Archive pour avril 2010

Ombudsman: Complaints concerning the lack of transparency in EU administration

Vendredi 30 avril 2010

P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, the European Ombudsman has asked of the EU a more transparent and citizen-friendly administration. In 2009, more than one third of complaints that led to inquiries (36%) concerned alleged lack of transparency, including refusal to release documents or information. Other types of alleged maladministration concerned late payments for EU projects, unfairness, abuse of power and discrimination.

At the presentation of his Annual Report 2009 in Brussels, Mr Diamandouros said: “The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union is now legally binding and contains the citizens’ right to good administration and the right of access to documents. I will increase my efforts to ensure that these rights are taken seriously by the EU administration.”

In 2009, the Ombudsman received 3,098 complaints from citizens, companies, NGOs and associations (3,406 in 2008). In almost 80% of cases, the Ombudsman was able to help the complainant by opening an inquiry into the case, transferring it to a competent body, or giving advice on where to turn. The Ombudsman opened 339 inquiries and closed 318 inquiries in 2009. In total, he handled almost 5,000 complaints and information requests.

Mr Diamandouros said the number of inadmissible complaints has decreased compared to 2008. This is mainly due to the interactive guide on the european Ombudsman website which helps people find the right address. More and more people are turning towards the Ombudsman.

Most of the inquiries opened in 2009 concerned the European Commission (56%), followed by the European Parliament, the European Personnel Selection Office, the Council and the Court of Justice of the EU. The Ombudsman was pleased that in more than half of the cases (56%), the institution concerned accepted a friendly solution or settled the matter. The number of cases in which critical remarks were made went down from 44 in 2008 to 35 in 2009.

Germany produced the greatest number of complaints (413), followed by Spain (389), Poland (235) and France (235). But relative to the size of their population, most complaints came from Luxembourg, Malta, Cyprus and Belgium.

Evaluation of EU’s missions for peace

Vendredi 30 avril 2010

At the so-called “jumbo session”this week, the foreign affairs ministers and defence ministers took stock of the EU’s policy and action in the area of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

The aim of this policy is to support stability, maintain peace and restore the rule of law in conflict regions.

Among the EU’s CSDP missions, the Council discussed the EULEX Kosovo mission (the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo). Its objective is to assist the Kosovo authorities in the creation of well-functioning government institutions, in particular in the areas of police, judiciary and customs. The mission is to intensify its efforts in the fight against organised crime and corruption and in promoting reforms. In March, an EU House opened in Mitrovica, in the north of Kosovo, with the objective of strengthening the rule of law and promoting good governance and socio-economic development. At the moment, the mission has around 1700 international police officers, judges, prosecutors and customs officials and approximately 1000 local staff.

The EU’s monitoring mission in Georgia, EUMM Georgia, is an unarmed, civilian mission. It is tasked with monitoring the stabilisation and normalisation of the situation and building confidence between the parties. It supervises troop withdrawals and respect for human rights, the rule of law and governance. The mission also contributes to reducing tensions by facilitating contacts between parties. One of the ways it does this is by improving the lives and free movement of people on both sides of the Administrative Boundary Line separating the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from Georgia. The mission staff numbers around 330 people.

Under the Lisbon Treaty, the CSDP is meant to provide the Union with an operational capacity drawing on civilian and military assets. The Union may use these assets on missions outside the Union for peace-keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter.

Easier application and management procedures in EU grants for research

Vendredi 30 avril 2010

The overall aim of the plan presented by the European Commission to simplify the procedures for taking part in EU-funded research projects is to make participation transparent and attractive to the best researchers and innovative companies in Europe and beyond. Complementing the proposals on simplification, the Commission has also appointed a group of independent experts to review all aspects of the current Seventh Framework Programme.

Ensuring European research realises its full potential is crucial to the EU’s Europe 2020 Strategy, given the need to consolidate economic recovery and develop new sources of growth and jobs to replace those lost in the crisis.

Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn said the proposals aim to minimise administrative burdens in Europe’s research programmes in order to get the best researchers and most innovative companies to take part and enable them to concentrate on results, not red tape. That will boost Europe’s economy and quality of life. SME’s are particularly encouraged to join in.

