Archive pour décembre 2008

HOTMED Project: a new family tree

Mercredi 31 décembre 2008

Financed under the FP6 and partly by the international grant Marie Curie, the HOTMED project (Evolutionary origin of biodiversity hotspots with a Mediterranean climate)has participated to the set up of a new family tree of proteas (commonly known as sugarbushes) that reveals that new species of these plants are appearing three times faster in biodiversity hotspots.

The findings, published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), shed new light on the evolutionary origins of biodiversity hotspots, and could help to improve efforts to protect these species-rich areas, many of which are under threat from human activities.

The work was supported in part by the EU through the HOTMED (’Evolutionary origin of biodiversity hotspots with a Mediterranean climate’) Marie Curie Outgoing International Fellowship, which was financed under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6).

The regions examined in this study, the Cape Floristic Region of South Africa and South Western Australia, are two of five regions in the world with a Mediterranean climate, the others being central Chile, California and the Mediterranean basin itself. These regions are among the most species-rich on Earth and as such are widely recognised as ‘biodiversity hotspots’. However, until now the reasons for these regions’ exceptional species richness have remained a mystery.

The Cape Floristic Region and South Western Australia are characterised by high levels of endemism (i.e. many of the species found there are unique to that region), nutrient-poor soils and frequent fires. Both are also home to large numbers of protea species.

There are around 2,000 species of protea on Earth, all found in the southern hemisphere, mostly in South Africa and Australia. The plants come in a diverse array of shapes and sizes, from low-growing shrubs to 35-metre-tall trees. They have leathery leaves and cup-shaped groupings of brightly coloured flowers. Notably, the protea is the national symbol of South Africa.

In this study, the international team of scientists put together an evolutionary ‘family tree’ of all the protea species in the world. The tree reveals that proteas in the two regions under study are evolving around three times faster than proteas elsewhere in the world. Furthermore, this burst of species formation took place in the past 10 to 20 million years, after a period of climate change left both South Africa’s Cape region and South Western Australia hotter, drier and more prone to wildfires.

Proteas are known to be drought resistant and able to re-grow quickly after a fire. As the climate changed, species that could not adapt to the changed conditions became extinct, while proteas thrived and diversified because there was less competition from other plants.

Energy efficiency of existing housing supported by the European Commission

Mercredi 31 décembre 2008

The decision of the European Commission to support energy efficiency of existing housing means that all Member States will be able to invest in energy-efficiency and also in renewable energy measures in housing. The European Cohesion Policy will help finance these measures.

The CoR opinion, led by Mrs Clucas, pointed out that funds from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) can be used to improve energy efficiency in housing, but only in the Member States which acceded to the EU in or after 2004. Specifically, the opinion called for “the European Union directive on energy efficiency to include the rehabilitation and regeneration of historical housing stock as a priority area for action. With this proposal by the European Commission, this possibility would be extended to all Member States.

The CoR opinion was quoted by the European Parliament in the own-initiative report “Housing and Regional Policy” by Alfonso Andria (ALDE). Mrs Clucas has frequently raised the matter at meetings with the European Commission, with Commissioner Hubner, and at international meetings, in particular as the financial crisis, energy supply problems in Europe, and the need to tackle climate change have all climbed higher up the political agenda.

At the CoR plenary of October 2008, during a debate with European Commission Vice-President Verheurgen focusing on the current financial crisis and its impact on small businesses and local and regional authorities, Mrs Clucas again recalled the need for existing funds to be concentrated on making homes in the European Union more energy efficient through insulation and solar energy, explaining the benefits to gain in terms of energy savings, achieving climate-change targets, creating jobs and helping householders with their bills.

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) is the third largest political force in Europe, with more than 100 full and alternate members in the EU Committee of the Regions and 100 members in the European Parliament. It also exists in the Council of Europe and in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The ALDE-CoR website is www.alde.eu/cor.

Fishing agreement for 2009

Mardi 30 décembre 2008

As usual at the end of every year, the Agricultural and Fisheries Council has fixed the possibilities for Fishery for the next year. The european policy framework has thus been established for 2009 by fishery areas and by species.

