebrates new ideas and approaches in local government of European significance.

Being honoured this year are:

- Espoo, winner of the Innovation award for its ‘Cultural Chain’ project: Developed by cultural services of traditionally unconnected local government and non-governmental institutions, this initiative focuses on improving the quality of life of elderly people by bringing art and culture ‘home’ to those who cannot get it otherwise.

- Ghent, winner of the Cooperation award for its ‘Gentinfo’ project: By providing a one-stop-shop for information services and assistance on the city’s public services, Ghent has successfully streamlined communication channels among the city’s residents, businesses, organisations and visitors. Ghent is the first municipality in Belgium to have offered this type of service centre.

- Newcastle, winner of the Participation award for its ‘Udecide’ project: Aimed at scaling up citizens’ participation, this scheme enables city residents to take part in discussions and decisions on a wide range of community projects and encourages contact between the city’s different residential groups.

The City of Belfast also received a special mention at this year’s awards ceremony for its ‘Mural Removal’ project which helped to build trust and improve joint work within the local community of the city’s most deprived neighborhoods. By replacing contentious paramilitary style murals with more inclusive community focused cultural images in these areas, the project has helped to restore a sense of ‘normality’ that had returned to the rest of the province with the onset of ‘peace process’ in the 1990’s.

Thirty-two EUROCITIES members submitted projects for this year’s awards. Entries were judged by a five-panel jury comprising one representative each from the EU institutions; academia; the non-governmental sector; the media; and the conference host city.

Towards a reinforced European cooperation on vocational education and training

Mercredi 26 novembre 2008

In order to strenghten european cooperation on vocational education and training, Education Ministries from EU Member States, EFTA and candidate countries have adopted today the Bordeaux Communiqué.

The main instrument for European cooperation in vocational education and training is the Copenhagen process. This process was initiated in 2002, when the education Ministers of 31 European countries, the European social partners and the European Commission adopted the Copenhagen Declaration on enhanced cooperation in European vocational education and training. The Copenhagen process calls for a review of progress every two years. This has taken place in Maastricht in 2004 and in Helsinki in 2006 and now in 2008 under the French Presidency in Bordeaux.

The Bordeaux Communiqué

In all the discussions leading up to the Bordeaux review, there is a general consensus that the Copenhagen process has been a success, and that the focus should now be on consolidating the strategy, and implementing the principles and tools that have been built since 2002.

Taking stock of the progress achieved and defining priorities for 2008-2010, the Bordeaux Communiqué introduces the new objective of strengthening the links between VET and the labour market. This ties in with the “New skills for new jobs” initiative on anticipating and matching labour market and skills needs. A Commission Communication with the same title is due in December 2008.

Key initiatives in vocational education and training

Among the most ambitious objectives for VET in the coming years, will be the adoption and implementation of the European Credit System for VET (ECVET) and the European Quality Assurance Reference Framework for VET (EQARF). In April 2008, the Commission adopted these two proposals for recommendations by the European Parliament and by the Council. Negotiations are proceeding between these institutions as scheduled, and the formal adoption is expected early 2009.

When implemented, ECVET will support and promote transnational mobility and access to lifelong and borderless learning in VET, by facilitating transfer and accumulation of learning outcomes achieved by individuals. ECVET will be compatible with the existing European credit system (ECTS) used in the Higher education sector. EQARF is designed to support Member States in promoting and monitoring quality improvement in VET at different levels. It provides a common basis for further development of quality principles, reference criteria and indicators.

EuroSkills “Best of nation” awards

On the occasion of the Informal Ministerial meeting in Bordeaux, the Ministers also awarded the “Best of nation” prizes to the top competitors in the EuroSkills 2008 event that took place in Rotterdam in September. This first ever Europe-wide competition in vocational skills was a big success by highlighting excellence in skills and providing an inspiring example on how we can increase the attractiveness of VET. It attracted 420 candidates from 29 countries and nearly 27 000 visitors. EuroSkills was called for in the Helsinki Communiqué, and will be repeated every two years. Skills organisations from Portugal and Poland have already confirmed their interest in hosting future editions.

European Universities’ Charter on Lifelong Learning

At their meeting, Ministers will also discuss the principles outlined in the European Universities’ Charter on Lifelong Learning, which will be presented to them by the European University Association.