Budget Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski added the review of the Financial regulation which the Commission will present next month will underpin these ideas for simplifying research funding with concrete legal proposals, helpful also in many other policy areas. Simpler rules are going to encourage potential beneficiaries of EU funds - such as small and medium enterprises or NGOs - to apply for them. Simplification means the EU budget serving citizens and businesses better.

The first part of the Commission’s strategy will make improvements possible under the current legal and regulatory framework, some of which are already underway. These involve, for example, better IT systems, more consistent application of rules, in particular on auditing, and improving the structure and content of the calls for proposals in response to which research organisations bid for funding.

The second part involves changing the existing financial rules to allow more radical simplification while maintaining effective control, for example by widening the use of average cost methodologies that avoid the need for projects to account separately and painstakingly for each small item of expenditure. The Commission also aims to allow projects to use the same accounting methods for EU funding as they are required to use for national research funding. These proposals require a decision of the European Parliament and the Council.

The third type of change envisaged will be considered for implementation under future Research Framework Programmes. Among the options presented is a move towards payment by results, which would mean that beneficiaries were paid lump sums to undertake specific scientific tasks and would need to demonstrate that they have done so effectively and efficiently, rather than to report individual cost items.

In the meantime, the Commission has launched the interim evaluation of the current Programme (FP7). A group of independent experts, chaired by Mr. Rolf Annerberg, has been appointed to undertake this review and present their report this autumn.

Mr Annerberg is Director General of the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas). The mandate of the group covers a wide range of issues related to the design, implementation and impact of Framework Programme activities.

Background

FP7 has proved very attractive to the research community with more than 33,000 proposals received since 2007, almost 7000 projects funded. Nearly all European universities participate.

Several concrete steps have already been taken towards simplification of procedures both in setting up FP 7 and since it has been in progress.

For example, FP7 introduced a new Guarantee Fund and a single registration facility meaning organisations applying for funding for several projects over several years need only enter their details once. Eight out of ten participants in FP7 are now exempt from ex-ante financial capacity checks and three out of four participants are exempt from providing certificates on financial statements needed for periodic cost claims.

Two new Executive Agencies were set up by the Commission in 2007: the Research Executive Agency (REA) and the European Research Council Executive Agency (ERC-EA). The European Research Council is a flagship component of FP 7 and awards grants to projects headed by starting and established researchers, with no requirement for projects to involve cross-border consortia.

Call for Expression of interest: London Green Fund

Vendredi 30 avril 2010

The European Investment Bank is looking to select, through this call for expression of interest, an urban development fund to manage £35 million from the London Green Fund to invest in waste infrastructure within Greater London under the JESSICA initiative

The London Green Fund is a £100 million fund that will invest in climate change relevant projects including waste, decentralised energy and energy efficiency across Greater London. The fund is part of the European Investment Bank and European Commission’s Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas (JESSICA) initiative and had the broad remit to provide debt, equity and guarantee investment to support climate change infrastructure projects using urban development funds.

The call for expression of interest is seeking applicants to manage the Waste Urban Development Fund. The focus of the fund will be to invest in urban projects in the development or construction phase that involve the establishment of value adding re-use, recycling and reprocessing facilities, waste to energy facilities or other facilities displacing fossil fuel such as ‘waste to fuel’. It is anticipated that the urban development fund will invest in urban projects primarily through equity or equity type participation however the use of subordinated and senior debt instruments into urban projects has not been specifically excluded.

The selection procedure shall be organized in two stages:

Stage 1: Expressions of interest which are not excluded in accordance with the exclusion criteria will be assessed on the basis of the selection criteria.

Stage 2: All applicants that meet the selection criteria will be invited to submit their offers. The offers will be evaluated on the basis of the award criteria.

Applicants may express their interest, by 4 June 2010 at the latest, in accordance with the terms of the call for expression of interest attached hereto.
A seminar for interested applicants will be held in central London on the morning of Thursday 20 May 2010. Parties interested in applying for the call for expression of Interest for the Waste Urban Development Fund are invited to register their interest in attending this event by e-mailing jessica@eib.org with: organisation name, contact name and position, e-mail address and telephone number. Spaces at this seminar may be limited.