The aim of the common fisheries policy (CFP) is to ensure responsible fishing and to guarantee an income for fishermen, as well as to provide reliable supplies for consumers at reasonable prices. To that end, every year the EU fixes the total admissible catch (TAC) by species and fishing zone and allocates the authorised fishing quotas and days at sea between the Member States and third countries, in accordance with international agreements.

To ensure that resources are exploited in a sustainable manner, sound long-term stock management, based on scientific assessments, is necessary. The multiannual plans are thus a key feature of fisheries policy. For an increasing number of stocks, such as cod, sole, herring and bluefin tuna, fishing opportunities have been fixed on the basis of this approach.

Thanks to the “front-loading process”, TACs for the Baltic, deep-water species and the Black Sea were adopted at an earlier meeting of the Council.

January 2009: Euro in Slovakia and Euro turns 10!

Mardi 30 décembre 2008

In a few days, Euro will be adopted by Slovakia. It will be also the date of the 10th anniversary of Euro in Europe. From this moment, 328.6 million of citizens will have Euro, Slovakia will be the 16th country to access to this currency.

The euro was created in 1999 when 11 countries irrevocably locked the bilateral exchange rates of their currencies and equipped themselves with a single monetary and exchange rate policy. The European Central Bank was created six months earlier. The banknotes and coins were introduced in 2002. Slovakia will adopt it at a rate of 30.1260 Slovak koruna to the euro. Before it, Slovenia, Cyprus and Malta also made the euro their money.

The euro has been a great success. Overall and notwithstanding the present challenging times, it has delivered greater price stability and lower interest rates than ever before for the countries, people and businesses that share it. It helped create a record 16 million jobs and enabled us to enter into the current crisis with the lowest unemployment rate and the best budgetary position in a long time. Of course, we can and we must improve Economic and Monetary Union to make it even more successful in the next decade and beyond, as the EMU@10 Communication and Report[3] of May 2008 shows all too well.

€2 commemorative coin and euro documentary

To celebrate the euro anniversary, euro area countries will issue in January a €2 commemorative coin, which design was selected through a popular web vote organised by the Commission.

A lively television documentary has also been commissioned on the origins and history of the euro, its benefits and how it is perceived. It is available for download on the website of the Economic and Financial Affairs Directorate General.

Slovakia ready for € changeover

Preparations for the euro in Slovakia are now completed. Commercial banks received the banknotes and coins from September and have supplied them to shops and other businesses so that they handle payments and return change in euro from the 1st of January.

Citizens were able to buy mini kits of euro coins to acquaint themselves with their new currency. They also benefited from a large information campaign, including TV spots and a touring information bus. Their concerns about price increases were taken seriously by the Slovak authorities that put in place a number of measures, including an Ethical Code signed by business whereby they undertake to respect the changeover rules. The display of prices in both euro and koruna is compulsory since 24 August and until 1 January 2010. The respect of the changeover rules is carefully monitored by the Slovak Trade Inspection, which has visited more than 15,000 shops and service providers since August. The inspectors corrected shortcomings in dual display of prices when found and checked on price movements, particularly in sensitive sectors where problems were experienced in the previous changeovers. The Association of Slovak Consumers also plays a key role in checking price developments. The Commission actively supported the communication campaign under a Partnership agreement of December 2007.

Businesses and public administrations prepared themselves well in advance and their personnel were duly trained (especially for those in direct contact with the public).

To facilitate the changeover, the National Bank of Slovakia and commercial banks will be exceptionally open on 1 January as well as on the weekend of 3-4 January.

President Barroso, Commissioner Almunia and Education Commissioner and Slovak national Ján Figel will attend a ceremony in the Slovak capital Bratislava, on 8 January, to celebrate the adoption of the euro by Slovakia.

CASAGRAS Project : “Internet of Things”

Mardi 30 décembre 2008

This project has been financed by the EU under the FP7 Programme and has a budget of 533 703 euro. It aims at providing a framework of foundation studies regardind the international questions concerning radio frequency identification (RFID), and aims at emerging an Internet of Things’.

CASAGRAS is making headlines across the scientific community and has already received praise from the EU. Its project partners include representatives from China, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, the UK, and the USA. Now all radio frequency identification stakeholders are being asked to join in the discussion about the future of the Internet through its online forum.