The achievements of the regional policy in 2009

Jeudi 29 avril 2010

DG REGIO’s Annual Activity Report 2009 is now available online

The report highlights all the main achievements in regional policy during 2009 involving the 334 Operational Programmes that DG REGIO, in partnership with the Member States, is responsible for. Some issues covered in the report include how European cohesion policy has been used to deliver the EU’s Economic Recovery Plan, adopted by the Commission in November 2008. € 4.5 billion in EU funding was released in April 2009 in the form of advanced payments to Member States from the cohesion policy budget. The investment, which represents more than 40% of the Community’s contribution to the Plan, brings the total of advance payments made by the Commission to nearly € 23.3 billion since 2007. Finally, the report describes some of the changes to the existing cohesion policy regulations which entered in force in 2009 and will help simplify administrative arrangements in the day-to-day management of the programmes.

New measures for the dairy sector before the end of the year

Jeudi 29 avril 2010

In Paris, the European Commissioner for Agriculture, Dacian Ciolos, came to sketch the future CAP in front of the senators.

This article is only available in French

Set up of a high -level group between EU and Japan

Jeudi 29 avril 2010

As their bilateral summit in Tokyo drew to a close this wednesday, the EU and Japan agreed to set up a high-level group to explore opportunities for economic and political collaboration.

This is the first summit meeting that the EU has held outside Europe since the Treaty of Lisbon came into force last year. The EU was represented by the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso, while Japan was represented by its Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama.

The High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, also took part in the talks, along with the European Commissioner for Trade, Karel de Gucht.

At this, their nineteenth summit meeting, EU and Japanese leaders stressed the fact that they hold the same values regarding rule of law, peace and democracy, and that they will continue to work together in the battle against climate change and managing the economic crisis, under the auspices of the United Nations and the G20.

The EU’s relationship with Japan rests upon both sides being advanced industrialised democracies that share many common interests and values. The scope of the overall relationship has broadened in recent years along the lines of the action plan adopted in 2001, and now goes far beyond the earlier trade-related focus of the 1970s and 1980s.

Cooperation today takes place at all levels up to the top-level EU-Japan annual summit meetings, and covers foreign policy, economic and trade relations and regional and global challenges.

Sector-based dialogue also takes place in various fields, such as the environment, information society, technology, industrial policy and financial services, and the two sides cooperate closely in international forums such as the United Nations, the WTO and the G8.

The European Commission Strategy on Clean and energy efficient vehicles

Jeudi 29 avril 2010

The European strategy for encouraging the development and eventual widespread use of clean and energy efficient vehicles aims to help the European car industry to strengthen its leading role globally basing its production on clean and energy-efficient technologies.

This strategy is laid down in a Communication, tabled by the European Commission today. It delivers on the consensus between Member States and European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani’s commitment to move on from short-term recovery measures to a medium-term orientation that strengthens the competitiveness of the European automotive industry by linking it to clean technologies. The strategy also contributes to the Europe 2020 objectives of smart and sustainable growth. It contains an Action Plan composed of concrete and ambitious measures to be implemented by the Commission.

According to the Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani in charge of industry and entrepreneurship, in 2010, the automotive industry enters into a defining phase for its future success. The new European strategy will provide a supportive framework based on a twin-track approach: improving the efficiency of conventional engines and making ultra low-carbon mobility a reality for European consumers. Including all types of vehicles in the strategy will ensure that this parallel approach will strike the right balance between securing the future competitiveness of car manufacturing industry without compromising the long-term goals for the reduction of greenhouse gases and other pollutants. The strategy also aims at achieving common standards for electrical cars so that they can be charged everywhere in the EU.

Important national and regional actions are currently taken by the Member States and by EU’s global partners to promote the mass production and market uptake of green vehicles. In parallel, the momentum is building with the industrial plans for the mass market dominance of the fuel-efficient conventional vehicles and an important roll-out of electric vehicles in 2011. With the new strategy, the Commission wants to provide an impetus on the European level and seize the full potential of green vehicles to contribute to fight the climate change, reduce the oil dependency of Europe and revitalize Europe’s industrial fabric.

The Commission will among other:

*continue its legislative programme on vehicle emission reduction including its mid term review;
*Supporting research and innovation in green technologies
*propose guidelines for demand-side incentives

The strategy builds on European leadership in climate change fight and establishes bases for European leadership in clean transport.

While the Communication does not make any technological choices, it recognises that until now the European framework has been mostly lacking on electric mobility. With electric vehicles (including hybrids) currently viewed as ready for the mass market and several Member States notably France, Spain, Germany, Portugal and Denmark promoting electromobility, a number of actions announced in the Communication focus on enabling this technology.