The key topics being discussed by CASAGRAS include the concept of the ‘Internet of Things’, which refers to the wireless self-configuring network between objects. In the future, ‘things’ as boring as household appliances could be networked to the Internet. Hypothetically speaking, a fridge could be aware of what is stored inside and order another litre of milk when it runs out or even make people aware that it is close to its expiry date.

The applications are endless.

The project will take a holistic view and will consider the global challenges of the future as well as the opportunities.

Continual cooperation with other projects and with as many stakeholders as possible, is however central to the success of the project. This is why the creation of the online forum is so important. In conjunction with this, CASAGRAS will liaise with other associated EU-funded projects including GRIFS (Global RFID Interoperability Forum for Standards) and the coordinating initiative for RFID projects in Europe, CERP (Cluster for European RFID Projects).

The European Parliament wishes to strenghten fight against forgery

Mardi 23 décembre 2008

The fight against forged products becomes a priority.

ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE IN FRENCH

SMAP III supports biodiversity in Mediterranean countries

Mardi 23 décembre 2008

The conference “Integrated management of coastal zone in the Mediterranean sea: how to stop the loss of biodiversity?” was held on December 18th, 2008.

ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE IN FRENCH.

An euro-mediterranean strategy for water from 2009!

Mardi 23 décembre 2008

The Ministerial Conference on Water has established a calendar of concrete projects from 2009.

The Ministerial Conference on Water held on 22 December 2008 on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan marked the speeding up of the issue of water management and the first important step for the implementation of the decisions made by Heads of State and Government on 13 July 2008 in Paris for the Union for the Mediterranean.

A double goal was reached, partly through the major contribution of the civil society partners who met on 21 December.

Firstly, the ministers adopted the guidelines of a Strategy for Water in the Mediterranean to tackle the challenges and impacts of climate change. This Strategy, which will be submitted to the same ministers during the first semester of 2010 and to the Heads of State and Government at the end of 2010, will make it possible to handle problems exceeding the means of action of any single country or organisation. It will have two figured targets concerning the preservation of water quality and the reduction of pressure on water resources through more efficient use.

Secondly, the ministers drew the attention of governing bodies of the Union for the Mediterranean to the need to implement the new infrastructural projects in the domain of water as soon as possible, consistent with the Strategy. From this perspective, they have already identified an initial series of projects which will be discussed as from January 2009. These projects will be completed during the Fifth World Forum on Water to be held in Istanbul in March 2009 and the first funds will be finalised for the ministerial conference on sustainable development in Monaco before the end of March 2009.

The ministers have undertaken to adhere to this very ambitious yet realistic schedule as regards the water situation in the Mediterranean. They emphasised the significant role that the Union for the Mediterranean must play to effectively improve life for the inhabitants of this region.

The Montenegro has just done its application to join European Union

Lundi 22 décembre 2008

The Prime Minister of Montenegro has presented his country’s application for membership to the President of the European Council, M. Sarkozy.

In a statement , Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed this step and called it “a historical milestone marking the country’s important engagement to common European values and fundamentals”.The application for membership is submitted to the Council, which decides whether to initiate the procedure laid down in the Treaty and ask the Commission to provide its opinion on the application. In the light of the Commission’s recommendation, the Council unanimously decides whether to grant candidate country status to the applicant country.

The Cohesion Policy helps the European economy

Lundi 22 décembre 2008

The European Commission has adopted a Communication which dovetails with the European Economic Recovery Plan and shows how Cohesion Policy may help in rejuvenating the real economy in Europe.

It recommends a series of actions to the Member States so they may make the most expedient use of Cohesion Policy and all the advantages it has to offer. It also outlines new measures which mean implementation of the Operational Programmes can be accelerated. With its budget of €347 billion of European investments, available until 2013, the Policy will stimulate the economy in the short term while allowing the foundations for more long-term growth to be laid down.

One of the keys to re-launch lies in the fact that €230 billion are available for the four priority domains of the renewed Lisbon Strategy: jobs, businesses, infrastructure, energy, research and innovation. Cohesion Policy provides stable investments at local and regional levels, where the effects of the current crisis are most keenly felt.