*ensure that alternative propulsion vehicles are at least as safe as conventional ones
*promote common standards that will allow all electric vehicles to be charged anywhere in the EU
*encourage installation of publicly accessible charging points
*Promote the development of smart electricity grids
*Update the rules and promote research on recycling of batteries.

Double taxation problems in the EU

Mercredi 28 avril 2010

An online public consultation has just been launched by the European Commission to ask individuals, companies and tax advisers for information on double taxation problems that they have encountered when operating across borders within the EU.

EU Commissioner for Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud, Algirdas Šemeta, said double taxation can deter cross-border activity in the EU and the functioning of the Internal Market. This consultation will help assess the real scale and financial impact of double taxation for citizens and businesses. Proposals of the most appropriate and effective solutions will be made following the consultation.

The aim of the public consultation is to clearly identify the nature of the problems that EU taxpayers are facing and the extend to which many individuals and companies are encountering the problem of being taxed on the same income or profits in two or more different Member States.

When individuals and companies move between EU Member States they may become liable to tax in more than one Member State. For example, individuals who cross a border daily to go to work, or move to another country, or receive income or inheritances from another country, may face taxation both in their country of residence and in the other country in which they operate or from which they derive income. Companies which operate in more than one Member State may experience similar problems.

Citizens face difficulties, for example, when two different States impose taxes on the same person for the same profit, income or gain, or when two different taxable persons resident in different States are taxed on the same item.

There are mechanisms in place that are designed to prevent or relieve such international double taxation, such as double taxation conventions and national tax reliefs. However, it is not clear how well these mechanisms work in practice and whether they result in the effective elimination of double taxation.

The consultation concerns all direct taxes – income taxes, corporate taxes, capital gains taxes, withholding taxes, inheritance taxes and gift taxes.

The Commission is also inviting suggestions on how to effectively and rapidly remedy the double taxation identified.

Following the end of the consultation period, the Commission will publish a summary of all contributions received. It will also analyse the replies in detail and use them in preparing possible initiatives for EU action in the field of direct taxation.

Individual citizens, companies and tax advisers are invited to reply to the consultation by completing the questionnaire online

The consultation will run until 30 June 2010.

Commission launches public consultation on future of cultural and creative industries

Mercredi 28 avril 2010

The European Commission has launched an online public consultation yesterday aimed at unlocking the full potential of Europe’s cultural and creative industries. The consultation is linked to a new Green Paper which highlights the need to improve access to finance, especially for small businesses, as key to enabling the sector to flourish and to contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth.

According to Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, Europe’s cultural and creative industries are not only essential for cultural diversity in our continent; they are also one of our most dynamic economic sectors. They have an important role to play in helping to bring Europe out of the crisis.

Mr Dundas welcomes the launch of the European Commission’s Green Paper as it highlights the central role played by the creative and artistic sectors in driving European economic growth.

The sector, which includes performing arts, visual arts, cultural heritage, film, television and radio, music, publishing, video games, new media, architecture, design, fashion design and advertising, provides quality jobs for 5 million people in the EU.

It contributes 2.6% to European GDP – which is more than many manufacturing industries achieve. The cultural and creative industries are also growing faster than most parts of the economy.

Digitization and globalization are opening new market opportunities, in particular for small businesses. But these businesses very often face obstacles to fulfilling their full potential. The public consultation will encourage stakeholders and others to consider questions like:

·How can we facilitate access to funding for small and micro enterprises whose only asset is their creativity?

·How can the EU help to secure the right mix of creative and managerial skills in these sectors?

·How can we foster more innovation and experimentation, including wider use of information and communication technologies?

Cultural and creative industries also contribute to the competitiveness and social cohesion of our cities and regions. European Capitals of Culture such as Lille, Liverpool and others show that investing in this sector creates jobs and helps transform the image of cities. While they develop firstly at local and regional levels, cultural and creative industries are potentially global in their reach, contributing to a European presence worldwide. Support in their local and regional environment can help provide them with a launch pad to achieve global success.

Cultural and creative industries can also have beneficial spill-over effects on a wide range of other businesses and society at large. Designers, for example, have gradually become an essential part of the management team of many big companies.